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 George Bilgere
My father once sold a Chevy
to Stan Musial, the story goes,
back in the fifties,
when the most coveted object
in the universe of third grade
was a Stan-the-Man baseball card.
No St. Louis honkytonk
or riverfront jazz club
could be more musical
than those three syllables
rising from the tongue of Jack Buck
in the dark mouths
of garages on our street,
where men like my father
stood in their shirt-sleeved exile,
cigarette in one hand, scotch
in the other, radio rising
and ebbing with the Cards.
If Jack Buck were to call
my father’s drinking that summer,
he would have said
he was swinging for the bleachers.
He was on a torrid pace.
In any case, the dealership was failing,
the marriage a heap of ash.
And knowing my father, I doubt
if the story is true,
although I love to imagine
that big, hayseed smile
flashing in the showroom, the salesmen
and mechanics looking on
from their nosebleed seats at the edge
of history, as my dark-suited dad
handed the keys to the Man,
and for an instant each man there
knew himself a part of something
in the old myths, a bored god
dresses up like one of us, and falls
through a summer thunderhead
to shock us from our daydream drabness
with heaven’s dazzle and razzmatazz.
“Musial” by George Bilgere. Reprinted with permission of the author. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of John Coltrane, born in Hamlet, North Carolina (1926). When asked to describe his style, he said, “I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once.” He played with Johnny Hodges, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis before forming his own quartet in 1961. He quit drugs cold turkey after Davis fired him for falling asleep on stage, and he said the month he locked himself in an empty room was a spiritual awakening for him; he asked God for “the means and the privilege” to play music for people and make them happy.
And it’s the birthday of Ray Charles, born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia (1930). They called him the “Father of Soul.” He first got national attention in the mid-1950s with his performance of “I Got A Woman,” which fused rhythm and blues, gospel, and jazz.
Today is the day Greece celebrates the birthday of the Athenian tragic poet, Euripides (books by this author) (480 BC), best known for his plays Medea, The Bacchae, and Iphigenia at Aulis. The story goes that he was born on the same day as the battle of Salamis in 480 BC, but this detail was probably invented after his death to align him with the Athenian identity. Along with Aeschylus and Sophocles, Euripides is one of the few Greek playwrights who had a lot of his work survive through the ages.
He paid special attention to the downtrodden in society, particularly women and slaves, at a time when other playwrights focused on more powerful, triumphant characters. Euripides was one of the first writers to portray mythical heroes like regular people; even when they were arguing with gods, their struggles were human struggles and they had the same emotional conflicts as everyone else. His dialogue was less structured and closer to regular speech. This decision to make dialogue less like poetry was the first in a long line of innovations that made theater more realistic.
His work can be hard to pin down, and critics make a lot of contradicting claims about him. The literary critic Bernard Knox wrote: “He has been described as ‘the poet of the Greek enlightenment’ and also as ‘Euripides the irrationalist.’ He has been seen as a profound explorer of human psychology and also a rhetorical poet who subordinated consistency of character to verbal effect; as a misogynist and a feminist; as a realist who brought tragic action down to the level of everyday life, and as a romantic poet who chose unusual myths and exotic settings. He has been recognized as the precursor of New Comedy and also what Aristotle called him: ‘the most tragic of poets.’ […] And not one of these descriptions is entirely false.”
Euripides was exiled from Greece toward the end of his life because of his association with Socrates, who was executed for refusing to recognize the Greek gods. He defined his art form this way: “Tragedy isn’t getting something or failing to get it, it’s losing something you already have.”
Today is the birthday of activist, politician, and newspaper editor Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in Homer, Ohio (1838). In 1872, she became the first woman run for the presidency of the United States. In an address to Congress, she once said, “I come before you to declare that my sex are entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee, founded Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, a radical publication that was the first to publish an English translation of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, and which espoused the virtues of free love, birth control for women, and equal rights. The sisters were already notorious in New York for benefiting from the largess of millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was a bereft widower, and distrustful of modern medicine, and turned to the sisters for spiritual guidance. Grateful, Vanderbilt supplied the sisters with stock tips, which proved valuable during the 1869 gold panic, and the sisters netted around $700,000. With Vanderbilt’s backing, Victoria and Tennessee opened their own firm named Woodhull, Claflin & Co., becoming the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street. They never gained a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, though, because women weren’t allowed.
In 1870, Woodhull announced her candidacy for president of the United States. Her platform was women’s suffrage, nationalization of railroads, eight-hour workdays, direct taxation, abolition of the death penalty, and welfare for the poor. Woodhull formed the Equal Rights Party, which nominated her at its May 1872 convention. From the very start, her run was contentious. The ERP selected abolitionist Frederick Douglass as her running mate, but he never acknowledged the nomination, and campaigned for Republican Ulysses S. Grant, instead. Woodhull’s views on sexuality and women’s rights were lambasted in the media, with even Harriet Beecher Stowe weighing in to call Woodhull “an impudent witch.” A popular cartoon of the time depicted Woodhull as “Mrs. Satan.” She and her sister were even jailed on Election Day in retaliation for running an article accusing Beecher’s brother, a prominent preacher, of lascivious conduct.
Victoria Woodhull’s name did appear on the ballot in some states, though no one knows how many votes she received, because no one bothered to count the votes cast for her.
When she ran for president, women were not allowed to vote, though there was no law against their running for office. It would be 50 years until women were allowed to vote, and it would take until 1967 until a woman was allowed a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Victoria Woodhull once wrote, “Let women issue a declaration of independence sexually, and absolutely refuse to cohabit with men until they are acknowledged as equals in everything, and the victory would be won in a single week.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®