Gargoyles, Grotesques & Chimeras: Listening to The Anatomy of Melancholy

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Inside “Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras”

Back in the late 1980’s when I was in school in Boston, I frequently visited a place on Newbury Street called “Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras.”

Part store and part museum, it was a mysterious space full of beautiful artwork, crumbling masonry and religious relics.

Dry leaves that crunched underfoot were always scattered across the floor.

And always in the background, a recording of a haunting piano melody played over and over. No beginning and no end.  It was composed and performed by the owner of the store, Louis Gordon.  Read on to get a free copy of the song.

All of the items were for sale, but nothing had a price tag.   If you inquired about purchasing an item, Lou would simply ask “What is it worth to you?”  He also loved to talk with visitors about the history and background of all the artwork.

Louis Gordon, the owner of "Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras"

Lou, the owner of “Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras,” in a PBS documentary about gargoyles back in 1999. Click to watch the video.

While passing through Boston on my way to visit my family this holiday season, memories of this special place suddenly floated up in my mind.  But sadly, I quickly learned that the store closed down in 2008.

Inside the store "Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras"

Inside the store “Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras”

I found many wonderful reviews from other people who had also been deeply touched by this meditative place.  It’s amazing to me how many people loved this space.

Inside "Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras"

Inside “Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras”

One of the artists featured in the store was Duncan Chrystal, who’s current work can be found online.  I bought a couple of his pieces for myself and my family over the years.

Art by Duncan Chrystal inside the store.

Art by Duncan Chrystal inside the store

When I returned home to Montreal, I dimly remembered buying a CD recording of that special piano music from Lou many years ago.  I also remembered making an mp3 from the CD the same day I bought it so that I would never lose it (my physical CDs have a tendency to break or disappear).

After some digging through my digital archives, I finally found the file last night.  It’s a real relic from the past, with a file creation date of October 16, 2001.  It is hard for me to believe it has been over 11 years since I bought it.

Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras is now only a gentle memory and, sadly, I cannot find any current contact information for Lou .  Since I cannot find his piano song available for purchase anywhere, and since I also know many people like myself would love to hear it again, I think Lou would be happy for me to share it freely.

Listen to “The Anatomy of Melancholy – No Beginning and No End” :

Download mp3 (right-click the link below and select Save Link):
“The Anatomy of Melancholy – No Beginning and No End”

Lou, wherever you are, thank you for creating a sacred space and inviting so many of us to share it for so many years.  You used to say “Only those who are meant to come in, come in.”  Please know that all of us who did will never forget.

No beginning. No end.

The 262 Newbury Street entrance for “Gargoyles Grotesques & Chimeras”

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

P.S. (edited 2/3/2013) Here are some of my own favorite pieces that I acquired from the store.  If you have any pictures of your own treasured items from Gargoyles, please share them in the comments if you wish.

This winged lion used to sit inside at the front of the store.

This brass winged lion used to sit inside at the front of the store.

I used to have many of these pewter angel coins.  This is the last one.

I used to have many of these pewter angel coins. This last one is tarnished and treasured.

One of Duncan's paintings that I bought for my mom many years ago.

One of Duncan’s paintings that I bought for my mom many years ago.

My mom was thrilled when she discovered the hidden painting on the back.

My mom was thrilled when she discovered the hidden painting on the back.

 

P.P.S. (edited 5/2 2014)

I was listening to this today and noticed there was no cover art displayed my WinAmp player, so I made a very simple one.  It makes me happier now to see the store while listening to the music. Please feel free to download and use it if you wish.

grotesqves cover

Cover Art for The Anatomy of Melancholy

 

I used the same unique spelling and color of the word “Grotesqves” as it was painted on the window of the store (see pic below).  Here’s the free font I used: Chanticleer Roman

gargoyle store window

About John Lester (Pathfinder)

John Lester is an expert in the educational use of virtual worlds and 3d simulations. His background is in neuroscience research and medical education, and he previously worked at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Linden Lab. John is currently the Chief Learning Officer at ReactionGrid Inc., helping clients develop new systems for immersive learning using web and mobile-based virtual world platforms.
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57 Responses to Gargoyles, Grotesques & Chimeras: Listening to The Anatomy of Melancholy

  1. Ann says:

    We had a similar shop (in terms of ambiance) here in NYC- devoted to Wiccans and Magic. As described in the NYT-
    The Magickal Childe
    35 West 19th Street, Chelsea, no phone.

