Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

We are one traveling family, in case you haven’t picked up on that. We say, “Take the trip!” because you just never know when you won’t be able to. Which means I have a lot of traveling pics and stories to share, and sometimes my friends get really tired of hearing and reading about them, so I decided to start sharing them here and if you want to read them you can. I realized back a couple of years ago when I started this blog that I hadn’t shared several trips we’ve been on since then, so I figured I’d back up a bit and start sharing now. And where better to start than with the one time, in the summer of 2018, that we got to visit the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) to have a tour and see a real crash test. It was one of the more “cool” trips we’ve been on, but we didn’t just happen into it. This trip took some planning.

It all started when a third-grade Jackson became obsessed with safety ratings in automobiles. He would YouTube various crash test, then run into the room and say, “You have to see how horrible this car did in the side-impact crash test!” At first we had NO idea what he was talking about. I inquired more than once about whether we should be letting our nine-year-old even watch crash tests, but Jerimiah assured me that they were done in an attempt to make cars safer. Jackson backed up this claim with an old Dateline episode he had stumbled across, that we watched ad nauseam for about two weeks, before I said, “Wait, what is the IIHS?”

The IIHS is a non-profit organization funded by insurance companies, founded in 1954 to research car safety in the hopes to reduce the number of motor vehicle collisions, and the rate of injuries and amount of property damage in vehicle crashes. In addition to carrying out research, like the crash tests, they produce ratings for passenger vehicles, and certain consumer products like booster seats. They also conduct research on road design and traffic regulations, and have been involved in promoting policy decisions. You can learn more about the IIHS at their website.

From a personal standpoint, this is a really cool place that is doing awesome work, and Jackson figured that out very quickly, then got us on board. Sometime in May of 2018, he convinced me that they had a museum at their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and asked if we could go visit that summer. I told him maybe, as moms do, and went on about my business. A few days later I Googled the IIHS and scoured their website for the museum. When I didn’t find anything about it, I sent them an email. In the email I explained that my very smart, very unique child (who knew everything about the IIHS) said there was a museum, could they point me in the direction of it.

A woman kindly responded the same day to inform me that the “museum” isn’t so much a “museum” as it is a working crash-test facility, although yes, it has been referred to as a museum as they have kept several previously crashed cars and they do give tours. Only they don’t give tours to just anyone off the street, and most children are not allowed. But then she said something interesting, she said, “Tell me more about your son.” So I did.

Two weeks later we were invited guests at the IIHS, to not only have a tour with a real mechanical engineer who works on the crash tests, her name was Becky, but we were there on a day scheduled to see a live crash test, along with several groups from different insurance companies, and car companies. We got lucky that it was Honda and Volkswagen, two of our favorite car brands. We are loyal VW owners, and were quite pleased to learn that because of that we are in one of the top safety-rated brands there is.

It was an amazing day for Jackson, sort of like his own version of Disney. Honestly, I kept telling Jerimiah that third-grade Jackson was more nervous, anxious, happy, and excited that day at IIHS than first-grade Jackson ever was on our trip to Disneyworld. Here, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

When we got there we were greeted like celebrities. Everyone knew of this nine-year-old who loved the IIHS and who knew all he could know about crash testing. We were introduced to Becky, who took us through the “museum” that Jackson had been talking about, which is where they display some of their cars after they have been through a crash-test.

Next we got to see the dummies, and meet a “Dummy” Engineer, who they poke fun at, but really they do amazing work. They buy the crash-test dummies for millions of dollars, then when arms or legs fly off in a crash test, the “Dummy” Engineer makes new ones so they don’t have to keep spending millions on more dummies. It was amazing.

Then it was time for the main event, the side-impact crash test. I have to say, that was some of the coolest shit I’ve seen in my 38 years, especially if you’re a car geek like me.

