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 Linda Pastan
We have traveled all this way
to see the real France:
these trays of apricots and grapes spilled out
like semi-precious stones
for us to choose; a milky way
of cheeses whose names like planets
I forget; heraldic sole
displayed on ice, as if the fish
themselves had just escaped,
leaving their scaled armor behind.
There’s nothing like this
anywhere, you say. And I see
Burnside Avenue in the Bronx, my mother
sending me for farmer cheese and lox:
the rounds of cheese grainy and white, pocked
like the surface of the moon;
the silken slices of smoked fish
lying in careful pleats; and always,
as here, sawdust under our feet
the color of sand brought in on pant cuffs
from Sunday at the beach.
Across the street on benches,
my grandparents lifted their faces
to the sun the way the blind turn
towards a familiar sound, speaking
another language I almost understand.
“Market Day” from CARNIVAL EVENING by Linda Pastan published by W.W. Norton. ©1991, 1998 by Linda Pastan. Used by permission of Linda Pastan in care of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc. (buy now)
On this date in 1789, the First Federal Congress of the United States approved 12 amendments to the recently ratified Constitution. Ten of them would eventually become the Bill of Rights that we know today.
George Mason, a statesman and delegate from Virginia, was deeply disappointed in the United States Constitution. He had helped craft it with much optimism in the beginning, but became troubled by what he saw as too much power concentrated in a central government authority, and no protection for individual rights. In late summer, 1787, Mason wrote to his son that he “would sooner chop off [his] right hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands.” On September 15, 1787, the final vote was made to approve the Constitution, and Mason was one of only three who protested, calling for a “bill of rights” to be added to the document.
But Mason and his fellow anti-Federalists didn’t give up, and others joined them. Over the next two years, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison also took up the cause. Patrick Henry felt the Constitution didn’t offer sufficient safeguards against tyranny, and asked, “What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances[?]”
In the summer of 1789, Madison introduced a set of 17 amendments before Congress. These amendments were narrowed down to 12, which were approved on September 25 and sent to the states for ratification. Only 10 of these were ratified by the required two-thirds of the states, and they became our Bill of Rights. The document protects, among other things, an American citizen’s right to freedom of religion, speech, assembly, a well-organized militia, and a speedy and public trial. It also grants freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, excessive bail, the quartering of troops, and self-incrimination. Finally, Article Ten declares, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
In the end, it was a document crafted by George Mason that inspired much of the language, structure, and content of the Bill of Rights. Mason had drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights for his home state’s constitution in 1776. Inspired by an English Bill of Rights from the 17th century, it was the first constitutional protection of individual rights in North America. It established the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Of the two amendments that were dropped from the original bill, one of them never passed. It established a formula for determining a minimum number of seats in the House of Representatives, where a state’s number of representatives depends upon its population. A minimum number of 435 seats was set by statute in 1911, and the population of the United States has grown so much since then that even the least populous districts have more than the minimum number of voters. Therefore, the amendment is unnecessary and unlikely to pass.
The second of the “failed” amendments prohibited Congress members from voting to raise their own pay without allowing their constituents to have a say. Since there was no statute of limitations on ratifying the original 12 amendments, this one did eventually pass. Michigan was the state that pushed it over the two-thirds majority, on May 7, 1992 — more than 200 years after it was originally proposed.
It’s the birthday of Francine du Plessix-Gray (books by this author), born in Warsaw, Poland (1930). She got a late start writing fiction. She was married with two children, she kept a journal, and it kept getting bigger. She said that one day when she was 33, after she cooked and entertained a group of weekend guests, she “felt an immense void … the deepest loneliness I’d ever known.” She wept for hours, took out a notebook, and started rewriting one of the three stories that had won her a prize when she was in college. Twelve years later, it had become the first chapter of Lovers and Tyrants (1976), her first novel.
It’s the birthday of children’s author and illustrator Shel Silverstein (books by this author), born Sheldon Allan Silverstein in Chicago (1930). Silverstein avoided press, refused to go on book tours, and even requested that his publisher not release biographical information about him. As he said in a rare interview with Publisher’s Weekly, “I’m free to … go wherever I please, do whatever I want; I believe everyone should live like that. Don’t be dependent on anyone else — man, woman, child or dog.”
On this day in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in as a justice in the Supreme Court of the United States, becoming the first woman to hold that office. O’Connor was born to a ranching family in El Paso, Texas (1930), and as a young girl remembers shooting coyotes that threatened the family herd. Determined not to have the same fate as her father, who dreamed of attending college but never made it, O’Connor moved in with her grandmother in the city to attend school. She went on to Stanford University, graduated in 1952 at the top of her class, but she couldn’t find a law firm that would give her a job. “It was very frustrating,” she said, “because my male classmates weren’t having any problems. No one would even speak to me.” Not one to give up, she tracked down an attorney in Northern California whom she’d heard once had a female staffer, and she convinced him to let her work four months for free until a paying job opened up. She married and later moved to Arizona where she opened up her own law practice with a male partner, taking low-paying cases, until she got involved with the Republican Party. She rose through the ranks quickly and within a few years found herself Majority Leader of the Arizona State Senate, the first American woman to ever hold such a position.
In 1979, O’Connor was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, and two years later, when President Reagan needed to fulfill his campaign promise to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court, O’Connor was tapped. She had deep reservations about accepting the position. She later said, “If I stumbled badly in doing the job, I think it would have made life more difficult for women, and that was a great concern of mine […]” Pro-life and religious conservatives vehemently opposed her appointment, fearing that she wouldn’t vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, but she was confirmed by unanimous vote. O’Connor often voted with the conservative wing of the court, but built a reputation for being pragmatic, and through the latter part of her career often cast the swing vote in undecided cases, including the controversial Bush v. Gore decision in 2000. Upon retiring in 2006, she set up a popular online curriculum called ourcourts.org to foster understanding of civics among young people. She is a frequent public speaker and passionate advocate for judicial independence.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®