words. music. pictures. scheherazade.
A few weeks ago, I was stranded at the New York Palace Hotel in the particularly beautiful section of that hotel which was converted from the historic Villard Houses, built by McKim, Mead & White. There were day-long board meetings there by which I could confirm my longstanding suspicion that the mega-rich do not laugh but they guffaw.
There is a beautiful Library at the Palace in which the walls are stuffed with old books. Seemed that most of the volumes were purchased wholesale from the Strand without forethought - entire collections, just for decorative purposes. It was amusing, though, speculating who the previous owners might have been, what inner lives they might have guarded. In one section of the shelves, there were French and English novels - the Hardys, the Andre Gides, the Balzacs - translated into German.
The Library’s ceiling was painted as though to emulate a sky. Who knows, perhaps with the falling light of the dusk, constellations magically appear when no one is around to keep watch over the neglected books that no one reads. While entertaining that silly notion, daydreaming, I was nevertheless caught off guard - yet again - by the fact that the stars keep their distance from us not by lengths, but by the measures of time. Years (and with their passing, the record of memories). Perhaps on another star, I thought to myself, this present circumstance of mine should no doubt be contemporaneous with [ ] and my time, which I’d believed had been long perished… so with some clever star-hopping and funny physics, our shared time in the past will never be allowed to vanquish. Every star I land on should hence be named Baltimore.
There was a translation of Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel lodged next to a slim volume called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in the Palace’s Library. The translator was uncredited, oddly enough, but the faux leather-bound volume was well illustrated by Gustave Doré. Thumbed through the volume until my eyes rested on this passage -
Nevertheless, the truth is, that the soul is seldom able to report those things in such sincerity as it hath seen them, by reason of the imperfection and frailty of the corporeal senses, which obstruct the effectuating of that office: even as the moon doth not communicate unto the earth of ours, that light which she receiveth from the sun with so much splendour, heart, vigour, purity and light liveliness as it was given her. Hence it is requisite for the better reading, explaining and unfolding of these somniatory vacinations, and predictions of that nature, that a dexterous, learned, skilful, wise, industrious, expert, rational and peremptory expounder or interpreter be pitched upon, such a one as by the Greeks is called onirocrit, or oniropolist.
I thought to myself, as I paced around the Library in my suit, dumbly biding time until the lunch hour: what a beautiful word, and a profession to aspire to - an oniropolist.
(Images by Anthony Goicolea)