Dawn Reader

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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

And so, today, ...

... I'm keeping as busy as I can.

I was up a few minutes before 6, cleaned up, talked some with Joyce before she headed off to the health club, did a little work in my study, then walked over to Open Door Coffee Co., where I read the New York Times via Kindle, checked/responded to email and Facebook, then read/took notes on the first fifty pages of Jennifer Egan's first book, a collection of short stories, The Emerald City (mid-90s). As soon as I finish it, I will have read all of her books--except the new one, Manhattan Beach, which I am really looking forward to ...

Then I pencil-edited some pages from Frankenstein Sundae--hoping this will be the final draft: I'm ready to move on ...

Home: I talked with Joyce a bit (she'd noticed a typo in my Daily Doggerel; I fixed it). I decided it was time to bake some baguettes. It's been some months since I've done so--and I don't want to lose the "touch" (to whatever extent I have it).

Baguettes are not nearly so complicated as the sourdough bread I bake on Sunday mornings. No, baguettes require only water, salt, yeast, and flour (I mix in a little whole wheat with the white). And time. I've got lots of that, right?

After I got the dough ready and set it aside to rise, I started the chicken soup going in the Crock-Pot (for supper). I'd made the stock yesterday from the carcass of the roaster we'd consumed last week ...

... I just realized, writing this, that I'd neglected to put the seasoning in with the stock. So off I hurried to the Crock-Pot to do so ...

In a few minutes I'm going to open the Word file for Frankenstein Sundae and enter the pencil changes I made this morning.

That will take me close to lunch time ...

After that, I'll walk back over to Open Door, read the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon-Journal online, write a book-doggerel for later in the week (I try to stay several days ahead: You never know what can happen!). I'll read some more Egan, fuss with a poem I've been working on for a week or so. Maybe post it on FB, if I'm okay with it.

I say okay with it because satisfied with it or happy with it seems far too excessive. I never really feel happy or satisfied with something I've written. There's always something ... wrong ... something that could be better, you know?

After a couple of hours at the coffee shop, I'll come home and take a nap. Then up to start fussing around with supper. While we eat, Joyce and I will probably stream a little Vice--or maybe just talk.

After supper--maybe an errand. Or a coffee somewhere?

I'll head upstairs around 6:30 (yes, you heard me right!), where I'll read a bit from each of the six books I'm reading right now (the 1st 3 are actual books; the latter 3 are on Kindle):

  • Wilkie Collins, Armadale
  • Mark Seidenberg, Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done about It
  • Dennis Lehane, Since We Fell
  • Craig Johnson, Dry Bones (a Longmire novel)
  • Ken Bruen, Priest (a Jack Taylor novel)
  • Colin Harrison, You Belong to Me
Then, maybe, we'll stream some of a mystery series--Vera or Line of Duty. Maybe some of Olive Kitteridge. Maybe ...

And then--I hope, I hope, I hope--I will drift off ...

And not think about tomorrow, when I begin my second round of immunotherapy. Akron Red Cross. Eight in the morning. I'm keeping busy today because Fear doesn't know how to cope with Busy.

And the reason I'm taking a nap this afternoon instead of going to the health club? I'm not allowed to work out the day before a session. I must ... rest, you see.

And so I will.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 174

1. AOTW: I thought I was not going to able to confer this award on anyone this week (save myself: I am always a prime candidate!), but this morning, in the grocery store parking lot, I could not turn into a parking space I craved because the AOTW had decided that she needed the space to unload her shopping cart. I know ... I know ... this is hardly egregious. But I'm getting grumpier in my latter years (remember Grumpy Old Men?). And so ... we have a winner!

2. We went to Kent last night to see The Shape of Water, the much-nominated film. And ... both of us were disappointed (expectations too high?).  I felt it was kind of a lumpy smoothie that tried to blend ingredients from Wolverine (recovering from bullet wounds), E. T. (healing powers in the touch),  Twilight (the glowing creature), Beauty & the Beast (duh), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (duh, duh), La La Land (dance number), Splash (Tom Hanks finds a mermaid! Bathtub!), and, oh, I Led Three Lives, that old TV series, 1953-56, about counterintelligence and the Soviets (link to an entire episode on YouTube). And more, I'm sure ...

