Dawn Reader

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

Annoyed by a Song Lyric?

I woke up—again—with an old song lyric in my head, and this time, the more I thought about the words, the more annoyed I got. The song, I see, is by Burt Bacharach and Hal David—a very productive and popular team in their day—and the performers were The Carpenters. (Link to song on YouTube.)

It was released on May 15, 1970–a date that makes me tremble because it was only eleven days earlier that the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State University, killing four of them. I’ve written here before about May 4 (you can Google it), so I’ll not say more—other than to note that Joyce was on campus that day, at the library thank goodness.

I was teaching at the old Aurora Middle School (102 E. Garfield Rd.; Aurora, Ohio) in May 1970, my fourth year of teaching. Joyce and I had been married only months before—December 20, 1969. Both of us were working on grad degrees at Kent State. She was full-time; I, part-time.

Anyway, I remember this song very well—I remember it was on the radio all the time. It reached #1 on the charts, and was #2 for the entire year. Not bad.

Anyway, I have no idea why some of the lyrics sneaked into my head last night, but part of it really annoyed me.

Sure, the “I” in the song is so in love with this guy that the analogies flow from her like a new Niagara. Birds show up when he does (what kind? Cooing doves? Hungry buzzards?); stars fall out of the sky (look out!). Okay—this is just the usual sort of daffy hyperbole that lovers habitually employ.

But it’s the next verse that bothered me—the one about angels getting together “to create a dream come true.” And all that moon dust and starlight (apparently not all stars fell from the sky).

This morning, in the dark, the whole idea of angels deciding to create someone really special—on the day of birth!—just angered me. I was thinking: If angels can do that, why don’t they do it all the time? Why do they let the rest of us arrive on earth with all sorts of problems? It seemed heinous to me. Cruel beyond belief.

Yeah, yeah, I know: It’s just a song, a song in the voice of a dazzled lover. It’s not the “truth.”

And, of course, I wondered how long that moon dust and starlight lingered before the guy got gout or something—or ate too many Twinkies, got overweight, and dropped dead, the moon dust flying up into the air when he hit the ground.

The more I read this over, the more it sounds like some Bitter Old Man who wishes the angels had gotten together on November 11, 1944!

Close to You

Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold and starlight in your eyes of blue

That is why all the girls in town
Follow you all around
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold and starlight in your eyes of blue

That is why all the girls in town
Follow you all around
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
Wa, close to you
Wa, close to you
Ha, close to you
La, close to you

Songwriters: Hal David / Burt F. Bacharach
(They Long to Be) Close to You lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Downtown Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Fresh Idea

Elsie & Elmer, once the images
used by Borden's milk
This morning I was talking in the coffee shop with Nigel about the word fresh, which he had just used in one of its contemporary senses (fashionable, cool*)--at least, I think that's what he meant. I'm not, any longer (was I ever?) all that "fashionable" or "cool." Though it was very brisk walking over to the shop this morning. And my coffee mug was frigid by the time I got there.

I was telling him that when I was younger, one of the meanings of fresh was ... well, here's what the OED says:  15.  [Perhaps influenced by German frech saucy, impudent.] Forward, impertinent, free in behaviour. orig. U.S.

The dictionary traces this one back to the mid-19th century, and I can remember it from boyhood TV, movies, and conversation. ("Don't get fresh with me!" a woman might cry.) But I've not heard anyone use the word in this sense in a long, long time.

The impudent meaning I heard, too--a teacher (one of mine) might say it to a pupil (me?) who was getting a little uppity: "Danny, aren't we being a little fresh today?" (Danny, in his mind but never audibly, would reply: "Well, maybe you are!" I never much liked that kind of we coming from adults--especially when I knew they meant you (i.e, Danny).)

Meanwhile, the OED lists some fifteen adjectival senses of the word--from, oh, the opposite of salt water to intoxicated to sober (!) to (of a cow) coming into milk.  So ... a fresh cow can deliver some fresh milk?

