Tuesday

May 12, 2009

Praise

by Michael Chitwood

      Physical therapists have opened a clinic in the office next to mine.
This morning one of them is treating a cystic fibrosis patient. The
patient lies face down on a table, and the therapist slaps up and down
the back with open hands. It loosens the mucus building up in the
lungs. Through the wall, it sounds like one person giving a long,
determined standing ovation.
      Finally, I've listened long enough and go out for a walk. The church
across the street has just reseeded its lawn, and the caretaker is trying
to shoo away pigeons that are feeding in the straw.
      "Get! Get!" he shouts, and claps his hands.
      The pigeons rise in unison and swirl away with a sound like gloved
applause.

"Praise" by Michael Chitwood, from From Whence. © Louisiana State University Press, 2007. (buy now)

It's the birthday of one of the greatest baseball catchers of all time, Yogi Berra, (books by this author) born Lawrence Peter Berra in St. Louis, Missouri (1925). He always sat with his legs folded while he was waiting to bat, and so his friends gave him the nickname "Yogi." In addition to his career in baseball, he has had one of the longest-running TV commercial careers in history.

And he is famous for his comments, which have come to be known as "Yogiisms." He said, "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours." And, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." In the 1960s, when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris kept hitting back-to-back home runs, he said, "It's like déjà vu all over again." And in 1973, when the Mets were down nine and a half games in the National League East Division, he said, "It ain't over till its over." The Mets had a winning streak and ended up winning the division title.

It was on this day in 1935 that the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous first met, in Akron, Ohio. Recovering alcoholic Bill Wilson (books by this author) was on a business trip, and he felt the need for a drink. But he wanted to stay sober, so he looked for support from someone who would understand what he was going through. He was introduced to Dr. Bob Smith, a member of an evangelical Christian movement called the Oxford Group. The two men spread the word about starting a support group for alcoholics. Wilson wrote a book in 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism. The book described the 12-step program that the support group used. The first three steps listed in the original book were:

1) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Many other types of groups today follow the 12-step model developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, including Clutterers Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Online Gamers Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and Workaholics Anonymous.

It's the birthday of stand-up comedian George Carlin, (books by this author) born New York City (1937). He was the first person to host Saturday Night Live. He had a famous "Seven Dirty Words" routine in the 1970s. He would say, "There are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are seven of them you can't say on television. What a ratio that is: 399,993 to seven. They must really be bad." And then he would list all seven. The Federal Communications Commission, the FCC, took Carlin's routine all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1978, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that the federal government is entitled to regulate speech on the radio.

George Carlin died last year, at age 71.

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

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »