Wednesday, October 9, 2013

All the Trivia You Never Need to Know

Thomas Jefferson
I read and listen to lots of books and remember all kinds of junk that I’ll never use in my lifetime—except for maybe last week.  Bob and I flew to Charlottesville and toured the University of Virginia—the venerable school fathered by Thomas Jefferson before he died on July 4th, 1826.
Yes, he died fifty years to the day he signed the Declaration of Independence.   So did John Adams.   Some of Adams’ last words were “Jefferson lives!"  He had no idea that his dear friend had passed only four hours before.

Fascinating, I think, but I digress--a lot.  Here’s the real story I wanted to tell.

Rachel, our exuberant blue-eyed guide and a senior at the university, led our group on a tour of the rotunda--the central and most historical building on the Virginia campus.  It was designed by Jefferson but burned in 1895.   
The rotunda at U of VA
It was then redesigned by the famed architect of the day, Stanford White.  I asked Rachel if she knew that White had been murdered.  She gasped.  (The girl had been giving the tour for years).  “How do you know this?” she asked. 

"I read it," I said, and told her that White was always fooling around with younger women, and a jealous husband of one of his mistresses shot him to death in 1906.  At the time it was called “the crime of the century.”  (And it makes a more exciting story than OJ).
Stanford White

“I’m going to use these facts in all my future tours,” she said.  I smiled.

Mark Twain came and went with Halley's Comet
When we arrived home a few days later, Bob and I strolled through a neighborhood art festival.  We entered a booth and admired the artist’s collection of retro jewelry.   She said that the pieces reminded her of her great grandmother who she never met.  “She died the night of Halley’s Comet in the early nineteen hundreds," she said.     

“So did Mark Twain,” I said.  “He was born during Halley’s Comet in 1835 and announced that it was only fitting that the two freaks, who came in together, would go out as a pair."  When the comet shot through on April 21st, 1910, Twain got his wish.

An elderly man standing next to me said that he never knew that before.  Neither did the artist.

I nodded, ready to add a little more but turned and left the booth.  Did they know that Ben Franklin had a bunch of bastard kids, that Coolidge was the first president to fly, that John Kennedy was the first president born in a hospital?

Okay, I hear ya.  Won’t say another word.