Mar. 3, 2006
Poem: "Seemed Pleased" by Malena Mörling from Astoria. © University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with permission.
Just after the plane lifted
off the ground with all of its
weight, a small hand, its nails with
partially chipped off red nail
polish, worked itself back
from in between the seats in
front of me and sort of waved.
The next I saw of the person
with the hand was a blue eye
peering back at me and then
the girl stood up on her seat
and smiled. She had brown, just
above the shoulder length hair
and bangs and she wore a blue
and white striped sundress. A
red rose of the same material
as the dress was attached to
the middle of the upper
lining which was also red.
"My mother is dead," she told
me suddenly. "She is already gone
She is in heaven." The girl seemed
pleased, almost proud at that
moment, to be able to inform
me of this, perhaps as a
handy way of meeting."This
is my dad," she said, and pointed
to the back of his head of
blond thinning rather unruly
cap of hair. "My dad." She
exclaimed again and again
and hugged his face with all
of her might until she knocked
his glasses off and they ended
up in the aisle. Then she introduced
her brother, engrossed in a book:
"This is Marcus, he is eight.
I am four and a half." And then
she proceeded to demonstrate
the workings of a doodle pad.
On the cover of it was a clown
riding in an airplane waving
his hands in the clouds. And that's
when the trays of food arrived and the girl
whose name I never learned was told
by her father to turn around
and sit down and eat what was
being unwrapped for her on her tray.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It was on this day in 1863 that Congress passed the Civil War Conscription Act, which required all men between the ages of twenty and forty-five to serve three years in the military. But one big loophole in the law allowed wealthy men to hire substitutes to serve in their place. Among the wealthy men who did hire substitutes were J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and the future President Grover Cleveland.
The draft was hugely controversial in Northern cities. Increasingly lengthy casualty lists were printed in newspapers every day, and men of the working classes resented the fact that they were being used as cannon fodder while the rich men sat idle. The frustration eventually led to the New York draft riots that summer. Mobs broke into the homes of the wealthy and smashed store windows, eventually killing more than 105 people. It was a regimen of soldiers, fresh from the Battle of Gettysburg, who eventually restored peace to the city.
It's the birthday of inventor Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1847).
It was on this day in 1875 that the opera Carmen appeared on stage for the first time at the Opéra-Comique in France. When it premiered, the audience was shocked by the characters of Carmen, a gypsy girl, and her lover, Don José. It's set in an exotic Spain among gypsies and bullfighters. One element that shocked audiences was that the heroine smokes on stage, something considered less than proper then. The opera ran for thirty-seven performances.
It's the birthday of the host of the radio show This American Life, Ira Glass, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1959). After his freshman year of college he was looking for a summer job in television or advertising, and someone suggested that he try to be an intern for National Public Radio. He had never even listened to public radio at the time, but he applied for the job and got it, and he's been working in public radio ever since. He started out as a tape cutter, and then he was a desk assistant, newscast writer, editor, producer, reporter and substitute host.
In 1989, he moved to Chicago and produced documentaries for the local public radio station. He and a friend started a live show called The Wild Room that included music, stories, and commentary, and outtakes from his own documentaries. In 1995, he came up with the idea for a show called Your Radio Playhouse, which would tell a series of stories each week, centered on a certain aspect of everyday life in America. That show became This American Life, which has become one of the most popular radio programs in the country. There have been shows on superpowers, babysitting, Frank Sinatra, guns, and monogamy, among many other themes.
Ira Glass said, "There are people who are fundamentally lazy, who only get anything done because they put themselves under dreadful deadline pressure. Those people are all my brothers."
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