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 Raymond Byrnes
The lawyer told him to write a letter
to accompany the will, to prevent
potential discord over artifacts
valued only for their sentiment.
His wife treasures a watercolor by
her father; grandmama’s spoon stirs
their oatmeal every morning. Some
days, he wears his father’s favorite tie.
He tries to think of things that
could be tokens of his days:
binoculars that transport
bluebirds through his cataracts
a frayed fishing vest with
pockets full of feathers brightly
tied, the little fly rod he can still
manipulate in forest thickets,
a sharp-tined garden fork,
heft and handle fit for him,
a springy spruce kayak paddle,
a retired leather satchel.
He writes his awkward note,
trying to dispense with grace
some well-worn clutter easily
discarded in another generation.
But what he wishes to bequeath
are items never owned: a Chopin
etude wafting from his wife’s piano
on the scent of morning coffee
seedling peas poking into April,
monarch caterpillars infesting
milkweed leaves, a light brown
doe alert in purple asters
a full moon rising in October,
hunting-hat orange in ebony sky,
sunlit autumn afternoons that flutter
through the heart like falling leaves.
“Personal Effects” by Raymond Byrnes, published in Waters Deep: A Great Lakes Poetry Anthology. © Split Rock Review, 2018. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of detective novelist Erle Stanley Gardner (books by this author), the creator of smooth-talking criminal lawyer Perry Mason, born in Malden, Massachusetts (1889). He became a typist at a law firm, soaking up legal terminology and trial tactics. With no formal training, he passed the California bar exam and joined a law firm. He found legal practice boring, though. He began writing stories about the people he represented and the things he saw at trial for pulp magazines. Gardner’s stories quickly became popular and he churned out more than 20,000 during his career, giving up his two-fingered typing and dictating to a series of secretaries.
Gardner’s first novel to feature Mason was The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933), which established Mason’s MO: he proved his client’s innocence by implicating another character, who soon confessed.
On this date in 1867, Harvard Dental School, the first university-based dental school in the United States, was founded. Before the school’s founding, aspiring dentists went to freestanding trade schools or learned by apprenticeship. The world’s first dental training program had been established in Baltimore in 1840, but dentistry wasn’t considered a branch of medicine, and programs were not included in curricula. Harvard Dental School represented a dramatic change in the way dentistry was viewed.
Prior to the 19th century, your treatment options were extremely limited: If you had a toothache, you went to the barber-surgeon — or even the blacksmith — to have the tooth pulled, with no anesthesia. The wealthy could afford to have the gap filled with a replacement tooth, which could be bought from someone who was willing to sell his or her own teeth. If you didn’t want to pay the premium price, you could buy the teeth of a cadaver. Sometimes these were collected from battlefields, and were called “Waterloo teeth.” A grave robber could get five guineas for a good set of corpse teeth. But buying replacement human teeth came with risks, too: You might contract tuberculosis or syphilis. Some people had dentures made from ivory, porcelain, or even gold. After Charles Goodyear invented the vulcanization of rubber, you could buy “Vulcanite” dentures made of hard rubber. By the middle of the 19th century, dentists were beginning to use nitrous oxide, chloroform, and ether to perform oral surgery painlessly.
It’s the birthday of editor Ernest Percival Rhys, born in London (1859), who conceived of a series of inexpensive works of classic literature, 1,000 titles in all. Rhys came up with the name: “Everyman’s Library,” from the medieval morality play Everyman.
It’s the birthday of Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître, born in Charleroi, Belgium, on this day in 1894. He proposed the big bang theory, maintaining that the universe originated with a gigantic explosion of what he called a small super-atom, and that the universe is constantly expanding.
It was on this day in 1936 that the Spanish Civil War began. It started with an attempted coup by right-wing forces, who called themselves Nationalists, against the government, or Republicans. General Franco was at the helm of the Nationalists, and the Spanish Civil War was the first major threat of fascism in Europe. Tens of thousands of international volunteers went to Spain to fight on the Republican side, including thousands from the United States.