Presidential Bio Project: Washington and Adams

About a year ago, I posted the kick-off to a personal growth project: reading biographies of all forty-four men that have served as President of the United States. It’s been slow going, I’ll admit, but it’s picking up speed with newfound confidence: I recently finished John Adams’ 500 page biography in less than three weeks.

Although I began Chernow’s Washington: A Life last November, I finished it just a couple of weeks ago, which of course I’m not proud of but it’s how life’s ball bounces. I thought I’d wrap up those two first presidential bios here in a tidy little package, before I take a little political reading break for the holidays and try to track down a fluffy, twinkle-lit romance (currently accepting recommendations).

Presidential Bio Project: Washington and Adams | truelane

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Hands down, one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. To be fair, I’ve always been a big fan of Washington’s so I was eager to know every detail of his life from his farms to his correspondence to his teeth. At over 900 pages, Chernow’s writing may not be considered concise, but when considering he fit the long and full life of arguably the most important man in American history within so many words, it feels shorter than it is. Don’t be afraid—the only reason it took me a year to finish was because I stalled for something like six months in the middle, and read slowly. Too slowly.

With a book of this size, I know now, it’s rather important to set reading goals. I cruised through hundreds of pages at a time when I was invested, but once in awhile could barely finish a chapter (okay, fine, a single page) in a sitting. Setting a daily page goal or reserving twenty minutes in bed each or every other night just for reading makes a big impact on your progress.

I imagine it’s tough to write a biography without being biased—if you’re going to spend ten years researching and writing about someone, you must like them, and Chernow clearly does Washington. While the General was certainly an upstanding and magnanimous person, he had his flaws, and Chernow doesn’t shy away from them. As an example, although slavery wasn’t abolished for another hundred years, abolition was beginning to gather steam in the late 1700s, but Washington was not in a hurry to free any of his slaves. Chernow goes into detail about how much Washington cared for his slaves and treated many of them like family, but at the same time specifies that is no excuse for such an abhorrent practice.

However, the most common words to describe Washington are these: honest, commanding, regal, noble, heroic…all large and imposing words to describe a large and imposing man. You always hear about the way people reacted when he walked into a room—that’s one use I would find for a time machine. I imagine breathing the same air as this man would be somewhat of an out-of-body experience, especially knowing how highly regarded he's come to be hundreds of years later.  

As a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, it was familiar and exciting to me to read about all the “characters from the show” (I quote because they are real people in history), especially in the context of Washington’s life rather than Alexander Hamilton’s, which I’m now quite familiar with. Chernow provides several pages of back story for each key figure in Washington’s life—Martha, Hamilton, Lafayette, Jefferson, and more—that gives the reader a better understanding of their interactions without becoming a biography of anyone else.

Washington has always been my favorite president, and reading about him only solidified my love for the man. I’m very interested to read about the other dynamic characters in the presidential line-up, but for now, Washington is the man to beat, and will be for a long time to come.

Presidential Bio Project: Washington and Adams

John Adams: A Life by John Ferling

Historical figures never feel truly real to me—it seems they are so far in the past, it’s hard to believe they were ever alive and breathing just like we are today. It’s dazzling to have them come alive on the page through detail and even direct quotations—it’s inspiring even to see how they wrote back then. It makes them feel human.

John Adams was someone I was expecting not to like going into the book, and I was right. A quote from historian Edmund S. Morgan flawlessly sums him up in the final chapter: “John Adams was very nearly a great man.” The afterword revolves around the definition of what makes a man great, and for all of his faults, I will agree with Ferling that Adams’ greatness lie in his steadfast dedication to seeing America’s independence through from beginning and onwards. He made astounding personal sacrifices to succeed professionally—sacrifices that most people these days would simply call abandoning his family, which is shameful in one way but was a phenomenally important factor in securing our nation’s independence. Precisely that: a sacrifice.

