Mar. 11, 2004

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


the other day we were in a
bookstore in the mall
and my woman said, "look, there's

"I don't know him," I said.

"we had dinner with him
not too long ago," she said.

"all right," I said, "let's get
out of here."

Bob was a clerk in the store
and his back was to us.

my woman yelled, "hello, Bob!"

Bob turned and smiled, waved.
my woman waved back.
I nodded at Bob, a very
delicate blushing fellow.
(Bob, that is.)

outside my woman asked, "don't you remember him?"


"he came over with Ella. re- member Ella?"


my woman remembers everything.

I don't understand it, although
I suppose it's polite
to remember names and faces
I just can't do it
I don't want to carry all those
Bobs and Ellas and Jacks and Marions
and Darlenes around in my mind. eating and
drinking with them is difficult en- ough.
to attempt to recall them at will
is an affront to my well-

that they remember me is
bad enough.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Douglas Adams, born in Cambridge, England (1952). He's the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a series of satiric science-fiction novels that begins when the main character, Arthur Dent, is yanked from Earth just before the planet is demolished to make space for an interstellar highway. The book begins: "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has--or rather had--a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time . . . lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches."

It's the birthday of media entrepreneur (Keith) Rupert Murdoch, born in Melbourne, Australia (1931). He inherited two small Australian papers and gave them banner headlines of sex and scandal. Circulation soared. Over time he built an international media empire that included radio and television stations, film and record companies, and book publishers around the world.

Mary Shelley published her novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus on this day in 1818. She was married to the poet Percy Shelley, and she was five months pregnant when she finished the novel. She and Percy would sometimes visit their friend Lord Byron at his villa in Switzerland, and they would stay up past midnight and tell ghost stories by the firelight. Her story of Frankenstein came from one of the stories she told.

It's the birthday of bandleader Lawrence Welk, born in Strasburg, North Dakota (1903). He started out playing with a band called "The Hotsy Totsy Boys" across North Dakota, then Chicago and, finally, California.

It's the birthday of late Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso, born in Sorrento, Italy (1544). He's remembered for his masterpiece "La Gerusalemme Liberata" ("Jerusalem Delivered"), composed between the years 1559 and 1575.

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