The cars are put into place, after weeks of prepping them for the crash. This particular VW was ready to be t-boned by a Honda Pilot. The crack in the floor is where the cable aligns the car to hit the other one, but there is not cable pulling it. They didn’t have enough energy on the energy grid to run the lights needed to light this room and a pulley system, so they compress nitrogen to release the car. Because of this, there is like a four-and-a-half minute countdown, during which the excitement intensified for us. Then as the light came on, we knew we were close, so I was able to catch this video:

Yeah, it was pretty cool. And way louder than I thought. If you are really interested in the crash, and well Jackson’s take on all of this, I’m uploading a 20-minute video of nine-year-old Jackson talking about our time at IIHS a few days after we visited below. But for now, I’ll just say that the crash was the highlight, and right after the crash we were able to go down to the crash site and check it out, after they cleaned it up a bit, and got the first readings off their machines. And one of the Engineers even gave Jackson the logo that flew off the Honda. He was way stoked. We waited to go down until most of the people had looked so we could take our sweet time. Meanwhile we stood on the elevated platform and chatted up Becky some more.

When we finally made our way down there, he was stoked to get to see all the equipment and make his own determinations about how the cars both did, and decide what they would be rated. It was awesome to watch a young engineer mind like his at work, while big, adult, engineers talked to him about all the little details of what he was looking at. I mean, yeah, very cool experience. We are so lucky!

Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any more cool, we were introduced to the people who make all the videos that Jackson religiously watches. They gave him a tour of their studio, and he even got to sit in the chair that the engineers sit in when they are being recorded, or when they go on CNN or ABC News. It was all too much for this kid, and his mommy and daddy!

We ended the tour getting to talk with the VW rep who was there to watch the crash test, and learning what Jackson needed to study in order to work at the IIHS (hint: it’s a lot of time and advanced degrees in mechanical engineering). We talked about how all cars have become much safer than the older cars people used to think were safe. Like these old cars. People assumed cars like these were the safest because they were built from steel, but that is very wrong and Jackson would love the opportunity to discuss this further with you. When is a good time to stop by?

There you have it, one of our most awesome family vacations. I really feel like I have cheated Disneyworld here, so maybe I will share that one next, but for now, if you’re ever given an opportunity to see something like this, do it! It was awesome, educational, and completely worth the trip to a cow pasture in the middle of Virginia! Thanks, IIHS and all the people involved in making this day the most special!

Below you will find the official photos from the IIHS that day. We had to wait until the results had been released to the public to share any of these, that’s part of the reason it has taken so long. Oh, and I’m sorta lazy. But thanks for reading!

Here is the really long video, kind of worth it if you don’t expect too much and have the time to be entertained! Remember, for more information you can visit the IIHS or search for their videos on YouTube.

Main points: It was awesome, don’t buy a Ford, by a Volvo!

M.

Trivia Night, but Not Really

Jackson, Jerimiah, and I went to Mellow Mushroom on Tuesday night for Trivia Night. It’d been years since we last did it with friends in Charlotte, and we knew it was fun, so we kept meaning to go (the MM is like a mile from our house), but never made it a priority. We also weren’t sure if Jackson would like it or not, turns out yes, he does, and he even answered a couple of the questions himself. One of them was about The Office, which y’all know he loves, the question was: What is the primary crop that Dwight Schrute grows on his farm? Jackson freaked out and scribbled down: BEETS! The second one he got right was: Whose home, known as Mount Vernon, was neutral territory during the Civil War? “We’ve been there!” we all yelled, and he jotted down George Washington.

The questions got harder and harder with each section, but we didn’t too bad for our first time. There were 15 teams and we took 8th place, and mind you there were whole teams of people. Like two groups of 10 people who meet there every Tuesday night, and it was the three of us, so we were pretty happy with our results, and the wings, and the beer, and we’ve already recruited friends to go back another night. But that’s not what this post is about, cause that’s not how I operate. The Mount Vernon question reminded me that I haven’t shared some of the travels we have been on over the last few years, and I thought I would go back and do that now, starting with Mount Vernon. So please, enjoy. Or stop reading now, cause a whole buncha history gonna be thrown at ya!

I think one of the reasons I forgot about the visit to Mount Vernon was because it was on the heels of our trip to the Women’s March last year and that took precedence. But this is how we travel. If we go somewhere to visit, and there is something sorta cool and it’s relatively close, and we have an extra five hours or so, we stop in. That’s what we did with Mount Vernon. It was the day we left DC with our friend Beth and her daughter Morgan riding back to Charlotte with us, and someone said, “Hey Mount Vernon is just like, I dunno, somewhere over there.” And that’s all it took.