    “On a rainy afternoon, the Magickal Childe has a mysterious look. A shaft of light falls across the sidewalk from the window. Inside is a trove of magic artifacts, crystals, herbs, talismans, books on necromancy and pagan rituals, stacked to the pressed tin ceiling. It is a slightly sinister place, but the air is filled with the sweet smell of cloves and cinnamon.

    And like G,G&C, it is closed now. Maybe the big spaceship finally took them home ;-)

  2. Shava Nerad says:

    via your friendly social engineer:

    Louis D Gordon is 61 and lives in Brookline MA, no listed phone or Facebook or various that I could find on an easy search.

    Being a privacy advocate means never (or always?) having to say it’s a sorry state of affairs that it’s this easy.

  3. ascrobius says:

    thanks so much for this post….i was a regular patron of this store from its earliest inception (i was 16 at the time) til the time it closed (at which point i was around 33). through the years i purchased quite a collection of pieces from there, many of which have sadly been lost, destroyed, or left behind after two cross country moves from boston to la. however, many are still with me- including most of my Duncan paintings and a life size saint ann statue (which i believe Lou acquired from the parish church of a catholic grade school which closed down). saint ann is definitely a little worse for the wear, but as Lou always said age and accidents don’t ruin a piece, they just make it more special.

    i too have been looking for lou’s copntact info. i spent countless afternoons chatting with him in the store, and i still feel like he was one of the most special, unique and truly magical person i’ve ever known. he was and will continue to be an enormous influence on me, both as a person and thru everything i experienced in his store. i often think of him and always hope that he is well and happy- but the particular reason i’ve looked for his contact was to replace a large print of one of his photographs, one that was always on display at the shop -in various sizes and print variations, called “the giving”. the version i purchased from him was one of my most treasured possessions, but it was destroyed. i spoke to him shortly before the store closed about replacing it, but i lost the contact info he gave me that day and have never been able to find any trace of him online other than a few older articles or mentions regarding the store. lou was never a fan of the internet so i guess it shouldn’t surprise me that he remains a ghost when it comes to online searches to this day.

    i owned a copy of the “anatomy of melancholy” cd, but it was lost a few years back and its another thing i’ve actually looked everywhere to find online to no avail. so thanks so much for posting it here along with the pics of the store. both bring back a wealth of memories. nostalgia for Gargoyles….

    “The houses are all gone under the sea.
    The dancers are all gone under the hill.”

  4. Little Jill says:

    Thank you so much for this website and for the song, I truly loved that place in my teenage years until it closed when I was 25, and Lou was a wonderful human being, a true treasure.

  5. Hi, ascrobius,

    I have a large print of The Giving that I framed and always planned on hanging up, but could never find the right spot. It’s propped up against the wall in a room we hardly use (turned backwards because my niece who was sleeping over said it freaked her out) I would love to give it to you. It deserves to be seen and enjoyed :)

    My email is brenna80 at gmail dot com if you want to get in touch.

    I miss Gargoyles so much! I’m so psyched to be able to listen to the song that was played there. I didn’t know that the owner wrote and performed it. So cool. It really brings me back.

    -Brenna

    • That is incredibly generous and thoughtful of you, Brenna. I hope ascrobius sees your message!

      And I’m very glad you are enjoying the song. It makes me feel good to know there are people out there in the world for whom it brings back beautiful memories.

      • I hope so, too! I always wished that I bought more art at Gargoyles before it closed, but whenever Lou asked, “What is it worth to you?” I would almost always say, “Way more than I could ever pay.”

  6. Lou is well . my best friend.

  7. matthew sordillo says:

    hi Brenna. i believe i replied to lou’s same question regarding worth in nearly exactly the same manner on more than a few occasions- but its more pertinent than ever in this situation. i was starting to believe i would never track down a replacement for “the giving”…i don’t think any other item has been as important or personally significant. as such. as such, your offer is too generous (and very much in the spirit of the shop and the person which inspired this topic.). i’ll email you privately to discuss further…

  8. Lou would always have the people that bought paintings write a personal note to me on a postcard. I never knew what painting they took home.but the words sent to me always moved me. I still have them all.

