Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bones and rats

I made reference to how we spent too much time in the "skeleton store" in Soho, and yes, it was Evolution. Wow. We had to hurry past it on Thursday in a rush between publishing offices, but on Sunday morning when we had a little time, we made our way straight there. What a place! If there's any way in which I'm like a 10-year-old boy, it's this: I love bones and teeth and beetles and claws and turtle shells and fossils and other weird flotsam of nature, and this shop is the place to find it.

Incidentally, it did not escape my notice that the other customers in the store at the time were primarily ten-year-old boys, accompanied by parents, and they were seriously like kids in a candy shop, agonizing over the selection of claws and rattlesnake rattles and trilobite fossils! Jim and I were agonizing too. If we'd been up to spending lots of money that day, we'd likely have come away with an "alien skull" and several huge tropical beetles, horned and winged, in glass frames. As it was, we purchased:

-- Raccoon penis bones
-- a praying mantis
-- a selection of carnivore teeth, some reproduction, some real (shark, tiger, bear, alligator)
-- a reproduction smilodon saber (for home defense, ha ha)
-- earrings made out of dangling iridescent green beetle wings
-- a large grasshopper in a vial
-- banana-flavored lollipops with scorpions encased in them (delicious!)
(The teeth, by the way, have a certain relevance to the book I am currently writing.)

Yes, I am conflicted in my fascination for these things, because I do not support the hunting of animals to fill morbid collections. A part of me would love to have a blue morpho in a frame on the wall, but the much larger part of me would rather that blue morpho be flying around in the Amazon. I didn't buy anything that came off any living animal that is not abundant -- raccoons, for example, probably exterminated as pests? I don't know. There's really no justifying any of it. It's one thing in a natural history museum, another in a curiosity shop, but . . . I'm still fascinated. I've always loved natural history museums, and I love stories about naturalists collecting in the field. But . . . it's also so offputting. I'm sure this is the closest I'll ever get to a kudu:
The taxidermy is exceptional, and the size of this antelope is astonishing, seen close up like this. At the zoo, they're always so far away you have no idea how huge they are. And the oryx too:
Which I recently had the privilege of seeing alive in a nice-size herd in the very zoo that rescued them from extinction by means of a captive breeding program (Phoenix). The more I think about it now, the more I don't understand how my mind didn't revolt at the sight of these disembodied heads. It's so wrong. And yet, a part of me was merely in awe, like I was looking at a wall of African masks or something, and not murder victims. Ugh. I don't know. It's all so strange. Now I'm just feeling sick about my fascination.

A store where you don't have to feel slightly sick and guilty? The Scholastic Store!
I didn't know this existed. We stumbled upon it while wandering in Soho:

There's all kinds of Hogwarts shwag, plus a life-size school bus (the Magic Schoolbus? I don't know) you can sit in, and a cafe, and did I mention books? Books books books, and not all Scholastic books, I don't think.

Window-shopping from Soho to Greenwich Village yielded some displays:

And street scenes:

And for lunch we had one of the best pizzas we have ever had:
(John's Pizzeria on Bleeker St.)
We were whipped around by the wind at the Hudson River:
(Photo courtesy of the lovely Kate Schafer Testerman, with whom we went to see the Coraline musical stage adaptation that afternoon; it was highly strange and awesome.)

Oh, and we also bought a rat that day, a New York City rat for Professor. See:

A cute rat! We did see a really live subway rat scurrying across the platform. It was kind of cute too. Oh, and we saw a stranger subway creature than that. It emerged from a manhole cover and pulled someone down:
So you see? The rumors are true. There are alligators in the sewers of New York!

By the way, speaking of Professor, Jim came up with another name yesterday. Are you ready?

Doctor Zombie Di Bartolo. "Doc" for short. Cute, noh? If we were movie stars, perhaps! I still like Professor better, myself. But Zombie is a fine middle name . . . Professor Zombie, maybe? chortle chortle. It's fun, thinking up absurd names. Coming up with actual names = much more difficult!

I had an ultrasound yesterday, by the way, and Professor is doing great. My belly had been measuring slightly big, but in fact she's exactly right for her due date, which is August 1 and will be here so soon!! I mean, she might even be here sooner than that! Each day it is more of a reality that this baby will emerge into the world and, you know, start to cry. Right? Crazy! Oh, and we could see her hair in the ultrasound!!! A little fuzzy halo. So cute. I wonder what color it is.



Lexi said...

Aw! So excited for little Professor Zombie!
Also, I didn't know that was Evolution! I have a t shirt from there, with a skull on it. People get wary of me when I wear it places, though.

Americanising Desi said...

hey hey!

waiting for sunday scribblin!

Rachael King said...