Mount Vernon was just somewhere over there in Mount Vernon, Virginia about 40 minutes south of DC. Mount Vernon, in case you don’t know, is the estate of our first president, George Washington. And it’s pretty cool, as far as old estates owned by rich, *Slave-owning, white men go. I mean, it wasn’t totally awesome, but it wasn’t a shithole either. And any way you slice it, a lot of history happened there, good and bad, so you know, we went with it. But before I show you the pics you should know it was January in DC, it was the week of the government shutdown, and we were all a little tired from having marched our asses off for women’s rights, so there was already a little skepticism about any white males, particularly ones with power.

Blisteringly cold day at Mount Vernon
Much warmer inside, but alas, we had to go back outside

Mount Vernon is situated on the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia (where my ancestors were first recorded on census, for real). It’s near Alexandria and across from Prince George’s County, Maryland. George Washington’s great-grandfather owned the land and a small house as far back as 1674, and our dear, old GW didn’t become the sole owner until almost 100 years later. Of course there are expansive grounds, including gardens, barns, a dock on the river, and the Slave Quarters, which are all open to tour if you are so inclined, and have the time. We did, so we made our way around most of what was accessible to tourists, including a tour of inside the house (no photography allowed) and the Slave Cemetery where you know, they’re trying, and the tombs of both GW and his Slave-owning, hella racist, bitch wife Martha. Ahem.

The house was what you would expect, as well as the Slave Quarters. It’s said that he treated his Slaves better than was expected, but, nah, I don’t buy it. Although his wife Martha sounded like a real piece-of-shit. Maybe he was nicer than she was. I dunno.

The kids liked to see the animals, and I liked walking along the shore of the river, and taking in all the architecture, even though again, hella cold.

I liked the animals too. Did I mention it was cold?

The best part of the whole thing was honestly the inside stuff, and not just because we were fucking cold. So cold that, yeah, that’s my son’s Harry Potter scarf I took off of him and told him to run around and he’d heat up. The inside has the museums. One is dedicated to GW and his life, including as a general and a president, and the other is dedicated to the Slaves at Mount Vernon. It is called Lives Bound Together and it was actually really interesting, educational, and infuriating, which I think is what a museum dedicated to Slaves needs to be.

I’m not going to share pics from inside there, because I think it’s just something you need to go see for yourself, and I don’t think I took very many. I was so engrossed in their stories. This part was my favorite. And I would like to point out, that after struggles with lawyers, Washington dying, and debates with his bitch-ass wife and her bitch-ass dead first husband’s estate, several shitty kids and grandkids, and some cousins on the Washington side finally, on January 1, 1801, all the Slaves on Mount Vernon were freed. So there’s that.

If you’re wondering why I’m all caught up with the Slavery at Mount Vernon, it’s because I was legit shocked at it. It’s like I didn’t pay attention to what my history teachers said, or they all loved GW and pretended like it was all cool beans over at the little ‘ol Washington farm. Uh no. And while we’re at it, there’s no damn cherry tree, and no, it’s not because he chopped it down, it’s more likely that Martha sold it out from under him, to wrangle up some cash to buy more Slaves. SMH.

But you know what there IS? His dentures made of wood! (GASP!)

Not what you were expecting huh? Me neither. So much that I wasn’t expecting.

So there you have it. This was a shitty review of Mount Vernon, I get that, but it was an interesting time, it really was. And I’m glad we went, and as usual I’m happy about who we went with, and what it taught the kids, and me. And oh, I almost forgot, there was this really creepy giant head thing when you first walk in. And his eyes follow you. So yeah, good luck sleeping tonight.

Thanks for reading about one of our many adventures, I have more on deck so don’t go anywhere. In the meantime, enjoy some more pics of Mount Vernon, and if you’re ever in the area, stop on by, you probably, most likely, won’t regret it.

M.

He just needs to run around, he be fine

*I used the word Slave rather than Servant or Enslaved Individual because I think that makes the whole Slavery situation sound like a fancy thing, when really it was a crock of shit and GW was way part of it. And as I may have mentioned before, so was his bitch of a wife, Martha. You guys I think I hate Martha.

