Dora at CMoM

When I was growing up in Seattle, I felt the kind of ache for New York that Garrison Keillor regularly describes as his own. True, I was not in rural Minnesota, glued to a radio. In fact, I had a happy, rich childhood with wonderful friends and a smart, supportive family. Still, melodramatically, I imagined myself barred from culture by a couple major mountain ranges and the Great Plains beyond. Seattle in the seventies and early eighties was different: there was a single Starbucks, a tiny computer company, a big airplane company: no Red Hook or Amazon; Kurt Cobain was an unknown from the unimaginable burbs; and I had a crush on a boy who played soccer with a boy named Stone. I hung out with Dave Munger and dreamed of making it big, somehow. I read the cartoons in The New Yorker (I won’t pretend to more) until I understood most of them and devoured each new issue of Andy Warhol’s Interview.

Now, a billion years later, I’m here, more or less, and with a salary, more or less. I imagined this as a moment of endless dinner parties with the cool, intellectual, NPR kind of celebrities (ones who are glamorous and surprisingly intelligent or smart and surprisingly kind), of gallery openings, (so tedious, darling!), and readings. Or at least, of a few plays and some trips to the museum. I’m more confident than I was as a visitor in my teens and twenties, more independent, and have more resources (capital and otherwise). So, imagine my surprise when I found myself setting off on Sunday morning for the sole cultural event of the week: The Dora the Explorer Exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.
Mention Spanish explorers to adults, and they'll probably recall old history lessons about Cortez and Ponce de Leon. But to preschoolers, only one Hispanic explorer matters, and she's not even grown up: Dora, the 7-year-old star of Nickelodeon's animated series "Dora the Explorer." Dora is no imperialist, but she has conquered vast numbers of young hearts. And now she's taken over the second floor of the Children's Museum of Manhattan.
Laurel Graeber wrote that in the Times of 12/10/04. I can attest that it’s a delightful, walk-through advertisement for a very sweet television show. I’m not very clear on how it belongs in a museum, however. And the Dr. Seuss exhibit on the first floor did little more to clarify my sense of the place. It is a very odd playground for toddlers. Still, my beloved toddler was happy, happy, happy for nearly two hours. “What shall we do next, Mama?”

I thought about the girl I was, poring over New York magazines, dying to see Tom Stoppard’s latest play, as I watched my beloved toddler dancing, over and over again, to a tinny recording of Dora and her best friend, Boots the monkey, singing “We did it! We did it!” Aww.

Then I went home and began lobbying for a babysitter for next weekend.

"Dora the Explorer," at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, the Tisch Building, 212 West 83rd Street, (212) 721-1223. Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: $8; 65+, $5.