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Zick and Hodge at the Boston Public Library

Friday, November 11, 2011

 Where would I be without my friend Kristen (also known as Hodge)? She lights up my world, takes me places I wouldn't know to go. On my first night in Cambridge we headed out to the Boston Public Library for their highly entertaining Retroactive Book Awards of 1911. The Devil's Dictionary, whose defense was made by Boston-born comedian and writer Jimmy Tingle, won by at least two votes (Kris' and mine). Loved it. Got to meet him. Way too cute. But even more, I loved the room where it was all held. This amazing room, so fab it was used as the Pope's bedroom in The Pink Panther 2, was the place, circa 1895, where people waited while a librarian went and fetched their book. Might as well give them something to look about red veined marble Corinthian columns and dark wood paneling and oh, I know...original murals about the quest for the Holy Grail by Edward Austin Abbey? That might be nice. Good waiting room material. Hospitals, doctors' offices and car dealerships take note. Maybe you should rethink that TV blasting Faux News and Dr. Phil until I want to stick coffee stirrers in my eyes and ears.

Deep breathe. Think of the Pooh Tree in Cambridge that Hodge showed me a few years ago.

Yep, she's the cutest, and she has a prodigious amount of architectural knowledge, natural history and human history locked in that head. How she remembers it all I do not know. I often have to take notes when I'm with her.

The murals depict the birth of Galahad and the search for the Holy Grail, which was said to be the cup from which Christ drank his last draught.  You can read Henry James' version of the legend and learn more about the murals right here.  This is typical of the kinds of things that Hodge just knows, and that I must be awakened to each time I visit the cauldron of culture and history she swims in every day. Otherwise I'm spending my evenings surfing YouTube for cute animal vids. Oh noes!

Slacker that I am, I somehow neglected to bring my camera, so Hodge stepped in with her cellphone. I have yet to fall for one o' them handheld miracles that does anything other than dial and receive. But you can bet I wished I had one when I saw these incredible murals. I want to go back in daytime and just gaze for awhile, reading the legend as I look at the Quest.

Hodge caught me diggin' an old map depicting the United States as an eagle, with Maine as a kind of hat and the western territories as some kind of feathery addendum.

Boston Public Library has the best library lions evah. Glad they're indoors and not subject to the slow melt of acid rain...they will retain their chiseled features into eternity.

 And look at this reading room. It was silent, except for breathing and a little tippity tapping. I loved it. Though I was a little shocked by the placards on each table with dire warnings of laptop theft should one's attention wander. But then I reminded myself that it was a public library, that anyone can come in and behold this wonder and sit quietly doing whatever one does, and that is an even more beautiful thing than green lamps on placid faces. And as I watched, anyone did come in those doors, and that made me happy. The Boston Public Library is beautiful, rich, luxurious, opulent even, and it's open to the public to enjoy.

All photos of BPL by Kris Hodgkins Macomber, with thanks and giggles.

Next: a trip to Fresh Pond.

And PS: Whatever you do today, do not forget to celebrate Nigel Tufnel Day at 11:11 on 11/11/11.  My sister Micky and I will be blasting Smell the Glove (on vinyl, no less) from her record player. Remember those? 


Thanks for the library time this morning, along with history lessons from your friend. A beautiful structure, for sure. I'll be cranking it up to 11 with you!

Posted by Amy Girten November 11, 2011 at 7:54 AM

Long live Library Lions!
My grandmother-in-law was a Macomber, too. I wonder if...?

Not sure how the LOL and I managed not to go to the Boston Public Library while in Beantown, but we will obviously have to fix that next time.

Always happy to visit a library!

Couldn't survive with out my book dispenser.

Just 3 months ago I visited the BPL and photographed those same lions. Wonderful place!

Jeff and I resisted the fancy phone urge for as long as we could, now we don't know how we survived without them. Now we always have a camera in our pocket and have captured so many moments that would have been otherwise missed. He even carries his iPhone while he's running, taking pictures of road side plants, etc. Couldn't do that with his Canon! Go ahead, get one, you'll love it!

The Boston Public Library was the first public library in America. Anyone can come in, and anyone does. Several monumental inscriptions appear in the entablature on the main building's façades. On the east: "THE PUBLIC LIBRARY OF THE CITY OF BOSTON • BUILT BY THE PEOPLE AND DEDICATED TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING"; and on the north: "THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY".

Another inscription, above the keystone of the central entrance, proclaims: "FREE TO ALL".

And yes, Hodge is cute and wise.

Posted by John Macomber November 12, 2011 at 5:51 AM

I suppose y'all had to find something to do now that baseball season is over. (And, in this case, has been over for some time.)

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