Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meeting Ken Burns, and Having Dinner with Lincoln.

November 8, 2008
The hour is getting near, and I am excited and nervous about meeting Ken Burns. He is one of my heroes. At 5:30 EST time I will meet the man himself within a small group of Library Trustees and like officials. Forget the Hollywood Hunks - To Me Ken Burns is the Bomb.

You know the question and perhaps answered it yourself, "Who would you like to talk with living or dead?" My list is Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Augusta Cooper Bristol and Ken Burns.

Most of my writings are nonfiction and my desire is to bring history to life as Ken Burns does. All day long my stomach has contained butterflies and my brain has been in a major freeze. I don't think there will be time for a lot of questions, so I've been thinking of what one question to ask.

Maybe I could rob Barbara Walters question and ask him "What Kind of Tree Would You Be?" Or maybe something typical, "How Did You Get Interested In History?" Or maybe something totally random "What's Your Favorite Color?" I've pondered what the question would be for a weeks. What would you ask Ken Burns?

I decided on my question and it is: What is it about a particular subject that makes you want to dive into it and explore?


November 9, 2008
Wow not only did I meet Ken Burns but also I had dinner with Abraham Lincoln. Who would have guessed? More on Lincoln later.

My friend Nancee and I arrived at the Library at 5:30 the precise time of the reception for Ken Burns. There were approximately 40 people in attendance, an open bar, but no Ken Burns. I am not a drinker, but decided to have bourbon on the rocks and it was weird drinking in the library.

Many of the people in attendance were from the upper crust of society and I am from the doughy part of the loaf. However one gentleman started speaking with me, and it turned out he is one of Ken Burn’s summer neighbors in on Lake Sunapee. Mr. Eldridge is a fine gentleman interested in history and served in the 10th Mountain Division. We chatted about his unit for some time.

The Librarian addressed the group and informed us that Ken Burns would be late and that was in Lempster. Lempster is another small town and of course, everyone was curious as to why Mr. Burns was in Lempster. Could it be the new windmill farm? Or was he interested in the religious sect that once occupied the town? No, he was not in Lempster he was driving through the town coming from NY.

Nancee and I continued to smooze the crowd and I was losing hope of getting a chance to ask Mr. Burns the one question I had stressed over for the past week. Then I saw him, he entered the door the Librarian greeted him, and they took off somewhere. But where? I decided to refill my bourbon, but he wasn’t in the bar, he also wasn’t in the reception area. My eyes kept scanning the crowd he was not in the public part of the library.

I chatted with Nancee for a bit and a few minutes later, I saw him deep in conversation with Mr. Eldridge and one of my nemeses that will remain nameless. Then came the call to move to the arts center for dinner. All my dreams died.

I decided to go and enjoy the dinner. There is a small stage in the room where the dinner was served with the guest of honor table. None of the tables had name tags, but all the top uppercrusts were gathered around the table on the stage. Everyone was standing up and milling around. This I thought was my opportunity to meet Ken Burns. I went on stage and took a picture of Ken Burns with Mr. Eldridge.

Then a man, standing there, who I don't know who took the camera out of my hand. I thought perhaps I made a mistake in taking the picture and he was going to confiscate my camera, but surprise, he used my camera to take a picture of me and Ken Burns. Ken asked my name, and I told him and then I asked him my question... and his  answer was...... Heart. His heart leads him.

After the picture taking, dinner was starting and that is when I realized I was sitting with Abraham Lincoln. Actually, it was Steve Wood the only NH member of Association of Lincoln Presenters, Mr. Wood travels extensively throughout New England portraying Abraham Lincoln in presentations. Our conversation of course was on Lincoln, and Wood’s performances. It was a lovely dinner.

Afterwards we went to the Opera House where Ken Burns received the coveted Sarah Josepha Hale Award. He gave a film presentation of his past projects and a snippet of his upcoming one on National Parks. Burns explained how he likes to tell history from the bottom up not from the top down. He emphasized the importance of everyday people in history and the importance of telling your story to your family and friends.

One point he made was that a lot of great stuff ends up on the cutting room floor, and that sometimes they are better then what replaces it, yet the cuts are necessary to keep the story on track. As a writer, I understood. I have many a piece cut out from my WIP since it doesn't move the story forward. It helped me in deciding about a piece I've been arguing about with myself. Overall, it was a wonderful evening. And this is my story about meeting Ken Burns, that may show up 100 years from now in a snippet of history. Now I wonder……

Will someone be surprised that people drank in the library? Or that Ken Burns was late for the reception? Or that one unknown person had a dream realized on that evening?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Small Town Life

My Town is located in the hills of New Hampshire and it has a population of 750 people, give, or take a few. There are a few you could take and I'd give them to you, but you'd have to pay the $5.00 disposal fee at the dump. In addition to the human population there are 779 dogs that live here. It is evident that the people of My Town love dogs. In fact one residence had 21 Chihuahua's.  

I love all of the dogs in town. They don't want to run for office, start rumors, go to school where the town has to pay tuition or wake me up howling after midnight. I plead ignorant on the cat population; they stay inside a lot, and when outdoors they hide in the ditches, high grass, or snow drifts depending upon the season.