Because the events took place in the 50s, there were some quick references to racial hostility and homophobia. But nothing that was ever really developed. Nothing really surprised me, either (spoiler alert: I knew she was going to speak/sing before the film ended)--except the stunning brutality here and there, brutality that probably makes Sam Peckinpah smile from his grave. (Link to film trailer.)

3. I finished just one book this week, but it was a long, dense one, so ... say nice things about me! I've been reading the William Faulkner novels that I'd somehow missed over the years (or skipped?), and this one, A Fable (1954), was next on my list. It won all kinds of awards--including a Pulitzer and the National Book Award--but I can't imagine that lots of people actually read it (as opposed to buy it!).

The text is often dense (even for Faulkner), and if you let your attention drift much (Is that a comment on one of my Facebook posts? Lemme look!), you will very likely miss something significant.

It's a story of World War I--a sort of alternative, what-if? kind of story. It involves a dozen soldiers (a corporal is their ring leader) in the French army who decide that enough is enough: They want to organize a cease-fire, sans the approval of their officers.

And they pull it off. The Western Front goes silent. And there are many who are happy--many who are not. You can guess.

Things turn out both not-so-good and very good for the corporal.

There are some powerful scenes in the novel--some wrenching ones, some grisly ones. But--let's keep it a hundred here (!)--I had to make myself finish it.

And just another snide comment: We have changed so much as a reading culture in my lifetime that I cannot imagine people buying and reading this novel today. I think we're far too impatient for it--and Faulkner's language and diction--ever challenging--are even more so here.

But, hey, it wouldn't be a Faulkner novel without some memorable sentences. One solider says, "'A man ain't even the sum of his vices: just his habits'" (998, Lib of Amer edition).

And a little earlier I got a Frankenstein rush: "It will be his own frankenstein [sic] which roasts him alive with heat, asphyxiates him with speed, wrenches loose his still living entrails in the ferocity of its prey-seeking stoop" (994).

I'm almost through with Faulkner--a few to go (none of the famous ones). And I'm a-gonna do it!

4. We're still streaming a couple of cop shows each night--about ten minutes of each, then shifting to the next. Line of Duty, Vera. And we're also streaming Olive Kitteridge (HBO), a miniseries with Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins (who was in Shape of Water), a series based on the wonderful novel by Elizabeth Strout. We've almost finished the 3rd of the 4 parts. (Link to trailer for series.)

5. Last Word--A word I liked/didn't know this week from one of my several online word-of-the-day providers:

     - euhemerism (yoo-HEE-muh-riz-uhm, -HEM-)

noun: The idea that gods are based on historical heroes whose stories became exaggerated in retelling.

After Euhemerus, a fourth-century BCE Greek writer, who proposed that the gods of mythology were based on real heroes whose accounts became exaggerated with time. Earliest documented use: 1846.

“I suspect that the scholarly assumption that somewhere beneath the legend there must lurk a real historical founder is a modern case of Euhemerism.”
Robert Price; “Of Myth and Men”; Free Inquiry (Buffalo, New York); Winter 1999/2000.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Language Changes!

Here's a shocker: Language changes! It seems there's nothing we can rely on, right? I mean, if our own language won't stay still for a damn minute ...

Here's what got me thinking about this.* My customary seat in the coffee shop is near the cash register, and I very, very often hear people say "Thank you" when their orders arrive.

But here's the thing: Recently, I've noticed that lots of people now say this as if it were close to "Think you." I mean, it should rhyme with "Spank you," right? Not "Stink you."

But every day ... Think you! Think you! Think you!

I shouldn't get annoyed ... but I obviously do.

