Jul. 25, 2005
Poem: "Reject Jell-O" by Lucille Lang Day, from Wild One. © Scarlet Tanager Books. Reprinted with permission.
The man I married twice
at fourteen in Reno, again in Oakland
the month before I turned eighteen
had a night maintenance job at General Foods.
He mopped the tiled floors and scrubbed
the wheels and teeth of the Jell-O machines.
I see him bending in green light,
a rag in one hand,
a pail of foamy solution at his feet.
He would come home at seven a.m.
with a box of damaged Jell-O packages,
including the day's first run,
routinely rejected, and go to sleep.
I made salad with that reject Jell-O
lemon, lime, strawberry, orange, peach
in a kitchen where I could almost touch
opposing walls at the same time
and kept a pie pan under the leaking sink.
We ate hamburgers and Jell-O
almost every night
and when the baby went to sleep,
we loved, snug in the darkness pierced
by passing headlights and a streetlamp's gleam,
listening to the Drifters and the Platters.
Their songs wrapped around me
like coats of fur, I hummed in the long shadows
while the man I married twice
dressed and left for work.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It was on this day in 1897, that the novelist Jack London left San Francisco for the Klondike to join the gold rush. He was just 21. A few weeks earlier, a ship had arrived in San Francisco from the Klondike carrying more than a million dollars worth of gold, and London got his step-sister to mortgage her house and lend him the money for the trip.
It was a long, hard trip, a long haul over the famous Chilkoot Pass. And winter came before Jack London could even start looking for gold. He spent that winter in a little fur trader's cabin the size of a tool shed, reading the books he'd brought with him: Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost.
By spring, he'd realized that all the good claims had already been made. So instead of looking for gold, he talked to people, and he gathered their stories. He almost died of scurvy on the way home, but he went on to write about his experiences in his book The Call of the Wild, which became one of the most popular books of his time. Jack London said, "I never realized a cent from any properties I had an interest in up [in Alaska]. Still, I have been managing to pan out a living ever since on the strength of that trip."
Today is the anniversary of the day when Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, to the great consternation of folk music fans.
Actually, Bob Dylan had grown up listening to rock and roll. He loved Elvis. He said once, "When I first heard Elvis's voice, I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody and nobody was gonna be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail."
He played in rock bands in high school, but when he went to college at the University of Minnesota, he fell into the folk scene and started singing songs of Woody Guthrie. He performed wearing blue jeans and a work shirt.
But in 1964, he heard the Beatles and other British bands who played rock and roll the way Dylan remembered hearing it as a kid. He did some rock and roll on his album Bringing It All Back Home in 1965 and came out with his hit song that summer, "Like a Rolling Stone."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®