Dawn Reader

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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Things

Spring is officially here, of course. The equinox and all. And there are some signs around here in Hudson, Ohio, that spring is at least considering a return.

Though, this morning, I did have to wear my Damn Winter Coat to the coffee shop. Temps in the mid-20s.

Here are two signs I've noticed the past couple of days:

  • Our new sump pump is sighing about, oh, every twenty minutes or so and creating Lake Dyer out in our ivy near the house. I mean, I'm glad that water is not now doing what it did for the first twenty years we lived here--form fetid pools in the basement. But the output from the Sighing Sump is right outside my study window--and, upstairs at night, I can hear it, reminding me of Lake Dyer, and in its sighs I can almost hear a question: What are you going to do about me now?
  • The green tips of our day lilies are peeking up through the earth. Testing the air. Measuring the sun. Asking themselves: Dare we?
I would advise them to wait. I know that I would--wait, that is--were I a day lily.

edges of our lilies

I love day lilies, by the way. I've written about them here before--more than once. As I've said, they remind me of summer (my favorite season as a boy--and later, too). Summer vacations from school--as student and, later, as teacher. Gifts that I unwrapped every day with gratitude.

Spring does not delight everyone. Edna St. Vincent Millay has a dark poem about the arrival of spring, a poem that I will paste below. Perhaps spring will read it (surely spring follows this blog!?!) and will effloresce in a fabulous way to demonstrate to Ms. Millay the error of her ways?

BTW: I memorized this one a couple of years ago--and this morning, in the dark, on my walk to the coffee shop, I mumbled it, hoping to coax spring into being a little more ... assertive!


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

"You're not wearing JEANS ...?!"

Which one am I? See bottom of this post for answer!
A little Facebook exchange re: jeans with a friend from Hiram Local Schools days is to blame for this post. He didn't recall that many of us wore jeans to school; I sent him the 7th grade photo from above (fall, 1956) showing that I and some others are wearing them. But I seem to remember that once high school arrived, not too many guys wore them ... or did we? I could check the yearbooks, but I'm too lazy. Instead, I'll just wax wise (?) here.

I should say this before I go on: Now that I'm retired I wear jeans pretty much every day in cooler and cold weather. In warm/hot weather, I shamelessly wear shorts, exposing to the world my 73-year-old legs. (The world, I must admit, is not all that impressed.)

My mother didn't really like jeans; it was, I think, a class thing. And here's a memory that could make you laugh though it still makes me wince.

About, oh, thirty years ago we were all out in Oregon for a family reunion (tens of thousands of Dyers still live out in the Northwest). Joyce, Steve, and I were staying in the same motel (different rooms!) as my parents. One of the events was a picnic at my uncle John's house; lots of Dyers were going to be there.

As the time neared for departure, we emerged from our rooms. I was wearing jeans. Mom looked at me and said, "You're not wearing jeans, are you?" Recall: I was in my forties.

I replied with some weak offering: "Mom, it's a picnic!" Though, to be honest, I don't think my voice at that moment gave the slightest hint of an exclamation mark.

So I slumped and slouched and grouched back into our room, changed into a pair of "real" pants (uttering grievous execrations the while), then went to the picnic, where, of course, all the other men--and many of the women--were wearing jeans.

Mom didn't like shorts, either. And when, later, we would visit her in her stages-of-care place in Lenox, Mass., she would tell me (adorned as I invariably was in shorts or jeans) that the dining hall would not serve me if I were so bedight.*

I never found that to be true. But ... you know moms ...?

Now, of course, my mother has died. March 10, 2018. And as I sit here, typing in my jeans, I wish she would walk in the room and tell me to change into something more appropriate.

*I'm in front, second from the left. Can you tell that we moved to Hiram from Oklahoma only a few weeks earlier?
**an archaic word for dressed--a word I learned in Poe's 1849 poem "Eldorado." This marks the first time I've ever used the word myself!

   Gaily bedight,
   A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
   Had journeyed long,
   Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

   But he grew old,
   This knight so bold,
And o’er his heart a shadow
   Fell as he found
   No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

   And, as his strength
   Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow;
   “Shadow," said he,
   “Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?”

   “Over the mountains
   Of the moon,
Down the valley of the shadow,
   Ride, boldly ride,"
   The shade replied,--
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Nature Reminds Me ...

We had a grim experience the other evening, Joyce and I. But let me preface my tale with this: On Friday, March 23, I wrote and posted to FB this bit of doggerel about a near-miss involving four deer that had crossed in front of us on Aurora St., right at the eastern edge of our village of Hudson, Ohio.

E. Aurora St.
Hudson, OH
March 23, 2018
6:10 pm

Mere seconds—yes, that is the space
Between delight and frigid fear,
Between enjoying nature’s grace
And hitting four traversing deer.

The parents cross so leisurely—
It seems they’ve crossed this road before.
The adolescents—nervous—flee
As if they’ve seen a carnivore.

But all are safely now across—
They do a deer-dance on the lawn.
They have survived without a loss.
The carnivores drive slowly on.

Okay--those lines about "Mere seconds--yes, that is the space / Between delight and frigid fear ...."

Skip ahead a couple of days to Sunday--the 25th. Joyce and I had driven over to Aurora to get a (Diet!) Coke at McD's and, as is our wont, were driving back to Hudson via Old Mill Road, a lovely very rural way that moves through a bit of Tinker's Creek State Park. We often see wildlife.

