Coffee At the Top of the World

Would we have coffee with Sir Edmund Hillary?

Cammy:  Definitely game for coffee with Sir Edmund Hillary.  Though I’ve no great hankering to climb Everest (or any other significant mountain for that matter), I’m still a little enthralled by the people that do.  There’s something inherently cool about explorers, and that’s definitely what this guy was.  In addition to Everest, he also landed at the North Pole with Neil Armstrong in a twin-engine ski plane, and drove a tractor (not making this up) to get to the South Pole.  Add to this that he was helped set up a humanitarian trust to build schools and hospitals in Nepal, insisted that he and his Sherpa buddy Tenzing Norgay stepped onto Everest’s summit at the same time (while Tenzing himself has said that Hillary was definitely the first one to step on top)–both of which imply he was a decent enough guy–and he definitely makes the list.  Clearly he’s got plenty of material for stories to tell (and from the little bit of his book High Adventure that I read, he’s not going to get over-blown in his re-telling), which I’m eager to hear (especially about Antarctica).  I’d also like to hear more of his opinions about the dangerous commercial forces at work on Everest.  He had seemed down on this in at least one interview before his death, but this situation seems only to have worsened over the years.  And what does he think of the state of exploration now?  Is mountaineering suffering from a world where even monkey-bars are “too dangerous” for kids?  Oh, and because he spent a lot of time on/around Mt. Cook/Aoraki, and I kinda fell a little in love with that area on my trip, I want to get him talking about his time there (y’know, tips for my next trip…)

Kristy: Sure. I’m going to admit that neither Everest nor Antartica holds a lot of thrall for me, but yeah, I like that he seems to be a good guy. I think I’ve read too much of John Smith’s memoires, because I tend to think of explorer adventurer types as mach douche bags, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Hillary. As Cammy said, you know this man has some awesome stories to tell (I don’t even care if they get a little over-blown). I’d also like to hear what he thinks about commericalization not just of Everest, but of adventure in general (paid trips to space, paid adventures in the Amazon, vacations in Antartica). And I’d like to know what he thinks is next. What does he want us to explore now? Is it space or the depths of the ocean or something else entirely?

Coffee with President Mankiller

Would we drink coffee with Wilma Mankiller?

Kristy: Yes. For starters because she has a badass surname. But really, there are a lot of reasons. I first heard of her a month or so again when I was compiling a list of “deviant” women for a course syllabus. A friend who happens to be a Native Americanist recommended President Mankiller, stating that she was an amazingly strong and dedicated woman. From what little I’ve read of her, that seems to have been true. I’d like to ask her about her family losing their lands to eminent domain and their subsequent relocation to San Francisco. Does she have any thoughts on why her parents chose to move cross country? How did she feel about it at the time? How did that influence her as a future leader of the Cherokee Nation? I’d like to talk with her generally about the role of women in American society–what does she think it is that’s still holding us back? I’d like to see what she thinks needs to be done to improve the situation of Native Americans in general. And selfishly, I’d like to talk to her about my dissertation. The women I’m studying are Native American, but they are mostly icons among Euro-Americans. What impact does she see these icons as having on the lives of contemporary Indian women?

Cammy:  Yes. I have to agree with Kristy that part of this–shallow though it is–comes from the kick-ass last name she’s got going on.  Some of the other reasons are that she’s in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame (you share space with Patsy Cline and Sandra Day O’Connor, you are, at a minimum, cool by proxy).  She also just sounds like a tough cookie, and tough cookies usually have some good battle stories.  While I’m sure Kristy can ask more insightful questions relevant to Native American issues, I’d at least like to see how Mankiller views the way the US handles Native American issues vs. the Canadian handling of First Nations (I know, for one thing, you just don’t hear about Native Americans in the news hear…Canadian news–at least from my listening to CBC Radio 1–is full of stories about First Nations).

If I had Two Coffees…

Would we drink coffee with Christina of Denmark?

