Readers of this blog, and readers in general, will be pleased to hear that today's entry from this guest blogger will be short — or is at least envisioned by the guest blogger as being short. Reason: the staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know
blogging team (i.e., me and my wife and kids, all of whom always tell me to keep my blog posts short, among other things I should keep short) was out late. Out late where? Out late at the White House! For Saint Patrick's Day. Readers of yesterday's guest blog
will recall that the How Not to Get Rich Orchestra, which is us, was invited to the White House party yesterday. This was an historic evening for two reasons: (1) we had never been to the White House and (2) I have never been out on Saint Patrick's Day. I was raised in an Irish-American family to believe that Saint Patrick's Day was best celebrated inside with family and some of the things that go with being an Irish-American family, including perhaps talking, which is today akin to blogging too much. We took the train to the White House from New York City, and suffice it to say that, given the giant green hats and the number of people inebriated at 11:00 in the morning in midtown Manhattan, I would take the White House party over the Times Square one any day.
We had no idea what to expect, and if you go to parties at the White House all the time then you can stop reading here, if you haven't already, for I am about to list some things I remember, such as: that you can't believe they are letting you in the gate; that the entrance hall is bright and wide, offers a view across the lawns to the Washington Monument; that the Map Room has the last map that FDR used in WWII; that if you are waiting in the Map Room to meet the Obamas, then you might get really nervous; that the social staff is brilliant, assisting you while you are there, explaining, hosting, leading, so that if you passed out (sans alcohol, which is to say just from nerves, as I might have), they would still get you through; that the Obamas are even taller than you think; that they are, in the words of my wife, "even more beautiful"; that after you speak with them for a second, the 17-year-old banjo and mandolin player of your family band is likely to repeat over and over, "He is so cool."
Additionally, we can tell you that the food at a White House Saint Pat's party is excellent, and that if you are lucky enough to hear Paul Muldoon read next time you are there, you will be lucky indeed. The faces in the front row were transfixed as he read three poems, which you can understand if you listen to most anything by Muldoon, such as this.
As far as music goes, we were wondering if Susan McKeown would be there, one of our favorite singers and a Portland, Oregon, habitué. However, the music was by Celtic Thunder, a band that is like a cross between American Idol and the Four Tenors, and maybe something on Broadway that I have not yet seen. The White House guests loved them. An Irish military band played in the front hall. We walked around and talked and laughed and saw senators and congress people (Kerry, Clinton, Pelosi) and the portrait of Lincoln (reminding me of Garry Will's book on the Gettysburg Address, one of my all time favorites, Wills being an inspiration for The Thoreau You Don't Know), and at one point I took a sip of my drink and thought, Man, I am drinking beer in the White House! (Two beers, I hasten to note, in small glasses.) The last time the likes of me were in the White House, Andrew Jackson was president, and they had to redecorate the place afterward, as well as call the cops — or at least that's my understanding. It's true the fountains ran green: Michelle Obama's idea, reportedly, which struck me as more Chicago than Irish, and as very cool.
As best I can recall, the president said something about how we should all — Irish and Americans and Irish-Americans — stay as long as we like, but we had to catch a train back by 10:00 so I could start out this morning for the West Coast and Portland, Oregon, and talk about Thoreau, who, by the way, threw a big party every year, sometimes at his house, sometimes at Walden Pond, always with melons (his specialty) and often with wine. Probably inviting the local Irish who lived with him at Walden Pond.