Writing … Sans Wine … With Mr. Twain

A few months ago I saw an ad on Facebook for Writing in Mark Twain’s Library. My inner book nerd instantly perked up and I immediately told Facebook, yes, I was “Going”. I clicked for more details, thought it was cool, even invited a friend to come with me[1], but never added it to my calendar, and promptly forgot about it[2]. Well, earlier last week, good old Facebook reminded me that I had an event with Mr. Twain coming up. That may have been the first time I was glad to get one of those annoying Facebook notifications[3].

Facebook Notification

Below is a short play-by-play of the beautiful, if not a bit dry[4], evening.

Mark Twain House
Mark Twain’s Entryway

So here I am, for the first time since my high school field trip, circa 2001, in the library of Mark Twain’s house, packed rather tightly into the gorgeous room with fifteen other writers. Let me paint the scene for you. Intricate wood carved built-in bookshelves adorn each wall, each packed with old antique books. Landscape oil paintings hang in gold gilded frames above them. The tops of the shelves are packed with ornate vases, seemingly from different eras of history. I’m directly next to a marble white maiden who’s watching over us as we toil away on our laptops[5].

Mark Twain House
The Watchful White Lady

The majestic floor to ceiling fireplace in the center of the room is a wooden homage to finely detailed vines, columns and swirls. In the middle of the fireplace sits a crest, perhaps the Twain family’s own, with the head of a knight on top of the shield[6]. What seems to be the original gas chandelier gives us a measly bit soft glow of light from the center of the room[7]. Eight etched glass bulbs adorn the bronze-looking carved arms that extend from the center. The bulbs discretely cover what I assume are now light-bulbs, though their light does not spread very far.

Mark Twain Chandelier

The walls and ceiling, which must be at least fifteen feet high, are deep hunter green with what may be hand-painted designs in gold; a square pattern on the wall repeated on the ceiling with the addition of circular edging. A nook in the center of the room goes back to three picture windows and the comfy couch I dreamed about sitting in, though it’s roped off and there’s a rather uninviting paper that sign says “Don’t Sit Here”.

Given the conditions, it’s clear I grabbed the best seat in the room, right at the edge where the library expands into Twain’s Victorian greenhouse.

Mark Twain Greenhouse

Tiny white stones make up the greenhouse floor which is covered with greenery; in pots, on stands, growing up the walls and onto the ceiling. The glass roof comes to a point in the center where two out of the three hanging paper lanterns are giving off a soft glow.[8] The last remaining sun rays are furnishing me far more light than any of my literary compatriots[9]. The gurgling fountain in the center provides the soundtrack to our writing adventure[10].

The library itself is hot and muggy. The benefits of air conditioning didn’t come along until long after Mr. Clemens had vacated his Hartford abode. The chairs are much closer together than I expected, and, like I said, I was rather hoping to sit on a comfy old couch, perhaps one that Twain had curled up in with his daughters. From a liability perspective[11], I understand why we’re all sitting on rather uncomfortable folding chairs with individual card tables as our desks. The card table however is just the wrong height, so my laptop is on my lap.

Writers Writing at the Mark Twain House
Writers Writing

I’d reached out to the coordinator ahead of time[12], to see about doing a wine photo shoot in the library as well. She loved the idea, but since she’d need to supervise[13], timing wouldn’t work out for this evening. I plan to venture back in the near future to get some stellar photos.

I’ll be working on a few posts I’ve had stored in my head for as long as I can last. There’s no Wi-Fi[14], it’s getting dark and my computer has a habit of dying. The poor lady next to me is hunched so close to her screen I feel like offering to help her increase the screen resolution.[15]

What an adventure, and what a great idea, so bravo to the events coordinator at the Twain House. It’s refreshing to find that Hartford really does have it. Sometimes.

Until I can find a glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Who thought I was crazy when I suggested that we pay $50 to go to someone’s Wi-Fi-less house to write for three hours. With no wine. … I can see her point of view.
[2] Perhaps a glass of wine was beckoning me to shift my attention.
[3] Sorry, Mr. Zuckerberg, but you know it’s true.
[4] No wine allowed.
[5] One pour soul has a pencil and paper (no pens allowed either); her eyes will be all done by the end of the night. See note 7, infra.
[6] It’s so dark I can’t make out any other details from my vantage point.
[7] I may be young but my eyesight ain’t what it used to be and I must say, it is a bit of a hardship.
[8] Not sure what happened to lamp number three but it’s not lookin’ too good.
[9] I just figured out how to adjust my screen brightness and let out an audible “Ahhh.” It was getting really tough with the bright light emanating from my screen.
[10] Unfortunately, no drinks allowed either, even water, and I’m currently dying of thirst.
[11] And legal perspective. #lawyerlife But gosh darn, that’s so boring!
[12] Last night at 10 p.m.
[13] Not sure if she wanted to partake with me or thought I’d spill all over their priceless antiques. Damn liability.

Wine Esquire Snap Chat
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[14] I obviously got distracted and am doing a bit of Tweeting and Snapping, which led me to make a new writer friend who was also tweeting.
[15] Mine’s already huge. See note 7, infra re: eyesight.