Thursday, May 29, 2014

R.I.P. Maya Angelou

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable.  It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”  Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou, 86 year-old poet, memoirist, actress, dancer, chef, philosopher, and icon, is best known for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” a hard-hitting account of growing up in rural Arkansas.  At Bill Clinton’s 1993 inaugural the modern Renaissance woman, six feet tall and employing magnificent intonation, recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning.”  Upbeat despite many hardships, including being molested as a child and suffering the ravages of having been a heavy smoker, Angelou wrote these lines “On Aging”:
"I’m the same person I was back then
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky, I can still breath in.”
Alas, no more!  To honor Angelou Tony Rose posted her poem “When Great trees Fall.”  Anne Balay wrote: “I love the way she aged, visibly, publicly, beautifully; kept talking, dancing, acting, being glorious.”  Elaine Spicer shared “Still I Rise” whose lines include these:
"Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
 I rise.”
After dining at Sage Restaurant with Toni and me the evening before, Miranda and I checked out the Calumet Regional Archives and my “cage,” where she spotted a couple photos of my dad (Vic) who suffered a fatal heart attack at age 50.  One shows him with me as a kid when he was about 30.  Miranda thought I resembled him.  He died while I was a grad student at Maryland and Toni was pregnant with Philip, Miranda’s dad.

At Anne Balay’s house Miranda met Leah and enjoyed affectionate pet dog Sophie before the four of us lunched at Miller Bakery Café.  NPR reporter Michael Puente recently interviewed Anne about “Steel Closets” and her being denied tenure.  Puente has interviewed me a few times and is not as intimidating as TV newsman John “Bulldog” Drummond, who 27 years ago questioned me about Mayor Hatcher.  Drummond’s specialty was organized crime in Chicago, and he had a nickname for every mobster.  Leah mentioned an interactive role-playing History course she took at Smith College about the 1789 Constitutional Convention; Anne said that April Lipinsky offered a similar one about the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.  On the way home we passed Alice Bush’s house (where Miranda often played with Alice and Ken’s kittens) and Maple Place, closed now, leading up to our old house.

Old Guard Republican James E. Watson’s memoir includes an anecdote about House Speaker “Uncle Joe” Cannon ridiculing egocentric Tennessee Congressman John Wesley Grimes, who got his name in the Congressional Record every day for years.  One such speech castigated Teddy Roosevelt for auctioning off to a saloonkeeper a White House sideboard that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union had given First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes 25 years before.  What a sacrilege, Grimes claimed, causing Cannon to quip: “Tradition tells us that on rainy days Dolly Madison used to hang the White House washing on an old-fashioned clothesline in the East Room of the Executive Mansion.  My God, Mr. Speaker, where is that clothesline?”
Wendell Scott was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame despite having won just a single race.  In fact, at Jacksonville’s Speedway Park in 1963 officials, not wanting an African American to kiss the race queen, tried to claim that Buck Baker was the winner.   Making do with hand-me-down parts and without a wealthy sponsor, Scott had 20 top-5 finishes during a 13-year career.  He won the respect of racers such as Richard Petty, some of whom acted as his unofficial bodyguards.  After he crashed his car in 1973 at Talladega Speedway, he worked as a mechanic until shortly before his death in 1990.  One fellow Hall of Fame inductee said of Scott: “If he had had the proper equipment, I believe he would have been a winner a lot of times.  He was good on dirt; he was even good on pavement.  But Wendell didn’t have the money or the proper equipment to get to the front.”

Brenda Love shared a crime report indicating that two 18 year-olds were arrested for shoplifting at Portage Walmart.  They had tried to run off with a “pleasure pack” of condoms and wart remover.

In the half-season finale of “Mad Men” founding partner Burt Cooper watches the 1969 moon landing with his housekeeper, exclaims “Bravo!” and drops dead.  Don and Peggy, in Indianapolis to pitch a hamburger account, can’t buy booze because it’s Sunday.  Peggy gets a couple beers from the concierge, Old Style by the look of the cans.  Sally Draper, echoing the views of a boy she has a crush on, tells Don the $25 billion could have been better spent to help the poor.   Megan breaks up with Don, and ditzy secretary Meredith comes on to him.  Don accepts a kiss but tells her it can’t happen.  The episode ends with Don imagining the deceased Burt Cooper doing a soft-shoe shuffle to “The Best Things in Life are Free.” The old standard includes the line, “The moon belongs to everyone.”

Ridgewood H.S. grads in the Chicago suburb of Norridge disobeyed protocol and tossed caps in the air during commencement and won’t receive diplomas until class representatives publicly apologize at a future board meeting.  Killjoy superintendent Robert Lupo bragged: “Perhaps it is the final lesson they will take away from high school: there are consequences for behaviors in life.”  Those who refrained from heaving their caps didn’t get their diplomas either.  Lupo suggested they take up their concerns with their miscreant brethren. President Obama spoke at West Point, where graduates tossed caps in the air with no disrespect intended nor reported injuries.
After both received awards at a ceremony honoring distinguished teachers and graduates, E.C. Central’s Denzel Smith wrote of Dave: I seriously will never be able to repay you for all that you have done and do for me. If I am great, it is because I have learned from you sir. Congrats on your "bell" you deserve it.”

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