Skip to comments.A Walk in the Park – for a Century or More
Posted on 07/04/2008 10:52:51 AM PDT by Congressman Billybob
Two weeks ago I took a Walk in the Park. It was touching, sad, funny, and educational and the best possible use of two hours of time.
The park was a cemetery. It was populated by dead people who talked. This was the ninth year of the Walk in the Park, sponsored by the Highlands Historical Society. Each year the Society chooses seven or so residents of the cemetery, researches their stories, casts the actors and actresses, and invites the public to visit.
It is an impressive experience to walk into a cemetery and see men and women, and sometimes children, dressed in clothes of their periods, sitting on tombstones or next to them, and waiting for a group of visitors to come to life and tell their stories.
The first was a German professor who was sent here by his brother in the 1980s to create a farm of fruits and vegetables in a brand-new town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The last was a third-generation descendent of one of the original families, who became an artist, late in her life. In between were other men and women whod led long lives, or die tragically young, but who all make their marks here and in the world, and now sleep here in the Highlands Cemetery.
Only a week before, there was the first story-telling event in this town. There are major annual story-telling events nearby in Tennessee, especially the international event in historic Jonesboro. Story-telling is half writing, half acting. It can be true, or it can be total fiction. Either is fine, as long as it is done with skill and style.
As often happens, two disparate ideas combine into one unusual one. Because of the success of the first story-telling event, it will be done again, even better, at the newly-completed Bascom Center. It was a happy coincidence that one of the speakers in the Park, the cemetery, was Louise Bascom Barratt, Her husband had created the Bascom Center for the Performing Arts in honor of her and of their shared careers in the arts in New York and elsewhere around the world.
I enjoy story-telling, even those whose tales are fabulous and fictitious. But as for me, I prefer tales well founded in history. So, at the Bascom next June I expect to be one of the story-tellers at the Bascom. Ive begun work on the script, and you will recognize the gentleman involved.
My name is James Madison. I was born in Port Conway, Virginia, on March the 16th in the Year of Our Lord, 1751. You know me best as "the Father of the Constitution." That is not entirely true.
Theres a tendency for the last survivor of a great event to magnify his own role, as compared to the other participants whove gone on before. Its not easy for me to say this, but I've had a century and seventy-two to reflect on the matter. And, I've had some conversations with the other Framers. I must admit I took some of the credit that by rights belonged to Charles Pinckney of South Carolina.
How is it that we know what you have done with that document we wrote in Philadelphia, so long ago?
No, we dont "see" modern events on some equivalent of your television screens. Its simpler than that. Were still sentient beings, but more so. Were aware of events as they occur. Ill tell you right now that the Framer whos most delighted with what youve done, is Benjamin Franklin.
You know that Benjamin created the Postal System, and served as the first Postmaster General. We all knew the fate of the nation depended on better communications. That was the basis of Thomas Jefferson's Committees of Correspondence. Right under the noses of King George's Royal Governors, the States that would become the United States, were talking to each other. It was Franklin's Postal System that made that work.
Now you have this Internet process. No longer does the spread of information depend on the fastest horses and fastest ships to get from one end of the nation to another. Or even one end of the globe to another. The moment in 1978 when the Internet went live, old Benjamin chortled, clapped his hands, and said, "Now you have a really fast Postal Service...."
Its not set in stone, but I believe that event will take place at the Bascom. If so, Ill be there as James Madison. Should be fun; yall come.
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About the Author: John Armor practiced law in the US Supreme Court for 33 years. He now lives in Highlands, NC, and is working on a book on Thomas Paine. John_Armor@aya.yale.edu
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John / Billybob
I, for one, enjoyed it immensely. I simply love the cemetary part. How truly clever and wonderful to commemorate the departed in that way each year! Wish I lived closer.
James Madison, what a great idea! Good luck, I’m sure your story-telling will be entertaining and informative as well.
Thanks, CBB, an excellent and inspiring piece.
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