August 8, 2007

I’ve always been fascinated by historical calamity. Thus a recent trip to Washington found me at Lincoln’s box in Ford’s Theater. Lincoln (who shares my birthday) had been seated in a rocking chair with his back to the door, which is now dutch-style and impassable to visitors. As I scanned the burgundy and gold carpet from the doorway, I noticed something funny: someone had placed a wedge under the front of Lincoln’s chair to keep it from rocking. The chair was not an original and so not in need of extraordinary preservative measures.. which is why I deem the placement of the wedge “unsporting”. I mean sporting in the sense of Roland Barthes’ take on professional wrestling — that people crave the image of the extreme even if know it’s not real.

I don’t believe in ghosts but I do become uneasy in some places. While apartment hunting in April 2001, one place on the corner of Greene and Washington Place came to my attention. Fascinated by historical calamity as I am, I immediately recognized that as the corner across from what had been the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. (The space occupied by the sweatshop is now a biochemistry lab at NYU, i think.) Anyway, even without ghosts, this wasn’t a corner that I would want to wake up to everyday. Ironically, I ended-up moving to an apartment three blocks from the base of the World Trade Center…. (I had been worried about moving there for exactly the right reason but, like Lincoln’s dream about his death, I don’t think that was anything especially prescient. Sometimes paranoia borders on clairvoyance.)


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