We were talking, laughing ... the usual.

A quick cry from Joyce--a heavy thud on the right front part of the car, a deer limping on across the road and into the woods.

I'd not seen it at all until it was too late. There was no Oh, there's a deer--better put on the brakes! Just ... THUD! And the sickening feeling that we'd hurt an animal--perhaps fatally. Joyce had seen it--only for an instant--in the side mirror. There was nothing we could have done. I was not speeding (I never do--angering lots of the Impatient Ones behind us).

And I thought about the improbability of that collision: It could have existed only in a window of a couple of seconds. Any change in our routine--any change in the deer's--would have made his (her) crossing as routine as he'd/she'd surely expected it to be.

But, no ... Time was our enemy at 6:05 p.m., the deer, of course, suffering far more grievously than Joyce or I.

The damage to our car was considerable. We could still drive it, so we limped (as a damaged car does) home, inspected the damage more closely: My (ignorant) guess was that we would have to replace the front bumper, the headlight/turn-signal assembly, part of the right side.

Insurance will pay for it all (watch this space to hear about our consequent rates!), and as I type these words, the car is at the body shop.

Of course, there's no body shop for the deer. Just the strength of its constitution, the gravity of the injuries. Though he was clearly not 100%, he was moving pretty quickly when he crossed on over the road ... so I'm hopeful.

I didn't sleep well on Sunday night. And I was reminded of a sight we saw a few years ago on Interstate 87, northbound between I-84 and I-90, just south of Albany. Traffic was slowing. We saw, creeping by, that someone had hit a deer, now lying in the grass of the median.

A man was in the median, too. I have no idea if he'd been the driver. But he was kneeling beside the deer, stroking the head. Comforting the creature in what surely was its last moments of life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Brown v. Board & DOD

Linda Brown, 1974 (from New York Times)
The news has been everywhere the past couple of days--as it should have been: the story of the death of Linda Brown, 75, whose name adorns one of our most famous Supreme Court cases--Brown. v. Board of Education, 1954, a case ending school segregation, a case decided by a 9-0 vote. (Link to her obituary.) (Link to full text of the decision.)

When the decision came down in the spring of 1954, I was not yet ten years old, a double-digit age I could not wait for (but I had to wait, of course, until November 11--mark your calendars!).

We were living in Enid, Oklahoma--in the north-central part of the state (only about fifty miles from Kansas, which, by the way was a "wet" state--i.e., you could buy alcohol there; Oklahoma was "dry" then).

Oh, and the schools in Oklahoma were racially segregated. In Enid, Black families almost all lived on the south side of Market St. (now renamed to honor Enid's astronaut, Owen K. Garriott). I grew up in the time of separate drinking fountains, separate public restrooms--you know: You've seen the pictures. Shaken your heads in wonder.

Public parks were segregated; the city buses had signs in the back: Colored. Black patrons were not allowed in the Carnegie Pubic Library, which sent books over to the schools for people to look over and check out.

And there were, of course, separate schools. The black kids went to their own elementary school named for George Washington Carver, to their own high school named for Booker T. Washington. Both schools, of course, were on the other side of Market Street.

As a young boy I never questioned the appropriateness of all this. It was just the way of the world, you know? The only black people I ever saw were in the back of the bus, heading up to the "colored" section of the movie theaters. My elementary school--named for John Adams (who never owned slaves)--was all white in 1954. And 1955. And 1956. The Supreme Court had authorized desegregation with "all deliberate speed"; Enid apparently liked the "deliberate" part.

We moved to Ohio in 1956--to Hiram where my dad would teach at Hiram College, where there were, then, very few black students. There were none in the Hiram Schools when I attended them, grades 7-12.

But I would learn ... oh, would I! I would learn that I'd been living in a perverted world, a world where cruelty was king, where inhumanity reigned among people who called themselves Christian. I could not believe that I'd lived in such a place--that I'd never thought something was wrong.

Years later, by the way, I would learn that my mom, who taught English at Emerson Junior High School in Enid, had taught some of the first black students in that school's history.

Decades later--another lesson. I was back in Enid doing research for a memoir about the Carnegie Library there and about my life as a reader.* I visited those two former black schools--both were community centers at the time. And I visited the Leona Mitchell Southern Heights Heritage Center and Museum, a place dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of African Americans in the region. I was doing some research on the segregated schools. (Link to museum site.)

A kindly employee--a woman who appeared to be about my age--showed me some things, and I told her I'd been born in Enid. She asked me where.

"St. Mary's Hospital."

"Me, too," she said.

We'd connected. Then ...

"But," she said, "black women had to give birth in the boiler room."

We've come a ways in this country--thanks, in part, to courageous families like the Browns. And countless others.

But--as recent events have shown us--we have a long, long, LONG way to go before we can truly realize the dreams of Linda Brown and of the myriads of other Americans who have had to endure unspeakable discrimination since, well, since Jamestown, 1607.

*Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books, Libraries, and Loss (Kindle Direct, 2012).

