Feb. 26, 2011

The Club Manager

by Dave Morrison

His office is above the stage
behind a thick scarred wooden door
a desk piled high with bills, receipts
a small safe bolted to the floor
Envious friends say "Man, how sweet
to be the guy behind the Scene!"
He puts aside the payroll page
it's time to fix the ice machine.

The overhead is suffocating;
electric, rent, insurance, beer
the mobbed-up dumpster, glassware, liquor
mics / cables / amps / repair
advertising, ASCAP sticker
bar staff, wait staff, bouncers, sound
(the owner talks of relocating
he might as well just burn it down)

Bands talk of blood and sweat and tears
they want more money, better dates
He knows that if they don't sell drinks
there's no point to unlock the grates
Sometimes, worn-out, alone, he thinks
I'm through, I can't last one more week'
but reconsiders when he hears
cheers, clapping, whistles, stamping feet.

"The Club Manager" by Dave Morrison, from Clubland. © Fighting Cock Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of best-selling mystery novelist Elizabeth George, (books by this author) born in Warren, Ohio, on this day in 1949. She's the author of the Inspector Lynley series, about a Scotland Yard detective and his crime-solving partner. Her books include In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner (1999), A Traitor to Memory (2001), What Came before He Shot Her (2006), and Careless in Red (2008). She's the first American mystery novelist whose books have been adapted by the BBC — and the BBC has optioned every one her Inspector Lynley books into a movie.

She teaches creative writing and is the author of a guide for aspiring novelists called Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life (2004).

It's the birthday of the man who said, "To love another person is to see the face of God." That's French novelist Victor Hugo, (books by this author) born in Besançon, France, on this day in 1802. He also said, "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world: and that is an idea whose time has come."

He wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) when he was in his 20s and became a celebrity. He used his fame to advocate for political causes he believed in, like denouncing the autocratic regime of Napoleon III. He encouraged French people to rise up and revolt. Napoleon III declared Hugo an enemy of the state, but Hugo managed to flee the country in disguise just before soldiers showed up to arrest him at his home.

He went to Brussels before landing at Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, where he lived in exile for the next 20 years in exile. There, he wrote at a fast pace. And he wrote standing up, at a pulpit, looking out across the water. He had strict minimums for himself: 100 lines of poetry or 20 pages of prose a day. It was during this time that he wrote his masterpiece, Les Misérables (1865), about a poor Parisian man who steals a loaf of bread, spends 19 years in jail for it, and after his release becomes a successful small businessman and small-town mayor — and then is imprisoned once again for a minor crime in his distant past. The book was a hugely popular, and Hugo returned to Paris, was elected to the Senate of the new Third Republic, and when he died in 1885 at the age of 82, 2 million people showed up to his funeral, a procession through the streets of Paris.

At the end of Les Misérables, Hugo writes: "He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange, he lived. He died when he had no longer his angel. The thing came to pass simply, of itself, as the night comes when day is gone."

Victor Hugo said, "One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas."

From the archives:

On this day in 1564, the playwright Christopher Marlowe, (books by this author) was baptized in Canterbury, England. He was the son of a shoemaker, but he became a playwright and was involved in the world of political spies and intrigue surrounding Queen Elizabeth. He might have been part of her secret service. In 1593, church officials accused him of promoting atheism and issued a warrant for his arrest, but he died in a bar fight before the police could find him.

In Marlowe's day, most English plays were written in rhyming verse, but Marlowe wrote in blank verse, without end rhymes. Other playwrights started to follow his example, including one of his contemporaries, William Shakespeare. Marlowe wrote Tamburlaine the Great, Doctor Faustus, and many more plays before his death at age 29.

It's the birthday of the singer and songwriter Johnny Cash, born in Kingsland, Arkansas (1932). He grew up in the middle of the Great Depression, his parents struggling to pay the bills on a cotton farm they'd bought with help from a New Deal program. When he was 12 years old Cash watched his brother die in a table-saw accident. He never forgot how his mother had to return to working the farm the day after the funeral.

It was his mother who played guitar and sang songs to Cash and his siblings. But Cash didn't learn how to play music himself until he enlisted in the Air Force and went off to Germany. He began playing music and performing there with his fellow servicemen.

One night, they were showing a movie on the base about the conditions at a prison back in America called Folsom Prison. The movie made such an impression on Cash that he decided to write a song about it called "Folsom Prison Blues." When Cash got discharged, he took a job as a door-to-door appliance salesman in Memphis. But around the same time, he hooked up with a couple other musicians and got an audition at Sun Records. The third song they recorded was "Folsom Prison Blues" and it made Cash famous.

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




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