Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weekend of reflection

Since I got a late start, I arrived in Gettysburg right around 9pm on Friday night. Buddy Jim Glessner, co-owner of Ten Roads Publishing and former manager of the American History Store in town, had set up a book signing at O'Rorkes on Steinwehr Avenue for Friday and Saturday nights. I went right to the spot, where quite a number of reenactors and patrons were happily imbibing. I found Jim as well as Steve Stanley and his fiance Kyrstie, and we went upstairs to the signing room. There, Bill Frassanito was signing copies of his newly reprinted (by Ten Roads) Gettysburg Bicentennial Album. Jim Hessler had copies of his Sickles at Gettysburg terrific tome. John David "J.D." Hoptak, Antietam ranger, was signing copies of his new book "Our Boys Did Nobly." My friend Sal Prezioso, the owner of Gen. Collis' home Red Patch, had some friends in from Michigan who wanted copies of our The Complete Gettysburg Guide. Steve and I signed a couple copies, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours talking with everyone.

Close to 11pm, we packed up and headed for the Reliance Mine Saloon, where we had books available and relaxed with friends. Duane Siskey, fiance Lori Krick, Steve "Basecat" Basic, Linda Sanson, Raequel Fabio, Jim Lamason and wife Deb - lots of folks to catch up with.

I got back to host Dave and Carol Moore's house pretty late (they were already in the sack), and was up by 7:30 am. Steve and I had a signing at the Supply Wagon Sutler on Baltimore Street at 10am, then we went to the Visitor Center for our 12noon to 3pm signing there. My only regret about the timing was that I had to miss the parade for the first time in years. At the VC we signed with Bob Trout, a good friend who has written many great books on Jeb Stuart subjects. I had a nice long talk with him about our future plans. Rob Nixon was also there, and I picked up a copy of his excellent Gettysburg Monuments book. Just on his way out was Bill Styple, but fortunately I got a copy of his "Tell Me of Lincoln" new book, which is an excellent read and source. Fellow Savas Beatie author Brad Gottfried was there, and we had a chance to discuss Savas' Gettysburg Encyclopedia project. Brad and Ted Savas are the general editors, and I'm the editor of the cavalry section. I have to finish up my work on it soon, as Savas wishes to get the book to print soon. Jared Frederick was also there with his books, featuring his impressive artwork. Besides the many folks who bought the Gettysburg Guide, several folks also brought in their copies for Steve and I to endorse. It was nice, and appreciated, that so many readers tracked us down there to have their books signed.

I always take Dave and Carol out to dinner during my visits to show my appreciation for allowing me to stay in their beautiful home, so the three of us joined Steve Stanley at Brothers Pizza on the Fairfield Road. I got a big plate of stuffed shells, which was terrific. Brothers is Dave's favorite place, and it's always fun conversing with the owner in my lousy, broken Italian.
After dinner, we set off for the Luminaria in the National Cemetery. I always love that. This year it was beautiful - nearly 4000 candles throughout the grounds, with folks reading the names of the Gettysburg dead. Reenactor honor guards stand watch at various spots. The sky was very dark, so you could barely see to walk throughout the cemetery. There was just a chill in the air, and it made for a very contemplative time. I always do a lot of reflection during the Luminaria, and in fact I commented to Steve that "this is why we do what we do." And it's very true. Every time I work on an article or book, or do research, or give a talk or tour, it's all about honoring the folks who served and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Some were brave, and some not so brave - but a grave stone doesn't distinguish the two.

We walked the entirety of the cemetery, Steve took some really nice pictures, and we both determined to finally one day get to the Antietam Luminaria - Steve needs to get pictures of it anyway for our next joint project, The Complete Maryland Campaign Guide.

By 8pm we were back at O'Rorkes for another signing, then off to the Mine again at 10pm. Duane and Lori brought their homemade flavored popcorns, and I think I ate about 10 pounds of it. Once again it was a great couple hours just being in the company of folks you love and who love you. Seeing friends in Gettysburg is just as important - if not more so - than anything else during my trips.

Sunday we had a signing at the Gettysburg Gift Center starting at 10am, so after breakfast we set up shop there, where we were with Jeff Shaara. He's pretty popular, so you always get overshadowed whenever you're with him - but that's okay. I've had a number of events and signings with Jeff, and we had a chance to talk quite a bit. He has certainly carried on his father's legacy and I'm impressed at his ability to promote the story of the common soldier in his works.

A big group of us had lunch together at Gettysburg Eddie's, then Steve and I had our final signing at the American History Store. The owner even brought us chocolate chip cookies! A few folks bought the Guide as well as my other books, and again I was impressed that several people brought in their books to have us sign them. Once fellow brought in a Guide that had a ragged dust cover, and obviously had seen a lot of mileage on the field. I told him I was glad to see that - that's what it's for! Most folks, I have found, remove the cover (many, many times it has been brought to us that way) but this guy saw his book as a complete workhorse and obviously had put it to heavy use. Before I left, I picked up my copy of friend Ed Longacre's new book that he had signed for me and left there from his signing on Saturday. We finished at 3pm, then Steve, Kyrstie, and friend Leigh Ann Daugherty and I went to Erik Dorr's new Gettysburg Museum of History on Baltimore Avenue. What an awesome place. Besides the Gettysburg and Civil War artifacts in the front room, this guy has an amazing collection of Presidential stuff - especially that of John F. Kennedy. Erik has JFK's secretary Evelyn Lincoln's entire collection. Hundreds of JFK's personal items are there, but I was especially struck by the piece of the leather seat, spattered with blood, from the back seat of Kennedy's Lincoln from the assassination. Folks, this has to be a spot you visit on your next trip to Gettysburg. You'll be impressed, and next time I have to spend a lot more than just the hour I could set aside for it.

It was nearly 9pm by the time I got home, and I guess I hadn't realized how much I had packed into the previous 48 hours. But it sure flew quickly, as it always does. The combination of spending time with close friends (many of whom I won't see again until spring), meeting and talking with fans of the books, and taking in the atmosphere of the Luminaria will keep me charged until my next visit. I'm actually hoping to make it back in January for the Gettysburg Civil War Roundtable's meeting, when Steve and I plan to talk about the Guide. As long as the roads aren't bad I should be able to make the trip.

Thanks again to everyone who paid us such nice compliments about the Guide, and for taking the time and effort to hook up with us at one of the events. And my awe and appreciation to those who earned a candle in the crisp Pennsylvania air Saturday night.

For each and every one of you, it's why I do what I do.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the compliments JD. Always a pleasure to sign with you gents.