Jul. 25, 2013

The Day I Die

by Krista Lukas

will be a Saturday or a Tuesday, maybe.
A day with a weather forecast,
a high and a low. There will be news:
a scandal, a disaster, some good
deed. The mail will come. People
will walk their dogs.

The day I die will be a certain
day, a square on a calendar page
to be flipped up and pinned
at the end of the month. It may be August
or November; school will be out or in;
somebody will have to catch a plane.

There will be messages, bills to pay,
things left undone. It will be a day
like today, or tomorrow—a date
I might note with a reminder, an appointment,
or nothing at all.

"The Day I Die" by Krista Lukas, from Fans of My Unconscious. © Black Rock Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1897, that the novelist Jack London (books by this author) left San Francisco for the Klondike to join the gold rush. He was just 21. A few weeks earlier, a ship had arrived in San Francisco from the Klondike carrying more than a million dollars' worth of gold, and London got his stepsister to mortgage her house and lend him the money for the trip.

It was an arduous journey, a long haul over the famous Chilkoot Pass. And winter came before Jack London could even start looking for gold. He spent that winter in a little fur trader's cabin the size of a tool shed, reading the books he'd brought with him: Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost.

By spring, he'd realized that all the good claims had already been made. So instead of looking for gold, he talked to people and he gathered their stories. He almost died of scurvy on the way home, but he went on to write about his experiences in his book The Call of the Wild, which became one of the most popular books of the time.

It's the birthday of saxophonist Johnny Hodges, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1906. He took up the soprano sax when he was 14, and later specialized on the alto. Hodges joined Duke Ellington's orchestra in 1928, and he was a soloist and mainstay of the ensemble until his death in 1970. Among his best-known solos are those on "Warm Valley" and "Passion Flower." His nickname, "Rabbit," came from his love of lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches. As he grew older, Hodges used fewer and fewer notes in his solos, preferring to stay closer to the melody.

It's the birthday of the painter Thomas Eakins, born in Philadelphia (1844). He painted realistic American scenes of the late 1800s like Max Schmitt in a Single Scull, and The Gross Clinic. Many of his paintings featured Eakins himself in the background, sometimes swimming, rowing a scull, or treading water next to his setter dog Harry.

Today is the anniversary of the day when Bob Dylan (books by this author) went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, to the great consternation of folk music fans.

Actually, Bob Dylan had grown up listening to rock and roll. He loved Elvis. He once said: "When I first heard Elvis's voice, I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody and nobody was gonna be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail."

Dylan played in rock bands in high school, but when he went to college at the University of Minnesota, he fell into the folk scene and started singing songs of Woody Guthrie. He performed wearing blue jeans and a work shirt.

But in 1964, he heard the Beatles and other British bands who played rock and roll the way Dylan remembered hearing it as a kid. He did some rock and roll on his album Bringing It All Back Home in 1965 and came out with a hit song that summer: "Like a Rolling Stone."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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