My Favorite Holiday

February is such a great month (despite the questionable weather) because I love Valentine’s day, and I love President’s Day even more! And this year they are both combined into one long weekend! What is better than celebrating TJ with chocolate, hearts, and flowers?

TJ

Lately I’ve been in a broadway mood, so of course they best way to celebrate President’s Day in my mind is to listen to the 1776 soundtrack! I saw 1776 on broadway in the 1990’s and it has always been one of my favorites (I wonder why).  If you didn’t have the chance to see it on Broadway, there’s always the movie version with Mr. Feeney playing John Adams, it’s a classic!

1776

TJ is always my number one, but John Adams really steals the show in this one. To get in the presidential mood today, I would highly recommend checking out some Youtube clips of the movie or recordings of the stage productions. I would go with this one, this one, and this one. Unfortunately the best productions happened pre-Youtube, so the quality and availability isn’t optimal, but fingers crossed they’ll revive on Broadway again soon!

Speaking of Broadway…Did you hear that Carly Rae Jepsen took over for Laura Osnes as Cinderella in Cinderella? I saw it almost exactly a year ago. I’m curious to hear how she does. She’s obviously a singer, but I wonder if she has Broadway worthy pipes…

carly rae jepsen

I Read a Book

Although I often aspire to be more literary, I’ve had a lot of trouble falling into a consistent habit of reading books. I usually have some type of time consuming excuse, but right now I have none of those so I turned to my bookshelf of un-read books. I picked one that I got for Christmas last year called Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. It’s a non-fiction book about President James Garfield’s life and mostly his assassination and death.Garfield

I know what you’re thinking, it’s sounds riveting, right? Well I’m actually a big US president nerd, so this book was right in my lane. At first it was slow going because I was skeptical about whether Garfield was an interesting or worthy topic. But after I got into it a little and the pieces started coming together, it was really great. Not only did it give a detailed and interesting account of his short lived presidency, assassination attempt, and illness, it really brought together several historical elements of the time period that helped the story significantly.

For those of you unfamiliar with Garfield, I’ll give you a brief history lesson. He was elected as the 20th president, just a few after Lincoln (who was the 16th). Garfield was considered to be a real stand-up guy, who was a great example of the American dream. He was raised in extreme poverty in Ohio, and created a life for himself through education and hard work. Really one of the only US presidents ever to have that type of personal history.

So he was inaugurated in March of 1881. On July 2nd of the same year he was going to the train station to catch a train to New England to settle his kids into school and take a little family vacation. This was pre-secret service and before presidents had things like Air Force One. Apparently Lincoln taught them nothing. So Garfield was just walking across the station with his buddy, the Secretary of State, and all of a sudden, he was shot in the back. The shooter was Charles Guiteau, a recent stalker, considered to be insane, who believed that God told him to kill the president.

The shot, however, was not fatal. Garfield did not die until September. The problem was that he had several doctors chomping at the bit to treat the president and they did everything they could think of: random incisions, probing around for the bullet, inserting and draining various things. Long story short, he died of all the crazy infections created by the crazy medical procedures. Apparently Europeans had caught onto sterilizing medical instruments at this point, but American doctors still thought those ideas were bogus.

I don’t mean to spoil the story, but this is just history. The details in the book make it worth reading: the medical issues of the day, the inventions and technology, the political and social atmosphere. It’s all fascinating. For example, this was right around the early years of the telephone, so news spread a different and faster way than before. It really brought to light many of the inventions and precedents that we take for granted today, that were new or even non-existant at that point. I love when learning about history make me understand more about my own life and surroundings.

Nerd Alert!

Guess what.  I am a Thomas Jefferson fanatic.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that I go to business school at his alma mater?  I think not.  I actually love US presidents in general. I know a lot of useless trivia about them, but TJ is my favorite by far.

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting his house, Monticello, outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.  I was in Charlottesville by myself for a completely different reason, but you better believe I booked a tour at Monticello before I left.  I’ve done a lot of mansion tours in my day: up in Newport, RI, The Biltmore in NC, Versailles in Paris, the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT, and several chateaus in the Loire Valley just to name a few.  This tour was different because I knew TJ was there. I loved learning about all of the choices he made in the design, and about his daily habits in the house.  I highly recommend it if you’re in the area!TJ

But I digress, this post is actually about a new book about TJ that I recently bought on tape (well CD actually).  I bought the audio version of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, because I’m doing a lot of long drives this month, so I thought it would be good for that.  I haven’t even finished the book yet, but I’ve decided to give it a good review. Often times, these types of books are rather dry, and difficult to get through at times.  I find this one continually interesting.  I am filled with little tidbits about TJ and his family that I never knew before and I’m only up to 1784.  Here are a few I’ve learned so far:

  1. Martha Jefferson (TJ’s wife) actually went by Patty
  2. Patty made TJ swear on her death bed that he would never re-marry and he abided by her request
  3. TJ’s relationship with his mother is largely unknown because all of their correspondence was destroyed when her house burnt down, there is question as to how well they actually got along
  4. Sally Hemmings (TJ’s slave and mistress) was actually his wife’s half sister because her father was Patty’s father (the Hemmings served Patty’s family until Patty’s father died)
  5. Though TJ held numerous leadership roles, perhaps his most disappointing was his stint as governor of Virginia, to his embarrassment, his tenure was largely criticized in an official capacity by the Virginia House of Burgesses

The fact that I live in Virginia is an added bonus as I listen to this book.  I am constantly hearing the names of streets and schools in the area, and now I can identify the significance of their namesake.  Who knew there were so many important Virginians!

Have you read or listened to any good books lately?