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+
Look It Over
by Wendell Berry
I leave behind even
my walking stick. My knife
is in my pocket, but that
I have forgot. I bring
no car, no cell phone,
no computer, no camera,
no CD player, no fax, no
TV, not even a book. I go
into the woods. I sit on
a log provided at no cost.
It is the earth I’ve come to,
the earth itself, sadly
abused by the stupidity
only humans are capable of
but, as ever, itself. Free.
A bargain! Get it while it lasts.
“Look It Over” by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems. Counterpoint Press © 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of French novelist and poet Henri Murger (books by this author), born in Paris (1822). He’s most famous for his book Scènes de la vie bohème (1851), a fictionalized version of his experiences as an impoverished writer living in the Latin Quarter of Paris’s Left Bank. It’s an area filled with universities and cafés and known for its intellectual life, and Murger playfully romanticized his starving-artist-living-in-a-Paris-attic bohemian lifestyle. And he also wrote about his friends, who called themselves “the water drinkers” because they could not afford to buy wine.
It became the basis for Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème (1896), one of the most famous operas of all time. The character of Rudolphe (or Rudolfo in Puccini’s opera) is based on Murger himself.
It’s the birthday of the woman who wrote “Happy Birthday to You,” Patty Smith Hill, born in Anchorage, Kentucky (1868). Most of her life was spent as a kindergarten teacher. She began teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, and it was there, in 1893, that Hill first wrote the lyrics to the song. But it was originally meant as a welcome to start the school day and was first called “Good Morning to All.” Hill’s sister Mildred, an accomplished musician, provided the melody. Hill was 25 when she wrote the lyrics to the famous song.
On this day in 1912, President Taft’s wife, Helen, and the wife of the ambassador from Japan planted the first of Washington, D.C.’s cherry trees. The cuttings were scions from the most famous trees in Tokyo, the ones that grow along the banks of the Arakawa River. Workers took over, and thousands of cherry trees, all gifts from the Japanese government, were planted around the Tidal Basin. During the Second World War, Tokyo lost scores of cherry trees in the allied bombing raids; after the surrender, horticulturalists took cuttings from the trees in Washington and sent them back to Tokyo. Years later, some of the Washington trees died, and Tokyo sent cuttings back across the Pacific.
It’s the birthday of poet Louis Simpson (books by this author), born in Kingston, Jamaica (1923). He moved to New York City as a teenager. He loved writing, and studied at Columbia University, but while he was still a student he was drafted into the Army during World War II. He served as a combat infantryman in some of the most intense fighting of the war — at Normandy, Arnhem, and the Battle of the Bulge. When he returned home, he had two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, and he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He spent six months in a psychiatric hospital. He said: “I did not intend to be a poet. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to use words that would bring other people under a spell and win their admiration.” But he could no longer hold an entire novel, or even stories, in his head — poetry was the only format that felt possible.
He went back to Columbia, and a year after he graduated, he published his first book of poems, The Arrivistes (1949).
On this date in 1915, the woman known as “Typhoid Mary” was put into quarantine in a cottage in the Bronx. Her name was Mary Mallon, and she was a large and fiery Irish-American woman about 40 years old. She worked as a cook in and around New York City, and every household she worked in seemed to suffer an outbreak of typhoid fever. Typhoid is caused by a form of Salmonella bacteria, and is usually spread by contact with human or animal waste. It was common on battlefields — it may have killed more than 200,000 soldiers during the Civil War — and in poor and unsanitary housing conditions, but it was rarely seen in the wealthy households like the ones where Mallon worked.
The first outbreak associated with Typhoid Mary occurred in 1900, in Mamaroneck, New York. She had been cooking for a family for about two weeks when they started to become ill. The same thing happened the following year, when she took a series of jobs in Manhattan and Long Island. She helped take care of the sick, not realizing that her presence was probably making them worse.
In 1906, a doctor named George Soper noticed this strange pattern of outbreaks in wealthy homes. He went to interview each of the families, and found that they had all hired the same cook, but she never left a forwarding address when she moved on to other employment. He finally tracked her down after several cases in a Park Avenue penthouse, so he interviewed her. She didn’t take it well, and swore at him, and threatened him with a meat cleaver when he asked her to provide a stool sample. He finally called in the police and had her arrested.
Urine and stool samples were taken from Mallon by force, and doctors discovered that her gall bladder was shedding great numbers of typhoid bacteria. She admitted that she never washed her hands when cooking, but she didn’t see the point, as she was healthy. No one had ever heard of a healthy carrier of typhoid before, and she refused to believe that she was in any way sick. They wanted to take out her gall bladder, and she refused. They demanded that she give up cooking, and she refused to do that too. They confined her for a while and put her to work as a laundress for the Riverside Hospital, and in 1910 — after she promised to give up cooking and only work as a laundress — she was released. It wasn’t long before she changed her name to Mary Brown and took a job as a cook. For the next five years, she stayed one step ahead of the doctors and the law, spreading disease and death in her wake, until they caught up with her on Long Island. Authorities placed her in quarantine on North Brother Island in the Bronx for the rest of her life, and she died of pneumonia in 1938.
Today is the birthday of novelist and poet Julia Alvarez (books by this author), born in New York City (1950). She grew up in the Dominican Republic and came back to New York when she was 10 years old. She often writes about the experience of being caught between two cultures; her first book was a collection of poetry called Homecoming (1984), and her first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), was based on the experiences Alvarez and her sisters had upon coming to New York. She also wrote a nonfiction book, Once Upon a Quinceañera (2007), about the tradition of throwing elaborate 15th birthday parties for young Latina women.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®