Mar. 10, 1998

Words the Dreamer Spoke to My Father in Maine

by Robert Bly


Today's Reading: "Words the Dreamer Spoke to My Father in Maine" by Robert Bly from MORNING POEMS, published by HarperCollins (1997).

ZELDA FITZGERALD died on this day in Asheville, North Carolina, 1948. She'd been hospitalized since the early 1930s after a couple of nervous breakdowns. Her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda's sanitarium." On the night of March 10 the main building of the hospital caught fire and she was locked in her room on the top floor. She was laid to rest alongside Scott in a Maryland cemetery.

HARRIET TUBMAN, who escaped slavery on a Maryland plantation, also died on this date, in 1913. After she got free (in 1849), she helped more than 300 slaves escape the South through an elaborate network of safe houses called the Underground Railroad.

It's the birthday in Davenport, Iowa, 1903, of jazz cornetist, BIX BEIDERBECKE. He didn't care much for school as a boy and preferred to hang out at the docks in Davenport and listen to the jazz players who'd come up the Mississippi on riverboats from New Orleans. His parents tried to get him interested in school and sent him away to Chicago, but Chicago in the 20s was jumping with jazz and he spent most of his time on the black South Side playing cornet and piano with Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Jimmy Noone. He was the first great white jazz player and his 1927 recordings "Singin' the Blues" and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," with saxophonist Frank Trumbauer, became classics.

It's the anniversary of the very FIRST TELEPHONE CALL in 1876. Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant Thomas Watson had been working for years on a device to transmit sound through wires, mainly as a means to help deaf people. In his Boston lab, Bell strung a 20-foot wire from one room to another and said seven words, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you."

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