December 16, 2018
Garrison Keillor returns to Crooner’s with singer Christine DiGiallonardo & pianist Richard Dworsky. Shows at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
New York, NY
December 2, 2018
A mini Prairie Home reunion featuring Garrison Keillor, Rob Fisher, Fred Newman, and Heather Masse and Christine DiGiallonardo.
November 3, 2018
Garrison Keillor performs with duet partner Lynne Peterson and longtime collaborator & pianist Richard Dworsky.
5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
After We Saw What There Was To See
by Lawrence Raab
After we saw what there was to see
we went off to buy souvenirs, and my father
waited by the car and smoked. He didn’t need
a lot of things to remind him where he’d been.
Why do you want so much stuff?
he might have asked us. “Oh, Ed,” I can hear
my mother saying, as if that took care of it.
After she died I don’t think he felt any reason
to go back through all those postcards, not to mention
the glossy booklets about the Singing Tower
and the Alligator Farm, the painted ashtrays
and lucite paperweights, everything we carried home
and found a place for, then put away
in boxes, then shoved far back in our closets.
He’d always let my mother keep track of the past,
and when she was gone—why should that change?
Why did I want him to need what he’d never needed?
I can see him leaning against our yellow Chrysler
in some parking lot in Florida or Maine.
It’s a beautiful cloudless day. He glances at his watch,
lights another cigarette, looks up at the sky.
“After We Saw What There Was to See” by Lawrence Raab, from The History of Forgetting. © Penguin Poets, 2009. Reprinted with permission of the author. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1911 that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team became the first people ever to reach the South Pole on the continent of Antarctica, the last continent on earth to be explored by people. People weren’t even sure that there was land under the ice in Antarctica until the 19th century.
Amundsen was in a race with the British explorer Robert F. Scott, and he won the race largely because he was willing to use sled dogs as his primary mode of transportation, whereas Scott believed that traveling by dog sled was undignified. To reach the pole, Amundsen’s team had to travel about 800 miles into Antarctica’s interior in weather that occasionally reached 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, cold enough to freeze the liquid in their compasses. They had to eat some of their dogs as food, got caught in a blizzard, and they all suffered from frostbite. But on this day in 1911, their calculations and their compasses told them that they had reached the geographical South Pole, and they planted their Norwegian flag. Scott’s party reached the South Pole a little more than a month later, traveling by foot, and they froze to death before they ever made it home.
On this date in 1542, Mary Stuart ascended the throne of Scotland. She was only six days old when her father, James V, died. King Henry VIII of England, who was her great-uncle, tried to use the familial connection to unite England and Scotland, and drew up a treaty arranging the infant Mary’s eventual marriage to his son Edward. The Scots resisted, and Henry began the six-year “War of Rough Wooing” in an effort to force the Scots to comply. The child’s mother, Mary of Guise, negotiated a marriage pact with Henry II of France instead.
From the age of five, Mary Stuart grew up in France, in the court of Henry II, away from the political machinations taking place in England and Scotland. She received a good education, not only in courtly pursuits like music, dancing, and horsemanship, but also in Latin, Spanish, Italian, and Greek. Though she became an enduring symbol of Scotland, her upbringing and identity were thoroughly French. When she was 16, she was wed to King Henry’s eldest son, Francis, who was 14 at the time, and sickly. It was a purely political marriage, but she was fond of her young husband, who became king upon his father’s death in 1559. Six months after her marriage, Mary’s Protestant cousin once removed, Elizabeth, acceded to the throne of England, and Mary — a Catholic — was second in line for the crown.
Mary Stuart was widowed at 18, and returned to Scotland to rule in 1561. She found the country of her birth had converted to Protestantism in her absence, and her cousin Elizabeth viewed her with suspicion and hostility, afraid she had designs on the English crown. Her countrymen, too, saw her as a foreigner; her policy of religious tolerance won them over, and it didn’t hurt that she was tall, graceful, and beautiful. Unfortunately, she was also easily besotted, and in 1565 she fell passionately in love with, and hastily married, her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. They had a son, James, but Henry proved to be an ambitious, drunken embarrassment. He was murdered two years later; it’s not clear whether Mary had any foreknowledge of the crime, but she married the chief suspect, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, after he abducted her. Bothwell was soon exiled by the Scottish nobles, and Mary was deposed in favor of her one-year-old son.
In 1568, Mary fled to England and sought the help of her much more politically savvy cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Rather than helping her regain the throne of Scotland, as Mary had hoped, Elizabeth had her imprisoned, using Darnley’s death as a pretense. In 1587, word reached Elizabeth of a Catholic plot on her life, a plot that implicated Mary; she reached the conclusion that Mary was too great a threat as long as she remained alive. Although Mary argued that she was a sovereign ruler of Scotland and not an English subject, Elizabeth ordered her trial, and later, her execution for treason. Mary’s son James made no protest; eventually he succeeded the childless Elizabeth to the throne, becoming King James I of England.
Mary was executed at Fotheringhay Castle on February 8, 1587, and it took two — possibly three — strokes of the executioner’s axe to behead her. A little dog, which she had kept as a pet during her imprisonment, had snuck along to the gallows with her under her skirts, and refused to be parted from her after her death, until Mary’s ladies in waiting carried it away to wash the blood from its fur. When the executioner held up the severed head with a cry of “God save the queen!” the luxuriant auburn hair came off in his hand. It was a wig, and Mary’s close-cropped head, gone gray during her time in prison, tumbled to the ground.
Today is the birthday of Shirley Jackson (books by this author), born in San Francisco (1916). Her best-known story is “The Lottery,” about an idyllic town and its yearly ritual in which townspeople select one of their number and stone him or her to death to ensure a bountiful harvest. The story appeared in The New Yorker in June 1948, and many readers were horrified. They canceled their subscriptions and sent in angry letters, which the magazine forwarded to Jackson. She was most horrified by letters from people who wanted to know where they could go to witness a lottery like the one she’d described. Even her mother scolded her and told her to write something to cheer people up.
She wrote novels too. Her best known is The Haunting of Hill House (1959), a quintessential haunted house tale that was recently turned into a popular Netflix series, but she also wrote light, humorous tales of her family life in books like Life Among the Savages (1953) and Raising Demons (1957). She raised four children and only wrote after her household work was done. She said: “I can’t persuade myself that writing is honest work. It’s great fun and I love it. For one thing, it’s the only way I can get to sit down.”
It’s the birthday of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, born at Knutstrup, his family’s ancestral castle, in Scania. (1546). When he was 12, he began studying law at the University of Copenhagen, but eventually he became interested in astronomy after a solar eclipse in 1560. In 1572, he witnessed a supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia. He thought he was seeing the birth of a new star, although it was actually the death of one. With the publication of his book De nova stella (1573), he went from being a dabbler to a respected astronomer. He conducted rigorous observations of the heavens, night after night, and he was the last major astronomer to do so without the use of a telescope. Eventually, he took on an assistant by the name of Johannes Kepler, who eventually became the guardian of all of Brahe’s closely guarded measurements.
In 1601, Brahe attended a formal banquet where the drink flowed freely. Even though his bladder was full, he refused to leave the table to relieve himself, because it would have been a breach of etiquette. He developed a painful urinary infection and died 11 days later. It was long thought that the infection caused acute kidney failure, but recent analysis of his hair samples showed an extremely high concentration of mercury in Brahe’s body. Scientists believe he probably consumed a large quantity of the metal a day before he died — possibly as part of some kind of remedy for his infection.