Sep. 23, 2009


by Luci Shaw

Not a color I've wanted to wear—too
innocently girlish, and I'm not innocent,
not a girl. But today the gnarled cherry trees
along Alabama Street are decked out
like bridesmaids—garlands in their hair,
nosegays in their hands—extravagant,

finally the big spring wedding to splurge,
and hang the cost. Each really wants to be
the bride so she can toss her bouquet until,
unaccustomed, the gutters choke
with pink confetti that flies up and whirls
in the wake of cars going west,

flirting shamelessly with teenage boys on
the crosswalks. The pale twisters,
the drifts of petals, call out to me, "Let go;
it's OK to be giddy, enchanted, flighty,
intoxicated with color. Drive straight
to the mall and buy yourself a pink Tee."

"Pink" by Luci Shaw from What the Light Was Like. © WordFarm, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

And it's the birthday of Ray Charles, born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia (1930). They called him the "Father of Soul." He first got national attention in the mid-1950s with his performance of "I Got A Woman," which fused rhythm and blues, gospel, and jazz.

Today is the day that Greeks celebrate the birthday of the tragic poet Euripides, (books by this author) who is believed to have been born near Athens in 480 B.C. He's best known for his tragedy Medea (431 B.C.), about a woman who murders her own sons to get back at the husband who left her.

It's the birthday of singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen, born in Freehold, New Jersey (1949). He didn't do well in school, and people thought he was weird because he didn't seem to have any ambition for anything. Then one day, he saw Elvis Presley perform on TV and that inspired him to scrape together 18 dollars to buy a battered second-hand guitar.

Springsteen was the leader of a series of hard-rock bands with names like the Rogues, the Castiles, the Steel Mill, and Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom. He played his early gigs at private parties, firemen's balls, trailer parks, prisons, state mental hospitals, a rollerdrome, and even a shopping center parking lot.

On this day in 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (books by this author) returned to St. Louis from their westward expedition to the Pacific Coast. They carried with them the first tentative maps of the American West and the most detailed journals ever kept of an exploratory expedition, with notes on the events of every single day of their journey. Their report of what they discovered filled Americans with excitement about the West and launched a flood of expansion across the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.

On this day in 1939, Sigmund Freud (books by this author) died in his study in Hampstead, London. He had undergone 33 operations for cancer of the palate and the jaw, and was in constant pain. His doctor, Max Schur, came to see him, and Freud grasped him by the hand. "My dear Schur," he said, "you remember our first talk. You promised to help me when I could no longer carry on. It is only torture now, and it has no longer any sense." Schur gave Freud a third of a grain of morphine; he fell into a coma and died 36 hours later.

On this day in 1935, New Yorker editor Harold Ross (books by this author) wrote a memo to cartoonist James Thurber that read:
"Mr. Thurber:
While bathing this morning, it came into my mind that what that dog is doing on your New Year's cover is winking, dog winking. I'm not exactly clear on how a dog winks but it's probably as you've drawn it. It's important that it be clear in the final picture, of course. I will not take a bath again for some time.
H.W. Ross"

Thurber had joined the staff of The New Yorker in 1927 as an editor; his friend E.B. White helped him get the job. Soon, Thurber was writing for the magazine as well. The two men collaborated in 1929 on a book — a parody of Freud and sexuality studies entitled Is Sex Necessary? or, Why You Feel The Way You Do. The next year, White found some of Thurber´s sketches in the trash can and had them published in The New Yorker. Thurber contributed cartoons to the magazine for decades after White's wastebasket discovery.

Most of Thurber´s cartoons were black and white, but his captions were often colorful. One of his early New Yorker cartoon captions read: "All right, have it your way — you heard a seal bark!" Another said, "Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?"

He frequently chose to portray animals, and his books include The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities (1931), The Seal in the Bedroom and Other Predicaments (1932), The White Deer (1945), The Beast in Me and Other Animals (1948), and Thurber's Dogs (1955).

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




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