Some of my favorite photos from our recent trip to Virginia are below. See the complete photo album on my website.
View of Duke of Gloucester Street from the Capitol Building.
For Spring Break, my son Peter and I traveled to Virginia to visit my mother and play tourist at Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, and Go-Karts Plus. It was three-day trip but it felt like we saw and learned a lot. Now, I once lived in Williamsburg. I attended the College of William & Mary, worked on an archaeological site as part of a field school, studied 18th-century furniture at the art museums, and then was an employee of Colonial Williamsburg for four years during my senior year of college and the years immediately afterwards. So, these places are familiar to me. But this was the first time I’d visited as just a plain old tourist in close to 25 years, and the first time I visited as a parent, sharing my enthusiasm for history with my son.
We actually visited few of the sites I actually worked at in my time as a historical interpreter as Peter was drawn more to the historic trades (which, ironically, I rarely had time to visit when I actually worked there). For a place rooted in history, a lot has changed at Colonial Williamsburg. The Charlton Coffehouse was reconstructed in recent years and we enjoyed the unexpected treat of a free serving of hot chocolate of an 18th-century recipe. There’s also a daily event called Revolution in the Streets where the last block of Duke of Gloucester street is open only to paying guests and character interpreters perform a drama right in the middle of the crowd. The story we witnessed was about a slave couple deciding to “jump the broom” to marry before the man was taken away to Richmond (for some reason I never learned). We were among the witnesses to the jumping the broom ceremony which involved everyone participating in song and dance. It is kind of cheesy and probably not 100% authentic, but I think it gets across the point of what daily life and choices were faced by ordinary people of the past. I liked it better than the military reviews and speeches by great men that are more typical of living history performance.
A frisbee-catching dog on Palace Green.
Tulips blossom in the garden behind the Governor’s Palace.
A team of oxen prepare to plow another row in the field.
Jumping the Broom (broom not in the picture).
Related Post: Jamestown 2007 – America’s 400th Anniversary
Beer: Old Stitch
Brewer: AleWerks Brewing Company
Rating: *** (7.2 of 10)
The waiter at Chowning’s Tavern is a beer aficionado and set me up with a sample of another AleWerks beer (I left him a generous tip). Old Stitch is brown with a cream-colored head. The nose is sweet and chocolatey, while the taste is nutty and well-balanced. This is a tasty brew and I wish I’d had time to sample more.
Beer: Dear Old Mum
Brewer: AleWerks Brewing Company
Rating: *** (7.6 of 10)
Comments: Visited Chowning’s Tavern at Colonial Williamsburg and enjoyed a mug of this locally-brewed, 18th-century recipe beer. Dear Old Mum is unfiltered with a honey-color and not much head. The scent is grainy and the flavor is spicy with a sweet, malt finish. There’s an effervescent tingle on the tongue and the flavor grows stronger the more you drink. Nice to see Williamsburg making a strong addition to the craft beer revolution.
Author: Reynolds Price
Title: Kate Vaiden
Publication Info: Scribner (1986)
Summary/Review: This story set in rural North Carolina and later in Norfolk, Virginia is told from the perspective as a memoir titular character. Kate’s parents die in a murder-suicide leaving Kate to be raised by relatives and to get involve in self-destructive sexual relationships at a young age. The tone of the book is one of distance and indifference, perhaps appropriate to a narrator who has shut her self off from the world, but at the same time it is difficult to read a story that the narrator seems uninterested in telling. What could be a good story of an interior struggle comes off as dull and unconvincing.
Recommended Books: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields and A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Some photos from a return visit to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. See the whole gallery of photos online.
Previously: Outer Banks (May 2009)
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves (2008) by M.T. Anderson continues and completes the young adult Revolutionary War saga. I read the first volume, The Pox Party, earlier this year and it was by far one of my favorite books of the year so far. This volume picks up with Octavian escaping a death sentence and with his tutor Dr. Trefusis make it into besieged Boston. There he is a violinist performing to entertain the British regulars. Octavian yearns for something more and answers the call of Virginia governor Lord Dunmore who has created a Royal Ethiopian regiment for slaves of rebellious masters willing to take up arms to put down the rebellion in exchange for their freedom.
The majority of the book is in the form of Octavian’s diary (interspersed with a few letters written by other actors in this drama). He describes the hope and optimism of slaves gaining freedom and learning to fight. His reunion and developing relationship with the older, wiser slave Pro Bono. He tells the stories of his fellow slaves and how they made their escape. He describes in grim detail the loss of Norfolk and the plague of smallpox the decimates the regiment. Eventually Octavian’s spirit is all but crushed and he comes to the conclusion that Dunmore has no desire to free slaves other than for tactical purposes.
I have to admit that this book dragged at times. There was too much verisimilitude in a day-to-day diary of the mundane life of a foot soldier. I also admit that with the reality of Octavian’s life already established in the previous volume that it loses the unique science fiction edge and reads more like a straight-forward historical novel. The novel does follow real historical events and recreates them in an admirable way. Yet, and it may just be due to flashbacks of working at Colonial Williamsburg, I had trouble getting into this book. If you enjoyed the first volume as I did, I would definitely recommend completing Octavian’s story.