I just realized I’m thinking about an episode of Younger, one of the silliest and simultaneously addicting television shows on right now (it’s on TV Land starring Hilary Duff, to put it in context). A female author is shamed for taking two years off from “being a mom” to write a book, leaving her husband to care for their two daughters and expecting to be welcomed back with open arms. Her argument? That no one would bat an eye if a man did the same thing, which, they do, all the time. I find her rebuttal to be quite accurate. John Adams’ treatment of his family was not discussed in public, but something that his wife Abigail complained about privately. It was such a prevalent part of the book that it really comes to define Adams’ personality: very much a loner.

Ferling’s writing doesn’t exactly leap off the page, but it did keep me very well interested in a man I knew I wasn’t going to like. He provided wonderful narratives about his interactions and correspondences with colleagues—all of my favorite moments of the book included seeing how Adams interacted with both friend and foe. You really never knew what he was going to do next. I’ll say, it’s an incredible feat to keep a reader fascinated by someone they dislike. Well done, Ferling.

One more point: it was absolutely thrilling to follow Adams’ life directly after finishing a book on Washington’s. You have General George Washington, a tall and brave Commander-in-Chief who spent years in battle and earned well-deserved accolades for his commitment to service. Then you have John Adams’, a man who never fought in a war but decided to don a military outfit once he was elected to the presidency—Commander-in-Chief indeed. Reading about the American Revolution from each side of the stage…it blew my mind. Washington’s struggle to communicate with Congress, the state of the troops, his correspondence with the other Generals and the British alike contrasted with John Adams’ point of view, who actually sat in Congress during the Revolution, communicated with other Generals and the British, and essentially had a 180 degree different experience than Washington in the war…just fantastic. I highly recommend each book, but they work wonders together as a pair.

Jefferson is up next, but first let me take a week to go cruise the western Caribbean without having to think about politics. After dwelling on Washington for the last year and speeding through an intensive 3 weeks with Adams...this girl needs to sit under her own vine for a spell.

July Playlist

Elyse Lankford | truelane

Elyse Lankford is an art student and graphic designer/booking assistant at a Seattle music venue. Dream trip? Probably Switzerland and northern Italy. Dream concert? Tennis then Twin Peaks opening for The Strokes. Dream meal? Neapolitan pizza. Dream job? Something to do with music and art and travel. 

La Luz, PALM, and Vundabar were easily my favorite live shows of July, therefore consuming most of my music listening for the entire month.

La Luz blew all my expectations away—their harmonies and surf goddess aura are completely overwhelming. PALM was mesmerizing. I was listening in awe the whole time trying to figure out how in the world four people could be playing so many different noises in different time and meld together so well. I was talking to a friend about this, and apparently they practice together 2 hours a day 5 days a week, which is really impressive rehearsal time for any band. And finally, the energy packed into the Vundabar set vibrated through the whole room. They’re super nice and quirky dudes, and their humor translates so well into their live set.

Feel free to leave any music suggestions in the comments below. Or DM me on Instagram (@elyse_anna) or email, or slack me idk...I want your recs!!

You Disappear - La Luz
Aphasia - Pinegrove
Had Ten Dollaz - Cherry Glazerr
Who’s Sorry Now - Angel Olsen
Equestrian - Omni
Dance (If You Wanna) - Vivian Girls
Shadow Expert - PALM
Nerves - Forth Wanderers
MVT 4 - Foul Weather
Get in My Car - BRONCHO
Greenland - Vundabar

July Playlist | truelane

June Playlist

Elyse Lankford | truelane

Elyse Lankford is an art student and graphic designer/booking assistant at a Seattle music venue. Dream trip? Probably Switzerland and northern Italy. Dream concert? Tennis then Twin Peaks opening for The Strokes. Dream meal? Neapolitan pizza. Dream job? Something to do with music and art and travel. 

