Oct. 10, 2005


by Louis McKee

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Poem: "Considerations" by Louis McKee from River Architecture: Poems from Here and There. ® Cynic Press. Reprinted with permission.


It was one of those decisions
that had to be made
in a moment. A Puerto Rican girl
walked across the street
in front of my car.

Fifteen or so and well
on her way to beauty, her face
was fired gold in the night.
She was headed uptown
where the streets are scarred
and sad, and I remember
how dangerous it is
for a girl to be beautiful
in some neighborhoods.

I wanted to get out
of the car and run to her
rescue, a Galahad
breaking with middle age
and tired legs and heart.

Before I could do anything, though,
the light changed
and the cars around me roared
their engines and moved out
groping for something
they believed would change things.
Like everyone else,
she would have to save herself.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was opening night for Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin on this night in 1935. Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics based on the play by DeBose and Dorothy Heyward. It opened at the Alvin Theater in New York City.

It's the birthday of the playwright Harold Pinter, born in East London (1930). He was the son of a Jewish tailor, and was raised in a working class neighborhood and acted in plays. In school, his first full-length play was The Birthday Party. It debuted in the West End in 1958. He came to create a body of work the people called "the comedies of menace," in which ordinary situations turn absurd because of characters acting out of character for inexplicable reasons.

It's the birthday of the journalist Daniel Pearl, born in Princeton, New Jersey (1963). He grew up in California. He went to work for The Wall Street Journal in 1990. While on assignment in Pakistan, he was kidnapped by terrorists in January 2002 and executed six days later. Some of his best work is collected in the book At Home in the World.

It's the birthday of the jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina (1917). He grew up in New York City. By the age of 13, he had won the amateur night contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem so many times they wouldn't let him compete anymore.

He was just 19 years old when he joined the house band at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and with them, he helped develop a new kind of jazz known as bebop.

Today is Columbus Day, observing Christopher Columbus's first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492. He actually came ashore in the New World on the 12th of October. Of course, he didn't discover America. There were people living here at the time. There had even been Europeans to explore the New World before him: Celts, Phoenicians, and even the Vikings had been here around the tenth century.

Most of the ideas we have about Columbus are myths that were created by Washington Irving, who wrote one of the first modern biographies of Columbus and made most of it up. But Columbus's voyage was the first to publicize the existence of the Americas to the rest of Europe, sparking the waves of colonization that came afterward.

Columbus was trying to find a new trade route to Asia. He got the idea to sail around the world in the opposite direction. He just miscalculated the size of the earth. He thought it was about 3,000 miles from Spain to Japan when, in fact, it's about 13,000.

He sailed off in three little ships, none of them bigger than a tennis court: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. On October 12, 1492, he saw land on the western horizon. It was one of the islands of the Bahamas.

Today is the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi, born near Parma, Italy (1813), to a tavern owner. He was just 26 years old when his first opera Oberto was performed at La Scalia in Milan. A few years later, his opera Nabucco premiered, and the audience applauded for ten minutes after the first scene. Even the stage hands stopped what they were doing to watch and clap backstage.

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




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