    • ascrobius says:

      duncan- i wrote one or two of those postcards…i still have the reply the reply you sent which included a print of one of your watercolors. i purchased about 9 or 10 of your pieces over the course of probably almost as many years at gargoyles…3 or 4 were purchased for the purpose of giving to others (one of which was sent across the country to someone i still to this day have never met in person), and i’ve given a few from my personal collection away in the years since i left boston and moved to LA. the remaining four that i still have all date from roughly the same period….if i had to guess i’d say probably from 96 or 97. i’d be more than happy to send you photos of them for the purpose of either your archives or your curiousity. it was always interesting to see the progression of your work and how the initial concept evolved over time. it seemed like there was some sort of evolution and progression in each batch Lou received. a former girlfriend (who still remains a close friend ) owns one of the pieces from the very first group you ever sent to boston. i particularly always wanted to acquire one of the very large pieces you starting doing later, but (although i’m sure Lou would have accepted any offer i made) i never was in a financial position to afford what i felt was a reasonable approximation of their worth.

      if you talk to lou pls tell him that i said hello, and that his kindness, wisdom, spirit, and humor will always be an incredibly significant and important source of inspiration and influence

      “you say I am repeating
      Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
      Shall I say it again?”

      • Thanks I will extend your greetings to Lou. Does he know you as ascrobius? I am a curious person so I am curious what paintings you might still have pictures of. please feel free to email me at duncan.chrystal@gmail .com. or post them here..

      • ascrobius says:

        Duncan, he’ll know me as matthew- who worked around the corner at satellite records, purchased a bunch of your work, along with a life size saint Ann, “the giving”, a gourd man print, and many many other items. He introduced me to rick greenthorn he dida pro shoot for a record label I used to own. He’ll remember. I probably spent more hours in gargoyles than anyone over the years…

        I’ll take pics of my remaining Duncan’s tonight and email them over to you…

      • Thanks Matthew..I am sure he will. Lou doesn’t use the computer but also include your telephone # and I will pass it along to him..

      • Duncan, the next time you speak with Lou could you ask him if he has any CD copies of The Anatomy of Melancholy? If not, I would love to create a CD and mail it to him so he can listen to his own song again. My email is john.e.lester@gmail.com in case he wishes to privately share a mailing address with me. Thank you.

  9. Mary says:

    Thank you so much for posting this and for sharing the mp3. I was only in Gargoyles once, in 1996. I was visiting a friend who was in college at the time, so I spent many happy hours wandering around the city by myself while he was in class. I came across this magical place and loved it. I only had enough money to buy a tiny Irving gargoyle, which has always served as a reminder of my favorite spot in Boston.

    About a year ago, I discovered that another friend of mine has several larger gargoyles she acquired in Lou’s shop while attending college in Boston in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Until I found your post, she was the only other person I knew of who had been there, and it was reassuring to know that I didn’t just imagine such a fantastical shop.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Mary. That’s a beautiful story.

      Isn’t it amazing how many lives that tiny store touched before it faded away? Like a precious stone tossed in a lake, sinking quickly beneath the water yet leaving ripples for miles.

  10. Chanced upon your blog post today while reading about the terrible events at the marathon. I flashed back to many happy trips to Boston’s Newbury Street; in the late 90’s a good friend took me to see the Gargoyle Shop for the first time and it was a moving, mystical experience that stayed with me for a long time. The last time I was in town – last summer – I was saddened to learn that the store had closed several years ago. My shelves still have a few small, beautiful pieces from the store, and I kept one of their old business cards/receipts, with a “∞” inscribed on the back by hand. Thank you so much for this post.

  11. Matt says:

    That store was a pilgrimage for me, and an anomaly on Newbury Street, I’m pleased it lasted as long as it did there. Thanks for the music track, I never asked Lou about it, I assumed it was some Eno piece. Even if I didn’t buy something on my visits there, Lou would inevitably press some small token into my hand upon leaving. I still have some ornate frames from there that I need to use for some artwork. I know I took many photos when I that heard it was closing, they’re somewhere on my flickr page. I can search for them later if you like.

  12. doug says:

    on a related note, did you ever see the large photo (3×4 feet or so) of a bat skeleton displayed at the transportation building during the late 80s? it had a lead flashing (or similar non toxic material) frame

  13. doug says:

    thanks for posting the misic, I really missed that, good to find after many unsuccessful searches

  14. Steven Smith says:

    Hi John,
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting that mp3 file. That really brings back some memories. I really miss Lou and his brother (whose name is Bill I believe). I used to be a frequent visitor to their shop on Newbury Street and usually managed to find something to buy when I could. I’m only now starting to un-box some of it due to several moves, having kids, etc. I’m going to make it a point to try to contact them to say hello and to give them my thanks. I’ll post some jpegs in the uncoming weeks/months if I can.
    Best wishes,
    — Steve

  15. Aaron says:

    In reply to Matt from April 28 — WOW! Your third picture shows a gargoyle I bought from the store in 1996 and have been looking for information about it since. If you look immediately to the right of Jesus’ shoulder, you’ll see what Louis called “Kneebiter, the Demon Angst.”

