Nov. 16, 2008
Every night a bear comes round our house to scare up
some windfall pears or to forage for fragrant garbage,
trudging on soft-padded feet & slightly open-mouthed.
He's an ursine Tony Soprano, I think, seeking refuge
from autumnal hungers as he forages the town's alleys.
Burly as a nightclub bouncer, near-sighted, he browses
through our lives' detritus, appearing as a refugee
from day's ample shadows. Our bear noisily chases
a neighborhood cat, a disemboweler of mouses,
then he eats the worst types of underworld scum
larval worms in day-glow trousers-food storehoused
in a huge belly that sways to & fro when he travels.
Despite his slovenly slouch, our bear's a marvel
of Mafia etiquette as he curses & wantonly carouses
in the dim byways of the forest, as he sways in raveling air
to snap the bark off trees with his tough teeth & calluses.
We curse the furry rampages of our famished bear
who's surely gotten high on gruff power as he struggles
to grip trashcan rims with iron fingersever roused
to action by brisk whiffs of winter or our ribald catcalls.
O made man, living drunk or dour, don't settle
for trudging on soft-padded feet, staying tight-hearted
know, as I do, how fear & desire drive us all. Look how
nightly a bear circumambulates our lives with such ardor.
It's the birthday of the "First Lady of Radio," mostly forgotten today, Mary Margaret McBride, born in Paris, Missouri (1899). She was one of the first radio interviewers to bring the techniques of newspaper journalism to the airwaves, and in the first 20 years of her syndicated program, she interviewed more than 30,000 guests from the world of politics, literature, arts, and entertainment. In the late 1940s, she had 6 million daily listeners, most of them housewives.
She retained her Missouri twang despite spending most of her adult life in New York City. She was known for being an exceptionally well-prepared interviewer, and she stayed up late every night to read her guests' books. She never announced in advance the name of the guests who would appear on the show, so people tuned in each day not knowing whom to expect.
She made daytime radio profitable. She delivered the ads herself, and she only advertised products that she herself actually would want to use, and refused to endorse cigarettes or alcohol.
It's the birthday of the playwright George S. Kaufman, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1889). He wrote or co-wrote more hit plays than anyone else in the history of Broadway, including Animal Crackers (1928), Strike Up the Band (1930), and You Can't Take It With You (1938).
Kaufman's mother was a severe hypochondriac, and she passed it on to her son. He grew up afraid of germs, extremely thin, and extremely shy. As an adult, he was obsessed with cleanliness and scared of being touched. He never even shook hands.
He was a meticulous rewriter and polisher, and he was never satisfied with a script even up to the last minute. He was always terrified that the play would be a flop.
Kaufman was generous in sharing the credit with his collaborators. In 1930, he wrote Once in a Lifetime with the unknown, 25-year-old playwright Moss Hart. At the premiere, Kaufman made one of the only opening-night speeches of his career, and it was only one sentence long. He said, "I would like the audience to know that 80 percent of this play is Moss Hart."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®