Saturday, March 29, 2008

Love DC and Congressman John Lewis

Okay, so have I ever shared with you how much I love D.C. ? I'm sort of addicted to the government buildings, Smithsonian museums, and Busboys and Poets, but my worse addiction, I must confess, is the Library of Congress.

Now I was a library addict before moving to D.C. My addiction is strongly rooted in my family dysfunction; some of you know what I'm referring to: a mom who considered going to the local library a family outing, and traveling to Woodward Avenue to the Main Library of the Detroit Public Library system was a field trip unsurpassed. Well, in this regard, my family was very dysfunctional, so much so that the one place I always felt comfortable beyond measure was in a library.

No matter where I travel throughout the world, I always find myself at a library. Although I have conducted research at the British Museum and spent time at the Bibliotheque Nacionale, neither library can measure up to the Library of Congress.

There's something about sitting at a desk in the Main Reading Room either waiting for my books to be delivered, taking notes, or cite checking that gets my blood going. Since my first visit to the Main Reading Room in 1985, I have been in love, yes, and addicted to the Library of Congress.

So today I drove over to the Library of Congress to cite check my manuscript one more time. Since 9/11 the protocol at the Library of Congress has changed. There are more Capitol Police around and folks seem a little more uptight, but hey, I smile regardless of what's going on because I'm in heaven once I enter the Jefferson building.

Five hours later, with my stomach growling and 3/4 of my cite checking complete, I stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue to grab something to eat. I stop at Cosi because I haven't been in the Cosi on Capitol Hill since I returned to the area in 2005. It's before the dinner hour so it's not too crowded even though the typical Capitol Hill crowd is milling about. I force myself to pass by Trevor's Bookstore. I need to produce, not consume books, I tell myself.

As I'm paying my bill at Cosi, I glance out the window and I am certain that I see Congressman John Lewis walking by. I pay my bill and exit Cosi. I can't let the Congressman pass by without saying hello. I say hello, he pauses, we exchange polite pleasantries. I notice that he has his dry cleaning in his arms. I'm feeling slightly intrusive and apologize, saying to him: "You can't go to the dry cleaners without folks stopping you." He doesn't seem to mind as he tells me that he's in town to preach a sermon at the National Cathedral this Sunday. "Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the last time that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a sermon," he tells me. He jars my memory, and I say, "That's right." I cannot ever forget Dr. King's dates of birth and death: his date of birth is the same as my mother's and his date of death is the same as my aunt's date of birth. I tell Congressman Lewis that I will be at church tomorrow.

I love D.C. Where else can I stand on a street corner and have a normal conversation with a congressman without a formal introduction, without pomp, and without ceremony? As I strolled up Pennsylvania Avenue to my car, I decided that nothing will ever take me away from D.C. again. In fact, I've been contemplating for years just moving close to the Library of Congress so that I can spend my days off conducting research and writing. I think that I just might do that.

1 comment:

E. said...

Hmmm...what about congresswoman M.L. Simms.