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 181

1. AOTW; At the Solon Cinema last night Joyce and I saw Red Sparrow, and right in front of us--a young couple with two very young children (6? 7? 8?). They sat through through some of the grimness, the violence, the nudity, the crude language (we were getting very concerned about people we didn't even know). Finally, Jiminy Cricket returned to the parents' minds (he'd been off getting popcorn?), and they took their children away. Whew!

2. I finished one book this week, the most recent story collection by Joyce Carol Oates, Beautiful Days (2018). And there are some very impressive pieces here, stories in which she (once again) shows her uncanny ability to inhabit the minds of a wide assortment of characters--male, female, young, old, sane, otherwise. Don't make her no nevermind.

And, as usual, there are some striking sentences:

  • "Love is what can't be helped ..." (31).
  • "For the weakness of the man is the strength of the woman" (51).
  • "The man was her lover, but not her friend" (71).
  • "... the actual world is blinding to him" (85).
  • "She has forgotten what it is she has forgotten" (270).
And on and on.

The stories range is style and technique, too--some are "traditional"; others push the boundaries of the genre; some border on sci-fi; some are thrillers; some are intensely psychological.

Such an enormously gifted writer is Oates--stories, essays, novels, plays, poems. It isn't fair!

3. We saw two films this week ...

     - The first was Julius Caesar, a live recording of the Bard's play performed on January 20, 2017, before a live audience at the Bridge Theatre in London (not far from Tower Bridge). The production was stunning and imaginative. Done in contemporary dress (and with pistols rather than knives), the play involved audience members standing around the platform (they became the crowds for ... well, for the crowd scenes). The show opened with a rock group doing three or four numbers (getting the audience pumped!), and then--surprise!--they blended into the cast and played characters.

Antony doing the "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech

I really enjoyed Brutus, played by Ben Whishaw (who has played Q in recent Bond films)--a stunning talent. Articulate and intelligent (you can't be otherwise if you want to be a good Shakespearean actor). You could understand what he said even when you didn't know all the words. The others were also strong--and the cast was ... liberated. Women in men's parts, a mingle of races and ethnicities.

Loved it. (Can you tell?)

One sad moment: We were in one of the large theaters at the Cinemark in Cuyahoga Falls--and there was only a single showing. Joyce and I were there ... and only one other patron. Three people. (It is returning to some sites on April 25; check it out.)

     - Last night (Saturday) we drove to Solon to see Red Sparrow, a film we wanted to see because a friend (Chris Cozens) was involved in delivering the music for the film (we caught his name in the final credits ... well, Joyce did: I was staring right at it and missed it!).

It was actually better than I thought it would be. The plot fooled me a few times--and I love being fooled at the movies! (Or in a book or ...) As I suggested above (in the AOTW description), it was a bit ... raw in parts (use all the definitions of raw you know)--but clever, well acted, some striking cinematography here and there. I didn't feel too much worse about myself as I left--though I hadn't taken an 8-year-old along with me, either! (Link to film trailer.)

On IMDB, Chris is identified as working with the "Auricle Control Systems," which their website says is "the most highly honored software application in the history of scoring for motion pictures and television." Proud to know him.

4. We finished this season's final episode of Doc Martin and are suffering withdrawal and stream-grief (I just made that term up).

5. We also streamed (Netflix)--and enjoyed--the new Ricky Gervais stand-up. (Link to trailer.)

6. Last word--a word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day providers.

     - from wordsmith.org

stridulant  (STRIJ-uh-luhnt)
adjective: Shrill; making a harsh grating sound.
ETYMOLOGY: From Latin stridere (to make a harsh sound). Earliest documented use: 1843.
USAGE: “They’re ugly, come and see just how ugly they are, she repeats several times, her voice stridulant and too loud.”

Claudio Magris; Microcosms; Harvill; 2000.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The first foreign language I learned ...

... was Pig Latin. Or: Igpay Atinla. I learned it in the only classroom that mattered to me, really, in elementary school: the playground. Recess. Some of my friends were conversing fluently in what sounded to me like nonsense--until I figured it out (or, more likely, until one of them deigned to explain it to me).

And then! I was Pig-Latiny full-time! I don't know how long I thought it was some kind of secret language that only my friends and I knew. Probably when I said something vaguely rude at home (in Pig Latin) and was promptly punished (my parents were good at that, prompt punishment; they got a lot of practice with me around for all those years).

Anyway, the other day ... in the coffee shop ... a friend there was telling folks about how he was tutoring someone who didn't speak English. Nor did the friend speak his student's language. I chirped: Try Pig Latin!

And everyone sort of laughed, remembering, I presume, their own playground days. And mistakes with their parents.

Then, of course, I got curious. How old is this "language"? Where did it come from?

So I asked Mr./Ms. Google. And here's what I've discovered ...

  • Oh, are there a lot of PL sites! (Even some YouTube videos offering instruction.)
  • Dictionary.com notes that some words in PL have now entered the general speech: ixnay and amscray, for example.
  • Trusty Wikipedia says it goes back to very early parodies of Latin--and mentions an exchange in the Bard's Love's Labour's Lost that includes the term "false Latin."
    • Holofernes: O, I smell false Latin ... (5.1).
  • Wikipedia also notes some 19th-century mentions of PL in some periodicals.
  • The modern version of it, says Wikipedia, comes from a song from 1919 (the year my mom was born), "Pig Latin Love." (Link to the song.)
  • Wikipedia also says that September is Pig Latin Month and that Sept. 5 is Pig Latin Awareness Day. (Citations for these dates are not there--surprised? Urprisedsa?)
So that's it. I'm weary of it already and am in serious need of appingna.

