185 Lincoln, NE: Room for Surprise

The desk clerk at my hotel was named Jerry. He offered a lower rate if I was in town on business, so I explained my book research and asked if he was from Lincoln. "The greystone where I grew up near K & 18th is still standing," he answered. "Sometimes I don't know how they remain standing." As to whether he knew Hopper's works, he nodded. "Oh yeah, know 'em and like 'em. I studied music at Nebraska Wesleyan than taught in suburban D.C. I sang with the Robert Shaw Chorale." He added, "People here will surprise you." But when I asked if Hopper's paintings related to Lincoln, he demurred, "I really can't say."

Afterwards, I lay in a Hopperesque bed thinking over my day. On the next corner over from the Sheldon sat a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg that showed a notebook whose spiral binding is coming undone and whose pages are being blown across the lawn. It seemed to urge students in the university on the great windy plains to let their notes whip away and see what can be experienced and remembered. This is similar to what I learned when confronted with the possibility that the Hopper painting I had come to study might not be there. I laughed to think my visit started with me despising Rachel for panicking me by saying the painting was down and ended with her and Pat feeling like old friends of mine. They showed me the town in a way that made me think I could live in a room in Lincoln. It couldn't be worse than living in Room in New York.

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