Here at Home
February 1, 2007
Thrusting its dark granite bulk and square clock-tower in stubborn nonconformity above the general level of other [Federal Triangle] buildings, and determinedly blocking completion of the grand circular plaza planned for opposite facades of the Internal Revenue and Post Office Department Buildings, the Old Post Office Building, Pennsylvania Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets NW, is a Romanesque landmark that Washington is slow to give up for the sake of a plan . . .
-- The WPA Guide to Washington, 1942
What, you thought the blogging muse, Errato, only lit upon my shoulder when the Big Read has me traveling? No such luck. The NEA's program to help get America reading again never sleeps -- or not until you can walk into any bar in America, shout "How 'bout that Edith Wharton?" and have somebody stand you to a boilermaker. Far from sleeping, the Literature office's 7th-floor aerie in the Old Post Office Building (pictured) is abuzz with activity at the moment.
Built in the late 19th century, the Old Post Office is home to three U.S. federal cultural entities: the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The OPO's 315-foot high clock tower -- a National Historic Landmark -- offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the city, making the OPO a favorite stopping place for tourist and locals alike.
Station chief Molly is home working on the Teacher's Guide for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, but Whipcracker Sarah is here crunching timetables, and Desk Officer Erika is picking out perfect quotes for the McCullers Audio Guide. Me, I was working the seamier side of the street, buckling down to the Reader's Guide for The Maltese Falcon, when Communications Ace Paulette sounded the alarm: We need a blog posting, and step on it! Swinging purposefully into action, pausing only to stopper my ears with XM Satellite Radio's classical station against the siren song of office chatter, I declare it high time to show you briefly around the nerve center of the Big Read.
But then -- "Blast!," as Den Mother Chloey here likes to exclaim. Taskmistress Katey is stopping by to ask what's become of all those performance evaluations, and Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier book review editor Bill Thompson is emailing to hear all about the Big Read. Our virtual tour of the Big Read office will have to demonstrate that most proverbial of virtues, patience, and wait a while. Meantime, heartfelt apologies for a breezy post, and I'll report in again from Connecticut next week, and surely before. The traveling medicine show that is Big Read has 200 municipalities to reach this year, and I aim to visit at least 50 of them personally, so there's ever so much more down the Big Road . . .