Friday, March 23, 2018

My Mom--Finding Things

As I've been preparing for Mom's memorial service on April 7 (Pittsfield, Mass.)--going through photos, letters, etc.--I came across this envelope yesterday as I was cleaning my desktop, a task I do, oh, every decade or so.

No doubt whose handwriting it is. Mom always printed--even her signature. And she never ceased calling me "Danny"--except, of course, when Daniel Osborn Dyer! would burst from her frustrated lips. (Can you imagine being frustrated with me?)

Anyway, I had no memory whatsoever about the contents of this envelope--or why it bears no stamp or anything. A gift for a birthday or Christmas?

I opened it to read this little message:

Father's Day 2009. Mom would turn 90 that fall.

I don't know if you can read the message, so here it is:

Father's Day--2009--Danny

Remember your father's diminishing pile of these?



And included was one of the $2 bills that Dad had been collecting in his later years. It's still there, unspent, though I'm not copying it here because some U. S. Treasury agent will probably knock on my door a half-hour later--with a warrant.

So that little envelope has been at the bottom of one of my desk-piles since June 2009. And now I have found it ... and now I have wept ...

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dissertation Disquisition

ours looked like this one
Our daughter-in-law, Melissa, is nearing the end of her Ph.D. quest at Kent State, reaching that glorious stage of ... dissertation! We were talking about it with her and our son, Steve, the other day, and it brought back some ... memories (that's the kindest word I can think of).

It was the early 1970s. Joyce and I were both nearing the end of our doctoral coursework requirements when our son decided it was time to arrive, July 16, 1972. I was in summer session at the time and had to take L's (Lates--not lattes, of which I'd never heard at the time) in my courses. I was needed ... elsewhere.

Oh, how the arrival of a baby changes things! (I should add a "duh" here--for this is something all parents since Adam and Eve have known.) Suddenly, overnight, sleep becomes nothing but a wisp of a memory; a human being only days old absolutely confounds you (well ... me); and you no longer decide things like this: Hey, why don't we go to a movie after supper? Hah!

Anyway--with the help of Joyce's nearby relatives and of my mom (who flew out for a few days of disaster relief) Joyce and I finally began to function again. I completed my courses and began the research on my dissertation (as did Joyce).

Let's not talk about the research differences between then and now, okay? Google was not even a word then. Nor Internet. Nor iPad. Nor smart phone. Nor ... you know. Instead, it was paging through volumes of Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, finding the articles you needed, seeing if your library had them, ordering via inter-library loan the ones it did not, etc.

Enough of that! I'm breaking out in hives as I type ...

But it is the writing of the dissertations I want to say a few words about. Because personal computers lay in a future we could not even imagine, both Joyce and I wrote our first drafts longhand. Pencil and pen. (No, not quill!)

Then ... we typed those drafts. We owned one IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter in those days (see picture above), so we had to share. Whenever I was home all day (weekends, vacations--I was teaching full-time in Aurora, Ohio), Joyce and I would divide the day: She took Steve in the morning; I took the IBM. In the afternoon, we reversed. And I have to say I made out like a bandit on this deal because Steve liked a lengthy afternoon nap ... As I think about this, I realize I was something of a Male Jerk at the time.

Anyway, I typed and hand-revised three drafts of my dissertation (400+ pages), then, for the final draft, I was so sick of the whole thing that I hired the wife of a teaching colleague to do it. I'm sure she, too, was sick of it after about twenty minutes because not only did she have to contend with what I'll kindly call my "dissertation prose," but she had to be flawless. This was the copy that I would have bound and placed where I hoped to High Heaven no one would ever find one.

Joyce was going through the same process, and we both finished and passed our defenses in the winter of 1977-78, and we went through the graduation ceremony together in the spring of '78. One of my fond memories in that ceremony? When they read my name, I heard from the audience a whooping approval from a voice I knew: John Mlinek, who had been among my first group of seventh graders in the fall of 1966 at the Aurora Middle School. He was graduating from KSU that same day. And we are now FB friends and have been in touch ever since the mid-1960s.

So ... as we all know ... researching/writing/editing/revising are all much quicker now than they were Back in the Day. But you still have to write the Damn Thing, you know?

And so I wish Melissa the best of fortune as she begins her sojourn in Dissertation Land.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

(Yet) Another Draft ...

I just this moment finished another draft of Frankenstein Sundae--this endless project about chasing Mary Shelley and her work for ... oh ... for a long, long, long time.

I've got to do it one more time, I fear. Too much duplication. Too much ... much. I was shocked this time through to see how messed up some of it was--and I spent a lot of time cleaning up the endnotes, which are in need of even more attention, I fear.

But, as I said, repetition was one of the key problems, and it's a problem that is so firmly entrenched  here because, as you know, I wrote/published the original draft in serial form--generally three installments a week (M-W-F) on this site--though I wasn't always successful in doing so. Life interfered now and then.

So ... because it was serialized, I knew I had to keep reminding people, oh, about Sir Timothy Shelley's refusal ever to see Mary (he blamed her for the corruption and death of his son), about who Trelawny was, about ... well, about all the myriads of people who were significant in her life.