We have more dead residents than living ones, and most of the them reside in the seven cemeteries. Five of them are inactive and there is not much happening in the other two. My Town’s cemeteries are well cared for, since several residents bequeathed money in their wills for the care and upkeep of the cemeteries. One resident left $1,000,000.00 (one million dollars), another resident left $50,000.00 (fifty thousand dollars) several others left smaller sums.
One of the inactive cemeteries is located inside the boundaries of a private hunting club. The cemetery is only open to the town folks one day a year since the rest of the time, there are shotguns going off. I wonder if the departed rest in peace?

This exclusive club has a limited membership and the dues are $10,000.00 a year, in addition to a onetime $100,000.00 membership fee. Members are entitled to hunt elk, wild boar, deer, turkey and other animals that live in the fenced in area. I think they join the club because they aren’t good enough shots for regular hunting. Or maybe this how the rich get the fancy meats to serve at their dinner parties. I am not certain how cost effective it is, since you can buy elk cheaper than what the dues cost.

There are two churches in town, both belong to the same congregation with only one minister. One church is for winter services and the other is used for the summer There are 50 members in the church. The other 700 residents either worship Satan or go to the neighboring town for services. The same generous benefactor that left $1,000,000.00 for the care and upkeep of the cemeteries also left $1,000,000.00 to church. The minister of the church gave the $1,000,000.00 to the mother church. The minister said she didn’t want the congregation to get lazy in their fundraising. I guess owning real estate is enough for them.

As most towns in New Hampshire, we have a Volunteer Fire Department. Although for some reason they say they are a private fire department. I guess that means it's not on the S&P index. Unbelievably the same resident that left $1,000,000.00 for the cemeteries and $1,000,000.00 to the church left the Fire Department $2,000,000.00 (two million dollars). Funny, when the fire department received the bequeathed dollars, they voted the existing fire chief out (he started the volunteer company 30 years ago) and elected a new chief. In addition to the new chief, they elected all new officers. So now the Fire Department has only members from the same family. The fire department also elects the same officers each year. It’s a family tradition I guess.

The fire department decided it was going to build a park in honor of the generous benefactor who donated the $2,000,000.00 to the organization. They brought in bull dozers, and tore up the ground across the street from the fire station, and put up a giant sign “Future Home of Generous Donor’s Name Park”. That was seven years ago. It sits unfinished; they claim they don’t have the money to complete it, and the sign is fading. You would think they could take the sign down, or collect soda cans to recycle and get money for new paint.

My town also has the oldest continuous operating one room brick schoolhouse in the country. It was built in 1780, and students in grades 1-3 get their education here. When the children reach the 4th grade we export them over to the next town. We want our children to get familiar with outsourcing, since My Town doesn't have money for a new school. One problem we don't have is the PC police. The school uses the septic system of the summer church and no one complains about separation of church and state. I suspect that it has to do with money, which My Town is always saying they don't have.

The school is located across the street from the General Store. Inside the store you'll find movies for rent, soft serve ice cream, corn dogs, and T shirts that say "Welcome to Fabulous My Town, whatever happens in My Town, stays in My Town. But nothing ever happens." When I first saw this it drove me nuts. Is it true that nothing ever happens here? Or are they just saying that because what happens here stays here? After pondering this I became paranoid.

Our town hall is located across the street from the store, and on the opposite side of the summer church. This is where residents go to get their car registered, dog licenses and to find out gossip. The town clerk is opened from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., and on Wed and Thurs. evenings from 5-7 p.m. If you buy a car on Friday you are out of luck, and if it's a holiday weekend you are really out of luck.

This is also where the Chief of Police has his desk. He doesn't have an office, just a desk with evidence laying all over the top of it. There is no chain of evidence. I guess you have figured it out by now that the Chief only has a desk, because My Town has no money for an office. It's a good thing that the Chief of Police is our only law enforcement officer, I don't think we could spring for another desk, because there is no money.

I don't know what a second police officer would do, My Town doesn't have a lot of crime. Once there was the 26 year old female teacher who ran off with a student to Mexico. It was on the national news, perhaps you heard about it. However that did not involve our Chief, since the incident occurred in the next town over, and of course Mexico and it was out of his jurisdiction. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Big GOTCHA and 9/11

Funny how things slip out of our mind the further away they get CNN reports that 30% of Americans feel we will have another terrorist attack on our soil. Down for 60% in 2002. It was only 7 years ago that 9/11 happened and at times it seems so distant. Our mind has the capability to ease painful events. In someways it is good, or we would be walking in fear every day of our lives. In other ways it allows us to forget what is important about our life.

Watching the news on 9/11/01 I was in shock as the events unfolded. Although I live in NH, I have family in NJ and Pennsylvania.. I also have a daughter who lives on the West Coast. Who was still sleeping and unaware what was going on, I feared the West Coast would be next. Fortunately it wasn't.

As the day went on, I was in a daze and felt many emotions, fear, sadness, anger, hope for survivors, and a blanket love for my fellow human being. We were all in this together. Much like siblings. The arguments over abortion, taxes, democratic vs. republican all seemed petty.

My husband and I went to see B.B. King and Buddy Guy on 9/11. The concert had already been postponed from the summer. We were surprised that it was still scheduled. It ended up being just the right place to be that evening. The crowd was friendly and we shared our thoughts, feelings, fears with one another, total strangers. Buddy Guy addressed the audience about the day's tragic events and noted that we are all leaving this world someday.

I look back on this as we are in the midst of a political season and all the candidates are looking for the big "GOTCHA." It all seems so foolish...

Do you fear another terrorist attack? If so why? If not, why not?