This Explains So Much

Last time I visited Leavenworth, I went through my mom’s photo albums and took pictures of photos that I wanted to remember, either because they sparked a memory, or because they were too absurd to pass up. I’ve been going through these old pictures, which is sometimes scary because I never know what memories will surface from them. Like, will it be a good memory? Will it teach me about who I am? Or will it make me cringe? If a picture from my childhood makes me cringe, I simply jot that feeling down so I remember to talk to my therapist about it. She just loves a good challenge. Anyway, today I looking for a very specific picture for another post I am working on, when I came across this photo instead:

Yeah, I know, there’s a lot going on here. Let me break it down for you. My best guess on the year is 1987. That would make me about six-years-old, my older sister Belinda about sixteen-years-old maybe seventeen, depending on whether this photo was taken before or after July 10th. That’s a crapshoot. It’s obviously summer. I’m not holding any poppers, or snakes, or smoke balls, but that doesn’t mean much. Still could have been near the 4th of July.

My sister is the one standing next to me by the picnic table and the girl on the lounge, I think, is Shane. Shane was one of my sister’s friends, and aside from knowing that Shane drove a truck and had a boyfriend who once showed up at our house in the middle of the night to ask my mom if she would hold $10,000 cash for him for a few days, I don’t remember much about her. I do remember holding the $10,000 cash in my hands when my mom called me into the utility closet, closed the door, and asked me if I wanted to hold $10,000 cash to see what it felt like. I think I may have buried my lead.

My mom has to be the one taking the picture. I know this because suddenly I’m all too aware of what I’m looking at. I’m looking at the one and only time we ever attempted to go camping.

It had to have been Shane’s idea. Had to have been. Or maybe something Shane and my sister cooked up together while they were drinking Boone’s Farm, and chain smoking Marlboro Lights in the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot after my sister got off work. Why my mom and I were brought along, I can’t say. Shane was the only one with a working vehicle, unless this was that short time when my sister had that big land yacht with the dead-body trunk she bought off an old guy for $200. Who knows.

But I do remember with clarity now, that there was a tent. And a BBQ grill. We ate hot dogs. We sat in tall, itchy grass. Or probably just I did, maybe on a blanket, the adults had chairs. I remember my mom dousing me with that bottle of OFF on the table there, and her being overly anxious about the trash bag hanging off the table because of bears. I remember that my sister told her we didn’t have bears in Kansas. But she wasn’t convinced. And neither was I.

The orange bottle on the table is either lighter fluid or suntan lotion. Pretty sure that’s a bottle of drinking water on the seat of the table. Or maybe bathing water. Or washing your hands water. Or pouring over your privates after you peed water. It was probably for all of that.

At some point when I asked if I could swim in the lake, everyone yelled “NO!” all at once. I was allowed, however, to walk into the lake for a little bit, up to my ankles maybe? And then later my mother told me about one time when Belinda almost drowned in a lake and OMIGOD! That’s why I was terrified of water and a full-grown adult before I was taught how to swim. This explains so much.

Later, after the tent was set up, the campfire was roaring, and the stars were out and beautiful, I drifted off to sleep in a little pallet in the tent, only to be violently shaken awake about 2:00 am and told that we had to go home. Everyone had had enough of camping and my sister needed her own bed and toilet.

Yep, that was the one time my family attempted camping when I was a child. I’d call it a success.

M.

Raising a Feminist

This last Saturday was the Fourth Annual Women’s March, which began in 2017 out of necessity. Women and men witnessed the rise of a misogynistic racist into our highest office, and knew what that would mean for women’s equality, reproductive rights, immigration, and a thousand other problems we still face everyday in this country, so they took to the streets. There hasn’t been a turnout like the original in 2017, but each year tens of thousands descend on Freedom Park with their homemade signs, fight in their eyes, and determination in their hearts. They want to be heard. They want to be seen. And though the Women’s March has had its share of conflict, mainly the alienating of some cultures and races, they have done their best to weed out those that perpetrate this way of thinking. Because equality should work for everyone, not just white females who were born with a vagina.

I enjoyed watching the coverage of the march on Saturday and reminiscing with my husband and son about last year’s march, the one we went to. The running joke in our house is this: We took Jackson to Washington DC for the first time when he was just learning to walk, we took him the second time when he was just learning to march, and we will take him again when he is ready to lead.

