Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, June 26, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 318

And about that time I had resolved that I was going to climb it, too. I was going to stand on the summit where he had stood. All in honor of Dad … And so I contacted a cousin, who lived near Portland and had climbed it before, and made arrangements to climb it with him later in the summer. And I started training for the ascent.
But Life had other plans for me.
The rest of the year—1997—was a madhouse for us: moving from Aurora to Hudson; both of us were teaching at Hiram College (Joyce full-time; I, part-); the pile of our quotidian concerns seemed to grow ever higher and higher each day. My father’s health was failing (and we were back and forth to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to see him); Joyce was not feeling well; I was researching the Mary Shelley story, writing op-eds for the Plain Dealer, trying to get an agent for my Shelley book. My YA biography of Jack London had come out in 1997, had earned some good reviews, and I was hoping I could build on that.
And I was in training (sort of) to climb Mt. Hood—exercising, losing weight, fantasizing …
But by the spring of 1998 I knew that climb was not going to happen. My left knee—which I’d injured during my 1993 hike over the Chilkoot Trail (over the mountains in southeastern Alaska into the Yukon Territory)—was acting up, and Joyce’s health had worsened. I didn’t see how I could do it.
So on June 2, I contacted my cousin and told him. I canceled flight reservations and motels. I felt … mortal. And grieved at the dark knowledge that my rambling days were coming to an end.
It didn’t help that just two days earlier—May 31, 1998—a group of climbers on Hood were hit by an avalanche; one died.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 147

1. AOTW: The tailgater who followed me for a half-dozen miles the other day, thinking, I guess, that his proximity would urge me to go faster than I was (5 mph above the speed limit). He was wrong. As AOTWs invariably are.

2. I finished just one book this week--a longish one: I'd Die for You and Other Lost Stories, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Scribner, 2017). Edited by noted Fitzgerald scholar Anne Margaret Daniel ... I just got a little rush, thinking of actress Ann-Margaret & Daniel! ... the volume is not really full of "lost" stories--just, mostly, stories that FSF and his agent (Harold Ober) failed to place in any magazine. A couple were published later on--even recently--by guilty magazines, like the New Yorker, which in 2012 ran a FSF story it had rejected in 1936!

FSF was writing stories furiously to deal with his expenses, the most prominent of which were those relating to the institutionalization of his wife, Zelda (who would die in a fire at the place in North Carolina where she was staying: March 10, 1948.) FSF had died at 44, heart attack, on December 21, 1940.

Anyway, I'm sad to report that most of these stories are pretty ordinary--even bad--and to one extent or another deserved their fates. FSF would probably not be all that thrilled about seeing them in print, but I'm glad they are. It's nice to have them, to see how a fine writer doesn't always write fine things (Mickey Mantle struck out a lot), and how some of the ideas that appear so artfully in other stories appear not-so-artfully in these.

The editor begins each story with some notes about its history and status--when he wrote it, who rejected it (and why, in most cases), and who owns the story now (most are the intellectual property of the FSF estate).

There are a few lines I liked (and some flashes of that old FSF use of color).

  • "Love is a sure thing--it takes a living man to love" (16).
  • "The girl hung around under the pink sky waiting for something to happen" (41).
  • "His reasoning came to wreck on the single rock that he did not love her" (105).
But there is precious little of this. Instead, there are implausible plots, ridiculous coincidences, failures of all sorts.

But--hey!--it's Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald! Gotta read it, right?

3. We've found yet another mystery series to stream--this an Australian series called The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Blake is the son of the former doctor in town (deceased) and has some "daddy issues" to deal with. But he's sort of a combination of Doc Martin and Sherlock. Plus a nosy neighbor. I love his relationships with the other cast members--especially his housekeeper. Between him and her is ... something ... We'll see. (We've seen only two complete episodes.)

4. On Saturday night we went out to Montrose to see Beatriz at Dinner, an independent film that looked interesting.  It was about an immigrant woman (from Mexico--Salma Hayek) who learns assorted therapies to help cancer patients and others; she's an earth-lover, a friend of animals (a vegetarian), and she has greatly helped the daughter of a very wealthy family and, as a result, has become "friends" with the mother, who is so grateful for what she's done. She goes out to their mansion now and then to give massages to Mom. Well ... one day ... the day of an important business/related dinner at the mansion she goes to deliver a massage, but her car breaks down, so the mom invites her stay for dinner. Mistake. It's a gross kind of businessman thingy, and from there, I thought, the film tumbled downhill. Virtually every character is a cliche, a cut-out, and the script was so inadequate for the talents of those involved (e.g., John Lithgow). I thought it pretty much trivialized some very important issues by reducing them to platitudes and silly confrontations. Oh well. Better than Rough Night, which I saw last week! (Link to trailer for Beatriz at Dinner.) And too bad: I really wanted to like it ...

