Thursday

Feb. 5, 2009

He Gets Around to Answering the Old Question

by Miller Williams

He doesn't see as well as he thinks he remembers.
His fingers sometimes find it hard to bend.
He often can't find the name to go with a face.
Sometimes he doesn't hear but decides to pretend.

Weekends, week by week, are closer together.
Sometimes he has to sit down to put on his pants.
No lady seems to mind if he calls her Honey,
never grins nor even throws a glance.

Sometimes he's told himself what all this means.
"Every year some more of me is dead,
but there's a lot of stuff still left to collapse."
He started to laugh but talked to himself instead.

"Think of yourself as a plumbing system, a clock.
As soon as you're done, you start to come undone.
It's almost interesting when you pay attention,
how working parts stop working, one by one.

So now you've asked me the oldest question of all.
You want to know how I'm doing. I told you before,
I'm dying. Been at it for years. Still, I think
I could hang a few more calendars on the door."

"He Gets Around to Answering the Old Question" by Miller Williams, from Time and the Tilting Earth. © Louisiana State University Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the novelist William S. Burroughs, (books by this author) born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1914. He didn't like his wealthy St. Louis community, and he didn't like Harvard. He kept a ferret and a .32-caliber revolver in his dorm room. He signed up to join the Army, but he got a psychiatric discharge. He worked odd jobs and then moved with some of his friends to New York City, where he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. They experimented with drugs, and Burroughs became addicted to morphine and sold heroin in Greenwich Village to support himself.

He moved to Mexico City, and he started writing a memoir of his experience as a drug addict. One night at a party, he and his wife Joan agreed to demonstrate how he could shoot a glass off the top of her head. He missed the glass and killed his wife. He said, "I am faced with the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan's death. It brought me in contact with the invader, the ugly spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle in which I have had no choice but to write my way out."

He finished his memoir, Junky, (1953), and he wrote many more novels, including Naked Lunch (1959).

It's the birthday of the playwright John Guare, (books by this author) born in New York City in 1938. His best-known work is Six Degrees of Separation (1991), which contains the monologue: "I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation. Between us and everybody else on this planet. The president of the United States. A gondolier in Venice. Fill in the names. I find that a) extremely comforting that we're so close and b) like Chinese water torture that we're so close."

It's the birthday of writer and director Christopher Guest, born in New York City in 1948. He worked for National Lampoon's "Lemmings" and Saturday Night Live. Then he landed a part in This is Spinal Tap (1984), which follows the tour of a fake heavy metal band. Christopher Guest was one of the stars, and he helped with the music and dialogue, most of which is improvised.

After that, Guest began directing, writing, and acting in fictional documentaries. He uses a troupe of actors, including Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, and Catherine O'Hara. He made Waiting for Guffman (1997), about a community theater production in a small Missouri town; Best In Show (2000), about competitive dog shows; A Mighty Wind (2003), about aging folk singers who come together for a reunion concert; and For Your Consideration (2006), about actors who become obsessed with the buzz surrounding their potentially award-winning performances.

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

 









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