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?