Apr. 4, 2012
Everyone in O'Hare is happy today.
Sun shines benevolently
onto glorious packaged snack foods
and racks of Bulls t-shirts.
My plane was twenty minutes early.
Even before I descend into the trippy light show
of the walkway between terminals,
I am ecstatic. I can't stop smiling.
On my flight we saw Niagara Falls
and Middle America green and gold below.
Passengers thanked the pilot for his smooth landing
with such gratitude that I too
thanked him, with sudden and wholehearted sincerity.
A group of schoolchildren passes on the escalator,
and I want to ask where they're going.
Tell me your story, I want to say.
This is life in motion.
A young couple embraces tearfully at a gate;
she's leaving, he's not.
How can I bring this new self back to you, intact?
He yells to her departing back,
"Hey, I like the way you move!"
Any kind of love seems possible.
We walk through this light together.
So what if it's an airport?
So what if it won't last?
President William Henry Harrison died on this date in 1841. He was a president of many "firsts." At 68, he was at that time the oldest man elected president of the United States. He also gave the longest inaugural address: It took nearly two hours, even after Secretary of State Daniel Webster edited it down for him. Harrison delivered that address on a raw March day that later turned to rain, and he was wearing neither a hat nor an overcoat because he wanted to show how robust he was. He came down with a cold that lingered, and eventually that cold turned into pneumonia and pleurisy. He tried to rest, but couldn't find a quiet room, because the White House was filled with people angling for jobs in his administration. All the best doctors were called, and they applied all the best treatments: opium, castor oil, bloodletting, and leeches. In spite of their care, he became worse, and died exactly one month after taking the oath of office. He was the first president to die in office, and he also served the shortest term. He was the first president to have his photograph taken, the first president to travel to his inaugural by train, the only president to have studied medicine, and the last president to have been born before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (books by this author) was assassinated on this date in 1968, while in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. He was memorialized last year with a monument on the National Mall in Washington, a figure partially carved out of a block of stone, with quotes on either side, which some people have criticized as misquotes. One quote reads, "I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness." What Dr. King actually said was, "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."
The Department of Interior announced in January that the National Park Service will find a more appropriate quote for the memorial.
Today is the birthday of Maya Angelou (books by this author), born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri (1928). She was a dancer and actor, lived in the early 60s in Ghana as part of an African-American expat community, got involved in the civil rights movement, and wrote about it in her six-volume autobiography starting in 1970 with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
It's the birthday of Marguerite Duras (books by this author), born near in a small village in French Indochina near what is now Saigon, Vietnam (1914). Her parents had left France to teach in Indochina, her dad died, and Duras grew up in poverty.
When she was a teenager, she became lovers with a wealthy, older Chinese man, whom she met on a ferry between Sa Dec and Saigon. She would write about him for the rest of her life, in autobiographical works like The Lover (1984), which was an international best-seller.
Marguerite Duras said, "You have to be very fond of men. Very, very fond. You have to be very fond of them to love them. Otherwise they're simply unbearable."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®