Dawn Reader

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Quick Recall (whatever THAT is?!?!)

Late last night I woke up and could not for the life of me come up with the name of Bruno Mars. Don't ask me why I wanted his name; I just did. (And even I don't know why I suddenly decided this was such a consequential thing for me to know--right now.)

I knew exactly what he looked like. I sort of thought that there was a b in his name somewhere--and an n. That was it. I could hear his voice. And I wished only that I could ask it: What's your name?

I woke up several more times in the night ... feeling, each time, that I was right on the edge of knowing it.

And then, suddenly (well, not too suddenly), about the time the birds started in on their morning songs, I had it. Felt an inexplicable relief.

This is the second time in the last week or so that I've fought like wildcat (do they fight?) to recall something. The one right before Bruno Mars was one of my worst.

I awoke hearing a woman's voice saying "Mr. Fenimore" (pronounced FENNIE-morr]. Again, I'm not sure why that happened, but I had just received in the mail the second volume of the two-volume definitive biography of James Fenimore Cooper, Wayne Franklin's James Fenimore Cooper: The Later Years (Yale UP, 2017). I read the first volume a few years ago--admired it--even corresponded a little with Franklin.

I knew only this: Yes, Franklin's book (newly arrived) could have put the name in my head, but JFC had nothing otherwise to do with the voice I was hearing.

I realized after a while that I'd heard a character speak that name in that way in some TV show or movie. Whew. That narrows it down to about 1 million options.

Then, for some reason, I narrowed it down to The Rockford Files, that old TV series (1974-80), a series that I've watched over and over and over again--VHS, DVD, streaming ... 122 episodes, 6 seasons. Whatever.

More late-night/early-morning anguish ... Which episode?

This went on for another full day and part of another night.

Then ... the insight that took me zooming to the answer. The voice was saying Dr. Fenimore, not Mr. Fenimore.

As soon as dawn broke, I grabbed from a nearby shelf--a very nearby shelf--"This Is Jim Rockford": The Rockford Files, a book definitive in its own way. Even before I grabbed, I knew which episode it was--well, episodeS: It was a two-hour episode, and I grabbed the book only to get the exact title and original air dates.

"Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man's Job"--March 3, 1979--deals with an elaborate con that Rockford and his friends pull on Harold "Jack" Coombs (played wonderfully by the late Robert Webber), an LA wheeler-dealer who has forced out of business the father of Rockford's friend, a young P.I. named Richie Brockelman (Dennis Dugan). 

The con involves a fake King Tut exhibit that they seduce (in one way--actually seduce) Coombs into financing; then they frighten him off with some mumbo-jumbo about the curse of the tomb, and Richie's dad gets his money back.

Anyway, Richie's role in the con is one "Dr. Fenimore" (!!!!!), who, supposedly, is a young and rising star in Egyptology. One of the other con artists is Trisha Noble (who plays a sly seductress/ Egyptian official named Odette). 

And it's the voice of Odette that woke me the other night, saying "Dr. Fenimore"--a name and title she says quite a few times in the episodes.

Whew. I could sleep again.

I have to say that this kind of stuff drives me crazy. I can not just "let it go"; I have to pursue it into the night like a crazed lepidopterist who is positive he has just seen some glowing nocturnal butterfly or moth that No One Has Ever Seen Before. And off he goes ...

And off I go ... perhaps to a shrink?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Woozy, Woozy

BODY: Let's fall down now.
BRAIN: I don't think that's--
BODY: Who cares what you think?
[I slump to the floor.]

Had an adventure this week. At the health club, I was doing my usual routines: stationary bike for 20 minutes, walk a mile of laps, rowing machine for 100 pulls, two sets of curls .... But when I finished my trip-to-Nowhere on the bike and stood up, I felt ... woozy. A perfect word. (A fairly recent--1897--Americanism, says the OED. Merriam-Webster's adds that's it's probably a transformation from oozy.)

So, oozy/woozy I stood for a moment, quickly realizing there was no way I was going to walk a mile--or do the other things.

I found a chair. Sat. Tried to stabilize. Felt a little better. Headed down to the locker room--slowly, slowly, slowly. Undressed for a shower. Realized, in the stall, that this was not going to work out well. Thought I'd do a quick rinse, get back to my locker, and sit.

BODY had other ideas. I turned the water off, and it was then that we had the brief conversation at the top of this post.

I realized pretty soon that I was on the floor. Spread out in a far-from-attractive pose. That I was barely coherent. A couple of naked guys walked by. Said and did nothing. Another naked guy said, "You all right?"

"I don't know."

He went for help, and soon there were three young trainers around me, all of whom stayed with me until they could help me up into a chair. They took several blood pressure readings--none of which was really out of whack. They got me talking about the Cavs and Indians, quickly realizing that my knowledge of both pretty much ended in the 1990s.

