Wednesday, January 13, 2016

John Langdon thanks Jefferson for the present he gave his daughter

December 7, 1785, John Langdon to Jefferson, Portsmouth (NH): “Our dear Bets, begs leave to present you with her grateful thanks, for the great honor you have been pleased to confer on her, in sending such an agreeable present: all Companies who come into the house must be entertained with the sight of her doll, and tumbling Gentleman; and she does not fail to confess her obligations to Governor Jefferson.
  “Mrs. Langdon desires her most kind respects may be made acceptable to you and your agreeable daughter.” [Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 9:84-85]  

Langdon was the governor of New Hampshire, and wealthiest resident of Portsmouth. Jefferson visited on a side trip on his way to Boston before sailing for his diplomatic post in Paris in 1784.

My memory of David Bowie

I had been thinking a lot about Bowie in the week before his death, so I was shocked, but maybe not surprised, when I read about it. In 1978 I was in London and tried to get tickets to the concert for what came to be known as the Low/Heroes tour. The London show was sold out, so I hitchhiked up to Stafford where he was playing in a vast agricultural exposition hall. Had tickets to the second night, but got there in time for the first; a group of kids had a spare ticket which they gave me, and this young woman who was being treated for her birthday grabbed my hand and squeezed toward the front saying, “Excuse me, I’m 4’10”! Excuse me, I’m 4’10”!” We made it to the very front of the stage, stage right. Incredible concert.

Bowie and Adrian Belew

That night I slept in a field next to the hall, and was the first person in line the next day. Again made it to the very front, stage left. Another incredible show. Adrian Belew jamming with himself in feedback like a joyful, demented madman maybe ten feet above me. Bowie looked me in the eye and I’m sure recognized me from the night before, and gave me that unforgettable, unique smile. Whenever I see it in The Man Who Fell to Earth (I don’t think it happens in any of his music videos) it takes me right back to that night.