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+
In the Highlands
by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the highlands, in the country places,
Where the old plain men have rosy faces,
And the young fair maidens
Where essential silence cheers and blesses,
And for ever in the hill-recesses
Her more lovely music
Broods and dies—
O to mount again where erst I haunted;
Where the old red hills are bird-enchanted,
And the low green meadows
Bright with sward;
And when even dies, the million-tinted,
And the night has come, and planets glinted,
Lo, the valley hollow
O to dream, O to awake and wander
There, and with delight to take and render,
Through the trance of silence,
Lo! for there, among the flowers and grasses,
Only the mightier movement sounds and passes;
Only winds and rivers,
Life and death.
“In the Highlands” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Public domain. (buy now)
Today is the celebration of Christmas in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, which was introduced by Julius Caesar and was widespread in the Western Christian world until the Gregorian calendar was introduced in the 16th century. Most of the world adopted the Gregorian calendar, and the Julian calendar fell out of favor, but the Orthodox Church still follows it. These days, the Julian calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar — in 2100 that will change, and it will be 14 days behind — so for now, Russian Christmas is celebrated on January 7th.
Today is the birthday of publisher Jann Wenner (1946), born in New York City. He was sent to boarding school in California when he was 11, and his parents divorced when he was 12. Neither of them seemed particularly interested in gaining custody of their son. After graduation, he attended the University of California at Berkeley. He dropped out in 1966, and got a job at the left-wing political and literary magazine Ramparts. The following year, in a drafty printer’s loft in San Francisco, Wenner cofounded a magazine with San Francisco Chronicle jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was a biweekly magazine that focused on rock music, and they called it Rolling Stone.
It’s the birthday of the novelist and essayist Nicholson Baker (books by this author), born in New York City (1957). He started out wanting to be a musician and was good enough at the bassoon that he got into the Eastman School of Music. He planned to become a composer and then one day he saw his mother laughing uncontrollably at a New York Times Book Review essay on golf by the writer John Updike. Baker later wrote: “[My mother’s laughter] was miraculous, sourced in the nowhere of print, unaided by ham mannerisms … Nothing is more impressive than the sight of a complex person suddenly ripping out a laugh over some words in a serious book or periodical.”
At that moment Baker decided that instead of becoming a composer, he wanted to be a writer. He went on to write a book about his obsession with John Updike, U and I: A True Story (1991), and a novel about a single erotic phone conversation between two strangers, called Vox (1992).
His latest book, Substitute: Going to School with a Thousand Kids (2016), recalls his experience being a substitute teacher in a Maine public school district for 28 days.
Today is the birthday of Zora Neale Hurston (books by this author), born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891. She grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated African-American community in the United States, with a population of about 125. Hurston loved it there, and would set many of her stories in Eatonville, depicting it as a sort of Utopia; she also described it in her 1928 essay, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” When she was 13, her mother died, and her father remarried immediately, so she was sent to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. She was expelled when her father stopped paying her tuition, and she went to live with a series of family members.
She went to Howard University and co-founded the school’s newspaper, The Hilltop. She was offered a scholarship to Barnard College, where she studied anthropology, and she was the college’s only black student. She published many short stories in the 1920s and early ’30s, and her first book, Mules and Men (1935), was an anthropological study of African-American folklore. She’s best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).
A founding member of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston died in poverty in 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973, novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the cemetery where Hurston was buried, and marked it as hers. Alice Walker wrote about the event in her article “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” (1975), and the article sparked a renewed interest in Hurston’s writing.
The rediscovery of Hurston continues to this day. Her book Baracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” was published posthumously in 2018. Based on interviews she conducted in 1927 with Cudjo Lewis––one of the last known slaves transported to America 50 years after the trade was outlawed––the biography became a bestseller.
On this day in 1887, Thomas Stevens became the first person to circle the world by bicycle. Born to a grocer in the suburbs of London, Stevens convinced his father to let him sail to America, as at age 17 he had already saved enough to cover his passage. Once in the States, he found work on a ranch and then in a mine in Colorado, where he hatched a plan to make a name for himself by being the first man to ever cross the U.S. by bicycle. Seven others had already tried and failed. Stevens managed to stash away enough of his wages for the trip west to San Francisco where he promptly purchased a 41-pound 50-inch Columbia tall wheeler, called the “Ordinary.” He had never before set foot on a bicycle and had no idea how to ride it, but after giving himself a crash course around Golden Gate Park, he soon set off toward Boston with a change of socks, a Smith and Wesson revolver, and a thin coat that he also used as a tent.
In 1884, there were no interstate roads or rest stops, and when crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains, Stevens had to push his bicycle across railroad bridges, sometimes hanging his bike over the railing when an unexpected train passed. He scared off a mountain lion, was bitten by a rattlesnake, and was arrested in Chicago for riding on the sidewalk. He rode into Boston 103 days after leaving California, having traveled 3,700 miles.
That winter, he published an account of his trip in Outing magazine. Its publisher, Albert Pope, was also the owner of the country’s largest bicycle manufacturer, and he pitched a worldwide tour to the young cyclist, offering to pay his way. Stevens accepted, and the following spring the 30-year-old set out from Liverpool headed east. He crossed through Europe unscathed and into the Ottoman Empire where he was often the first white man and first bicycle that locals had ever seen. Towering nearly four feet above others while on the bike, Stevens drew a lot of attention, and in Turkey he had to fend off would-be robbers at gunpoint. He had planned to travel through Russia, but was refused entrance by the authorities, and was arrested and deported as a spy while trying to work his way around Afghanistan. He doubled back through India and kept heading east through China, where he narrowly missed being stoned to death. Japan was more welcoming, and after pedaling 13,500 miles of since leaving California, Stevens rolled into Yokohama, then took a steamer on to the San Francisco Bay where his trip began.
Stevens published a two-volume account of his adventure, Around the World by Bicycle (1887), which was based on his letters to Harper’s Magazine throughout the trip. It became an instant bestseller. He became a sought-after speaker and continued exploring and writing, famously tracking down the missing explorer Henry Morton Stanley in rural Africa, and riding 1,000 miles on horseback through pre-revolutionary Russia, where he interviewed Leo Tolstoy for his 1891 book Through Russia on a Mustang.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®