You're supposed to learn a lot through travel. This may be the place to say the word "travail" is pronounced exactly like "travel," but nowadays people say tra-VALE, which is revolting, but it comes of everything's going to hell.
I guess the two words were once identical, and since travel is, and always has been, a specialized kind of misery, the word came to mean the sort of sweaty groanish labor with some goal in mind. Nobody uses the word travail anymore except in quoting "Come unto me, ye that travail and are heavy laden," when, as I say, they now mispronounce it.
But to get on with it, my recent travels, or travails, have taught me little because I suspect I am unteachable and perhaps anti-intellectual, but such paltry news as I have is yours:
Women, I have learned, do not shut doors. You probably always suspected that, especially if you grew up with farm gates that got left open so the mules wandered off to the peach orchard, flattening the zinnias on the way.
On the Metroliner from New York this week it was possible to conduct the first scientific survey of the matter of women's leaving doors and gates open.
The door at the end of the snackbar coach was not working automatically and you had to push it open by hand. Millions of people came and went through that door. The train was more than half an hour late, as usual, so there was ample time to study Human Behavior in door-shutting. Half the men failed to shut the door behind them, but all the women failed to.
Surely at least one woman shut the door? No sir, not one.
What does this show? First, women are less perfectionist than men. Doorschmoor. So it's open.
They are also less compulsive.
You may extrapolate from this that women are far abler to let the phone ring without answering it than men are.
Also, it follows, they feel less involved with civilization and society. They feel less responsibility for other people sitting in drafts than men do. They assume somebody else will tend to it.
Possibly this comes of a sheltered life? Not getting around in the world as much? Not having as much expected of them?
One of the matters the woman's freedom movement should study is why women do not shut doors behind them. A little catch-up or remedial program might be worth doing.
Now in New York itself I learned the fairly hidden face that Chinese workmen on the Metropolitan Museum's forthcoming Ming Dynasty Courtyard brought their own chimney soot with them from China.
New York soot is not worth a bean. The workmen mix soot with cement and bamboo fibers and grind the hell out of it with a bit of water and use it for paint on the architraves of their curved roofs.
You will want to know other important news:
At Williamsburg, Va., you may see the increased national fondness for music. Man and boy I have been in and out of Williamsburg for nigh on half a century. It used to be there were only eight people or so at the recitals in the Wren Chapel, performed on the 18th-century organ. Now the place is full. An evening concert at the town's main church was also packed, and I can remember when people rarely went.
In New York, the Metropolitan Museum was so full of visitors you had to be quite careful walking about. It costs $2.50 every time you walk in there now. In the days when it was free, you often had the museum to yourself.
This shows two things: Americans, no matter what anybody says, are a lot more interested in art than formerly, and Americans tend to neglect or despise things that are free.
Also, I think you could have Lady Godiva and Titian somersaulting and unless people were told this was a rare sight, nobody would go.
The only gallery that had no visitors when I was there was the Schimmel Collection of limestone incised-relief panels from Tell el Amarna. For a brief time, as everybody knows, Egyptian art threw away all its restraints and showed pharaohs with potbellies. Indeed, the 18th Dynasty is one of the few moments of history in which flab ascended the heights, so to speak, and for this reason I think the world of it.
If the museum set a $5 charge to enter the Amarna gallery, it would promptly be packed.
Kew Gardens in London, while we're about it, now charges 10 pence to enter. It was always one penny before. The world has gone money-mad.
I imagine you will want to know the horses of St. Mark's in Venice are being moved indoors to preserve them better, though they have stood, with raised hoof, over the great door since the 1200s. (Except when Napoleon lugged them off to Paris a few years, but the Austrians made them give them back to Venice.)
One of the original four horses is now displayed for some weeks at the Metropolitan Museum. It looks good for another millennium to me. There are, however, odd scratches all over the horse. The museum cannot say why. I personally suspect Napoleon scrubbed them with a mop of barbed wire.
Copies are being made to go over the door of St. Mark's. An error, in my view. Ever since the bronze horses were stolen from Constantinople in 1204, they have guarded the entrance to of St. Mark's. You will notice there is a bizarre passion in our century for "preserving" everything, which means sticking copies here and there.
Any day now we may expect our own Capitol dome to be removed and put in the Smithsonian for safekeeping. It is all quite dumb, but then our century is.
You know, of course -- we all know -- it's necessary (sort of) to charge admission to museums. But it means people don't drop in casually when they have 20 minutes to spare, and that's a loss. If I were a museum director I'd say you can fire half the staff, but there isn't going to be any admission charge. Trustees don't holler enough, in my view.
And this preserving everything -- isn't it sort of defeating after a while? Women make copies of their emeralds and wear the copies, not the real ones. The town squares have copies of statues, not the real ones.
It's an aspect of fearful conservatism that is not worthy of us. We are really in a neo-post-Victorian era, in which the good silver and glass and furniture and food was only trotted out for company, instead of being lived with day by day.
Rabelais would have called it squinting through keyholes, and certainly there is something asinine in our general agony that the bronze may only last another 2,000 years and then what'll we do? What is more corrosive than the weather is the hiding of everything in vacuums.
The town of Winooski, Vt., has been considering a bubble (of plastic, I presume) to cover the town to save energy. This is what preservation comes to if you don't watch out.