Shut down and shut up?
Yesterday was an edgy day.
My Mellon lectures are held in the National Gallery (which is a Federal Institution) and I am, I guess, under contract to the US Federal Government . . . what is more, my temporary email address ends ".gov" (no doubt about as close to the heart of the US political system as I'll ever get).
That all meant that if there was a Federal shutdown, there would be no lecture on Sunday. The National Gallery would be shut and I would not be allowed simply to give it in an alternative venue.
I can't tell you how hard it is to write a lecture that you dont know you will be able to deliver. There is something about the adrenalin (aka sheer terror) of facing the audience that concentrates the mind (which is, I guess, one of the reasons why it always seem much easier to write a lecture than a book... even fierce letters from the publisher aren't as pressing that a few hundred faces).
Knowing that it was definitely off would have been better I think. But looking at the Capitol all day wondering if white smoke was about to appear and if a budget resolution had been passed so te lecture could go ahead was increasingly distracting. I found myself with the Washington Post open on my desktop and every 20 minutes or so I would click on "Federal Shutdown" in Google News.
Google News revealed that there were thousands of people facing the shutdown with concerns about as selfish as my own. Never mind the thousands who would be going without pay, or passports or social security cheques . . . the headlines all seemed to be along the lines of: "Federal shutdown may hurt local housing market" or "What does a Federal Shutdown mean for Hampton Roads?" or "What about my tax return" (... "will Federal Shutdown stop my Mellon lectures?" would have fitted in nicely).
Anyway by the time I had finished the powerpoint and given it a run through, we still didnt know. So, with the help of Sarah's car (THANK YOU), I checked some books out of the library and brought them home in case I had to prepare the next lecture outside the office (surely they would be given EVENTUALLY I reckoned... couldnt just call it a day!). And then I went to drown my anxiety in a large quantities of food and alcohol with a friend who had come from California to hear a lecture that might not be given.
By the time we toddled back, just coming up to midnight, the email came that ALL WAS ON.
So, hooray. Hope to see some of you on Sunday.
Now I just have to take all those books back to the library.