My summer jams always seem to consist of upbeat punk and surf songs made for the walk home after you’re finally free from work, as well as languid folk songs for when all you can do is lie on the couch with a fan blowing directly on your face.

Even though summer officially started just last week, I’ve been prepping myself all month with the tunes in this playlist. I’ve been constantly listening to this month’s releases from Spirit Award, Palehound, Julia Jacklin, and Kevin Morby and rekindled my love for Flaural and Haley Heynderickx as they’ve toured through Seattle this month (God bless June, woww). I hope you enjoy this mix as we launch into these coming summer months. <3 

Know Better - Forth Wanderers
Fields - Spirit Award
Room - Palehound
Surchin 4 U - Naked Giants
Staycation - Flaural
Contestant - Sundae Crush
Drinking Song - Haley Heynderickx
Tin Can - Kevin Morby
Eastwick - Julia Jacklin
Slime Time Live - Ian Sweet
Try - Molly Burch
Never Lonely - Space Mountain
Blackies - Jaded Juice Riders

June Playlist | truelane

May Playlist

Elyse Lankford | truelane

Elyse Lankford is an art student and graphic designer/booking assistant at a Seattle music venue. Dream trip? Probably Switzerland and northern Italy. Dream concert? Tennis then Twin Peaks opening for The Strokes. Dream meal? Neapolitan pizza. Dream job? Something to do with music and art and travel. 

May Playlist | truelane

Hi all! I hope your month has been full of fantastic tunes, sun, and blooms, thanks to last month's rain showers. 

Much of my music consumption this month was influenced by my discoveries at Treefort Music Fest that happened at the end of March. Genders (Portland), Sunbathe (Portland), GABI (Phoenix), and Flaural (Denver) are 4 of 400+ bands that played Treefort and were musts for this playlist. The four days I spent at Treefort consisted of roaming around the small, very chill city of Boise, ID, mostly with friends I had just met on that trip, catching all the live music we could. Very cool festival with very cool people and music. 

Also, only five bands on this playlist were familiar to me before the beginning of this year, and I’m not quite sure how to fully express my excitement about these discoveries, but please enjoy. 

Flower Glass - Hand Habits
No Woman - Whitney
Outside with the Cuties - Frankie Cosmos
200 and South La Brea - Allah Las
Chop - Vundabar
Life is but a Dream - Genders
What it Means - GABI
Magic Number - Sunbathe
Duke - Cate Le Bon
Headbanging in the Mirror - Ducktails
Nowhere Near - Flaural
Stay Away - Rooney
On Your Own - Dead Ghosts

March Playlist

Handing it off to the new music editor at truelane, my sister Elyse Lankford!

Here we go—the first installment of a monthly playlist curated by me, Elyse: lover of tea, Seattle, and music, and sister of Truelane.

This playlist is a collection of new and old jams for me. Overall easy-listening with hints of punk, 60s/70s rock, and a couple beach tunes to get you through the rest of this cold/wet time of year. January and February were wild in terms of releases—especially the singles leading up to new albums from bands like Tennis (out now!!), Mac Demarco, Vagabon and Real Estate—some of which I included in this playlist. Keep an eye out for these records, next month’s playlist, and leave any music recs below in the comments!

Terrible People — Pale Noise
Difference — Horse Thief
Minneapolis — Vagabon
In the Morning I'll Be Better — Tennis
Dull Boy — The Growlers
My Old Man — Mac Demarco
Getting Better — Twin Peaks
All Skaters Go To Heaven — IAN SWEET
Never Be Mine — Angel Olsen
The Strange and the Kind — Surf Curse
Little Queenie — Sadgirl
Vegas — Big Thief
Darling — Real Estate

Elyse Lankford is an art student and graphic designer/booking assistant at a Seattle music venue. Dream trip? Probably Switzerland and northern Italy. Dream concert? Tennis then Twin Peaks opening for The Strokes. Dream meal? Neapolitan pizza. Dream job? Something to do with music and art and travel.