While visiting New York City recently, I felt as though I should be wearing a “slow moving vehicle” symbol on my back. You know the type—one of those reflective triangles. Especially while in the walkways connecting one subway line to another, I was consistently passed by people loping along at a pace about twice as fast as mine. Talk about feeling old . . . and provincial.
But . . . I fell in love while there—with Henry Clay Frick. I know, I know. That’s like saying I fell in love with a despot—a Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie or Vanderbilt. Truth be told, whether or not those gilded-age tyrants were selfish users of men, their taste in art was spectacular. Frick might have been a difficult guy, competitive, demanding and surly, but he sure had an eye for beauty. It makes me wonder if people can be forgiven for their transgressions based solely on their bequests to the public of their art collections.
The Frick Museum has been on my “bucket list” since 1959, although I certainly didn’t use that corny-but-useful expression of bucket list back then. After apprenticing in summer stock theatre, I was invited to be the houseguest of a new friend who had apprenticed, as well. She lived on East 70th Street in Manhattan. She used “the Frick” as an identifier for anyone needing to know where she lived. As I heard her say, “We’re just two blocks east of The Frick,” the responses intrigued me--consistently oohs and ahs from people who were familiar with the Frick. Unlike a Seattle identifier, “We’re two blocks from the gas station,” I realized, even as a nineteen year old girl, that the Frick must be a special place.
In June 2012, after probably six intervening trips to NYC since ‘59, I finally saw the place for myself! What a gorgeous architectural structure, and what an impressive collection it houses—with masterpieces available for peering close up in every room. It is as spectacular a collection as I’ve ever seen.
I'm intrigued, not for the first time, by your reminder that "bad" people do good things, and that it would be useful if we could all remember that all the time. The "good" need not wipe out the bad, nor ought the "bad" obliterate the value of the "good." When will we learn that none of us is purely one trait or another? Thanks for your thoughtful sensibility, Sallie.
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