I have kind of mellowed out about usage and pronunciation since I've reached my Golden Years. I don't get all hyper when I see someone on Facebook or elsewhere use your when they meant you're. Typos happen; spell-check skips right over "real" words. I've done it myself--made a dumb error.

Joyce (my wife) often reads through my blogs each day and invariably finds errors I must scurry to correct. They are almost always words-that-are-really-words-but-words-that-don't-fit-where-I've-put-them.

I've written here before about ways our language has changed just since I was in school (okay, so that was sixty years ago): Most people don't observe the differences between will and shall, for example, differences that our junior high teachers tried (and failed) to pound into us.

Oh, and the other day I was in a wee Facebook exchange with the daughter of two of my former high school classmates, and she indicated she felt awkward ending a sentence with a preposition--one of our dumber rules. We do it all the time (you know what I'm talking about?). Not ending sentences with a preposition can produce some stuffy, awkward language--you know about what I'm talking?

And, besides, that preposition rule is one we borrowed from Latin (where it works ... I think) and impose it on English (where it doesn't).

A final thought in this rambling mini-rant: My students used to get very frustrated with Shakespeare. How can anyone understand this stuff!?!?! All that thou and thine and dost stuff!

Well, I would tell them, if Shakespeare were to show up at your lunch table today, he wouldn't understand a thing you were saying and talking about. He would have to study a little so that he could communicate with you. So ... guess what we're going to do!?!

Anyway, min-rant is over ... and for your attention, I think you.

*Proofreading just now, I found that I had typed his here. I'm betting Joyce will find some others.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Frankenstein Sundae: An Update

Visitors to this site know that for a couple of years (years!) I serialized here a messy, overlong memoir, Frankenstein Sundae, about my long pursuit of Mary Shelley, a pursuit that commenced in the mid-1990s (when I was still teaching 8th grade English) and that terminated ... well ... not yet.

Anyway, I have been editing/cutting/clarifying like a madman and just yesterday printed out the second draft (a mere 500 pages) and today will begin more cutting/clarifying/etc. I hope in the next couple of months to have a version good enough to upload to Kindle Direct so that my friends, family members, and others can begin lying about how they purchased it, loved it (Pulitzer-worthy, etc.).

One of the things that's hard to keep track of when you're serializing is repetition. I've been finding in my revising that I told the same story over and over again. (Dickens and Collins and Trollope never had this problem ... why did/do I? And please don't answer that question!)

Another serialization issue I had to deal with: the sort of remember-what-I-wrote-last-time? sentences and paragraphs--stuff I wrote because I could not assume that a reader remembered on Friday what I had posted on Monday. So ... all of that stuff had to go, too.

And, of course, where I read through the text, there were all kinds of things that emitted the aroma of Who cares?--stuff, in other words, that at one point had interested me but would not likely interest anyone else, save another Mary Shelley nerd.

Some things I just deleted; some, I banished to the endnotes; some, I stuck in an appendix (I now have five--in my book, not in my body). For example, I've got some interesting stuff about Lord Byron and his wife and daughter--but it's a little ... digressive (to say the least). So ... Byron nerds can check it out, if they want, but it won't clutter the otherwise compelling (???) narrative (!!!).

So, anyway, this afternoon--at the coffee shop--I will start on the title page and begin my slow journey once again.

And at some point? In the spring! (?) I will post something here about how it's now available on Amazon, and you can all jam the Amazon servers with your purchases.

I forgot the definition of megalomania ... can anyone remind me?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Obits in My Email

I have an electronic and a "hard copy" subscription to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which, as you may know, no longer publishes an edition for home delivery every day. Four days a week (I think). The others days? Go to a newsstand--or read it online (I do the latter).

I have a long history with the Plain Dealer. When we moved to Hiram, Ohio, in August 1956 (I was 11), we subscribed to it (and, oh, was it weighty then--in lbs., not necessarily content). In 1982 I began writing regular op-ed pieces for them (about one/month as part of their Board of Contributors).