And would Elsie the Cow ever say to Elmer the Bull, "Don't get fresh with me"?

*definition #5 on Merriam-Webster's site--#17 on dictionary.com.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dear Insurance Company ...

... I got your letter yesterday, the letter that told me that my premium for my long-term care policy (a policy I've been maintaining for a couple of decades now) is going up--a lot. In April, my quarterly payment will go from $579.87 to $811.86, an increase of $231.99/quarter (or $927.96 annually). If my eighth-grade math skills are still intact, that's an increase of about forty percent. What a nice post-holiday gift.

You probably know that my income has not gone up forty percent since last year. In fact, I'm retired. I receive a very small Social Security check each month (about $350), and my monthly deposit from the State Teachers Retirement System in Ohio has not gone up in recent years--frozen because of the stock-market shenanigans that I, of course, had nothing to do with. (Can you say the same?)

I'm betting that you're hoping that I'll drop my policy. That way you'll get to keep all the many thousands I've paid you over the decades, and you won't have to help pay for me when I find myself unable to take care of myself any longer.

This is all part of the heinous practice we have here in America of for-profit medical care. Such a horrible idea. When profit is a motive--or the motive--then the goal of taking care of people slides farther down the ladder of purpose--so far, in fact, that it can become invisible to those near the top.

I spent my entire career in a public service profession--teaching. Public and private school, public and private colleges. Profit was never an issue with me (obviously). I wanted to help people. Sometimes I did; sometimes I failed to do so. But the failures were never due to any profit-based decision I made. No, the failures were personal and regrettable. But they did motivate me to do better the next time.

I find it immoral that you have decided that as I near the time when I could actually need you, you will jack up the price with the tacit hope that I will bail. And your executives can make their yacht payments or whatever. (I'm guessing your top executives make more in a year than I did in my entire 45-year teaching career?!?)

Anyway, for now, I'm not going to drop out. I will cut back, where possible, on my other expenses. Live a bit more meanly.

Meanly. That has more than one meaning, you know?  Here's how dictionary.com puts it:

1. in a poor, lowly, or humble manner.
2. in a base, contemptible, selfish, or shabby manner.

I live one way; you, the other.

I am not going to mention your name here, by the way. That might inspire you to find some cruel reason to cancel me altogether.

No, I will not reveal your identity, for, after all, that would not be very prudential of me ...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Immunotherapy: Session 1 of 6

at Akron Red Cross this morning
I had three dreams last night about missing this appointment. One I don't remember. One involved oversleeping (I woke at 10:10; my appointment was at 8). The third was a complicated story about my car--something was wrong with it--I went out to check--fussed around with a car that didn't seem to be our car but also did seem to be our car (it was an old Plymouth Duster, the first car Joyce and I bought after we were married--a car I'd been talking about the other day in the coffee shop). Anyway, by the time I got things straightened out (did I?), I was way late.

But I wasn't late this morning.

It took awhile to clean off the ice and snow from the car, but off we zoomed to the Akron Red Cross, 501 W. Market, where I would spend about four hours on a recliner, a needle in my right arm, a needle in the back of my left hand, blood flowing from my right into a machine that separated out the T-cells (and some other goodies), blood returning through my hand.

They had a hard time getting cooperative veins. (Here a poke, there a poke, everywhere a poke-poke!) But after about 30-40 minutes (I kid you not), the process was running merrily along.

We had been led to believe that I could read or write or whatever during the process. Not. I couldn't move either arm (though I did have to squeeze a ball, continually, with my right hand to urge the blood along). So--no checking of email, Facebookery, reading, etc.

Instead, I chatted some with Joyce and the nurses (when I felt like it--which was not all that often) and passed the time by silently reviewing some of the poems I've memorized. I did recite one aloud--"In Flanders Fields”—when one of the nurses told me she was Canadian. The poem was written by Canadian physician/poet John McCrae, WW I.

