Tuesday Mar. 14, 2017

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Hamburger Heaven

Tonight we find them again,
parked under the stars
(no one ever
eats inside in Heaven),
beeping the tired carhop
with her pageboy and mascara
for a paper boat of French fries
drenched in sauce,
a smashed hamburger baptized
with spices.
They’re sixteen and in love;
the night is hot,
sweet and tangy on their tongues.
Why do we stop?
They’re in Heaven, after all,
listening to the fry cook
in the kitchen
with his savory benedictions,
the AM radio playing
“Love Me Tender,” “Peggy Sue,”
unperturbed by the future with its
franchises and malls, its
conglomerates and information
highways. Is there something
we would tell them?
Here in Hamburger Heaven where
the nights go on forever,
where desire’s resurrected
and every hunger’s filled?
Wait! Do we call out?
But now they’ve seen us
close behind them with our
fervent “Thou Shalt Nots,”
our longings glaring in
the rearview mirror.
And they’ve turned on
the ignition
and they’ve floored it
and are gone.

“Hamburger Heaven” by Ronald Wallace from For a Limited Time Only. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008. Reprinted by permission.  (buy now)

Today is Albert Einstein's birthday (books by this author). He was born in Ulm, Germany (1879), and his pre-kindergarten fascination with a compass needle left an impression on him that lasted a lifetime. He liked math but hated school, dropped out, and taught himself calculus in the meantime. Einstein worked for the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, where his job was to evaluate patent applications for electromagnetic devices and determine whether the inventions described would actually work. The job wasn't particularly demanding, and at night he would come home and pursue scientific investigations and theories.

In 1905, he wrote a paper on the Special Theory of Relativity, which is that if the speed of light is constant and if all natural laws are the same in every frame of reference, then both time and motion are relative to the observer. That same year, he published three more papers, each of which was just as revolutionary as the first, among them the paper that included his most famous equation: E = mc². E is energy, m is mass, and c stands for the velocity of light.

Einstein received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921. He said, "The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives."

It's the birthday of Sylvia Beach (books by this author), born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887). She founded an English-language bookstore and lending library called Shakespeare and Company, on the Left Bank of Paris. It opened just as the "lost generation" was discovering that city, and it became a central feature of the Parisian literary scene of the 1920s. Beach also published books, including the first — blue and white — edition of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922).

It's the birthday of the humorist Max Shulman (books by this author), born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1919). He wrote several books, including Anyone Got a Match? (1964) and Potatoes Are Cheaper (1971). He grew up during the Great Depression, and he said he became a humorist because "I turned early to humor as my branch of writing ... [because] life was bitter and I was not."

It's the birthday of the photographer Diane Arbus (books by this author), born Diane Nemerov in New York City (1923). She took portraits of transvestites, giants and dwarfs, twins, triplets, carnival performers, and sometimes ordinary people with troubling expressions or postures. She said: "I work from awkwardness. By that I mean if I stand in front of something instead of arranging it, I arrange myself."

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