Miles From Fenway


A 19th Century Sex Colony and the OC
March 31, 2005, 6:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Back in the 19th century there was a free love colony in upstate New York called the Oneida Colony. The people in this colony believed that heaven and hell did not exist in the afterlife but that we were all actually living in heaven already. And towards this end, they decided that marriage did not need to be one man and one woman and basically they lived in a community where everyone slept with everyone else and lived a happy and freewheelin’ lifestyle.

There is only one woman on earth who could know all of the historic details about such a colony, and through the use of intense context and knowledge of world events and pop culture could relate that 19th century colony to the hit Fox show The OC. And that woman is Sarah Vowell.

Vowell, the author of such wonderful books as Take The Canoli and The Partly Cloudy Patriot, read from her new book on assassins and tourism (I can’t remember the title now of course) at the NYPL. It was the best $10 I ever spent. Vowell is intelligent and funny, self-deprecating in a very dry way, and probably one of the most intelligent women I’ve had the opportunity to hear speak. And she’s not intelligent in a snooty way. It’s in that self-conscious, I-am-such-a-dork way.

I’ve probably never related to an author the way I relate to Vowell. And because she writes in such an engaging way, and in the personal narrative style, that I can operate under the assumption that I actually KNOW this woman. I don’t just want to be like her (and of course I do … I’m a writer, what writer doesn’t want to be big enough that they can pack a very large room at the New York Public Library?) I want to be her friend. I want to be the one driving her around to various historic sites since she can’t drive. Does this sound crazy and psychotic? You betcha!

But it’s more than that really. It was such a high to sit in that room tonight and know I was surrounded by a couple hundred like-minded people. To be reminded by the shared laughter around me at Vowell’s obscure jokes that not all of America is ruled by the television. That we’re not all dead from the neck up. It renewed my faith in this city and in this country. That the superficial, only-care-about-wearing-this-seasons-designer-clothes-and-going-to-the-right-parties people are not all that are out there.

Granted it also made me want to die in a way. I want nothing more in my life than to be a writer. That’s why I started this blog in the first place. To keep my writing skills sharp. But really, they’re not sharp. This blog is completely without a focus as is my writing life in general. Which is why I envy Vowell so much. She’s combined her loves, history, dorkdome, writing, and made a life out of it. How can I combine my intense love of the written word, with my passion for the Boston Red Sox, my hunger for any and all live music, an my lifelong relationship with academia, and make a life out of it? I can hear my mother now: Do what Sarah did, writer about what you love! But if I can’t even focus on one theme here, I have little hope of doing it in my other writings.

So for now I will marvel at Vowell’s huge vocabulary, her talent at pulling obscure facts out of the air, and her ability to keep an audience thoroughly engaged and wanting more.

Well, that and dreaming about how I could start the Oneida colony back up again …

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