Thursday, August 5, 2010

Jim is on a family vacation in our nation's capital. This is a trip undertaken largely at the urging of his 11-year old son, Ryland, who has -- go figure -- developed an interest in U.S. history. This sometimes takes surprising turns, as when Ryland asks what color Robert E. Lee's hair was. Or when, in response to his son Grayson's request for an example inconsequential president, Jim replies with Millard Fillmore, only to be told by Ryland that Fillmore signed the Treaty of Guadelupe Hildalgo. (Told that Fillmore was president from 1849 until 1853, Ryland apparently extrapolated that he had to be the chief executive in 1849, which he knew was when the Mexican War ended.) Jim is beginning to think that Ryland is game-show champion material, and hopes that a few trips to Smithsonian museums will enhance his trivia chops. Grayson wants to to the Air and Space museum; Jim would like to go to the Native American museum. All of us would like to visit Mr. Lincoln on the Mall.

Jim hopes to spend a a little quiet time near the hotel pool (or, more likely, some non-quiet time by the pool) indulging by reading a book that he has no intention of reviewing, teaching, or using for research. That's Ron Chernow's massive, but compulsively readable, biography of John D. Rockefeller, Titan (1998), the gift of a student. Among its more amusing moments occurs when the family of one Rockefeller's first girlfriend successfully breaks up the relationship because the parents fear the boy has poor prospects.

Best to all in the heart of high summer.