Kristy: I would. First, because I think that I’m contractually obligated to have coffee with any other Christinas whenever possible within reason. Second, because of the whole “If I had two heads, one should be at the King of England’s disposal” quip when marrying Henry VIII was floated in her direction. Granted, until I started this “coffee with” that was all I knew about her. And for a long time I couldn’t remember who said it. Just that it was someone blonde named Christine who I thought might have lived in Milan. But it’s a good quip. And whether she actually said it or not, people believed it was something she would have said, which says something about her. Also, have to love a woman who wears mourning clothes to pose for her possible future husband. Nice way of saying, “Yeah, you divorced your first wife and beheaded your second. No, I will not be wife number four.” You figure this is the kind of woman who will have lots of catty commentary to make while people watching. There’s also the whole part where she led a fairly interesting life between the proxy marriage at fourteen and the part where people tried to overthrow the king of Denmark on her behalf. Figure she might have a good story or two.

Cammy:  Hey, she was painted by Hans Holbein (apparently we’re talking Hans Holbein The Younger not The Elder), which makes her cool in my eyes.  And Kristy is certainly right about her possibly having catty, snarky commentary to offer up on the people passing by (and if there’s anything that makes people worth having coffee with it’s the potential for snarky people watching).  And there’s an added cool factor of her being married by proxy.  I don’t know why, but marriage by proxy amuses me greatly.  For no really good reason, other than the vague thought in my head about how elaborate it might get and how awkward it could be to play the stand in.  But I digress.  Yes, coffee with a Danish Christina should happen.

Coffee with the definitive Carmen

Would we drink coffee with Katarina Witt?

Cammy:  Before I lost my patience with sports that involve judges, I did enjoy figure skating, and one of my favorites was Katarina Witt.  I can’t say I really remember the height of her career–my memories of the Sarajevo and Calgary Olympics are un-reliably foggy–but I liked her when she was in come-back mode.  Maybe it was that she was German (and by Lillehammer, it wasn’t even East German), or maybe it was that she never came off like another damn pixie on skates.  My most enduring memory of her is completely random.  It was seeing her pick up another skater (don’t even recall who) who had taken a fall and put her back up on her feet.  It was just the most no-nonsense random move I’d seen–grab the girl under the arms, hoist her up, set her down and skate off like nothing happened.  At any rate, I think she’d be worth having a cup of coffee with because between the commercials, the Playboy posing and the interviews I’ve seen, she appears to be entertainingly nutty,  There is no way she doesn’t have entertaining stories about the big name skaters of the 80s and 90s and I’ve a feeling she would tell those stories well.  On a serious note, I’d like to get her to talk about her feels about the East German system.  Clearly it provided her with the training to accomplish what she did, but she also had a Stasi file that started when she was 8….

Kristy: For the record, the skater she picked up was Tanja Szewczenko (also of Germany) who had collided with Oksana Baiul. Yeah, clearly I remember that moment too.  I also don’t remember her prime, but I was a serious figure skating fan from about 1993-1998 so I remember her amateur return and a decent chunk of her pro career. If for no other reason, her 1994 Olympic programs would make me want to have coffee with the woman: First she skated her short program, knowing she would get a costume deduction because she refused to skate Robin Hood in a skirt. Then after a career as a coquette she suddenly went beautifully serious with “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” as a tribute to Sarajevo. It kind of encapsulates why I love her: She has balls and makes her own rules and at the end of the day, she seems to have an amazing heart. Also, I think Cammy’s definitely right about the entertaining stories. I remember seeing a documentary where she looking through part of her old Stasi file, including an entry about her having “sexual intercourse” one night. I don’t remember the details, but it gave the exact time span and it wasn’t very long. She kind of shrugged and said, “Well that was a quickie.” Then she laughed and insisted that wasn’t even what had happened. Not that night at least. Someone has to have a pretty good sense of humor to laugh hysterically at Stasi files on their own sex life.

Coffee in the City of the Ladies

Would we drink coffee with Christine de Pizan?

Kristy: Yes. Let’s start with the general life stuff: girl was married at fifteen and a widowed mother of three by twenty-five. I know that wasn’t unusual for a woman of her social class in that day and age, but knowing these facts and knowing what it was like are two different things. I would like to get her perspectives on women’s lives in her day, because based on what I’ve read of her writing, she’d have a lot to say, and it stands a good chance of being insightful. I’ll confess I don’t love her writing–like most allegories it gets a little heavy handed–but I love it for what it does. Over six hundred years ago Christine was writing about the overlooked place of women in history, and issue we have still not come close to solving. So I’d like to buy her a cup of coffee and chat about women in history, literature, and education. I’d be interested to see what she thinks of where we are now, though I’m afraid she’ll just be disappointed we haven’t gone further.

