Many years ago, I brought an old boyfriend to the Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Natural History Museum. I’d told him all about it: how many hours of my childhood had been spent roaming the dun-carpeted halls under the flourescent lights, gazing at the geode cave and the rainbow of precious stones; occasionally sliding down that one irresistible slanted slab of petrified wood when the guard’s back was turned. I’d told him about how my best friend, Elaine, and I would beg to visit the dark little screening room where they showed a film called Forever Gold on a ten-minute loop, and how we’d watch it over and over and over, shrieking with laughter and shouting along with the dialogue.
I’m not sure why I loved the gem room. I never much cared about science, and jewelry has always left me cold. And yet, it felt like the friendliest and most reassuring place in the world. And that film! Years later, I could still remember the triumphant cries of the prospectors, and the bits of 1980s footage in which a scientist in a short-sleeved button-down demonstrated the incredible tensility of a sheet of gold leaf. At one point a reenactor, playing a Medieval merchant, bit down on a gold coin; this started us on several weeks of hilarious and unhygienic coin biting. The narrator—whom I would later realize was George Plimpton—explains at one point that if all the gold ever mined were made into a cube, a football game could still be played around it. This is still the one salient fact I know about football. Read More