Oh, they also noticed that my left knee was bleeding, Got a band-aid, some antiseptic. Applied both.

I felt a little stronger, and they helped me back to my locker, where I s-l-o-w-l-y changed and tottered out to my car. I didn't call Joyce. Didn't want to alarm her.

Home (only a little over a mile away), I feigned competence until supper, at which time I confessed. And got the reaction I deserved. (Use your imagination.)

I have been very woozy lately--have to be very careful walking, making quick movements, standing, etc. I thought it was an alteration in my meds.

I called my family physician yesterday morning, and she got me in right away. Did a bunch of tests. Including an EKG, which showed a little abnormality.

So they scheduled me for a Stress-Echo next week.

And we will see what we will see.

Meanwhile, Sir Wooziness reigns. When I lie down, I'm fine. When I sit, I'm pretty fine.  When I stand and walk, I'm not fine for very long.

I'll keep you posted ...

But you may notice I'm not posting here every day--or on my other blog, Daily Doggerel. Sometimes, you see, BODY tells me I'd better lie down. And now. I've learned to listen to him. It's called "one-trial learning."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 303

So. Falkner. Mary Shelley’s final novel—her sixth. 1837. Fourteen years before her death. She had not had to look far for her title. Her father, William Godwin, thirty years earlier, had written a play, Faulkener. A masked ball. A wild landscape. Moonlight. Murder. Faulkener arrested. A trial. Innocent! Off he goes with his mother, to whom he’s devoted.
My journal reminds me that I read the play in one sitting on March 3, 1998. At Saywell’s Drug Store in Hudson. Drinking coffee. I didn’t say much about it in my journal—just this: another of Godwin’s bad plays. He had hoped to find financial security—and fame—in the playhouses. He didn’t. But hopes were high. Drury Lane Theatre accepted it for production—and cast in a prominent role one of the great actresses of the day, Sarah Siddons, born into the celebrated acting family, the Kembles, in 1766. Charles Lamb wrote a prologue for the play, which premiered on December 16, 1807.
And actually got some decent reviews. A respectful crowd. It ran for six performances, but Godwin never again wrote a play. This one had earned him very little money for a tremendous amount of work. And when it was published in 1808, the reviewers were less kind.[1]
I have a note that I have the entire play—printed from microform—in a loose-leaf notebook. If anyone knows where that notebook is, please let me know!

[1] Peter H. Marshall, William Godwin (New Haven: Yale UP, 1984), 272–74.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 140

1. AOTW: Can't really come up with anyone who was so egregious that he/she merited this coveted award. Just the usual assortment of impatient, careless drivers and overall public rudeness. Other than that ...

2. Bosch is back for his third season on Amazon Prime, and we've started streaming Episode 1. Based on the LAPD detective created by novelist Michael Connelly (who is an executive producer for the series), the stories tell about a sort of Lone-Ranger cop devoted to his job--often to the exclusion of social conventions. Titus Welliver, who plays Bosch, is not exactly the way I pictured him (I've read all the books), but he grows on you ... (Link to season trailer.)

3. On the domestic scene: On Friday night, in bed streaming Bosch with Joyce, I felt something ... sticky on my big toe. Pause. Turned back covers. Chewing gum on my big toe.

Okay. Both Joyce and I chew.

Joyce found some alcohol (no, not that kind), and she removed the gum with a bit of effort. We lay back. I got the remote. And said, "I think it's very mature that neither one of us blamed the other."

She said, "You just did." Then added; "I probably did it--I mean, my head is often down where your feet are."

We both cracked up. For a while.

My theory: I'd stepped in gum (probably Joyce's) and carried it to bed with us.

4. I finished two books this week.

     - The first--a debut novel by Stephanie Powell Watts, No One Is Coming to Save Us (2017), a novel I learned about via a New York Times review that highlighted its connections to The Great Gatsby (which I taught at Western Reserve Academy for a decade). Here's a link to that NYT review.
And there are, indeed, some patent similarities. A man named Jay, who has earned a fortune in some mysterious way, returns to his hometown and builds a mansion up in the hills, a place designed to attract the love of his boyhood, who, married to a jerk, still lives in town. And there are some other plot-related similarities. But there are also some major differences--the people involved are, for the most part, at the lower end of the economic ladder. They are black. And Watts employs a number of points-of-view (which Fitzgerald rarely did in Gatsby).

Like Gatsby, it deals with the nature of love, of time, of the human heart, of wealth and its consequences.

Watts is a first-time novelist, and there are times, I felt, when she was too determined to say things directly and bluntly, things that her characters and narration could have shown us. Time after time we read a philosophical statement by a character. Some are good, some not. But this one is fairly typical: So much violence lay dormant under the surface of the world.... How easy it was to find chaos (177). Sometimes, these things are just obvious; other times, effective. But I'm betting she'll do less of this as her career goes on--and, based on this book, I think she'll have a great career!

