We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
september is literacy month
We’re always celebrating one thing or another in this country — some industry, product, cause, or way of life — whereby Congress and the Chamber of Commerce encourages the rest of us to show our love by wearing a colored ribbon and opening our wallets.
September is National Literacy Month. Since Like the Dew is highly dependent upon literacy for its continued success, it celebrates the month by having one of its intrepid writers (one of them who can also read) spin a few words on the subject.
failings and foolishness
The summer after seventh grade my grandmother sent one of my cousins and me to a snooty boys’ camp up in New Hampshire. For me it wasn’t a great fit (who were these people?), but I tried to be a good sport. Around the campfire on skit night, I was asked to spell “yankee.” Hamming it up and following the script, I began to drawl, “D . . . A . . . M . . . .”
“Wait, wait,” hollered the MC. “What are you doing?”
1933 – 2015
We all know by now that the neurologist and author Oliver Sacks died recently (30 August 2015) at the age of 82.
In the New York Times obituary (31 August), his long-time personal assistant Kate Edgar, who described herself as his “collaborator, friend, researcher and editor” as well, wrote just before his death: “He is still writing with great clarity. We are pretty sure he will go with fountain pen in hand.”
way it's 'sposed to be
I would like to take this opportunity to say “Happy Labor Day” to those workers who produce the tsunami of goods swamping America’s retail establishments. I would like to do this, but, regrettably, I do not speak Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindu, Pakistani, or any other Asian dialect. (Levi’s are now made in Egypt, for pete’s sake. Pete is the American who lost his job.)
But, to be fair, due to the uptick in the economy, many more Americans have, thankfully, found employment; however, in most areas of the country, an Ivory-billed Woodpecker is easier to find than a good-paying job.
Almost 40 million people saw at least part of The Civil War when Ken Burns’ multipart documentary premiered in September 1990, making it the most-watched PBS broadcast ever. It’s still the record holder, and it’s coming back Monday, September 7, for a special anniversary encore on PBS.
Two things will be different…
I was reading an amusing description the other day of John Betjeman, a man who became poet laureate of England in 1972. He must have been a fun guy to have been around judging from how a journalist once described him as a man who looked “like a highly intelligent muffin–a small, plump, rumpled man with luminous soft eyes, a chubby face topped with wisps of white hair and imparting a distinct air of absentmindedness.” Although I am not chubby or overly rumpled, I would be delighted for anyone to portray me in such an endearing way.
nice soot, kid
At eleven years-old, the most infuriating thing about trying to “apply yourself” is the universe doesn’t always cooperate.
Take the situation in which I’m in, the evening of Tuesday, September 10, 1962. Blindsided by Sister Jean, Sixth Grade teacher at Our Lady of the Pines Catholic School with a very first day assignment to write 500 words all about “What I Learned This Summer,” I’m stumped. Fully…totally …and absolutely!
I think of myself as a realist. A diehard realist. I believe I am truly a child of the Age of Reason. But can reason explain all things, unlock all mysteries?
Don’t think so. My Uncle Lehman, for instance, my Aunt Mary Grace’s husband, could talk warts off.
As I write this, I can see you shaking your skeptical head. Well, I didn’t believe it, either.
pioneer of trash tv
Contrary to his fragmentation-grenade TV persona, the Morton Downey Jr. I knew was a pussycat. A pussycat o’ nine tails sometimes, but a pussycat all the same.
I got to know Mort – the subject of a new documentary called “Evocateur” — when he was just beginning to develop the obstreperous, outrageous on-air shtick that a few years later would make him briefly notorious. All you “loudmouths” and “pablum-puking liberals” out there know what I’m talking about…
southern (hemisphere) stories
Grandpa was not a storyteller. It was only later, when Grandma wasn’t around, that he told me a few stories about his life and parents. He never talked about the hard times during the Great Depression, but he said enough to encourage me in later life to research his family history. When he died all of Grandma’s and Grandpa’s personal things, letters and photographs were given to my older cousin because she was the only granddaughter.
revenge of the grown ups
It is a fact that if you’re a kid growing up in America in the Fifties and Sixties, the last day of school is better than Christmas!
You’re free, unfettered and unchained. Nothing but blue skies ahead …at least for three months, which is ‘till eternity’ in the Kid Standard Time.
For the next three glorious months, you’re not required to study, sit still, do homework, do book reports, memorize, read, recite, remember or do anything remotely enlightening…
with heavy hearts
“Well, then, ask me your questions. I won’t be around forever.”
That’s what Floyd told me a few years ago when I said that just when we get old enough to ask the right questions of our parents and grandparents, they’re all gone. Floyd was true to his word and did not last forever. He is now gone, six months short of his one-hundredth birthday. I was assured he died without pain and without lingering more than just a few days.
easier than it looks
Americans anticipating a British driving vacation face two problems: driving on the “wrong” (left) side of the road… and British roundabouts. Britain has more roundabouts as a proportion of roads than any other country. Many get confused at negotiating the roundabout, while driving in a left-side steering car gets a little more comfortable after a while.
Americans vacationing in France face only the roundabout problem, as the French drive on the “right” side of the road. Yet there are more roundabouts in France (30,000 as of 2008) than in any other nation.
widening my american horizons
For ten years I’ve lived in the Shenandoah Valley, enjoying it so much that when my son whom I came from England to live near, moved to Kansas, I chose to stay here. I’m keenly aware of this vast beautiful country extending from Virginia to California (twice visited) in the west and Montana in the north and I’ve another son and family in Arizona, but there are so many places in America I yearn to explore. When I told Virginian friends “I’m going on holiday to Kansas,” they mostly said “Huh.” I think it’s something to do with the fact that Kansas hasn’t got mountains.
mostly white history
It is often said, “history is written by the victors.” I’ve found that not to be quite true in my research – at least not in the American South. Since the invention of the printing press, history has been based mostly on what the people who got themselves noticed by newspapers and had both the inclination and time to preserve their clippings in the archives historians are wont to peruse. In other words, historians ending up with a biased perspective is not entirely their fault. They work with what they’ve got.
