Well, I’m halfway through my Virginia adventure. I’ve met the Washingtons, learned how to make three different kinds of rice in a microwave, backed my sweet car Nelly into a fence and filed hundreds of slides. I feel a little bit like Dorothy in Oz, unable to believe that any of this is actually real. I mean, come on. I live behind Thomas Jefferson. Could life really be more surreal than that?
For some background, I’m playing a six-week engagement as an intern in the Collections and Conservation Department of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. For the past three weeks, I’ve filed hundreds upon hundreds of slides, entered the insurance values of 200 year old coins, deaccessioned 2,56019th century tools and researched the 88 original buildings of CW. It’s been exciting, to be sure. I know that as the weeks fly by, I’ll be given more tasks like these, but each one will be worthwhile. And if they’re not, I’ll perform each one efficiently and with a smile, ensuring a kick ass recommendation letter to add to my resume. Because, let’s face it. I’m an unpaid intern. Experience is all I’m getting.
However, the most exciting part of my time so far in CW has been my house. I’m living in the Edinburgh Castle Laundry, behind the Edinburgh Castle Tavern, on Duke of Gloucester St. DoG Street is the main drag in Colonial Williamsburg, so there’s always something going on. The backyard of Charlton’s Coffeehouse is my backyard. The Coffeehouse backyard is home to lots of little events and plays and goings-on, so I literally walk out my front door into something exciting. So far, I’ve met the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, Martha and George Washington. TJ also just so happens to be my next door neighbor and out of character he is just as nice as our third president. It’s kind of like living next door to Mickey Mouse. My little laundry is adorable, and I wish I could be like a turtle and take it with me. The only issue with living in such a tiny house is that I don’t have a full kitchen. I love my laundry-house (even though there’s no place to actually do laundry) but I only have a microwave and a dorm-room sized refrigerator. Not that I would actually cook or anything, since I’m not sure if my lease covered fire insurance, but I’d like to have the option. I’m becoming an expert at microwave rice. I’ve made red beans and rice, jambalaya, broccoli cheddar rice, chicken and rice, easy mac. Pretty much everything except ramen. Now, I don’t really consider myself a carnivore, but I really miss meat. I am clearly not cut out for the vegetarian life style. I almost went to McDonald’s on the way back from yoga the other day. It was pretty desperate.
My car, Nelly, is enjoying CW as much as I am. She did get (accidentally) backed into a fence on our first day here, but nothing really happened. She also has to drive through manure every day, but such if the price of life in the 18th century for a horseless carriage like herself.
That’s right. Manure. From cows and horses that regularly tramp through the colonial streets. Is it bad when you start liking the smell? It’s just so fresh. And grassy. Really opens up the whole olfactory system. The stables are just across the street behind my house, so I get a nice big whiff every morning on the way to work. Also just across the street? Sheep. At the gaol. Which is one of the most haunted place in CW. Oh boy, am I having the time of my life.
It’s kind of like living in a very odd circus. I get up in the mornings, shower, eat, breakfast, go to work—all the things I would do no matter where I am. But as I walk to work, I step around piles of manure and walk past people getting out of Volvos dressed like they stepped out of “The Patriot”. At work, I’m researching the 88 original properties in the Rockefeller Library, trolling through house titles from 1752 and reading about how many slaves people had. Yesterday, when I sat down at one of the public computers to quickly check Facebook before I left, I discovered that the last person to sign on hadn’t signed out and that I was effectively signed onto George Washington’s Facebook. Some of my favorite moments have come when I’m just wandering the streets, looking for the 88 original properties for my project, or going to take a tour of the gaol. I’ve met a couple of the actors from “Revolutionary City” because they use my house as a backstage. Mind you, I’m not complaining about any of this. I love just talking to everyone, the actors, the interpreters, in character and out, the librarians at the Rockefeller and the volunteer tour guides who’ve been leading me around all the out of the way properties that I’ve somehow discovered. Everyone has so many stories to tell and I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to experience all of this. Being a student of the world has never been easier or more fun.
I’ve joked about CW being “Colonial Disneyburg”, but in reality, that’s what it is for me. This period of American history is my absolute favorite. It’s when everything was just getting started. People had so many hopes and dreams and ideas that they couldn’t help the Revolution. It was inevitable, and just look what it started! For me, having the privilege of living here, breathing in the whole experience, is a dream come true. I wish I could borrow Dr. Brown’s DeLorean for 15 minutes and go visit my ten year old self. If I told her that in ten years she would be living on a street frequented by Thomas Jefferson, the Randolphs, Martha Washington and all the others, she would think it was crazy talk. Also, she would probably be freaked out that time travel actually works. It boggles my mind that I was so nervous about coming here and for a while didn’t think it was cool or worthwhile. I’d also use the DeLorean to go smack myself from 3 ½ weeks ago and knock some sense into her. Because this is just amazing. I live behind Thomas Jefferson! I was on George Washington’s Facebook for two seconds! There’s manure in my driveway! The British were camped out three blocks away from my house! There are FIFES AND DRUMS!!!
For the next three weeks, I know I’ll hear even more remarkable stories and learn more than I could possibly imagine. But for now, in my own little laundry, I can be whatever I want to be, do whatever I want to do and live the Colonial life I’ve always imagined, with a/c and running water. And best of all, the Fourth of July is on Sunday. My favorite holiday in one of the cities where it was born. It doesn’t get much better than this.
For more info on living, working and visiting Williamsburg, follow these dandy links!
“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” –Alan Moore