It is April 23rd , possibly Shakespeare’s Birthday. No one really knows Shakespeare’s real birthday. Scholars do know that he was baptized on April 26th so they have made the assumption that he was born on April 23rd, which is also the day he died. And for those of us who love Shakespeare, it is a romantic idea that he was born and died on the same date—a true circle of life.
To commemorate his birth, and death, I headed over to the Huntington Library and Gardens. I made my way to “Shakespeare’s Garden” and I am now sitting on a bench near a bust statue of the Bard himself. I am hoping that he will serve as a writing muse.
One thing that I love about living in Los Angeles is that there are several parks where you can simply enjoy a serene environment, with paid admission. You don’t feel like you are in the big city. I usually go to Descanso Gardens or the Arboretum but in January I finally broke down and paid for a membership to the Huntington—a membership that costs the same as the other two memberships combined.
Originally, I had this romantic notion of coming to the Gardens and Library on a weekly basis with a special man in my life. In fact, my first visit here was with him on our very first date—which was also our last. So in an effort to leave those romantic ideals in my past, I have since returned on visits with my mother when she was in town or I come here to write.
Aside from the serene, Zen-like settings, this is a great place to people watch. I can fathom the notion that perhaps Shakespeare himself could sit here on this exact same bench, watching the people pass and using them as inspiration for different characters in his plays. I myself often attempt to do the same thing. Though on this particular day, with my netbook in my lap, I am trying hard to ignore the fact that I am the only person here without a companion of some sort.
I can see many families walking with their kids in strollers or on leashes. There are also the families who dragged their elementary aged and teenaged children here with them. I can hear their complaints—this is not how they planned to spend their Spring Break or vacation. Some of these families are the obvious tourists walking around with their maps open, trying to figure out where the Andy Warhol paintings reside. None of them seem to notice their actual location inside of a Garden resurrected as a tribute to a man who was born, and died, on this date.
Another grouping of passersby consists of those who are generally interested in the Gardens, Art and Books housed here at the Huntington. There are many walking around with badges, talking about the current sculpture display. Once again, none of them are discussing the Bard and his many works of art involving the written word.
You also have gaggles of women walking around with their point-and-shoot cameras, attempting to identify and take pictures of all the plant life. There are the men with all of their camera equipment, taking thousands of pictures of every little thing they see—a vine, a flower, a bird, a rock, a bug, etc. Though I have noticed that no one has actually stopped to even look at, let alone take a picture of, the Statue of Shakespeare. I guess the café right next to the garden is a distraction. They do have really good burgers and panini sandwiches.
And, of course, there are the couples here on a date. Holding hands as they stroll through the gardens, trying their best to get to know each other through simple conversation. I suddenly have the desire to pick up a rock and throw it at them or point out the irony that they are strolling through Shakespeare’s Garden—honoring a man known for writing about ill-fated love.
Though I do have to say that thus far, I have enjoyed the many different personas passing by. A young couple just walked into the garden, wearing fuzzy Viking hats. The fact that they are proud enough to handle all of the stares concerning their strange choice for headgear allows me to forgive them for being a happy couple on a date. I think William himself would also enjoy their uniqueness and ability to be true to themselves.
I do find it ironic that everyone that does walk through the Garden stops to comment about the Lilac Bush located right next the Bard’s statue, not a single person even notices the statue. There was a French woman who approached the bush, exclaiming how “fabulous” the flowering bush smelled. She went about making orgasmic sounds and she sniffed its fragrant purple petals. I think Shakespeare would thoroughly enjoy the implied imagery behind this scene. Only women stopped and comment about the floral scent, never the men. At least not the straight men.
Still no one noticed the statue. In an hour, the first person to notice the statue was a six-year-old boy. He asked his father who it was supposed to be. The father told the young, curious boy that it was probably Huntington. I wanted to scream. Thankfully the boy’s mother stepped in and corrected her husband, letting her son know it was William Shakespeare. The boy was satisfied with the answer and didn’t inquire any further.
I was just happy that someone finally recognized the statue as being the late, great William Shakespeare. So my work here was done.
OK, I didn’t actually do anything besides observe the passersby and write about it. I didn’t stand there and educate everyone about Shakespeare. I could have worn my corset and other Renaissance Pleasure Faire regalia to commemorate the life and death of a legend. I didn’t tell the French woman all about the orgasmic Lilacs or about the Annual Lilac Festival in Mackinac Island, Michigan. I didn’t throw rocks at the couples holding hands and spout Shakespearean sonnets at them about ill-fated love.
I could stand on this bench now and recite Hamlet’s infamous “To be, or not to be” speech. But the sun is out now. I’m wearing all black and it is hotter than Dallas Raines predicted on the news. So I will grab myself some bottled water and go into the bookstore to buy a Shakespeare Magnet for my fridge. Then I will go home and watch the Leonardo Dicaprio version of Romeo and Juliet to commemorate the Birthday of the Bard.