An 11-month-old Jackson waving from the Washington Monument. Jackson toddled around the monument moments after, assisted by Daddy, Grandma, and Mommy. That’s the White House (President Obama was in office) behind us.
10-year-old Jackson chanting with a megaphone in front of the Trump Hotel in Washington DC

I won’t take you down the rabbit hole that was the Women’s March of 2019, but you can read about our experience at the red link. And I’ll leave you with some of my favorite pics from last year’s march, and the call to go yourself! There is nothing quite like standing amongst the fold of women, men, and children all marching for the same thing.

M.

Meeting the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

Today seems like an appropriate day to share a little story of how Jackson was introduced to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., first in Memphis, years later in Birmingham, then again in Atlanta. We’ve been fortunate to travel to these historical places, as well as many others, in Jackson’s first 11 years, and we always took the opportunity to speak truth to him, even when he was obviously too young to “get it.” Which was the case in both Memphis and Birmingham (the first times around), but recently he’s been more capable of understanding the way our country was several decades ago, and he’s starting to make some big connections to the world we live in today, like how things haven’t changed as much as we would have liked.

The first time Jackson heard of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his important work, his life and his death, was in 2012. Jackson was three-years-old when this picture was taken outside the Lorraine Motel on the south side of Memphis.

That’s an amped up guy, who loved old cars, smiling at his grandma and daddy standing just outside the shot. He had no idea why we were there, what had happened there, or whom those cars belonged to, but he liked them. He fell in love with finned cars on that day, but he was far from grasping the complexities of what he was looking at, or the spot he was standing on. Still we tried to explain, hoping something would stick.

It was a mildly, warm spring day in Memphis the day we visited the Lorraine Motel, and it was my first time paying homage to the late Reverend Doctor as well. I remember the somberness that followed me around for the rest of the day. That is until my toddler bought a blow-up guitar at ten pm on Beale Street and showed us all how to get down. A reminder that it isn’t all bad.

Our next attempt at teaching our son about the important work of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his many comrades, was during a trip to Birmingham a couple years later. We sat on the grass at the Kelly Ingram Park, formally West Park, and had lunch while we introduced racism to a wily four-year-old.

Kelly Ingram Park is directly across from the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham. In the 1960s it served as a gathering ground for large-scale protests led by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and others like him. The church, of course, was the first “Colored Baptist Church” in Birmingham, and was infamously bombed in 1963 killing four young girls–Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair–and injuring 22 others. This was the first time, sitting in this lush, green grass, surrounded by the statues built to honor the Black community of Birmingham, that I realized the depth of what I was trying to talk to my son about. I worried it was too much, too soon. Frankly, I thought Jerimiah and I might be crazy. Extreme even. But when Jackson looked up at us and said, “People hate others because of the way their skin looks?!” I knew it was necessary. And I knew then, that something was sticking.

“I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction being considered an extremist.” – Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

The next time we would encounter the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was when we visited Atlanta for the first time in 2016, and then a couple years later, when we had the opportunity to move to Atlanta, a city rife with its share of racial division, yet home to the King family. We’ve learned so much about the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. since then, and about the people who supported and worked with him. About Rep. John Lewis, about Reverend Hosea Williams and Harry Belefonte, about the work they put into the Civil Rights Movement. We are so lucky to live in such history, fifteen miles from the King family home, from Ebenezer Baptist Church where Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and his son lead worship for many years. Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. taking over in 1927, and his son becoming co-pastor in 1960 until his death in 1968. We’ve visited this landmark, the King family home, and the National Historical Park named after the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., and the King Center, where the King’s are buried, several times since 2016 and each time we have learned something new, and had some tough conversations with an ever-growing child who still occasionally has to grasp at what we are saying. But little by little, it’s sticking.

Today we honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. His life and his legacy. We honor those who fought alongside him. Those who peacefully protested and those who didn’t, because honestly, it was all necessary. We are not part of the Black community, but we strive everyday to be as educated, as kind, as accepting, as we can be. Because Black Lives Matter. And Black History Matters.

