Aug. 26, 2010

I Ride Greyhound

by Ellie Shoenfeld

because it's like being
in a John Steinbeck novel.
Next best thing is the laundromat.
That's where all people
who would be on the bus if they had the money
hang out. This is my crowd.
Tonight there are cleaning people appalled
at the stupidity of anyone
who would put powder detergent
in the clearly marked LIQUID ONLY slot.
The couple by the vending machine
are fondling each other.
You'd think the orange walls
and florescent lights
would dampen that energy
but it doesn't seem to.
It's a singles scene here on Saturday nights.
I confide to the fellow next to me
that I suspect I'm being taken
in by the triple loader,
maybe it doesn't hold any more
than the regular machines
but I'm paying an extra fifty cents.
I tell him this meaningfully
holding handfuls of underwear.
He claims the triple loader
gives a better wash.
I don't ask why,
just cruise over to the pop machine,
aware that my selection
may provide a subtle clue.
I choose Wild Berry,
head back to my clothes.

"I Ride Greyhound," by Ellie Shoenfeld, from Screaming Red Gladiolus. © Poetry Harbor. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment was formally incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. It said: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." It ended more than 70 years of struggle by the suffragist movement.

Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation that morning at 8 a.m. at his home. There was no ceremony of any kind, and no photographers were there to capture the moment. And none of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement were present to see him do it. Colby just finished his cup of coffee and signed the document with a regular, steel pen. Then he said, "I turn to the women of America and say: 'You may now fire when you are ready. You have been enfranchised.'"

It's the birthday of novelist Julio Cortázar, (books by this author) born in Brussels, Belgium, to Argentine parents (1914). His parents were traveling in Europe when he was born, and they were forced to stay for the duration of World War I.

He moved back to France as a young man and began publishing dreamlike, fantastic stories, collected in books such as Blow Up and Other Stories (1956). Critics consider his masterpiece to be the novel Hopscotch (1963).

It's the birthday of memoirist and art collector Peggy Guggenheim, (books by this author) born in New York City (1898). Her father died on the Titanic shipwreck, and at the age of 14 she inherited nearly half a million dollars.

She moved to Europe to live a Bohemian lifestyle. She had an affair with Samuel Beckett, as well as several other artists.

Back in her native New York City, she opened a gallery called "Art of this Century" on West 57th Street. She became the patron of an unknown abstract painter by the name of Jackson Pollock, supporting him so he could be a full-time artist, and she held a one-man show for him at her gallery, one of his first. Soon he was famous.

She wrote some memoirs about her affairs with the rich and famous and artistic, including Out of This Century (1946) and Confessions of an Art Addict (1960).

It's the birthday of the world's only academically accredited enigmatologist, Will Shortz, (books by this author) born on an Arabian horse farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana (1952). He's the current crossword editor of The New York Times, the puzzle master of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, and the author or editor of dozens of books.

Shortz sold his first puzzle to a magazine when he was just 14 years old, and within a couple years he was a regular contributor to puzzle publications.

In his 16 years of editorship of the Times puzzle page, he's introduced some changes. The crossword puzzles now have constructor bylines; the puzzles contain more references to pop culture. He's made the Monday puzzles slightly easier and the Friday and Saturday puzzles harder than they used to be.

His all-time favorite crossword clue is "it might turn into a different story," with the answer "SPIRALSTAIRCASE."

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
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show