I've been to a good share of art museums. We've got one of the best in the world here in Chicago. I even had an opportunity to go to the Lourve once, which was way too crowded. I'll never forget the crowd of people trying to see the Mona Lisa.
"What's that? Oh, it's a hallway, full of a thousand people. Never mind..."
Art never really did much for me though, until one wet October evening in Boston. It was 2002 and I was on my first official wandering trip in the aftermath of ending my career, and I set out for New England. I rolled into Boston in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon. I wasn't the only thing rolling in; the first Nor'easter of the season hit that day, bringing a lot of wind and rain to the area.
I took the train into downtown from Saugus, where I was staying, and I'll never forget what I saw when I got off at Government Center. It was rush hour, and the place was packed with commuters, most of them soaking wet. As I made my way up the stairs to go out of the station I passed a garbage can full of broken umbrellas.
Once outside, I struggled to keep my feet steady. The rain was coming down sideways, what they call "lashing" in Scotland, accompanied by strong winds. I quickly ran across Tremont Street into an Irish pub so that I could get my bearings and decide what I was going to do for the rest of the evening. I had planned to walk around downtown, but the weather made that impossible.
I decided to have dinner there and once I was seated in a booth I started to feel a bit sorry for myself. Here I was in this great city, eager to explore, and I couldn't go outside. When the waitress brought my meal she noticed the travel book that I had with me, and commented that it was too bad that I was here when the weather was so lousy. She also said that I shouldn't let it get to me, that Boston was a great city and that I should be able to find something to do anyway.
She was right. As I ate I also saw in my book that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was open until 9 PM every Wednesday. I decided that I'd give it a try. When I finished eating I hopped back on the train and took it to Northeastern University. The museum was right next to it.
It's hard to describe the feeling of walking through a place like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and essentially having the place to yourself. I wasn't the only person there, but in the three hours I spent inside, I didn't see more than thirty. I was able to linger everywhere. At the time the museum had the greatest collection of painting by Monet outside of France, and I saw them all. I took the time to read the descriptions that accompanied the works and of the artists. I saw every exhibit on every floor. To this day I feel like I learned more about art in those three hours than I had up until that point in my life.
I can't choose a specific work that affected me that night. I think of the entire museum as one big collective piece of art. Since then I've had a much greater appreciation of many things; I find that I notice architecture, decor and other details in things that I never thought much of before.
It was one thing to find something to do on a night of inclement weather. It's another for that something to be a point where I can look back and realize that I changed because of it.