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Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories– Baseball 5 & (125) ARTSY–The Amber Room

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories– Baseball 5 & (125) ARTSY–The Amber Room

There are a lot of strangers yelling from the stands, and then, the worst thing, we are now in the middle of our season and they are printing our box scores in the paper.  I come home and my old man says, “Hey, what do ya mean, O for four?  O for four, and it’s in the paper!  And you guys lost twelve to two!”

“Well, dad…”

“O for four!  I’m coming out next time.  And by the way, we’re going out the back and I’m gonna show you how to hold the bat.”

Aw, gees, O for four.  Every time I get the bat I’d see that reporter from the Hammond Times sitting there.  Shepherd is taking his cuts.  I’m gonna bunt, I’ve got to get on base somehow.  First time in my life I ever lay down a bunt just trying to get on base.  O for four!

Organization has really begun.  There was a group of kids who loved that organization, and another group of kids slowly began to infiltrate Troup 41, and they had nothing to do with the rest of us.

By the end of August, one by one, guys start to drift away from that organized ball team.  One by one they start to show up in Mrs. Striker’s empty lot.  “Hey, Schwartz, here you go, Schwartz, catch this one in your ear!  Here it comes!”  Schwartz yells, “Aw, come on, don’t bounce ‘em on the plate, will ya, fer cryin’ out loud!” And from five A. M. in the morning till ten at night, me and Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Emdee and all the other disorganized stragglers play our games.

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The Amber Room

Amber is a sort of fossilized tree sap that has solidified to the state

of a soft stone-like substance that sometimes contains

trapped bugs and other stuff. It is studied by scientists

and made into decorative pieces by craftsmen.

In 1995, I and another museum designer, along with his wife and a museum preparator, traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to study amber artifacts and amber paneling for a temporary exhibit in New York. In Tsarskoye Selo, the royal summer palace outside of St. Petersburg, elaborate panels covering the walls of a room in the palace had been given to Russia.

But during World War II the panels had been removed for safe keeping, and somehow lost, stolen, or destroyed. (Recent, unconfirmed reports claim the original, lost panels have been located.) For decades, Russian craftsmen, using photos of the original room (see above), had been reconstructing the panels. Our museum scheduled an exhibit about amber, featuring artifacts and a couple of the reconstructed panels, along with some of the craftsmen, working on amber artifacts for public viewing within the exhibit.

We stayed in a luxury hotel in St. Petersburg and were conveyed to the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo by limo, met with the craftsmen, and were given a tour of the almost completed replica of the amber room.

Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo

We walked the streets of St. Petersburg, went to a Russian ballet performance, and twice visited the Hermitage, the great Russian art museum. We bought souvenirs.

Amber necklace and owl.

We brought back proof that we’d really been in Russia.

Our Tipper-Gore-in-Russia Experience

As we’d walked toward the Catherine Palace for our Amber Room tour, we heard through the bushes, a small Russian band playing for us, “The Star Spangled Banner.” The director of the palace met us and apologized that he could not give us the tour because Tipper Gore, Vice-President Al Gore’s wife, was there, and he had to show her around—we got the tour from a lower functionary. Back in St. Petersburg, in a nice restaurant for a meal, we noted several men in black suits wearing ear pieces at another table. Must be guarding someone important! From a table in the back, dressed in slacks, blouse, and scarf, out past us walked Tipper Gore. Later, as we strolled along Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main thoroughfare, police on foot blocked our way and herded us onto the sidewalk—we watched as a black limo drove by. Looking out a window, waving at us, was Tipper Gore.

Tipper Gore

in Congress a decade before,

confronting nasty music by the likes of

Dee Snider, Frank Zappa, John Denver.

(Denver complained that a radio station blocked his song

because of the final word in “Rocky Mountain High.”

 This was the era when The Rolling Stones were told not to sing

on TV, the line “let’s spend the night together.”)

Our country was still in a rather restrictive mode, but Russia was

in the midst of a birth of political freedom, so we felt safe there.

*

Small Part of Our Exhibit.

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