Friday, January 28, 2011

" are go with throttle up."
CAPCOM Richard Covey, Space Shuttle Challenger 28 Jan. 1986

"Exploration is the sport of the scientist."
Inventor, physicist, balloonist, Auguste Piccard, born on the 28th of
January 1884, on, completely by the way, the 11th birthday of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, future author

A most fitting quotation for such a grim anniversary, no? So it was, 25 years ago today, that I happened to be at the post office in Colorado Springs, mailing off my twice-rejected, much-labored-over picture book dummy for The Wind in the Village of Finn, sending it off to an ed. @ Henry Holt. [Years later it'd actually be published, a story I wrote, the very first time = large thrill.] Came home to see the news footage, all those shocked, upturned faces, staring at the explosion in the sky.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So, a bright cold day without, rather dreary within. Does it matter that I neglected to post here yesterday that it was another in a long line of anniversaries of the births of Somerset Maugham & Virginia Woolf? Or that Maria von Trapp, that steel-belted songstress would've been 106 today? Not one jot and how that trio would've rolled their eyes at this fussy little habit, at the dry little life thereby suggested. Off & away I go to mend this situation because I've seen where this path leads. Go for a walk & watch my step. Come inside, make hot tea. Find some music, turn it up loud. ..spread out clean, new lengths of dark blue cotton and cut out some pieces, sew them together. Terribly bright & funny I can be when I'm talking to strangers. Alone w/myself - that's another story altogether.

Monday, January 24, 2011

So, exceedingly sunny and bright it is: a fine day to haul oneself up and out of the slothful doldrums. Actually, between now and this evening, I must, as I'm scheduled to speak to some hardy souls hereabouts who're planning to set out and hear me speak. Left to my own devices, the only person I'd get out on a freezing cold black perilous night to go hear would be George Washington, my grandma, or perhaps Cleopatra, back from the dead. So I'll grasp at old comforts & tonics: Folger's Instant. a to-do list. see who was born today. If you go to that link, you'll see that it's the anniversary of the birth of Edith Wharton, in 1862, a couple of\ months before my great-grandmother was born... E. T .A. Hoffman, [look this guy UP - what a multi-faceted individual!] in eastern Prussia, was born 24 Jan, 1776 as, far, far away, things were going very, very badly for those waging war for America's independence. I don't reckon that any of those people would now be remembered had they spent their days looking back & noting trivia so I'm outta here. God rest you, Jack LaLanne, every bit as dead as the legions of bums who ne'er did a sit-up or tugged on a Glamour-Stretcher. Such is life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What crust!

So, I've just come up for air after a solitary bliss-fest of nonstop reading Stieg Larsson's T.G.w/t.D.T., a.k.a. book cocaine. Can't wait to start in on the sequel(s). Sure, the 23rd of January is the anniversary of the birth of brilliant writer Paddy Chayefsky (1923) and of the death, in 1944, of the man who painted this, but I would be remiss if I did not point out that today is National Pie Day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


So, it wasn't until 1933 that the date was changed upon which U.S. Presidents were to be sworn in. John Adams took his Oath of Office on the 4th of March, 1797 & so it'd be for the next 136 years, what w/ hard travels & all, 'taking forever to get anywhere' Seems to me that Ethel Roosevelt, TR's daughter said something like that, remembering the Good Old Days [G.O.D. - ooh gave meself the shivers] so anyway, a long stretch of time twixt a Nov. election & putting one's hand on the Bible in March. But 1933 was too dire, miserable, & rotten for any lollygagging, thus Franklin D. Roosevelt's Inauguration Day was moved to 20 January and thus it has been. This link will take you to some of the memorable words said on this notable day in history. Of course, if you're reading this, how astute & marvelous you are/how grateful, albeit surprised, am I! and you probably know that 'twas 50 years ago today, when D.C. was piled high w/ the white stuff not unlike the snowy blanket here today, young Mrs. Kennedy put on her beige ensemble incl. hat to match and you know the rest.
I'd wax on a bit about this being a fine day to inaugurate something, being the 1st day of the R. of your L., but there's snow to shovel and a book to write. I'll fire up the pot of chicken & cabbage & lentil soup [lots of garlic & onion too] I assembled yesterday & give thanks the republic has lasted this far.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let there be Peace on Earth

"This world's a city full of straying streets, and death's the market-place where each one meets."
William Shakespeare, d. 23 April 1616
Two things, m'dears. No, three, the third being man oh man, it's cold in here! The temperature must be dropping and aren't I grateful - and I am, Gracious Spirit, for my furnace and lo, these many layers I've got on. The other two are these: I just heard that a good and decent public servant, devoted husband & father, passed away, got his ticket punched and relieved of his burdensome old body. Sargent Shriver was born in the fall of 1915, about six months after the RMS Lusitania was sunk, just five days before another man, who was dedicated to making the world better, Booker T. Washington left this Vale of Tears & Wonder for the Blue Beyond. Mr. Shriver, the first leader of the Peace Corps, slipped out through the door marked January 18 [as did Rudyard Kipling in 1936 and & into the market-place. Many a dear one waiting there, let's hope.
And another thing, I fooled with the settings hereabouts and my brilliant friend Kid Bardwell managed to leave a comment on my Winter Morning post [the one w/Natalie's super recipe for Scotch Graham Rolls]. Comments! Wahoo-baybee!
No, four: thanks again, G.S. for Cary Grant, who came into a hard world on 18 Jan. 1904.