Paul Simon wrote that line. It fits the paralyzing disequilibrium that took me over as I was handed a game-changing diagnosis of tonsil cancer. I wrote the following note on the subway home for the worst case scenario. Fortunately it has proved, like reports of Twain’s death, to be premature.
This is that maudlin letter you dread from someone who believes you would actually maybe like to have a farewell note: If you get this I have navigated a dark corridor descended slippery stairs to black water’s edge stepped into and pushed off waiting skiff into infinite night.
satire from the darkside
Walmart, swashbuckling privateer of American commerce, is casting its grappling hooks at the lucrative, always in demand, funeral industry. Is anybody surprised?
According to Wily Ebeneezer, Walmart Director of Roughshod Practices, the mercantile behemoth’s version of Area 51 in Rigor Mortis Springs, Arkansas, has developed discount funerals for their thrifty-minded customers. (And ain’t they all?)
We left the Tempelhof Airport in the American Sector late in the morning for a last look at West Berlin. The old Kombi van rattled along towards Potsdamer Platz and the British Sector. There was little traffic, only the occasional military patrol. While looking for a street that would take us to Potsdamer Platz, without entering the Soviet Zone, we saw the ruins of a large building surrounded by rubble overgrown with grass…
“Everywhere I go I see an American flag. I don’t understand that. You hardly ever see a British flag flying anyplace in the UK.”
That from a member of my writers group, a transplanted Brit, in this country now for ten years or so. Sorry to say, it took my aging brain a few hours to compose a response. But now I have and here it is: We Americans are proud of our flag…
a clark & poland special
Robert Clark and I were on the road running down a story, a story about land, a farmhouse, and tomatoes, a story of war, old ways, and survivors of sorts. On a hot, humid July morning we abandoned I-20 for Longs Pond Road and after a back road or two arrived at a farmhouse near the community of Boiling Springs. Two big blackjack oaks stood out front. Out back, a handsome, clapboard smokehouse looked lonely, its fellow outbuildings long-fallen comrades…
e. l. doctorow
“There was nothing more to be said on the subject of the future and their different destinies, for those words, uttered with complete calm and conviction, had done what every inspired melody does: condense a welter of emotions into an unconflicted clarity that one can instantly recall and call upon. Like a hierogram.”—Kris Saknussemm, Enigmatic Pilot
As I anticipate this year’s upcoming Virginia Writers Symposium in Charlottesville, I was stopped the other day when I read of the passing of E. L. Doctorow, to me a sacred symbol of a writer who had mastered his craft and had so much to teach all the rest of us who marveled at his creativity and innovative ways…
not eatin’ that
No one in his right damn mind pays “you’ve gotta be kiddin’ me” prices to see a movie — even if it is an advance showing of a major motion picture. I’m willing today because this little excursion is part of my scheme to throw some serious ‘shade’ –- and some serious ‘cool’ –on a despicably hot summer day. I’ve come to the mall multiplex to match wits with Tom Cruise, to see if I can keep up with the on-screen goings-on in the latest installment of Mission Impossible.
Just within the mall, but outside the cinema, the conditioned air smells of popcorn and pastry. ‘Hot buttered’ emanates from the theatre; ‘Eau de Cinnabon’ oozes from the adjacent food court…
a loving tribute
At the beginning of 1997 I bought a new car. It was modest in price and style, but automatic and practical for a woman living in London. It was easy to park, small enough to fit in the narrowest spaces and comfortable to drive: a navy blue Daihatsu Charade that would not attract thieves or envy. I got it at a bargain price because one of my sons worked for a dealership. It was zippy in traffic, when traffic allowed. British roads are narrower and more congested than American ones, this small island being packed with a population of 63 million. It was economic in fuel consumption and cost of insurance…
Many people say that English is the hardest language to understand because so many words can mean different things and we often need a sentence to explain one word in another language. For example, in the US it is quite common for people to publicly “root for the team.” In other English-speaking countries if you are caught doing that you will be arrested. In Australia to call someone “an old bastard” is a term of endearment.
state tax credits at work
If you have noticed your TV smelling a little mildewy lately, or have found tendrils of Spanish moss clogging your TiVo, there is a perfectly good reason – the basic cable producers have discovered the Louisiana swamps; and like the Nazis who invaded Poland, they are not going to settle for just one kielbasa. Even though there is an old saying that if you’ve seen one alligator, you’ve seen them all, evidently Hollywood TV producers can tell the difference; granted, they are experts at dealing with thick-skinned carnivores after their experiences with the Kardashians…
In case you’re emerging from a coma over the last couple of months and somehow missed the change, it’s the tourist season again. The signs are everywhere – but, alas, mostly here at the beach. Gone are the days, for a while at least, when I could walk on the beach with my dog ’Dro (short for Pedro) and meet up with no one but myself. Good place for doing that. The late, great Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard wrote memorably that on a back road in Georgia at night, you could ask yourself a question and get an honest answer.
we could do worse
We’ve been down to two cats now, Sophie and Dolly, for over two years. The last two lads, Tucker and Sneezer, took their leave a couple of summers ago, one otherwise healthy gentleman on the operating table to have his teeth cleaned and the other a poor devil who had suffered far too long from a debilitating disease. Now we have two aging dowagers who think they’re still debutantes. They barely tolerate one another, however, and share a porch space during the day as though they’re on opposite sides negotiating a treaty with Iran. Feline peace is not easy to maintain.