Nat Philbrick in the Poe Room at the Pratt Library on Cathedral & Mulberry

Today’s bike ride took me down to Fells Point to meet V. for coffee and work–she wrote about women’s human rights, I graded papers about gender and social construction–before heading up to the library for a talk. I haven’t figured out a good way to get from Fells Point and points east to the west side without getting trapped between cars on Charles Avenue, so I took the long way around via the friendly bike route via Fallsway. I made a left at Chase to head west and stared at this block-long hill that seemed to be at a 45 degree angle. Guh. But then I just pumped my legs and I was up that short hill in a flash! I’m still surprised at the ability of the human body to adapt to what you ask it to do. Anyway. I ended up being 30 minutes early instead of a couple minutes late, so I graded a couple more papers and hung out with the other socialists–I mean, users of the collective resource called the library–before heading up the stairs to hear Nathaniel Philbrick tell us why we should read Moby Dick. I don’t have any particular interest in that book, but I was trembling with excitement to meet the author. Two summers ago I downloaded his book In the Heart of the Sea on the e-reader E. gave me, at her suggestion, and I was blown away by it. Did you know that we used to use whale oil for everything, and that was our primary fuel, and then we just used it all up? And the port cities that sustained and were sustained by that industry had to think up something else to do? And then I read his book, The Mayflower. Did you know that things could have gone much, much differently between colonists and indigenous people at the point of contact, and that it’s really important to understand the political situation that predates colonization, because colonization isn’t actually the introduction of politics into a scene? And then I read Sea of Glory. Did you know the US government sponsored a scientific” voyage of discovery,” because life science was thought to be an essential national priority? And that the Smithsonian and the National Botanical Garden were founded to house the literally millions of “artifacts” brought back, and that the mouth of the Columbia River, up there on the edge of the earth in the northwest, is some of the most dangerous navigating in the world, and it still won’t get you to waters that flow across the continent, so we’re just going to have to find another way? That first book of his, along with the art of Ken Burns, helped me remember the importance of being curious, and I am so grateful for that, so meeting him was positively thrilling. I’m still not convinced I need to read Moby Dick right now; E. says War and Peace might be right for me, but it was good to be able to tell him thank you. I walked out back to my bike, happy I wasn’t looking for a cab like that guy, and pedaled up hill and home to read the first few pages of my newly-purchased copy of The Last Stand. Because we’ve been here before, and I want to know what we’ve done.

3 thoughts on “Nat Philbrick in the Poe Room at the Pratt Library on Cathedral & Mulberry

  1. I do like Nathaniel Philbrick, and thought that the Mayflower was an intriguing and phenomenal read… But War and PEace, and Moby Dick, are both the two greatest works of Literature that I know … bar none. I have read each quite a few times. At least 7 for W&P and 3 times for MD and can’t really describe the way that all parts of life/society/culture/belief/etc cross in so many parts of each book. Sigh.

  2. Your blog is a great mix of cycling and other stuff – keep it up. Please have a look at my bike blog and maybe add it to your list. Thanks
    Nathan Townshend

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