Cammy:  What the heck?  Sure.  I didn’t know squat about her existence until Kristy mentioned her, but she definitely sounds like a ground-breaker.  Single mom is a tough gig.  Single mom in the middle ages is even tougher.  And I do like a good allegory (even the heavy handed ones) so despite the fact that she was a poet, I might be able to handle coffee with the gal.  I’m sure Kristy will be stuck with the lion’s share of the conversation, but with so few notable female figures in history, how can I miss a chance for coffee with one of them?

Documenting Coffee

Would we have coffee with Ken Burns?

Cammy:  Absolutely.  I love this man’s work.  One of my earliest memories is of watching his documentary on the Shakers.  From his use of still photographs, to his careful incorporation of music, he has a style that sucks me in like no other documentarian I’ve ever watched–and I’ve watched a crap-ton of documentaries.  For the pure awesomeness he’s shared with us through The Civil War, Thomas Jefferson, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, I owe this man whatever beverage he likes.  I’d love to know what other person/era/event he has in his targets for the future (I know there are plans out to at least 2018–I’m particularly looking forward to the planned Country Music).  Are there any subjects/people that he has marked as just too difficult to cover properly?  And while I definitely love that he covers American history, is there anything outside the US that he’s ever considered focusing on?  How does he narrow the material down for his documentaries?  I’m more willing than normal to pepper this man with questions.  Kristy might need to restrain me.

Kristy: Sure. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve seen very little of his work. I saw some of The Civil War, but remember very little of it. But even if I don’t watch as many of them as I feel I should, I find documentary films very interesting. I’m interested to know if there’s anything he found while working on any of his documentaries that changed his mind/feelings about anything. I’m interested to know what got left out of them, and why. And I’d even be interested to know how he wound up going into documentary film in the first place.

This Coffee is off the Record

As previously mentioned, I’ve been mainlining The West Wing while cooking or cleaning or doing mindless work. In trying to come up with someone for a “Coffee with” I thought, “Hey, what about President Bartlett?” Then I thought, “Wait, I think Cammy may have done him already.” So I checked. No, Cammy didn’t select Jed Bartlett for coffee, I did. Yeah, my memory’s crap. This led to me thinking who else from the show I would drink coffee with, and that led me to…

Would we drink coffee with C.J. Cregg?

Kristy: Most definitely. I shamelessly confess she was one of my favorite characters on the show, so how could I pass up the chance? She’s smart, she’s articulate, and she knows how to bring the funny. My only minor concern is that all those years as press secretary may have made her overly evasive on some topics–I doubt we’ll get any great dishy stories about her time in the White House. In my silly little fangirl fantasy world I also want to have coffee with her to get a few updates: Are she and Danny still together? That baby mentioned in S7Ep1, biological or adopted? What’s the rest of the gang up to? I suspect that while the conversation might begin over coffee, we might wind up migrating to the bar across the way. We saw her get boozy with the first lady and request her assistant find her some Cuervo 1800–you know this woman likes to knock a few back.

Cammy: Not even a question in my mind. Of course I’d have coffee with C.J. And I do believe I agree with Kristy on the booze migration. While CJ was definitely smart and articulate, she was not so scary-smart or overly articulate as to be intimidating, so the odds of actually being able to converse with her go way up. I don’t really want dishy stories on the White House, I’ll take the fan-girl updates (has SHE heard anything from Ainsley? And what mysterious abyss did they push Mandy into?), but really, I just want to hang out and people watch. C.J. is her own special kind of wacky and with the kind of crew that frequents the Spacial Anomaly, there will be no end of fodder for her to comment on (and possibly have her own fangirl squee moments over).

Remember, Remember… It’s Time for Coffee

Would we have coffee with….Guy Fawkes

Cammy:  Despite the fact that he chose to go by the name “Guido” which just disturbs me on a certain level, sure.  I was also tentative because he was basically a terrorist, but ultimately it was that fact that led me to think I’d like to have coffee with him.  I’m not really gunning to talk to any more recent terrorists–no one wants to deal with shit that actually plays into current reality.  Guy Fawkes is far enough back that I don’t have a dog in the fight, making him a perfect way to get a little insight into the mind of someone who, well, blows shit up for political reasons.  I’m going to guess he’ll be a bit pissy being compared to the current crop of explosives experts, but oh well.  How does he feel about being remembered for his failure?