Another thing I lost track of (because of serialization): the footnotes (endnotes now). Each time I posted here I had to make sure I didn't use Ibid. as the first note because readers wouldn't know the work to which Ibid. referred. So, I've got major hassle in the notes to straighten out. As I said, I did a lot this time through, but ... much remains.

I am not preparing this book for a traditional publisher. As I posted here some time ago, I no longer have the time/energy to pursue them. I am old(er), ill. And if I want to get this stuff out before I'm out, well, I need to do it myself.

And so--perhaps in a month or so--I will upload Frankenstein Sundae to Kindle Direct, and those of you who are interested can read it on Kindle--or on the free Kindle app available for smart phones and tablets and computers.

This is not, of course, the way I'd ideally like to publish ("New York! New York!") . But ... "time's wingèd chariot hurrying near" and all that. Better somewhere than nowhere, better somehow than nohow, you know?


NOTE: Meanwhile, I'm also getting ready to publish (same place) another volume of doggerel--101 Favorite Books--a series I'm about to wrap up on my other blog, Daily Doggerel. Should be up on Amazon in a week or so.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Little Boyhood Book Adventure

Some of you know that I have another blog--"Daily Doggerel"--which is, well, exactly what it says it is: daily verse on various subjects, verse that lies firmly in the realm of Doggerel and has no visa allowing entry to the realm of Poetry. (Link to that blog.)

In recent months I've been writing on the subjects of "101 Books"--favorite books from throughout my life--a different book--a different verse--each day.

The other day I was preparing to do a post on Jim Bowie: Boy with a Hunting Knife, 1953, a book I loved as a wee lad (obsessed as I was with the Davy Crockett episodes on Disneyland--and especially with the Alamo segments).

Some years ago, working on a memoir of my reading life, I bought that book again on ABE and re-read it, discovering, of course, that it was largely a fabricated story of Bowie's childhood. The book was part of a series published by Bobbs-Merrill: The Childhood of Famous Americans series. A pix of my gnarly copy lies atop this post.

I read a lot of the books in that series, back then.

Anyway, as I was working on my doggerel (which will appear in a day or so), I tried to find out something about the author, Gertrude Hecker Winders. Google didn't come up with much. I thought it was perhaps even a pen name?

But I subscribe to an online service--newspapers.com--a searchable database of many newspapers across the country, and I did a search there and found both her obituary and, in another article about her, a photo (at the bottom of this post).

Her obit--from the Indianapolis Star, Sept. 28, 1987--says that she died at 90 on the 26th. She was from Indianapolis but had been living in Elkhart, where she'd died. She wrote some other volumes for the Childhood series, had published stories in True Confessions (and similar publications), had graduated from Butler Univ. (where an uncle of mine had taught!), had taught some college-level creative writing courses and run some workshops for writers.

The obituary did not include a picture, but I found one in the Noblesville (Indiana) Ledger from November 10, 1958, the day before I turned fourteen. The picture accompanies a story about a local book fair in Hamilton County--a fair for school kids. Here's what it says about her:

Gertrude Hecker Winders, author of four of the books in this [Childhood] series, will be at the Book Fair from 3 to 5 CDT on Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Winders will be glad to talk to boys and girls and autograph copies of her books.

Wish I'd been there. Wish I'd talked to her. Wish I'd gotten my Bowie book signed. Wish ...

Aw, if wishes were horses, bookish boys would ride ...

And thank you, newspapers.com!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 180

1. AOTW: All you Facebook trolls: Get back under the bridge where you belong! (Some Billy Goats Gruff are getting annoyed!)

2. We're enjoying a very amiable comedian, streaming his new special on Netflix. Wry, quiet humor--but the dude is very lithe and agile, adding much to his stories. France via Morocco. Gad Elmaleh. He talks about everyday things, about the American language. Fun, not crude. (Link to trailer.)

3. I finished just one book this week--but an excellent one.

     - The Price of the Haircut, stories by Brock Clarke (2018). I should introduce this a little bit. I'd never heard of Brock Clarke until I read in an issue of Kirkus Reviews about his forthcoming novel (at the time), An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England (2007). How can you not order a copy of a book with a title like that? I ordered it (duh) and liked it so much I decided to have my 11th graders at Western Reserve Academy read the novel near the end of the year (after they'd read most of the writers he alludes to in the book)--and I decided to invite him to spend a day with us, visiting classes, making a presentation to the entire school community, etc.

He came; he saw; he conquered. Late April 2008.

Well, to prepare for his visit, I read his previous books--Carrying the Torch, 2005; What We Won't Do, 2002 (both of these are story collections), and The Ordinary White Boy, a novel, 2001. My admiration did nothing but increase.

After his visit (more about that in a minute) I read his new books as soon as they appeared--Exley, 2010, and The Happiest People in the World, 2014--both are novels.

Okay--we had a great time with him on campus. He was wonderful with the students in class--listening, answering, asking. It was fun for me just to sit there and listen (I always tried to be silent during these author visits--to let the writers engage with the kids.)

At the bottom of this post I've included photographs of Brock with two of my classes.

We've stayed in touch over the years (he now teaches at Bowdoin), and he's a FB friend.

And now his new one--another story collection (and he has a new novel coming out pretty soon).

