Nov. 3, 2008


by Pat Schneider

I have learned
that life goes on,
or doesn't.
That days are measured out
in tiny increments
as a woman in a kitchen
measures teaspoons
of cinnamon, vanilla,
or half a cup of sugar
into a bowl.

I have learned
that moments are as precious as nutmeg,
and it has occurred to me
that busy interruptions
are like tiny grain moths,
or mice.
They nibble, pee, and poop,
or make their little worms and webs
until you have to throw out the good stuff
with the bad.

It took two deaths
and coming close myself
for me to learn
that there is not an infinite supply
of good things in the pantry.

"Lessons" by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems. © Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the playwright Terrence McNally, (books by this author) born in St. Petersburg, Florida (1939). McNally started out as a journalist in Texas. One of his first big interviews was with Lyndon Johnson, who was running for reelection to the Senate. During the interview, Lyndon Johnson got a phone call from his wife, and while he talked to her, he flipped through a Playboy magazine. McNally thought that was the most interesting part of the interview, but he got in a lot of trouble when he wrote about it.

McNally started writing plays, then got a job as a tutor for John Steinbeck's children. Steinbeck told him was that playwriting was the worst existence in the world. McNally wrote anyway, and had a series of off-Broadway hits, but then his career hit a slump. He stopped writing, and he supported himself working on radio shows. He said, "I guess it hadn't occurred to me that to be a playwright you had to write plays — I thought you could be a playwright and sulk."

One day, someone recognized his voice and asked him if he was "that guy on the radio." He realized that if he didn't keep writing plays, he'd be remembered as some radio personality. So he got back to work, and in 1987 he produced Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which became his first big hit.

It's the birthday of the man called a "cheerful nihilist," humorist Joe Queenan, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia (1950). He grew up in a working-class Catholic family. He said, "Blue-collar people like me have zero tolerance level for the problems of celebrities." His first book was Imperial Caddy: The Rise of Dan Quayle in America and the Decline and Fall of Practically Everything Else (1992).

It's the birthday of comedienne Roseanne Barr, (books by this author) born in Salt Lake City, Utah (1952). Her family was Jewish, but her parents supported the family by selling crucifixes door to door. When she was three, she hit her head on the dining room table, and her face became paralyzed. Her mom called a rabbi, but Roseanne wasn't healed. So her mom called the Mormon missionaries, and Roseanne got better. Her Jewish mom took it as a sign that Roseanne should be raised Mormon. Her dad was an atheist, and he was fine with that. Her dad loved comedy shows on television. Whenever a comedian appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, her dad would jump up and yell, "Comedian!" and everyone in the family would rush to the TV. When she was 15, Roseanne ran out into the street and purposefully let herself get hit by a car. She was knocked unconscious, and when she came to, she was placed in a psychiatric ward. She spent eight months there, and she said that it was a very good and valuable experience.

She met a man who drove a garbage truck, and they got married and moved into a trailer. She raised three kids, and on the side she wrote comedy routines. After auditioning for six minutes, she got hired at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. Her jokes were about being a mom and a housewife and about the incompetence of the male species. About husbands who couldn't find their own socks, she said, "They think the uterus is a tracking device."

And, "As a housewife, I feel that if the kids are still alive when my husband gets home from work, then hey, I've done my job."

And, "The quickest way to a man's heart is through his chest."

And, "Women complain about PMS, but I think of it as the only time of the month when I can be myself."

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
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
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