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+
Where Am I?
by Richard Cecil
Beyond the waves that lap the sandy beaches
my balcony looks down on, there must be
no distant shoreline, only open sea
that stretches toward the west until it reaches
the sky to make an infinite horizon,
which the sun sinks into with a hiss
of surf as afternoon and evening kiss
good night and sky turns on its constellations.
The only sounds allowed besides the surf
are cries of gulls and very distant swimmers
and snapping flags so twisted by the wind
it’s impossible to say who rules this turf,
the Kingdom of the Endless Perfect Summers,
which I move to every winter in my mind.
“Where Am I?” by Richard Cecil, from Twenty First Century Blues. © Southern University Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought on this date in 1775.
For some years, American colonists had been growing tired of the British crown’s interference in their affairs. It was expensive to defend the colonies, and Britain had imposed a series of revenue-generating and cost-cutting acts. These included the Sugar Act, which limited trade and imposed import duties; the Stamp Act, which required all legal documents to be produced on specially watermarked (and taxed) paper; and the Quartering Act, which required the colonies to bear the cost of housing and supplying British soldiers. The American colonies argued that this was taxation without representation. British troops arrived in Boston in 1768 to quell and manage the growing unrest. In 1773, the British Parliament passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to sell its tea in America without paying import duties. Americans were angry at being forced to subsidize a British company and responded by dressing up as Mohawk Indians and dumping the tea in Boston Harbor.
In 1774, the First Continental Congress met illegally in Philadelphia. Fifty-five delegates representing 12 of the 13 colonies convened to discuss the Coercive Acts — a series of acts intended to bring the colonies back into line. In response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament replaced the local Massachusetts government with royal appointees, strengthened the Quartering Act, shut down Boston Harbor, and gave Britain the right to move any trial back to British courts. The Continental Congress declared the acts void, published a list of American rights, and asked King George III to repeal the Coercive Acts. The king declined.
On April 18, General Thomas Gage — who was serving as the governor of Massachusetts at the king’s command — ordered 700 British soldiers to march to Concord and seize the colonial military stores. From there the troops were to proceed to Lexington, where colonial leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams were hiding. The colonists weren’t sure whether the British would be coming over land or via the Charles River, so they worked out a system by which the colonial militia could be warned. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized Paul Revere and his role in warning the colonists by way of lanterns in a church steeple:
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.
When the British regulars arrived in Lexington at about five in the morning, they found 77 armed colonial militiamen waiting for them. In his poem “Concord Hymn,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
It’s not clear who fired the first shot — the “shot heard round the world” — but the greatly outnumbered American militia lost the brief battle. Not so in Concord, where there was a much bigger American force waiting. The British destroyed the arsenal but were forced back to Boston, under American guerilla fire. By the end of the day the Revolutionary War had begun.
On this day in 1824, British poet Lord Byron died while fighting in the Greek War of Independence from Ottoman Turkey (books by this author). Byron was a leading figure of Romanic poetry, at once handsome, brooding, and coltish. He was known for his flamboyant affairs with women and men, and was forced to flee England.
Living in Greece, he was invited to join the cause for freedom. He spent 4,000 pounds of his own money to refit the Greek naval fleet and spent his first six months as a rebel fighter miserable and cold in the rainy weather. His plan was to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, but he suffered a fever and pains. Byron was bled, according to the custom of the times, but it’s likely the lancet used was not sterilized and he developed sepsis. At his deathbed, he reportedly said, “I have given [Greece] my time, my means, my health — and now I give her my life! What could I do more?”
Upon his death, Greece proclaimed Byron a national hero. And to this day Byron is still a revered figure in that country. “Vyron,” the Greek form of “Byron,” is a popular name for boys in Greece, and a town near Athens is named “Vyronas” in his honor.
It’s the birthday of diarist Sarah Kemble Knight (books by this author), born in Boston, Massachusetts (1666). Little is known of her early life, except that she took over her father’s merchant business after his death in 1689. It may have been for business reasons, or perhaps to settle a relative’s estate, that she undertook a solo journey on horseback from Boston to New Haven in 1704 when she was 39 years old. She kept a journal of her travels, recording everything that happened and everything she saw along her way. Her diary passed into private hands after her death in 1727 and was not discovered again until 1825 when it was published as The Journal of Madame Knight by Theodore Dwight Junior. It has been reprinted many times since and is now considered one of the most authentic chronicles of 18th-century colonial life.
It’s the birthday of children’s author and illustrator Jon Agee (books by this author), born in Nyack, New York (1960). He’s the author of The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau (1988), Flapstick: 10 Ridiculous Rhymes with Flaps (1993). He also wrote a book of palindromes — phrases that read the same forward and backward — called GO HANG A SALAMI! I’M A LASAGNA HOG! (1991).
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