The Price of the Haircut comprises eleven stories, one of which ("Grand Canyon") contains basically a single sentence (several pages long!), the mental processes of a woman on honeymoon in  a relationship that is a little ... stressed? And "stress" is a factor in these tales: men and women, parents and children, people and the society they're in. The first story (the title story) deals with some white guys who aren't happy with their haircuts and are perfectly willing to head into a dangerous neighborhood (where there's been a recent police shooting of a black teen) because there's a guy there, they've read about, who gives a cut for a low price. Save a few bucks, you know?

Another painful (and funny) story is "That Which We Will Not Give," a series of Thanksgivings in a family. We trace the sad arcs of characters' lives--not just here, but throughout--and see how things, for so many, just don't work out. Not the  way they do, say, in stories!

I mentioned "painful" and "funny"--and Clarke is a master at this. I sometimes ask myself, reading him, Why am I laughing at this? And the answer is that he can see the lightness in darkness--and he can show it to us with humorous clarity. So I opt for laughter rather than weeping. (Though I admit I did some of both here!)

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

     - from Oxford English Dictionary

titivating, n. [TIT-uh-VAY-ting]
Forms:  see titivate v.   and -ing suffix1.
Origin: Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: titivate v., -ing suffix1.
Etymology: < titivate v. + -ing suffix1.[—possibly from tidy]

Definition:  The action of titivate v.; esp. the action of improving or smartening up the appearance of a person or place.

1827   Sporting Mag. Apr. 341/2   The shot manufacturers want titivating too; for the way in which they graduate their shot is quite unpardonable.
1827   Manch. Guardian 13 Oct.   Gentlemen whose heads, chins, and countenances required titivating by the hair-dresser.
1851   Weekly News & Chron. 13 Dec. 711/3   For tickling and titivating it has nerves of exquisite sensibility.
1958   R. Gathorne-Hardy Tranquil Gardener x. 193   There is something lost if too much is devoted to design and a careful titivating of the place.
2015   Sunday Tel. (Nexis) 17 May (Discover section) 12   The nine bedrooms..could do with some titivating (only the ground floor has been revamped since reopening).

photos of Brock Clarke with two of my classes at WRA, April 28, 2008.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Struck It Rich ... Well ...

Yesterday, I got a very official-looking letter from Mike DeWine, Attorney General here in the Buckeye State. One opens such letters with ... mixed feelings--with fear being the principal ingredient in the mix. Did they catch me? Are armed agents going to be at my door this afternoon?


It was great news ... I'd won a lawsuit!

Well, I and tens of thousands of others had won it. It involved Classmates.com, a service I haven't used in quite a while. But it seems something ... unusual ... was going on with them; they got called on it; they apparently had to pay out--big time.

But not, I discovered, to me--not "big time," anyhow.

Enclosed with the letter from Mike DeWine was a check!

For $6.87.

I would have loved that amount back in, oh, 1952, when I was 8, when Cokes and candy bars were five cents each, when a Popsicle was 6 cents, when you could get into the Saturday-morning movies downtown in Enid, Oklahoma, for two RC bottle caps, when ... you get it.

But in 2018?

Well, I could buy a few Cokes at McD's with it. But that's about the only Partying On such a sum will subsidize.

Still ... I feel, you know, like a winner today. An unusual feeling, to tell you the truth.

I deposited the check via my iPhone, a device which cost many multiples of $6.87.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thank You, "Socialized Medicine"

I just got my bill from University Hospitals for the six immunotherapy treatments I "enjoyed" from January to March (three withdrawals, three infusions). The whole idea is this: My blood's T-cells needed to be targeted more directly on the cancer that will one day kill me (there is no cure). So ... in three separate procedures (conducted at the Akron Red Cross), all my blood was slowly withdrawn (and returned!), fed through a machine that whirled it around (isolating the T-cells); the extractions were then flown to Atlanta, where they were treated with Provenge, then flown back to University Hospitals (in University Circle in Cleveland), where they were infused back into me.


This week I received in the mail the notice of the amount I owe to University Hospitals now that my Aetna Medicare policy* has paid its share:

  • Total bill for the procedures: $100,696.40
  • My share: $1375.09
Now, I'm not thrilled about a medical bill of nearly $1400! But I am thrilled that my share was, oh, a bit over 1% of the total. (I'm a one-percenter!)

As I wrote some months ago here, without Medicare I could not have afforded the procedure--and if you add this current cost to all the others I've had with this cancer battle since early in 2005 (surgery, radiation, heavy-duty drugs, visits with specialists, etc.) I would, like Chris Farley in the old SNL skits, be "living in a van down by the river." Though I'm not so sure about the van. More like a cardboard box.

So ... thank you, "socialized medicine" (a term the enemies of universal health care love to employ). I am alive and typing these words because of Medicare, because I am lucky enough to have the health insurance that so many seem intent on denying to those who just don't, you know, deserve it.

I am memorizing a long poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I am writing a eulogy I will deliver for my mother at her service on April 7. I am exercising (most days!) at a health club. I am baking bread every week. I am adoring my son and his family (and their dazzling sons). I am enjoying every second with Joyce. I am writing stupid poems. Working on an endless memoir about chasing Mary Shelley. Keeping in touch with old friends and former students and new friends via Facebook. Enjoying Open Door Coffee Co. every day. Reading new books. Watching old TV shows, streaming new ones. Going to the movies. Seeing plays.