5. A Final Word--a word this week I liked from my various online word-of-the-day suppliers.

     - from wordsmith.org

repugn (ri-PYOON)
verb tr., intr.: To oppose, resist, or fight.
From Old French repugner, from Latin repugnare, from re- (again) + pugnare (to fight), from pugnus (fist). Ultimately from the Indo-European root peuk- (to prick) which is also the source of point, puncture, pungent, punctual, poignant, pounce, poniard, impugn, pugilist, and pugnacious. Earliest documented use: 1382.
“[A] decadence that Elgar would have repugned.”

Douglas Sealy; Katherine Hunka (violin), Sophia Rahman (piano); Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland); Jan 24, 2001. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Just imagine ...

How can you not be thinking about health care these days? I tremble for those whose protection is in jeopardy--generally the poor, the partially employed, the fully employed (many of whom receive no employer-sponsored insurance), the powerless.

And I think of a story about my wonderful mother-in-law, Annabelle Coyne, who, late in her life, began suffering from Alzheimer's--profoundly so.

Though the Coynes had both worked all their lives (he, for Firestone in Akron; she, for the Akron School Board)--and had been very frugal and prudent about saving for the future--they both encountered end-of-life illnesses that threatened to bankrupt them.

While her Alzheimer's was worsening, her husband was struggling mightily to care for her at home. He told Joyce and me often that he would not put her in a "home," even though she, as time went on, was not even all that sure who he was.

In the summer of 1990, not long after our son graduated from high school, lung cancer swept through him like a firestorm, and Thomas Coyne was dead in a matter of weeks after his diagnosis. August 13.

We tried to keep Joyce's mother with us, but it was impossible. She wasn't sure who we were; she no longer had any notions of night and day. She needed continuous care and attention; if we left the room for a moment, she might be gone when we returned, wandering the streets or sitting out in the car ready to go ... who knows where?

We found a terrific situation for her in a care facility in Aurora, and we moved to Aurora so that Joyce could see her every day. She died on February 5, 1995.

But there was a problem. After a few years in the Aurora facility she ran out of money--the savings of a lifetime--hers, her husband's.

And so we found a fine facility near Akron, a facility that took Medicaid (the Aurora one did not).

So Annabelle Coyne lived--with the help of Medicaid--for another couple of years.

But without that "government program"? Her expenses quickly would have bankrupted Joyce and me; our son would have had to drop out of college; and on and on.

Prior to 2004, I had had very few medical issues (the usual flu and/or infection now and then), but since then I've had skin cancer surgery, Bell's palsy, metastatic prostate cancer (it's moving relentlessly into my bones). Without health insurance--without the protections in ObamaCare about lifetime maximums and pre-existing conditions--we would be broke. My medical expenses are high. Scans and injections, medications and consultations. And I know, without help, we would be flat broke. Homeless.

Two qualities that, to me, seem absent in many who are working to eliminate/diminish ObamaCare: imagination and empathy. To qualify as a human being, you have to be able to imagine the lives of those less fortunate than you, to imagine what your life would be like if the bottom fell out; you also have to feel for other people, to feel what it would be like to be in their situation. You have to want to help.

And part of that "help" is contributing to health care--through premiums, through taxes. The more people who are "in" the system, the cheaper it is for everyone. We are required to have car insurance, homeowner's insurance. If it were not so--if you could opt in or out--the cost  for everyone else would be prohibitive. Insurance really works only when everyone is "in." That's why the mandate is crucial. It should be as automatic and required as car insurance. After all, you are going to use the health-care system at some point--even if you are now (to coin a phrase) as healthy as an ox.

A final thought: We must also quit judging people by the worst examples of whatever category we've put them in. Sure, some people cheat on food stamps, etc. But does that mean we deny relief to everyone else? We know perfectly well that people of every class and calling cheat--or are egregious in some other way. Teachers, preachers, lawyers, doctors, politicians, business people, athletes, cops, judges, etc.--if we judged all of  them by their most corrupt and criminal members, there would be no one in the world left to admire. And we would not feel compelled to help anyone.

