Monday, April 17, 2023

Past Performance.


I don't live in the past--the world is too much with me--but there are parts of the past I enjoy visiting. I was up in Boston for most of the first week of April to celebrate Passover. My daughter Sarah and her husband, Ryan, own a home in the North End and live there with Jude, my nine-month-old grandson. My younger daughter, Hannah, flew in from the kelp forests of San Diego, and my wife and I drove up with Millie, my mother-in-law.

There was work last week, of course. And about 91 hours of preparation for the Passover Seder, a feast most people hope is over in about twelve minutes. That seems like the normal Jewish ratio, by the way, of grueling work to enjoyment--5460 minutes (91 hours) of toil to 12 minutes of eating. In so many ways, genetics is destiny. You might as well concrete all your orifices with matzo and accept the fact that life sucks.

Of course, we also visited Sarah's home in the North End, made a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts where we saw a fabulous Hokusai exhibit and the new Museum at MIT, where I saw hundreds of things I can't begin to understand.

Boston, where I lived for small portions of two-years while I presided over a middling shop with C-minus creative aspirations was never my home, though I lived there as I said. I always thought the place earned its "angry-town" moniker--and that's coming from me--birthed in what was forever known in Cross Country Hospital, Yonkers, NY as "angry-womb."

In any event, I wandered through the City on the Hill, tripping over the drugged and drunk and side-stepping puddles of green vomit leftover from St. Patrick's day or the Celtics last win, it doesn't much matter which. Despite all that, I saw bits of life that brought smiles to my leathery face.

This, for instance, on School Street. I always enjoy PDLs (Public Displays of Lycanthropy) and seeing Romulus and Remus sucking on Mother Wolf always brightens my day.

I also got to spend an hour in the hushed marble of Boston's glorious Athenaeum, a mid-19th Century Building meant to last forever. Not like buildings today--meant to last until a Starbucks moves in, an Apple store or an Outback Steak House.

The Athenaeum (you'll never go wrong visiting an institution with a diphthong in its name) is a quiet place to be surrounded by a world gone by, with ancient sculptures, paintings and books upon books decorating the marble flooring up to the 16-foot ceilings.

There, I took the world's worst photo of a backlit Athena--a hero of mine (I see myself as a modern-day Odysseus)--complete with her silent owl. Through the window is the large burial ground, dating from the 17th Century where John Hancock is buried, and Ben Franklin's brother and various adjuncts to what we once called America's founding fathers. The names of many of those important men today sound more like chain stores selling press-board furniture than they sound historical, but we must learn to take the horrible with the terrible.

While at the Athenaeum, I also saw some nice early 20th Century Boston "Ashcan-style" paintings, a beautiful edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (maybe my favorite English-language book) with Zeus and Myron's Discobulus discus thrower presiding over the whole affair, the latter compleat with DeSanitized floral prudification intact.

Finally, I concluded my two-non-en-famille hours in Bean Town with a visit to one of America's great used bookstores. Though they had thousands of great books, signed copies and even hardcover childrens' books with local color like "Make Way for Ducklings," I bought nothing but three paperbacks for $5 each of ancient baseball books--one of which dated to 1966 and had an unshaven Sandy Koufax on the cover, in commemoration of his 1965 Cy Young award.

I concluded at Bromfeld pens--which is now Appleboom Pens, and treated myself to a Pelikan Apatite blue fountain pen with Edlestein's 2022 "Ink of the Year."

Yes, I still take pleasure writing with a good pen with real ink and messing up my hands and my clothing with that ink. Whether you're a real writer or a dilettante like I am, ink on your hands and on your shirt is a mark of pride. Like an old Prussian with a dueling scar from monocle to moustachio. 

Certain things just are and will always be. At least to me.

No comments: