Jul. 17, 2002

The Rules

by Philip Dacey

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Poem: "The Rules," by Philip Dacey from The Man With Red Suspenders (Milkweed Editions).

The Rules

"Women is not allow in you room; if you burn you bed
you going out; only on Sunday you can sleep all day."
--Sign in Pioneer Inn, Maui, Hawaii

Keep you trouble to yourself.
We no want more than that
We got. We call police if
You money is hot.

If you lonely, go on street
Make good time.
No sit in room for weep
And call her name.

If feel good, keep down
You singing. We got all
Work to do, no time
For happy fooling.

You pay before you sleep.
You no sleep, we keep
You money. If
Don't you like, is tough.

When hot go cold
The water, blow on it
Or do without. Be glad
You got what you got.

Follow rules
Or we go bust you head.
In room no sales
And keep you shoes off bed.

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer James Purdy, born in Ohio (1923). His books include Malcolm (1959), Out with the Stars (1976), and On Glory's Course (1984), which won a P.E.N.-Faulkner Award nomination. His books have been categorized as black comedies, usually involving the effects of the American dysfunctional family on its children.

It's the birthday of writer Christina Stead, born in Sydney, Australia (1902), whose best known work, The Man Who Loved Children, was published in 1940 but did not come to the public's attention until 1965. It was the semi-autobiographical story of a family in 1930s, torn apart by the parents' hatred of each other. The book did not sell well, although it became an underground favorite. In 1965, however, poet Randall Jarrell arranged for the book to be reissued, and wrote an introduction that proclaimed the book to be as good as Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, and Remembrance of Things Past. Critics now deemed the book a masterpiece, and many hailed its feminist message.

It's the birthday of photographer Berenice Abbott, born in Springfield, Ohio (1898), best known for her portraits and documentary photographs of American life. She traveled to Europe in 1921 to study art and sculpture, and got a job as a darkroom assistant to the surrealist photographer, Man Ray. She took to the camera herself in 1925, and opened her own portrait studio, where she photographed many of the famous literary and artistic figures of the day, including James Joyce, Peggy Guggenheim, and Jean Cocteau. Her greatest work was her documentation of New York in the 1930s. Throughout the early 1930s, Abbott photographed the architecture, historical buildings, and street life of New York City. The powerful black and white photographs were published in 1939 in a book called Changing New York.

It's the birthday of actor James Cagney, born in New York City, New York (1899). He said: "One shouldn't aspire to stardom - one should aspire to doing the job well."

It's the birthday of writer Erle Stanley Gardner, born in Malden, Massachusetts (1889). He taught himself the law, and passed the bar three years later. At the age of twenty-one, Gardner opened his own law office, where he defended many poor Mexican and Chinese clients, and developed a strong sympathy for those he considered unjustly accused. Gardner began writing stories for pulp magazines, and was quite successful at it. In 1933, Gardner wrote a full-length novel called The Case of the Velvet Claws, which was turned down by several publishers. It was finally bought by a publisher who suggested Gardner take the main character, a brilliant lawyer, and write a series of books about him. That lawyer, Perry Mason, eventually became the star of more than eighty novels, along with his loyal secretary Della Street, the private detective Paul Drake, and the District Attorney, Hamilton Burger. He also wrote fifteen non-fiction books about environmental issues.

In 1841 this day, the English humor magazine Punch was first published. The comic magazine was based on a satirical French daily paper. The magazine did not do well until 1872, when it was taken over by the printing firm of Bradbury and Evans, but continues to abide by its motto, put forth in its very first edition, "Punch hangs the devil." The name of the magazine came from a remark one of its founders made during a planning session: "A humor magazine, like a good punch, needs lemon."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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