Earlier this week the New York Times turned its attention to Hartford, Connecticut, which reportedly “could probably rival the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco as a wellspring of psychedelic imagery . . .” I was born there, so naturally I rolled my eyes at the obviousness of this observation. The Times is always so behind on this sort of thing. Yes, and?
Indeed there are, everyone already knows it. And? Oh yes, the Mark Twain house. Which, like any Hartford kid, I visited regularly on school field trips. And which featured in a recurring dream I had several times between, I think, grades 2 through 5. (Kids in grades 6 and above don’t seem to get taken on as many field trips, probably because by then it’s difficult to prevent them sneaking off to enjoy the cigarettes and schnapps they purloined to make the bumpy bus ride worth its while).
photo by Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times
the house’s innards via marktwainhouse.org
It was popular during the Victorian era to keep a lock of a loved one’s hair as a memento after their death, often incorporated into a piece of jewelry. In the Mark Twain house there’s an entire bun under glass. I think it was his grandmother’s. In my memory it hangs above a mantle, though in reality it may be elsewhere. Wherever it is I’m sure it is still catching the eye of little Hartford girls and boys. It’s grotesque, dry and scraggly-looking and bereft of its owner. In the dream I’ve lingered behind in the downstairs room with the hair in it – the drawing room? – while my class has moved on to another part of the house. The glass falls to the floor, and a moment after it shatters, the bun uncoils and skitters away to hide under the nearest chair, making a faint rasping sound on the floor as it does. I am paralyzed with fear that if I move, it will come out and wind itself around my feet or, worse, crawl up one of my legs.
You can get your own wellspring-of-psychadelic-imagery buns on Etsy if you don’t already have some object that plays that role in your mind: