Jul. 22, 2009


by Ron Koertge

In the airport bar, I tell my mother not to worry.
No one ever tripped and fell into the San Andreas
Fault. But as she dabs at her dry eyes, I remember
those old movies where the earth does open.

There's always one blonde entomologist, four
deceitful explorers, and a pilot who's good-looking
but not smart enough to take off his leather jacket
in the jungle.

Still, he and Dr. Cutie Bug are the only ones
who survive the spectacular quake because
they spent their time making plans to go back
to the Mid-West and live near his parents

while others wanted to steal the gold and ivory
then move to Los Angeles where they would rarely
call their mothers and almost never fly home
and when they did for only a few days at a time.

"Fault" by Ron Koertge, from Geography of the Forehead. © University of Arkansas Press, 2000. Published with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Tom Robbins, (books by this author) born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina (1936). He's known for novels such as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976), Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas (1994), and Villa Incognito (2003). He says that when he starts a book, he has no idea of what the story will be. He never outlines and never revises. He just works on each sentence until he thinks it's perfect, sometimes for more than an hour, and then he moves on to the next one. He said, "I'm probably more interested in sentences than anything else in life."

It's the birthday of Margery Williams Bianco, (books by this author) born Margery Williams in London, England (1881). She's the author of the classic children's book The Velveteen Rabbit (1922) about a stuffed toy rabbit who is loved so much by the boy he belongs to that he becomes real. She wrote, "Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

It's the birthday of the man known as the "dean of American psychiatry," Karl Menninger born in Topeka, Kansas (1893). His ideas about mental illnesses and how to treat them were revolutionary for his time — and many of the approaches he advocated for and developed became instituted in modern psychiatric treatment centers.

Menninger built on some of the foundations that Freud had established, and some of his achievements rest in explaining Freud to the general population through magazine articles, books, and letters. But he also diverged in many ways from the founder of psychoanalysis. Where Freud believed in treating individuals through set therapy sessions, the Harvard-educated Menninger advocated a total immersion experience to help mentally ill individuals get well. He co-founded with his father and brother, who were also medical doctors, the Menninger Clinic in Topeka. It was inspired partially by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The Menninger Clinic started in a farmhouse with only 13 beds for patients. At first, local citizens sued to stop the opening of a "maniac ward" near them. The clinic expanded greatly and eventually grew to 39 buildings on 430 acres — and to a staff of 900 people.

He thought that criminal behavior was often a stage of mental sickness and that it should be treated accordingly. He was a lifelong advocate for prison reform, believing the current system did nothing to help stop antisocial behavior.

Once, when someone asked him what to do if a person feels he is about to have a nervous breakdown, Menninger replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them."

Karl Menninger said, "The central purpose of each life should be to dilute the misery in the world."

It's the birthday of the matriarch of the Kennedy family, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, born in Boston (1890). She's the mother of President John F. Kennedy, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Ted Kennedy. She had nine children in total.

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy lived to be exactly 104 ½ years old, dying on January 22, 1995, from complications of pneumonia. She's the longest-lived family member of a president in history. There's a recent documentary out about her, which was nominated for an Oscar. It's called Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember.

There's a cocktail named after her and it's popular in bars on the East Coast (order a "Rose Kennedy"). It has vodka, club soda, and a splash of cranberry juice — which gives it a "rose" color. It's served with a wedge of lemon or lime and is especially popular at gay bars, reportedly, because it's low in calories.

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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