Dan'l Webster

"Keep cool," said the great man who was born on this day in 1782, "anger is not an argument."

So said Daniel Webster, so lofty & admired a statesman in our antebellum that he's to be found in Stephen Vincent Benet's far out short story, The Devil & Daniel Webster, which was made into a swell movie w/ the even sweller Edward Arnold (You guys know him from, right? as the villain in the Frank Capra movies.) s D. W. & Walter Huston appearing as Mr. Scratch, a.k.a. the Devil, n 1941. Anyway, Dan'l Webster shares a birthday w/ A. A. Milne, conjurer of Winnie the Pooh. And it's all neither here nor, as they say, there, being as just now I need to get out in the frosty perilous world & get a jug of milk so I'll have some for my coffee (Folger's Instant, taken the way my folks did, w/ just a bit of white), to sustain me through this danged manuscript that's been in hanging about far too long. It's a bit of a hammock: A great set-up, a nifty ending, and in between? the valley of the shadow of death.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


So, to you discerning few who read my drivel, particularly to you, Leslie, who wrote to me back in September re: Constitution Day, [don't I wish that I could find publishers who'd want to pay me to write & illustrate the books you suggest. meanwhile, do look at this site and David Catrow's wonderful We the Kids let me tell you that, being a tech-boob, it is only very, very recently that I have discovered where your comments end up, somewhere where I can see them [if I have the wits to look] but you cannot. Do I understand how this happens? Nope. Now I've seen many another blog where readers' comments are actually appear beneath the verbiage upon which they have commented. I doubt we'll be seeing that here.
And, not so by the way, it was on this day in 1902 that Eric Liddell was born. A remarkable fellow, whose accomplishments were portrayed, depicted, & celebrated in the completely terrific film, Chariots of Fire. If you've seen it, do see it again; that's what I'm going to do, by golly, this very week. If you haven't, how much you've missed. And it's the great Ethel Merman's birthday. Andrew Wyeth's deathday, too, God rest him. Two years, earth-time, he's been off in the Blue Beyond.

Friday, January 14, 2011

So, once there was a little girl named Trudy. She lived maybe forty miles from here - I could look it up, I suppose, but let's say that she lived over in Richmond, up Highway 13 from Lexington, Missouri. It happens that when Trudy was five-or-so years old, an older brother came to live with her family. Adopted, because the boy's mother had died and his father was unable to look after his son and daughters. He gave them up, poor fellow, up 'round Chicago, I think. James Wolfe was his name, but what was his story? Don't know. His wife's name? Don't know, but I know that they named their red-headed, blue-eyed son Albert Harley Wolfe, b. 23 Feb, 1891, in Flora Co. Illinois. His little sister Emma (b. 17 Dec. 1895), was sent west on an orphan train. Marshall & Nellie Stickney of Lewiston, Minnesota (down 'round Winona), adopted Emma, changed her name to Alice and raised her as their own. Alice Stickney went to the 1st Pres. church, played the organ there...
Harley, a carpenter, and Emma, aka Alice, had other sisters (Elizabeth? Dorothy?), their whereabouts unknown to me, but I know for sure that 9-year-old Harley grew up to serve overseas in the American Expeditionary Forces (WWI) and after a lot of other things happened, he was my mom's dad. AND Grandpa's kid sister, Trudy (Gertrude Brandt) would be 115 today, being as she was born 14 Jan, 1896, on the anniversary of the birth of Gen. Benedict Arnold, can't help adding, but whatcha gonna do?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Evening