    I first saw it in 1994 and he had been trying to make copies of it, but it was very difficult to copy, apparently the molds were quite complex. Finally they were able to get a small run out and I was able to grab one (and talk him into shipping it halfway across the country).

    If anyone has seen this, or other copies of this gargoyle around, or know anything about it, PLEASE let me know. The only history I have of it is what Louis said, that it hung over the main entrance of the house of the man who designed the original LA Coliseum. but through some investigation, that’s yielded no confirmation.

  16. William Koch says:

    Thank you so much for this post. That store was by far my favorite during the four years I lived in Boston and the Duncan Chrystal Soul Painting I bought there, after saving up for a year, is still one of my prize possessions. It always occupies a prominent place on a wall where ever I live. I will try to get a good picture of it to share.

  17. Sara says:

    Almost ten years ago, I was a college student in Boston trying to find the perfect gift for my godmother. I was thrilled to find Gargoyles since she collects gargoyles and dragons, and I found the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten her – a small, solid stone gargoyle with folded wings. I can’t remember any other shops I used to frequent on Newbury, but I remember Gargoyles.

    Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and my husband and I were in Boston and walking down Newbury Street. I had hoped to visit the shop again to find her another gargoyle, but was incredibly sad to find out that it had closed a few years ago. I even visited the old shop front – now it’s some yuppie olive oil store. Booooring.

    The gargoyle still sits in my godmother’s garden to this day.

  18. sara671 says:

    Almost ten years ago, I was a college student in Boston trying to find the perfect gift for my godmother. I was thrilled to find Gargoyles since she collects gargoyles and dragons, and I found the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten her – a small, solid stone gargoyle with folded wings. I can’t remember any other shops I used to frequent on Newbury, but I remember Gargoyles.

    Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and my husband and I were in Boston and walking down Newbury Street. I had hoped to visit the shop again to find her another gargoyle, but was incredibly sad to find out that it had closed a few years ago. I even visited the old shop front – now it’s some yuppie olive oil store. Booooring.

    The gargoyle still sits in my godmother’s garden to this day.

  19. David Lowell says:

    It was the only store in Boston worth a visit. I will never forget the first time I walked in and saw leaves spread on the floor much like you would find in a cemetery- an old cemetery. It was a sad day when I learned it closed. I still have my tape of the music. Lou where are you anyway?

  20. Pingback: Looking back | Serendipidy Haven's Blog

  21. Yaaaaah……thank you all sincerely for the music and memories…
    Tragedy to hear of this place closing I agree. It was one of the magic places in America…
    I first came upon it when in seminary and miserable. So much of the art work was Catholic that at first I was taken aback. But it transported me as I gradually wended my way thru the aisles and piles of artifacts of other people, places, and things. The film ‘Resurrection’ w/ Ellen Burstyn came to mind, as did ‘The Sentinel’ about a certain apartment on Riverside Drive in NYC, many European churches, cathedrals, shrines and their cemeteries. It was alot like an old old chapel from I believe the 1500s sitting in the middle of a cemetery in a grove of Live Oak under the Spanish Moss…still maintained in St Augustine, Florida. too. Freaky but fabulous.
    I visited it many times while in school, until I left. At times it was the only comfort I was getting then. The shop and it’s solitude helped me with some soul searching that had to happen. I never got to thank the owner for providing such a refuge.
    I last took my partner back to wander thru Boston/Cambridge as he had never been. We walked down Newbury Street and of course had to stop in. I was delighted he was open and we visited awhile. I guess I thought the store would always be there, so of course I join the commiseration.
    And I urge the owner to please consider resurrection…lol…of the shop or some other cool space he can I am sure come up with.

  22. Sooz says:

    Every now and again, I think of this store. I was in there a time or two while I was at Berklee in ’91-’92. I remember feeling groovy and a little freaked out at the same time, but I always remember the leaves on the floor. So, I googled “Newbury Street gargoyle” and found this! So sorry it has closed– I always thought I’d be there again. Thank you for those memories!

