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 Wendell Berry
I go by a field where once
I cultivated a few poor crops.
It is now covered with young trees,
for the forest that belongs here
has come back and reclaimed its own.
And I think of all the effort
I have wasted and all the time,
and of how much joy I took
in that failed work and how much
it taught me. For in so failing
I learned something of my place,
something of myself, and now
I welcome back the trees.
“IX” by Wendell Berry, from Leavings. © Counterpoint Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
On this day in 1850, California became a state. It was the 31st state admitted to the Union, just after Wisconsin and right before Minnesota.
It was a state born of the Compromise of 1850, an elaborate bargain between the North and the South over slavery. Under the compromise, the territories of New Mexico and Utah would decide for themselves whether slavery would be allowed, and California would be admitted to the Union as a free state.
In the late 1700s, California was settled by Spanish priests, who built missions up along the coastline. Mexico went to war against Spain to fight for independence, won, and so in 1821 they got their independence. California was a part of the Mexican empire.
A couple of decades later, the United States was on its imperialist roll toward the West. In 1845, the U.S. annexed Texas, and California the year after.
The U.S. Congress declared war on Mexico, and sent in the U.S. Army and Navy to northern Mexican territory to crush resistance. The Mexican-American war lasted about two years.
When the badly defeated Mexican military gave up, and it was time for them to sign a peace treaty, the American troops occupied Mexico City. The U.S. more or less dictated the terms of the treaty to Mexico — the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo — and Mexico ended up losing a full 55 percent of the territory it had before the war.
The Gold Rush began in 1848, the population skyrocketed, and California became a state on this day in 1850, as part of that Compromise of 1850. It’s now the most populated state America. And California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive farming areas in the world, growing fruits, vegetables, and grains, and keeping a lot of dairy and meat cows. It’s where about one-third of America’s food comes from.
Non-California writer Truman Capote said, “It’s a scientific fact that if you stay in California you lose one point of your IQ every year.”
Comedian Fred Allen said, “California is a fine place to live — if you happen to be an orange.”
Novelist Alison Lurie said, “As one went to Europe to see the living past, so one must visit Southern California to observe the future.”
It was on this day in 1830 that the first American aeronaut, a man named Charles Durant, completed his first balloon flight. He took off from Castle Garden in New York City and landed in Perth Amboy, New Jersey — a trip of about 25 miles.
Americans were late to embrace hot-air balloons. The first manned balloon ride had taken place in Paris in 1783 — almost 50 years before Durant’s flight. Within a year of the Paris flight, a group had crossed the English Channel. The first flight in America actually occurred in 1793, and it was observed by a crowd that included President Washington; but the aeronaut was French, and despite a number of fundraising schemes, he was unable to pay off the debt from his flight, and he returned to France.
So when Durant took off from Manhattan in 1830, ballooning seemed new and exciting to Americans. A huge crowd gathered to watch. The New York Post reported: “The spectacle drew many persons to the Battery, which was literally covered with an immense multitude of every age, sex, condition and color, whose faces were all turned upwards. It is estimated that upwards of twenty thousand persons were collected to see a man risk his neck for their amusement and for their money.”
Durant dressed up for the occasion, wearing a top hat and tails. From the air, he dropped copies of poems praising the joys of flight. The flight took about three hours, and he landed in a farm field, surprising a New Jersey farmer by the name of Johnson.
In 1831, Durant published an essay in the Journal of Commerce called “A New York Balloon Ascension,” describing one of his flights. He wrote: “Here burst upon my sight one of the most imposing views I have ever beheld. Call it majestic, splendid, or sublime, — invoke a Shakespeare’s mind to describe, or a painter’s to portray it, — they, and even thought must fail to conceive the rich downy softness and white fleecy accumulation of clouds piled in waves as far as the eye could reach, covering the earth, and closing to my sight the land, water, and everything, animate or inanimate, that I had so long and often viewed with delight. Above me nothing but a clear, cerulean expanse, — the golden sun-beams spreading over the vast ocean of clouds, and extending through immensity of space where sight is bounded, and from whence even thought returns, unable to traverse the confines of the vast field beyond. Here was a scene sufficient for the writer to fill volumes, and the painter to exhaust his skill, in trying to delineate the infinitely delicate and mellow tints reaching to boundless extent.”
It’s the birthday of British novelist James Hilton (books by this author), born in Leigh, Lancashire, England (1900). In the first decade of his writing career, he published more than 10 novels without receiving any attention. Then he wrote Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934), about an old, beloved schoolmaster whom Hilton based on his father. When the story was published in the United States, it became a huge best-seller. All of his previous novels were reissued and they became best-sellers too. The most popular of the earlier novels was Lost Horizon (1933), about an imaginary Tibetan village called Shangri-La.
Hilton said: “Surely there comes a time when counting the cost and paying the price aren’t things to think about any more. All that matters is value — the ultimate value of what one does.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®