Feb. 20, 2013
My father once sold a Chevy
to Stan Musial, the story goes,
back in the fifties,
when the most coveted object
in the universe of third grade
was a Stan-the-Man baseball card.
No St. Louis honkytonk
or riverfront jazz club
could be more musical
than those three syllables
rising from the tongue of Jack Buck
in the dark mouths
of garages on our street,
where men like my father
stood in their shirt-sleeved exile,
cigarette in one hand, scotch
in the other, radio rising
and ebbing with the Cards.
If Jack Buck were to call
my father's drinking that summer,
he would have said
he was swinging for the bleachers.
He was on a torrid pace.
In any case, the dealership was failing,
the marriage a heap of ash.
And knowing my father, I doubt
if the story is true,
although I love to imagine
that big, hayseed smile
flashing in the showroom, the salesmen
and mechanics looking on
from their nosebleed seats at the edge
of history, as my dark-suited dad
handed the keys to the Man,
and for an instant each man there
knew himself a part of something
in the old myths, a bored god
dresses up like one of us, and falls
through a summer thunderhead
to shock us from our daydream drabness
with heaven's dazzle and razzmatazz.
It's the birthday of playwright Russel Crouse (books by this author), born in Findlay, Ohio (1893). His play State of the Union (1946) won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Crouse is also famous for writing the books for musicals. When we think of musicals, we tend to think of the people who wrote the music and the lyrics, like Rodgers and Hammerstein for The Sound of Music. But all the dialogue or words that are not sung are called the book, and Crouse wrote books — in fact, he co-wrote wrote the book for The Sound of Music, as well as Anything Goes.
It's the birthday of the writer who caused Stephen King to say: "When people talk about the genre, I guess they mention my name first, but without Richard Matheson I wouldn't be around. He is as much my father as Bessie Smith was Elvis Presley's mother." Horror and science fiction writer Richard Matheson (books by this author) was born in Allendale, New Jersey (1926). He wrote for television shows, including The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, and he wrote more than 20 novels and 100 short stories. His most famous books include I Am Legend (1954), The Shrinking Man(1956), later retitled The Incredible Shrinking Man, and What Dreams May Come (1978).
It was on this day in 1952 that Dylan Thomas (books by this author) flew to New York for his first reading tour of the United States. He became a huge celebrity, with people packing auditoriums to see him and hear his deep voice with its Welsh accent. Stories about his drinking and womanizing were told and retold, and he certainly encouraged them — he called himself "the drunkenest man in the world," and claimed that the purpose of his tour was "to continue my lifelong search for naked women in wet mackintoshes."
It was on this day in 2005 that the "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson died (books by this author). He shot and killed himself at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado. He was 67 years old. He honed his offbeat, edgy writing style in such works as Hell's Angels (1966) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972) and many other books.
He wrote, "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone ... but they've always worked for me."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®