Finding George Washington
by Bill Zarchy
GENRE: Historical-Time Travel-Baseball Thriller
On a freezing night in 1778, General George Washington vanishes. Walking away from the Valley Forge encampment, he takes a fall and is knocked unconscious, only to reappear at a dog park on San Francisco Bay—in the summer of 2014.
Washington befriends two Berkeley twenty-somethings who help him cope with the astonishing—and often comical—surprises of the twenty-first century.
Washington’s absence from Valley Forge, however, is not without serious consequences. As the world rapidly devolves around them—and their beloved Giants fight to salvage a disappointing season—George, Tim, and Matt are catapulted on a race across America to find a way to get George back to 1778.
Equal parts time travel tale, thriller, and baseball saga, Finding George Washington is a gripping, humorous, and entertaining look at what happens when past and present collide in the 9th inning, with the bases loaded and no one warming up in the bullpen.
I had once kissed my old girlfriend Marnie on the Kiss Cam, a few months after we started dating, when things were still going well between us. I didn’t miss her, exactly. She had treated me badly. But the memory brought on pangs of loneliness. The camera focused on a young couple in the stands, who watched as their image came up on screen, then dove into a passionate smooch.
The crowd cheered. Though he still wasn’t sure what was happening, George was shocked by these indecorous public displays of affection. The camera cut to an older couple, who responded with a much more dignified buss. Light booing and laughter from the masses.
Sinatra continued to croon to “Strangers in the Night.” George was mortified.
“Timothy, this song and these people seem to be celebrating romantic liaisons of the most crude and casual type. How offensive!”
The screen cut to a pimply young guy, who practically leaped onto his cute girlfriend, attacking with a scary abundance of tongue.
“Ewww,” a girl behind us called out. Our whole section laughed.
The image on screen switched to George, with Rachel beside him. In that strong left profile shot, with his pale skin, high forehead, prominent apple cheeks, graying russet hair tied in back, and aquiline nose, he looked just like the guy on the quarter dollar.
The camera seemed to stay on them forever. Finally, with a good-natured grin, Rachel gave him a prim peck on the lips, then lingered an extra second or two. The fans screamed their appreciation.
I was speechless, overcome with dread, though not sure why. How had this happened? We had brought the Father of Our Country out in public to a baseball game in San Francisco.
And his iconic face was up on a giant screen, being kissed by a woman not his wife, as Sinatra sang about getting lucky.
I shared the moment with 40,000 of my closest friends at the ballpark. I hoped all their intentions were friendly.
A Visit to Mount Vernon
Article By Bill Zarchy
We walk through the gate and approach the main house from the northwest. The first impression, across the broad expanse of the Bowling Green, is of a huge, magnificent, white stone mansion, set on a low hill overlooking the Potomac River.
My wife and I are excited to visit Mount Vernon. After years of researching George Washington for my debut novel — Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale — I’m finally getting to see his home! We follow our tour up a long approach road, learning from our guide that, despite outward appearance, the façades of the house and several other buildings are actually made of wood, treated with a technique called rustication to mimic the texture of stone.
We’re herded through the house fairly quickly. No photos inside, we are admonished, though other tourists sneak pictures and selfies when the guide is not watching.
We learn that the New Room, the largest space in the mansion, was added on to the original building in a years-long construction project begun by George Washington’s cousin Lund, who managed the estate while the General was leading the Continental Army during the Revolution.
The New Room is two stories tall, which makes it seem quite grand. George, ever the micromanager, completed the construction and decorative details after his return from the war.
The walls are painted a deep shade of teal that I didn’t expect to see in this relic of pre-industrial society. The guide tells us that deeply saturated wall paint like this was a mark of wealth in George’s day. The New Room isn’t really that large. In fact, the whole house is smaller than it appeared on first viewing.
Washington’s study in the mansion contains original furnishings, including glass-doored bookcases and a desk with a fan operated by a foot-pedal contraption. In one corner, we see a bust of George by the French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon, who spent weeks with the Washingtons in 1785 — after the Revolution, but before his first term as president. Houdon applied a “life mask” of wet plaster to George’s face, for an accurate rendition of his looks.
Martha Washington considered this to be the most true-to-life likeness of the many images of her husband over the years. It shows George in his prime, the model for the profile shot on the quarter dollar. I enjoy it much more than the dollar-bill Gilbert Stuart portrait of a much older-looking, marble-faced George, painted in 1796 just three years before his demise.
The Piazza, a broad covered porch on the Potomac side of the mansion, was cleverly designed to provide large expanses of shade and catch cool breezes off the river on hot days. No air conditioning back then! The mansion is topped by a cupola, which adds an air of grandeur and also helps cool the house by venting hot air up at the roofline.
The slave quarters, recently reconstructed, provide a stark reminder of the labor force, skilled and unskilled, who built and maintained Mount Vernon for so many years. At the time of George’s death, more than 300 enslaved people lived on his plantation, many of them lived in separate men’s and women’s barracks.
Until fairly recently, Mount Vernon’s guides for visitors and official signage mentioned “servants” and “field hands,” but didn’t refer to them as slaves. A visit to the slave cemetery provides a sobering moment. A few years ago, Mount Vernon dedicated a memorial to the hundreds of enslaved people interred there in unmarked graves, and their archeologists began an extensive study to learn more about the burial ground.
The stables are fun. It’s interesting to see the variety of buggies and carriages available. Nearly all transport was horse-drawn in George’s day. We also saw extensive gardens, a fishery, a distillery, a blacksmith shop, and an eight-sided barn.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was the dung heap. Washington was a devoted scientific farmer, always interested in new techniques. He maintained correspondence with experimental farmers in Europe, even during the eight years he was away from Mount Vernon during the war. He is widely credited with being the first composter in North America.
The covered dung heap, aka compost pile, is strategically located a bit downhill from the mansion, between the kitchens and the stables. Convenient for food scraps and horse manure. Slaves, of course, did all the cooking, stable cleaning, stirring of the dung heap, and spreading of the fertilizing compost on the fields of the five farms that make up George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Bill Zarchy filmed projects on six continents during his 40 years as a cinematographer, captured in his first book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil. Now he writes novels, takes photos, and talks of many things.
Bill’s career includes filming three former presidents for the Emmy-winning West Wing Documentary Special, the Grammy-winning Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, feature films Conceiving Ada and Read You Like A Book, PBS science series Closer to Truth, musical performances as diverse as the Grateful Dead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and countless high-end projects for technology and medical companies.
His tales from the road, personal essays, and technical articles have appeared in Travelers’ Tales and Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers, and American Cinematographer, Emmy, and other trade magazines.
Bill has a BA in Government from Dartmouth and an MA in Film from Stanford. He taught Advanced Cinematography at San Francisco State for twelve years. He is a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of the EPIC Storytelling Program at Stagebridge in Oakland. This is his first novel.
The eBook will be $0.99 during the tour everywhere it’s sold.
Bill Zarchy will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js