*a policy I pay for through the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System; Aetna, which is the supplemental part of it, also administers the Medicare part of it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Did It!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

The day before Thanksgiving--November 22, 2017 (oddly, the anniversary of the JFK assassination)--I resolved that I was going to memorize Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Renascence," 1912 (oddly, the year before my father was born).

So ... why did I pick this poem? And why did it take me so Damn Long?
  • Why did I pick this poem?
    • I like Millay. Ever since I reviewed a couple of biographies of her (for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 16, 2001), I've gained a new appreciation for her. She had pretty much fallen off the literary radar in my school days, but these books help restore her to public awareness, to the literary canon.
    • Because I got so interested in her, Joyce and I traveled around to some key sites in her life--especially in Rockland and Camden, Maine (she was born in the former in 1892, grew up in the latter) and Austerlitz, New York, her final home (now a museum), the place where she died in 1950 after a fall down the stairs. (Those of you who are not arithmetically challenged can see that she was only twenty at the time of "Renascence.")
    • But the main reason was this: Joyce told me that in girlhood she had memorized the poem and had recited it for various groups--including for those living in what we used to call "Old Folks' Homes."
    • So ... I decided to do it to honor Joyce ...
  • And why did it take me so Damn Long?
    • It's a Damn Long poem for one thing--214 lines, to be exact. (Link to the poem.)
      • I should note that Millay made the task a bit easier: regular poetic feet (iambic tetrameter, rhyming couplets).
    • I pasted the poem onto note cards (8-10 lines/card) and carried them around with me, reviewing, reviewing, reviewing. I learned lines while I was
      • lying in bed at night
      • undergoing immunotherapy
      • walking over to the coffee shop
      • sitting in the coffee shop
      • driving out to the health club
      • etc.
some of my notecards
In a few moments I'm going to go upstairs to Joyce's study. She will be sitting at her computer, writing. She always likes to read through my blog posts--and I love it (!?!) when she find typos and/or solecisms!*

And after she reads the blog (and I fix the boo-boos), I will recite "Renascence" to her, and I will stumble here and there, and, probably, I will weep.

*PS--later--she found 3 typos, which I have fixed!
birth house, Rockland, ME

Camden, ME--site of the poem


final home, Austerlitz, NY

Millay's grave in Austerlitz

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hamlet Knew Grief

The Bard's most famous play begins with the sighting of the ghost of Hamlet's newly deceased father, King Hamlet. (Later, of course, we learn it's been a murder committed by his own brother, Claudius.)

Young Hamlet doesn't take it well. Mopes around Wears black. His mother and her new husband (yes, Claudius--now the King of Denmark) get on his case early in the play, asking him why he just doesn't, you know, lighten up. Get over it.

At the bottom of this post, I've pasted a bit of their exchange in Act 1, Scene 2.

But I think the part I like the most is when his mother asks him why--if he knows death is common--that "it seems so particular with thee." Why, to Hamlet, does it seem so ... special.

And Hamlet fires back: Hey, this isn't seems. This is. I'm not playing, Mom. This is real. "I have that within which passes show"--that which is more than mere appearance.

There's a saying in our language, a saying that's very familiar to all of us: Get over it. We think or actually say this to people who are suffering in some way--a heartbreak, a loss, a disappointment, a death of a loved one.

But this is what I've learned in my three score and ten (plus three!): You don't ever "get over" the wounds to the heart.

And, you know, I don't want to "get over" the deaths of people I've loved. I want that tear in my eye every time I think of my father, my mother. I want to dissolve when I tell stories about them. I need to keep them close to me, so close that the mere thought of them will send a shiver through my heart, a shiver that only a dear memory of them can warm.

KING CLAUDIUS: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET: Not so, my lord; I am too much i' the sun.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common.
Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLET: Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

During my mother's life (1919-2018) ...

our wedding, Dec. 20, 1969
L-R: Dad, Mom, Dan, Joyce, Annabelle and Thomas Coyne

  • the following people were President of the United States:
    • Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump
  • The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I
  • Charlie Chaplin and friends formed United Artists
  • Proust published the volumes of In Search of Lost Time
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby
  • Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • the 19th amendment granted the vote to women (stunning: when my mom was born, women in the U.S.A. could not vote!)
  • the Ku Klux Klan rose again
  • November 11 (my birthday!) designated as Armistice Day (for WW I)--later changed to Veterans Day
  • Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted
  • the Roaring Twenties
  • the Great Depression
  • the rise of fascism in Europe
  • the movies transitioned from silent to sound
  • the development of jet airliners
  • the movies transitioned from black-and-white to color
  • from records to tapes to CD's to iTunes
  • the invention of television
  • the invention of color television
  • the invention of cable television
  • the invention of the personal computer
  • the invention of the Internet
  • the invention of the smart phone
  • men landed and walked on the moon
  • Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid
  • World War II
  • the Korean War
  • the Vietnam War
  • our Middle Eastern wars
  • Sinclair Lewis and Hemingway and Faulkner won Nobel Prizes
  • the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson
  • Civil Rights
  • women's rights
  • gender and sexual rights
  • Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Eminem, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, swing, rock-n-roll, rap, country, folk, hip hop
  • Jim Crow
  • end of school segregation (or so we thought)
  • the murders of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy
  • the Kent State shootings
  • the atomic bomb
  • a marriage to Charles Edward Dyer (October 12, 1939)
  • the births of three sons: Richard Morgan (December 29, 1941), Daniel Osborn (November 11, 1944), Edward Davis (September 17, 1948)
  • the marriages of Dan and Dave
    • the births of grandsons Steve and Ricky, granddaughter Bella
    • the births of great-grandsons Logan (2005) and Carson (2009)
  • the death of her husband (November 30, 1999)
  • a long reflection on an amazing life--public school teacher, graduate student (she earned her Ph.D.), scholar (she published books and articles), professor (Drake University); an amazing early retirement in Cannon Beach, Oregon, in a home she designed overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Haystack Rock, a move to Massachusetts as Dad's health declined, her slow, sad movement from independent living, to assisted living, to nursing
  • her enduring good humor and equanimity in the face of all
Oh, there is so much more, isn't there? Impossible to list a life, especially a life of wonder.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 179