I was cold much of the time--though the nurses kept rotating warm blankets. Felt a little woozy at other times. And was glad my bladder behaved. (I know: TMI.)

Finally it was over, and I tottered my way to the men's room.

I had a couple of granola bars, sipped some coffee, and we chatted with the courier who had arrived to take my blood to Cleveland Hopkins Airport, where a jetliner would zoom away with my blood to Atlanta, where it will be super-charged with cancer-fighters; on Friday afternoon I will go up to UH in University Circle to get that Super Blood returned to me. (The courier told us he'd been delivering pizza when a courier service recruited him.)

And then we will see.

I will repeat this twice more, with a two-week rest in between each.

One annoying mess-up: my oncologist's office had not sent a blood-test result. Phone calls and faxes and emails ensued.

As we arrived back in Hudson, Joyce driving (Macho Man had wisely decided to be a passenger), I saw our house ahead of us. And I said, "That's the second best sight in the world!"

At that moment, the very best was driving.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Couple of (Nerdy) Interesting Days

The last couple of days I've been able to do something that I've wanted to do for quite a while. Beware: It's nerdy.

So let's back up a little ...

As many of you know, I've been working on a memoir about my multi-year pursuit of Mary Shelley, a chase that began in 1997, flared, faded, flared again, and the last five years (!) I've been writing/revising a draft of my account of those experiences, an account I'm calling Frankenstein Sundae: My Ten-Year Pursuit of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

I serialized a (very) rough draft on this site and have been revising it ever since.


Mary's father was William Godwin--philosopher, novelist, and would-be playwright. He wrote four plays, two of which were performed (to generally lukewarm response). I was able to read those, years ago, via microform.

But the other two plays were never published--not until 2010 when all four plays appeared in ... The Plays of William Godwin, a scholarly edition from Pickering & Chatto. Take a look on Amazon (I just did): The going price for the volume ... about $159.

So ... I put it off--deciding I'd rather, you know, eat.

Then I got a nice Amazon gift card for Christmas; I found a (slightly) cheaper (used) volume on Amazon, pulled the trigger, got the book.

And the past couple of days I've read St Dunstan (1790), a play that, until 2010, had existed only in manuscript form at the Bodleian Library (Oxford Univ.).

Godwin wrote it in iambic pentameter (at which he's not all that bad), and the play deals with a severe church v. state conflict in long-ago England.

I enjoyed reading it--a lot. There are so many nasty things going on: an evil religious leader, a brother who loves the king's wife and will betray him as a result, a public whose mind changes with the wind, devious counselors, etc. A fiercely loyal queen.

I would not, however, want to see a production. Long speeches on every page. Little sense of dramatic movement. Not the slightest comic relief.

But Godwin goes after some of his career-long targets: superstition, disloyalty, the public's inability to be serious about anything for very long ...

Fun, fun, fun.

Later this week I will read the other one I've not ever read: Abbas, King of Persia (1801), a play that until now had also existed only in mss. form at the Bodleian.

And then my (short) journey through the plays of Godwin will be over ... a mixture of pleasure, satisfaction, relief!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 172

1. AOTW: The past couple of weeks ... this one has been a no-brainer. The winner (hands down) is THE FLU, that fell virus that felled both Joyce and me for the better part of two weeks. (And, yes, we both had the high-powered flu shot last fall.) This is the first time I'd had the flu since I began getting the shots about thirty years ago (or longer), and it was a grim reminder of how fragile we all are. We're walking bags of chemicals, and when those chemicals get messed up? Well, we don't walk so well--or do much else very well, either.

2. During my illness I couldn't do much else but read--and I didn't do all that much of that. But I have finished a few books since last I did a Sunday Sundries a few weeks ago, so here we go (in no particular order):

     - Edward O. Wilson's The Origins of Creativity (2017), which was kind of an update of a book I had to read as an entering frosh at Hiram College back in the fall of 1966: The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, 1959, by C. P. Snow (a book to which Wilson alludes, by the way).

