Friday, September 5, 2014

Poetry in a Train Station Bar

 
Ann Erdman asked me to follow up on Selfies, an event I attended September 3rd at Union Station's Traxx Bar

The best thing about it: we met some bright, smart people. The worst thing about it: a bar is not a great venue for literary readings. Some slob near us kept ignoring the readers and chatting away in full voice. A man at the bar took a phone call, with obvious concern that the person at the other end wouldn't hear him unless he shouted. (This was a fine moment, as poet Neil McCarthy took the microphone and wandered over to the bar, making the man's phone call even more difficult while the man was none the wiser. Catch Neil in a reading if you can. He is one hell of a poet, and his speaking was worth the whole evening.)

So, it had its moments. We authors were our own small but enthusiastic audience.

Just now I looked at Ann's blog to get her link. She posts a listing of all the great free things to do in Pasadena every week. (You should follow her blog.) The first thing on this week's list is a program at the library through October 9th called Dust, Drought and Dreams Gone By. It's about the Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930's.

You would think this would remind me of the drought we're having in California, but it reminded me more of my father.


He was born in 1916. In 1932 at the age of 16, he was the teacher at the local one-room schoolhouse, Fargo Dist. No 1. Everybody was poor where he came from in western Kansas.

As a boy he endured the Great Depression. As a young man he found work as a cowboy during those Dust Bowl years. In his late twenties he went off to World War II. It doesn't seem like he ever got to live for himself. He was always working for his family, or his country, or his kids. But he never talked to me of hardships.

He was a poet and a drinker, and he certainly would have appreciated a fine Irish poet holding forth in a drinking establishment. Maybe he worked so hard so I could enjoy such things for him.

22 comments:

William Kendall said...

A bar probably would not be the ideal location. That photograph from the Dust Bowl era is as stark as you'd expect.

Petrea Burchard said...

That's my father at the age of 16 with some of his students.

BettyS said...

Beautiful tribute to your father, Petrea. Probably not many of our Depression Era parents got to do much but work hard all of their lives to give us a better one. A teacher at 16. Wow. And I'm gonna ask: who is that under the porch? :)

Petrea Burchard said...

He was a teacher at 16 because he was the one who had completed all the classes. But it stayed with him, and after the war he went to Berkeley on the GI bill and because a college professor.

Under the porch: all I know is it's a mischievous boy.

altadenahiker said...

On the other hand, he was an adventurous chap who made his own way and got to see a lot of the world. And he looks like a film star, in the Henry Fonda tradition.

Petrea Burchard said...

True. I imagine he had a lot of fun with the ladies (San Diego, Hawaii) before he married my mother in 1945.

Petrea Burchard said...

Hiker refers to the film star photo: http://pasadenadailyphoto.blogspot.com/2014/03/dad-words.html

Ann Erdman said...

I love it when you listen to me!
;-)

Petrea Burchard said...

I always do! Who doesn't? Never mind. ;-)

Shell Sherree said...

There's probably a joke out there about two literary readers walking into a bar. And that's a lovely story about your dad, Petrea.

Petrea Burchard said...

Shell, I won't sleep, trying to come up with that joke.

Petrea Burchard said...

Two poets walk into a bar. The first one shouts to the bartender, "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings!"

"Big deal," says the bartender. "What do you drink, you colossal wreck?"

"Look on your tip, ye mortal, and despair!" the poet says. "Bitters for me, and a Guiness for my friend."

"Your friend looks too young to drink," says the bartender.

"Eh," says the second poet, "the child is father of the man."

Bellis said...

What an amazing father you had! Teaching other children when he was only 16 is incredible. But I'm a bit confused - was this Fargo in Kansas or North Dakota?

Petrea Burchard said...

It was Coolidge, Kansas. Maybe a county or district name, I'm not sure.

José Mendonça said...

16 years and teaching?! Brilliant! Love the train station photo.

Petrea Burchard said...

José, with your flair for architectural photography, you'd love Union Station. http://bit.ly/1rSkFXx

Desiree said...

Nice one, all the way around--

Margaret said...

I bet you were fantastic, Petrea. You are an excellent speaker and reader your self.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, guys.

Margaret, it went well. We had been told before the reading that we had 8 minutes, then when we got there they said we had 5 minutes. So I had to cut some of what I'd rehearsed. It went fine, considering.

Roan said...

Sounds like a life filled with hard work, beginning at a very young age. Love seeing the old photo.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

It reminds me that it wasn't that long ago when you could be a teacher (my grandmother did the one room school house pre-college) or an architect without all the paperwork. Or at least that was the way it was outside of large urban settings.

Petrea Burchard said...

Hi Roan, welcome. I think so many of the Depression Era's young people didn't have much of a youth. Those I knew never complained, it was how life was. Each generation has (traditionally) worked for the betterment of the next. I hope that isn't changing.

PA, good point. Nobody in the city cared about some kid in western Kansas making a dollar a week to teach a few math problems.