Jul. 5, 2013
how the young man who empties our dustbin
ascends the truck as it moves
away from him, rises up like an angel
in a china-blue check shirt and lilac
woollen cap, dirty work-gloves, rowanberry
red bandanna flapping at his throat. He plants
one foot above the mudguard, locks
his left hand to a steel bar
stemming from the dumper's loud mouth,
and is borne away, light as a cat, right leg
dangling, the dazzled air snatching at that black-
bearded face. He breaks to a smile, leans wide
and takes the morning to his puffed chest—
right arm stretched far out,
a checkered china-blue wing
gliding between blurred earth
and heaven, a messenger under the locust trees
that stand in silent panic at his passage. But
his mission is not among the trees:
he has flanked both sunlit rims of Wing Road
with empty dustbins, each lying on its side,
its battered lid fallen beside it, each
letting noonlight scour its emptiness
to shining. Carried off in a sudden cloud
of diesel smoke, in a woeful crying out
of brakes and gears, a roaring of monstrous
mechanical appetite, he has left this unlikely radiance
straggled behind him, where the crows —
covening in branches—will flash and haggle.
It was on this day in 1937 that SPAM came onto the market. The canned meat product from Hormel Foods Corporation was given its name by a contest winner; the prize for his ingenuity was $100. On one occasion, a Hormel spokesperson said the name was short for "Shoulder of Pork and Ham"; on another, a company official said it was a conflation of the words "spice and ham." All sorts of parodic acronyms have circulated over the years, including "Something Posing As Meat."
On this day in 1954, Elvis Presley recorded his first rock and roll song and his first hit, "That's All Right (Mama)."
Today is the birthday of American artist Chuck Close, born in Monroe, Washington (1940). He had a rough childhood: He was dyslexic and didn't do well in school; his father died when Chuck was 11, and his mother developed breast cancer soon after. Their medical bills were so high that the family lost their house, and Close was bedridden for almost a year due to a serious kidney infection. He got through by drawing and painting, and took his first trip to the Seattle Art Museum soon after his father died.
He's become known for his enormous portraits, painted so realistically that they look like photographs. He had been painting them for 20 years before he finally figured out why he was so obsessed with these giant portraits: It's a way to remember them. He has a condition called "face blindness," which means he's unable to recognize individual faces.
In 1988, he was presenting an award in New York City when he began having chest pains. After the ceremony, he walked to the hospital across the street and collapsed in a seizure. An artery in his spine had ruptured, and he woke a quadriplegic. He's confined to a wheelchair, but through extensive physical therapy, he regained the ability to paint.
It's the birthday of one of the most versatile artists of the 20th century, Jean Cocteau, born in Maisons-Laffitte, just outside Paris (1889). He wrote essays, poetry, and novels. He worked on ballets, operas, and movies as well. He was involved in early stages of surrealism and cubism. He was a friend of Picasso's and a friend of Marcel Proust's.
He said, "Style is a simple way of saying complicated things."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®