I’m drafting this blog entry on the train back from DC to New York. Normally I prefer to write directly on line, but I want to play with temporalities and textualities a bit here.
First up, on a tourist note, Washington is extraordinary. The weather was celestial, the monuments and memorials and cemeteries (we visited Arlington) all grand beyond expectation. It also struck me as a very beautiful, very liveable city. I’d spent a rushed day in DC a few years ago; it was great having a bit more time to take in more things, though we only scraped the surface of the wonderful museums along the National Mall. Strangely, we kept sleeping in, and starting late. But we had had two late nights before we left New York (Il Trovatore, and Billy Elliott) and then there was the nervous energy it took for me to get ready to give my talk, and to give my talk, and for P and J to hear my talk (a first!). So there’s no point beating oneself up about not touring every inch of every museum.
In any case, the real highlight of this trip was the human one. Jeffrey and I have spent more time reading each other’s blogs than we have in person, and I think all bloggers will recognise the pleasure we took in spending a bit more time together, and in my case, getting to know the person behind that giant brain a little better. He is the perfect academic host, for one thing, organising my visit with a generosity, a thoughtfulness and attention to detail I can only aspire to.
But because it turned into a family visit, it was even more lovely than the face-to-face encounter of bloggers. In the company of one’s own family, there is no point in trying to maintain a grand public presence, such as one is sometimes tempted to do at conferences, and so yesterday afternoon, as Jeffrey took us to the magnificent National Cathedral (a towering, gleaming Gothic elevation on the top of a hill, sheltering a beautiful terraced and secluded garden in its shadows), and then out for an early pizza with his family, then back to his house to sit in the lamplit garden to sit drinking sangria and pleasantly exchanging stories, it was the perfect way to get to know one’s fellow blogger a little better; and the perfect thing for travellers far from their own home and garden. We did a little academic gossip but there is nothing worse than academics boring each other’s families with such things, so we were pretty restrained. Alex and Joel traded pieces on the piano, the delightful Katherine drew me a kangaroo, and the two families just progressively relaxed into each other’s ways and dynamics. Alex in particular opened up as the evening went on, turning into a charming conversationalist and political commentator.
Jeffrey and I kidded about writing each other’s blog entries about the visit, and about who would get in first. Because he didn’t spend the morning at the Folger Library’s birthday party for Shakespeare, and spend time checking bags out of the hotel and in and out of union station, and then spend three and a half hours on a wirelessless train, he has the advantage of opportunity, should he wish to get in first. We are also heading out to dinner as soon as we get back into the city, so I won’t get to post this till later tonight. But my blogging vow is to post this before I check out In the Medieval Middle.