And in November 2000, I published my first book review in the PD, a gig I would continue (and love) until 2015 when the paper, downsizing, no longer published many reviews by local freelancers and took most of their copy from what we used to call the "wire services."

Anyway, one of the online features I now receive from the PD is a daily list of ... obituaries. Sometimes I look; usually, I don't. (Link to today's.)

Here's why I don't:

  • I don't like to see stories about people dying too young.
  • I don't like to see stories about people who have suffered for a long time.
  • I don't like to see stories about people killed in accidents--or overdoses--or whatever.
  • I don't like to see stories about the deaths of people I knew.
  • I don't like to see stories about death. 
Other than that, I'm cool with the daily obits that arrive in my inbox about 9 each morning.

Yes, yes, death is a part of life and all that ... but ... it's not the part we like to cherish, is it? No, for most of us, it's the part we dread and fear and think--for a long, long time--will not really apply to us, you know? Death is for ... other people.

But then one day, of course, the air grows cold, even in the hottest summer day; there's a deeply unpleasant odor; there's some thing in black with a scythe standing on the front porch; there's some writer from the Plain Dealer typing away to supply copy for the email that will arrive in ... someone else's inbox.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018), R.I.P.

The Wizard of Earthsea is gone, and I hate it.

Ursula K. Le Guin died this week. (Link to New York Times obituary.) She was 88.

I first read some of Le Guin's books back in the 1970s when I was teaching seventh graders at the old Aurora Middle School and then Harmon Middle School. I had some units on fantasy fiction, and my kids read Tolkien and Lewis and Alexander. And Le Guin.

I loved her Earthsea series--a series that began with A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). (I just checked ABE, by the way, and you can get a signed first edition today for $5000.) I gobbled up that book--and its sequels about a young boy, Ged, who's becoming a wizard (hmmmm, sound familiar?): The Tombs of Atuan  (1971) and The Farthest Shore (1972). Twenty years later she wrote more about Earthsea, but I didn't read them. Can't say why ... ?

Years passed. I retired from public school teaching in January 1997. And then I returned to teaching, this time at Western Reserve Academy here in Hudson, Ohio, where I taught (mostly) high school juniors. I could walk or bike to work. And I did.

My first year back in the classroom--2001-2002--I also had a senior class that met twice a week. Called "Senior Seminar," the course was a requirement for seniors. They read works in common (mostly essays) and wrote a major research paper--the dreaded "Sem Paper" that was due just before spring break. When they returned from break, things lightened up a bit: the reading, the writing.

That year the post-break book was Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974), a sci-fi work (oh, she hated having her work so labeled!) about two neighboring and competing planets. (I can't for the life of me find my copy right now, but it looked like the one in the image below.)

I thought it was be great if we could have Le Guin visit the school, meet with classes. So I had written to her in the fall to see if she would agree.

On October 25, she replied ...

So ... no visit, but, as you see, she left open the possibility of another way to communicate, and so, finally, we arranged a teleconference (audio only), and each Senior Seminar class had a couple of representatives there.

On May 23, 2002, at 2 pm (EST--she lived in Oregon) eighteen students gathered around a seminar table; the Seminar teachers were all there; I dialed the number she'd given me; an answer; it was she; and off we went ...

I wrote a series of posts here about Le Guin back in October 2012, and here is a lightly edited copy of what I wrote then about the teleconference:

There are times I hate myself.  Take now, for instance.  As I've written previously somewhere in these blog posts, I started keeping a journal, every day, in January 1997, the month I retired from public school teaching.

When I returned to teach at Western Reserve Academy ..., I tried to keep it up but had a hard time: I was teaching a full load, had two daily preparations (courses I'd never taught before), had other duties associated with boarding schools (meals, dormitory duty, committees, etc.).  And so ... my journal-keeping suffered.  And when I looked yesterday to see what I'd written about the teleconference my students had with Ursula K. Le Guin, I found ... nothing.  I'd not written anything at all for the entire month of May.

And so ... I proceeded to hate myself for a day, more or less.

