Friday, October 23, 2009

The cool thing I did today (no poker content)

Today Cardgrrl and I took a day off from poker. We went to the Library of Congress. We took the official tour of the main (Jefferson) building, which was interesting enough. But part of our reason for choosing that institution to visit, as opposed to a thousand other places one might explore, was that we were going to be meeting up with two of Cardgrrl's friends for dinner, and they both work at the Library of Congress. We got to their building (there are several) just after closing time, and so had to be escorted in. But that meant that we got to see some of the office space and some of the storage areas where the general public ordinarily doesn't get to go.

By happenstance, one of the friends we were meeting spied in the hallway a colleague that she thought could and would take us on a special impromptu tour, and that's exactly what happened. We were ushered into the vault of the periodicals section of the library, where are kept the most rare and valuable of the collection. Part of it is what I understand to be the largest collection of comic books on the planet. Hence the photo above. Those particular ones were lying on a cart because they had been pulled from the shelves for a visiting scholar who is researching the history of images of women in American comic books.

About three feet away from that cart (to the right of what is framed in the photo) was a set of shelves on which were the newest acquisitions. They included a mint-condition first issue of some old superhero comic that I hadn't heard of before, but of which the curator was exceptionally proud. (It was apparently a very expensive purchase.) She also showed us a newly acquired bound volume of the earliest issues of the first Cherokee-language (actually bilingual, with English in parallel columns) newspaper in the U.S. On the same new-acquisition shelves was a bunch of old newspapers being collected because they printed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. My understanding was that the library has been trying to assemble as many samples of these as they could find. You could see by the dates how the news spread around the country and the world. She pulled out for us examples such as a Virginia newspaper from, I believe, July 16, 1776, and the first newspaper in which the Declaration was published in London in late August. A Philadelphia newspaper had it on the front page, but right next to it were ads for, among other things, slaves for sale. Oh, the irony! (I could see that this bound volume was sitting on the shelf, though she only described it for us rather than pulling it out.)

There are, we were told by the official tour guide, some 140,000,000 items in the Library of Congress. I don't suppose that an Archie or Wonder Woman comic, or even a bunch of 1776 newspapers, are the most interesting things there. But it was an unspeakably cool and unexpected treat to be personally escorted into one of the library's usually completely-off-limits vaults, after hours, and shown some of these rare items by the very kind, enthusiastic, and technically knowledgeable woman who is in charge of their safekeeping, just because we happened to have been visiting one of her colleagues at the right place and time.

From there were walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant, Tortilla Coast, which I liked very much. The purpose of the get-together was for me to be able to meet some of Cardgrrl's best friends, and them me (more of which is coming tomorrow), and to celebrate the belated birthday of one of them. It was a delightful time.

If I had something pokery to report, I would. But I can't apologize for having no poker news when I spent my day in such delightful company and pursuits. Once in a while, I am reminded that there is more to life than poker, and it can be quite nice indeed.

1 comment:

Keiser said...

Love hearing about your take on things even non-poker related. Strangely non-grumpy though...

I lived just outside D.C. in Fairfax, VA for about 5 years and there's an amazing number of cool things in our nation's capital. One of my favorites was seeing all of the downtown patriotic monuments under all of the cherry blossoms while doing some filming work.