Saturday, October 7

1) After a late start, off to the Athenaeum to return a book.

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2) Weeping Baby Pumpkin Head came out with me today, which led to a pleasant conversation with a young woman on the third floor.

3) Then to Boston Common - it was a beautiful day! - to grab a sandwich at Earl of Sandwich (housed in the old gentleman's convenience designed and promoted by Charles H. Gibson, Jr. of the Gibson House), and sit outside reading The Happiness Project, observing the passing throng, the loud rock band to which few were paying attention, and the faint evidence of an herbal aroma.

4) With time to spare before my next engagement, I ambled over to Brattle Books. After 30 years of browsing through used bookstores, it's inevitable that I'll find copies of books I already own, in this case Madame Curie and the Norwich history of Venice I just finished. And then that rare and beautiful thing happened: I went to search for a specfic book and it was there.

5) Pleasantly surprised by a phone call from one of the Bestest Friends Ever, and I spent around half an hour sitting on the Common catching up. Best impromptu moment of the day.

6) Walking to the T station, a woman wearing a T-shrt that read "Espresso Then Prosecco." And I remembered an old National Lampoon photo cartoon with the punch line "I've drugged myself into complete sobriety!"

7) By this time I was starting to drift into sleep - which is very bad when you are on public transportation on the way to meet a friend at a museum to look at art. But I started reviving when I walked into the MFA and, while I was early, my friend was earlier. :-)

8) We'd chosen the MFA for our rendezvous in part because I hadn't been in six months. And quite a bit has changed in those six months. We took in the special exhibitions first: a show of two Japanese woodblock artists, "Showdown! Kuniyoshi vs. Kunisada," which was quite interesting. Ghosts and goblins, legends, actors, beautiful women, and even, discreetly behind a screen, a small cabinet of erotic books.

 Detail of  In the Ruined Palace of Soma, Masakado's Daughter Takiyasha Used Corcery to Gather Allies . . . " from about 1844.

Detail of In the Ruined Palace of Soma, Masakado's Daughter Takiyasha Used Corcery to Gather Allies . . . " from about 1844.

8a) But oy, every illustration includes about five incomprehensible Japanese names. When I was in fourth grade - fourth grade! - Daddy gave me Tolstoy's War and Peace to read. I gave up after one page, because the Russian names were just too much to deal with. (I don't think he'd ever read it himself.)

8b) And a gallery of the 11 canvases the MFA owns by Mark Rothko. Now of coure my first reaction to Rothko was "These are just big paint chips! All we need to do is add the Pantone number in the corner." But that isn't quite true; his paintings need to be approached with more subtlety, and are almost better as objects of meditation than as paintings.

 My favorite of the Rothkos. Unsurprisingly, it's orange.

My favorite of the Rothkos. Unsurprisingly, it's orange.

9) We did a circuit of the other galleries, noting where things had been moved or substituted and remembering how uninspired and dusty the MFA appeared 35 years ago, finishing up with a beautiful exhibition in the jewelry gallery.

 Sharpest photo I could manage of a stunning Cartier pendant.

Sharpest photo I could manage of a stunning Cartier pendant.

10) Drinks and impromptu dinner at B-Jo. I'm often interested in trying a new cocktail with rye in it, and lit on the "Noel en eté" on the bar menu. Strong and sharp as a drawn sword at the beginning and garnished with a sprig of rosemary, it makes you want to nurse it along for awhile.

11) Groceries, and then home. Wonderful to shake up the routine with a day off almost completely spent out of the house.