Feb. 25, 2003

Too Sweet

by Charles Bukowski

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Poem: "too sweet," by Charles Bukowski from Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way (Ecco Press).

too sweet

I have been going to the track for so
long that
all the employees know
and now with winter here
it's dark before the last
as I walk to the parking lot
the valet recognizes my
slouching gait
and before I reach him
my car is waiting for me,
lights on, engine warm.
the other patrons
(still waiting)
"who the hell is that

I slip the valet a
tip, the size depending upon the
luck of the
day (and my luck has been amazingly
good lately)
and I then am in the machine and out on
the street
as the horses break
from the gate.

I drive east down Century Blvd.
turning on the radio to get the result of that
last race.

at first the announcer is concerned only with
bad weather and poor freeway
we are old friends: I have listened to his
voice for decades but,
of course, the time will finally come
when neither one of us will need to
clip our toenails or
heed the complaints of our
women any longer.

meanwhile, there is a certain rhythm
to the essentials that now need
attending to.
I light my cigarette
check the dashboard
adjust the seat and
weave between a Volks and a Fiat.
as flecks of rain spatter the
I decide not to die just
this good life just smells too

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist, composer, and critic Anthony Burgess, born in Manchester, England (1917). He is the author of more than fifty books and dozens of musical compositions, from operas to choral works to symphonies and concertos. He also wrote radio and television scripts and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. He is, however, best known as the author of A Clockwork Orange (1962; filmed by Stanley Kubrik in 1971). It is set in a future London and written in a dialect called "nadstat," a combination of Russian and British slang, invented by the author. In the book, a juvenile delinquent named Alex is brainwashed by the authorities to rid him of his aggressive tendencies. The book opens, "There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in a Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry." Burgess said, "I wish people would think of me as a musician who writes novels, instead of as a novelist who writes music on the side…Music is a purer art."

It's the birthday of nutritionist and author Adelle Davis, born in Lizton, Indiana (1904). She gave us the phrase "You are what you eat."

It's the birthday of tenor Enrico Caruso, born in Naples, Italy (1873), the eighteenth of twenty-one children and the first to survive past infancy. He was determined to become a singer, but several teachers told him he had neither voice nor talent. He finally persuaded one teacher to let him observe other students' lessons; eventually he was given his own private classes. Legend has it that when the young tenor was asked to sing as Rodolfo in La Bohéme, he first had to get permission from Puccini himself. After listening to Caruso sing a few pages, Puccini allegedly leapt from his chair and cried, "Who sent you to me? God!?!" In 1902, Caruso made his debut in Rigoletto at London's Covent Garden, and the following year at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He was engaged there continually for the next eighteen years. Caruso has often been called the greatest tenor of the twentieth century, known for his brilliant high notes and his dramatic interpretations. He was immensely popular, partly because he was the first major tenor to be recorded on gramophone records.

In 1950 on this day, Your Show of Shows debuted, one of the most successful variety shows television has ever seen. The weekly series, starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, was ninety minutes of original comedy sketches performed live in front of a studio audience, without the benefit of cue cards or teleprompters. Writers for the show included Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Neil Simon.

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