A Wilde Time

All right, so it’s called Pierpont Morgan Library. However, if you look for “Morgan Pierpont” on Citysearch, you’ll be directed to it anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you call it. At least I didn’t manage to dyslexify the address, 29 East 36th Street. Had I, however, I would have arrived there earlier than I did, given that the reverse of that address would be a few blocks closer to my “headquarters”. But that’s neither here nor there (whatever that means). As it turned out, Leslie, my delightful companion for the afternoon, was running as late as I was, and, as luck would have it (and it indeed would), our paths of tardiness crossed at 34th Street, where we both red-nosedly laughed at our timing and apologized, like good little girls, for our latenesses, each of which cancelled the other out.

Anyway. The Library. Pierpont Morgan. Quite a lovely place. We focused on an exhibit called “Oscar Wilde: A Life in Six Acts”. I felt like I was on quite intimate terms with our boy, given that in December 2000, my famous Significant Other and I stayed for a few franc-filled days at L’Hotel, where he (Oscar, of course, not my “S.O.”) (please feel free to beat me for that abbreviation) died 100 years earlier, when the hotel was known as the Hotel Alsace. I think I mentioned this to Leslie three times, and I actually may have said it just loudly enough so that others around me could marvel at my close association with the object of the exhibit. At one point I did catch myself saying it yet again, at which time I duly noted that I had, indeed, not only gently toed the line between “good-humored library patron” and “pretentious jackass poseur” but completely crossed over it and was on the verge of treading even deeper with each successive occasion of my mouth’s opening.

However, my violation was not quite as severe as that perpetrated by two women who were ahead of us in the chronological “circuit”. Both possessed a curious brand of unabashed self-involvement that presented itself as complete oblivion. The first one, perhaps my age, wore a stunning sweater I think I banished to a landfill circa 1978, and carried the tiniest of notebooks, into which she furtively scrawled what was written on several of the placards that described the display cabinets’ contents. I expected her to bound off with her bounty and crouch squirrelishly in a corner, to stuff her cheeks with torn-out pages. The second offender, probably in her 50s, somewhat stout, with thinning red-tinted hair, and wearing only the most sensible of shoes, obviously had never heard of the novel concept of Other People. Instead, she and her girth hovered over the glass display cabinets with all the intense deliberation I know she duplicates every weekend at her local all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Her immobility and seeming inability to step aside prompted me to mention the dreaded phenomenon of Escalator Inertia, and I had to force myself to move along so I wouldn’t indulge my impulse to accidentally bludgeon her with the candelabra I keep in my pants for occasions such as this.

Despite these distractions (and others as well — I am convinced that anywhere there is an exhibit of any kind, there are bound to be people who should be refused admittance), I did manage to actually read quite a few of the display case placards and large installment boards. But of course what impressed me most about the floppy-haired fop was not the variety of his vagaries but his curious resemblance to Hugh Grant. And that observation, my friends, is one that I am sure was overlooked by both the yellow-sweatered scrawler and the sensible-shoed staller.