I fell in love with Susie sixty-seven years ago, as a boy of fourteen. [She was an older woman, fifteen. This was a continuation of a long family tradition -- my mother was a year older than my father, and his mother was a year older than his father.] As high school students "going steady" [yes, we did speak of it that way then], we listened to the music of Bach and read the poetry of e. e. cummings.
Today, I have been a bit down, and in an effort to pep myself up, I said to myself, "Cheer up. Toujours gai." This was an evocation of the old newspaper columns by Don Marquis, actually before my time, relating the doings of a cockroach named archy and a cat named mehitabel. ["Toujours gai " was mehitabel's signature line.] Archy, who in a previous life had been a free verse poet, lived in the newsroom of the newspaper for which Marquis worked. At night he would write poetry by throwing himself on the keys of the old standard typewriter at Marquis' desk, one letter at a time. Since archy could not simultaneously hit the caps key and a letter key, all of his poetry was lower case.
It has been speculated, but alas without any evidence, that archy inspired cummings to write in lower case as well.
I have loved Don Marquis's archy ever since I ran across a used copy of Archy and Mehitabel in the basement of Powell's Books in Hyde Park as an undergrad at the University of Chicago. Thanks for prompting me to pull that book off the shelf again!
Speaking of Archy, hows the elbow? I ask because I'm losing faith in doctors generally. Here in Italy, access to the national health care system is great and the cost very low, but I'm not so sure about the quality of the "practice." The other day I went in because I have had these sweaty night episodes and I was prescribed anti-inflammatory pills. I'm now 67, and I'm convinced that age 60, one's body begins to fall apart. (I know, I'm just a youngster!!) But I'm curious what became of your elbow problem. I would like to believe that these well compensated doctors actually know a thing or two.
Thank you for asking, Jerry. I had a cortisone shot in the elbow, under ultrasound, way back in January. It got better. Then it got worse and I made another appontment for a more complicated procedure. Then it got better, so I cancelled the appointment. And now it hurts a little bit on occasion but not enough to seek treatment. I figure when I am ninety, it may get worse again. It seems to me that if I were ominpotent and omniscient and perfectly benevolent I could have designed the elbows and knees better, but then, who knows?
I have loved Don Marquis' creations ever since high school and have the collected works (in a Modern Library edition, I think). The whimsy/satire/melancholy are almost always in perfect balance.
BTW, a propos the shift key--not a question of simultaneity but of weight. With those old typewriters the shift key lifted the entire up. And then there was the night that the typewriter had been left in shift-lock position....
Mehitabel's other catch phrase was "wotthehell wotthehell".
I liked the episode when Archy interviewed the mummy at the Met.
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