no surging crowds,
seekers after glory
on a sweet autumnal day.
These woods reward a heart compelled
to open bark-rough covers: resting,
reading autumn’s book leaf by shadowed leaf.
In retrospect, it seems fitting that Barnum and Bailey circus rider Josephine DeMott Robinson presided over the naming of the baby giraffe.
Working in tandem with acrobat Zella Florence, Josie already had encouraged an assortment of female animal trainers, wire walkers, hand balancers, dancers, and strong women (including Katie Sandwina, the “female Hercules”) to hold a suffrage rally at Madison Square Garden. Barnum & Bailey’s presentation of an elaborate, Cleopatra-themed show during its 1912 season seemed a perfect opportunity to introduce the world to its first circus suffrage society, not to mention the giraffe, soon to be named “Miss Suffrage.” (more…)
Finding a current issue of any magazine never was easy during my years in Liberia. In the 1970s, finding even an aging copy of The New Yorker was nearly impossible.
Living in the interior, I did my shopping in open air markets and Lebanese stores that specialized in canned mackerel, Russian toilet paper, the occasional Heineken, and Chinese tomato paste. In those places, browsing the newsstand wasn’t an option.
Occasionally, I cadged a copy from expatriates with connections to the embassies or international agencies in Monrovia. Now and then, a Peace Corps volunteer would have an issue to share, and there always was the possibility someone would step off PanAm 1 onto the Roberts Field tarmac with a copy tucked under one arm. (more…)
Given an opportunity to read Graham Greene on the veranda of the City Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone, I found it impossible to resist. What better place to take up a battered, second-hand copy of The Heart of the Matter and indulge in a bit of literary romanticism?
Greene, who spent time in Freetown both as a traveler and as a British intelligence officer during WWII, drew on his experiences at the hotel in a variety of ways. In Journey Without Maps, an account of his month-long foot trek through Liberia in 1935, he described a place and a way of life still recognizable forty years later.
It’s a flat and expansive land, a land of impossibly distant horizons and days barely distinguished one from another. Strangers develop a habit of looking around, as if to orient themselves. Even those who’ve grown up with the wind, the dust, and the storms say it aloud now and then: “This place will run you nuts if you let it.” (more…)