I'm late this week--just as I (often) was with my homework in junior high--okay, and later, too.

1. AOTW: Those people I see exercising fairly vigorously at the health club, then later, outside, see moving toward their car, parked in a handicapped spot.

2. I finished three books this week ...

     - The first was another in the Longmire series by Craig Johnson (they inspired the eponymous TV series you can stream on Netflix). This one--Dry Bones (2015)--is based on the discovery of a spectacular T-rex skeleton on/near the Indian reservation. Hmmm ... who gets the bones? And who will profit thereby?

I enjoy these novels (which are quite different, by the way, from the TV scripts), but reading them in order (as I am), I'm getting a little weary of some of the recurring plot devices--one of which appears here: Sheriff Longmire is caught out in some fierce weather in a remote place, ill-prepared. You would think that, having read the earlier novels about himself, he might be more ... circumspect? Johnson, though, is a fine writer--and these books deserve the celebration they've received.

     - I also finished a sometimes dense book by a reading scientist/researcher, Mark Seidenberg: Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done about It (2017). He goes through all the solid research about how we learn to read--then wonders why it is that we don't use those principles in the teaching of reading. He believes one fundamental reason is this: We prefer appealing theories to hard facts--to established research findings. And so, he says, we drift from theory to theory, from fad to fashion, and fail, as a result, so many of our youngsters.

I wish he had spent a bit more time suggesting strategies teachers could use instead of condemning those they do use. It's not always evident how to apply in a busy classroom the findings he discusses. Maybe a sequel is in the offing?

By the way, he does not really attack teachers. He's sets his sights mostly on colleges  and departments of education: He believes they are the principal villains in this story.

(One annoying thing to a former English teacher: He uses the expressions "feel badly" and "felt badly" (61, 70).)

     - Finally, I finished Bernard Cornwell's Fools and Mortals (2018), a sort of a thriller narrated by Richard Shakespeare (1574-1613), younger brother of the Bard (by ten years), who, like his brother, is trying to make it in the theater world in London in the late 16th century.

Cornwell imagines that Richard is an actor with the Bard's company--the Lord Chamberlain's Men--and has been playing women's parts but is itching to Go Guy.

There's some sibling tension here, but the overall plot involves the mounting of the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream--and the early days of working on Romeo & Juliet. A rival company tries to steal the Bard's scripts (there were no copyright laws: If you had the text, it was yours), and so there's some swordplay and whatnot as a result.

Cornwell inserts a lot about Elizabethan life, explaining all sorts of things to those of you who weren't paying attention in my 8th-grade classes Back in the Day. So ... you can read this without feeling ... deprived. He also inserts some sly allusions here and there to other Bard plays. For example, in a scene that deals a bit about an early Dream rehearsal, the narrator tells us that Puck "fled off through the right-hand door as if pursued by a bear" (253)--this, of course, a reference to what is probably the most famous stage direction in history, from the Bard's A Winter's Tale: "Exit, pursued by a bear." There are quite a few others.

I really enjoyed this novel--light and fun and literate.

3. We were set to go see Black Panther this weekend ... didn't make it ... maybe next?

4. Our neighborhood woodpecker is back for spring training. I have heard his cephalic jackhammering on nearby trees--and neighbors' houses. Soon, we know, he will move to ours, and we, again, will have to Take Action! (We have a fake owl we put on the roof; it ... dissuades him.)

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

     - from dictionary.com

ergophobia [ur-guh-FOH-bee-uh]
1. an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work.
He was examined by Dr. Wilson, who diagnosed the disease which had attacked him as ergophobia, (fear of work.)
-- , "Bad Case of Ergophobia," New York Times, October 13, 1907
Ergophobia, “abnormal fear of or aversion to work,” is formed from two Greek nouns commonly used to form words in English: érgon “work” and the combining form -phobía “fear.” Greek dialects preserve the original form wérgon, which comes directly from Proto-Indo-European wérgom, the source of Germanic werkam (English work). The combining form -phobía is a derivative of phóbos “flight, fear, panic fear,” from Proto-Indo-European bhógwos, a derivative of the root bhegw- “to run,” which appears in Slavic (Polish) biegać “to run.” Ergophobia entered English in the early 20th century.