Oct. 9, 2001


by Hayden Carruth

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Poem: "Memory," by Hayden Carruth from Doctor Jazz (Copper Canyon Press).


A woman I used to know well died
    A week ago. Not to be mysterious:
She and I were married. I'm told
    She fell down dead on a street in
Lower Manhattan, and I suppose
    She suffered a stroke or a heart attack.
The last time I saw her was in the spring
    Of 1955, meaning forty-four
Years ago, and now when I try
    To imagine her death I see in my
Mind a good-looking, twenty-nine-
    Year-old woman sprawled on the pavement.
It does no good to go and examine
    My own ravaged face in the bathroom
Mirror; I cannot transpose my ravage-
    Ment to her. She is fixed in my mind
As she was. Brown hair, brown eyes,
    Slender and sexy, coming home
From her job as an editor in a huge
    Building in midtown. Forty-four
Years is longer than I thought. My dear,
    How could you have let this happen to you?

It's the birthday of singer and songwriter John Lennon, born in Liverpool, England (1940). In 1956, Lennon was attending Liverpool Art College when a friend played him a recording of Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel. That same year he started his own band, the Quarrymen, with three of his friends. One of those friends introduced Lennon to Paul McCartney in 1957. By 1960 the band had become The Beatles. They played at various clubs in England and Germany, and often played at London's Cavern Club, where they were discovered by their soon-to-be manager Brian Epstein. The group was signed to EMI records in 1962.

It's the birthday of actor and filmmaker Jacques Tati, born in Le Pecq, France (1907), whose work has been compared to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. In 1931, he started making short films, including Oscar, Tennis Champion. His comedies included sight gags and physical action, and very little dialogue. In 1953, Tati introduced his signature character, Mr. Hulot, an earnest yet bumbling man who wore a crushed hat and raincoat, and trousers that were just a bit too short. In 1954, he produced Mr. Hulot's Holiday, which brought Tati international fame. In 1958, he produced Mon Oncle, which contrasted Hulot's life in a Paris suburb and that of his sister who lived in a modern, mechanized home.

It's the birthday of historian and journalist Bruce Catton, born in Petosky, Michigan (1899). In 1951, he published the first volume of a trilogy on the Army of the Potomac. Mr. Lincoln's Army was rejected by several publishers who said that Civil War books didn't sell. Only about 2,000 copies of Catton's book were sold. Still, a second volume, Glory Road, was published in 1952, and the third, A Stillness at Appomatox, came out in 1953.

It's the birthday of educator Francis Wayland Parker, born in Bedford, New Hampshire (1837). After serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Civil War, Parker served as head of a school in Dayton, Ohio. In 1872, he traveled to Germany to study new methods of education being developed there. He returned to the United States and became superintendent of schools in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he originated what came to be called the Quincy movement. It was Parker's idea to replace the rigid formalism of American education by using normal experiences to teach subjects. Students learned geography by going on field trips, and learned arithmetic by manipulating objects rather than dealing with abstractions.

In 1701 on this day, the Yale University was founded. The colonial legislature of Connecticut chartered the Collegiate School, originally based in the house of its first rector in Killingworth, Connecticut. In 1716, the school moved to New Haven, and took the name Yale College to honor its early benefactor, Elihu Yale. The first doctoral degrees earned in the United States were awarded by the graduate school of arts and sciences in 1861.

In 1002 on this day, Viking Leif Eríksson landed in what is now North America. As a young man, he followed the custom of his time and made a trip to Norway. There, he met the king and was converted to Christianity. On his way back to Greenland, he was driven off course and found land on which there were fields of naturally growing wheat and grapevines. He named the country Wineland. Soon after his return to Greenland, he led an expedition to explore the lands he had discovered. Archeologists theorize that he then discovered Baffin Island and Labrador, and that Wineland was in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in what is now New Brunswick.

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