Thursday Aug. 13, 2015

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Throwing Away the Alarm Clock

my father always said, “early to bed and
early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy
and wise.”

it was lights out at 8 p.m. in our house
and we were up at dawn to the smell of
coffee, frying bacon and scrambled

my father followed this general routine
for a lifetime and died young, broke,
and, I think, not too

taking note, I rejected his advice and it
became, for me, late to bed and late
to rise.

now, I’m not saying that I’ve conquered
the world but I’ve avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful

one of whom
myself—someone my father

“Throwing Away the Alarm Clock” by Charles Bukowski from The Flash of Lighting Behind the Mountain. © Harper Collins, 2004. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

Dr. Michael Shadid established the first cooperatively owned and operated hospital in the United States on this date in 1931. Shadid had been born in a mountain village in Lebanon, and knew firsthand how hard it was for the poor to get good health care. He was one of 12 kids, and only three of them survived infancy. The only medical care that the village received was the occasional visit from a Beirut doctor. Shadid was inspired to get medical training himself. He went to New York when he was 16, working as a peddler to save money for his education. Ten years later, after earning his medical degree at Washington University in Saint Louis, Shadid settled in Elk City, Oklahoma.

As medical technology advanced, the cost of medical care rose, and few people felt the hardship more than Oklahoma farmers. “There must exist some unknown germ, some filterable virus unknown to man, that bites certain persons in this world and turns them into reformers,” Shadid later wrote. “I’m willing to admit that I must have been bitten early and hard.” Using as his model the established Oklahoma tradition of farm cooperatives, Shadid envisioned a cooperative hospital that would be supported by the farmers’ annual membership fees. Doctors would be paid a salary out of those fees, and in return they would provide basic preventive care that poor farmers were not usually able to afford. But other local doctors were worried about losing their business. They wrote in to the newspapers accusing Shadid of fraud, and calling him a foreigner who was trying to tell Americans how to manage their health care system, even though by now he’d been in the country for 30 years. He almost lost his medical license for the unethical solicitation of patients. Doctors were reluctant to work for the Community Hospital if it meant defying the medical establishment. But the farmers who relied on the hospital rallied behind Shadid. “We think more of the few dollars invested in the Community Hospital than any investment we have ever made,” said one farmer. “I think this bunch fighting [Shadid] should be sat down so hard it would jar their ancestors for four generations.”

It’s the birthday of the first man ever to print a book in English, William Caxton, born in Kent, England (1422). He was a wealthy trader and merchant, and also a part-time linguist and translator. He was living in Cologne, Germany, when he translated a book about the history of Troy.

The printing press had been invented about 25 years earlier, but it had only recently started to spread beyond Germany. Caxton realized that the new technology of printing would make the job of distributing his book a lot easier. So instead of copying the book by hand, he printed The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye in 1475.

He eventually went back to England, where he established the first English printing press. He printed all the available English literature, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (c. 1478). For a long time, people in England called printed books Caxtons.

It’s the birthday of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Mosey in Woodland, Ohio (1860). She was born in a log cabin and grew up in poverty; after her father froze to death in a blizzard, her mother was unable to provide for her and sent her to the county poor farm. From there, Annie was sent to the home of a cruel family who abused her and made her work in terrible conditions — she called them “the wolves.” She ended up back with her mother, and supported the family by hunting.

She was such a good shot that in 1875, at the age of 15, she entered a shooting contest and won, beating a well-known marksman named Frank Butler. Butler ended up marrying Annie and making her part of his touring act. When Buffalo Bill Cody’s famous Wild West Show needed a new performer, Oakley volunteered to audition, and she became the star of the show.

Annie Oakley could shoot the wick off a burning candle or the ashes off the tip of her husband’s cigarette. At 90 feet away, she could hit the thin side of a playing card that someone tossed in the air and then hit it six more times before it fell to the floor. One of her fans was Sitting Bull, the chief who had defeated General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. After seeing one of her performances, he was so impressed that he offered to pay for a photograph of the two of them together.

And it’s the birthday of director Alfred Hitchcock, born in London (1899). His father was a greengrocer — and a strict man. Once, when the five-year-old Alfred misbehaved, his father sent him to the police station and they locked him in a cell for a few minutes to teach him a lesson. Hitchcock was so terrified that he was afraid of the police for the rest of his life, and he rarely drove a car so that he could not be pulled over. Hitchcock directed great suspense and horror films, including Rebecca (1940), Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963).

He said: “A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission, and the babysitter were worth it.”

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