If you can't do these things--if you can think only of costs and politics, if you can't realize that not all members of Group X are like the egregious few--then you need to surrender your I.D. card, the one that says "human being" on it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 317

… I had begun training to climb Oregon’s Mt. Hood.
I realize that I’m sort of offering here my own Rambles instead of escorting you through Mary Shelley’s final book, Rambles in Germany and Italy. Can’t help it. A digressive old man is not to be dissuaded from telling his stories.
So … Mt. Hood. We need to back up a little. My father was born in Milton-Freewater, Oregon (March 9, 1913), one of eleven siblings, and he loved the state, loved his family. So when I was a kid, every now and then Dad would pack up the five of us—Dad, Mom, older brother Richard, younger brother Dave, and me—and off we would drive to Oregon. We did this when we were living in Enid, Oklahoma, and, later, in Hiram, Ohio. It took days—each way!—those trips. I loved them then. I love them now as I think about them. And I remember with great fondness those times when I drove my own family out there to meet all the countless Dyers who had remained.
Mt. Hood, an inactive volcano (in the same range, the Cascades, as Mt. St. Helen’s; Hood erupted in 1907), looms over Portland, Oregon, and in 1937, when my dad was in his early twenties, he and some friends, on a lark, decided to climb that mountain—all 11,250 feet of it.[1] And on August 9, 1937, they did so.
Dad had always told us about this—a story I never tired of hearing, especially when I saw that rugged, snow-capped peak each time we drove out there. It seemed so … impossible that my father had done that.[2]
Anyway, years later, in 1997, my dad was failing fast. Now in his mid-eighties, he had suffered some mild strokes, was barely mobile—but still loved to talk about Mt. Hood. And I began to wonder—Is there a record of their ascent? He had always told us about a log book at the summit—about how he and his friends had signed it …
So I contacted the National Park Service, found that there was a log book, that his name was there. I acquired a photocopy of that page, framed it, and gave it to him for Father’s Day, 1997. (I also published an op-ed about it in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on June 15, 1997.)
And about that time I had resolved that I was going to climb it, too. I was going to stand on the summit where he had stood. All in honor of Dad … And so I contacted a cousin, who had climbed it before, and made arrangements to climb it with him later in the summer. And I started training for the ascent.
But Life had other plans for me.

[1] That phrase—on a lark—appeared 1811, says the OED. Origin uncertain.
[2] It turns out it’s not all that challenging a climb—people now do it ever day. Lots of people.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Should you ...? (Part 2)

A few days ago I wrote a bit here about how my junior high and high school English teachers had tried to persuade my classmates and me of the differences between will and shall, differences that virtually no one employs any longer.

I mentioned, too, that I'd started thinking about this because of a poem I'd recently memorized, a poem by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)--"A Thunderstorm in Town" (link to poem)--a poem about a man and a woman in a horse-drawn cab, waiting out the rain. The rain stops; the young woman leaves; the man says: "I should have kissed her if the rain / Had lasted a minute more."

I'm pretty certain that most of us today would say, "I would have kissed her ...."

And I mentioned, as well, how William F. Buckley, Jr., used to begin each episode of his long-running PBS program, Firing Line (1966-1999), by saying to his audience--and his principal guest--"I should like to begin by asking Mr. Dyer [I wish]...."

I'm pretty certain that most of us today would say, "I will begin ...." Or "I am going to begin ...."

So ... whazzup with should?

Today, most of is use it as an auxiliary to indicate determination or obligation: I should have written to her. I should give a lot of money to my retired English teacher. And so on.

But should used to have a shall-like distinction, as my old Plain English Handbook (1972) explains:

The uses of should and would correspond to those of shall and will:

  1. For simple future, use should with the first person, and use would with the second and third.
  2. For determination, reverse the order.
  3. In questions in the first person, use should. In questions in the 2nd and 3rd persons, use the form which would be correct in the answer.
  4. In indirect discourse (indirect quotation), use the form that would be correct if the quotation were direct.
    1. There is a trend among conservative authorities not to overstress the foregoing rules governing the use of shall and will, should and would, because of the wide variation in actual practice.
Okay, that's cleared up, right? Should is the past of shall; would is the past of will.

And let's look at the 6th definition of should in my old Webster's 2nd: used in auxiliary function to express a desire or request.

So ... in the poem ... I should have kissed her (a desire).

But in Buckley's I should like to begin, we need to look at the Oxford English Dictionary for this; it comes in part c under definition 19 of shall (which, remember, is the present of should):

With verbs of liking, preference, etc., should in the first person (and interrogatively in the second) is regarded as more correct than would, though this is often used.

So, Buckley, a fastidious user of the language, used like in his opening, so should needs to go with it, says the OED.