If I were still teaching Gatsby, I would definitely take this book to class with me one day to talk about.

     - I'm still making my way through all the Michael Chabon books that I've not yet read, and the latest I loved! The Final Solution: A Story of Detection (2004) is a novella about an apparently mute boy from Germany who shows up in England during WW II (1944 is the year--appropriate: my year of birth). There is a murder. And into the story comes a man--an old, old, old man--who is clearly Sherlock Holmes (though he's never named--identified throughout only as "the old man"). Well ... before long we're dealing with espionage, an amazingly intelligent African gray parrot, a code, the Holocaust (see the title), as well as references to Holmes stories--including "The Final Problem," a story that deals with the death of Holmes (or does it?). Link to text of story.

Chabon's novella is swift and clever--with no real indications of a writer "showing off" or drawing attention to himself. I got lost in it--in a hurry. And loved it.

5. A Final Word: A word I liked from my various online word-of-the-day online providers.

     - from wordsmith.org

cramoisy  (KRAM-oi-zee, kruh-MOI-)
adjective: of a crimson color.
noun: crimson cloth.

From French cramoisi, from Spanish carmesi, from Arabic qirmizi (of kermes). Earliest documented use: 1423.

“The whippet Narcisse would sit at table upon a cramoisy cushion.”
Geoffrey Wolff; Black Sun; Random House; 1976.

I like a couple of things: I didn't know the word; the quotation comes from Geoffrey Wolff, who wrote a fine biography of John O'Hara--and is also the brother of writer Tobias Wolff, who spent two days with us at Western Reserve Academy--May 18-19, 2005. He spoke to an assembly, visited classes--and signed some books for me!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Church Camp

Last evening, Joyce and I were driving home through Aurora, and as we passed Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we saw some young people either heading off to or returning from camp. (Didn't pause to figure it out.) I reminded Joyce that I, as a lad, had gone to summer church camps quite a bit (my father, grandfather, uncle--all were ordained ministers, Disciples of Christ).

And for some reason, the name of the camp in Oklahoma returned to me--a name I'd not thought about in decades. Boiling Springs.

Since my memories are fading (and quickly so), I just checked Google to discover that it's a state park, built in the 1930s by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), one of the agencies created by FDR to battle the Great Depression. It's a state park. In Woodward, Okla. And trusty Google Maps (see below) has informed me of its location and distance from our home in Enid (1706 E. Elm Ave.): due west of us, about 85 miles. I would have bet the house it was in the south, but that's just more evidence about why I shouldn't go around betting the house on things. I also thought it was a lot farther from Enid than it is. (But ... no freeways then. Lots of two-lane country roads.)

Next thing I don't remember: Was the church camp at the park? Or nearby? Time to check Google again ... [PAUSE FOR GOOGLE-CHECK] ... and, yes, it seems the camp is on the state park grounds (link to a map). As I look at the photos, I don't remember much about the look of the camp, though.

According to this link, there was some major renovation in 2010--check it out--some great images: LINK.

So ... all of this took place for me over sixty years ago. And what do I remember about camp? I learned that I was no good--and I mean no good--at crafts, a daily activity class that seemed to take forever each day. I recall that the lanyard I made--red and white--was pathetic. A prairie dog could have done much better. And, years later, when I read Billy Collins' poem "The Lanyard," I had a true shock of (embarrassed) recollection. (Link to Collins reading "The Lanyard.")

I remember lots of religious services (duh)--morning, evening, night. I remember being afraid of the big kids--yes, I discovered, there are Christian bullies! I remember looking at girls--chastely, chastely. I remember bad food, a loud dining hall, a cabin full of boys, an earnest counselor.

Mostly, I remember being glad to get home. Camping had always been fun with Dad on our family trips. But this, I found to my sorrow, was not like camping with Dad--or even with the Cub Scouts. It was a difference I never grew accustomed to--even later when, after we moved to Ohio in the summer of 1956, I began attending Camp Christian in Marysville, Ohio (link to website), about 150 mi sw of our Hiram home. I have some pictures I took there when I was in junior high--I'll post them with a few comments next time ...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 302

