Edward Gorey. Any regular reader of this site already knows about my lifelong obsession with the artist and his wonderfully weird works. Friends and family have even received those great Gorey holiday cards in the past--alas, we ran out years ago now. But nothing can compare to standing in the space where the object of your cartoonist/writer fixation actually worked. However, despite my eagerness, our Thursday visit to the Edward Gorey House almost didn't happen.
Bill thinks the Doubtful Guest is creepy. I think he's just a cuddly misshapen penguin
who likes to dress hip. The Doubtful Guest, not Bill. Bill would never wear a scarf.
Over the previous two months, I have spent literally hours upon hours on the House's website and checked the "Plan Your Visit" link a dozen times, but my unfortunately quixotic nature prevented me from seeing this:
Screenshots don't lie, but apparently, my memory and reading comprehension do.
Yes, it's true; the girl with the Master's degree cannot decipher basic hours of operation. Per the website, this week was the first Thursday of the entire season that the museum wasn't open. I looked at that section repeatedly and never noted how the dates matched up with our visit.
So there we are on Edward Gorey's front porch, essentially trespassing on the museum's day off. The lights are out, and not another soul is in sight (other than the people doing maintenance on a house across the street). But there was a second car in the parking lot, which was already there when we pulled up to the Elephant House. And there was a glowing doorbell, so I looked at Bill and said, "It's worth a try." With panic and despair rapidly setting in, I rang the buzzer, and less than a minute later, someone answered. I told him that I understood that they were closed but was there anything that he could do? We had driven so far and were looking so forward to seeing the house. And although I kept my impassioned plea brief, I've seriously wanted to visit the place since I knew it was a museum. Years, it's been. Years! And all those months upon months of daydreaming about this excursion were about to be ruined. Despite my obvious desperation, I figured we'd be turned away, and it would be entirely our own faults. Actually, more mine than Bill's since I'm the one who takes it upon myself to plan these things. And quite poorly at that apparently.
The visit that almost didn't happen. Now the whole experience is twice as special. Seriously.
But instead of penning a dejected blog post, I am able to tell you that the man elected to be the nicest person in New England (or maybe anywhere in the world for that matter) and he let us in. He said that this is sort of a week of transition since they change the hours at this time of year. The fact that I was about to burst into tears on Edward Gorey's front porch probably didn't hurt my case either.
I was so shocked and relieved to be permitted inside the museum that I couldn't think straight to ask any questions. But Bill knew that I had long wondered about Gorey's cats, so he inquired about their fate. Sadly (or perhaps bittersweetly), all of them have now joined Gorey in the big Elephant House in the sky, but it turns out that the man who let us into the museum, being the director of the museum and a personal friend of Gorey's for twenty years, was the one who found the felines their new homes. And when the most difficult of the bunch was returned (twice!) due to temperament issues, he was the one to take in the displaced little fellow. That's right; after years of musing about the cats, I actually met one of their subsequent owners! Major fangirl moment.
The museum itself is laid out gloriously well. While it was Gorey's home for over twenty years, the place lends itself to exhibition. Your first stop as a visitor is the primary section featuring the original art from the Vinegar Works. So all of those awesomely grim Gashleycrumb Tinies? We got to see them in their morose mark-ups. Bill and I were both surprised that the originals are the same size as the miniature book. We figured that the drawings had been shrunk to fit that size, but nope; those were the measurements that Gorey wanted.
I didn't see any of these stamps for sale in the gift shop, which is probably a good thing. Otherwise,
I would have been likely to stamp every available space in my own house. Wallpaper, tiles, appliances, curtains...
Additional rooms included Gorey's design for Dracula and other performing arts. Plenty of his personal collections, including clothing, jewelry, and even a waffle, were on display as well. My favorite room was probably in the back of the house. A television played on a constant loop with all of the different introductions and segments from PBS's Mystery!, which was my earliest introduction to the artist's work. I will always remember residing in our upstairs apartment when I was a kid and hearing my dad calling me from the living room when the beginning of the show came on. I didn't like Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie back then (I was only four or five after all), but I never wanted to miss the bizarrely Victorian cartoon that commenced the show. Although I didn't realize it then, I would never be the same.
Sharing the room with the television, a station set up for children included a bunch of Gorey stamps. Having an equivalent mentality as a kid, I became enthralled and sat at the scant table for about ten minutes, creating my own work of art.
Maybe Bill will let us hang it on the refrigerator. And look at that expression!
I appear liable to pop a blood vessel out of excitement at any moment.
During my numerous searches on the House's site, I had been to the online shop, but no place is as great to shop as the real deal. Virtually every kind of Gorey merchandise is for sale in the first room of the museum. Consequently, we stocked up on magnets, bookmarks, wrapping paper, a Doubtful guest mug, and even a messenger bag. And although some of it will most certainly be distributed as gifts in the coming months, Bill and I recognized a dash of selfishness in ourselves since we're keeping a good deal of the loot. For shame, for shame.
You won't get a better night's sleep than with a Dracula pillow. Unless, you know, Dracula
gets jealous and wakes you up to steal it. Because he'd be after the pillow way more than your jugular.
Before we wrap up, it must be enthusiastically noted that yesterday's generosity earns special merit far greater than our usual Seal of Approval. Maybe the 60 Days "Thank for restoring some of my faith in humanity and kindness" award. Not sure, though, that that will fit very well on a single JPEG image. Hmmm...
I wonder if this vanity plate would be available in PA. I would be
the coolest kid on the block cruising around town and showing off my Gorey love.
So if you're ever in the Cape Cod area and want to do something other than the proverbial sailing and lunching (you know, those usual 1960s Kennedy-era activities of the region), definitely make the time to detour to the Edward Gorey House. Just please be a bit more of a genius than me and study their hours carefully. Gorey's friends have more important things to do than admit Pennsylvania couples who can't read the website. They've got the legacy of one of America's all-time greatest artists to preserve.