Kristy: Meh. I guess so. I don’t find the thought of coffee with him very appealing, but I can’t think of a strong enough reason not to have coffee with him either. For all his notoriety, the man himself seems to have gotten lost behind the mask and the nursery rhyme. It might be interesting to see what he’s really like. And yeah, it might be fun to find out what he thinks of the way he’s been remembered. I actually expect it might be a sobering experience. As Cammy pointed out, he was a terrorist. A terrorist acting from religious zeal. Sounds all too familiar, but I have to believe there’s something to be gained by looking that in the face and learning what makes it tick.

Coffee with Deborah Sampson

Would we drink coffee with Deborah Sampson?

Kristy: Well, having had coffee with most of our founding fathers, I suppose it’s appropriate that I have coffee with one of our founding mothers. Okay, “founding mother” might be something of an exaggeration since she had nothing to do with our country separating from England or in establishing the government after. But TJ could have written all the poetic letters he wanted and GW could have triumphantly crossed all the rivers he wanted, if we hadn’t had the run of the mill soldiers to back them up, none of it would have mattered. And, you know, some of those soldiers were women. It’s nice to know. I’d like to have coffee with Deborah, because, honestly, I’d like to know more about her motivation. Did she join the army out of patriotism like the folk stories tend to make out, or if it was just a chance to get out of her life as it was. From what I’ve read about her life, she didn’t have a whole lot to leave behind. I’d also like to ask her whether it was hard to go back to living the restricted life of a woman after living as a man for so long. The records seem to make it clear she had a rough life before and after, but was no pushover. And if nothing else, you know that woman has some stories to tell.

Cammy:  But of course.  Sad as it is, I didn’t know who the hell she was until just now.  Doesn’t mean I don’t want to have coffee and see what she’s all about.  American history is sadly lacking in female figures for us gals to look up to.  And one who actually took up arms?  Yeah, how is it THAT little fact fails get mentioned in, oh, I dunno, every textbook I ever had?  I’m sure she’d be good for a chat about women in the U.S. military today and how it’s taken until 2012 for the DoD to start considering letting women do what she did over 225 years before (actually participate in combat).  Definitely looking forward to this round of coffee.

Coffee with… Head of Cow!

Would we have coffee with Cabeza de Vaca?

Cammy:  But of course!  Let’s start with the fact that Cabeza de Vaca literally means “Head of a cow.”  That alone pretty much seals the awesomeness deal for a coffee get together. But even if he didn’t have a bad-ass name, I’d still be game.  He’s actually the first Conquistador I ever remember learning about.  Sure, Columbus got some lip service, but we hadn’t seriously studied him before I got my first round of Texas history in 2nd grade.  And since de Vaca and his fellow shipwreck survivors landed on what’s now Galveston Island, that means Texas claims him as its own personal Spanish Conquistador (even though he was in Florida first.  Whatever) and he gets first billing in the Texas history books.  But most intriguing of all is the amount of time and time and the circumstances under which de Vaca interacted with the native populations.  He and his fellow ship-wreckers were wandering around Texas, the Southwest US and Mexico for 8 years.  At times he was a slave, at other times he was a trader.  He actually developed some respect for the native peoples of the Americas and seemed to see them as something more than people to be, well, conquered.  That makes him, quite possibly, the only really cool Spanish explorer ever.  How could I not want to talk to him about THAT?  He saw that part of the world in the way no other European got to witness it, so a straight-up data dump would be worth a lot of coffee.

Kristy: Certainly. For all the reasons Cammy mentioned. Except the Texas history class stuff, because I was in Florida in 2nd grade. The man was essentially a proto-anthropologist. At some point while stranded with a bunch of Native peoples, he apparently decided, “Wow. These people have interesting customs. I should document them.” And yes, his writings are clearly influenced by the biases that went along with being a white male Catholic in the sixteenth-century, but he tried. And he stood up for the people who saved him from certain death; albeit unsuccessfully, but he tried. Also, I used to teach him in my American literature class. The guidelines for the curriculum didn’t require me to teach anything before the Puritans, but I objected because a) it left out Virginia, b) it left out indigenous populations, c) it assumed “American”=”English speaking”. And Cabeza de Vaca was in our textbook, so in he went to my syllabus. So in gratitude, I feel I should buy him a cup of coffee.