Feb. 26, 2009
First it was five above, then two,
then one morning just plain zero.
There was a strange thrill in saying it.
I said when you got up.
I was pouring your coffee
and suddenly the whole house made sense:
the roof, the walls, the little heat registers
rattling on the floor. Even the mortgage. Zero,
you said, still in your robe.
And you walked to the window and looked out
at the blanket of snow on the garden
where last summer you planted carrots
and radishes, sweet peas and onions,
and a tiny rainforest of tomatoes
in the hot delirium of June.
Yes, I said, with a certain grim finality,
staring at the white cap of snow on the barbecue grill
I'd neglected to put in the garage for winter.
And the radio says it could go lower.
I like that robe, it's white and shimmery,
and has a habit of falling open
unless you tie it just right.
This wasn't the barbarians at the gate.
It wasn't Carthage in flames, or even
the Donner Party. But it was zero, by God,
and the robe fell open.
It was on this day in 1917 that the Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded the first jazz record, for the Victor Talking Machine Company. They were five white boys, led by Nick La Rocca. They came out of New Orleans, moved to Chicago and then New York. Their slogan was "Untuneful Harmonists Playing Peppery Melodies." The first record had two sides: "Livery Stable Blues" and "Dixie Jass Band One Step." They were the first to record commercial jazz, and they made it popular with songs like "Tiger Rag." In late 1917, they changed the name "Jass" to "Jazz."
It's the birthday of the singer and songwriter Johnny Cash, born in Kingsland, Arkansas (1932). He recorded many hit songs, including "I Walk the Line," "Folsom Prison Blues," and "Ring of Fire."
On this day in 1564, the playwright Christopher Marlowe (books by this author) was baptized in Canterbury, England. He was the son of a shoemaker, but he became a playwright and was involved in the world of political spies and intrigue surrounding Queen Elizabeth. He might have been part of her secret service. In 1593, church officials accused him of promoting atheism and issued a warrant for his arrest, but he died in a bar fight before the police could find him.
In Marlowe's day, most English plays were written in rhyming verse, but Marlowe wrote in blank verse, without end rhymes. Other playwrights started to follow his example, including one of his contemporaries, William Shakespeare. Marlowe wrote Tamburlaine the Great, Doctor Faustus, and many more plays before his death at age 29.
On this day in 1919, Congress approved acts to establish two national parks. Lafayette National Park on the coast of Maine was the first national park east of the Mississippi ten years later, it was renamed Acadia. And in northwestern Arizona, more than 1 million acres were set aside as Grand Canyon National Park. That year it received 44,173 visitors. Today there are almost 5 million visitors each year.
It's the birthday of Victor Hugo, (books by this author) born on this day in Besançon, France (1802). We know him as the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862), but he became famous in France as a poet. When he turned 80, France created a holiday in his honor. The senate declared him a national legend. As he lay dying, the press recorded every word he said and every decision he made. More than 2 million people joined his funeral procession through the streets of Paris.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®