In June 1997, Joyce and I were going through some changes while I was reading Mary’s final novel, Falkner. As I’ve mentioned, I had retired from my thirty-year public-school teaching career in January. Joyce’s mother had died on February 5, 1995, after a long, long battle with Alzheimer’s. Joyce had recently published a book about her mom—In a Tangled Wood, which appeared in 1996.  Our son had recently graduated from college and had begun his career as a journalist at the Akron Beacon-Journal. And we were beginning to realize that we wanted to move back to nearby Hudson, Ohio, where we’d lived most of our marriage. So our old house (1826) in Aurora was now for sale—yes, the “bat house” I wrote about the other day. Joyce had already found another century home she liked near Hudson’s “downtown”; we are still living there as I write this (April 2017). I’ve loved the place, too.
And in June 1997 I was charging ahead with my work on Mary Shelley—had even contacted an agent about representing me. I was inflated with confidence because of recent successes in publishing—an annotated edition of The Call of the Wild (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995) and a YA biography (Jack London: A Biography, Scholastic Press, 1997). Both had been well reviewed. I thought that surely some YA publisher would be interested in a biography of the woman who wrote Frankenstein! And surely eager literary agents would queue up to battle one another for the opportunity to represent me!
Uh … no.
Scholastic Press was not interested—though they did ask if there was anyone else I’d like to write about. I said no. Good-bye, Scholastic, who by then had found some unknown writer by the name of J. K. Rowling, whose books would sell moderately well. I did eventually find a literary agency—a good one—to represent me. And I kept them informed as I proceeded through my research. Then—out of the blue (to coin a phrase)—as I was about to commence writing, the agency decided they were no longer interested. I’m not sure why. But I do know that I have wished them ill the past twenty years.
I just this moment checked Google. The agency is still in business. So my maledictions and malevolence have not had the desired effect. I will not mention the name. But they seem to be flourishing … whereas I …

Thursday, April 20, 2017


When I was a kid, we had some weird relatives. Let's take a look at one set of them. My maternal grandfather had two sisters, whom we knew as Aunt Mary Florence and Aunt Cornelia. Both were married. Aunt Mary Florence's husband, Uncle Bernard [BURR-nurd] Brunton, was an interesting guy. A home handyman extraordinaire. I remember one Thanksgiving back in our Hiram days (1956-66), Uncle Bernard and my dad went rabbit hunting; I went along, thus escaping the elaborate Thanksgiving preparations at home. Aunt Mary Florence was also somewhat ... normal, becoming (more or less) eccentric as she aged. (Imagine that!)

Grandpa's other sister, Cornelia, was a different case altogether. Her sister, Mary Florence, was small and thin, looking like one of those pioneer women in photographs that show those lean and tough women standing outside a sod house with a sodden husband. Cornelia was ... stout--and not firmly so. And weird. I remember once when I was in high school, they gave me a ride back from Indianapolis, where we'd gathered at the home of my mom's brother, Ronald. (I think: The circumstances are a little fuzzy.)

Aunt Cornelia was in the back seat. I heard some struggling back there, turned around, and saw ... Aunt Cornelia (stout, remember) struggling out of her girdle. I quickly looked back to the road, hoping with all my hope that I could delete that image. (Clearly, I haven't: It's with me still, more than a half-century later.) Anyway, she was laughing and having a good old time trying to make herself comfortable for the long ride--about six hours from Indianapolis to Hiram. I was the jerk, not she.

Aunt Cornelia's husband, Uncle Earl, was a truly odd bird. He was somewhat musical--played the organ in church. But he was unlike any other man I'd ever known. He was ... what? ... much more frisky than the other men in our family. Less traditionally masculine. As a kid, I just thought he was weird. We always joked that whenever Uncle Earl visited Uncle Bernard and Aunt Mary Florence, Uncle Bernard suddenly realized that the place needed some ... alterations. And he would start sanding and sawing and hammering and whatever while the sisters dealt with Earl.

(The Bruntons lived in Jackson, Ohio; the Greens, in Columbus--about seventy-five miles north of Jackson).

Well, that same Thanksgiving that Uncle Bernard went hunting with my dad, I recall that we Dyers made fun of the relatives (among ourselves) as they headed upstairs to bed with their impressive collections of pills and glasses of water on a tray.

Oh, the arrogance of the healthy! The young!

I later, of course, watched my dad--and now my mom--begin taking piles of pills for various things. (To my parents, I made no allusions to the Bruntons and the Greens--that would not have been wise.)

And now ... I feel myself becoming a Brunton, a Green. Pills at breakfast; different pills at lunch; yet different pills at supper. For blood pressure, for bone health, for battling the spread of my cancer, for general health (vitamins, fish oil). I also get two regular injections: One is monthly (bones); the other, quarterly (cancer).

And, of course, when I look in the mirror, I no longer see the starting guard on the Hiram High Huskies, the varsity tennis player for Hiram College, the guy who ran a bunch of 10K's later on; the guy who pedaled the Airdyne stationary bicycle so furiously every day, who mastered the StairMaster, the guy who hiked the Chilkoot Trail over the mountains from Alaska into the Yukon, the guy who ...

No, those guys are gone. Now I see the Bruntons and the Greens. And--faintly, faintly--I hear the echo of a boy's laughter about old folks' meds.