Remembering my Washington (nearly) shut-down.
There is something odd about great national and international crises. That is you tend, as the years go by, to remember how it affected you, as much as the great crisis itself.
OK, if you want to know, I was staying with my granny when Kennedy was assassinated (and reading the newspaper was puzzling as I didn't know what "assassinated" meant). And the night that Princess Diana died, I went to bed half way through reviewing a book of essays by Joan Smith, including one on Di -- and when I got up I had to rather change it.
Anyway I was in Washington giving my Mellon lectures at the National Gallery in 2011 at the last (so far as I know) seriously threatened shutdown of the Federal Machine.
All my memories are horribly and embarrassingly selfish.. I wish I could say that I was bleeding for those who could not get their benefit checks. But, I confess, I wasn't as much as I should. I was worrying about the lectures.
Part of my problem, as I recall, was the preparation. I had gone to DC from Cambridge with no lectures written (though a degree of prep in my head). This meant I was writing as I went along. When the shutdown threatened, the problem wasnt so much that I wouldn't be able to give the lecture (in the National Gallery.. all shut down). It was that I wouldnt be able to get into the library to get to the books to prepare the talk.
Everyone at CASVA was extremely nice and offered to bring books to my apartment for me. But the fact was I didnt know which books I wanted (my way of getting a talk together is library immersion, not a selective raid).
The happy upshot for me was that the budgetary discussions went to the line and were solved at the last minute (so I stayed in the library, did my work -- I got the lecture done and delivered, and I hope everyone got their federal cash).
On this occasion in 2013 there has actually been a shutdown.
Ironically it happened just after they got notification that my Mellon lectures had gone online (thanks to all who worked so hard on this..! I KNOW what a mountain it was, getting permissions for the images and much more ).