Wilson has a lot to say here about how the humanities and the sciences ought to be more integrated (he decries the deep specializations that have made more difficult any communications among the disciplines). Much that is interesting is here--about the (nearly) universal fear of snakes, about the human fondness for the savanna, about our racial divisions, and much more.

I didn't always agree with his literary judgments: He takes a shot or two at Jonathan Franzen (one of my contemporary favorites). Of The Corrections he writes: "One gets the feeling that as literature this long book may not lift off the runway. For some it does; for me it does not" (37).

     - I finished re-reading Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady (1881), a novel--a long, long, long novel!--I re-read because I had so much enjoyed John Banville's new novel, Mrs. Osmond, which is a sequel to Portrait. And I am so glad I re-read Portrait! Not only is it a wonderful book (sentences wind around through the tale like lengthy sinuous snakes), but it also reminded me of so much I'd forgotten about the story--helped me admire even more what Banville had done.

As I wrote elsewhere, I read the novel in the Library of American edition (Joyce and I subscribe to the series), and when I opened the volume that contains Portrait, I noticed it was not a first printing. (Oh, no!) So I got online and ordered a first--and it turns out that this 1st printing had once belonged to Gore Vidal and had his stamp inside. An extra thrill ... I've always loved the late Vidal's work.

   - Last night I finished (via Kindle) another novel about Jack Taylor, the Irish ex-cop/unofficial PI who populates some novels of the talented Ken Bruen. (I've been reading them in the order he wrote them--reading them because we so much enjoyed the Jack Taylor series we streamed on Acorn.)

This one--The Dramatist (2004)--deals with the murders of some young women in Galway. Oddly, the work of  J. M. Synge figures prominently in the plot. Jack is trying to battle his demons, as well (alcohol, cigarettes), and deal with his imploding love life--and with his fractured relationship with his mother. Well, the case is a grim one, and the very ending is one of the most shocking I've ever read in crime fiction. I had to read it twice to make sure that what I thought had happened had indeed happened.

     - Finally, I finished (via Kindle) the latest Lee Child thriller about his laconic hero, Jack Reacher--The Midnight Line. It's a tale that begins simply: Reacher finds in a pawn shop a West Point ring with the previous owner's initials on it. He decides to find the person--return it. (He's a West Point guy, too.) And so the story unfolds, taking us into remote Wyoming (and elsewhere), where Reacher uncovers some most unpleasant goings-on.

I enjoy these Reacher tales that take place in the thinly populated areas of the country--more so than the ones that take place, oh, in London and elsewhere. Something about a loner in the wilderness ... though he is not alone in this one. He has some folks helping him out.

3. We've been streaming, and enjoying, a PBS documentary about Johnny Carson--not quite finished with it: Johnny Carson: King of Late Night (2012). Oddly: The narrator is Kevin Spacey (oops). Fun to watch all those old clips ... we used to watch the show now and then--for decades. (Link to the entire show.)

4. Joyce and I recently watched (via Netflix DVD) Nights and Weekends a film by Greta Gerwig--she of recent Lady Bird fame. Joyce did a Facebook post about it--and I pretty much agree with her, so I stole it:

Saw "Nights and Weekends" (2008) last evening, directed by Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird," 2017). Both also had leads in the film. The movie dissects a relationship that blossoms, dies, and then is temporarily reborn for one fragile moment through memory. Everything (well, perhaps except the sex!) is slight.The movie is not memorable for its script, poignant lines, or narrative rush. The characters often speak as if there are marbles in their mouths. You have to read the dissolution of this long-distance relationship in other ways, but, in fact, you usually do.

5. Last Word: A word I liked this week from one of my various word-of-the-day providers:

     - from dictionary.com

boustrophedon [boo-struh-feed-n, -fee-don, bou-]  noun
1. an ancient method of writing in which the lines run alternately from right to left and from left to right.

