Feb. 25, 2009
Perhaps, in a distant café,
four or five people are talking
with the four or five people
who are chatting on their cell phones this morning
in my favorite café.
And perhaps someone there,
someone like me, is watching them as they frown,
or smile, or shrug
at their invisible friends or lovers,
jabbing the air for emphasis.
And, like me, he misses the old days,
when talking to yourself
meant you were crazy,
back when being crazy was a big deal,
not just an acronym
or something you could take a pill for.
I liked it
when people who were talking to themselves
might actually have been talking to God
or an angel.
You respected people like that.
You didn't want to kill them,
as I want to kill the woman at the next table
with the little blue light on her ear
who has been telling the emptiness in front of her
about her daughter's bridal shower
in astonishing detail
for the past thirty minutes.
O person like me,
phoneless in your distant café,
I wish we could meet to discuss this,
and perhaps you would help me
murder this woman on her cell phone,
after which we could have a cup of coffee,
maybe a bagel, and talk to each other,
face to face.
It's the birthday of the Chinese-American novelist and playwright Frank Chin, (books by this author) born in Berkeley, California (1940). He's the author of The Chickencoop Chinaman (1972), Donald Duk (1991), Gunga Din Highway (1994), and Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947 (2002).
In The Chickencoop Chinaman, Chin writes, "I am the natural born ragmouth speaking the motherless bloody tongue. No real language of my own to make sense with, so out comes everybody else's trash that don't conceive. ... I am a Chinaman! A miracle synthetic! Drip dry and machine washable."
It's the birthday of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, born in Limoges, France (1841). When he was 13, he was apprenticed to a porcelain painter, and he saved money to take night classes in drawing and anatomy. One of his classmates was Claude Monet. Renoir and Monet and their friends wanted to reject tradition to paint light and to paint from life instead of sketching everything out first in a studio. These ideas became known as Impressionism. Renoir used the techniques of Impressionism, but while most of his friends painted landscapes, he painted people.
It's the birthday of novelist Anthony Burgess, (books by this author) born on this day in Manchester, England (1917). He went off and taught in Malaysia. He didn't even want to go there, but he was drunk when he filled out the application and didn't realize where he was applying. In Malaysia, he was often in trouble with the police and with his supervisors, and his marriage fell apart. But during his five years there, Anthony Burgess found his voice as a novelist. He wrote a trilogy of novels, Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958), and Beds in the East (1959).
Then he collapsed on the floor of his classroom, was flown from Malaysia to London, and doctors told him that he had a brain tumor and only one year to live. So he began writing as fast as he could. He didn't have a brain tumor, he didn't die, but he kept writing novels as quickly as possible, and in three years he published nine more novels. He went on to write more than 50 books, including A Clockwork Orange (1962), Enderby Outside (1968), and Earthly Powers (1980).
It's the birthday of opera star Enrico Caruso, born in Naples (1873). He worked in factories as a teenager, but he had a beautiful tenor voice and he ran away from home to sing. In 1903, he moved to New York to sing for the Metropolitan Opera, and by the end of his first season, audiences went into hysterics when he sang, mobbing the stage and screaming his name.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®