Complementary, not opposing, forces.

Last week while visiting my family in Cleveland, I treated the girlies to two diametrically opposing forms of entertainment. As I’ve stated previously, it’s important to expand their tiny little minds by exposing them to high art, but it’s just as important to keep them grounded by sampling the more visceral forms of fun.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a kick ass, world class collection. Their special exhibits will also whoop yo’ ass. The museum recently had a major structural revamping. The results are spectacular. Currently on display in the new, humongous, light-filled atrium is Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. Twelve bronze sculptures represent the Chinese zodiac.


I saw this exhibit last year when it was mounted around the fountains outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and am happy to make their acquaintance again. They’re playful and a little bit nightmarish. The detail is extraordinary.


Do you know your Chinese zodiac symbol? I’m a bore. Oh…excuse me…I mean a boar. Daughter the First is a snake.

art3Currently on a five-year loan is Damien Hirst’s Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness from Darkness. These beautiful cathedral windows are made of…wait for it…

art4Butterfly wings. For real. He bred the butterflies specifically for these works. A lot of people think Hirst is a joke and I agree, he can irritate. His Spot paintings are idiotic. But I also think this guy can really turn out a spectacle. I still think his great white shark in formaldehyde was a scream.


My bride explaining to Daughter #2 that Degas was laughed at for painting dancers tying their shoes instead of dancing.

art6Here’s another special exhibit to die for. Damián Ortega’s The Blast and Other Embers. It’s a suspended sculpture of found objects and tools. Every object emanates from the center outward. Its shape looks globular from a few paces back. Beautiful.

art7They only allow ten people at a time into the “glass box” space. Any more would spoil the effect. The sculpture has an opening in the center that allows you to walk through it.


*     *     *

A few evenings later, I dragged their now-cultured asses to the premier event of the Cuyahoga County Fair: the demolition derby. Do you guys know what a demolition derby is? Have you ever been to one?


For the uninitiated, some wildly spray-painted, beat-up cars with their windows knocked out drive into a ring and then repeatedly smash into one another until only one is still running. It’s awesome. There are a half dozen races, all segmented by car size, my favorite being suburban minivans. Here’s a clip of the compact car division.

If you’re having a hard time viewing the video, it’s a lot of this:


Of course, something went horribly wrong.

The girlies were actually pretty freaked out about the fire. At the :16 second mark Daughter #1 says:

“Daddy! I want to leave now!”

“It’s okay.”

“No it’s not! It’s going to blow up!”

“No, it won’t.”

Then, of course, a giant flare-up at :27 seconds. Probably the gas tank.

Again, for those without video:demo3

My brother, brother-in-law, and I, along with the rest of the toothless clods in the grandstand, couldn’t stop laughing. Fathers of the year. It probably wouldn’t have been quite so funny if one of the drivers had crawled out of the wreckage engulfed in flames.

36 thoughts on “Complementary, not opposing, forces.

    • There you go, betraying your age again with an obscure (albeit, utterly appropriate) reference from way back when.

  1. Loved the Chinese zodiac heads, and the Blast. Not too sure about Hirst through. Even though the windows look gorgeous, just knowing they’ve been made with wings pulled of butterflies detracts from the visual spectacle.

    Never been to a demolition derby as I honestly don’t see the point. If I want to see random acts of destructive violence, all I have to do is go to work at my school.

    • Hirst’s work definitely runs hot and cold. I think he might be too clever for his own good.

      No point in demolition derby!? You might as well say there’s no point in any sport! The victor in each category received a huge trophy. That’s reason enough.

  2. I’ve lived 82 years without seeing a Demolition Derby and what you showed us is more than I ever want to see, again….! I’ll take those Bumper Cars, any day….No fires and no possible deaths….OY!

    Love all the ART…..all that you showed us (GREAT Pictures, my dear) was new to me, except the Degas…..Thanks for expanding my Horizons….The Demo Derby..You can .86 That, Please! Too Violent for my taste.

    • If it were a warm, dry, clear August evening, and the choices before me were the demolition derby or strolling through an art gallery, I’m picking the demolition derby EVERY TIME. It’s the right activity at the right time. It’s like bumper cars on steroids.

  3. If Hirst is a joke he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
    Your girls are gorgeous and very lucky.
    My younger son aged 11 walked out on us watching a bull fight in Spain.
    I blame Hemingway.

    • Hirst and that other trickster. Julian Schnabel. The clown princes of the modern art world. Both astonishing wealthy. I read that the pieces of broken plates Schnabel affixed to canvases and sold for a king’s ransom are now falling off.

      So he left during the bullfight? Is that correct? Can’t say I blame him. I’ve never seen one but I’ve heard they’re astonishingly violent affairs.

  4. I am a Rooster, and an Aries—how’s that for a kick ass combo? The butterfly art is amazing, and possibly one of the only things which would actually draw me to Cleveland. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    I’ll see your demo derby and raise you a combine demo derby and a rodeo. 😉

    • Don’t you mean you’re a cock? Bwaa haw haw haw! I’m a bore and, to add insult to injury, Cancer.

      There’s lots of good shit in Cleveland! You’d be surprised. There’s a fancy new casino right in the middle of downtown. Used to be a grand department store that went out of business. Now it’s swinging.