But I do have some memories, and I do have some documents related to that day, 22 May 2002, so here goes ... 

... the other teachers and I had every student submit five questions.  The Senior Seminar chair and I then went through them all and picked kids who we thought had been especially thoughtful--and their questions became the ones we would use to initiate the conversation with Le Guin.

[Actually,] almost all the questions were thoughtful--
  • Do you believe in the idea that without decentralization there really is no true personal freedom?
  • If you had to live on [either of the two planets], which would you choose?
  • Is there a difference between a "good" war and a "bad" war?

There were also some perfunctory, cliched clunkers--"How did you ... incorporate your life experiences into the book?"  "When you were a child, what was your favorite book?"  That sort of thing. [Actually, in retrospect, these questions seem fine to me now!]

We decided, too, that we would pick eighteen students--a random drawing--to participate in the discussion--three from each of the six sections of the course.  But we also asked students to withdraw ahead of time if they really didn't want to do it.  A few did.

And so we all assembled that afternoon in a conference room in Hayden Hall on the campus.  The phone hook-up was ready.  And at the agreed time, I phoned the number Le Guin had given me.

She answered almost immediately (was it the first ring? I think so!), and I was immediately struck by how gracious and personable she was.  Laughing at herself. Confessing to slips in the book.  Asking the kids questions about their reactions to things.  She was wonderful with the students--never argumentative (even when a couple of them tried to be) but genial and humorous and understanding all the way.

The other teachers and I, per agreement, stayed completely out of the conversation.

The kids clapped for her when it was time to end ...

We exchanged another letter or so.  On 25 May, I wrote and said: "All the students were so impressed with your intelligence, your humor, your warm, self-effacing manner, and I could tell as I watched them that they realized they were involved in something quite special."  My letter indicates we sent her a gift.  I cannot for the life of me remember what it was.

And so I'm hating myself again, right now.

And so another remarkable, unique human voice is gone. But I think of all the pleasure she gave my students--all the pleasure she gave me--and I think of that generous manner she had with our students back in 2002; I hear her laugh. And I weep for the loss; I weep at the silence; I weep with gratitude for her life and work.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Back in the Saddle

A few days ago I posted on FB a picture from my wonted vantage point at the Open Door Coffee Co. here in Hudson, Ohio. (See above.) I captioned it: "Back in the saddle again"--a phrase appropriate for the mere reason that I had not been there the day before but instead had been down at the Akron Red Cross having all of my blood drained (and returned!) as part of this immunotherapy process I am undergoing (I am one-third done!).

Anyway, I was pretty sure when I wrote that caption that the phrase came from that old singing cowboy (and once owner of the California Angels!) Gene Autry (1907-98), whom I often watched as a kid on TV--movies and his own series (1950-55). He had earlier starred in his own radio show (1940-43, 1945-56)..

I'll confess that as a kid I was not all that fond of the "singing cowboy" (Autry was one--also Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter and quite a few others--there's even a Wikipedia entry on all of them). I preferred the cowboys who eschewed singing and just shot the guys in the black hats. No nonsense.

Anyway, Autry had some hits as a singer--including "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," a song no decent cowboy would sing. (Link to Autry singing it.) It's still in the air everywhere during the Christmas season.

I did a little checking, and it was Autry who sang "Back in the Saddle Again" (1939), and it was a song that people long associated with him. Here's a link to Autry singing it on YouTube. He co-wrote it with Ray Whitley.

Now the story gets complicated: In the coffee shop the other day I was talking with Nigel about "Back in the Saddle," and he told me that there was another song with that phrase recorded by another group--Aerosmith, the song written in 1976 by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Nigel quickly found it on his smart phone and played some of it for me. As I listened, I noticed another sound, too ... the bones of Gene Autry whirling in his grave?  Link to Aerosmith song.

Let's just say that there's not a lot of similarity between Gene Autry and Aerosmith--though Autry did dodge quite a few arrows in his Western adventures ...

