Home > Random thoughts > Thank you, Mr Poe.

Thank you, Mr Poe.

 I have been in Philadelphia the past several days. This was a place I wanted to visit in this journey. I had stayed for a very short time in here at the end of the year 1974. I was a student at that time, studying in a small city in Georgia. Then I wanted to come up to taste the atmosphere of the northern big city.
 I had happened to meet with a Korean family in the Georgian city. They informed me of a Japanese missionary in Philadelphia. I have no memory how I had got in touch with the missionary. Maybe I wrote a letter, asking him to give me a room and board for free for a week or two during the Christmas holidays.
 The missionary, Peter-san, was from the same Kyushu Island in Japan. He was nice to me, taking me into various gatherings of his faith in Philadelphia. His wife, Hisako-san was also a very kind lady. They had two little sons, the youngest one just born then. I still remember the older boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old, calling me for a supper with his clear voice every evening. (Please understand that we Japanese respect our elders, always referring them with honorific titles of san.)
 I and Hisako-san happen to share the same birthday, Feb. 5. While I was back in Georgia the next year, she had sent me a Happy Birthday card, with a 50 dollar bill inside. I was studying with a very limited budget. Oh, I still remember the shine of the bill in front of my eyes. It was a fortune for me then!
 (By the way Peter-san has been leading the Christian faith called “Kohitusuji no Mure“ (Flock of little lambs) throughout the world, based in Japan.)
 Now coming back 38 years back, of course I don’t remember anything. But the fact alone pleases me that I came back after all these years. I had one particular place I’ve wanted to visit. It is the house where the writer, Edgar Allan Poe used to live. I remember the visit there I did with Hisako-san.
 After arriving at Philadelphia I’ve checked the address and found out that the house was on 530 North 7th St., not so far away from the city center. After seeing those historic sites related to the Independence struggle of this country, I walked to the house. When I was in the old city district minutes ago, there were many tourists around me. But On the way to the Poe house, I saw very few people walking along the rather desolate area. At one point I thought I was walking into the wrong street.
 No I was on the right track. Eventually I saw a signboard “Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site.” It was thus authorized, I learned, as a unit of the National Park Service in 1978, four years after my visit. When I arrived there, it was just the time for the day’s last guided tour of the house. The guide took us, around 10 visitors into the rooms up and down, and into a basement.
 We know that Poe lived with his wife, Virginia, and her mother Maria Clemm in Philadelphia for six years, and a part of it in this house probably sometime between the fall of 1842 or June 43 and April of 44. The Philadelphia years were very productive for him as a writer and also happy for him as an individual. While living in this house such famed works as “The Gold-Bug” and “The Black Cat” were published.
 Honestly speaking, I find some of Poe’s works hard to read. But the above mentioned two are those I’ve enjoyed reading. Yes, I enjoy the horror factor in “The Black Cat” but what I like more is the description like the following: Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?
 The house seems to be a bit different from that I have seen 38 years ago. When I visited the house then, there was a particular door knob, which is said to have a magic power to anybody who touches it, for improving his or her writing ability a great deal. Although I had not thought of becoming a journalist then, I had touched it with gratitude. Now looking back, I kind of feel that maybe it was partly due to the magic power that I could have survived all these years as a journalist.
 To my surprise there was no more such magic door knob in the house. I’ve asked several people working there about it. They all said they had never heard of it. Since the National Park Service took over the care of the house, the door knob must have gone with the necessary renovation of the facility.
 I was a lucky one then.

 (photo: The basement in Poe's house with a toy black cat welcoming visitors)


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