I spent all of Wednesday exploring Abraham Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois. He wasn’t born there, but he lived there for many years (15 or 16, I think) and left when he became president. The Lincoln museum is a feast for the eyes. There are Madame Tussauds-like figures of Lincoln, his family, and others from the time period. The exhibit is heavy on holograms; one section had a wall of hologram heads criticizing Lincoln for the Emancipation Proclamation—some saying it goes too far and others saying it doesn’t go far enough. All the heads are blathering simultaneously, so you feel overwhelmed with the criticism and the anger in the voices. There was a large room dedicated to political cartoons that skewered Lincoln. It’s fascinating to see how he was received in his own time considering how he’s been received in history. The museum does an excellent job of illustrating the poverty Lincoln was born in to and lifted himself out of. The first room you visit is a room that recreates the cabin he lived in when he was a kid. He lived there with four others and saying it’s cozy is putting a positive spin on it. Another excellent display was the Civil War in 4 Minutes. A screen displayed a map of the United States. It has a yearly time line on the bottom and a casualty counter on the side of the screen. The Union forces were represented by the color blue and the Confederate forces were represented by red. For the next four minutes, the two colors fight with each other, one pushing the other down then retreating, then moving to the right or left, then moving forward, etc. Explosions represented all the major battles of the war. Finally, you see the red section of the screen/map shrinking and shrinking as the blue surrounds it from various sides.
I haven’t talked to so many complete strangers in a long time. As I was sitting outside the Old State Capitol, a man came up and asked me if I liked Lincoln. I could sense he wanted to sell me something, so I was subdued in my answer. And, honestly, it’s not like I’m a Lincoln groupie. I think he’s fascinating to learn about, and a great figure in history—possibly the greatest president in history—but I don’t have his picture hung on my walls. So, the guy sensed my lack of enthusiasm and said, “oh, I was just going to show you some of my paintings. Well, I’ll show you anyway since I don’t have anything else to do.” He sat down next to me and we flipped through his sketchbook. His work was actually decent…I mean his drawings of Lincoln actually looked like Lincoln, which is saying something. There was a green market nearby and I suggested he look into getting a table and displaying some of his work there. “Yeah, but I think that takes money,” he said. Then he started talking about the shitty economy and how bad things are there. He asked me where I was from and when I said “South Florida” he said, “Do you have a lot of money or something? Isn’t that where rich people live?” He said he would like to go to Key West because the street artists there make good money, but leaving his comfort zone was hard. When he asked why I was in the area, I told him my husband was interviewing for a job. “You’re going to move here from Florida?” he asked. “Maybe,” I said, and he replied, “That sounds like a downgrade to me!” A worker from a local restaurant interrupted our conversation to suggest we go to his restaurant to try the homemade chicken soup. “I just cut the noodles myself this morning,” he said while pointing at the white dough remnants on his black shoes.
And, finally, the most important discovery of the trip: I’ve been thinking about buying a new mattress for some time now. The mattress we have is okay; I don’t dislike it, but sometimes I wonder if a better mattress would make a difference on my sleeping habits, back pains, etc. It’s something I don’t dwell on a lot because I don’t have the expendable income to buy a new mattress, so this keeps me from seriously looking for one. However, during our trip we stayed at a hotel in downtown Springfield that had the most comfortable mattress I have ever slept on. Seriously. During the night the train whistle would wake me up and as I snuggled back into my pillow, I would think to myself, “I love this mattress.” Sitting on the bed to put on my shoes would make me think, “I love this mattress.” I’m not kidding! Every minute on this bed was blissful! It was like sleeping on supportive marshmallow fluff! We even took the bed sheets off to find out what brand it was, but we couldn’t find any identifying marks. When we were checking out, I told the guy at the front desk “You have the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on.” He laughed and said he hears that a lot. Then he told us the bed is made especially for the hotel by Simmons, but since we stayed there and liked the mattress model, we could contact the “mattress concierge” and order the mattress they make for this particular hotel. I’ve already called the company and will buy this mattress if I have to sell a kidney to do so.
Thinking of Paul Strand while walking Lincoln’s neighborhood: