Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Boston, and beyond...

I just got back from a fun weekend in Boston and Maine. Jeannine invited me to go with her to attend an awards presentation by the Boston Authors Club, held at the Boston Public Library, where her book "Borrowed Names" would receive a "HIghly Recommended" honor.

We decided to stay overnight in Boston the day before the event, so we had some time to do a few things, like walk to the Museum of Fine Arts from our hotel, and take a "Duck Boat" tour of part of the city. I must confess to being somewhat underwhelmed by the MFA -- I was expecting something that would blow my mind with the depth and breadth and quality of its collections, but I found it to be somewhat lacking. Perhaps if I spent more time poking around and looking at everything more closely I would feel differently, but from this visit I saw nothing there that was any more impressive than what I'd seen in smaller museums like the Clark in Williamstown, MA or the New Britain Museum of American Art in CT. Still, it was fun to see the art -- and there was one piece, a sculpture in marble, that greatly impressed me with the technique required to create it. I believe it was called "The Blind Girl of Pompei". Here's a photograph I took of it:

And another one, a more closeup view:

Take a close look at the way the clothing on the figure is done, especially the upper edges. That's marble, and the sculptor was able to take that hard stone and turn it into those thin, delicate shapes, all from one solid block. Pretty amazing.

On the walk back to our hotel, we decided to stop for lunch at a "Cheesecake Factory". It's a chain restaurant that Jeannine had been to before, but I had not, and we lucked out with some nice outdoor seats. I was impressed by the scope of their menu -- there were at least five different entrees that I wanted to try, but I settled on something called a "Luau Salad". I had to take a photograph of it when it arrived…

… and it was as tasty as it looked.

The following day, before the Boston Authors Club event, Jeannine and I went on a "Duck Boat" tour, something she'd done with our daughter years ago. We made reservations for 9:30AM the previous night, and showed up at the embarkation point to be greeted by an obnoxious cacophony of quacking duck sounds, made by most of the kids who were waiting to go on the tour. Apparently there is some vendor nearby who sells these little plastic "duck lips" things that when blown into produce a pretty accurate -- and pretty loud -- rendition of a duck's quack. I confess that hearing the nearly-incessant quacking while we waited for about half an hour for the tour to start kind of put me in a grumpy mood.

What didn't help that mood was the appearance of our tour driver -- a bundle of energy calling himself "Plucky Ruffles". Imagine a stand-up comic wearing a powder blue ruffled tuxedo (with matching shorts). I was thinking this was NOT going to be my day, but as the tour got underway, things got better, the kids stopped quacking (except when "Plucky" directed them to) and it turned out to be pretty interesting and informative.

I especially liked the part where "Plucky" piloted the "Duck Boat" into the Charles River, and we spent about twenty minutes cruising around on the water. Here are a few photos from that…

I thought it was interesting that this rotting pier has been left to… rot, I guess. I wonder if it has some historic significance?

If you look closely at this one, near the tip of "Plucky'"'s outstretched hand, you will see the life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex model which stands outside the Boston Museum of Science. I was trying to get a better shot of that, but I was a bit handicapped by the fact that my camera was not working properly. 

(It seems that at some time during the previous day, I had leaned on it with enough force to crack the LCD panel, rendering that display almost completely inoperative, except for about a three-quarter inch-square section. That made it REALLY difficult -- if not impossible -- to use the zoom lens or see much of what I was pointing the camera at. I ended up having to guess a lot at what the camera was taking shots of.)

It was Memorial Day weekend, and on the tour we passed a park where what appeared to be hundreds if not thousands of small American flags had been installed on a gentle slope. I caught the edge of it with my camera in a still image, but what was really neat about this display was the movement, the tiny rippling motion set up by all of these little flags being moved around by the breeze. Quite lovely. 

Not too far from this, we passed the relief sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gauden of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first troop of free black soldiers to fight in the Civil War on the side of the Union. What a great piece that is!

I feel that I should, at this point, apologize to my wife for not being a more consistently cheery companion. Even though I had cheered up and was having a good time by about the half-way point of the "Duck Boat" tour, I did start it acting grumpy and sour. Part of that is my natural disinclination to enjoy being in large cities, and even though Boston isn't as bad as, say, New York, it still has those qualities which grate on me (too many people in too small a space, too much traffic, not enough nature, etc.). I also get anxious when I am in a place which is unfamiliar in the way a big city that you don't know can seem unfamiliar. And part of it was being rattled by cacophonous duck quacking at an early hour. So… sorry, Jeannine! I will try to do better the next time. (And I wouldn't mind taking another ride in a "Duck Boat".)

After that excursion, we went back to the hotel to check out and walk to the Boston Public Library (which, conveniently -- thanks to Jeannine's planning -- was just across the street from our hotel) and had a nice lunch from the library's cafe while sitting in a beautiful courtyard. 

Then it was time for Jeannine to appear and do some book signing along with the other authors who were to be honored, before the presentation ceremony. While she did that, I wandered around the library a bit. Eventually I found myself in the original section of the library, where the midday sun coming through the windows created a wonderful light around two statues of lions in the main staircase.

I made my way back to the hall where the ceremony was to be held, and sat with Jeannine and a couple of writer friends of hers. It was cool to hear the accolades for Jeannine's book, and once again I felt really proud of her for what she has accomplished with her art.

Soon, the event was over, and we started our trek out of the city and towards points north. I was concerned that it would be a hellish drive through awful traffic, but it turned out not to be so bad. It did take us about an hour to go twenty miles or so, but once out of Boston proper, the roads cleared and we were on our way to the coast of Maine.

More later…! -- PL

1 comment:

Brookslyn said...

So we could have crossed paths! I was visting Boston from Los Angeles on Saturday and then was in PV Sun/Mon/Tue... seems like a lot more development in Hadley compared to 18 years ago. Loved the Eric Carle museum.

Have you visited the Barnes Foundation outside Philly? Interesting history there, one side of the argument is well presented in the movie Art of the Steal.