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+
Nobody Loves You
by Ramon Montaigne
Once I lived a life of some renown,
People looked up to me in this town
They listened to what I had to say.
I was well-regarded at Bud’s cafe.
Then one dark day they passed a law: no smoking, zero, nada.
And I became persona non grata.
Now I go out on the sidewalk to take a drag
Me and the homeless lady with the garbage bag.
Ginger Rogers smoked and so did Fred Astaire,
Clark Gable and Cary Grant.
And nowadays you simply can’t.
People don’t want elegance. They want Clean Air.
Me and Bogey and Ernie Hemingway,
Huck Finn, Woody Guthrie, Prince Andre,
Members of a noble, fatalist elite,
Forced to stand out on the street.
One cold day I was talking to Chopin,
Who was shivering, smoking a cigarette. Turkish.
Is this a decent way to treat a man
Who wrote those magnificent mazurkas?
“Nobody Loves You” by Ramon Montaigne. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Today is the birthday of the city of Dublin, founded in 988. The area had been occupied, more or less, since before the Roman invasion of Britain, and it appeared in Ptolemy’s Guide to Geography in the year 140, but the first verifiable settlement came with the Vikings in about 831. They called it “Dyflin,” which came in turn from the Irish Dubh Linn, which means “black pool.” The reason it’s considered to be founded in 988 rather than 831 is because that’s the year the Irish king Mael Sechnaill reclaimed the city for Ireland. It’s also the year he first forced people to pay him taxes.
Dublin’s contribution to literature alone has been remarkable. Ireland was one of the first countries to produce writing in the vernacular, and it’s long had a tradition as a nation of scholars.
On this date in 1553, Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England. Her cousin, Edward VI, was the only son of Henry VIII, who died when Edward was nine years old. Henry had provided for a council of regency to rule until Henry reached adulthood, and the end result was that the unscrupulous Duke of Northumberland controlled the government. When it became apparent that Edward was going to die of tuberculosis at age 15, without leaving an heir, Northumberland convinced him to exclude his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, and designate his 15-year-old cousin, Jane Grey — who also happened to be Northumberland’s daughter-in-law — as his heir instead.
She wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, from Edward’s point of view — she was beautiful, educated, and most importantly, a staunch Protestant, as he was — but she didn’t really want the crown. She fainted when she was given the news. She ruled for only nine days before being deposed by Edward’s half-sister Mary Tudor, who was the designated heir by act of Parliament and by Henry VIII’s will. Mary had Jane Grey imprisoned in the Tower and she was later executed for treason.
It’s the birthday of inventor Nikola Tesla (books by this author), born in Smiljan, Austria-Hungary, in 1856. He patented the rotating magnetic field, which is the basis for alternating-current machinery, and he also invented the Tesla induction coil, an essential component in radio technology. But he was also a poet, and when he sailed to America in 1884, he brought with him four cents, plans for a flying machine, and a few of his poems. He worked briefly for Thomas Edison, and then sold his patent for alternating-current dynamos to George Westinghouse in 1885. Tesla set up his own lab, and one of the things he did there was invite people in to see how safe alternating current was. He would hook himself up to an electric lamp and allow the current to pass through his body on its way to lighting the lamp. He had lots of ideas, and he had the financial backing of J.P. Morgan, so for a while things looked rosy. Then there was a financial panic and Morgan withdrew his support. Most of Tesla’s ideas stayed just that: entries in his diary that inventors today are still combing for clues.
Today is the birthday of the man who designed the ubiquitous “Smiley Face,” Harvey Ball, born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1921.
He was co-owner of an advertising and public relations firm in Worcester in 1963, and when two insurance companies went through an unfriendly merger, he was hired to create a “friendliness campaign” to ease tensions between resentful workers. He thought of the color yellow, which is cheerful, and drew a circle with a smiling mouth inside. That wouldn’t do, though, because if you looked at it upside down, it looked like a frown; he added eyes and the Smiley was born. “There are two ways to go about it,” he told the Associated Press. “You can take a compass and draw a perfect circle and make two perfect eyes as neat as can be. Or you can do it freehand and have some fun with it. Like I did. Give it character.”
He was paid $45 for the design, and the first order was for 100 buttons. Within just a few months, they were selling by the millions. He never tried to copyright the design or expressed any regrets over not getting a cut of the profits, according to his son. “He wasn’t a money-driven guy. He used to say, ‘Hey, I can only eat one steak at a time.'”
It’s the 89th birthday of Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro (1931) (books by this author), born Alice Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario. Her father was a farmer who built the family house and raised foxes and mink for their pelts. She married young and had her first child when she was 21. She took writing time wherever she could find it: During her children’s naptimes, and, later, when they were at school. “I used to work until maybe one o’clock in the morning and then get up at six,” she told The Paris Review. “And I remember thinking, You know, maybe I’ll die, this is terrible, I’ll have a heart attack. I was only about 39 or so, but I was thinking this; then I thought, Well even if I do, I’ve got that many pages written now. They can see how it’s going to come out. It was a kind of desperate, desperate race. I don’t have that kind of energy now.”
She often sets her stories in provincial Ontario towns. She says: “The physical setting is perhaps ‘real’ to me, in a way no other is. I love the landscape, not as ‘scenery’ but as something intimately known. Also the weather, the villages and towns, not in their picturesque aspects but in all phases. Human experience though doesn’t seem to me to differ, except in fairly superficial ways, no matter what the customs and surroundings.”
It’s the birthday of British writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley (books by this author), born in London, England (1875). He first achieved fame for his 1913 mystery novel, Trent’s Last Case, which he wrote as a reaction against the prevailing conventions of detective fiction. Unlike the infallible Sherlock Holmes, Bentley’s detective, Philip Trent, bungles his cases and comes up with ingenious solutions that turn out to be completely wrong. Bentley also became known as the inventor of a new form of verse, the “clerihew,” which he introduced in his 1905 book, Biography for Beginners. A clerihew is made up of two rhyming couplets, the first rhyme provided by the name of a famous person. For example:
George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®