May 12, 2009


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

"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.®




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