Saturday, August 15, 2020

Frederick Douglass Airport Soon

 My goodness, time flies. These days, as the semester approaches, and the college administration sends e-mail that update e-mails to which half of the recipients have hit reply-all to ask the same question asked in half of the previous reply-all (replies-all?), and everything having to go online or hybrid with the reasonable expectation of going online, and -- oh, just thinking it is exhausting. So, with all of that, Sally Hemings has had to fight for attention. 

My last post dealt with Beverly Hemings flying a balloon, an image that continues with me as one of peace and hope for some reason. Indeed, that night, when I returned to finish reading Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings, Stephen O'Connor used that very same incident as one of the final scenes. He almost matched my own imagination, possibly because we both constructed it from Annette Gordon-Reed's research in The Hemingses of Monticello.

Because all roads lead to Frederick Douglass here, the news in Douglassness this week reported that the Rochester city airport will soon carry his name. The petition had been going around earlier this summer, and I confess to having added my name. Still, I seldom expect much to happen as a result of anything these days, such is my Gen X fatalism, cynicism, and pessimism. What a joy to be wrong! 

That's the upside of being fatalistic, cynical, and pessimistic. You are seldom disappointed, and occasionally surprised. 

Douglass did not live long enough for air flight, but his curiosity about new inventions like the camera and the phonograph, as well as his poetic sensibilities, makes me think that flight might have attracted him enough to try it at least once. 

Many years ago, I had a pilot friend who would take pretty much anyone willing on flights as he earned hours for his liscence. We flew over to Easton's airfield -- I think it was Easton -- had lunch in the diner at the airport, and flew back. 

The flight plan was hilarious because we had to chart a route that skirted around St. Michaels. You see, different areas, especially around D.C., have cones of airspace restrictions above them for a variety of reasons. St. Michaels had a short cone, but high enough to force Cessnas flying into the nearest airfield to plot a roundabout course in order to avoid it. Why? Because Donald Rumsfeld owned property in the area. Edward Covey's old property, if I remember correctly. Make of that what you will.

That's not the point of the story here. 

On our return journey, I had my face pressed against the window looking down thinking vague thoughts about Douglass having lived down there and wondering who all owns the properties now, and wishing I had thought to bring a map, when the landscape suddenly seemed familiar. I realized that we flew right over Wye House, the plantation where Douglass lived as a little boy and that he described in his autobiographies. 

What would he have thought of that view? What would he have thought of sitting in a machine that allowed him that view? Now he has an airport named for him. 

I'd like to think that would make travel easier for him if he was alive today, but he was a big man and would not fit very comfortably in seats these days. What do you think would be his opinion of  Zoom?

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