Jul. 12, 2012
Sometimes it's so large
we begin to be pulled under,
so large we believe we will drown
unless the plug is pulled
and it begins to drain away
through unseen pipes that usher it
out of the sad house
and below the neglected lawn
beneath the wide street and traffic,
beyond the traffic light
and the elementary school on the other side.
Underground it slowly, steadily dissipates
into the neighborhood beyond the playground
with its innocents at recess.
For so many years I was one of them.
From the top of the slide
I could spot our beige split-level
and even its flagstone walkway.
I could sometimes make out the silhouette
of my mother retrieving letters
from our mailbox
or out on the front lawn positioning
the oscillating sprinkler.
How good her timing was then,
not leaving it in one place too long
or letting the water wet the sidewalk,
never allowing it to drown
the things she planted.
Today is the birthday of Henry David Thoreau (books by this author), born David Henry Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts (1817). He went to Harvard, but he didn't like it very much, nor did he enjoy his later job as a schoolteacher. He seemed destined for a career in his father's pencil factory, and in fact, he came up with a better way to bind graphite and clay, which saved his father money. But in 1844, Thoreau's friend Ralph Waldo Emerson bought land on the shore of Walden Pond, a 61-acre pond, surrounded by woods, and Thoreau decided to build a cabin there. It was only two miles from the village of Concord, and he had frequent visitors. During the two years he lived there, Thoreau kept a journal that he later published as Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). In the conclusion to Walden, Thoreau wrote, "I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
It's the birthday of poet Pablo Neruda (books by this author), born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in Parral, Chile (1904). In 1923, when he was 19, he sold all his possessions in order to publish his first book, Crepusculario (Twilight). Because his father didn't approve of his writing poetry, he published it under the pen name Pablo Neruda. In 1924, he published Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, known in English as Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which made him famous. Neruda always wrote in green ink, because he believed it was the color of hope.
In 1927, he began a second career as a diplomat. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1971.
Fifty years ago today, a band called The Rollin' Stones played their first gig (1962). Just a couple of months before, guitarist Brian Jones had placed an ad in Jazz News, a local nightclub newsletter, announcing auditions for a rhythm-and-blues band. Two London flatmates named Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined the band. Jagger and Richards had gone to primary school together in Kent, and had lost touch, but then they ran into each other on a train in 1960 and renewed their friendship. They both loved blues, and had formed a band of their own: Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. They had run into Jones a few times at the Ealing Jazz Club, and they'd occasionally jammed together. Jones was the one who came up with the new band's name. He was on the phone with the Jazz News, who asked him what his band was called. He glanced over at a Muddy Waters album that was lying on the floor. One track was "Rollin' Stone Blues," and the band was christened The Rollin' Stones, then and there.
London's Marquee Club hosted a variety of jazz and skiffle acts. But on the night of July 12, their headliners — Blues Incorporated — couldn't play their regular gig. So Jagger, Jones, and Richards went on instead, along with Ian Stewart on keyboard, Dick Taylor on bass, and Mick Avory on drums. The Stones opened with the Leiber and Stoller song "Kansas City," and also played some rock and roll hits like Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A."
A year later, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman had replaced Avory and Taylor, and Ian Stewart had been demoted to road manager. The Rolling Stones had regular gigs at the Crawdaddy Club, and their new manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, was marketing them as the blue-collar, bad boy antithesis to the suit-wearing Beatles with their relatively wholesome image. They released their first single in June 1963, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On."
A new book, The Rolling Stones: 50, is set to be released today to mark the band's golden anniversary.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®