Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Saturday (part 2)

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is an eccentric institution to say the least. It is an Italian villa that was constructed by Mrs. Garnder to do double duty to serve as a museum to house her collection of Renaissance art as well as to be her home. It is located in Boston's Fenway neighborhood, behind the MFA and at the time of it's construction looked out over the city dump. The land which was largely a tidal swamp was filled in and now is part of the Emerald Necklace park system and a residential area.

The Niece and I having seen Tate and Gavin off at the streetcar stop headed over to this oddball museum.

Once you have made your way through the admissions area and been exhorted not to take pictures, talk on your cell phone and to check your bags and coats you are greeted with an atrium sculpture garden.

As part of Mrs. Jack's rather complicated will, the museum has it's own greenhouse and a staff of gardeners to continuously refresh the atrium with set pieces, each display dictated down to the last plant changing with the seasons in an order dictated by the will.

The will is as much a part of the museum as any of the artwork. It is an amazing documentary example of how dictatorial one could be at the beginning of the 20th century if one had enough money. Among the provisions are the terms that none of the exhibits are to be changed in any way, (Mrs. Jack had decided where objects should be placed and no others opinion mattered) and that no art was to be loaned or removed. If any of the conditions of the will were broken, the collection was to be broken up and all the art was to be sold. This caused a small flutter in 1990 when the museum was robbed. 13 works were stolen from the museum in a bizarre turn of events, where the robbers presented themselves as Boston Police officers investigating a call and proceeded to tie the guards up and went on a shopping spree. There are a number of theories about who paid for this heist and who received the art, but in fact it remains a mystery and it can only be hoped that eventually the paintings will find their way home to Boston.

The Niece is an engineer by training and managed to avoid art education, therefore the museum was all new and the it's collection were all a fresh experience to her. I gave the poor woman a crash course in renaissance and late medieval art. I told her how Mrs. Jack and her agents stripped villas and palazzos of architectural details to ornament the building. We wandered up the 3 floors past dimly lit tapestries examples of religious art and depictions of classical mythology. I pointed out one set of wrought iron railings that are actually a pair of ornate headboards, where from I have never bothered to find out

With the gloom of the day and the controlled lighting of the facility it was all a bit spooky, the galleries all in a half light. I made sure that we also visited the Sargent portraits of our hostess and told about the, at the time, rather scandalous nature of the famous portrait of Gardner and her famous pearls.

We made our way finally back down to the ground floor and ended our tour with El Jaleo. It wasn't planned but it was a sufficiently dramatic end to the tour, standing in the Spanish Gallery looking at on of John Singer Sargent's greatest works.

But, by this time the hour was getting close to our rendez vous with the others at Redbones in Davis Square.

We took a short break stopping at the pigsty that I call home where Alice pretended to by shy when introduced to the Niece. It was good to get off my feet for a few minutes. I was enjoying myself but I was also starting to flag a bit. After about a half an hour it was time to head off to the T and over to Somerville.

In some ways this was a new experience for me. Hitherto I have only enjoyed the artery clogging goodness that is Redbone's BBQ via take out. I had never actually sat down in the restaurant and so I learned some very important things.

One being that it remains wildly popular and by the time we got there at 6 it was already packed. I also found out you have to leave your name with the hostess and the EXACT number of people in the party. You will not be seated until all of your party has arrived. This was a bit of a problem since I didn't know exactly how many of us were going to be there so I hazarded a guess at 8 and waited for the others to show up.

The first to arrive was Atari, followed shortly by the Farmboyz who had gotten slightly lost on the way from the T stop, but managed to find their way there. I introduced the Niece and people started talking. The topics ranged from urban living, cell phones and the idiots who use them, SUV sized strollers and the evil yuppie assholes that push them and the sensible idea of controlling motor traffic in densely populated urban areas, and the best places to find cheap sex and the conventions thereof in different areas. RG arrived and the talk continued to flow as we were increasingly jostled by the throng either waiting to be seated or out for a Saturday evening drink or 3.

Tate had not yet arrived and I was starting to wonder. RG and I went outside so I could call and we could take a much needed cigarette break. My call went straight to Tater's answering service. All we could do was shrug and hope Tater was on the way and we headed back in to rejoin our companions. We continued to wait and I have to admit, my good humor was starting to flag. I was tired and hungry and by this time the happy crowd of would be diners were starting to get on my nerves.

RG and I went back outside and I tried Tater again. Once more I got his service. At this point I really was getting concerned. I also was getting crankier and I am sad to say expressed this to RG. Fortunately, RG tends to be good humor itself and did the right thing which was to ignore my bad humor. He suggested we just go in and tell the hostess that there were only 6 of us and we would deal with the situation when Tater arrived. Just as we turned to go in, my phone rang. It was Tater. He had been unable to get at cab and had braved the T. He had made it to Davis fine, only to be grossly misdirected when he asked for directions. Between his bad directions and some triangulation via cell phone we met up on the corner of Elm and Chester right near the restaurant. Gavin was not well enough to join us, so I amended the count with the hostess to 7 and good humor was restored.

After all, with such great company how could anyone maintain a bad humor. We were soon seated and began to peruse the menu. We had a cute somewhat goofy waiter. The Niece took pictures of the group and at one point the waiter took a shot so that the Niece could be included in the photos. Dinner got ordered conversation continued and shortly food was on the table. I was not the only one who was hungry it would seem. With the arrival of the plates, silence descended on the table as we all tucked in.

Everything that was on my plate was as good as I remembered, especially the cole slaw. This may require a little explanation. For some reason that I have never understood, Bostonians seem to think sugar is a necessary ingredient in cole slaw. I personally consider this an abomination. Redbones has not bowed to this perversion and it's cole slaw is still crunchy and tangy.

Everyone cleaned their plates in short order, with the exception of RG and Atari, who had ordered the hungry man plates and wound up with the next days lunch in take away bags. We are talking about serious, ovehanging the sides of the plate territory here. A bit more conversation and then time to get out and make way for other anxious diners. Outside the restaurant, RG talked one of the smokers standing outside to take our picture and you can see it over on his blog. By this time, we could see that the heavens had finally cleared and it was a relief to see stars in the cold night sky.

Father T and C decided to stop at Starbucks for some coffee and dessert, and the rest of us were ready to head off.

The T was unusually cooperative and before we knew it we were on a train headed back to Boston. There was more talking and joking around and Tate, the Niece and I said good-by to RG and Atari at Park Street as they headed down one more stop to make their connection for the Orange Line. I directed my charges to the correct platform, with the promise of seeing Tater again in the morning and then was up the stairs and on a street car pretty quickly myself.

I barely remember the walk home from the T stop and I got through the door of the pigsty at about 9:00. I swear I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. It had been a great day in spite of the weather all because of the great company.