A Field Trip!

The Como Park Conservatory in St Paul, MN, USA.

Como Park Lamp Post and Conservatory

It had been such a long time since my last field trip, that I decided to take one yesterday and I expect I’ll take many more in up coming weeks.  Such a good time!

Yesterday I visited the Como Park Conservatory which is called something else now.  More on that in a moment.  First a few expected comments about conservatory itself. 

First comment:  It is quite nice!  I want one some day.  I’m sure the heating bill is a monster, but with geothermal technology and global warming both developing quickly, one can expect the burden of an excessive heating bill to come down at least a little.  Plus, if I am going to build my own conservatory on the scale of the one at Como Park, rather than, say, name an existing one after myself (more on that later), I’ll need to have a lot of cash anyway.  So let’s not fret about that right now.

The conservatory is free, but a very modest donation is requested.  Two dollars for adults, one dollar for children.  I gave $5.

It is just as I remember it.  The smell of the main room is the very best part of the tour.  I envy florists.  Sweet earthy plant smell and the air is heavy and humid without being hot and ugly.  I still prefer crisp cold air, but if I have to live with humidity, this is it.  I noticed little signs scattered about telling you interesting little facts about different plants.  I liked that.  The Jurassic ferns do indeed look like Jurassic ferns.  It was nice to have a little sign backing that up.

No field trip is complete without a stop at the bathroom and they have simple, clean bathrooms at the Como Park Conservatory.  Nothing sets them apart from others, but a good place to stop, especially if you need to.  As I have pointed out in the past, a salesman needs a string of reliable clean public facilities.  Places not frequented by teens and twenty-year-olds is a good place to start.  (Skip public transit stations, too.)

I did get a kick out of this sign outside the restroom, however.  It looks like Jethro or some other hillbilly worked at the zoo for a while and was in charge of signs.  He got one up for that elevator machine thats theys got there.

(I’m going to tag Jethro, the Biblical guy, to see if I can snag any unsuspecting readers.  There can’t be a lot out there for fans of Jethro to read about on the blogs.  What the hell did Jethro do anyway?  Married off his daughter to Moses, right?  The more famous Jethro liked girls and cement ponds and made this sign.)

When you come out of the area with the elevator machine and the restrooms, you get a nice view of a woodland nymph and some green plants.  This, sadly, is another weak photograph.  I’m concerned that I am losing my touch or getting lazy…or using the fact that I have a camera phone as an excuse.  But you can see the little nymph back there, wearing nothing but a nice patina. 

Click on Image for Larger View

Generally the conservatory is not the best place for a little picture phone.  You need a good mix of zoom and wide angle lenses.  There were several people there with just that kind of equipment.  In fact other than school kids and gay couples, photographers seem to be drawn most to the conservatory.  This is a serious bunch of people.  Don’t think I didn’t notice an eye or two rolling when pulled my HTC Evo out of my breast pocket for the perfect shot.  You know…I don’t think I do all that badly with my simple camera. 

I’ll agree, this might have been a better picture if I had captured more of the Sunken Garden’s grandeur, but isn’t this a nice photo anyway?

I could have used a little help capturing the lighting better, but I really like the colors in that room now.  They have placed mostly maroon and gold mums throughout the sunken garden and on a sunny day it really does look quite spectacular. 

The conservatory is not an incredibly large place.  I would have liked to have seen London’s Crystal Palace back in the day.  Sadly, it was torn down…or burned down?…I’m not sure how glass and metal burns down, but something unfortunate happened to the Crystal Palace.  Perhaps it just didn’t have the right sponsor which brings me to my final to topic in this post.

The Como Park Conservatory is now named after some woman.  I am sure Mrs. Marjorie McNeely was a fine woman and likely did a lot for the conservatory, but I have very mixed views of people putting their name on a place for philanthropic or civic reasons.  I don’t like the idea of buying the recognition.  It seems self-serving…and it is self-serving, isn’t it?  Don’t misunderstand me.  I believe it is great to contribute generously to the public good, but I’m not keen on the naming part of it, especially when the official name of a community asset is changed.  Now if Marjorie had earned recognition out of a courageous or noble act, perhaps the good people of Saint Paul, MN, would find it appropriate to name a favorite city asset that Marjorie enjoyed after here.  But opening your check book seems to cheapen the whole thing, even if it involved a lot of money.  You get my point right?

But thank you Marjorie McNeely nontheless.  We will need even more generous people like you in the future as the public misplaces its priorities and fails to adequately fund public investments.

Here is my closing shot, however.  When you leave the conservatory, a small and tasteful plaque dedicated to Marjorie McNeely is placed at the doors.  One little thing about the plaque really sends the wrong message.  It has the usual “Thank you Marjorie McNeely” stuff — I forget exactly what it says — but ends with “Mother of …” and lists about five kids.

All right!  Stop right there!

Why list the damn kids?  I’m sure they are wonderful human beings with a wonderful mother, but this is starting to look like a group desperate to squeeze every bit of glory they can out of this place.  Of course I might not know the whole story.  Perhaps the kids rejected their inheritence and gave it to the conservatory instead.  Possible.  But it just smells like vainglory to me.

One last thing:  I cannot get my links to work properly on this @*#! blog today.  (I’m afraid my neighbors might call for the little van again if I have another profanity-laced meltdown.)  Here is a link to the real Crystal Palace that once stood in London. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Palace

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3 thoughts on “A Field Trip!

  1. U No Hu

    now i gotta lotta problems with this. first, i don’t like using the word “hillbilly” or “Jethro” to invoke the hillbilly stereotypes. As you know, the problem with stereotypes is that they’re incomplete, and I hardly see how someone from MN can come down on their brethren to the south.

    Also, about the McNeely kids. I am also put off by your protestation that they’re wonderful human beings. do you have any support for that? you don’t seem to know anything about them. you might speculate that it would be embarrassing for them to have their mother put their names up on a plaque in a building named after her, or analyze it in any number of ways. like, she seems to identify her importance as being a mother more than being a plant philanthropist. which, i’m not so sure. society marms aren’t usually that great of moms. another thing, is that glass and steel burn by cracking, breaking, and melting. that’s what brought the towers down. the steel melted from the intensity from the jet fuel flames.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Como Park Zoo « A Little Tour in Yellow

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