Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
by Richard Jones
for my nephew, 1978-1984
We could be together now,
sitting on my tattered sofa,
you with your root beer,
me with my bourbon,
watching TV as I explain
the beautiful art of baseball.
Bottom of the eleventh:
the Cubs came back
with three in the ninth to tie
and now the impossible
just up from the minors,
pinch-hits and wins the game.
I am trying to tell
the significance of this.
You snuggle under my arm
looking first at me,
then at the television.
But you are still young
and don’t understand
though you know enough of love
to look at me
and tell me that you do.
Richard Jones, “The Impossible” from The Blessing: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Richard Jones. Used by permission of The Permissions Company LLC on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, born in Canton, South Dakota (1901). He was a curious child — at age two, he tried to figure out how matches worked and ended up lighting his clothes on fire. His best friend in Canton was a boy named Merle Tuve, who would go on become a famous geophysicist. The boys built gliders together and constructed a crude radio transmitting station.
Lawrence worked his way through college — he received an undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota and graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Yale. He accepted a position at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1930 he became the youngest full professor there. Lawrence put in 70-hour weeks at the Berkeley Radiation Lab, and he expected everyone else to do the same. The Lab was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It was there that he invented a machine that he called a “proton merry-go-round,” better known as the cyclotron. Lawrence’s first version of the cyclotron was very makeshift — it involved a kitchen chair, clothes racks, and a pie pan — but eventually he produced a more sophisticated device. The cyclotron was a machine that could accelerate particles and then hurl them at atoms to smash the atoms open. This allowed scientists to discover radioactive isotopes of elements and sometimes new elements. In 1940, Lawrence won the Nobel Prize for his invention.
The first refrigerator was patented in the United States on this date in 1899. The practice of preserving food by keeping it cold had been around for hundreds of years. At first, this meant burying it deep in the ground, or submerging it in cold streams. In 18th-century England, people collected sheets of ice in the winter and put it in specially constructed underground ice houses, where it was salted and wrapped in flannel to preserve it until the summer. That led to the development of the slightly more portable icebox: a wooden box lined with tin and insulated with cork or sawdust. A Scot named William Cullen publicly demonstrated the first artificial cooling system in 1755, but he didn’t put his invention to any practical use.
Modern artificial cooling systems work by compressing gas into a liquid state, and then allowing it to evaporate into a gas again, in a small space. This process removes heat from the surrounding area, and its discovery paved the way for the development of more advanced artificial cooling machines in the early 1800s. At first they were used in a hospital setting, to cool the air for yellow fever patients. But these early refrigeration machines used toxic gases, which created serious problems if the compression system developed a leak.
None of these early attempts — successful though they may have been — were granted a patent in the United States. It was the work of Albert T. Marshall that was finally deemed worthy, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the first American refrigerator patent on this date in 1899. In 1918, the Frigidaire Company was founded to manufacture home refrigerators. The market grew in the 1920s and ’30s with the development of Freon, which was a safe alternative to toxic gases; by the end of World War II, no modern kitchen was without one.
It’s the birthday of American novelist Valerie Sayers (1952) (books by this author), best known for her novel The Powers (2013), which features baseball legend Joe DiMaggio as he embarks on his historic hitting streak in 1941 against the backdrop of World War II.
Sayers was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina, in a large family. She was also raised Catholic at a time when being Catholic in the South was looked down upon, an experience that later informed much of her fiction. Sayers’s father was a Yankees fan, and she became a baseball devotee, which came in handy later on when she was writing The Powers.
Sayers has written six novels, including Due East (1987), How I Got Him Back (1989), Who Do You Love (1991), and Brain Fever (1996). When she started writing The Powers, she used the game of baseball as a kind of metaphor for the writing process. She says, “A baseball game has a complex plot line, great pacing […] tremendous tension, moral crisis, revelation.”
Valerie Sayers’s advice to young writers is, “Have some fun. What the hell.”
It’s the birthday of Sara Teasdale (1884) (books by this author), a popular American lyric poet who won the Columbia Poetry Prize in 1918 for her collection Love Songs (1917). The Columbia Poetry Prize was later renamed the Pulitzer Prize, making Teasdale the first winner in poetry.
She published her first poem, “Guenevere,” in Reedy’s Mirror (1907), a local newspaper, when she was 23. She and some friends also started a popular monthly literary magazine in St. Louis, called The Potter’s Wheel.
She made frequent trips to Chicago, where she fell in with Harriet Monroe and the Poetry Magazine crowd, including dashing poet Vachel Lindsay, who desperately loved her. Lindsay often took the summers to wander the country, singing and chanting his poems in exchange for food and shelter. He even carried a pamphlet titled “Rhymes To Be Traded For Bread.” He didn’t think he could support Teasdale financially, and she was wary, too, so she married St. Louis businessman Ernst Filsinger and moved to New York City, where they rented an apartment near Central Park West. She remained platonic friends with Lindsay for the rest of her life.
Teasdale’s poems were simple and concise and often romantic in nature. She was very popular with readers. Her collections include Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems (1907), Rivers to the Sea (1915), and Stars To-Night (1930). The New York Times called Rivers to the Sea “a little volume of joyous and unstudied songs.”
It’s the birthday of writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (books by this author), born in Washington, D.C. (1896). As a girl, she loved to write, and she published stories and essays in the children’s section of newspapers. As a young wife, she moved to Rochester, New York, where she wrote for a society magazine.
Then she and her husband purchased an orange grove in Cross Creek, Florida. She spent the rest of her life there, even after her marriage ended because her husband did not like rural life. A few years after her divorce, she published her best-known book, The Yearling (1938). It’s the story of Jody Baxter, a lonely Florida farm boy, and Flag, his adopted orphaned fawn. Jody grows up along with Flag, but when Flag eats the family’s corn crop, his parents tell Jody that he has to shoot the deer. Although The Yearling is now marketed as a children’s or young adult novel, at the time of its publication it appealed to a general audience. It was the best-selling novel of the year 1938, and Rawlings’ editor was Maxwell Perkins, who was most famous as the editor for Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Yearling won the Pulitzer Prize, and like several of Rawlings’ other novels, it was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
The funeral of Ulysses S. Grant was held in New York City on this date in 1885. His body had lain in state in City Hall for two days, and thousands filed past to view the former president and Civil War hero. The New York Tribune reported, “Among the thousands was many a true and honest soul who came to take a last glimpse of the features of the man whose character and actions have become the precious inheritance of the Nation.” On August 8, people across the country awoke to tolling bells, and many communities held their own memorial services. One and a half million people attended the funeral itself; the line of mourners that followed his funeral procession stretched for seven miles. The procession included three presidents, and former Confederate and Union soldiers alike. Grant’s body was carried to a temporary tomb in Riverside Park, where it rested for 12 years while the money was raised to build a permanent mausoleum. At the end of the fundraising campaign — the largest ever, at that time — 90,000 people from around the world had contributed more than $600,000. It’s the largest tomb in North America, and one of the largest in the world. As impressive as it was, many Americans agreed with a newspaper editorial: “the Union [is] His Monument.”
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