After landing at the airport yesterday, I got a taxi to the Charles Hotel. The old tunnel that used to connect the airport to the North End is now closed and undergoing repair, according to my cab driver. The new tunnel, which we took, connected directly to the – apparently – massive underground transit system of tunnels created in the “Big Dig.” So massive, in fact, that I didn’t see any daylight after going below ground at the airport until we surfaced a few blocks east of Massachusetts General Hospital, right on the Charles River.
It was an absolutely glorious day, weather-wise, and the clarity of sky and sun gave practically everything the appearance of a post card photograph. And the cab ride was appropriately frenetic, as I sat on the edge of my seat, craning my neck to see what I could along Storrow Drive. Hatch Shell. Mass. Eye & Ear Infirmary. Rowers. My favorite bike trail along the south side of the river. The “inkwad.” Finally, the Kennedy Street bridge came into view, and it looks like it could really use some repair.
In the lobby of the Charles, I met a fellow as we waited to check in who seemed to be a musician – the big bass fiddle and three unpacked bows among his luggage gave it away. Turns out he is the bass player in Michel Camilo’s jazz trio, who are playing here at the hotel all weekend. Nice guy. He was digging the fact that the hotel was playing “A Love Supreme” over the house system. Something you likely wouldn’t experience in Alabama.
I checked in and dropped off my stuff in the room. Damn room had a feather bed, if you can believe that! Many other nice amenities, like a TV screen in the bathroom mirror, but I’m doubting that I’ll get a whole lot of use out of these things. There is a “cube” directly across the hall from my room – a cubicle – with a computer and free internet access.
Went randomly walking with little purpose, and noticed several places I used to go to that are now either vacant buildings or replaced by other businesses. There are hardly any of those great used music or book stores left. I especially miss the one on Church Street, which is now a bunch of offices. Thank God there seems to still be no McDonald’s in the Square, but there are plenty of Starbucks storefronts, which is just plain odd in an area with sooooo many great small indie coffeehouses.
Walked through the Yard, saw Thayer Hall [my Freshman dorm], went by the Fogg Art Museum. Then decided to go in – I don’t think that I went into the Fogg more than two or three times during the nine years I lived up here. And I didn’t have to pay to get in then. There was a fascinating Rembrandt painting entitled “Bust of an Old Man.” I must have stood in front of that painting for at least five minutes. The lighting within the painting is very poetic. Lots of travel in that man’s face.
Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn Bust of an Old Man (1632)
There was also an exhibit of contemprary artists upstairs. I especially liked the works there of one Sol DeWitt (or maybe it was LeWitt) [it turns out to have been LeWitt, even though there is an artist named Sol DeWitt]. One was an intricate series of straight-edge pencil lines on a white wall that was in the shape of an arched doorway. Maybe I’ll try to make that someday. He also made a sculpture that appeared made of ½-inch by ½-inch strips of wood. It occupied a corner of one room. It looked like this,
one on each side of the corner. Nine cubes across the top, tapering down to one at the bottom. Wood, painted white. It was quite magical in prescence, even though it was so obviously mathematical and “perfect.” I imagine that this is where texture comes in: if the material was metal, or even some kind of composite, it may have seemed somewhat more sterile and less “alive.” Very nice.
There was also an exhibit room devoted to 20th century German art. It included some Max Beckmann paintings that were very Weill/Brecht. Loved the self-portrait.
Max Beckmann Self-Portrait in Tuxedo (1927)
Also, some crazy contraptions that were some kind of “light machines,” constructed from disparate pieces of polished steel or chrome that would spin slowly, while a fixed white light would project their changing movements as shadows on a wall. This was displayed in a dark room, with heavy velvet curtains for doors.