The mansion now seems as normal as the 1970s split level where I grew up. Which is nuts. That’s why I had to give all those tours, I guess. I started to worry I was like those New Yorkers who go through Grand Central’s great hall and don’t look up. If you can’t maintain your awe, you’re dead.
The stars on that ceiling, the people swirling around the central kiosk like paisley teardrops, rounding and curving illogically back down the passages, across to platforms, to train tracks, up to Park or Vanderbilt Avenue, the huge windows, the warmest marble in the world—I never want to fail to be thrilled by it. It helps not to live there, or commute through there. But I have spent a lot of time there. And regardless of your expose to beauty, it remains difficult to keep the heart propped open a touch at all times, to be alive while you are alive.
Saturday I presided over debauchery, and Sunday, I read the lessons for the congregation: a little chunk from Deuteronomy about Moses telling the people they’ll get a prophet. The people, back in those books, are always asking for things that aren’t good for them, and The Lord is always like, Well, fine! It’s a teenage period in God-human relations. If you don’t bring the word to the people, God warns, He will smack you down dead. It is pretty self-destructive to ignore your calling. I don’t need a Mean-Dad-type God to tell me that.
The other lesson was Jesus calling out an unclean spirit. These are always strange lessons for we Episcopalians, who believe in reasonable, polite behavior, not calling out, uncleanness, or spirits. Saturday night, there was talk of spirits—mostly the ghost of Mr. Myers. There were other spirits, too. The box I found on an upstairs mantle, which had contained a bottle of Jameson, was empty. I hadn’t had a drop of it, but that was my only sad find in the post-party mansion. Overall, spirits drove out unclean spirits, for sure.
At two a.m., I was happy to note, as we checked each room and blew out all the dozens of candles, that everyone treated the mansion with reverence. The toilet needed a flush. There was one napkin that had soaked up a wine spill. The gaggle of visitors who climbed the rickety ladder to the attic (an incident I was lucky to miss) went up and down in joy and safety. They took flashlights up, and brought down a rusty old saw that I will use to make more Mardi Gras props.
The whole place was gazed on, smiled at, basement to attic. Several of the mansion’s owners have left it unhappily. The place needed a Jesus (who doesn’t?), and, as I hoped, one good way to make a Jesus is to round up a bunch of cheerful people in gorgeous clothes and give them wine.