Author Anderson, M. T.
Title The astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the nation. v. #2 The kingdom on the waves / taken from accounts by his own hand and other sundry sources ; collected by M.T. Anderson of Boston.
Publication Info. Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2008.
Edition 1st ed.
Description 561 p. : maps ; 24 cm.
On 2 March 1998, I went home. Sort of.
I had to wake up early to make sure I made it to Heathrow Airport on time so I got promises from my French dormate Nadja and a Danish woman that they’d wake me before they left for work. I was so keyed up I didn’t need any waking and woke long before I needed to. While checking out of the hostel, I had a very friendly conversation with an Australian woman checking in. In the “go figure” department, it may have been the most promising initial conversation I had with a member of the opposite sex in the entire 6 weeks.
Earl’s Court is conveniently on the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow, and the Tube whisked me to the airport (something Londoners tell me is not typical). The flight home on Virgin Atlantic was festive. The flight attendants gave out shots of Bailey’s and brandy (I had one of each). I watched the James Bond flick Goldfinger and the Muhammad Ali documentary When Were Kings on the Virgin TV. I distinctly remember drunken women singing “Brimful of Asha” in the rows behind me.
My sister Barbara met me at Dulles. My first impressions on being back in the States is that all the green money looked odd, and it was weird to see cars driving on the right. Barbara had taken my car in for repair while I was gone, but it had problems. “It’s the darnedest thing I ever saw,” said the auto mechanic. So my travels extended to one more night in Richmond before I made my triumphant return to Bastardsville on March 3.
This is probably where I should list my favorite parts and lessons learned, but I think I’ve bored you enough with my travelog. Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed this maybe I’ll tell you about some of my other trips one day.
The end of the journey: rain jacket, passport, journal, and otter with Otto the Cat.
I got a free copy of the Teacher’s Edition of Bridge to Terabithia (1977) by Katherine Paterson at the ALA Conference exhibition hall. I’d never heard of the book prior to the release of the movie this year, which is surprising since the 1977 release date puts it right in my childhood. Then again I didn’t read children’s books as a child.
The narrative style and dialog are bit hokey and distracting in their hee-haw Southern parody. Other than that I like this book. I like the friendship between a boy and a girl, more unusual then than now. I like the theme of the outsiders. I like how they create an imaginary world, their battles and pageantry there are in their minds not in the story (which leaves room for imagination in the minds of the reader). I especially like the very honest and true-to-life examination of grief when someone close to you dies.
The one thing I didn’t get was why the teacher took Jess to Washington to visit museums. That’s kind of creepy in a way. I thought maybe she knew about Leslie’s death and wanted to give Jess a good memory, but it’s never explained in the book. Anyone know?
Sometimes like the Barbie doll you need to give people something that’s for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it (p. 160).
As a follow-up to Jamestown’s 400th anniversary, Susan and I watched the latest cinematic interpretation of the Jamestown story The New World (2005). In the movie we meet our lead characters John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pochahantas/Matoaka/Rebecca (Q’Orianka Kilcher). Smith wanders sullenly through the tall grasses of the Virginia swamps and laconically avoids conversation with his fellow settlers. You can tell he’s a a true devotee of emo and at times you can almost see the earbuds of his iPod where he listens to an endless shuffle of Thom Yorke. Pochahantas by contrast is a crunchy, hippy girl who dances around the groovy Powhatan village. This extremely well-developed 10-year old and the English pedophile are of course destined for star-crossed love.
Not that they put it that way, but despite claiming to base the film on the latest historical research and even giving a nod to Bill Kelso in the credits, the filmmakers chose to put the mythical romance of Captain Smith and Pochahantas at the center of the story. Like the story of Jesus and Mary Magdelene as lovers the Smith/Pochantas tale at one time may have been an interesting “what if?” but by now is trite and I wonder why authors, artists, and filmmakers keep dipping back into that dry well. Especially since the true story is much more interesting.
Apart from historical innacuracy, weird editing is the bane of this film. Like a music video the movie cuts quickly from image to image, rarely allowing time for a coherent scene. Look Pochantas is patting John Smith’s cheek! Now she’s fifty feet away gesturing to the gods in the sky! Now there’s Chief Powhatan looking grumpy!
Meanwhile back in the fort, a number of extras from Monty Python and David Lynch films are standing around not doing much. A real settlement would require constant tree felling, building, hunting, cooking, preparing goods for the winter, but at this Jamestown there is only room for malaise. They do shoot each other every once in a while for no particular reason, and act creepy to keep things interesting.
Not that it’s all bad. It’s better than the Disney film or the dramatic production “Journey of Destiny.” The cinematography is beautiful, capturing the lush wilderness of Virginia and the courtly world of England equally well. In fact, like the train wreck of Gangs of New York the filmmakers paid great attention to detail in getting the costumes, props and sets to match exacting historical detail. They just didn’t bother to do that with the plot.
So if you like tragic romances, watch this film with the caveat that it is not a true story. If you like history, watch it for the sets and costumes. If you’re annoyed by failure to adhere to a simple historical narrative, don’t watch it all.