Norman J. Olson, US




Art Feature


Day Trip to Miami


Yesterday, I went to Miami… to see the exhibit of Rembrandt etchings on display at an erotic art venue in Florida… it has been crazy warm here in Minnesota for a few weeks… up in the 40s and even low 50s which is unheard of in January… last year we had two feet of snow on the ground at this time of year… so anyway the warm spell was over as of yesterday evening… but, in the morning, when I left for the bus stop, it was 37 degrees… so fairly warm for winter… and very damp… the streets were that very dark black that asphalt gets when it is damp in cold weather and there was a strange misty overcast with a full moon shining through, beautiful as only the moon can be… white in the misty early morning sky… very gauzy and delicate looking…

At that time of morning, the bus is coming from the end of the line which is Sun Ray shopping center… an old strip mall that dates back from my first years in Minnesota when it was at the very edge of the city… I think the bus drivers like to add a few minutes to their break and there are few riders that early… and they figure, I think, that they can make up the time by putting the pedal to the metal from Sun Ray to White Bear Avenue… so when that early bus comes down the curving tree lined hill of Stillwater Road, around the water tank to the bus stop at McKnight Road, where I am waiting, it is always going really fast… and since the bus stop is overhung with trees, and very dark, I have in the past had these early buses fly right by without stopping… so, there I was at 5:20 a.m., standing off the curb waving my cell phone light at the bus that came barreling down the hill… I thought he was going to run me over but he did stop and so I got to join the other sad sacks… who ride the bus to downtown St. Paul at that time of day… everybody listening to their own music… wishing mostly, I guess that they were still in bed…

So I got to the airport with no problem… there were plenty of seats on the flights, so I knew that would not be a problem… flying on my wife’s employee passes, I fly standby so do not go unless a flight looks pretty open… got to Miami at noon… and walked to the airport bus stop… the Miami express bus costs $2.35 and runs every half hour at that time of day… it was a beautiful day, temperature in the low 80s with clouds threatening rain… the rain did not come however so that was nice… the route of the express bus has changed since my last trip to Miami and goes near the venue... but I got off a few blocks away just to walk and enjoy the warmth… and Miami is always full of tourists and locals in the shops and heading for the beach… with a nice relaxed vibe… great people watching…

The Rembrandt show was interesting… and it was really good to see a lot of people in the museum… so, I got my little sketch pad out of my backpack and went back to the Rembrandt pieces to make some sketchy notes about parts of some of the images I wanted to look at more closely (and for me drawing is looking)… so admired the drawing underlying the etchings…

Other visitors to the show were commenting on the shape of the women Rembrandt portrayed… that the idea of “beauty” had changed… thinking of the modern stereotype of attractive women as seen on tv or in advertising I guess… mostly that the Rembrandt women were all kind of fat with round faces and pendulous bellies… me, they look pregnant and in those days when birth control was primitive to say the least, I would guess that most women of child bearing age were pregnant or recovering from child birth most of their lives between ages 17 and 55… and the whole idea of sex or eroticism had to be inextricably intertwined with begetting children for those people… far more so than for most of us… and considering how dangerous life was for women in those days, how many died in fact in childbirth…

...well, it is no wonder all of the societal constraints arose to try and prevent people from having any more sex than what was absolutely necessary to keep the human race going…

Still, the sex drive is powerful and men and women will generally find a way to have sex no matter what the consequences… and so Rembrandt with his deft hand captured some of that… the smile on the face of one of the women having sex really says it all…

Well, anyway, I made a few sketches of some of the figures that interested me and then was back out on Washington Avenue… to catch the 150 bus back to the airport… apparently the schedule had changed and at that time of day, I had to wait almost an hour for the bus… which cut me much closer than I like to be when heading for an airport… but luckily for me, the flight to MSP was delayed and there was no line at security, so I had time to get a hotdog and a soda and actually sit and eat it… the flight was uneventful and arrived back at MSP at 9 p.m… the warm spell was officially over because on the bus back to St. Paul from the airport, I saw a sign that said the temperature was 10 degrees… so, welcome back to Maplewood and winter…

The photos included in this essay are ballpoint pen sketches of details of some Rembrandt etchings.



Free Verse


a day trip to Miami


first floating
like some weightless
mirage, five miles
up… then riding the bus
to South Beach… it occurred
me that Rembrandt
would have
enjoyed the faces
of businessmen
etched against the bright daylight
of the airplane window…

would have understood the woman with tangled hair…

and the damp pastel
decay of Miami…
would have wanted
to draw
the wrinkled face, the gray
hair and old blue eyes,
in the dirty glass
of the Miami Dade










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