Member Rara Avis
When I turned fifty in early 2000, I decided to write a poem tentatively called Timeline, which would juxtapose world events with some of the more influential events in my personal life. The world events, like the personal ones, were chosen both because I thought they were significant and, after about 1960, because they were the ones I best remembered.
I never finished the too-ambitious poem, but I still have my early notes on disk.
(1950) - The Korean War, William Faulkner wins Nobel Prize, color television licenced
(1951) – UNIVAC computer unveiled, first color TV broadcast, first Atomic power produced
A year old, I epitomize my first and greatest love with the word “Mama.”
I spoke my first word in 1951,
the same year the UNIVAC computer was unvieled
and the first color TV show was broadcast.
A mere infant, one year old,
I knew nothing yet of rhyme or poetry.
But the word I spoke, that simple sound,
epitomized my first and greatest love.
As the first Atomic power was produced,
a tiny baby cried for his “mama.”
(1952) - Ernest Hemingway published “Old Man and the Sea”
(1953) - Korean Armistice signed
(1954) – Hemingway gets Nobel prize for literature, polio vaccine introduced by Jonas Salk
My earliest memory comes when I was only four.
I didn’t know Hemingway won the Nobel prize that year,
or Jonas Salk introduced his polio vaccine.
I only knew, instead,
the first real joy of my life,
a joy that has been equaled
only once or twice.
As the Korean War was ended,
I was learning how to read.
(1955) - First filmed Presidential press conference, Davy Crockett fad, Rock and Roll bursts on the scene
(1956) - Elvis Presley appears on Ed Sullivan, Nobel prize in physics for transistor, Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier, last Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey show under canvas
Karen Bigelo captured my heart, and childhood nursery rhymes are replaced with “Ronnie and Karen sitting in a tree…”
I was six when Karen Bigelo captured my young heart.
While the rest of the world watched Elvis Presly on Ed Sullivan,
and celebrated the wedding of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier,
I discovered that little boys are not the same
as little girls,
and love can emcompass more
than just a family.
(1957) - Russia launches SPUTNIK, first underground nuclear explosion, racial violence in Little Rock, "Beatnik" Jack Kerouac publishes “On the Road”, JFK gets Pulitzer for “Profiles in Courage”, first national videotaped show
Karen Bigelo breaks my heart by liking another boy better than me. Rejection brings not poetry to my lips, but devestated silence.
(1958) - Van Allen Belt discovered, first US Earth Satellite (Explorer I)
(1959) - Alaska and Hawaii become states, “Lady Chatterly's Lover” banned, first seven Astronauts picked, the last Civil War veteran dies (Walter Williams).
I was nine when I wrote my first real poem.
Alaska and Hawaii became the final two states,
and seven men were picked as the first US astronauts.
I didn’t write of love,
not after Karen broke my heart,
but rather of lost boys and hidden lands
and heroes that could fly.
While the country was banning Lady Chatterly’s Lover,
I was writing of Peter Pan.
(1960) - John F. Kennedy defeats Richard Nixon for the presidency, Charles Van Doren arrested for cheating in quiz show, first weather satellite launched
(1961) - US breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba, Berlin Wall constructed, Bay of Pigs Affair, civil defense and fallout shelters, Ernest Hemingway dies, Peace Corps announced, Project Mercury puts a chimpanzee and Alan Shepard into space, James Hoffa elected President of Teamsters
When I was eleven, the local newspaper first published my simple words.
Between stories of a great Wall being built in Berlin
and something strangely called the Bay of Pigs,
there appeared a very tiny picture
and a story by a boy,
of how the days of the week
came to be named.
I didn’t know Hemingway died,
even as my love of writing was being born.
(1962) - Eleanor Roosevelt dies, Marilyn Monroe dies, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter orbit earth, the "twist" become popular
(1963) - Martin Luther King, Jr. makes "I have a dream" speech during Freedom March on Washington, JFK Assassination, "hot line" instituted between Washington and Moscow
The year I became a teenager, a whole country learning the meaning of angst.
The President was shot, killed, dead, leaving behind a widow, two children,
and a nation that would forever mourn its lost shot at Camelot.