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 173

1. AOTW: Well, no one acted especially egregiously this week--just a guy at the health club who decided he would leave his gym bag on the bench (where guys dress/undress--not a lot of room on one) while he was working out and showering. Didn't want to move it to the floor (and get punched out), so I worked around it--and decided I'd even give him an award for his behavior ... guess which one?

2. We've started streaming a new series (for us) on Acorn TV--Vera--a series about cops in Northumberland (Vera is the principal officer). Stars Brenda Blethyn in the title role. We've watched only about 1 1/2 episodes, but enjoying the journey thus far. (Link to some video.)

3. I finished two books this week.

     - The first was The Plays of William Godwin (2010), the first collection of the only four plays written by the father of Mary Shelley. Two of the plays reached the stage (one did so-so, the other bombed); two were never even published and have lived for decades in manuscript form in the Abinger Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford U.

While I was doing all my Mary Shelley research back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I read the two published plays (Antonio, 1800; Faulkener, 1807--both on microform), but it was not until this book appeared that I even could read the other two--without, of course, taking a trip to Oxford (which I'd done once--but cannot do again). But the book is expensive (more than $100), so I waited to buy it until I got a generous Amazon gift card for Christmas!

St Dunstan (1790) is the one I blogged about earlier. The one I finished this week was Abbas, King of Persia (1801), only three acts of which survive. It is another dark tale of a leader (Abbas! Duh!), who hears stories of a rebellion, hears that his beloved son, Sefi, may be involved. This--as you might guess--causes some anguish and hand-wringing (and death threats). Near the end of the surviving text, a tormented Abbas cries out ...

My boy! when first I saw his infant face,
I felt a motion here, no man, no woman, 
No child e'er wak'd before: as he grew up,
How winning were his acts, how filial were
His thoughts! He cannot be a parricide:
No, no; he shall not die.

     - I also finished another novel by Jennifer Egan (I've been working my way through her books), A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2011.

In some ways the novel is a tour de force--with Egan showing her multiple talents in many ways: shifting points of view, shifting periods of time. Readers really need to be alert--all the way through this novel. In some ways it is a novel about the music industry (its changes and challenges); in others it is about relationships among musicians and those who promote and record them. And, of course, men and women ... parents and children ....

There is an amazing section in the novel--running from p. 176-251. Each page is basically a printed copy of a slide--a PowerPoint slide--that forms sort of the thoughts and conclusions and questions of Alison Blake, one of the characters. Here's one that deals with a walk she took with her father to see some solar panels.

I started reading Egan when I saw such fine reviews of her most recent novel, Manhattan Beach, 2017, which I will read as soon as I finish her story collection (which I just ordered), Emerald City, 1993 (her first book).

4. Last night Joyce and I drove over to Kent to see The Post, the new Steven Spielberg film about the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg--all the things that were happening only a few years after Joyce and I married late in 1969. We both loved it. Such great performances from Meryl Streep (as publisher Katharine Graham) and Tom Hanks (as editor Ben Bradlee) and so many of the others in smaller roles. Lots of stuff about the interplay of Power and the Press, and in this case, at least, the Press stepped away from Power and stepped toward the Truth. Loved it. Made me proud about the tiny role I played in the journalism profession (I freelanced with the Plain Dealer for about twenty-five years: op-ed pieces and book reviews).

So much that is current pulsated through this film. as well: the roles of women, the independence of the press, the absolute critical need for us to protect the First Amendment and to have a free press. We all know that some of our press services are biased--some, deeply so (both right and left)--but we need these major newspapers and media outlets that are determined to get the story right. Otherwise ...? I don't want to think about it. (Link to film trailer.)

There was a lovely, wordless scene, by the way, as Streep emerges from the Supreme Court (which is hearing the case about banning the publication of the Pentagon Papers); she walks down the stairs past a number of young woman who stare at her with patent admiration. No one says a thing; the pictures say all. This old man had dewdrops in his eyes ...

