Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. And ages. I was reminded of that fact this past weekend, when a good friend and I went on our annual Tanglewood trip. Situated in the lush green Berkshire Hills in western Massachusetts, Tanglewood is a beautiful estate donated to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and since 1937 the BSO summers there and offers outdoor concerts to the public. As a result of their presence and the huge crowds that they draw, the greater area of Lenox, including Pittsfield, to Stockbridge and even to Williamstown has developed as a mecca of culture. There are many museums, theater, dance and of course good restaurants throughout the neighborhood, making for a fun-filled runaway weekend destination.
Thanks to the Port Jefferson ferry, Tanglewood is an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive from Bridgeport to one of the many motels that accommodate the thousands of visitors. We unloaded our suitcases on Friday night just in time to drive to our seats in the Shed to hear a Mozart piano concerto, followed by Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. Content, we navigated the exiting traffic, which is admirably directed by the local police, returned to our motel room and slept.
After a leisurely breakfast, we made the scenic drive to Williamstown and enjoyed a couple of hours in the Clark museum. Their current exhibit, Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, includes works by Titian, Rubens, Tintoretto, Brueghel the Elder, Poussin and many of the other greats of the 16th- and 17th-centuries. These paintings would only have been seen at the time in what were called, “salas reservadas.” These were special, hidden rooms for select audiences, because to display nude bodies was considered sinful and contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, also to the Spanish Inquisition. On the one hand, the monarchs were charged with upholding the decreed doctrines and moral values, and on the other, they were the primary collectors of these treasured works of art — especially Philip II and his grandson Philip IV.
We left the museum hurriedly to scoot down the road for the Williamstown Theater Festival premiere of “Romance Novels for Dummies” by Boo Killebrew. This delightful play, about two sisters, their relationship and their experiences dating in the big city, was worth the rush to get there. Well acted and staged in a beautiful theater, the play ended just in time for another rush down Route 7 to our seats at Tanglewood.
And this is when the bullying began. We were seated near the front, and I began chatting with the man to my right. He told us he was from Maryland and even tried to help me open a container. But his arm completely covered the narrow armrest between us. I laughingly asked him if he had siblings and therefore had learned to share. I suggested we each take half the armrest for our elbows and demonstrated. He had an empty seat next to him, which I assumed he had paid for since there were no other empty seats anywhere around us. He responded that I should have bought two seats. Then, when the music began, a violin concerto by Sibelius featuring spectacular soloist Augustin Hadelich, he actually pushed my arm off the armrest and jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow.
It’s hard to know what to do in such a situation. People around us were entranced by the magnificent music and I wanted to be, too. But I alternated between being absorbed and being discomforted by the man splayed out beside me. I strained to lose myself in the music, and when it ended I considered explaining my plight to the nearest usher. I didn’t want to cause a scene in one of my “happy places,” yet I clearly couldn’t handle the problem. How frustrating. Almost unwillingly, I approached a volunteer usher, who couldn’t help me directly, but he did bring me to a person in authority. That gentleman promptly changed our seats to what turned out to be an even better location, from which we thoroughly enjoyed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
Beauty washes away ugly every time.