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 Louis Jenkins
The god of three a.m. is the god of the dripping faucet,
sirens, and barking dogs. He’s been given titular charge of
circumstances that cannot be controlled. “It’s out of my
hands,” he says, repeatedly. He is a minor functionary, a
troll that lives under a bridge. On the far side are the
pastures of night where bright stars graze in the dark
matter of the cosmos. He is fond of philosophic thought.
“Of course, our understanding is limited. All we can do is
adhere to those laws and principles that have been proven,
time and again, to work.” It seems there is some discrepancy
in my papers. “A minor delay,” he assures me. Now it’s
Louis Jenkins, “Three A.M.” from Just Above Water. Copyright © 1997 by Louis Jenkins. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf Holy Cow! Press, www.holycowpress.org. (buy now)
On this day in 1949, the Berlin Airlift ended, and with it the largest humanitarian aid effort in history. It had gone on for more than a year. At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into sections, controlled by France, England, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The city of Berlin was divided into east and west, and on June 24, 1948, Soviet troops blockaded all land traffic in and out of the western sector of the city in an attempt to push the population into the east and consolidate control.
Over the next year, more than a million civilians and 20,000 Allied troops were fed and supplied by air alone in what was dubbed “Operation Vittles.” West Berlin needed 4,500 tons daily just to subsist, and the top military planners doubted the plan’s success. But the weekly records kept getting broken.
The highest level of activity came when Tunner instituted an Easter “blitz,” which involved a takeoff every 36 seconds and delivered 13,000 tons in just two days. The first skirmish of the Cold War could have easily gone hot, as Soviet planes darted at the Allied supply chain, staged awkward parachute training near the flight paths, and trained flood lights on the planes to distract them. When the Soviets finally relented and removed the blockade on May 12th, hundreds of thousands of cheering West Germans greeted the first land convoy. The airlift continued for a few months to be safe, but on this day the 276,926th flight touched down in Berlin, bringing an end to “Operation Vittles.”
George Perkins Marsh delivered an address before the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont, on this date in 1847. Marsh had worn many hats over his lifetime: lawyer, journalist, sheep farmer, mill owner, linguistics scholar, and diplomat. He contributed to the design of the Washington Monument and co-founded the Smithsonian Institution. But it was in his role as United States senator that he addressed the Agricultural Society. He was the first person to publicly raise the issue of manmade climate change, and his speech helped spark the conservation movement.
In his speech, Marsh said: “Man cannot at his pleasure command the rain and the sunshine, the wind and frost and snow, yet it is certain that climate itself has in many instances been gradually changed and ameliorated or deteriorated by human action. The draining of swamps and the clearing of forests perceptibly effect the evaporation from the earth […] The same causes modify the electrical condition of the atmosphere and the power of the surface to reflect, absorb and radiate the rays of the sun, and consequently influence the distribution of light and heat, and the force and direction of the winds. Within narrow limits too, domestic fires and artificial structures create and diffuse increased warmth, to an extent that may effect vegetation.” He was talking about concepts familiar to us now as the urban heat island effect and the greenhouse effect.
As a result of his speech, Marsh went on to publish a book titled Man and Nature: or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (1864). “[M]an is everywhere a disturbing agent,” Marsh wrote. “Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discords. The proportions and accommodations which insured the stability of existing arrangements are overthrown. Indigenous vegetable and animal species are extirpated, and supplanted by others of foreign origin, spontaneous production is forbidden or restricted, and the face of the earth is either laid bare or covered with a new and reluctant growth of vegetable forms, and with alien tribes of animal life.”
It’s the birthday of American writer Truman Capote (books by this author), born Truman Persons in New Orleans (1924). When he was 17, he dropped out of school and got a job as an errand boy in the art department at The New Yorker magazine. He published his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), when he was just 24 years old, and it made him one of the most promising new writers of his generation.
He’s the author of In Cold Blood (1966), which helped invent the true crime genre, as well as the nonfiction novel. Truman Capote wrote: “In the earliest hours of that morning in November, a Sunday morning, certain foreign sounds impinged on the normal nightly Holcomb noises — on the keening hysteria of coyotes, the dry scrape of scuttling tumbleweed, the racing, receding wail of locomotive whistles. At the time not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them — four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives. But afterward the townspeople, theretofore sufficiently unfearful of each other to seldom trouble to lock their doors … viewed each other strangely, and as strangers.”
Truman Capote said, “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.” He also said: “Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”
In 1948, after graduating from Princeton University, Merwin began a period of travel and study in Europe that lasted several years. In Portugal, he found himself tutoring the children of the Portuguese royal family for $40 a month and room and board. On weekends, he traveled to Spain on milk trains, hoping to meet his idol, the poet and translator Robert Graves, which he did. Graves befriended him and when his own children’s tutor failed to show up, he hired Merwin, who spent the next year in Majorca. In London, he befriended poet T.S. Eliot, who was homesick for America and used to give Merwin French cigarettes during their visits. Merwin also became friends with poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in London. Merwin was translating Pablo Neruda’s poems for a BBC program, and Plath used some of this work as a springboard for the poems that would become the collection Ariel (1965), published two years after her suicide.
Merwin eventually moved to Hawaii and set about restoring a former pineapple plantation on Maui to its original rainforest state, a painstaking and yearslong process.
He said: “I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.”
On writing, Merwin insists on regular practice. He said: “I’ve found that the best thing for me is to insist that some part of the day — and for me, it’s the morning until about two in the afternoon — be dedicated to writing. I go into my room and shut the door, and that’s that. You have to make exceptions, of course, but you just stick to it, and then it becomes a habit, and I think it’s a valuable one. If you’re waiting for lightning to strike a stump, you’re going to sit there for the rest of your life.”
He died in March 2019 at the age of 91.
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