Jefe's House

Tag: harpers ferry

I did not say “anyways”

by on Jul.21, 2015, under On the Road, Politics, The Press, Theatre

Otherwise the section on Boneyards and me in this National Journal article by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood is accurate except where otherwise noted, which is everywhere. Ever feel icky and used by a fellow writer?

amtrakcapture

LAST YEAR, AMTRAK LAUNCHED an odd initiative called the Amtrak Writer’s Residency. The idea was to send 24 writers wherever they wanted, on a long-distance train, where they would basically stare out the window and type on their computers. The program was bashed by conservatives and lightly mocked on the Internet; yet an astonishing 16,000 people wound up applying. Among the eventual winners were several high-profile media figures, including the writer Jennifer Finney Boylan and the public-radio host Marco Werman.

In mid-March, I met up in D.C. with Jeff Stanley, a 47-year-old Amtrak resident writer who would be taking the Capitol Limited to Chicago, before heading to San Francisco on the California Zephyr. Stanley, who wore an Ed Hardy–style Western shirt, is a playwright, performer, and adjunct professor both at New York University and Drexel University. A fan of all things occult, he staged his latest production in the basement of a South Philadelphia synagogue, where he used a Ouija board and a martini shaker, among other instruments, in an attempt to connect with the dead [see Boneyards].

“Now, supposedly, the old station at Harpers Ferry is haunted,” Stanley tells me, as we approach West Virginia, sitting in his sleeper car. He goes on for a while about a ghost called Screaming Jenny, [Um, no. I spent about 30 minutes between DC and Harpers Ferry explaining to this writer that I had visited Harpers Ferry many times due to my love of history.  I told him that the Capitol Limited runs the route of the former B&O Railroad, and that many times I’ve stood outside the small building that was the Federal arsenal which was seized in 1859 by radical abolitionist John Brown and a group of 20 followers including his son and five African-Americans. They holed up in the arsenal and were thwarted by a detachment of US Marines under the command of a young Robert E. Lee.  In 1865 as the Civil War ended, Storer College opened in Harpers Ferry to educate recently freed slaves.  Years before John Brown’s raid and Storer College, Meriwether Lewis came to Harpers Ferry and waited while a local iron worker created a collapsible canoe according to his specifications. Lewis started out from here in 1803 in a Conestoga wagon following almost the exact same route that is now the very train line we were following. Lewis  met up with Clark near Pittsburgh to continue their journey West.  Talking about the Lewis & Clark expedition got me thinking about Thomas Jefferson who funded it, and I mentioned to the writer that one of the many reasons I admire Jefferson is that whenever a slave in Virginia sued for his freedom Jefferson would represent them pro bono.  All of the above got boiled down by the writer to “but, anyways.”  See below. (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

The Ghost of August Wilson

by on Mar.25, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

20150323_220621Amtrak Residency
Day 12
3/24/15

This morning while hurtling across western Pennsylvania I enjoyed my final Amtrak breakfast.  I sat next to a uniformed Amtrak police officer en route to a meeting at our final stop on the Capitol Limited, Washington, DC. From there I’ll take a two-hour ride  to Philadelphia on the Amtrak Acela Express and be home in time for dinner.

Across from us sat two elderly women from Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The officer had spent 26 years on the Chicago police force before retiring into a much less stressful “second career” working for Amtrak.

20150324_111119

Old round house; Martinsburg, WV station

After a few minutes of instinctively probing their names, destinations, life stories, I sprung it on them that I’m a (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for Screaming Jenny

by on Mar.13, 2015, under Film/TV, On the Road, Theatre

Amtrak Residency, Day 1
zephyr banner

About to ride the Amtrak Residency rails and write. Philly to DC to board Capitol Limited overnight to Chicago, then California Zephyr to SF and back. See youse (as they say in South Philly) in 10 days.

Ensign Vernon "Copy" Berg, 1974.

Ensign Vernon “Copy” Berg, 1974.

Mainly I’ll be working on a polish of a screenplay, working title LITTLE ROCK, a bio-pic of artist  Vernon “Copy” Berg, the first officer to legally challenge the US military for anti-gay discrimination in 1975.  It’s adapted from the memoir Get Off My Ship: Ensign Berg v. the US Navy by E. Lawrence Gibson, Berg’s partner at the time.

I applied for this award because my wife Bidisha told me about it and knows of my love of trains. In particular (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...