  23. Debbie says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I worked there for about year back in 1990. It is still one of my most favorite places I worked. I loved that there were real leaves on the floor to crunch under your feet and the words of T.S. Eliot in the air. I remember Lou, would play his music this too. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Val Bassett says:

    I purchased a small gargoyle and a small statue of Arch Angel Michael when I visited this store back in the early 90’s. I recall the strong ambiance of the place. A spiritual feast for the spirit as well as the eyes. I treasure those little statues and think of that place when I look at them. I’m sorry it closed. We have a restaurant here in Northampton, MA that collects old religious statues and lines the staircase and dining area with them. I find it fascinating and very peace filled.

  25. hollierosita@gmail.com says:

    Thank you so much for making this page. I spent so much of my time, in my late teens and early twenties, sitting on the stoop in front of this store, or on a chair just inside, listening to Lou talk in his special way with customers, and to me. The place was such a beautiful mystery for me, strange incantation, and now that it’s gone and I am ten years older than I was then, I still find my mental sentences threaded with the language of the birds.

    I am looking at one of the Notre Dame postcards from the store, and can’t believe I still have it after all the moves and years. It is marked 2002 on the back and in Lou’s handwriting is my first I-Ching. When I first walked into the store I felt like praying, and I think I did, silently; I talked to Lou but don’t remember about what. The second time, a few days later, Lou asked me, “Hollie, do you speak French?” and I said no. Then he asked me, “Do you write poetry?” and I said yes. When I eventually got to see poems of mine in the store the inward thrill and joy I felt was immeasurable, that he would allow me to be part of that place.

    Well, thanks again for creating this place for all of us to find and reconnect with this place. It’s true, sometimes, I wonder if it was ever really there at all. It seems like such a dream.

    I wish I could let Lou and Bill somehow know how grateful I am for giving me such a beautiful place to go, and such kind support through those tough years. I would assume they know though. I like to assume that they know everything necessary through the language of the birds.

    Hollie

  26. cheryl says:

    Rats, I found your post because I was trying to find this store again since one of my cats knocked over and broke a little plaster gargoyle I had gotten from the store. I remember going in during a work trip to Boston and the person there (Lou?) saying that I had a wonderful aura or some such and I remember thinking “uh huh, you are just trying to sell me something expensive….” He ended up GIVING me my little gargoyle because he thought we belonged together….

  27. I just made some simple cover art for the song. Please see the appended end of this blog post if you’d like a copy. Take care.

  28. Sergio A says:

    I used to LOVE going into the store when I lived in Boston!!! (2000-2004)
    I also bought many things there, most of them I still have and cherish. Specially an old old photo of a nude woman in the woods that from what I remember was shot by Lou in the 70s.
    I also had the CD and I had completely forggoten about the song, it was really really cool to listen to it again.
    I was in Boston last year and I did miss the store when I walked by it. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  29. Shawn G says:

    This was one of the most memorable places I have ever encountered. I visited very few times, but was always lured to a poem that hung on the wall. It was the most dark and beautiful poem I had ever read. I wasn’t sure if I could buy it, or if it was just part of the décor (I guess that went for everything in there!). Anyhow, I would love to know if you or your readers have any idea what I’m talking about because I’d love to find the poet and the work. The poem was on the left side of the shop as you were facing the back of the gallery. I think it may have been on a door. I know it’s a reach, but any help would be great

    • Thanks for commenting Shawn. I’m afraid I don’t remember either, but I have hope someone else reading this may have a better memory!

    • Matt says:

      I remembered a framed bit of dialogue from the film “Wings of Desire” that was hanging by the door. Perhaps this is what you meant?

      “Now it’s serious. At last it’s becoming serious. So I’ve grown older. Was I the only one who wasn’t serious? Is it our times that are not serious? I was never lonely neither when I was alone, nor with others. But I would have liked to be alone at last. Loneliness means I’m finally whole. Now I can say it as tonight, I’m at last alone. I must put an end to coincidence. The new moon of decision. I don’t know if there’s destiny but there’s a decision. Decide! We are now the times. Not only the whole town – the whole world is taking part in our decision. We two are now more than us two. We incarnate something. We’re representing the people now. And the whole place is full of those who are dreaming the same dream. We are deciding everyone’s game. I am ready. Now it’s your turn. You hold the game in your hand. Now or never. You need me. You will need me. There’s no greater story than ours, that of man and woman. It will be a story of giants… invisible… transposable… a story of new ancestors. Look. My eyes. They are the picture of necessity, of the future of everyone in the place. Last night I dreamt of a stranger… of my man. Only with him could I be alone, open up to him, wholly open, wholly for him. Welcome him wholly into me. Surround him with the labyrinth of shared happiness. I know… it’s you.”

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