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+
The Lower Chesapeake Bay
by Maxine Kumin
Whatever happened to the cross-chest carry,
the head carry, the hair carry,
and-look-in-my-eyes retrieval, and what
became of the stride jump when you leap
from impossible heights and land with your head
above water so that you never lose sight
of your drowning person, or if he is close enough, where
is the lifesaver ring attached to a rope
you can hurl at your quarry, then haul
him to safety, or as a last resort
where is the dock onto which you tug
the unconscious soul, place him facedown,
clear his mouth, straddle his legs and press
with your hands on both sides of his rib cage
to the rhythm of out goes the bad air in
comes the good and pray he will breathe,
hallowed methods we practiced over and over
the summer I turned eighteen to win
my Water Safety Instructor’s badge
and where is the boy from Ephrata, PA
I made out with night after night in the lee
of the rotting boathouse at a small dank camp
on the lower Chesapeake Bay?
“The Lower Chesapeake Bay” by Maxine Kumin from Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010. © W. W. Norton and Company. Reprinted with permission of Maxine W. Kumin Literary Trust. (buy now)
On this day in 1870, the “Old Faithful” geyser in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was discovered by the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition. The geyser was the first in the park to receive a name; when the men discovered it, they were astonished by its frequent eruptions, hence the cheeky name, courtesy of Henry Washburn. A geyser is a natural spring that intermittently spews hot water and steam.
The Washburn Expedition of 1870 explored a region of northwestern Wyoming that would become “Yellowstone National Park” just two years later. The party was made up of Surveyor General Henry Washburn, politician and businessman Nathaniel P. Langford, and several other men, including a newspaper writer and Lt. Gustavus C. Doane, whose journals of the trip would become an important historical record. When they set off on their adventure, they were described as “under the weather,” having enjoyed the previous evening drinking until “night drew her sable curtain down.”
The party discovered the geyser on just the second day of their travels, as they plodded along an area known as “The Firehole.” They were greeted by the sight of clear, sparkling water rising about 100 feet in the air, and someone in the party, no one remembered who, shouted, “Geyser, Geyser!” They observed the geyser throughout the day, noting that it spouted nine times at regular intervals, about every 74 minutes, which is how Henry Washburn came up with the name “Old Faithful.”
For a time, expedition parties to the park used the geyser as a laundry service: clothes were placed over the crater during quiescence and were summarily ejected “thoroughly washed” after the eruption. It was discovered that linens and cottons did fine, but that woolens were torn to shreds.
Geysers are extremely rare; only a thousand have been identified worldwide and half of those are in Yellowstone National Park.
It’s the birthday of movie star Greta Garbo (1905). She was born Greta Lovisa Gustafson in Stockholm, Sweden, and was best known for her sultry voice, sharp cheekbones, and sullen demeanor. The Guinness Book of World Records named her “the most beautiful woman who ever lived” in 1954. Film critic Kenneth Tynan found her beauty so intoxicating he sighed, “What when drunk one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober.”
Garbo made a few silent films in Europe before she received an offer from MGM in Hollywood. Studio executives wanted her to lose weight, fix her teeth, and learn English, all of which she did, and she started making potboiler silent films like The Torrent (1926), in which she played mysterious femme fatales. Her films were very popular, but it wasn’t until 1930, when the film Anna Christie was released, that people first heard her husky voice. Sixteen minutes into the film, Garbo says, “Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side, and don’t be stingy, baby.” The movie was breathlessly marketed as “Garbo Talks!” She became an international movie star.
Greta Garbo made 28 movies, like Grand Hotel (1932) and Ninotchka (1939), before retiring at the age of 35. When she kissed John Gilbert with an open mouth in Flesh and the Devil, the movie was banned in some places for “moral turpitude,” but ticket sales were through the roof.
She never liked giving interviews, which led to her aura of mystery. She once said, “‘I feel able to express myself only through my roles, not in words, and that is why I try to avoid talking to the press.” She usually played tarnished women who fell hopelessly in love before suffering a tragic death. As she grew more famous, her anxiety about acting increased. Visitors were banned from her film set and when close-ups were shot, black screens were placed around Garbo and the camera so no one, not even some of the film crew or fellow actors, could see her. About the screens, she said, “If I am by myself, my face will do things I cannot do with it otherwise.”
Most of her films were hits, but some weren’t, and before she retired she was labeled “box-office poison.” For the rest of her life, she lived in New York City, where she became something of a fixture in the city, as she walked her neighborhood in white clothes and large sunglasses. Her appearances in public became kind of a sport for fans and the media. They called it “Garbo-Watching.” A good day included playing tennis, snacking on brown beans and Triscuits, and running the elevators in her Manhattan apartment building when the staff went out on strike.
She walked 11 miles a day through the streets of the city.
Greta Garbo died in 1990. She once said, “I’ve had a fabulous life.”
Today is the birthday of Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault (1819) (books by this author), born in Paris. He was trained in medicine, but became interested in physics. He developed a method for measuring the speed of light, and discovered that light travels more slowly through water than it does through the air. He also invented a gyroscope. But he’s best known for the pendulum that bears his name. He assembled it in 1851, a 62-pound iron ball swinging from a wire 220 feet long. He suspended it inside the dome of the Panthéon in Paris. He used it to prove that the Earth rotates on its axis. Once the pendulum is set in motion, it always swings along the same axis, but its position changes relative to the position of the Earth. As the Earth rotates counterclockwise, the pendulum appears to move in a clockwise direction. His pendulum caused a sensation among scientists and laypeople alike, and soon cities throughout Europe and America had suspended their own versions. You can still see them today in many science museums; sometimes a ring of dominoes is set up around the perimeter of the circle so you can see them being knocked down as the world turns.
It was on this day in 1851 that the first edition of the New York Times was published in a dirty, candlelit office just off Wall Street. It cost one cent. It was founded as the New-York Daily Times by Henry J. Raymond and George Jones. They wanted a serious paper, not another popular sensationalist tabloid.
On the first page, there was an article about mail ships arriving from Europe. There were articles about political affairs being quiet in England, the upcoming presidential election in France, hostility against the government in Austria, and a fugitive slave uprising in rural Pennsylvania.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®