Mar. 31, 2006

This Kind of Thing Doesn't Happen Often and When it Does You Should Pay Attention

by John Stone

FRIDAY, 31 MARCH, 2006
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Poem: "This Kind of Thing Doesn't Happen Often and When it Does You Should Pay Attention" by John Stone from Music From Apartment 8: New and Selected Poems. © Louisiana State University Press. Reprinted with permission

This Kind of Thing Doesn't Happen Often and When it Does You Should Pay Attention

            i thank heaven somebody's crazy
            enough to send me a daisy
               —E.E. Cummings

On Piedmont Road, going north,
before my car there floated forth

a soapy bubble in the traffic,
glistening and holographic.

It drifted down into my path,
this ghostly sphere from someone's bath.

I watched it bob and almost tickle
A Harley-Davidson motorcycle

then rise (as it got quite exhausted)
That's where I left it, fair and frosted.

For this unexpected act
I thank heaven (I think), in fact,

that someone went to all the trouble
to blow me a bubble.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet Andrew Marvell, born in Winestead, England (1621). He's remembered for his poem "To His Coy Mistress" (1650).

Marvell wrote, "Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, lady, were no crime."

It's the birthday of poet, novelist and critic Octavio Paz, born in Mexico City (1914). He's known for a book-length essay on Mexican culture called The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950).

It's the birthday of novelist John Fowles, born in Essex, England (1926). His first novel, The Collector, came out in 1963. He went on to publish many more novels, including The Magus (1965) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969).

It's the birthday of novelist Judith Rossner, born in New York City (1935). Her first novel was Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1975).

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Marge Piercy, born in Detroit, Michigan (1936). Her novels include Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) and Available Light (1988).

It's the birthday of the man who wrote, "I think, therefore I am," mathematician and philosopher René Descartes, born in Touraine, France (1596).

It's the birthday of writer and translator Edward FitzGerald, born in Woodbridge, England (1809). He anonymously published a few small collections of poetry and several translations that got little attention in his lifetime. One of those translations, published in 1859, was a collection of poems called the Rubáiyát, by an obscure Persian poet named Omar Khayyam.

Today is the anniversary of the official opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (1889). It was built for the International Exhibition of Paris, commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution. At the time, it was the tallest structure ever built, at 1,000 feet. The architect Gustave Eiffel was a specialist in bridges and the design for the Eiffel Tower was based on his previous bridge designs. He chose to leave the tower's skeletal structure exposed because it was the easiest way to protect it from wind resistance.

When it was finished many Parisians thought it was horribly ugly. Artists and writers wrote a letter of protest, calling the tower a "truly tragic street lamp," a "mast of iron gymnasium apparatus, incomplete, confused and deformed."

The writer Guy de Maupassant described the Eiffel Tower as, "A high and skinny pyramid of iron ladders, [a] giant ungainly skeleton upon a base that looks built to carry a colossal monument of Cyclops, but which just peters out into a ridiculous thin shape like a factory chimney." He hated the tower so much that he started eating in its restaurant every day, because, he said, "It is the only place in Paris where I don't have to see it."

It was almost torn down in 1909, after the expiration of its lease, but the city saved it because its antenna was so useful for the new invention of radio. It's now the most widely recognized symbol of Paris.

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




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