We want to lend our support to a fight that is still raging in our country. I’d love to say that an end is coming soon, but I don’t think it is. Instead, I put my faith in the next few generations. In my son’s generation. In the kids with extreme parents. With access to history. With open and loving hearts. We must remember that we have come far, but not far enough.

M.

Ghost Light

We are novice theatergoers. In fact, aside from supporting our friends in high school by dropping in on the plays they were in, we didn’t go to another play until Jackson was in kindergarten. Since then, and with the help of some friends, we have had the pleasure of not just watching plays and musicals, but actually being part of a school production of The Wiz Jr. Wherein Jerimiah helped out with the stage, I helped with costumes, and Jackson played both a flying monkey and a crow. Here, have a gander.

We’ve also seen countless plays, Jackson has taken theater classes at the wonderful ImagineOn School of Theater Training in Charlotte, and Jerimiah and I have seen both Kinky Boots (starring Wayne Brady) and The Play That Goes Wrong, on Broadway. Then a couple of weeks ago we found ourselves, along with Jackson, once again in NYC and we were lucky enough to be able to take him to his first Broadway show. It was fun and it was exciting, as many of you probably know, you never forget your first Broadway show! And what better show for him to see than The Lion King! You can read more about his experience in the link above.

He loved the show, was mesmerized by the cast, the puppets, the music, it all added up to a night of wonderful memories which we got to share with some of our best friends. But the coolest part, in my opinion, was the behind the scenes tour that we had after the show. Apparently a behind the scenes tour on Broadway isn’t as easy to get as at your local playhouse. In fact, you sort of have to know someone, who knows someone. Turns out we did. And we got to walk the wings of the legendary Minskoff Theater located at 1515 Broadway.

The Minskoff Theater is a 1,600 seat theater, much bigger than any other Broadway theater we’ve been in, in the heart of Midtown. It opened in 1973, with a revival of Irene starring Debbie Reynolds. Since then it has been home to Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue; Hello Dolly!, Cabaret, Sunset Boulevard, Fiddler on the Roof, and it was once home to the Miss Universe Pageant. But in 2006 The Lion King set up shop there, and it’s been home to it ever since.

Because we are novice theatergoers, as mentioned before, we learned quite a bit about the backstage area while we were on the tour. We learned, for example, the very real, very scary ways the props made it to the stage. If you have ever seen The Lion King you know there must be some feat of strength to get this done. Bertha, the giant elephant from the opening act, hangs from the rafters, for instance. Which both amazed and terrified me. We saw the boards on each side of the stage where notable celebrities and politicians sign there names when they’ve had their own private tour, and we even got to sneak into the pit below the stage, which is small and claustrophobic for a person like me, filled to the brim with what can only be hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars worth of musical equipment. But the story that stuck with me the most, was the story of the ghost light. If you’re a drama person, or a regular theatergoer, you probably already know the story, but this was new to me so I will share with you just in case.

As we were finishing up our tour the crew was running around shutting down lights, cleaning up the theater, putting all the props away, etc. And at one point when we were standing on the stage, just after Jackson did his “Simba” thing with his toy Simba (pic below) the lights shut off. “I guess we are done,” our tour guide said, and we made our way downstairs with him to grab his coat. But as we were leaving the stage I noticed one single light still on. I made a quizzical look and our friends said, “It’s the ghost light.”

The Ghost Light is a single, incandescent bulb left on the stage overnight to give a bit of light to the people still in the theater, mainly so they don’t fall into the open pit below the stage. But it gets its name because it’s believed that every theater has a ghost that haunts it. And the ghost can be destructive if you don’t appease it. Some theaters use the ghost light to allow the ghost to perform at night, so they don’t wreck havoc on the production. Others leave it on to scare away the ghosts, because after all, we know ghosts like the pitch black of night. I don’t know the particular reason the ghost light comes on in The Minskoff, aside from it being mandated by the Actors’ Equity Association, but I suspect it’s for ghostly reasons.

At the end of the night we took the subway back to our hotel and had milkshakes just after one a.m. at the Tick Tock Diner. Stood on our terrace at our New Yorker suite in the rain, and watched the Empire State Building change colors. I wondered about the Minskoff ghost and hoped it was getting all the stage time it needed.