I remember sitting in the school gymnasium,
my knees hurting from hard wood floors,
the tears flowing down my cheeks and
echoed on every one of three hundred other faces.
That year, a black man had the courage to say, “I have a dream.”
Even as a white boy learned that sometimes dreams can die.
I become a teenager, and though I don’t know the word “angst” yet, my poetry is livid with it.
(1964) - The Civil Rights Act of 1964, "watusi" and "frug" danced in Discotheques, Beatles arrive in America, The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution leads to Vietnam War
My first true love, Brigitte Maria – a virginal princess that will shape my view of women for 30 years – and write my first love poem.
At 14, I discovered my True Love, a first-generation Dutch girl named Bridget “Kita” Maria.
The twist was two years old, dead, replaced by the watusi and frug,
as four long-haired Brits, calling themselves Beatles, arrived in America.
Kita had long brown hair, freckles, no chest,
and was a mythic virginal princess
that would shape my view of women
for the next thirty years.
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that year would soon lead to the Vietnam War,
but I was busy learning to write poems of love.
(1965) - Malcom X assassinated, Watts riots, troops increased in Vietnam and anti-war protests increase, bell-bottom trousers and long haired boys
Was I really only 15 when Bridget said goodbye?
Malcom X was assassinated, the great Watts riots blazed both figuratively and literally,
and increased troops in Vietnam spurred increased anti-war protests.
Our romance lasted a year,
encompassed a single hesitant kiss,
and built a friendship that would last
long after we both married others.
Like other teens, I wore bell-bottom trousers and shoulder-length hair,
as my poetry mourned the loss of love.
After Brigitte (a romance that encompassed a single kiss and a friendship that would last another five years), I discover girls with a vengence. Debbie, Linda, Jan (oh, Jan!), Mary Anne, Theresa, Connie…
(1966) - Escalation in Vietnam, Walt Disney dies, mini-skirts, Timothy Leary's LSD ushers in drug use
I discover the secret to popularity – only to be tricked into “going steady” with Diana. Life is so cruel! But little red-haired Diana soon introduces me to Sharon – and my life will never be the same again.
Sweet 16 saw ...
(1967) - Vietnam war continues to escalate, worst race riots ever, three astronauts killed in Apollo launch pad fire
I lose my virginity, find myself married, and quit school. My first job, my first apartment.
(1968) - Tet offensive launched, Martin Luther King assassinated, Robert Kennedy assassinated, Richard Nixon defeats Humphrey and George Wallace for Presidency, student unrest,
My daughter is born in February. By November my wife has left me for the first time.
(1969) - Edward Kennedy involved at Chappaquiddick, My Lai massacre, Charles Manson's cult murders Sharon Tate, Woodstock.
My marriage shattered, in danger of being drafted, I join the Marines. And discover death.
(1970) - Nixon launches "incursion" into Cambodia, students killed in shootings at Kent State, voting age at 18
(1971) - war protests continue with the Mayday march, school busing for racial desegregation ruled constitutional, Amtrak and the US Postal Service formed, Apollo 14 lands on the moon
Home on leave, I spend some time with my daughter. And, inadvertently, with my wife.
The Vietnam war all but over, I get an early out and return home. A lurid, passionate romance with Carol is ended when I meet Sharon again – and discover she is pregnant. Becky is born soon after.
(1972) - Senate passes SALT treaty and Equal Rights Amendment, George Wallace shot, Haiphong harbor mined
I return to school, quickly followed by my first college courses. I rediscover poetry. I attend classes early mornings, sleep in the afternoon, watch the kids while Sharon works in the evening, then put in 60 hours a week on the graveyard shift.
(1973) - The Watergate scandal explodes, Vietnam peace accords signed, Roe vs. Wade abortion decision,
Americans seek nostalgia with movies like "American Graffiti" and TV show "The Waltons", O.J. Simpson sets NFL rushing record, Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs
(1974) -Impeachment proceedings against Nixon, Nixon resigns, Patricia Hearst and SLO rob bank
(1975) - James Hoffa disappears, school bussing for racial balance begins, Karen Ann Quinlin taken off respirator, Patty Hearst captured.
