Boston Blackie & the Art Museum Escapade

April 20, 2012 at 6:05 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Back in 1994, the long-deceased Jack Boyle provided me with one of the more surreal moments of my life. I had just acquired a copy of one of the earliest of the “lost” Boston Blackie stories I unearthed (a tale titled “Miss Doris, Safe-cracker”), and I was itching to read it. The clock ticked its minutes off at a snail’s pace, but finally lunchtime rolled around, and I dashed from the office with the story eagerly clutched in my hand. It was a gorgeous day, so I decided to wolf down a quick lunch in the park, and then set out to find a suitable place to dive into a brand new (to me) Boston Blackie adventure.

The day being so nice, the park was crowded and a bit noisy, so I decided to take refuge inside the local art museum which stood at the perimeter of the grounds. Wandering through its cool, quiet halls, I took in various paintings and sculptures while searching for a quiet corner in which to ensconce myself. Within a few minutes, I happened upon the perfect setting. One of the small side rooms off the main hall had been emptied of its previous exhibit, and no new display had yet been installed. The room was dim, except for a single bright light which was focused directly on the only item in the chamber – a folding chair sitting in the center of the room. What could be better? The room contained no artwork, so my loitering wouldn’t inconvenience anyone, and it offered comfortable accommodation with perfect lighting. Happily, I sat down to experience one of Jack Boyle’s stories in the most tranquil and stylish of surroundings.

Sentences and paragraphs flew by, as I became engrossed in Blackie’s escapade. The tale caused me to lose track of time, but as I neared its climax I gradually became aware of something else. Disquieting and insistent, the sensation crept over me slowly, until I suddenly realized it was the uncomfortable feeling of being watched. Torn from my reverie, I looked up to find three people in casual dress – a man and two women – staring intently at me. Surprised by the strange sight, I looked back, saying nothing.

Finally, the man found his voice, and said quizzically, “I don’t understand.”

“Understand?” I responded, at a loss myself to grasp what he meant, or why these strangers were standing there gaping at me.

“What sort of exhibit is this?” one of his companions hesitantly ventured.

Instantly, I burst into laughter as I realized that these visitors to the museum had been endeavoring to grasp the artistic significance of – ME! Because I was seated in a stark, darkened room, reading by a spotlight trained directly on my chair, their minds had turned my lunchbreak reading of Boston Blackie into a work of art. The thought was just too much!

I quickly explained to the trio that I was not some esoteric piece of performance art, just a guy on his lunch hour, and they sheepishly moved along, leaving me to finish my reading. The whole incident was absurd, but it gave me a smile that lasted for the rest of the day. And as the years go by, from time to time I still have a fond recollection of the day that Jack Boyle, Boston Blackie and I got together at the museum to – for just a few moments – create a work of art.

JBF 4/20/12

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