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Jack London

So, according to Wikipedia, which I'd not be using other than a starting point, were I to be working on a book - I AM, as a matter of record, working on a book, but it's fiction therefore and I've been stuck on the same chapter these last four days ..Frozen in one spot, as it were. 12 º outdoors at this writing - have I written here how grateful I am to be living in a time & place & w/ the means to have 1. a furnace and 2. a water heater among many another blessing. = what happens next when anything can happen, that's the question..What would Jack London [b. this day in 1876] say? "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Where was I? Ah- according to the wikibots, today marks the 154th anniversary of the birth of - oh baybee what a painter, John Singer Sargent. On JSS' 20th birthday, Mr. & Mrs. Cheney of San Francisco welcomed their new boy baby into the world, no way of knowing he'd live hard, die young [in 1916], & be ever remembered as said Jack London. So, yup, it's Tex Ritter's birthday and John Hancock's, according to the Old Calendar anyway and that of statesman/orator Edmund Burke. But none of this remembering moves my novel one word further along. None of it changes the fact that folks have been weeping & waiting around in Tuscon for memorial services, they've been standing vigil, setting out candles and flowers and notes, all because a troubled soul set out one morning, determined to kill a diligent, earnest, & charming public servant and hurt &/or kill as many strangers, as he could. Among those to be pitied, pity the parents whose boy baby grew up to be that young man in an Arizona jail cell, siting there with that smirky face hiding a fearsome jungle within.
I think it was John Irving who wrote something like 'we must do good not in spite of the world's sorrow & senseless cruelty, but because of it, if only to balance things out.' So paint something lovely, do something kind, fix a good meal, write someone a letter. Shovel a walk. I'll go do that and determine not to feed the raw, unschooled part of my sensibilities, my monkey brain; it tends to want the killer dispatched, his ticket punched, his neck stretched & never mind the legal niceties.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Morning

‎"I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone..." Alice Paul, legal scholar, valiant suffragist, jailed and tortured b. 11 January. 1885.... at this link, you'll find a splendid image of Ms. Paul.

So, yesterday, I never got around to writing, not one little word, here anyway, but I did note on my Facebook profile [for what it's worth] that the 10th of January marked the anniversaries of the births of Mrs. Wilder's charismatic, fiddle-playing, wander-lusting dad, in 1836, in, I think, Cuba, New York; and of her enigmatic, patient, older sister, in 1865, blond, blue-eyed Mary. I didn't even note that it was late on the 10th of January, 1980, over in West Germany, that my brother Paul was thrown out of a car, going too fast on a road too icy, driven by Paul's friend, who'd had too much to drink as had Paul, who was passed out, a PERFECT condition to be in if you're going to be thrown into a tree & into the next world. Had this not happened, he'd be 52 yr. old now. So. There it was; there it is.
No, yesterday I fussed with the 3rd or 4th revision of a twice & properly rejected fictitious story - a day well spent? pretty much. Then I set the story aside, seeing as I had company coming [Bill & Brenda, two doors up, to join me in assembling a jigsaw puzzle, of one of the images created by one of the best illustrators ever, Jessie Willcox Smith] to stir up a batch of SCOTCH GRAHAM ROLLS from a recipe I got from Natalie Kinsey-Warnock of northeastern Vermont, who got it from her foremothers. Here 'tis: Heat up your oven to 400º. Get out your muffin tin w/ the 12 little cups in it. Butter/oil/spray-lube/or otherwise grease them. MIX together
2 cups of milk
2 cups of whole wheat flour
[I substituted 1/3 cup of that w.w.flour w/uncooked oatmeal]
2 cups of white flour
1 cup of brown sugar
2/3 cup of melted shortening
1 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt It seems to me I baked them about 12-15 min. You're going for nice & puffy. Very good on a winter morning with butter or as I had them with Natalie, warm applesauce, made by her mother, Louise, just down the road.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

“Life is not always not always what one wants it to be., but to make the best of it as it is the only way of being happy.” ...
Jennie Jerome Churchill, b. 9 Jan. 1854, the year of Kansas/Nebraska, dreadful war in the Crimea, the year in which Henry David Thoreau published Walden...

"There are whole precincts of voters in this country whose united intelligence does not equal that of one representative American woman." Carrie Chapman Catt, b. 9 Jan. 1859, the year in which Chas. Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities [oh baybee, do read it if you haven't] & John Brown & his followers raided the federal arsenal @ Harper's Ferry, VA.

Two very different ladies, but I'd be willing to bet that the suffrage reformer would agree w/ the Brooklyn-born beauty, Jennie Jerome: “It is so tempting to try the most difficult thing possible.” One had to pry women's right to vote from the clenched fist of the U.S. government. The other had to put up w/ Lord Churchill.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


"Praying is like a rocking chair - it'll give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere." Louise Hovick, a.k.a. Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970)

