Dec. 28, 2008

First Snow

by Pamela Porter

That last day of the year
we hung upside down
on the world, air hot
as exhaust from the black
taxis of Buenos Aires,
and while roses in Parque Rosedal
opened their fragrant mouths
like a Palestrina choir,
the two of you ran to the window
calling, "Snow!"
From the windows
of all the office towers,
workers tossed the year's
papers into the open air,
faces serious as ice.
December's memos, the first
flakes, floated on the bitter wind;
windshield wipers plowed the drifts
of November's announcements.
October fell, with the date and hour
of a funeral, then September,
August, the grey decisions
of July, a list
of those to let go, jealous tangos
of June and May set free
into the azure sky.
We walked the Avenida
in that bright disorder,
the neatly tied loose ends
flung open, the hoary
edges of graphs
flaming in the sun.

"First Snow" by Pamela Porter, from The Intelligence of Animals. © The Backwaters Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Sam Levenson, (books by this author) born in New York City in 1911. He started out as a Spanish teacher in the New York public schools, and then worked his way into comedy. He wasn't a stand-up comedian so much as he was a storyteller. He told humorous stories about his childhood in New York City. He wrote a number of books of humorous essays, including You Don't Have to Be in Who's Who to Know What's What (1979).

Sam Levenson said, "Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we'll find it."

It's the birthday of a novelist inspired by movies, Manuel Puig, (books by this author) born in the small town of General Villegas, Argentina (1932). He's best known for his novel Kiss of the Spider Woman (1979), about a gay man who befriends a guerilla fighter in prison by telling him the plotlines of all the movies he ever saw when he was growing up.

Puig grew up in the pampas, grassy plains that many Argentines considered romantic, but which Puig himself hated. He said there was a "total absence of landscape — no trees, no rain, only this grass that grows by itself, which is excellent for cattle, but not for people."

The only thing he loved about his hometown was the tiny movie theater, which showed a different movie every day. The first movie he saw there was The Bride of Frankenstein, and after that, the boy went there every night at six o'clock, sitting in the same seat. He saw movies by Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, and Frank Capra. He said, "The movies helped me not to go crazy. You see another way of life. It doesn't matter that the way of life shown by Hollywood was phony. It helped one hope."

In 1946, he left his hometown and went to Buenos Aires, where he tried to become a filmmaker. He eventually made his way to New York City and got a job as a ticket clerk for an airline, and he once sold a plane ticket to Greta Garbo.

Puig tried to write a series of screenplays, but they all failed. Then he started a screenplay that began with a narrator speaking in voiceover. He kept writing and writing, never getting to the action of the movie, until finally he realized he was writing a novel.

And that was his first novel, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth (1968), about a boy who grows up in a boring small town and constantly fantasizes that his life is a Hollywood movie.

It's the birthday of the novelist Simon Raven, (books by this author) born in London in 1927. He's best known for his 10-volume series of novels about the British upper class called Alms for Oblivion. The first volume was published in 1964.

Simon Raven said: "I've always written for a small audience consisting of people like myself, who are well-educated, worldly, skeptical, and snobbish (meaning that they rank good taste over bad). And who believe that nothing and nobody is special."

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




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