A confession: If I had to think about all of this before I spoke or wrote, I would (should?) never speak or write again! It's possible I will (shall?) never use those words again!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 316

In the late summer of 1997, change was becoming a permanent part of our lives, the newest member of our family. My thirty-year public-school teaching career had ended; Joyce’s mother, who had suffered profoundly from Alzheimer’s and had been living in a care facility nearby, had died on February 5, 1995, and Joyce was now moving through her life without parents—wonderful parents who had supported her in every way. I grieved for her, but I could not really understand: Both my parents were still alive. But I would learn ...
And in the late summer and early fall of 1997 we were preparing to move from Aurora back to nearby Hudson, Ohio (exactly 8.3 miles, says Google Maps), where we’d lived from 1979–1990. Joyce had seen a house for sale in Hudson, a house she knew we’d love (and have indeed loved for twenty years), and our Aurora home was on the market.
Complicating things even more: Our son had graduated from college in 1994 and, after a year of having no full-time job, had returned from the Boston area (he’d gone to Tufts), had enrolled in the journalism school at nearby Kent State University (about a dozen miles away). For a while he’d lived with us again—an arrangement that proved, uh, more complex than any of us wanted to deal with, so we’d found him a place over in Kent, where he was enjoying his studies; not long after, he would get a full-time gig as a reporter at the Akron Beacon-Journal (as I noted above).
And there was more. In that summer of 1997 the vast Dyer family (my dad was one of eleven siblings) were going to gather out in his home state of Oregon for a reunion, and I knew it would probably be the last time that so many of us were together. My dad had turned 84, was not doing well, but he really wanted to get out there. And I wanted to see again my dear aunts and uncles—and all their offspring.
I look in my journal for August 1–4 (when I was in Oregon), and all I see is this: SEE HANDWRITTEN JOURNAL ENTRIES. Fine … but where are they? I’ve just spent about a half-hour fruitlessly checking every Reasonable Place. So … the notes are either in an Unreasonable Place, or I’ve overlooked them in the Reasonable Place. I guess I’ll find them later and revise this portion as needed.
I do see—in my typed pages, which resumed after my return from Oregon—that I was still reading Mary’s Rambles, and I typed my final notes on the book on August 12. I see, too, that I was preparing to teach a beginning writing course at Hiram College in the fall (their Weekend College program) and that son Steve was publishing pieces regularly in the Beacon and that I was about to begin William Godwin’s novel Caleb Williams and that …
… I had begun training to climb Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


The other day I passed another mile-marker--a marker that seems, in retrospect, barely possible. I uploaded post #1900 on this site. (As years pass, as I age, as I think about so many things, the question that inevitably emerges is, How is this possible?)

So many things ... I graduated from high school 55 years ago; I finished my first year of teaching 50 years ago; I directed my first middle-school play 50 years ago ... I began teaching seventh graders--and now I have a grandson who will be entering seventh grade this fall ... This is getting depressing!

And now ... 1900 blog posts!?!?

My first--"I Am Born" (a theft of the opening line from David Copperfield)--appeared on January 6, 2012 (here's a link to that initial post). As I've written on other anniversaries (I post about the blog every one hundred posts), I've sometimes noted that I thought, back in 2012, that I would be blogging more than I actually have about education and teaching issues. One reason for my declining number of posts in that category is that I have not been a teacher since the spring of 2011 (when I left Western Reserve Academy), and I have not been a public school teacher since January 1997, when I retired from the Aurora City Schools (Aurora, Ohio). I don't really know what it's like now, teaching in this test-mad world. And I'm not really interested in a bunch of sentences that begin Back when I was teaching .... It's time for new voices. And there are plenty--including our son's.

So ... what have I written about? Memories. I've serialized drafts of books I'm working on (for the past couple of years it's been my memoir about my pursuit of Mary Shelley--Frankenstein Sundae, a text I should finish in the next couple of months. Then will come major revisions, for I'm already nearing 500 pages, far too long ...

I've written about odd things I've noticed, about political issues (not all that often--too polarizing), about my ongoing battles with metastatic prostate cancer, about ... well, pretty much about anything that, as they used to say, "tickles my fancy" (an expression, I see, that Dickens used in 1839 in Nicholas Nickleby).

As is my wont, I will right now check how many "hits" I've had (I check this only after each 100 posts).

Pause ...

374,732 hits.

Divided by 1900 = 197.227... hits/post.

Not bad. Not great. I guess I need to be more polarizing.

No thanks. I write mostly for myself here--I often don't know what I think, what I feel or remember, until I write about it. And I now have notebooks stuffed with blog print-outs so that, later, I can remember what was on my mind, what was in my heart. And so can my family members.

I've posted something almost every day. Every now and then I miss--illness, boredom, depression, travel.

But I still seem to find things I want to write about, which, for me, is a Sign of Life. And so we roll on, and I will see you at #2000, I hope.