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

     - from dictionary.com

paralipsis [par-uh-lip-sis]
1. Rhetoric. the suggestion, by deliberately concise treatment of a topic, that much of significance is being omitted, as in “not to mention other faults.”

Paralipsis ... is a Greek term that translates to “leave to the side.” It’s thought to be an ironic way for a speaker to say two things at once. For example, say you wanted to imply that your coworker takes too many coffee breaks without actually accusing him wasting time at work. You might say something like, “I'm not saying that he drinks more coffee than anyone else in the office, but every time I go to the break room, he’s in there.”
-- Jennifer Mercieca, "There’s an insidious strategy behind Donald Trump’s retweets," The Conversation, March 8, 2016


The rhetorical term paralipsis comes from Late Latin paralīpsis, which dates from the 3rd century and is a direct borrowing of Greek paráleipsis, a rhetorical term used and possibly coined by Aristotle in his Rhetoric to Alexander (also known by its Latin title Rhetorica ad Alexandrum). Preterition and apophasis are equivalent terms. Paralipsis entered English in the 16th century.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Immunotherapy, Session 2 of 6

enjoying a drip
My appointment was for 9:30 yesterday morning. We left the house early--about 7:30--because we had to go all the way down to University Circle to the main campus of Seidman Cancer Center where I would receive the re-infusion of my T-cells that had been in Atlanta for a couple of days getting super-charged with Provenge, the drug that we're hoping will prove a mighty warrior against my cancer foe that's been hiding out in my body since 2004.

Seidman Cancer Center
University Circle
It was a good thing we left early: There was an accident on I-271 (and, of course, it was rush hour), so we did not arrive at Seidman until about 9 a.m. And then there's that parking garage ... no further comment.

We finally found the infusion area of Seidman, which is a huge place. Just walking through the halls, through the lounge areas, seeing all the suffering ... it is an education in the most moving way. Such a walk will show you (if you didn't know) that no one is exempt: men, women, young, old, black, white, and every other hue in the human rainbow. All are shuffling or rolling through Seidman's long hallways, seeking relief.

When we arrived, we learned quickly that there had been a scheduling error. It seems the Provenge shipments never arrive at Seidman until about 12:30 p.m. I'll confess I was annoyed (a stronger word would fit here, too, but I'll not use it: I'm too ... mature!). So ... three hours to kill.

We found a coffee shop where we sat (and groused) for a while. But I got to see a former student. His "Dr. Dyer?" right beside me startled me a little; I looked up. It was Fuad Muakkassa, a young man I'd taught at Western Reserve Academy in 2003-04 in English III. He's doing his residency at University Hospitals--dermatology. I'm not sure where he'll practice--but it's worth finding out and going there. He was/is a wonderful young man.

While I was in the coffee shop, I opened my iPad and pounded out both some doggerel and yesterday's blog post (about some song lyrics that annoyed me).

Seidman had given us some food coupons, so we headed over to the cafeteria to have a little lunch: a bagel and a yogurt parfait for me, salad and bagel for Joyce.

Then we took the long walk back to the infusion area. They got me in the chair. Told me what was going to happen. Stuck me (blood sample).

And then the courier arrived with my energized T-cells from Atlanta packed in dry ice in a large cardboard box. The nurse--a wonderful one, by the way--hung the bag, hooked me up, and for an hour Joyce and I sat there while some of Past Me dripped back into Present Me. It was the oddest thing ...

my T-cells, in solution, ready
to drip back into me
I talked with Joyce, recited some Millay to her, read some of a Jack Taylor novel using my Kindle app on my iPad (I could move both arms--the needle was down from my elbow a little). I felt a little chilled at times--but not much else.

The nurse came back several times to check on me--to get my vitals. And after the bag was empty, I had to sit for a half-hour for them to make sure I was all right.  I was. As I type this (about 10:15 on Saturday morning), I can say that I have, as yet, felt no side-effects. A relief.