If it's any consolation, butterflies only live for a few days, so I just bet the people who breed 'em just wait for them to die of natural causes before pinning them and putting them behind glass for your viewing pleasure...

da rev said...

ah kudu and oryx in one post! i'm reading the green hills of africa and hemingway's agonizing pursuit of kudu is intoxicating and don't even get me going about oryx.

ok, just a bit. :) they're common on my research site because they were introduced on white sands missile range for sport hunting my military officers decades ago. they proliferate like mad and have no predators. they're impressive and taste oh so good.

am glad to hear that the trip to the big apple was so fascinating. now no travel for you little lady. take good care. xo

Unknown said...

The trip sounds awesome.

I got to talk to the children's book rep for Penguin the other day (and snagged an advance reader for Silksinger); and she is super excited about your books. This is great for you, since she influences what the bookstores buy. We had a little fan moment, bonding over what we liked so much about your world. :)

Best of luck with choosing a baby name. Sometimes you just don't know until you see the kid, though.

Charlotte said...

I love the picture of your pink hair blowing in the wind!

And I love that store, too! A lovely co-worker's husband found a cat skull (nice and clean) and sent it in for my six-year old, and made his day. "SKULLLLLLLL!" he cried. He had, very sadly, somehow misplaced his beloved skunk skull, and this has helped heal that old wound.

Whatever you name her, do practice saying it ten times. My parents failed to notice that Charlotte ends with T and Taylor starts with it, and so they elide, and that is annoying.

I vote for red hair!

Alysa Stewart said...

Hehe, our favorite absurd name was "Code Name." :D

Megsie said...

Raccoon Penis Bones??!! Ha! Who knew? Your trip sounds fantastic! I can't believe that the little professor will be here before the summer is over. How exciting! I was just wondering how long we would have to wait, it was like you heard me. The choosing of names is a very daunting task. We went to the hospital with two names chosen and then named each kid after we met them. Good luck!

Katie Anderson said...

I love the fuzzy halo comment! And what a fascinating post! Raccoons are HUNG!

You need to write a book about an adorable couple who live on the Amalfi coast and collect bones. And they have seven cute kiddos with technicolor hair and names like Professor and Fable and all of those fun names.

And they eat gummy bears for breakfast and raise poodles. Okay I made that up. But you guys are just delicious!

Oh! that's it! Someone can come to their house and eat them all up :-)

The End.

just kiddin' I've spend the last week trying to revise my novel and have obviously hit looney zone.


Shari Sherman said...

Maybe you and Jim have a collaborative picture book series in your future....a little girl professor who travels and solves mysteries and investigates....something for the girls who aren't just sitting around eating cupcakes and wearing crowns....although that is nice too sometimes. Love the NY rat!

Anonymous said...

Okay...I'm going to stop lurking and comment for a change! If it puts your mind at ease you can imagine that the animals in the skeleton shop died of natural causes and then got stuffed.
I volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the Hands-On Biodiversity gallery. Our gallery is FULL of dead animals but we don't go out and kill them, we get them from zoos and wildlife sanctuaries and whatnot when they get old or sick and die naturally.

K said...

It sounds like you had a great time in NY. By the way, John's Pizzeria is my favorite pizzeria in the whole world, since the first day I tried it.

I'm glad you got to see little Professor Zombie. :D I remember how excited I got with each ultrasound and seeing the little changes. :D

Amber said...

You could see her hair?! That is sooo cool! lol How about Doctor Rapunzel Di Bartolo? ;)

The trip looks like SO much good fun. Thanks for sharing, because we are sooo home bound right now. I can live through you for a wee bit. lol

Animal heads, eww. Bugs and stuff, nice. Wyatt would GO MAD in that store. And the SCHOLASTIC STORE?? I would go mad.

You look GREAT, mommy.


Earthmamagoddess said...

I agree, you look amazing, AND I have to notice that your belly is a beautiful shelf o'babe when you stand profile! I am surprised they let you on a plane, you look further along than you are to me!!
halos of hair are so magical....
doesn't another celebrity have a baby named professor? I liked someones suggestion of Dr rapunzel...that had a ring to it.

Kimbra Kasch said...

Oh. . . the Scholastic store looks like so much fun. And I love the pic of you and Jim on the waterfront.

And the fuzzy halo - so perfect and precious even now.

MotherReader said...

Proof positive that NYC stores are not all The Gap. Unless The Gap has started carrying bones?

Glad that you enjoyed your NYC trip to the fullest.

Sunday Scribblings said...

HI there!!!

(I've finally got internet again!)

I want to tell you that if you ever come to England (which I hope you will!) you need to go to the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford. It's like that skeleton store but enormous. They even have shrunken heads!!!!

Hope you guys are well!!

XO megg

P.s. Do you think she'll come out with PINK hair????

(oop! Just realized I am still signed in as SS. But YOU will know it's me!! xo)

Red Fox Literary said...

Laini--Promise me that the very next time you're in L.A. you'll go to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Have you heard of it? Just for people who are fascinated by things like curiosity cabinets and 19th century explorers. I adored it.