So, I reckon Mrs. Presley of Mississippi used to do as many another old-timey cook have done on winter mornings: measure out a cup or two dried beans and set them to soak for cooking later on. My mom & her mom & so on. I did the same, earlier today, and cooked 'em up in a broth with some chicken, cabbage, onion, & garlic, sage & thyme. Tossed in some frozen spinach too, for the color & nutrition and to offset all the Girl Scout cookies I put away today. I mention Mrs. P., of course, because her boy would have turned 76 years old today. A big day it is for anniversary & commemoration. According to the wiki-bots, it was on this day in 1790 that the 1st President delivered the 1st S. of the U. Address. The Battle of New Orleans, 1815 - and boy oh boy, let me point out 1. how much I'd love to write & illus. a book about that and 2. how much my 8-year-old self adored Johnny Horton's hit song, written by folksinger/educator Jimmy Driftwood. Fifteen years after the British were defeated by Old Hickory & the Pirate & their hard-bitten men, the glorious painter Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany. The 100th birthday of a tough resilient entertainer, Gypsy Rose Lee - a great story there was about her on NPR this morning, God bless it & let it be funded forever. There's something deep-down satisfying about puttering about the kitchen, chopping onion for a pot of beans and listening to the radio.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes, then fire low." so said Israel Putnam or, perhaps Colonel Wm. Prescott, to their exhausted, exhilarated troops on the morning of 17 June, 1775, Breed's Hill. General Putnam was 67 years old, seeing as he was born on the 5th of January, 1718. I'm thinking that New Orleans was founded that year. Benjamin Franklin was a 12-yr-old Boston boy... The old general had been mouldering in his grave, strolling the golden streets of the Blue Beyond for ten earthly years when Millard Fillmore was born in New York State, w/ no earthly idea that he'd become the 13th President of the United States and how would that happen? Because of his years spent pursuing law & politics + whatever was going on in the milk and cherries, consumed by 'Old Rough & Ready-or-not-you're-dead' Zachary Taylor, President No. 12, in July 1850. And, and, and proud, strong, baby-voiced, Miss Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen was born 100 years ago today.
Many a soul came into and departed the world's stage, this vale of tears & wonder, through the door in the veil marked January 7. The fact remains that those about whom I've written had their time and never would have been remembered if they'd spent their earthly time pondering trivia. They got about their business, doing things worth remembering. So enough of this for now. I've conjured some characters and their story awaits the telling.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


So, I'd pretty much decided to quit this blogification. Hardly anyone reads this hoohah and why would they? How could they, when there are so many books, so much verbiage posted? Do I read all that I should and would like to? Nope. And wasn't I taking time away from writing words that might, just might be published? For which I might be paid? And I certainly wasn't taking the time to write here at any length, to write about what's really on my mind. My solitary ways. Shame for my past. Fear of the future, now that the market for the kinds of books I've written and illustrated these past 25 years has dwindled. I've taken part in many a late night conversation with other authors, wondering how they're going to manage.

I guess we'll find out. I reckon the graveyards are full of folks who wondered the same thing. Their bones moulder alongside those of folks who might have had more gumption and more luck. In any case, it's the 6th of January. Loretta Young's birthday, so a collection of her old films are flickering on the video hearth today. THough it matters not one little bit nowadays, some might remember that she and Clark Gable kindled a child together back in the day. The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran came into the world on 6 Jan 1883 and, according to tradition, the Maid of Orleans was born 399 years ago today. So there: a bit of trivia. Why is that of any interest? I don't know that it is except for the pondering. Maybe it was on a clear cold day like today upon which this or that child was born, some significant life began. I rather like beginnings. It's endings that leave me flummoxed so I rush into them, meet them more than halfway. There's another beginning around the corner.

“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to...The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring.... Let a joy keep you. Reach out your hands and take it when it runs by."

These and many thousands more wonderful words were written by Carl Sandburg who was born on this day, Epiphany, the 6th of January in 1878, which would have been George & Martha Washington's 119th wedding anniversary, had they lived. as a matter of fact, Geo. H. W. Bush married Barbara Pierce on this day in 1945. I wish that their eldest had not gotten into politics, but that's just me.

In answer to a letter to a writer friend earlier today: Why are we in the writing biz, such as it is:

Because when it's going well, it's pretty satisfactory fun. Even when it's not, one can work out a fine little life in the margins.

The people we get to meet & know, such as nearly all of the school librarians I've met over the years. Other authors.

Sometimes we make money.

The things we learn. Being able to tell about them, if not as much as we'd like.

Finding out how we think & feel about things.

To share our points of view, mine being that there pretty goddam interesting people well worth the knowing and that in the knowing, we'll be heartened. I have been anyway.

The places we get to go, such as, well, the first place that comes to mind is Susan B. Anthony's house in Rochester, NY. and the White House, for that matter. It occurred to me then and now that when the occupants went out the door to talk to people, they may well have felt that it wouldn't do any good, wouldn't change anything, but they went anyway.

Total strangers read what we write. One can hope.

Being part of our civilization's conversation, the borderless, timeless nation of wordsmiths, writers of letters, manifestoes, tales, drivel, & explanations.

To justify our lust for office supplies.

Reason enough, I reckon.