Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Which I Will Meet Annette Gordon-Reed, and Probably Drool

So I'm at the barn, holding onto my daughter's horse's ear with one hand, and the big twitch attached to his nose with the other. The idiot horse, despite being tranquillized, is having some sort of post-traumatic flashback, hurling himself around even though he's only having stitches removed. He flails. The vet, scissors in hand, jumps backward. I tighten my grip on the twitch.

"So I'm speaking at the University of Maryland on Thursday," I say.

"That's nice," the vet says, around the tiny flashlight clenched in his teeth.

"Yes, but I don't know what to wear."

"Ah, easy," he says, removing the flashlight and making another jab with the scissors.  "Easy," he repeats, to the horse this time. "Just hold still. And wear whatever you'd wear for a job interview."

Surprisingly good advice for a man who spends his life in Carhart overalls.

So. I'm going to the University of Maryland. I leave tonight. Tomorrow morning I will speak on writing about controversial subjects to a session of "Intro to Creative Writing: Through African-American Voices," which sounds really fun, and then--and then, you know, I'll just spend the day hanging out with Annette Gordon-Reed.

I've been casually name-dropping all week.  "You know, me and Annette Gordon-Reed--" But Bristol is not the halls of academia, and even my friends who know they've heard of AGR somehow can not immediately place her. "Wait," they say, "Didn't she win something?"

"The Pulitzer Prize," I say. "For The Hemmings of Monticello. She also wrote An American Controversy, which correctly analyzed the Jefferson-Hemmings relationship long before DNA testing was available."

"Ah," my friends say.

"And she's on the faculty at Harvard law school, and she's very smart and she's the world's expert on Sally Hemmings, and, you know, I wrote a book about that too."

"Ah," they say.

"I've emailed her a couple of times, mostly when I was getting all those crackpot emails from Herbert Barger, and she said, that was probably because I mentioned your book when I gave that lecture at Yale, sorry, and I was like, ohmigosh, Annette Gordon-Reed mentioned Jefferson's Sons! At a lecture at Yale!"

"Ah," my friends say. "So, you're pretty excited."

"And my friend set this up because she's a dean at Maryland and she knew how much meeting Annette Gordon-Reed would mean to me, so she arranged to have me come to speak too, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her again also. Her daughter events, and she's a freshman at Smith."

At which point my friends smile gently and begin to edge away. Because I can't stop talking. Because this is so astoundingly cool.

I'll report back tomorrow, from the front row.