Monday, April 19, 2010

In which I feel old and also learn the secrets of the illuminati

This weekend was the annual Doors Open Denver event that Dan and I look forward to every year, because it is an excuse to poke our noses into places we wouldn't normally be able to see, and also because it is a good excuse to walk around outside for several hours. We reviewed the list of places that were going to be participating a week or so ago, and decided on just five stops because there weren't all that many places we hadn't been that we still wanted to see.

Saturday was rainy, gray, and cold, so instead of doing DOD we ran errands instead. I found a frabjous pair of sandals that I think may last me several summers, so I justified paying twice as much as I normally would because a) it's been a few years since I found a really good pair of sandals, so b) I've been buying a new pair every year or so that are just OK but I turn out not to like them for one reason or another, so c) end up giving them away when they are barely used and still wishing I had a pair of good sandals. Unfortunately, the store only had them in brown and so I was unable to get a black pair as well. Then I spent about an hour looking for them on the internets, but they were nowhere to be found, not even on the DSW website (which is where I'd bought the brown ones, only at the brick and mortar store). I love the brown ones but would have liked the versatility of having them in two colors.

Anyhow, Saturday was spent doing errands and chores and such, and then thankfully Sunday dawned with a warm, sunny spring day, which was just what we wanted for a Doors Open Denver adventure. After breakfast we met Scarlett and walked down to the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, at the corner of 14th and Grant. This was the first time it was a part of DOD and I think maybe the first time it was actually open to the public, so I was quite excited about getting to see the inside after walking by it for more than seven years on pretty much a daily basis.

When we walked in, we were greeted by a bunch of portly old men in funny hats, who proceeded to hand us pamphlets and then take us on a tour of the consistory (as they call it). They told us a bit about the history of the place, and then we went down into the function area (where there were tables and chairs and such) where a big prop and costume display was set up, and a Very Tall old man dressed in full Prince Charlie regalia gave us a lecture about all their props (PROPERTIES, as they all kept saying) and costumes. "We'll answer any questions!" they kept telling us, as though the prospect of being asked questions by the general public was the most exciting thing that had happened in ten years. Who knows, maybe it was. Sadly, I neglected to pull my camera out of my bag to snap any photos of the prop(ERTIES) display before we were herded to a couple of poster boards showing the charity work they are involved with (focusing on speech language therapy for kids) and then up the stairs, past a really cool grandfather clock, and into the main auditorium area.

Internet, I have to say that this was really a neat experience. The auditorium had been built with seating for over 500 people, included a stage (with TWENTY-TWO DIFFERENT HAND PAINTED DROPS FOR THE DIFFERENT PLAYS THEY PUT ON, something they mentioned about six times), a full professional lighting booth, and an organ. But not just any organ, an orchestral organ. We were treated to a mini concert by the organist, who spoke in a normal tone of voice from his location halfway up the auditorium and we sitting across and below were able to hear him clearly. This is what really blew me away about the space; it had been designed before sound amplification in order to allow all 500 people to be able to hear a performance. It was the most amazing acoustics I'd ever experienced. In addition to the organ, I was interested in how similar to and how different from a church it seemed; no pews but seats around a center area, and a huge dome above with beautiful stained glass. Symbology was everywhere: the all-seeing eye, the double-headed eagle, the rose cross, the templar cross. And a whole bunch of old guys in funny hats desperately eager and excited to answer any questions we might have.

So, internet, here is the secret of the freemasons: They are not unlike drag queens. They're a bunch of guys who like to dress up in funny hats and costumes and put on plays for one another.

After the Masonic temple, we walked over to 12th and Pennsylvania, our old stomping grounds, to tour one of the many castle-y mansions of Capitol Hill. This particular one is now a bed and breakfast, and has been lovingly restored on the inside (they're still working on the outside). The woodwork was really amazing, and some of the tchotchkes were a little weird (Santa faces on gourds), and the best room was the penthouse suite complete with an oven that was at least 50 years old. Possibly more.

We made our way up 12th street and through Cheeseman Park, and ended up at another castle-y mansion (likewise a bed and breakfast, though a much larger one). This house was very similar to the Molly Brown House we'd toured during last year's DOD event. It was full of stuff everywhere, so probably very similar to the Victoriana of the original house, and featured one of my coworkers who is also an amateur historian sitting in the turret corner on the first floor signing books she'd just published about Capitol Hill. What I liked best about this particular house was the amazing stained glass window, utterly unique for the time period at which the house was built.

Only a few blocks further to the north was the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys. I didn't know this place even existed, but it looked interesting when I saw it on the list of participating places for DOD. The only thing that irked me was that we weren't allowed to take photos inside. But the collection, while not huge, was definitely interesting, with a pretty good mix of miniatures and toys (not as many dolls as I was hoping to see; there were mostly barbies and a few others). The really humbling bit came when I walked into a room to see the Fisher Price dollhouse I'd had and played with as a child. The furniture inside was obviously much newer and not the original furniture that came with the set, but the dollhouse itself was the exact one I'd once had. I even remembered pushing down the plastic bit to ring the doorbell - something I hadn't thought about in at least 20 years. The doorbell in this particular one didn't work, but that didn't stop my brain from traipsing down memory lane.

And then, in the next room, there were a bunch of original Lego sets and a Nintendo. The original one. I think there is nothing in my life thus far that has made me feel as old as seeing my childhood toys presented in a museum's collection. MY TOYS ARE NOW RELICS. I might as well just up and expire now.

We'd planned to go to the Denver Society of Model Railroaders' display in the basement of Union station, but we'd already been walking for over four miles and I was wearing my new sandals, and it was really warm outside and we'd gotten a lot of sun and I was tired. So we didn't end up going. We bought some beer (both of the real- and girl- variety) and went home and were lazy for the rest of the afternoon.


Nancy Goltry said...

OMG I had the same dollhouse!! AND I bought it on ebay for my kids! I have tons of old fisher price little people and collections now--the castle, the barn, the western town--they are all so cool and my kids love them!

Nancy Goltry said...

Eric didn't say that, Nancy Goltry did.

Nancy Goltry said...

oh, and they're all considered "vintage" on ebay. Ouch!

MLE said...

Nancy, I'm going to see if my mom still has the one we played with because I'd love to have it for our (eventual) kids. Good to hear the next generation likes them, too!