Friday, September 30, 2005

A Boy and His Squid

This weeks story about the giant squid put a big ear to ear smile on my face. Giant squid hold a special place in my heart.

As a child growing up in NYC my mom would drag me to the Met on a pretty weekly basis. There she would educate me on the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Rome and Greece. Then we would move onto the middle ages, the renaissance (her favorite), industrialization, and the modern era. It was a history lesson told in the context of art. I was bored to tears at the time but repetition is the mother of education and now I am grateful for the lessons.

Although grateful for the experience now, at that time my mind was always somewhere else, The American Museum of Natural History. As my mom would walk me through the Met, I would walk her through the Museum of Natural History. My mom was a great sport, I think we visited Natural History museum about twice as often as the Met. As soon as we walked in it was straight to the dinosaur halls where I would spout off the names of each fossil with ease and eloquence; annotating each one as herbivore or carnivore or in some cases omnivore. We would always end our visit to the museum by strolling to the Milstein Hall of Ocean life where the 94-foot long blue whale model resides amongst numerous ocean life dioramas. Outside that hall in the corridor was my other favorite and the symbol of another satisfying visit to the museum with my mom, the life sized replica of The Giant Squid.

As an avid fan of the Disney movie 20000 Leagues Under The Sea, and being obsessed at the thought of being Captain Nemo commanding the Nautilus, I would stare at the giant squid and hoped that they had not gone extinct being that evidence of their existence was largely based on dead specimens and maritime mythology. No one had ever seen nor photographed a live giant squid at that time.

I went to visit the museum with my partner two years ago. It was special for me to show him a place that had inspired so much of my childhood. The museum had changed a lot since when I was young. It went from being a jumble of giant halls filled with fossils and dioramas to an organized chronological journey through evolution. I didn't mind until we came to the hallway outside of the Milstein. The Giant Squid was gone. When I inquired about its absence to a guard she told me they took it down and that it wasn't going back up, he had gotten too old (the replica was the museums oldest model purchased in 1895). All the other remodels in the museum didn't phase me but the news of the Squid was devastating. Therefore this week when the first image of the giant squid was posted on BBC news I was thrilled to see the formidable creature alive and well in the depths of the ocean if not in the corridor outside the Milstein.

The absence of the Squid was a cruel realization that so much time had passed and many things different. I had planned on seeing it an having it bring back memories of weekends with my mom in the city, watching 20000 Leagues about 200 times and it never getting old, and memories of my childhood; spent hovering over books and models of creatures present and past wondering how, when, and where they existed. So if you see a grown man standing outside the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life in the Museum of Natural History staring up at the ceiling with misty and nostalgic eyes, you'll know its me.


Blogger tornwordo said...

I was thrilled to see that picture this week too. I love that we humans often think we have everything figured out, and then you see a photo like that and you say, wow maybe we've just scratched the surface.

6:51 AM  

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