Apr. 25, 2008

A Girl in Milwaukee and a Girl in Brooklyn

by Matt Cook

My wife is talking on the phone in Milwaukee
To her girlfriend in Brooklyn.
But, in the middle of all that, my wife has to go pee.
And it turns out that the girl in Brooklyn,
At the very same time, also has to go pee.
So they discuss this for a moment,
And they're both very intelligent people.
They decide to set their phones down and go to the bathroom
(This was back when people set their phones down).
So they do this, and now we have a live telephone line open
Between Milwaukee and Brooklyn
With no one speaking through it for about two minutes as
A girl in Milwaukee and a girl in Brooklyn go to the bathroom.

"A Girl in Milwaukee and a Girl in Brooklyn" by Matt Cook, from Eavesdrop Soup. © Manic D Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Oliver Cromwell, born in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England in 1599. In 1653, he became lord protector of the Commonwealth, becoming the only person to ever have been the head of state of a republican Great Britain.

It's the birthday of fiction writer Howard Garis, (books by this author) born in Binghamton, New York (1873). He's the creator of the pink-nosed elderly rabbit named Uncle Wiggily. He published an Uncle Wiggily story in the Newark News six days a week for thirty-seven years.

It's the birthday of novelist Padgett Powell, (books by this author) born in Gainesville, Florida (1952). He was a twenty-year-old college student when he admitted to his favorite literature professor that he'd never read anything by Faulkner. She was horrified, and immediately gave him a copy of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, which inspired him to begin writing serious fiction for the first time, but for a while all he managed to write was bad Faulkner parody.

Powell went to graduate school at the University of Houston, where one of his professors was the writer Donald Barthelme. Barthelme helped Powell publish his first novel, Edisto (1984), and he has gone on to write several more books, including A Woman Named Drown (1987), Edisto Revisited (1996), and Mrs. Hollingsworth's Men (2000).

It's the birthday of J. Anthony Lukas, (books by this author) born in New York City (1933). He went to Harvard and wrote for the campus newspaper, and went on to write for The New York Times.

He wanted to write a big, important book about a critical social issue in America. Then, in 1976, Lukas saw a photograph of an anti-busing rally in Boston, in which a group of white protesters was attacking a black passerby with an American flag. So he decided the great topic for his book was going to be racial desegregation, and how it was affecting the lives of ordinary people.

He spent three years interviewing the members of three families in Boston—one lower-class black, one working-class Irish Catholic, and one upper-class white liberal. Finally, after seven years of research and writing, he came out with Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (1985). It won all of the major nonfiction book awards for 1985, including the Pulitzer Prize.

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Walter de la Mare, (books by this author) born in Charlton, Kent, England (1873). He's known for his fantasy stories and poems for children.

It's the birthday of the "First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald, born in Newport News, Virginia in 1918. When she was sixteen she entered a contest at the Apollo Theater, at that time no more than a hip local club in Harlem. She had a dance routine worked out and walked on stage wearing ragged clothes and men's boots, but she froze up. Later she said, "I got out there and I saw all the people and I just lost my nerve. And the man said, 'Well, you're out here, do something!' So I tried to sing." She sang a popular song called "Judy" and got such an ovation that she went on to sing "The Object of My Affection." Soon after, she joined Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington as the only performers who could draw audiences at the Apollo from south of 125th Street.

Marilyn Monroe was one of Ella's biggest fans. Fitzgerald said, "I owe Marilyn a real debt. It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the '50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again."

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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