Nov. 23, 2008

The Story of My Life

by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Each day goes down in history, wets its feet,
bathes in the clear or murky stream, drinks deep,
comes out to join past days on the other bank.
We go in with the bathing day, every morning,
brace the shiver on our skin, taste the slaking
of thirst, find footing on mossy rock. Climb out
with sleep. Waking, we're back on the first bank,
wading with a new day into the kaleidoscopic
water. Days far from either bank are barely seen
and seem unseeing. There is no recording of them
that knows the cold and quenching of their moment
in the water. Yet I cannot let them go, nor bear
the strong suggestion formed by their fading figures
that they have let us go and that those coming cannot
be foretold anything actual of water, flesh, or stone.
Publisher holds out a large envelope says, Sorry.
We can't publish your autobiography.

Man sighs, says, Story of my life.
All these words, then, are only for the stream?
The stream is everything? The stream is not enough?
The specters on the banks are deaf but listening?

"Story of My Life" by Jennifer Michael Hecht from Funny. © University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet Jennifer Michael Hecht, (books by this author) born in Glen Cove, New York (1965). She's the author of The Next Ancient World (2001) and Funny (2005).

Her poem "Blind Love" begins:

Lady says, Doc, I think I need glasses.
Teller says, You sure do, Lady, this is a bank.

In the poem "History," she describes Eve in the Garden of Eden as "the only soul in all of time / to never have to wait for love," who "wished to trade-in all of Eden / to have but been a child."

She's also a scholar of intellectual history; she has a Ph.D. from Columbia — in the History of Science. She's the author of Doubt: A History (2003), The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism and Anthropology (2003), and The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong (2007).

It was on this day in 1889 that the Jukebox made its debut at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. It was called a "nickel-in-the-slot player" and was built by the Pacific Phonograph Co. Later that year, jukeboxes were installed in other places around the city and on ferries that traveled back and forth across the bay between San Francisco and Oakland.

The jukebox consisted of an electric phonograph inside a free-standing oak cabinet. The technology for amplifiers hadn't been perfected yet, so there were headphones, which looked like stethoscopes. Up to four people could listen to a song at any given time. In 1927, the Automatic Musical Instruments Company introduced the first jukebox with amplifiers.

Jukeboxes changed the music business. Many early radio programs refused to play country, blues, or jazz, but jukeboxes made that music available in taverns, restaurants, and diners, and on Army bases. Eventually, country, blues, and jazz joined the music of Tin Pan Alley as pop music.

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




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