My pals at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
I've been meaning to blog about something that happened a week ago Sunday (April 4) at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the MFA, but was actually waiting to see if I'd get a response to my complaint to their members office. But nothing, so here I go, with both barrels.
First, the good news. Sue and I love the MFA, at least for what it is. We've both been all over the world, been to a lot of museums, and it's not the greatest museum. There are many museums that are by far more complete, more fascinating, just more world-class. But, welcome to Boston. Boston, in so many ways, is a second-class city going downhill fast. So let's rate the MFA pretty good.
So, Sue and I are members for the second year in a row now.
On this particular Sunday, we went to see a film, 3 Americas, with two of our neighbors. Afterwards, the writer/director/ producer Cristina Kotz Cornejo, another producer, Angela Counts, and three of the actors including Nicolas Meradi from Argentina spoke and answered questions after the film.
A great film about a girl named America who moves back to her grandmother's house in Argentina and how she grows and matures. It's about the three phases of her life, it's about the three Americas, it's about a lot of things and there's not a single car chase or gun fight. Afterwards, the comments and the questions were thoughtful and enlightening, and an additional bonus was later I was able to talk face-to-face to the director about her film and to Meradi about Meisner training.
A great day, huh?
Well, yeah, as long as you're not dealing with the stuck-up bunch of stiff necks that run the joint.
First, the MFA has a great gift shop. (Notice how every compliment is a superlative, and there's always this big "but" that follows?) I saw a shadow book there that I thought would make a perfect birthday gift for Rowland Scherman, a photograper. What better gift than a shadow book for a person who's made his life's work painting with light, huh? I decided I'd pick up the book after the film.
After the film ended, I walked into the gift shop and headed to where the book was. I was halfway across the store when it dawned on me that the lights were low and there was no one in the store. No customers, no clerks. So, I turned around to go out, but before I could get to the door, a security guard who looked for all the world like he belonged in the Land of Oz (little pointy beard and all) stood at the door and said, "Hey pal, we're closed."
Is this any way to talk to anyone? I was shocked, not that I demand to be called, sir, because that blows my mind, too, but, Hey pal? I mean, you expect a little bit more, dare I use the word, class, from the MFA.
Did you just call me, pal? I asked, incredulously. But he didn't answer, but said nastily, we're closed. By this time my dander was up and I said, The door was wide open. But I left.
Okay, here's the thing. I don't dress like a Boston Brahmin. I am a fifty-two-year-old grown man and that day I was wearing my typical cowboy boots, faded jeans, and leather jacket. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, anyone's pal.
But welcome to Boston, that racist, (I'm Caucasian, by the way), elitist, snotty city on the Charles. The Athens of the East. There is that idea of Boston being that "pawk the cawr in Hawvard Yawrd" and all that blue-blood crap, and it does still exist in certain enclaves like the MFA, but Boston is so much a mixed city of African-American and Latino and Asian and people from all over the world and all kinds of cultures that this sort of behavior is just shocking.
I'm sorry if I don't look like a member of the gang of doners who were clogging the lobby that day (tuxedos, bulbous noses with broken blood vessels from drinking too many gin and tonics at the club, name tag with class of '38 written on it) but that's really not the way to treat members or anyone who walks through those doors. Because what's ironic is there's a really good bet that I could run rings around our little Ozian security guard in the art department, or a lot of other visitors for that matter.
The next day Sue drove me to the museum where I picked up the book and I mentioned this incident to a nice, polite young man in the members office who felt I did have an obvious complaint. I filled out a form, but haven't heard anything in a week, so I figure Sue's and my $100 members charge and all the tickets and gifts we've purchased in the past and will purchase aren't appreciated, even though we keep getting these pleas for money in the mail all the time. I'm wondering if the new wing they're building will have a back door for the likes of me to go in and out of.
But there's more. I went to the lobby to meet Sue and our friends, where I had the conversations with Cornejo and Meradi. There obviously was some function about to start for the above-mentioned blue-bloods. So, to clear the lobby, another security guard, in a loud booming voice, shooed everyone out the door. Here's a talented filmmaker and actors and guests of the museum being treated like riff-raff. They couldn't come up to these people and quietly and politely explain that another function was starting?
And I'm sure the predominantly white, wealthy people who stayed were never once referred to derogatorily or spoken to rudely.