And then the needle came out and we were off to the parking garage, where, of course, we'd kind of forgotten exactly where our car was ... Joyce poked the alarm button on our key. We heard the car before we saw it.

And then ... home, which is a shorter word for heaven.

We stepped in the house about 4:30. We'd been gone nine hours. And I was a third of the way through my journey ... But now I know what's coming, and knowledge is fear's greatest enemy.

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 ...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Oh Lonesome Me"

I was guessing Buddy Holly.

When I woke up this morning, some lyrics to "Oh Lonesome Me" were pinballing around in my head--I have no idea why. I don't recall any dreams about being lonesome. But something happened, something that retrieved (some of) those old lyrics from my (fading) memory and insisted I think about them every minute or so this morning.

I checked Google downstairs before I headed out to the coffee shop and saw that the performer was not Buddy Holly but a guy I'd totally forgotten: Don Gibson. Here's a YouTube link to Gibson's performance. The pictures of Gibson, by the way, make him look like a cross between Gene Autry and someone doing an ad for Brylcreem. But he definitely has A Look, and that matters in whatever music world you choose to inhabit.

Here's a few things I learned about Gibson (1928-2003; link to his obituary). Born in North Carolina, he is credited for helping create the "Nashville sound" and always claimed to be more of a songwriter than performer. (He's in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music HOF.) He wrote more than 350 songs--many were hits for others.

The lyrics to the song are ... catchy, as they used to say:

Everybody's goin' out and havin' fun
I'm just a fool for staying home and havin' none
I can't get over how she set me free
Oh, lonesome me

A bad mistake I'm making by just hanging round
I know that I should have some fun and paint the town
A lovesick fool is blind and just can't see
Oh, lonesome me

I'll bet she's not like me, she's out and fancy free
Flirting with the boys with all her charms
But I still love her so and brother don't you know
I'd welcome her right back here in my arms

Well, there must be some way I can lose these lonesome blues
Forget about the past and find somebody new
I've thought of everything from A to Z
Oh, lonesome me

Oh, lonesome me

Well I'll bet she's not like me, she's out and fancy free
Flirting with the boys with all her charms
But I still love her so and brother don't you know
I'd welcome her right back here in my arms

Well, there must be some way I can lose these lonesome blues
Forget about the past and find somebody new
I've thought of everything from A to Z
Oh, lonesome me
Oh, lonesome me
Oh, lonesome me

The song, I see, was later covered by Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Johnny Tillotson. It was #51 in the top hits of 1958; oddly, #53 was Ricky Nelson's "Lonesome Town"--seems as if lonesome was an important word in 1958. I also see that a group called the Kentucky Headhunters released it again in 1990, and it soared to #8. Others who have covered it: Bing Crosby, Edyie Gorme, Connie Francis, Stonewall Jackson, Neil Young, Loretta Lynn, Sammy Davis, Jr.--quite an assortment.

I see Gibson originally recorded and released it in December 1957--and guitar legend Chet Atkins was playing, as well. It perched at #1 on the Country charts for eight consecutive weeks--and reached #7 on the general charts.

In December 1957, I was in eighth grade (a grade level I would later teach for decades) and was having "Lonesome Me" feelings pretty much all of the time--as many eighth graders do. Yes, I had a girlfriend, but I was clueless about how to act and behave with her. (Sixty years later I haven't improved all that much!)

I was in my daffiest of years--certain that I would play both professional basketball and baseball (I played neither)--certain that public school years would never end (they did)--certain that if I couldn't be a professional athlete, well cowboy would do (that didn't work out, either). I also thought that my parents just didn't get it (they did).

So ... I remember "Oh Lonesome Me" on the radio, at sockhops. I remember liking it. Thinking it was relevant. Moving.

And I never would have suspected that sixty years after its release, I, age 73, would snap awake early one balmy (!) January morning and hear Don Gibson's voice, hear those guitar riffs, mouth those lyrics. And flash back to the Hiram Local Schools, 1957-58, where everything was possible, where fame and health and immortality were certain.