Daniel At Breakfast

I don’t know much about poetry. I used to read the stuff Bukowski wrote when he was drunk and I know a couple of dirty limericks, but I don’t read a lot of poetry.

But I like this. It’s by Phyllis McGinley. I was reading a book of her essays and did a little research, since I wasn’t familiar with her work. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1961, wrote several children’s books, wrote for The Saturday Evening Post and The New Yorker, and was even on the cover of Time. She’s one of those people that was well-known in a mainstream way 60 years ago but is almost completely unknown now.

Though I bet you know and enjoy one thing she did. She wrote the book that the animated Christmas classic The Year Without A Santa Claus is based on. (I’m Mister Heat Miser…).

Daniel At Breakfast
by Phyllis McGinley

His paper propped against the electric toaster
(Nicely adjusted to his morning use)
Daniel at breakfast studies world disaster
And sips his orange juice

The words dismay him. Headlines shrilly chatter
Of famine, storm, death, pestilence, decay
Daniel is gloomy, reaching for the butter
He shudders at the way
War stalks the planet still, and men know hunger
Go shelterless, betrayed, may perish soon
The coffee’s weak again, in sudden anger
Daniel throws down his spoon

And broods a moment on the kitchen faucet
The plumber mended, but has mended ill;
Recalls tomorrow means a dental visit,
Laments the grocery bill

Then, having shifted from his human shoulder
The universal woe, he drains his cup,
Rebukes the weather (surely turning colder),
Crumples his napkin up
And, kissing his wife abruptly at the door,
Stamps fiercely off to catch the 8:04

So Tired

Last year my Goodbye Freelancing piece got a lot of attention and traffic, more than anything I’ve ever written (if you haven’t read it I suggest you click on that link).

This past month I decided to send out a few queries to sites I thought were perfect for some ideas I had. Places I’ve written for a dozen times over the years.

No response at all. Zero. Zilch. Nada. It reminded me why I wrote that piece in the first place.

I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to this song. Replace “dear” and “sweetheart” with “editor” and it could be about writers waiting for a response to a query, a response to a follow-up, a check for work they’ve done, or even a quick, kind note.


Paper says it might rain

Now there’s a phrase you don’t hear anymore. I miss it.

Nobody goes to a newspaper – a print newspaper! – for the weather anymore. There’s an app for that, as my local TV stations remind me every seven minutes. But I miss a world where newspapers were the main source of news, local and national and international. It was a finite world but you got all of the information you needed if you read it cover to cover. And it was 100% new and updated the very next day. A miracle!

And I miss when everyone watched the nightly news because not all news is of the breaking variety; sending resumes through the mail on nice paper because I’m never sure if they’re even getting it on the other end if I use an online form; late night shows that had guests on who weren’t even plugging anything and hosts that didn’t run out to high-five the audience; longer TV commercials that weren’t too loud and trying so hard to get our attention; and heavy rotary phones that you could really slam down because it’s no fun to push a wimpy button when you’re good and mad.

I miss busy signals.

And phone booths and phone books that were more interesting to read than some novels. And calling the operator. I miss when people didn’t bring their phones to the holiday dinner table.

And girls named Mildred and Peggy and Arlene (all of the grandmothers in 30 years are going to be named Kelly and Brittany and Ashley); words like “poppycock” and “lummox” and “gosh”; when people didn’t say “like” three times in one sentence; getting cashed checks back from the bank; matchbooks, even though I don’t smoke; people who wore hats other than baseball caps; blogs that were updated regularly; handwritten thank you notes, and the community built when we all watched the same TV show at the same time.

But I don’t miss social media.

Do you know what the weather’s supposed to be today? Paper says it might rain.

This Week at The Saturday Evening Post

I usually link to my weekly Saturday Evening Post column over on the right but once in a while I like to post it here, in the meaty part of the site, where you can’t miss it. This week: a weird winter, new books, conversation hearts, Oscar noms, Kirk Douglas and Mary Higgins Clark, the phone on the wind, and how to make pizza at home.

Also: The next edition of The Letter is coming in two weeks. Keep your eyes on your mailbox.


Reading: I Didn’t Come Here To ArguePeg Bracken
Listening To: Introducing Linda Lawson – Linda Lawson. I don’t know why this 1960 album isn’t more well-known, especially “The Meaning of the Blues” and “Where Flamingos Fly.”
Watching: Evil. Smart and creepy.
Eating: Goetze’s Caramel Creams. I ate these all the time when I was a kid – Ford was president – and recently rediscovered them. I’m officially addicted.

A Voice From Above

Jimmy Kimmel helped me shop for groceries the other day. More on that in a minute.

Happy New Year. Is it still OK to say that in the middle of January? I don’t see why not. It’s still the first month of the year, still winter, still a new beginning. We haven’t drifted too far into 2020 yet. If someone says it to me in March I may raise an eyebrow and laugh but on January 16 it’s fine.

I’ve made resolutions. I always make resolutions. As I said in a recent Saturday Evening Post column, I don’t believe people when they say with a smug face they don’t make them. Sure, they may not make a pronouncement in their head or on paper that says “These are my resolutions….,” but isn’t it natural to make plans for things you want to do/change at the end of an old year and the start of a new one?

I won’t get into what mine are. The usual mix of the big and the trivial, the personal and the professional, important to no one but me. I think we should start a tradition of making resolutions for other people. The things we think others should do or change or improve. For example, I think Kellogg’s should resolve in 2020 to bring back their Baby Swiss Cheez-Its. I don’t care if they were discontinued because no one else bought them, I believe Kellogg’s should have an entire division devoted to my snack preferences.

Oh, the Kimmel thing. I was at the supermarket two nights ago shopping for groceries (I don’t know why I feel the need to explain that – why else would I be at a supermarket?) when I suddenly heard late night TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel rattling off a list of items I shouldn’t forget to buy. (This was from the loudspeaker above me, he wasn’t actually there in the aisle.). Bread, milk, chips, etc. He must be some sort of spokesman for the company (or maybe supermarkets in general?), making wacky announcements every now and then to entertain and inform bored shoppers.

At the very end he said “oh, and eggs. Don’t forget eggs.” And I had forgotten them! Thanks, late night TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel!