November 17, 2018, Boston, Massachusetts
Red has always been a favorite color of mine. It has a variety of meanings: confidence, energy, exuberance, passion, courage, attention, anger, aggression, and many more. All shades of this loud color manage to catch the eye in the home, in your appearance, and influence your moods. In another context, when a door is painted red, historically it signals a safe stop for travelers.
I was very taken by this implication as I went searching for the bright double doors of Boston Athenaeum on 10 1/2 Beacon Street.
To get there, I had my Outlander, Murtagh, remain neutral at my apartment, and took the commuter rail. My desired–and closest–stop is within walking distance. I check on the schedule for the train using the MBTA app not only to view times but to purchase tickets by simply calculating the distance from my stop on one line to South Station.
This station is the heart of mainstream Boston transportation. For those of you who aren’t at all familiar with Beantown, South Station is one of the middlemen within the subway system and direct line access to Boston Logan as well as to major AmTrak destinations (i.e. New York, Connecticut, etc.).
Thirty-five minutes fly by as I listen to narrator Jason Weiser, founder of the podcast, Myths & Legends, with his recently created platform, Fictional, where he sums up in superb modern detail of infamous fiction classics. I listened to one episode (of the six parts) of The Count of Monte Cristo.
I arrived in good time and headed for the Red Line towards Alewife to get off at the Park Street stop. Climbing up the stairs, I was in the mainstream North End, cornering the Common and was framed by Beacon and Tremont. And holy hell, it was picturesque beyond words.
Perusing the visitor’s pamphlet, I viewed the diagram showing the main room of the first floor was labeled the Long Room. Instantly, I remembered another extended, multi-leveled room with the same title; there’s one room in the Old Library of the Trinity College in Dublin.
Differentiating between the two Long Rooms was hands down stupidly easy. For starters, the long room in Dublin was built almost a century prior to the Athenaeum. Next, Boston’s at least a third the size of Trinity’s, including the trove of books stored. Another comparison is that the books stored, standing and chain-locked in Trinity’s are at least over a century years old. And some haven’t even vacated from their spot on the shelves since they were put there in the early to mid-eighteenth century. I could go on but it’s better if you just go and see for yourself.
Though in defense of Boston’s Long Room, there were displayed purchases of original editions of Dante’s Inferno & Commedia, Eusebius’s Chronicon from the late 3rd century, and an architectural registry from the 14th (or 15th) century. In addition, there was a bust of George Washington that was so life-like it was a little unsettling. And finally, high and mighty above me were sculptures of Venus, Sophocles, Adam & Eve, and several more. A variety of portraits accented all the walls dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.
BUT both were full of knowledge, art, historic preservation, and pieces of international historic collections.
Overall, the one in Dublin definitely amped up my expectations, ruining all other displays “Long Room” derivative, so no offense, Athenaeum. Comparing one with another is a bit unfair, I must say when one was conjured on a grander scale.
I’m going to be completely honest; I did feel some disappointment in the availability and misinterpretation of visiting the Athenaeum. I was under the impression online that I wouldn’t have an admission fee if I was a visitor unless I wanted to take on the Art & Architecture Tour (that doesn’t even have consistent tour slots). I had access to the first floor only and even though it was impressive with their artifacts, antique books, and a few rare documents, a ten-dollar admission (or rather eight dollars if you present your student I.D.) is not worth it.
So for anyone interested in seeing the Athenaeum, check out their website calendar for upcoming tours of the entire cataclysm of five expansive floors. At least that way you can get your money’s worth of a real experience for two more dollars than the regular admission fee.
It was getting to be around 1:30 so I took the orange line to Haymarket, also known as the Northside, to the first old-school Italian bakery that appeared on Google (that was closest. The nearest was Maria’s Pastry Shop. Thirty dollars for three pounds of Italian cookies. A good deal indeed. Oh and fifteen bucks for a bubba rum and some cannolis too. An Italian Thanksgiving is not without seven-layered cakes, biscottis, and cuccidati.
In case, you didn’t know, all the great bakeries, especially in the little Italys of metropolitan cities like Chicago, New York, Boston, even Cleveland and Philadelphia, are old-school, family-owned, no-nonsense, understated establishments. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed as I’ve been to all the following cities and their pieces of Italia, and they are authentically the same.
After I purchased the cookie mother load, I went back the way I came and walked the rest of the way to the Park Street red line entrance on the Common. Though I did make some stops along Tremont to Ben Franklin’s pedestal by the Old State House, paid respects to the Old Burial Ground, and took some final photos (both on phone and Polaroid) before heading home.