Nov. 11, 1999

The Edward C. Peterson Tree

by Charlie Langdon

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: November 11, 1999

Poem: "The Edward C. Peterson Tree" by Charlie Langdon from The Dandelion Vote published by Hilton Publishing.

Today is Memorial Day—known to Canadians as Remembrance Day—also known as Veterans Day or Victory Day. Many observe a moment of silence at the hour the firing stopped to end World War I—the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. At 5 a.m. of that day in 1918, the armistice was signed in the railway car of French Marshal Foch [foash], in the Forest of Compiegne [koam-PYEN], 30 miles northeast of Paris. Private Harry Gunther, of Baltimore, was the last American killed in action that day—one of a total of 9 million killed in the war.

Today is also called St. Martin's Day, for St. Martin of Tours. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, true Indian summer can occur only between this date and November 20th. Most 19th-century almanacs proclaimed, "If All Saints' brings out winter, St. Martin's brings out Indian summer." Weather conditions for traditional Indian summer include not just warm days but a smoky, hazy atmosphere, free of wind. The barometer must be high, the nights clear and chilly.

On this day in 1938, the song "God Bless America" was first sung by Kate Smith, for whom Irving Berlin had written it. She sang it during her radio broadcast for Veterans Day, during a time when the nation was embroiled over whether to enter World War Two. It would become Kate Smith's most requested song.

It's the birthday of novelist Carlos Fuentes [FWEN-tayss], born in Mexico City(1928).

Today is the 74th birthday of comic Jonathan Winters, born in Dayton, Ohio (1925).

Today is the 77th birthday of novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., born in Indianapolis (1922). His novel Slaughterhouse Five (1969) was based on his experience as a prisoner of war in the basement of a slaughterhouse during the Allies' fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945. After the war he studied anthropology, then worked as a reporter and a public relations writer before his first novel, Player Piano (1952), came out. His grimly funny books plead for human kindness in a dehumanized world. Other novels include Cat's Cradle (1963), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Hocus Pocus (1990), and Timequake (1997).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »