Jan. 5, 2010

Guinea Pig

by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

As if your cancer weren't enough,
the guinea pig is dying.
The kids brought him to me
wrapped in a bath towel
'Do something, Mom.
Save his life.'

I'm a good mom.
I took time from work,
drove him to the vet,
paid $77.00 for his antibiotics.

Now, after the kids rush off to school,
you and I sit on the bed.
I hold the guinea pig, since he bites.
You fill the syringe.
We administer the foul smelling medicine,
hoping the little fellow will live.

admitting to each other:
if he doesn't,
it'll be good practice.

"Guinea Pig" by Julie Cadwallader-Staub. Reprinted with permission of the poet.

On this day in 1933, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco began. It was finished four and a half years later, in May 1937. The bridge is 8,981 feet (1.7 miles) long, 90 feet wide for six lanes of traffic, and 746 feet high — almost 200 feet taller than the Washington Monument. It's suspended 220 feet above the water, and it links the city of San Francisco to the County of Marin. The color of the bridge is officially called "International Orange," a slightly deeper shade of "Safety Orange." Frommer's travel guide called the Golden Gate Bridge "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world."

Almost 25 years ago, writer Vikram Seth (books by this author) published a novel-in-verse called The Golden Gate (1986), a gentle satire on the lives of some San Francisco yuppies.

It's the birthday of the woman whom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart addressed "dearest little wife": Constanze Mozart, born Constanze Weber in Zell im Wiesental, Germany (1762). The two of them first met when Wolfgang was 21 and Constanze was 15, but he was not interested in her so much as her sister Aloysia. Aloysia, however, rejected Mozart and married another man. Several years later, Mozart was back in town and boarding at the Weber family's house, and he turned his attentions toward courting Constanze.

Their courtship was rife with jealousy, and it almost ended after Mozart found out that Constanze had let some young man measure the length of her lower leg during a parlor game. But Mozart and Constanze eventually wed in August 1782, when she was 20 and he was 26.

It's the birthday of the man who coined the term "Cold War," Herbert Bayard Swope, (books by this author) born in St. Louis, Missouri (1882). He was a journalist and he was the first person ever to receive the Pulitzer Prize for reporting, which he got in 1917 — in the midst of World War I — after writing a series of articles that ran under the title "Inside the German Empire."

He spent decades working for The New York Evening World, taking over as editor of the newspaper in 1920. The following year, in 1921, Swope created the first op-ed page. Many people believe that "op-ed" stands for "opinion-editorial," but it actually means "opposite the editorial page," which is usually where they can be found in the newspaper.

Swope was also a legendary gambler. Two years after he created the op-ed page, he won $470,300 in a poker game, which took place in a railroad car in Palm Beach against an oil baron, a Broadway impresario, and a steel magnate.

Today is the 82nd birthday of Walter Mondale, born in the small town of Ceylon, Minnesota in 1928. He was vice president of the United States under Jimmy Carter's presidency, and the day he was sworn in he became the fourth vice president in just four years. During his administration, Mondale made the role of vice president a more influential one than it ever had been before. He started the custom of weekly lunches with the president, and he was the first vice president ever to have an office at the White House.

It was on this day in 2007 that the man who invented instant ramen and Cup Noodles, Momofuku Ando, died at the age of 96. He'd eaten instant ramen noodles up until the day before he died, as he'd done nearly every day since inventing them in 1958.

Japan was suffering from food shortages in the decade after World War II, and Ando developed the noodles trying to alleviate this problem. He experimented with flash-frying for months to come up with the perfect way to make precooked noodles that would be ready to eat shortly after opening the package. When the noodles first appeared on grocery shelves in Japan in the late 1950s, they were a luxury item and cost about six times as much as a bowl of udon or soba cost in a restaurant. Now, they're one of the most inexpensive ready-made foods in the world.

Momofuku Ando is the subject of a new book, The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life (2009), by Andy Raskin.

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




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