Just like I've seen in any number of Vlog Brothers videos, young people about 15 - 19 dominated the crowd. They wore Nerdfighters t-shirts, Dr. Who t-shirts, funky hair, silly hats, cute dresses, comfy jeans. A young woman near by perused the schedule aloud with her friends. She spotted -- well which name first? R.L. Stine, or Michael Grant who co-wrote Animorphs? One name triggered a memory: she told her friends about reading nothing but Goosebumps for all of third grade (or whatever it was) and gobbling up Animorphs. And yet here she is at 19 or so, reading literary fiction by Green and talking about his works and other challenging books with her friends. She's evidence that popcorn reading doesn't hurt you: she found something she loved, and learned to love reading in general. Sitting near her made me feel completely okay about selecting books for my library that are so-so writing but super-popular.
Not long after that bit of awesomeness, a voice behind me gushed to her friends, "There are so many glasses in this crowd -- it's such a cute group of people." One friend replied, "I just want to give everyone a hug."
That's just how I felt, too -- only with the weird barrier of knowing I was about their parents' age, so I had no business hugging anyone. Well, except for Sheila! Who I saw off to the side standing with her teen kids! Oh, and my work friend Mary (who, I know, is tall, but I forget I'm not, I guess? So this picture surprised me). She actually served as manager of the teens tent: she must be exhausted by now.
Green himself appears just as he seems online: bright, a little stressed and hair-tugging; dedicated to letting intelligent teens know they are not alone in their smarts, and in their quest for answers. Green praised M.T. Anderson, another author who knows teens are smart, before launching into the tale of their urban exploration from a few years back. Green exuded warmth and genuineness about the community that is Nerdfighers. He values the dialogs he has with them and which he prompts between them; he's proud of the charities they support and of the things the fans are inspired to create because of him and his brother. Being in the tent with nerd-love made the drive worthwhile. I could have gone straight home.
I didn't though. The rest of my morning was spent failing to have any phone service, or much time on the free wireless before it dropped me -- so I couldn't find anyone else I knew. I looked in on the Library of Congress exhibits, then decided to bag it, and went to the National Gallery.
I ate lunch, and took a look at a George Bellows exhibition. Seeing so many of his boxing paintings (and drawings) at once emphasized that there were certain moments, certain lines, he liked to capture. There were portraits of the poor, with very creepy, hollow eyes -- like the Other Mother in Coraline, or sad-eye paintings from the 1970s. Many cityscapes appeared, too. One from 1911called simply New York blew me away. So much movement, so much New York.
New York, 1911
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
1986.72.1 National Gallery image
It hung on a wall perpendicular to A Day in June (1913), a vibrantly green picture (ok photo, here), that's so much quieter and emptier that it's weird to think it's the same city, and artist.
Refreshed by art, I checked back in at the teen tent, heard Lois Lowry say "last question" and give a reply along the lines of remembering the past is critical if we don't want to repeat mistakes. Despite that advice, I failed to rediscover 395 south the easy way and took a sort of mistaken alternate route to the highway.
audiobook for the trip: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
seen on I-95: tree removal south of Quantico, suggesting more lanes in the futre