Circled the lots and garages at the Vienna Fairfax station buzzard-like for an hour or more today. Finally got 10 bucks in change and fed a 12-hour meter.
Everyone on a train looks sad and awkward and lonely.
Things I did not expect to see today: Ducks and their concomitant duck poop; two police officers giving a dog water on the Mall; an empty but spinning carousel outside the Smithsonian. [Note, “carousel” does not look the way I expect it to. It feels dirty, way too close to “arousal.”] At first, I thought the police had the dog sniffing a backpack, but they were just giving him water. (As everyone knows, all dogs are boys and all cats are girls.) I took their picture. When they walked past me later, I confessed: “I tried to steal your picture when you guys were giving water to your dog.” We laughed, they kept walking.
I liked the Rodins best in the sculpture garden.
Like this lady:
And here again from another angle:
Even more best, I liked an audio exhibit. Here’s what the sign for it looked like:
[I’m tired. I’ll let the sign do the talking.]
“Sunset Song,” two versions of the murder ballad “The Banks of the Ohio.” The volume is controlled by a light sensor. As the light dims, the song gets quieter. As the sun sets, the song fades into silence. Le Awesome. If I hadn’t needed to get back to my meter at Vienna/Fairfax, I would have stayed and listened to it go a few more rounds.
I read and took copious notes on the first 18 pages of Zora Neale Hurston’s unpublished biography of Cudjo Lewis titled “Barracoon.” Only a hundred pages to go!
I lingered over onion skin typing paper with Hurston’s own hand corrections. I held and read a handwritten letter explaining why the bulk of the work is in the voice of Cudjo Lewis. Oh, yes, my nerd heart swooned. If her fingerprints haven’t been worn off the paper of the manuscript already, then it’s possible those sheets have both our prints own them.
I hear in the manuscript three voices: a generic voice of historical recounting, Hurston’s own unmistakable poetic voice, and the voice of Cudjo Lewis that takes dominance. I don’t know what I can do with this, but I want very much to do something with it. Only, Hurston is so good. Anything I do will pale, pale, pale. Also, Howard has very strict policies about publications, which include dissertations. I was told that if I want to quote even a sentence of it, I need their permission. I do not like permission. I like behaving in a realm where there is no question of permission because all I have is right. This realm is, of course, entirely imaginary.
I want to find out more why this manuscript hasn’t been published. I think initially there was a question of plagiarism. In an early version Hurston borrowed too heavily from Emma Langdon Roche, and that may have marred the legitimate work she did for “Barracoon.”
I’ve checked out but haven’t even opened a box of papers and “drafts, various” related to the project. Imagine the treasures!
Tomorrow, I go the Library of Congress to watch twenty minutes of silent film shot by Hurston, including two or three minutes of Lewis. I believe it is the only known moving image of a slave who was born in Africa. I’ll return to Howard on Monday.
I’m so tired. And oddly sad. I has a lingering sad. I miss my peeps. All of my peeps. I miss even the strangers in Alabama who are not so cold and distant as all these herded, suited masses. But as soon as tomorrow night I will be seeing old college friends I’ve missed for years and years. They’ll bring me round, I’m sure. Then this weekend the national zoo and the Smithsonians. I need some zooseum cheering. Alas, Jessy’s mostly too broke for train rides to NJ and Philly. Though a certain Chicky says Atlantic City is only four hours by car, and really, that’s almost nothing—heck, that’s only an hour further away than DC is for me, apparently, as it took me three hours from hotel to Howard U. Gawd, I could use a Chicky visit. And maybe some craps. Or crêpes. Crêpes would probably be better. In lieu of crêpes, I accept fresh cannoli. Oi, this blog has gone the hopscotch way of a missive to Chicky. 10-4, good buddy. Over and out.
P.S. Did I ever tell you about my estranged maternal aunt who met her husband over the citizens’ band? He was something of a local country music legend and lived on the same street my daddy grew up on (the same street I grew up on)? Small world, both of those boys marrying Harrison girls. Her name was Snake Eyes. She used to call me Jake.