By Jason Schneiderman
The one day of my life I had a girlfriend
was the first time someone asked me point blank
if I was gay. I was happy, thought Jennifer could end
something vague I was heading for. Trent tanked
that theory. Trent was curious and joking. I think
I could even have said yes, but I didn't want fag inked
into my life yet. There would have been therapy,
problems--I was fourteen and at a school with Christian enmity
between the fundamentalists, Catholics and Mormons.
The person to feel bad for in this poem is Jennifer.
I never saw her after the awkward moment I asked her
out. It was the last day of the eighth grade. She'd written
that she loved me in my yearbook. I thought I had to
ask her out. Jennifer, I'm sorry. It wasn't you.
This week's Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World is about Jason Schneiderman's first book, Sublimation Point. "One pleasure of poetry is in speed of movement," writes Robert Pinsky. "Another is in the slow curve of the mind in response to that speed: We gradually embrace, in the dreamy slow motion of thought, the meaning of each quick gesture. The word 'quick' includes among its meanings the ideas 'alive' and 'sensitive'...the poem is quick, in all senses, and we enjoy pondering it." He believes that Schneiderman's poems have "the fast thinker's brilliance, where the rapid movement is both funny and, like so much comedy, quick-stepping, a teasing dance of avoidance and engagement with fear." In the poem above, Pinsky notes, there is humor when the narrator addresses the reader about "this poem" and then leaves a personal note for the character Jennifer, with "It wasn't you" suggesting both that the situation wasn't her fault and that it wasn't her he wanted to be asking.
The plan early this morning was to go straight from younger son's soccer game to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, but it was decided that older son did not need to be dragged out to watch an hour of fourth-grade soccer so I stayed home with him during the game. When hubby and younger son returned, the phone rang -- a call from our credit card company -- sorry to disturb us but had we charged $12000 at Talbots that morning? Um, that would be NO. So the next hour was spent cancelling the Visa, activating a Discover card we hadn't bothered with because we'd intended to close the rarely-used account, calling the bank to make sure our check cards had not been used since we have no idea how anyone got our numbers (no recent thefts of purses or wallets, no lost receipts, no online purchases from unsecured web sites), etc.
By the time we had finished all this it was after noon and we decided it would be silly to go to the Faire for so little time, so we postponed that until the first week in October and went to Mount Vernon to the 18th Century Craft Fair. This event is held only once a year and we have never been before, as we have tended to go to Mount Vernon either when we have out of town visitors or on weekends when we expect very small crowds, to which a fair is not conducive. I thought that the juried craft show likely attracted very expensive collectibles by fancy vendors and did not know it was a requirement that the artisans demonstrate their crafts with period implements and in period costume. So in essence, we went to a Colonial Fair instead of a Renaissance Faire! We saw a lot of very lovely things -- furniture being carved, medicine being brewed, butter being churned, candles being dipped, silhouettes being outlined, baskets being woven, iron being hammered, wool being carded -- the West Potomac Colonial Singers were wandering the grounds and the Itinerant Band was playing right by the entrance.
The real highlights for me, though, were the military encampment of the First Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line and the performances by The Chanteymen of Ship's Company and Otto the Sword Swallower in the marketplace performance tent. We have seen Ship's Company at Glen Echo and St. Mary's and they are always delightful; today the emphasis was in principle on colonial songs but they sang some sailor's songs as well, and my son who plays the violin gets a kick out of the fiddle player who holds his instrument cradled in his armpit. Otto was playing for a juvenile crowd so he was pretty goofy and couldn't make the obvious dirty jokes, but he did a very impressive routine of fire-eating, fireball-breathing and sword-swallowing.
And, of course, it would be very silly to go to Mount Vernon without touring George Washington's house and estate. Every time we take the house tour I learn something new from the docents and notice something different: today it was that Washington had the key to the Bastille, a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette, mounted on the wall in his entrance hallway, and he had quite the collection of nautical paintings on his parlor and breakfast room walls. The slave quarters, closed when last we were there, were open today, as were the outside kitchens and smokehouse. We did not walk to the graveyard as they were setting up for an outdoor wedding in the evening but we saw the rest of the main grounds.
Ship's Company performs with the mansion in the background in the main tent in the marketplace.
One of the craft specialists demonstrates carding and spinning.
A furniture maker works on the seat of a chair.
Seen beyond the hanging herbs in the tent where the botanicals and medicines are made, a woman boils a peppery potion.
The chandler takes a break between hand-dipping candles.
Camp Flintlock teaches kids, school groups, families and reenactors the details of Colonial American life. Here you can see a fife and drum corps in training while behind the tent kids practice with wooden swords.
Tomorrow, photos of Washington's home and of the sword swallower. *g* Have just zipped through writing four articles, including Threshold's mediocre premiere ratings, Auberjonois signing on for the live action film of The Last Unicorn (now there's a book I should reread -- thanks much everyone for the suggestions!) and Candice Bergen slashing James Spader and William Shatner...excuse me, Denny Crane and Alan Shore. "They are the favorite couple. They are sort of America's sweethearts," she told the L.A. Times.