This month, enjoy a new feature that celebrates the wonderful former interns and employees that have worked at The Common over the years. Though we miss seeing them everyday, we’re continually impressed by what they go on to accomplish. This month, we’re catching up with former Editorial Assistant JinJin Xu, an Amherst College alumna, Watson Fellow, and most recently, recipient of the Lillian Vernon Fellowship at NYU.
Harriet Hemings Meets Red Peter at The Russian Tea Room
“[…] as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
“It is now nearly five years since I was an ape, a short space of time, perhaps, according to the calendar…” — Red Peter, from “A Report to an Academy” by Franz Kafka
Red Peter, it is so nice to meet you—I mean, you have to know how awful online dating can be. My father set us up—I think, based on your preferences in women, he thought we would have a lot in common. I must admit, I was excited to come to this restaurant. It is an excellent choice; the banana pudding is fabulous—the best in the city. I too love frequenting Paris, although I missed your performances with Hagenbeck. He also brought the world Otta Benga, did he not? I believe Mr. Benga resided in the same state where my father wrote his Notes. You are such a kind gentleman, compared to others. Here, let me adjust your bowtie; you’ve learned to be more human than most. Now, tell me, in your report to an academy, did you address your desires? Your dating preferences? Is the preference of the oranootan, in fact, for the black woman over his own species? Red Peter, my father would be very happy to hear about this date, if your preference is as such—I mean, for a woman like myself.
How long have you lived here: One year. Still feels very new.
Three words to describe the climate: Because it’s July, humid – on some days, the air feels like drinking cotton. In the winters, damp. But in the fall – particularly the long falls – and the spring, it feels forgiving.
Best time of year to visit? NOT DERBY. May is a beautiful time in Kentucky, but Derby snarls Louisville traffic in the worst possible way. I say this as a newcomer to the city (while I wrote about Louisville, I had never lived there until this year). It only took one Derby weekend for me to see some of the most ridiculous displays of driving I’ve ever seen. Early summer is a good bet. Fall’s nice too.
Ask a Local: Kayla Rae Whitaker, Louisville, Kentucky
In Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where I grew up, Rex Humbard was the first Pentecostal evangelist to have his own television program. Next to the Cathedral of Tomorrow, where he hosted his weekly broadcast, he also built an enormous tower—locally known as Rex’s Erection—with the intent of making one of those revolving restaurants like at Niagara Falls. But despite eventually officiating at Elvis’s funeral, Humbard ran out of money and, ever since, the tower has just stood there, tall and useless. Though my grandfather, who was a flight instructor at Kent State, once told me that pilots used the tower as a landmark when giving their coordinates over the radio.
One February morning, in between blizzards, I was leaning against a pillar on a subway platform, off the express train and waiting for the local, reading as usual, when a large drop of water landed on the book in my hands. The dirty bubble-swell of water—probably melted snow that had seeped from the pavement above into the underground in-between space where I stood—lingered in place yellowly for a moment before blooming into the bottom of page 88. If I let it keep seeping into the book, the paper would dry all wrinkly. If I wiped it off—with my hand? my jacket?—I’d only be spreading the wetness around. Irritation, the kind particular to very minor subway commute dramas, spread through me. The train arrived.
A Sip of Elsewhere: On Reading Into and Out of Place