M.

East Greenwich and The Providence Athenæum

If you’re like me, you prefer the Cheeto Puffs over the crunchies. And if you’re also like me, you adore a good library. We have a lot in common, huh? If you adore a good library, then you’re gonna want to run up to Providence, Rhode Island and spend an afternoon at The Providence Athenæum. It will fill your heart with gladness, take away all your sadness, ease your troubles, that’s what’ll do. It will, in fact, Rod Stewart your ass.

The Providence Athenæum is mere steps from the entrance to Brown University, with such notable alumni as, John D. Rockefeller Jr., a slew of Kennedys, Jeffrey Eugenides (please read Middlesex), Ted Turner, Horace Mann, and most importantly in our house, the reason the picture below was taken, Emma Watson AND John Krasinski.

But The Providence Athenæum is its own kind of wonderful. Our Rhode Island friends wanted to visit since they moved there over the summer, but they were waiting on the right people to visit with. Insert the Goodnights. (Heart swooning noises). The day we visited was a hectic day. Our first day in Rhode Island, and we had a lot to see. We’d had breakfast in their wonderful village of East Greenwich, in a diner inside of an old train car. The diner was called Jiggers and I had the delicious Rhode Island Johnny Cakes!

Then we walked around East Greenwich for a bit. We got to see the old Debters Prison and too many yachts and sailboats to count. We learned that there are two parts of East Greenwich. One side called The Hill and one side called The Harbor and where you live is how you know where you belong. It seemed to me that you either have a million dollar house on The Hill or an $800,000 on The Harbor, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that. And don’t worry, our friends live on The Harbor, which means they are riff-raff and not to be trusted. I think.

Essentially what I learned is that Rhode Island is a different beast. A nicer, more beautiful beast than anywhere else I’ve ever been. All that history. All the salt in the air. All the hills, all the harbors. I was more than impressed. Then they took us to The Providence Athenæum.

Listen, I’ve been in some cool libraries. I’ve been to the Boston Public Library. I’ve been in the reading room of the NYC Library (pic below) not to mention all the other cool, lesser known ones around the country (I like to stop at libraries, okay, geez leave me alone.) But The Providence Athenæum is now my favorite.

It’s not the size, although it is a perfect size. Small enough to fit in a quarter of a square block, but big enough (three floors), and with enough of an impressive collection to spend a whole day. It’s the accessibility, the welcoming nature of the place. Oh, and dogs are allowed, so there’s that. Before I get into the history of the place, here’s some a lot of pics for your viewing pleasure.

Okay, so why is The Providence Athenæum so freaking awesome? Great question! The history of the library goes like this. In 1753, Providence had a library called the Providence Library Company. They also had a second library, not connected to the Providence Library Company, called Providence Athenæum. They didn’t like each other, go figure (they were both managed by men, so…) In 1836 they agreed to dissolve both libraries and merge together as one, which is now known as The Providence Athenæum. They ended up merging their collections, which was a great idea, and by 1850 they were the library in Providence.

In 1872 the library hired its first female employee, an assistant librarian named Mary Angell, and she started work on the card catalog that still sits on the main floor! After Mary left the library, Grace Leonard, the library’s first female head librarian (who worked there for 46 years) reclassified the whole catalog in accordance with the Dewey decimal system. With over 56,000 volumes, it took her 13 years. More can be found about the history and these women at The Ath’s website.

The Ath, its colloquial name, has hosted many prominent writers, artists, and thinkers in American history, including Edgar Allen Poe and his lost love, Sarah Helen Whitman, an amazing poet in her own right. In fact, Whitman broke up with Poe at The Ath and it’s said that Poe haunts the top floor. I was on the lookout, but didn’t see him. Maybe next time! Others who have lingered the stacks include, H.P Lovecraft, Thomas Hopkins Webb, and Francis Whipple, among other “scribbling women” according to Nathaniel Hawthorne. I found a wonderful article by Jane Lancaster on the colorful history of The Ath if you are as interested as I am.

So there you have it, some of it anyway. The history, the mystic, the lovely architecture, and the amazing collection of The Ath, which is just a hop, skip, and jump from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, so if you ever find yourself on Federal Hill, maybe yonder over and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

M.