Dear Ace: I was down by City Hall the other day and noticed statues of three presidents sculpted into the building. Somewhat disconcerting to me was the size of James Madison; he was a pretty short guy, no? In the sculpture, he isn’t. Why?—Constance Tooshun
Constance: It isn’t simply that James Madison was a “pretty short guy.” He was, in fact, the shortest of the 43 presidents, measuring in at 5’4". Thus, it is somewhat mystifying as to why he’s in equal measure to the other two figures in the City Hall sculpture, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Ace wondered, was the sculptor unaware of the Founding Father’s diminished height? Or is it meant to connote that, though he was, shall Ace say, vertically challenged, his historical contributions were no less important?
Knowing that the staff in the building would be acquainted with the sculpture’s origin, Ace called City Hall. Alas, the woman who answered the phone hadn’t a clue, but confirmed Ace’s inclination to contact Mr. Cole Hendrix, Charlottesville’s city manager from 1971-1995.
For your enjoyment, here is a near-direct transcription of the conversation Ace had with Hendrix:
AA: Do you know why James Madison is the same size as Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe in the sculpture at the corner of City Hall, when in actuality he was the nation’s shortest president?
CH: No, and the person who would know died.
AA: Oh no! Then Ace guesses he’s too late.
CH: [dead silence] (No pun intended.)
Before Cole hung up the phone (was Ace’s third person lingo too off-putting?), he mentioned that the person who’d have the answer would have to be someone who worked intimately with the builder. Unfortunately, that person was the city manager before him, who is now deceased.
Indeed, Ace was too late. But, dear reader, you were too. Let this be a lesson to you all: Ask now or forever be left in the dark. If all answers die with those who hold them, is not everything, then, left to speculation? For instance, Ace might speculate that the reason Jimmy Mad is as tall as TJ and Monroe in the sculpture is because the structure of the building requires it. But—and this will be the only time he allows you to do this—don’t take Ace’s word for it. At a cool 6’3", Ace’s considerable stature affords him a certain amount of artistic license.