Mar. 14, 2008

The Angels

by Louis McKee

Adolescence came the night
we were walking back from the playground
after all the basketball we could fit in
before dark, and a loud car pulled up
beside us, four girls, a red Mustang,
the Angels, loud, on the radio,
but they didn't need directions, these girls,
these angels, they knew
where they were going. What they didn't know
was that we were thirteen, not even
in high school — that's what they asked us,
What school ya go to? but something told us
to hedge the question, the Angels, loud
girls, too many girl groups, we made fun of them,
Ronettes, Crystals, Shirelles, Shangra-las —
but not the Angels. The Angels were okay
for some reason. That should have been a hint.
Things were changing; some things were
already different: a red Mustang and four girls,
the Angels singing, and the lights over the court
had not come on that night, the night
girls pulled up beside us, four guys
and a basketball, a radio loud, girls
singing, and we hedged questions
until they pulled away laughing, loud,
four girls, the red Mustang, amber lights
winking in the distance, music, girl groups,
four, loud, and that last night, Thank you
and goodnight, Thank you and goodnight,

of basketball, no lights, the Angels, the Angels.

"The Angels" by Louis McKee from Near Occasions of Sin. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.

It's the birthday of Albert Einstein, born in Ulm, Germany (1879).

Einstein didn't like school because of its rote teaching and discipline style, and he was not a good student except in math.

Einstein's father wanted him to get a technical job in order to help support the family, so he took the entrance exam for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He was unprepared and failed the exam, except for the math section, on which he scored extremely high. The principal of the school was impressed by Einstein's aptitude for math and sent him to finish high school at a place just outside of Zurich. A year later, he enrolled at the Swiss Federal Institute.

After graduating, he went to work for the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, where his job was to evaluate patent applications for electromagnetic devices and determine whether the inventions described would actually work. The job wasn't particularly demanding and at night he would come home and pursue scientific investigations and theories. In 1905, he wrote a paper on the Special Theory of Relativity, which is that if the speed of light is constant and if all natural laws are the same in every frame of reference, then both time and motion are relative to the observer.

That same year, he published three more papers, each of which was just as revolutionary as the first, including the paper that included his most famous equation: E = mc2. E is energy, m is mass, and c stands for the velocity of light.

Einstein received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921, and he donated all the prize money to charity.

It's the birthday of novelist John Wain, (books by this author) born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England (1925). His first novel, Hurry on Down (1953), established him as one of Britain's "Angry Young Men" of the 1950s, known as radicals who bitterly opposed the British establishment and the conservative elements in the society at the time.

It's the birthday of the humorist Max Shulman, (books by this author) born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1919). He wrote several books, including Anyone Got a Match? (1964) and Potatoes Are Cheaper (1971). He grew up during the Great Depression, and he said, "I turned early to humor as my branch of writing ... [because] life was bitter and I was not."

It's the birthday of Sylvia Beach, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887). She founded an English-language bookstore and lending library on the Left Bank of Paris called Shakespeare & Company (1919). It became a central feature of the Parisian literary scene of the 1920s and "the unofficial living room" of the expatriate artists there. Writers used it as a meeting place, a post office, and a place for guidance with their writing.

Beach also published books, including the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922, while it was still banned in America.

It's the birthday of the playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, (books by this author) born in Wharton, Texas (1916). He's best known for writing the screenplays for movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Tender Mercies (1983). He also won a Pulitzer Prize for drama for his play The Young Man from Atlanta (1995).

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




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