Friday, March 07, 2008
Had to cut my afternoon short because of a downpour. I could've stayed out longer had I been smart enough to take the umbrella that the hotel so thoughtfully provided in my closet. But noooo, I didn't want to carry it. After all, it's the same overcast gray here that it's been for months on end at home.
So here's my afternoon in a nutshell with a few visuals. I picked up my goodie bag from the National Constitution Center, which includes two heavy hardbound books (thank God I bought the big suitcase). I went across the street to Independence Hall, which in a very surreal way reminded me a bit of OU's campus. The nice park ranger there informed me I needed a timed ticket for the tour, which could be had in the visitor center across the green.
You can have breakfast with Ben Franklin on Saturday mornings at the visitor center (reservations are required). Anyway, I picked up my ticket with just enough time to stroll through the Liberty Bell exhibit and clear security for the tour.
Security isn't so bad. I always asked about taking photos instead of presuming it was okay and they only asked me to open my coat and to search my purse. Took less than a minute each time. I felt sorry for the parents with the stroller and the diaper bag and four small kids and all the kiddie crap that, frankly, in this post-9/11 world I think would deter me from ever sightseeing with the young'uns. For a minute, I thought security was going to sniff the contents of the little girl's Dora the Explorer canteen.
Our tour guide at Independence Hall was kind of annoying. Maybe it was just her East Coast accent or maybe it was the volume and pitch of her voice—or maybe it was a combination of all the above—but I was getting a headache. But she had a few interesting details.
She reminded us that two signings occurred in the famous hall—Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—but only six of the Founding Fathers signed both documents. Thomas Jefferson did not since he was a minister in France, and John Adams did not since he was a minister to England. Both were busy settling treaties at the ratification of the Constitution.
The old sage Ben Franklin, however, was present at both. And I liked her description of him as America's Leonardo da Vinci ("both were multi-talented and both knew things before their time").
She also called the Declaration of Independence a "well-written press release, not a form of government." George W (not THAT George W) admonished all 90 participants not to speak of the proceedings with any family, friends and certainly not the press for the four-month duration of the assembly. Can you imagine such a thing today? We have the scribe James Madison to thank for official record of what transpired.
The room itself, though it appears massive in the famous painting by Howard Chandler Christy, is actually quite intimate, save for the expansive ceiling. Call me crazy, but I really dig the gray-ish color of the woodwork.
Most of the items in the room are period pieces, but the only actual piece that was there during the Constitutional Convention is the so-called "Rising Sun" chair, in which sat the stately George Washington. It was so-named by the elderly Ben Franklin who had looked at the carvings on the back of the chair trying to determine if it was a rising or setting sun. The rising sun, of course, is a metaphor for the rising nation.
My stomach led me to The City Tavern, founded in 1773 and a favorite gathering place for the Founding Fathers. When independence was nothing more than a whisper, the great minds of democracy would gather in secret from the British. Ironically, the tavern is designed in the style of London tavern, so I guess we weren't that independent.
The servers are in complete Colonial dress, with the women in lacy Betsy Ross caps and the gentlemen in knickers. Since the misty sprinkles were just starting, I opted for some New England Clam Chowder and a salad. Amazing how cold a pewter mug will keep a beverage. The Thomas Jefferson sweet potato biscuits were divine.
I was setting to leave when I noticed the rain pouring off the awning outside. I was only a block or two from the hotel, but in the time it took to get back, my hair was soaked and has reverted to its natural frizzy state.
I'm warming up the flat iron to get rid of the frizz and then it's off to the National Constitution Center to meet my fellows and the faculty.
Word of the day
epistolary: of, relating to, or suitable to a letter