Not the Louvre

THE Friendship Museum is housed in the one-time Cove Deestrick School, a mossy brick edifice of one room, and it does not have the treasures of the Tate and the Louvre. Instead of a Mona, we have an enlargement of Wilbur Morse, who built Friendship sloops. On the other hand, the Tate and the Louvre do not have enlargements of Wilbur Morse, which is a way of saying we specialize in the immediate and there is no need to look elsewhere. Another thing -- I remember yielding a franc to join the crowd in the Lou vre, whereas you can get into our museum without a fee and very likely have the place to yourself. The numerous volunteer Friendshippers who attend our museum and welcome visitors to its treasures were all busy with picnics, ball games, and family reunions, and somebody was needed between 1 and 4. I had never done my stint, so there I was exactly at 1 o'clock opening the front door with its pot-warp latchstring and hanging out the little sign that says Open. Immediately I had my first visitors. A young man and a young woman in abbreviated athletic costumes swung past on their jogging route and, curio us about the museum, they loped in to look things over.

They didn't exactly jog past the collections, but slowed to a semi-dignified pace, and I watched them off down the road while I still held in my hand the little sign that says Open. I placed it on the hook on the door.

Then I went over into the shade of a maple tree, where the museum maintains a picnic table and benches, and I opened my new copy of ``Oedipus Tyrannus'' to see if there might be some latter-day improvements to the story. I had not, truth to tell, looked at Oedipus since college days, now a half century ago, but I had this new translation and I felt Sophocles might lend classical flavor to my afternoon at the museum. I looked at the cast and mused that after all these years I still wasn't sure how to pro nounce Tiresias.

It was a magnificently crafted summer Sunday afternoon. Traffic past the museum was busy, but under the tree I sat alone with the ancient tragedy of the King of Thebes. This new translation is a mite different. It is meant for playing, the translator explains, and he has used some words now and then which Sophocles did not -- just as if Eddie Guest were to rewrite the Psalms of David, I suppose. I wondered what the translator thought Sophocles wrote the play for in the first place. But it was good to ru n through it again, and I found myself in agreement with Aristotle, for the most part. I kept ready to close the book and spring into action if anybody appeared to visit the museum. I figured maybe three hours had passed, and I looked at the time and it was 10 minutes past 1. It was incredible that in 10 minutes a messenger had been sent to find Tiresias and had already fetched him back. I finished the play and it was 1:30.

Then I went from the picnic table under the maple to my automobile and I tuned the radio to the baseball game, another tragedy as Seattle whipped Boston again. Thus it came to be 3:45 and my responsibility as custodian of the Friendship Museum was coming to an end. I felt I shouldn't really count the two enhurried joggers as proper visitors, but without them my afternoon's score was zip. It was 10 minutes to 4 when a station wagon turned in from the highway and pulled up beside me so the driver and I we re t^ete-`a-t^ete. A woman was beside him and in the back were several youngsters and at least one dog. ``Welcome!'' I said.

The man said, ``I was wondering -- is there some place down this road where we could stand on a wharf and catch a few mackerel?''

``Plenty places,'' I said. ``But it's all summer property in that direction and you'd probably get ordered off.''

`` 'Fraid of that,'' he said. ``Come all the way from Mass. hoping to get a few mackerel.'' (Why do people from Massachusetts prefer Mass.?)

``Tell you what,'' I said. ``Take the next right and try the town landing. Time you get there the tide will be about right.''

``Will do,'' he said. ``Gee, thanks a lot!''

I said, ``Wouldn't you like to visit our little Friendship Museum and look at the enlargement of Wilbur Morse?''

He looked at the museum. ``No,'' he said. ``I guess not.''

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