A reader on LiveJournal asked what the Mencken Table is. On consideration, I thought there might be some interest here, as well.
This question comes up enough that I should probably make a FAQ. For now, however, THIS is the Mencken Table, as it appears today, without the piles of paper, books and DVDs that usually adorn it:
Once upon a time, the Mencken Table belonged to the Bard of Baltimore, HL Mencken, part of a matched set in his reading room. As had been the fashion in the day, in order to make the wood shiny, it would be periodically shellacked. This is an important plot point.
When HL Mencken died, he left his house, and all its contents, to the University of Maryland at Baltimore (also known as the University of Maryland Professional Schools), which was a near neighbor. The Law School laid claim to it, naturally enough, but the Chancellor decreed that Straws Should Be Drawn, and, before the Straws were Drawn, the deans of the various professional schools ought to inspect the house, to see if it would be of use to them.
This happened over the course of. . .a while, and a lot of the Cooler Stuff that had been in the House started showing up the various offices and reception areas of the Deans and the Chancellor.
The Dean of the School of Social Work, where I was Administrative Assistant to the Dean, had one of the two reading room tables in the reception area, and a model of a Baltimore Schooner in the Dean’s Office. There may have been other things, I was hired after the House had been emptied, and the Law School had had it for a while, and had decided that it didn’t want the upkeep and generously “gave” it to the School of Social Work.
In any case, the Table became a plant table in the reception area, and, as often happens with plant tables, sometimes got wet, and the shellack started to peel and by the time the new Dean came it, it was a Sight, and she ordered it Removed.
I. . .was fond of the Table, and asked if I could have it. This prompted a discussion of what sorts of things it was all right for employees to be given from the University inventory, and it was determined that I could have the table IF it wasn’t in inventory.
Well, of course it wasn’t in inventory, it had been looted from the Mencken House, and no one had ever bothered to record or tag it. Therefore, according to the University, the Table did not exist, and I could take it home.
Which I did. I also refinished it; my first refinishing project, which you can tell by looking at it. I really ought to get it taken care of by a pro, but. . .it’s been more than 30 years and I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
So — that’s what the Mencken Table is.