August 24, 2016

Performance Art is not for sissies

This little experience happened quite a while ago, but someone brought it up recently and I decided that I might as well share it again.

I try to be a good hostess. I like to go the extra mile and make sure my guests have a memorable experience. So when Lynda and Paillen, family from Minnesota, came to stay this week I wanted to do something special.

Tuesday morning we met my sister, Chris, and had an uneventful Metro ride downtown, got off at the Archives, made a Starbucks stop, and walked to the Mall for some museum visiting. While walking on 7th Street right outside the National Gallery of Art I thought I might try a little Performance Art to add some spice to the morning.

I was pondering what I might perform - maybe becoming one of those living statues, perhaps 'Tourist walking with Starbucks cup on corner of 7th and Constitution' - when my right foot decided for me. It caught on an uneven piece of sidewalk and I proceeded to fly forward. When I tried to correct, this not being the particular piece I wanted to perform, my left foot got into the swing of things and it, too, caught on the same uneven piece of sidewalk. So I just went with it. Uttering an impressive string of barnyard invective, I soared through the air like Dustin Pedroia diving into first base.

This performance was a bit more physical than I had anticipated, so I lay there a few moments before sitting up to an outstanding reaction. Chris, Lynda and Paillen were awed. Tourists on the street were riveted. And the Museum staff! What can I say? They came in droves to see what the heck was going on.

Luckily, I had used my chin to keep my knees and elbows from harm. I sat there surrounded by loved ones and strangers and proceeded to give my head the once over. Things seemed okay until I took my hand away and found that it was covered in a rather impressive amount of blood. At this point, I wasn't so much about the art anymore as about keeping the blood off my suede jacket (which I did) and not throwing up.

A really sweet young man from the Museum called an ambulance and brought me a new cup of tea. In no time at all an ambulance pulled up and two nice EMTs made sure I was in one piece more or less and that the cut on my chin, while having bled like Victoria Falls, was really quite small and seemed to be closing nicely. They recommended a stitch or two at the mention of which I promptly got rather faint. Medical professionals take fainting VERY seriously. My family does not. Luckily my sister was there to back me up that this was just a normal family trait and a little fresh air would fix me up in no time. Bleeding under control, Band-Aid in place, I breathed in the cool D.C. air and felt marginally better.

During my ambulance stay, a little police lady from the Museum was taking information from Lynda. I did not get her name, so I will call her Mabel. Mabel did not say it in so many words, but she was all in favor of lawsuits against the Museum and the City. She had Lynda take pictures of everything. She took down my information. And when I said I thought I was all right to continue our day, she almost insisted I see the Museum nurse. "You want to document this. You never know!" So I did.

By means of golf cart, then wheelchair, I was taken into the bowels of the National Gallery of Art to visit the nurse. My comrades were escorted by a Sergeant through the gallery and met me downstairs. After documenting my little project and hearing exactly the same thing from the nurse that I heard from the EMTs and having the same reaction, I was wheeled out of the Museum and put in a taxi.

I did not go home. I was attempting to be a trooper. And besides, I was a bit low on sugar and needed a coke. So we taxied around the corner to the beautiful American Indian Museum and had a bite to eat and some Advil. After which we proceeded to go about our day and very much enjoyed the wonderful displays.

Alas, the story does not end here. At about quarter to five we were milling around the gift shop and discussing our dinner plans with my son and his girlfriend when Chris said, "You're dripping." And sure enough the bandage on my chin was leaking. This was enough to make me woozy again. There are no chairs on the second floor of the American Indian Museum. Nor are there any bandages of any sort. But there is a ladies room with a very long counter on which I ended up laying while my caretakers searched out Band-Aids and paper towels. Lynda remembered that she had some very pretty polka dot and striped bandages in her bag. As Paillen was the only one who could look at the cut, she was in charge of applying direct pressure and finally covering to my little wound. My sister was in charge of walking around the ladies room repeating, "I can't look".

I finally felt like I could get up without keeling over. I had just swung my legs over the counter and eased to the floor when Chris changed her mantra to, "I'm going to faint." And she wasn't kidding. She was absolutely white as a sheet. We laid her down on the marble bed and I called my son and told him that, perhaps, this was not the best night to dine downtown.

We limped to the subway, a bedraggled troop of overwrought women, one holding brown paper towels under her chin while continuing to apply direct pressure. We caught the Metro home. When I walked in my husband looked at me and said, "You tripped and fell, didn't you." I got no sympathy. He added that I'm a klutz, the implication being that I should be more careful. The cut closed up quite nicely. I didn't need stitches. My chin is an impressive purple and black, just right for Halloween.

But I am giving up Performance Art. It's a young woman's job. Next time company comes they will have to make do with homemade Manicotti and a nice Chianti.


  1. Well, Penny, you made me laugh at precisely one of those situations when I'd tell my kids "That's not funny. Don't laugh!" I leave this week with a better understanding of why I love your approach to writing about murder, and a strong resolve to figure a way to work the phrase "barnyard invective" into my next story.

  2. Anonymous10/25/2013

    I nearly lost my pepperoni hot pocket down the front of my shirt this time. We have got to get more people to read this blog, You are hysterical Penny!

  3. Anonymous10/25/2013

    This is the best part of my week normally. Just got back from Ireland with the granddaughters and I didn't miss the blog last. There's always a good laugh or some humor in Penny's writing. Glad your okay.