Jun. 21, 2003

The Way Things Are in Eastside

by Ginger Andrews

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Poem: "The Way Things Are in Eastside," by Ginger Andrews.

The Way Things Are in Eastside

So these two smart, slick dudes from South Africa and Romania
somehow get hold of our credit card number and e address,
charging up hundreds of dollars which screws
our banking and puts a stop to any check writing
on the very evening I'd planned on Chinese take-out.
Just my good fortune, I find a six serving size frozen dinner entrée-
Salisbury steak, wedged behind the ice trays in my freezer-especially
since my favorite nephew happens by, hungry and broke,
and then my sister who's never eaten right, so I
somehow feel blessed anyway, until my husband comes home
frowning, wound tight because he hit a deer on his way to work,
busting up the whole front end of his Nissan-this, just a week after
dropping full coverage because the truck's finally paid off. I tell him to sit, eat,
take my car to the police station to file the computer fraud claim. Speaking
of foreign countries, my nephew says, How are your friends in Russia doing?
He wonders if they might find him a nice Russian gal who'd be willing to come
to Coos County and marry him. My sister almost chokes on her baked potato.
I'm telling you, he says, there ain't no good women left in Eastside, Oregon.

Literary Notes:

Today is the Summer Solstice and the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. On this day at noon, the north pole of the earth is tilted as far toward the sun as it gets during the course of the year: twenty-three degrees twenty-seven minutes north latitude.

It's the birthday of Ian McEwan, born in Aldershot, England (1948). He's the author of the novels Enduring Love (1997) and Amsterdam (1998).

It's the birthday of Albert Hirschfeld, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1903). He had always been interested in drawing, but got a job working for Warner Brothers studios. One night, while watching a play, he sketched a picture of the leading actor on his playbill. He showed it to a friend who showed it to a friend, and it was the beginning of Hirschfeld's career as a professional caricaturist for many newspapers and magazines.

It's the birthday of Jean-Paul Sartre (SAR-truh), born in Paris, France (1905). His father died when he was fifteen months old. He said, "The death of [my father] was my greatest piece of good fortune. I didn't even have to forget him." In college he fell in love with philosophy and literature. He kept a portrait of James Joyce on his dorm room wall. He met Simone de Beauvoir (beau-VWAHR) there, who became the love of his life. Sartre became a teacher. In his spare time he began to write a novel called Nausea (1938). The book was his first major success, and it made him famous. People called him the French Kafka. At the start of World War II, he joined the army as part of the meteorological division. He loved the army. He spent most of his time sitting around and writing. He worked simultaneously on a novel and a war diary, and he wrote several letters to friends every day. Sartre was taken prisoner by German soldiers on his thirty-fifth birthday. While in prison he wrote and directed plays for his fellow prisoners. Released in 1941, he then joined the Resistance, writing for underground publications. Before the war, he had thought of his work as separate from politics, but after the war, he decided that everything was political. He went on to write Being and Nothingness (1943), about the meaning of freedom. It is considered his most important work of philosophy. He wrote, "Hell is other people."

It's the birthday of author Mary McCarthy, born in Seattle, Washington (1912). McCarthy's grandfather sent her to boarding school and she went on to study at Vassar College. She worked for a while as a drama critic for the Partisan Review, and developed a reputation for being tough and mean. She was one of the only women who could hold her own with the male intellectuals at Partisan Review. She once called art critic Meyer Schapiro "a mouth looking for an ear." She was also sexually liberated, and didn't mind who read about it in her books. She was one of the first American women to describe sex from a woman's point of view in her fiction. When she published her collection of stories, The Company She Keeps (1942), the poet Delmore Schwartz said it should to be retitled "Tidings from the Whore." McCarthy published several novels, including The Group (1963) about a group of Vassar students, but she had a hard time making things up, so most of her novels are autobiographical. She said, "What I really do is take real plums and put them into an imaginary cake." Most critics believe that her best book is the memoir Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957).

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