Leaving Thomas Jefferson's Monticello compound in idyllic Charlottesville, VA, I felt disenchantment and relief.
I'll give praise to our tour guide (Chip? Kevin? Scotty?), who did his best to own up to Jefferson's...indiscretions in a tactful but honest way. Yet the old knot inside me tightened and pulled when looking directly at the irreconcilability of his virtuous visioning and hypocritical, if not outright disgusting, behavior manifest in his sprawling estate.
I'm empathic. I tried to see his whole picture. It was piecemeal, at best.
Pro: TJ was a big cheese at the Declaration of Independence factory.
Con: He had sex with someone he owned as property, begetting 6 (known) children which he, in turn, owned when they were born.
Pro: He was inventive and resourceful. A wine cellar dumbwaiter! Gosh!
Con: He left his (non-chattel) family with over $1M in debt and they had to liquidate the estate soon after he died. And that's in old-timey money, so after some quick math I've calculated that's about $30 trillion dollars in new-timey money. Give or take.
Pro: ... I like to call him TJ.
Con: Ugh. Fuck this.
The disenchantment deepened into disgust as I walked the National Mall in DC with a good friend later that day, strolling around the presidential monuments. She was politely tolerant of my outbursts. At one point, the phrase "slave raper" may have been used. (It was.)
Fortunately, any political rants I may have mustered up were cut off by my notoriously short atten--- oh hey, ducklings! Ahn.
I think big things are gonna happen for the little guy trailing behind. Let's call him Billy.
So the evening was saved. After she talked me down from attempting a bodice-ripper photo shoot with the Babe-raham Lincoln Memorial (you sexy, slave-freeing motherfucker), we grabbed a bite at Olde Ebbitte Grille.*
Over a bowl of chili, I looked around the stunning bar and restaurant, admiring the taxidermy donated by Teddy Roosevelt and expecting Kevin Spacey and Kerry Washington to be drinking martinis and shooting politicos.
I don't really know what their TV shows are about.
At 3am I was lying on my friend's futon in her living room, kicking myself for having so much coffee that day.
She lives in a rowhouse on Quebec St. Or it might be a townhouse. Or just a house built next to other houses. I'm not worrying about the lexicon right now, but they have alleys behind them, which is The Right Thing to Do.
Uggghhhh, why are alleys so coooool?
Back to the house. It was the type of high-ceilinged, three-story monster that makes me immediately imagine my Life in This City, in which I am comfortably wealthy, own modern furniture, and am profoundly and effortlessly fulfilled. Life in This City is a divine game of imagining, and also gives me great reason to never live in just one.
The insomnia paid off, because I was also kicking myself for giving DC less than 24 hours. I like to learn cities by walking them for hours and miles each day. I'll skip transit in favor of walking 40 minutes to a museum, and seeing whatever there is to see along the way.
That night, I had copious amounts of time to realize that I need copious amounts of time in each new place.
Leaving DC for Baltimore and beyond, I waved goodbye to Hermione the house turtle, packed up my provisions, and congratulated myself for planning a whopping 2 nights in Maryland. I was already grading the learning curve.
Hermione didn't return my goodbye, which I thought was rather high-minded
for something that lives in a plastic tub.
Not all signs of progress require an ostentatious estate and illicit private life, Tommy J. Try to rest in peace.