      Is there really a combine demo derby or are you making it up? That sounds awesome! What’s a combine? I’ll Google it. Would love to see that although the suburban minivans are pretty special.

      • There really are combine demo derbys, big thing around these parts. Yes, I live somewhere near Hicksville. I am probably somewhat of a semi-educated hick, who enjoys beer and rodeo, but every once in awhile likes to gravitate towards the finer things in life.

      • What you probably don’t realize is that there is actually a suburb out in Long Island not far from New York City called Hicksville. One wonders how these things happen.

        It sounds to me like you have pretty eclectic tastes. Nothing wrong with that! Keeps things fresh.

      • I think my “eclecticness”, is what makes it so difficult for me to find a man. I think most of them see it as multiple personality disorder, as opposed to being eclectic.

      • I’m calling bullshit on that. Any man who only wants a one-trick pony deserves what he gets.

      • Variety is the way to go, man! It’s why they invented menus. What’s better? The art museum? The demolition derby? Or the art museum AND the demolition derby? See my point?

  5. This is awesome! I love that your daughter wanted to bail when she saw flames haha. I love how this reads like we’re having a conversation. What a fine education your girls are getting. Well done!

    • Those girls are going to have the time of their lives. I never did and neither did my father. As far as I know, his father didn’t, either. The cycle has to stop somewhere.

      Not to get in to a big ass-kissing Oprah session here, but your post on your experiences in the circus is one of the best things I’ve read in a long, long time. I would encourage everyone to click over and read it.

  6. I’m liking Damián Ortega’s explosion, it reminds me of Cornelia Parker’s shed – Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991)… as for Damien and the butterfly wings, I can’t get my head around the fact that the butterflies were bred for dismemberment… but that might be the point?!

    • This is going to sound like another witty sarcasm but it’s not; when you put it like that, the Hirst piece does seem to be kind of unnecessarily cruel. Just a few words from you is all it took. I can’t say I hate the piece, but I look at it differently now.

      What about the explosive car? How’d you like that?

  7. The “Blast” piece is dead brilliant in concept and execution! i would spend hours in there…

    Demo Derby? honey, in my world we don’t just WATCH, but there have been family members participating. it’s more than just taking out the glass. there are (cough, cough) SAFETY standards that have to be met regarding protection of the gas tank, and there are of course highly trained officials who inspect the work of each demo derby combatant to assure that all safety specs are met so that there is virtually no risk of fire during the spectacle.

    And of course the stands are FULL of people waiting for the fires…

    • We were sitting next to a woman who was knowledgeable about these things and she said they’re only suppose to have two gallons of gas in the car but by the size of the fire, she estimates there was a hell of a lot more than that in there. As soon as flames appeared, the crowd roared. You’re right. They were all waiting for that. My brother was in the Cuyahoga County Fair demo derby when he was just out of high school. He lasted about :30 seconds. Someone smashed him into the guardrail and that was that.

  8. I’m in for the demolition derby… here we call it “banger racing” – banger being a term for what I think you refer to as a clunker. My wife’s cousin was into it when he was younger.

    I’ve tried to spread my kids education – we all went to see “Long Days Journey Into Night” last year which was good – a heavy play with dark routes not too far from our own families issues, and I have tried to get them both interested in cricket but just get blank expressions when I have the radio commentary on (only way to follow it is via the BBC4 test match special) and they ask what is happening – “Day 4, in the balance, England have made about 20 runs in the last hour”… they look at me and say “Day 4!?!?! How can you listen to this rubbish?” Normally about then the commentator will comment on a pigeon landing on the pitch or a different coloured bus from normal passing the ground and they just walk off again

    • Fantastic comment, Graham. Loved your take on cricket. Thanks for my morning laugh. “Long Days Journey…” is a tough slog. A great piece of writing and theater but long and difficult. Lots of drinking.

  9. I was just going to tell you that demolition derby is called banger racing over here, but I see furtheron just beat me to it!

    That tools exhibit is fantastic! But knowing how clumsy I am, I’d be a bit worried about going in there in case I tripped and impaled myself on something! I find the butterfly wings a bit disturbing, obviously very clever and creative, but all I can think about is those poor butterflies being bred for art.

    • Until someone pointed it out in this comments section, the cruelty of the butterfly piece didn’t register with me. Thanks, everyone.

      The hanging tool sculpture has a break through the center that allows you to walk through it. If you do happen to see this exhibit, have someone keep a mobile phone ready to record any impalements. You can post it to YouTube or make a cool blog post out of it.

    • The Blast was…a blast. Ha. Had to do it. Loved that piece but thought the blast at the demolition derby was actually a lot more fun.

      Those kids are going to be well-rounded whether they like it or not. So far, I get little resistance. We’ll see when they’re troubled teens.

  10. Hmmm, this post got past me – I don’t think it registered on my e-mail notification. Anyway, Loved the “Blast”. The demo derby is OK but I wouldn’t pay money to see it. I object to the butterfly piece. Your daughters are getting an amazing exposure to art and life – you’re a good Dad Mark.

    • Thanks, Paul. It never hurts to hear someone say I’m doing the right thing. I am full of doubt.

      This post didn’t slip by you. It’s from last August—almost exactly a year ago—and I don’t think you were following me at that time. It’s ancient history being repurposed.

  11. Pingback: beeswax, oil and human hair | Exile on Pain Street

Vent Central:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s