30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 17: Dirty Carpet and Gemstones

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.17.14Where I Wrote: The Guggenheim Hall of Minerals in the Museum of Natural History.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good. After reorganizing what I wrote yesterday, the rest of the scene I’d been struggling with came with relatively little trouble. There were a few hurdles to get over (it was an active parlor scene, so writing it was a new experience for me), but I think I hit every beat that I needed to (and every one that I could hit without making the dialogue incredibly artificial and overly convenient).

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Ready. After yesterday’s post, I was so ready to accept the balance challenge for this week and kick its ass. This was rounded out by excitement for returning to the Hall of Minerals, my favorite exhibit in the Museum of Natural history since my days as a littlen.

The Experience: Today was a really strong, straight forward bout of writing–a fantastic first step for this week of schedule-honing. I had to be up early today if I was going to get to the museum. And I was. I had to be out of the house quickly, so no Rebirth. Thus, I didn’t play it.

The reward for those small sacrifices was experiencing none of the vague bullshit that will often rise up to oppose plans. I wasn’t rushing, so there was no, “Shit! I forgot to go to the bank!” There was no frantic packing and hustling out the door late, so I didn’t forget to visit the museum’s site and make sure donation rules for admission hadn’t changed. At worst, there was the moment when I got lost in the museum and thought they’d gotten rid of the Hall of Minerals. But then I just took out my map and realized/remembered that the Roosevelt entrance off of Central Park West leaves you on the 2nd floor, not the 1st.

And then I got there. The Hall of Minerals in all of its old, dark, strangely dirty glory.


I don’t know why I love it so much. There is, of course, my general affection for Earth Science; in an alternate reality, there is absolutely the version of me who studies minerals–who’s extremely happy with and vocal about his totally lame love of all rocks.

There is also my fascination with worlds we don’t see–chemical reactions and ancient processes in places we’ll never know. Atoms forming into unit cells. It’s terrifying and beautiful to think that something like rutilated quartz just… happens. A slow, deliberate, silent process.

… But there’s a really good chance I just love it because it’s the least popular part of the Museum of Natural History with the most seating. It’s dark. It’s really plain. The floor is rugs; in fact, nearly everything, with the exception of the minerals and their cases, is rugs. The (poorly depicted above) amphitheater where I set up shop? Also rugs. Rugs that are as strangely dirty as the display cases featuring softer minerals–the ones wilting into powder and wafting down into unseemly deposits.

I love it. It’s so dysfunctional. How could I not love it?

I entered, took in the nostalgia, sat down to write but found myself distracted by the extremely nerdy audio prompts explaining the displays in the amphitheater, and wound up taking some time to view the rest of the exhibit and read. It did not come close to the near-total failure of Day 12 in the Botanical Gardens, but that’s probably because–again–I wasn’t pressed for time. I believe I had four guaranteed hours of freedom and relative quiet in the Hall of Minerals.

And there I worked on the scene I’ve been struggling with… and managed to work it out–managed to tame it into a full, provocative gateway to the novel’s endgame. The beginning of its Conclusion. It took a few hours, but with water fountains and restrooms just a short walk away, I could’ve pressed myself to write more. I didn’t, however, having just fixed the total mess that came from forcing yesterday’s session.

Instead, I packed up, decided against viewing the rest of the museum in favor of coming home, brainstorming (successfully) on the train, writing this post, and getting to work. I still had a bit of time before the museum closed, but today, like the rest of the month, was not about idle browsing. It wasn’t about taking time for simple entertainment.

Today was the start of the end. The acceptance of the schedule and the wherewithal to handle its many conflicting parts. Today was the beginning of making this writing thing work. The beginning of a slow, deliberate, silent process.

Bannerman’s Castle: History on the Hudson

Whenever I say that I love New York, whenever I tell someone where I’m from, I never think of what I’ve grown up calling “upstate”. To me, the city has always been all there was. It’s not my fault–I grew up in the city; I used to spend my free Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo, the Saturdays of my summer youth down in the village and drinking at St. Mark’s. Beyond that, I’d say I’ve spent a cumulative 5 days upstate over the course of my entire life, so there’s never been anything endearing for me to remember about it.

That was until I heard about Bannerman’s Island. Allow me to explain with a list:

  • Originally Pollepel Island, it has its own history before it became Bannerman’s Island. Including a legend of the wind goblin that lived on the island and attacked whoever set foot on it. I am not kidding.
  • It was purchased by an arms dealer named Frank Bannerman in 1900. An arms dealer. Allow me to provide another list right here explaining why Frank Bannerman was awesome:

-While he was still in school, he made his own business by collecting scraps from a navy yard and recycling them. And no, we’re not talking college. Or high school. Yeah.

-He designed  all of the residences on his island. Including the castle. Bannerman’s Castle. The one that has cannons and cannonballs sticking out everywhere.

This one.

-He loved castles.

-Also, he was a religious man, so he didn’t drink.

-Oh, and he was considered an American hero by his countrymen.

  • Arms and gunpowder were stored on the island by Frank Bannerman. At least until an accident involving said gunpowder nearly killed his wife with a large piece of storage shed.
  • Also Bannerman’s Castle, the Bannerman’s residence, and the island itself are really pretty:

I was intentionally vague about the island and its history because I wouldn’t tell it half as well as any of the Bannerman Castle Trust tour guides. What I will say however is that last winter, a large part of Bannerman’s Castle collapsed. As sad as it is, there’s a chance this incredible piece of New York history may not see next year. Tours are only running until October, so don’t miss your opportunity to see the Castle before it’s gone, and don’t pass up the chance to learn more about Frank Bannerman himself.

Click here for more information.