Friday, February 25, 2011

"All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much."

George Harrison, b. 25 Feb 1943 on Enrico Caruso's birthday

So, it's a Beatle birthday, therefore lucky so I made it home today from over in north central Missouri, in Moberly, where I presented six assemblies yesterday to 3rd, 4th, & 5th graders. I passed at least a dozen cars and two overturned semis that had gone off the road into the white. What fun those presentations were. The kids were great and here I am home again, home again, safe & sound... as sound as I've ever been anyway. Years & years ago - 2014 will make fifty years since the night in February when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. I lived with my poor sad mom & furious dad, my three little brothers & baby sister just a block away from where I'm sitting here typing about how much, how deeply I loved the Beatles from the very first moment. They were THE joyful part of my dorky, doofy, abysmal 13-year-old life. Oh George Harrison. Oh John, Paul, & Ringo. Bless 'em forever & I thank 'em forever.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So. A mere 201 years it has been since Frédéric Chopin came into the world on George Washington's birthday, back in Emperor Napoleon's heyday, when Abraham Lincoln was a baby and Simon Bolivar was on the rise down in South America. P.T. Barnum was born that year, too. Just for you to know. As to Mr. Chopin, do, if you haven't, see him portrayed by Hugh Grant in the splendid 1991 film, Impromptu.... Meanwhile, pooped am I, having been called up by a radio producer on the stroke of midnight last night in order to be interviewed live, sort of, on a show called Coast to Coast AM. And why? Because of yesterday being Presidents Day and my having written Ghosts of the White House. Not, decidedly not, a spooky book, but is the White House haunted? I wouldn't be surprised, given the intensity of the lives lived there.
I was told that the host would be talking briefly w/ 3 'news' guests [one of 'em was Whitley Streiber, the paranormal expert] and was asked if I'd taken time to listen to the show. I lied. Anyway it was 12:23 before the guy got around to me and it went real well, very conversational. As I had NEVER listened to the guy's show before, I was a bit taken aback when I heard listeners invited to call in. One told about the spirits of her dead pets. There was a brief discussion of Geo. Washington's vision of the end of the nation. news to me, I'm ashamed to say. I'd gathered up the references I'd found about Lincoln's ghost and discovered that the spirit of a torch-bearing British soldier c. 1814 has been seen more than once and more than a few cold
spots have been experienced. And that there haven't been as many sightings since the old joint was gutted in '48. If anything would jangle the psychic space, that'd be it, I figure. Then George [Noory, the host] said he'd heard [from me] that I could rattle off all of the presidents in under a minute. He clocked me @ 40 seconds & asked me if I'd read 'em. 'No! I swear!' He asked me about the book & if it was available, thanked me & I got hung up on. I staggered out into the dark w/ Mimi for her walk & got to bed at 1:30 this morning. The burden of fame, I guess.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

So, away I have been, school visiting in North Carolina so nothing here from me about Susan B. Anthony's birthday on the 15th or whatever other commemorations have taken place, such as the 150th anniversary of the day when poor old Jefferson Davis became the Confederacy's one and only President. Seeing as the next few years will be loaded with legions of Civil War sesquicentennials, I made myself a new costume. A helluva lot cuter it would have been had I been thinner, but whatcha gonna do?

Friday, February 11, 2011

So Long

So: four days since I posted anything - lo! And yet the sun, he still rose this morning, peeked over the edge of the eastern horizon and thanks be to goodness it did and that it looks to be warming up hereabouts. About time, too. Not nearly so chilly it was, but it was raining in Springfield, Illinois, on this day 150 years ago when Lawyer Lincoln, newly elected President of the rapidly disuniting States, and his family left there for Washington, D.C.
My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of this people I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born and one is buried.

I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him I can not succeed. With that assistance I can not fail.

Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Abraham Lincoln

February 11, 1861

Springfield, Illinois

You know, you only have to visit the Lincolns' home, walk about their neighborhood, to get a feel for what all they were leaving behind forever. Poor souls.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Of course it's her birthday. It was on this day in 1867, Charles Dickens' 55th birthday, less than two years after Lincoln's assassination, when Charles & Caroline Ingalls welcomed their second daughter into the world. Because of the books she would write, we know about her parents, her sisters, certainly a great deal more about what it felt like to live in her times. Legions of little girls dress up in cotton print dresses and poky bonnets. Folks go gallivanting across the countryside as I did this past summer, down to Independence, KS [a thrill, small but genuine, driving over a bridge, catching sight of the sign Verdigris River]; up to De Smet, So. Dakota & elsewhere, all to visit the places where the restless Ingallses settled themselves and in doing so, they have their own adventures, snapping pictures and gathering blog fodder.
Ah well. Gotta go. My little sister's on the phone. Laura, born when I was almost 11 - my folks let me name her after my favorite author.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So, I was too gloomy yesterday morning to fool with this little exercise and it shames me to admit it. Too gloomy & shiftless to do anything other than read the paper & nurse my cuppa Folger's Instant, w/ a bit o' milk, just as my folks drank it - but all the while grateful, grateful to have the leisure to have spent a morning thus. All the while knowing that it didn't & doesn't really matter one whit [excellent word, no? whit] whether or not I took the time to note that it was on this day (yesterday) in 1784 that Nancy Hanks Lincoln was born. In 1848, Mrs. Lincoln had been in her grave, her spare flesh mortifying, her bones settling out in a rotten box of boards assembled by her husband & their 9 year old son; some 30 years.
It was 5 Feb 1848 [the year of revolution, crazy year], what would've been Nancy's 64th birthday [think of that - how differently might things have gone, have been for her son. for that matter, might as well & just as pointlessly wonder what if her daughter Sarah, Abe's much loved sister, hadn't perished giving birth, that regular old every day death-defying crucible.) Anyway - where was I? Ah: Myra Maybelle Shirley began her own hard life on 5 Feb. 1848, down near [I discover] Carthage, Missouri. Before it was over, by way of a bullet, Belle Starr, The Bandit Queen, had earned a shitload of notoriety.
So what's the deal w/ birthdays? Just a little discipline, just an invitation to note Nancy's coming into the world, to remember Abe's mom & ponder what she might have been like before she met rough Tom Lincoln. To think on Belle & her hard old life. Feeling sorry for dead people, not wanting them to be forgotten - that's how a nephew of mine once characterized my enterprises. Maybe so. But it's also an opportunity for gratitude, for the pure luck of being born to a life that allows for sloth, for lingering over the papers w/ a cup of instant coffee, yet mindful that I have interesting work waiting for me once I get my head together. Thank you, Gracious Spirit, Whimsical Fate, et. al.
And now it is the 6th. Five months out from a big-deal birthday of my own. Never mind that; It is of course the 100th anniversary of the birth of an Irish boy-baby over in Illinois, who really did grow up to be the President of the United States.
Oh, the parties were dancey, / The decorations fancy
In the years of Ron and Nancy, '

But it's also the anniversary of the birth (in 1838) of another actor, the great & celebrated Sir Henry Irving, a most extraordinary man of the theatre. 6 Feb 1665 was when Queen Anne, of Great Britain was born and well aware I am that my crummy little life is way more fortunate than hers, autonomy-wise. And (in 1756) of a most complex & problematic fellow Aaron Burr, and it;s the 99th birthday of Eva Braun, the romantic girl who won the bent & nasty heart of a charismatic politician. There; I gave myself the shivers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

an awful lot of digging it took to get my little red hoopie out of the driveway & out on the road, amazingly clear after the tremendous onslaught.... how wonderful it was to see the sun shining, to see Mimi running in the park, running in the snow, to know that I don't have to go school visiting next week. how I'd love to have been there, talking to the kids; how leery I was of going there or anywhere, when there's still more snow in the offing. winter is an anxious business, no?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Go West, young man, and grow up with the country!"
Me, I reckon about any direction would do for a young person and the country still has a great deal of growing up to do, being an ongoing experiment in self-government & all. But in any case, 'twas the great newspaperman Horace Greeley who pointed young fellers in the direction of the setting sun back in the day and, not that it's so very important, other than as a reminder of his life & lively times, Horace was born 200 years ago today. He also is said to have said, "I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample underfoot." Always timely, sad to say, as there will always be those who stomp and those who are stomped upon. Speaking of such, on the day young Horace turned ten, Elizabeth Blackwell came into the world, little knowing that she would be a heroine, featured in many a book of history & rightly so, being as she was the first of her gender to be allowed to graduate from an institution of medicine.
"A blank wall of social and professional antagonism faces the woman physician that forms a situation of singular and painful loneliness, leaving her without support, respect or professional counsel." E. B.
Didn't let it stop her.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February's Making a Lousy 1st Impression

So, if you really desperately wish to know which distinguished dead people were born on this here day in history, you are (a) a kindred, albeit dorky spirit and (b) invited to go to this link. If you do, you'll see that the bright soul known to us as Langston Hughes came into the world in Joplin, Missouri [home these days of my writer friend, Veda Boyd Jones, who tells me that she's got 18" of snow out in her front yard), in 1 Feb, 1902 (first year of TR's administration, when Mrs. Steinbeck of Salinas, California was really pregnant w/her son John) the year in which Beatrix Potter published Peter Rabbit and Arthur Conan Doyle's readers were introduced to The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Ah well. Enough of this cabin-fevered hoohah. A glitter-bitter cold white blanket, at least a foot thick is draped over available surface thanks to a perfectly dreadful winter storm going on across the land so there are probably about 700 weather people outside [needlessly] shivering into the TV cameras, telling folks all about it. Me, I spent the day cutting pieces of navy blue cotton which I'll be sewing together, in hopes that the assemblage will look like a a bodice for the 1860s costume I'm making... stay tuned.