Many of the old Greek inscriptions were written alternately from right to left and from left to right, turning the direction as one turns a plow in the field, and this style was called "boustrophedon" (turning like oxen).
-- Carl Vogt, "Writing Physiologically Considered," The Popular Science Monthly, September 1881


Only students of ancient scripts, especially (but not exclusively) of ancient Greek, will know the meaning and etymology of boustrophedon “like the ox turns (in plowing).” The major components of the Greek adverb boustrophēdón are the nouns boûs (stem, bou-) “bull, cow, ox,” and strophḗ “a turn, twist.” In the earliest Greek writing (mid-8th century b.c.), the first line was written from right to left (“retrograde,” as always in Phoenician and Hebrew); the second line from left to right; the third line retrograde, etc. Boustrophedonic writing was obsolete in Athens and most other parts of Greece by the mid-5th century b.c. Boustrophedon entered English in the 18th century.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Strange Parcel ...

Yesterday, I got a rather large parcel via UPS, and I had no idea what it was. About 99.99999% of things I order online are books, and this box could have held the New York Public Library (I exaggerate?). I didn't recognize the return address. But I whipped out my trusty Swiss army knife, sliced the packing tape, and found ... as you see above ... a backpack!

Now ... those of you who know the Me of Recent Years know that I haul a backpack around all the time, a sack filled with books and papers and pencils and pens and chargers and ... stuff I won't even remember until I clean it out the next time I get a new one (should there ever be such a time).

My current backpack is fairly new. Very sturdy. I love it.

So what is a new one doing here? And who sent it? And why does it have a STOP sign affixed to it?

There was a packing slip attached (see image at the bottom of this post), and it was not until I read it that I realized the package had come from the Provenge company--Provenge, the T-cell enhancement therapy I will commence this week to help my own body do a better job of fighting the prostate cancer that just will not go away, despite surgery, radiation, and hormone-suppression therapy. I've been living with this unwelcome guest since late 2004 when I had my first biopsy ...

I learned via the slip, by the way, that it's not a backpack; it's a "Patient Comfort Kit."

As I've written here before, the treatment process will take five weeks, starting this coming Tuesday at 8 a.m., when I go to the Akron Red Cross to have all of my blood drained, some of my T-cells removed, my blood returned, the T-cells sent to Atlanta for super-charging with Provenge, my energized T-cells returned to me on Friday down at Seidman Cancer Center, University Hospitals in University Circle, not far from Severance Hall, which is where I'd rather be going, believe me.

I didn't have the guts to open the pack right away (it had arrived mid-morning), but after supper, my courage inflated by the turkey burger I'd just broiled and eaten, I opened it on the couch, Joyce beside me.

And inside?

A variety of goodies ...

  • Some packets of Crystal-Lite (various flavors)--which I can presumably mix and consume in the little water bottle that's part of the backpack.
  • A couple of ballpoint pens (apparently, I'm going to write--a lot--during the procedure).
  • A notebook. (Ditto.)
  • A knitted cap. (Some people get the chills during the process.)
  • A rolled blanket. (Chills.)
  • A booklet about what I'm going to undergo--and the possible side-effects, etc. (Many are mild; some--not so.)
So ... Tuesday and Friday this week. Then a week off. Then another Tues-Fri. Then a week off. Then a final Tues-Fri.

And then we will see ...

I was a little alarmed (too strong a word?) to read that the process extended the lives of those who've undergone the therapy only about 4.5 months (that's the median--meaning, of course, that half lived less, half more).

I, of course, am determined to blow the top off the chart, so much so that the median will be forced upward ... a lot.

Joyce told me, as I unpacked, that she was touched by all of this--the whole backpack (Patient Comfort Kit) thing. I was too, of course. But also freaked a little: This is going to happen ... and soon.

And so, I tremble ... and reach, again, for Joyce's hand ...