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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Fleshly School

While my child bride packed for our trip to Morocco, I took the Youthful One to Antwerp. We began at the spacious and cleverly designed zoo, next to the train station. We were amused by some of the signs that urge children to ask parents potentially awkward questions about anatomy.

After a delightful sojourn among the mammals, reptiles, and many birds, we met my old friend Bart at Rubens House, the 17th-century mansion that he helped to design and where the great painter lived during his most prolific years. The furnished rooms displayed many of his canvases. We observed that Rubens penchant for fleshy females and muscle-bound males seems to have developed immediately after his visit to Italy where he was smiten with Michelangelo's heroic depictions of naked human forms. Ironically, Rubens self-portrait presents a slender, elegantly dressed man with a narrow, shapely nose. After a few refreshing glasses of the local favorite, De Koninck, Bart took us to the city's glorious Gothic cathedral, where a Pentecost mass was going, and to the waterfront, where an underground tunnel takes pedestrians to the other bank of the Scheldt.

All of this sightseeing was in preparation for the day's most stunning revelation: Bart's apartment, a minimalist masterpiece in black and white, full of geometrical nooks and featuring a two-story high spiral staircase and a baby grand piano. The Youth was overcome by a paroxysm of admiration and we had to pry him off a wall when we left for dinner at an Italian restaurant in the neighorhood.

Dashing for the train, we arrived back in Ghent just in time for a muscial performance by another Belgian friend, Michel Delville from Liege, whose band "The Wrong Object" delivered a fascinating fusion of progresssive jazz and rock at a cafe in the medieval quarter of Ghent.

Today's cultural immersion took us to the Ghent museum of art, where Lad got his fill of Bosch, Breughel, and more Rubens (of course). As he observed on leaving, "I can tolerate exposure to a great deal of glistening female flesh."

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