In 1975, Jim White borrowed a skateboard from a friend while preparing for a surfing competition in Hawaii, then badly injured his leg in a fall while skating. For a few weeks, he could not walk—not even with crutches. For two months, he was in a full-leg cast. Of course, he was bored, and he watched a lot of television. He also borrowed a guitar and “started trying to learn guitar for two hours each afternoon, during that period when there were no game shows or reruns of Star Trek or Dark Shadows on.” This worked out for him, as he has written many, many songs and has become a recording artist. What would have happened to him if he had not broken his leg? He asks, “I likely would have gone to Hawaii and been blown out in my first heat (the Hawaiians’ skills were far superior to mine), come home and spent the next few decades taking odd jobs and trying to figure out how to make a living as a professional surfer. So my question is this, which was a better borrowed object for me: the skateboard, or the guitar?”
As you would expect, Carson McCullers read deeply. When she was a child, she was sent to buy groceries at a time she was engrossed in reading short stories by Katherine Mansfield. She read the stories at the grocery store counter, and she read the stories under the street lamp outside the grocery store. Once she was so engrossed in a work by Dostoevsky that she didn’t notice that her house was on fire. And when she was working a day job as a bookkeeper, she was fired because she read Proust on company time. Carson also formed crushes on other people, including writers. At Yaddo, a writers’ colony, she used to curl up outside the door of Katherine Anne Porter’s cabin, hoping to make Ms. Porter pay attention to her when she finally opened the door. Instead, Ms. Porter pretended that Carson wasn’t there and stepped over her and went wherever she needed to go.
Some famous writers have notoriously bad handwriting—a major problem for editors attempting to provide scholarly editions of the writers’ letters, journals, and notebooks. Unintentional errors, of course, occur in this attempt. Walter Harding, the founding editor of the Thoreau Edition, believed that Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, had used the word “Ecology” in an 1850s letter. If so, this would have been the word’s first-ever recorded use, with its second-ever recorded use occurring eight years later. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary changed its entry on “ecology” to include Mr. Thoreau’s alleged use of the word. Unfortunately, when Mr. Harding reexamined the letter and related documents, he discovered that what he had thought was a capital E was actually a capital G. Mr. Thoreau had not written “Ecology”—he had written “Geology.”
Zoe Williams, a columnist for Great Britain’s Guardian, has had a few embarrassing incidents because of breastfeeding, including one memorable moment when she squirted herself in the eye outside a Woolworth’s. However, her most embarrassing moment came when she was in a restaurant and noticed that one of her breast pads was on the floor. Hoping to act quickly before anyone noticed, she grabbed the breast pad and put it back in her blouse—unfortunately, she put it back in on the side that already had a breast pad. Result: one side had double coverage and the other side had no coverage. Her waiter, a man who resembled the actor Ewan McGregor, came over, and unfortunately her breasts leaked. The side that had no coverage displayed a very large, very noticeable stain that was very definitely noticed by Mr. McGregor—I mean, by the waiter.
The parents of children’s book author Barbara Park—creator of Junie B. Jones—were very supportive; in fact, she thought it was funny how supportive they were. For example, when Barbara was taking piano lessons, her mother thought that she would be a wonderful pianist. One day, Barbara mentioned her mother’s high opinion of her piano playing to her father, who told her, seriously, “But you were good. You played the piano beautifully. You were really, really good.” However, Barbara remembers her 4th-grade piano recital, at which she attempted to play “Born Free.” She played the first page, and then she forgot the next four pages of the song. Therefore, she played the last chord of the song and left the stage.
Jessica Simpson endured a few mishaps early in her career. At her first recording session, she burped really loudly into a microphone, causing a producer to worry that some equipment had exploded. While opening for Ricky Martin at Madison Square Garden in New York City, she hit a high note and split her pants. Quickly, she disappeared backstage where her mother stripped off her jeans so that Jessica could wear them. Jessica was embarrassed, but she returned to the stage, saying, “I don’t know who saw my booty, but I’m still gonna sing.” This story does have a happy ending: Jessica’s split pants were sold and raised $8,000 for Rosie O’Donnell’s charity for children.
Lynette Woodard’s cousin “Geese” Ausbie played for the Harlem Globetrotters, and when she was young, he taught her many of the tricks the Globetrotters played with a basketball, including a trick where she let the basketball roll from one arm to another across her shoulders. This trick had a deleterious effect on Lynette’s house while she was growing up. She says, “I kind of tore up the house doing it. Well, not the whole house, but the lamp, the iron, the ashtray, the window in my room.”
Tenors can be temperamental. During the 1953 season of the Chicago Civic Opera House, tenor David Poleri, who was singing the role of Don José in Carmen, became infuriated at what he thought was a too-fast tempo set by the conductor. In fact, he became so infuriated that he told the conductor, “Finish the d*mn opera yourself!” and then stalked off, leaving Carmen alone and forcing her to commit suicide rather than being murdered.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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