Jan. 27, 2010
Sometimes you say I'm something else,
and you mean I'm good, really good,
but honey, don't say that, please?
Reminds me how my dad used to say,
I'm just not myself today.
As if here were some kind of imposter dad.
Then he'd ask things like:
Why don't you go play with James?
Has the dog had his walk yet?
Will you kindly get out of my cotton-pickin' hair?
Sometimes he'd come home from work
carrying his hat and a brown paper bag,
and I'd know he wasn't my dad.
There were at least three daddies then,
sort of like daddy A, B, and C.
Like that TV show. Which will it be,
bachelor 1, 2, or 3?
My mom often said he wasn't the man
she married. And I thought about that.
How, when they were married,
I wasn't me, either. I wasn't anyone.
I didn't like to dwell on that.
It kind of gave me the creeps,
but I liked to ask,
Were you really in love then?
Of course, she'd say.
Did you hold hands?
Kiss in public? Sit on his lap?
Yes, yes, I did all that. Once
She even showed me photos
she kept in her lingerie drawer
beneath her slips and silky things
she never wore anymore: him
in his spats and slick-shined hair,
her in a pink crinoline cocktail dress
with her long bangs clipped back
in pearly barrettes. Not a thought
in her head, except maybe
Don't I look swell? And
Love me. And he did.
Did he say so?
He said it every day.
He was something else back then.
It's the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg, Austria (1756). His whole life was devoted to music. He was a child prodigy: by the time he was five he could perform difficult pieces on both piano and violin. He made a name for himself as a composer when he was in his teens, and he went on to write some of the most popular operas of all time, including The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and The Magic Flute (1791).
Mozart spent most of his adult life in Vienna, and made a living by teaching, publishing music, giving concerts, and composing. He was always pretty well off for a musician — he had a carriage and servants, and lived in a nice apartment — but he spent money faster than he made it, and he often had to borrow from friends and relatives. He stayed close to his father throughout his life, and when his father died, Mozart fell into a deep depression. He stopped performing in public and relied on teaching to make ends meet.
He died four years later, at the age of 35, while he was in the middle of composing his last piece, Requiem in D, which he wrote as his own funeral march.
It's the birthday of the man who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871), Lewis Carroll, (books by this author) born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in Cheshire, England (1832). When he was 24 years old, a new dean arrived at the school where Carroll worked, and the dean brought his three daughters, Lorina Charlotte, Edith, and Alice. Carroll befriended the three girls and began spending a lot of time with them. In July of 1862, while floating in a rowboat on a pond, he came up with the story of a girl's adventures in a magical world underground, and told it to the three girls. Carroll always remembered that day. Late in his life he wrote: "I can call it up almost as clearly as if it were yesterday — the cloudless blue above, the watery mirror below, the boat drifting idly on its way, the tinkle of the drops that fell from the oars, as they waved so sleepily to and fro, and (the one bright gleam of life in all the slumberous scene) the three eager faces, hungry for news of fairy-land ..."
Many biographers have made out Carroll to be a shy, awkward recluse who was only comfortable around young girls, but he was actually charming and sociable. Even though he never married, many of his friends were young women, and he wrote several love poems to them. He loved to hold dinner parties, and even made detailed charts of where his guests sat at the table and what they had to eat. He often went to the theater and to art exhibitions, and he took an extensive tour of Russia with his friend. He also wrote about 97,000 letters in his lifetime.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®