Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday Excursion

Yesterday's excursion took me to the local history room of a public library where I discovered that there is a woeful lack of research done on African Americans in that city,  despite the fact that one of its most famous citizen was also the most famous black man of the nineteenth century. Fortunately, I know a graduate student at the University of Rochester who endeavors to fill in that gap.  Unfortunately, she is still writing her dissertation, so I will have to find creative ways to cite her work.

In any case, I faced a dilemma as I kept digging dry wells. I could give up on secondary sources and start digging into primary sources, thus making this effort to contextualize the Douglass household within its community a whole other research project; or, shivering, I could give in to the allure of this view:

It may not look like much in that photo, but the sun beckoned, "Clio! Clio! Come out to play!" Indeed, the sun shone just enough to warm my frozen bones without scorching everything in sight. Unusual for June in my experience.

Incidentally, that building on the left houses one of the best barbeque joints you could possibly find outside of Texas. Seriously! They specialize in Texas barbeque,  with brisket and lots of spicy sauce. Bill Clinton supposedly frequents the Harlem branch; and, let me tell you, based on my experience at his favored Little Rock joint, the man knows his barbeque. All of the wait staff at the Syracuse branch have lots of tattoos and the no bullshit demeanor of consummate professional in the service industry who wait tables to pay the bills while they do something more creative and interesting in the rest of their lives, but they still take waiting tables seriously because it does, after all, pay the bills. Also, by the time I left the library, the parking lot was filled with motorcycles. The real kind of motorcycles, the kind on which the riders sit upright and relaxed, and wear leather, not the crotch rockets. Those sort of motorcyclists seem to know where to find a good, solid meal, if their physique is any indication.

So, on a lovely summer day, with the smoky smells of barbeque in the air, and a warm, friendly sun on my face, where did I decide to go? A cemetery, of course! Not-Clio can take you through the Douglass related stuff, which was most of the day. Not-Clio likes to consider visiting the bones and homes of her research subjects as actual research. This means that she won't have to feel guilty when she skips out of the library two hours before it closes on a lovely, sunny Saturday. She is,  after all, just continuing her research. She and I are good at rationalizing things that way. Meanwhile, as Not-Clio post about the "serious" part of the visit, Clio will show you this:

That is a pond. At least, whatever is under that very thick layer of algae is a pond, unless the algae goes all the way to the bottom. Can algae to that? As nasty as that may seem, the complete, opaque surface had a perfect beauty all unto itself.

At Not-Clio went in search of the graves of the people whose letters she had been reading all week, Clio decided to make a little pilgrimage:

Susan B. Anthony. I remember the first time I visited her grave, I thought, "Flawed an all, if it weren't for her and women like her, I couldn't be me today."

Then, not-Clio and I got back in the car and headed out to the middle of western New York for another look for Helen Pitts childhood home, and then back through the Burned Over District to the Gentleman Caller,  who had a nice, hot, steak dinner, fresh off the grill and waiting. Despite the dry wells of the week in research, the time went well  toward getting my several grooves back.


Digger said...

Of course we should visit their graves! We rummage their lives, why shouldn't we visit them in person? And besides, where they were buried, their headstones, and their plots speak volumes about how those who buried them, thought of them.

I am deeply moved that there are flowers at Susan B's grave. Thanks for posting this.

And next time you're in Rochester, check out the Strong Museum of Play. You have to leave your grown-up self at the door. I don't think you were very far!

(For Not-Clio: They also have a really fantastic archive of trade catalogs (and probably other stuff) from when it was the Strong Museum. You know, they might be worth a shot in the dark inquiry.)

Contingent Cassandra said...

Second Digger's thoughts on what one can learn from a family plot in a cemetery (or even a single grave). I learned a lot when I finally located the grave of one little-known author i study. Of course it was worth a visit, especially if the weather was nice. One needs to allow time for the archival work to settle, after all.

I'm sorry to hear that the Rochester public library does not have a stronger emphasis on African-American history, since I've been contemplating a visit there myself (which would be a longer-distance journey in my case).

Ink said...

Are you going to the Seneca Falls Women's History museum (or have you been, like, a million times already)? LOVE it there.

Thanks for posting the pics, esp. of SBA's resting place. Respect.

profacero said...

Side comment: so the demeanor of those BBQ wait people is what one needs to have for teaching. This is fascinating to me since both of our most impervious instructors are former waiters. I always thought they managed to pull off what they do by just being guys, but no, it's that wait staff experience ... I am going to try to channel it (amazing one should need that to be a professor, but I think this is the current situation).

Glad things are going well! That steak sounds good, too!


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