Annette in 1975 ...
(1976) - The U.S. Bicentennial celebrated, Jimmy Carter defeats President Ford to become President, Alex Haley's “Roots” published, Concorde initiates first supersonic commercial flight, Detroit stops building convertibles.
(1977) - President Carter pardons Vietnam draft resisters, movie “Star Wars” released, the "King" Elvis Presley dies, Space Shuttle Enterprise makes 1st free flight
(1978) - Jim Jones and followers die in Guyana
(1979) - Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the "Duke" John Wayne dies, Iran takes American hostages, federal bailout of Chrysler
(1980) - Soviets invade Afghanistan, aborted Iranian hostage rescue mission, eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington state, Ronald Reagan elected president, "Who Shot J.R." episode airs, John Lennon shot and killed
(1981) - Iranian hostage crisis ends as President Reagan assumes office, MTV videos, IBM introduces the personal computer
(1982) - seven die from cyanide laced Tylenol capsules, first space shuttle flight, first artificial heart
(1983) - US invades Grenada, cable TV and video tape players take off, final episode of M*A*S*H, the Cabbage Patch Doll, holiday named for Martin Luther King Jr.
(1984) - US Marines withdraw from Lebanon, Ronald Reagan reelected, AIDS virus identified, first planet detected outside this solar system
(1985) - Reagan imposes sanctions on South Africa for apartheid, the Titanic is located, Rock Hudson dies of AIDS, Christa McAuliffe chosen to be first teacher on a space shuttle mission, Coke backtracks and retains Coca-Cola classic
(1986) - The Challenger Accident, Iran-Contra affair exposed, Robert Penn Warren becomes official Poet Laureate of US, Congress names Rose the US flower, genetic engineered organisms, Hand Across America
(1987) - musical Les Miserables arrives from England, Rev. Jimmy Baker is resigns his ministry in shame, the worst stock crash in history of the Wall Street
(1988) - George Bush is elected President, "Phantom of the Opera" leads comeback of Broadway
Theater, FAX machines take off, Tele-evangelist Jimmy Swaggart follows the lead of Jimmy Bakker and is caught up in moral scandal, Hyper-markets like Wal-mart and K-mart become the rage.
(1989) - Cold War ends, Supreme Court OKs Flag burning, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Batman follows
Superman to the Big Screen
(1990) - Iraq invades Kuwait and President Bush sends troops to the Persian Gulf, President "Read My Lips, No New Taxes" Bush raises taxes, "Rap" music is condemned in Florida by Tipper Gore
(1991) - Operation Desert Storm, four LA police accused of beating black motorist Rodney King, mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer confesses, basketball star Ervin "Magic" Johnson announces he is HIV positive
(1992) - William Clinton is elected President, Johnny Carson retires, Dan Quayle takes on "Murphy Brown", boxer Mike Tyson convicted of rape.
(1993) - Terrorist bombing of New York City's World Trade Center, "don't ask, don't tell" policy for homosexuals in the US military, home computers and the "internet" take off
(1994) - O. J. Simpson accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole, Susan Smith drowns her own children and blames a fictional black carjacker, Michael Jackson marries Lisa Marie Presley, Jeffrey Dahmer is murdered in prison, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dies.
(1995) - O. J. Simpson Trial, Oklahoma City bombing
(1996) - Ted Kaczynski arrested as the Unabomber, 7 year old Jessica Dubroff dies in attempt to set a age record for flying cross-country, Clinton's Whitewater scandal and the OJ Simpson legal battles continue, William Clinton re-elected
(1997) - America mourns the loss of Princess Diana and Mother Theresa, El Nino, the birth of Dolly the
cloned sheep, NASAs Pathfinder explores Mars and sends back incredible photos, Grandmaster Gary Kasparov lost a chess match to a computer
(1998) - President Clinton's affair with Whitehouse intern Monica Lewinski is exposed, El Nino continues its destructive ways as fierce weather wreaks havoc in many places including Central America and China, Asian economies falter, John Glenn returns to space onboard the Shuttle Discovery, even as crime continues to drop nationwide several student shootings occur at schools around the countryavailability of the impotence drug Viagra raises the hopes of millions