Jul. 18, 2009


by Lee Robinson

Friday I sniffed it
in the grocery store, turned it
in my hands, looking
for bruises
in the rough, webbed rind.
My mother's voice—the one
I carry always in my head—
pronounced it fine. Ripe,
but not too soft.

I bagged and bought it,
would have given it to you
for breakfast—this fruit
first grown in Cantalupo, not far
from Rome. I imagined you,
my sleepy emperor, coming
to the table in your towel toga,
digging into the luscious
orange flesh
with a golden spoon,

and afterwards,
reclining, your smile

Now I open the trunk of my car
to find the cantaloupe
still there, flattened, sour,
having baked all weekend
in August's oven.

Grieving is useless,
my mother would say,
Just get another.

But why am I so certain
that no other fruit
will ever be as sweet
as that—

the one
I would have cut in half,
scooped the seeds from,
that one I would have given you
on Saturday morning?

"Cantaloupe" by Lee Robinson, from Hearsay. © Fordham University Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.

It's the birthday of journalist Hunter S. Thompson, (books by this author) born in Louisville, Kentucky (1937). After the California attorney general issued a report in 1964 on a dangerous new motorcycle gang known as the Hell's Angels, Thompson was hired by The Nation magazine to write a brief investigative article about the gang.

Thompson bought a motorcycle with his book advance and began driving around the country, meeting bikers and writing about them. He almost died doing his research one day when five Hell's Angels suddenly turned on him and beat him senseless. But he survived, and in 1967, he published his book Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The experience of writing the book inspired Thompson to become a kind of outlaw journalist of the counter culture, writing about his own adventures beyond the boundaries of normal society.

Thompson went on to become one of the most prominent journalists of his generation. In 1971, he published his most famous book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, about a trip he took to that that city, how it almost drove him crazy, and his realization that idealism of the 1960s had disappeared for good.

It's the birthday of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, (books by this author) born in Calcutta, India (1811). His masterpiece was the novel Vanity Fair (1847). It's the story of Becky Sharp, the poor daughter of a drawing master, who fights her way up through society by any means necessary. She delivers the novel's most famous line when she says, "I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year."

It's the birthday of political activist and leader Nelson Mandela, born in Umtata, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa (1918). He joined the African National Congress, a civil rights movement fighting against South Africa's apartheid policies and with a colleague established the first black law partnership in South Africa. In 1961, all opposition movements, including the ANC, were banned, and Mandela became a fugitive from the law.

He spent 18 months disguised as a laborer, a janitor, and a garage worker, but was finally arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison. The following year, police invaded ANC headquarters, where they discovered large quantities of arms and ammunition. Mandela was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Finally, after nearly 28 years, President F.W. de Klerk released Mandela from prison. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end apartheid and to bring about democratic rule in South Africa. Mandela was elected president of that country in 1994, where he served until 1999.

It was on this day in 1870 that the First Vatican Council declared the doctrine of papal infallibility. The Vatican Council proclaimed: "The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra — that is, when … he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church — is, by reason of the Divine assistance … possessed of infallibility."

The doctrine of papal infallibility does not profess that the pope is correct about every decision that he makes, and it does not claim that the pope is exempt from sinning in his personal life. It applies specifically to dogmatic declarations that the pope makes on the issues of faith and morality.

The idea is a controversial one, but it's actually almost never used in practice. In fact, a pope has only once invoked the papal infallibility doctrine in the whole history of its existence since the First Vatican Council declared the doctrine on this day in 1870. That instance was in 1950, when Pope Pius XII said that it was an article of faith that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born without original sin and was assumed, or taken up body and soul, into heaven. Pope Pius XII's declaration was really a formality; this had been part of the beliefs of Catholics for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it had been agreed on overwhelmingly by Catholic bishops in professions and discussions of faith already.

It's the birthday of American poet Rose Hartwick Thorpe, (books by this author) born in Mishawaka, Indiana (1850). She was famous for her narrative poem "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight," written when she was just 17 years old. It became the Queen of England's (Queen Victoria's) favorite poem and one of the most popular poems of the 19th century.

It's about a young woman in 17th-century England who risks her life to save her lover who has been thrown into prison and is set to be executed that night at the ringing of the bell.

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




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