Colonialism. I drove to Yorktown for lunch yesterday. That’s 175 miles. Each way. It was for a good cause, though, as the Northwestern University Club of Virginia was holding it’s annual holiday luncheon (and by being there I avoided attending a meeting of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia—I’ve become way too impatient to attend many meetings these days). I’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg, but never to Yorktown, which is similar but on a much smaller scale. One of the highlights of our luncheon (other than my being presented with gifts in honor of my now-completed service as President) was a visit from “Frances Tasker Carter,” actually an historical interpreter playing the part of Mrs. Carter, wife of one of Virginia’s wealthiest men in the late 18th Century. This was fascinating. She spoke to us about this being her first return to Yorktown since the end of the war, about her household duties, about her children, about her husband’s landholdings. And she allowed us to ask her questions—which we did with very interesting results. She’d mentioned that one of the things she does to educate and entertain her (many) children is to read plays with them, each taking different parts. I asked which were her favorites and whether they ever read novels. Their favorite plays were Shakespeare, but they also did “She Stoops to Conquer” and others. As for novels, she had secretly read Clarissa and similar works but, as the novel was still a new form, and not approved by her husband, she could read them only when he was away. Someone asked whether she thought her husband would ever free their slaves. Now, this was quite an interesting question and she replied that he was looking for a way to do that. It was only when I got home that I made the connection between the Carter family and a book by Andrew Levy (Queens University MFA non-fiction faculty): The First Emancipator, The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter. Robert Carter, Frances Tasker Carter’s husband, did manage to free his 450 slaves in 1791. I’d been planning for some time to read the book, and now it has moved to the front of the line.
Mexico. I keep getting invitations to come to Tepoztlan to join the Under the Volcano workshop for the 5th season (I’ve done seasons 2 and 3). Today’s notice says that the week will include a reading in homage to Grace Paley, who will be there. (She was scheduled to teach, but as she is about to turn 84 and in poor health, has decided against it.) Among others, Elena Poniatowska will be there to read one of Grace’s stories in Spanish. I haven’t been out of the country since last December so I am quite tempted. More on this later.
Television. I’m not a huge TV watcher. I end the day with it on and do watch sports from time to time. But Dish Network (my satellite provider) has lost the ability to broadcast distant network signals, and was already not allowed to proved local network signals in this market. So I am currently without any of the networks—lots of shopping and religious channels, but no networks. There may be some alternatives, like putting up an antenna, but now may be the time to kill the television and save the $45/month that the satellite service costs. What will I really miss?