N early a hundred people packed the small chamber cheek to elbow. Security guards strolled casually past, casting an occasional eye to make sure no one stepped over the line. Leaving the grand hallway with its barrel skylights and gold-topped Corinthian marble columns, I made my way toward the crowd.
T his is the season of firsts, eagerly and duly recorded: first robin, first daffodil, first leaf buds, first day above sixty and then seventy degrees. In the northern part of the U.S. where I live, such firsts are savored as incontrovertible evidence, more telling than the date on the calendar, that winter has finally lost the tug of war and spring is winning the battle.