Washington D.C. – The new Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument has generated gigabytes of publicity and almost three million visitors. However, did you know there is also a new memorial to Woodrow Wilson? I stumbled upon it while cutting through the new billion-dollar Ronald Reagan Building on my way to the National Gallery (great John Singer Sargent exhibition). The monument to President Wilson is located on the south side of the Reagan Building and consists of a small theater continuously showing his biography and a study center. Whereas the FDR monument makes a linear maze of granite walls and waterfalls and a cursory course on the Great Depression and World War II, the Wilson memorial is a subdued, studious approach, befitting the bespectacled academic idealist.                                         

One may also visit President Wilson’ post-presidential townhouse in Georgetown and his birthplace in Staunton, Va.  I noticed Woodrow Wilson peering down at me from his portrait in the Round Robin Bar of the Willard Inter-Continental, while “Carol” was making me a mean mint julep. I almost felt guilty, but after all, it was Derby Day … .              

Speaking of travel, some time ago I wrote that Advanced Placement English teacher Ann McSpadden had inspired my interest in Mark Twain and his literature.  She must have known that he would be featured in the AP exam, which helped all but two of us place out of freshman English. Ms. McSpadden retired after marrying an executive with Hart Shaffner Marx and moving to the Gold Coast off the ‘other” Lakeshore Drive in Chicago.  Since she read my column she has been sending me homework assignments from her world travels. Her latest mandatory missive comes from the Villa D’ Este, in Cernobbio, Italy, the grand hotel on Lago Di Como: ” THEME TOPIC CHOICE #2 Ð ÒDid Samuel Clemens develop an obsessive sense of responsibility for his family tragedies?”

Knowing what a stickler Ms. McSpadden is, I did some digging and found Mr. Twain’s obituary on the front page of The New York Times, April 22, 1910. “Died of A Broken Heart … suffered overwhelming sorrows. The loss of an only son in infancy, a daughter in her teens and one in middle life, and finally of a wife who was a constant and sympathetic companion, has preyed upon his mind.” Of course the other explanation of his demise was “the first conjecture of the layman would be that he weakened his heart by an overindulgence in tobacco.” The doctor was not as convinced although the obit states, “he had cut down his daily allowance of 20 cigars and countless pipes to four cigars a day.”

Now, Ms. McSpadden, I would like to deliver my assignment on time by taking the Rapido to the Villa D’Este Ñ if you have any extra room. I hear the breakfast buffet is bellissimo.

 


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