Blogging, Sandburg

No. 500

A Milestone…Yea, Right…

This is my 500th blog posting since starting The Johnson Post in July 2009. It’s been fun and educational and has kept me, more or less, from incessant barking. 

Thanks for reading and here’s hoping you’ll indulge me a brief look back over my blogging shoulder.

What I’ve learned through 500 posts:

Number One is the power of this still wondrous Al Gore invention – the Internet. I know, I know, Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet; he just played the inventor in a presidential campaign. Seriously, the power and reach of the Internet – for good or bad, or both – really came hope to me when I posted a piece from Buenos Aires in 2010 where I attempted a somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on the never ending controversy between Argentina and Great Britain over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

Early the next day my e-mail inbox was smoldering with a testy response from a fellow in not so jolly old England who took me squarely to task for suggesting that the windswept Malvinas, as the Argentines call the Falklands, are just not worth the trouble. To say that he thought I was misinformed would be a very nice way of putting it. How he found my musings I can only guess, but I certainly got his attention.

I’ve also learned that many readers are generous with praise and encouragement, elements that are as vital as oxygen to any writer. Everyone, I’ve also learned over and over, needs an editor. Mine have been kind and helpful – and necessary. Thanks.

Mostly I’ve learned that writing is necessary, fulfilling and affirming. Some people need to sing – not my niche – others need to run or read or listen to music. I need to write. If you have the itch to write, I highly recommend that you scratch. Your outlet need not be a blog, but might be a journal or long letters to friends and relatives. We need more letters and writers, so open that laptop.

I have many thanks to extend on crossing over this personal blogging milestone. To those who read these thoughts daily or take the time to catch up once in a while – a big thank you. One starts such an endeavor not knowing if anyone will notice much less care. To those who have stuck with The Post – thanks and thanks some more.

Thanks as well to friends who circulate the posts when they deem them worthy. The serial blogger Dave Oliveria at his Huckleberries Online blog has been particularly generous in helping enlarge my audience.

Thanks to my professional colleagues, as well, for both encouraging and tolerating my wandering into the blogging weeds. Some of them even read from the weeds, which is also nice. For this political, baseball, history, book and movie junkie, the chance to offer opinions and observations on all those subjects and actually have some loyal readers is, well, just a whole lot of fun.

Writing The Johnson Post has been fun – really fun. I feel like I’m just getting started. Thanks for reading.


Cars, Cities, Civil Liberties, Fashion, Poetry, Sandburg

The Poetry of Cities

sandburgCarl Sandburg and Downtowns

It is the birthday of the poet and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg born January 6, 1878 in Galesburg, Illinois.

Twice winner of the Pulitzer – The War Years about Lincoln’s presidency won the award in 1940 and his Complete Poems won in 1951 – Sandburg is often dismissed today as too much the sentimentalist. Perhaps that is why I like him very much.

I thought of Sandburg’s poems about Chicago and Omaha and other cities this morning while absorbing the news that downtown economic mainstays – big Macy’s department stores – in Missoula and Boise are soon to close. As Idaho Statesman reporter Tim Woodward noted, the Boise store was a fixture in the heart of Idaho’s Capitol City for decades; a meeting place, a lunchtime destination. Such icons are hard – impossible perhaps – to replace.

Boise once had five downtown department stores. Now it will have none. Boise and Missoula are still among the most attractive downtowns in the west, but big, old time department stores are magnets for people and help support other small merchants and one hates to see them close and you wonder what can possibly fill the void.

But, back to Sandburg.

The editor of a recent collection of Sandburg’s poetry, Paul Berman, told NPR a while back that the writer was inspired by cities: “His genius, his inspiration in [the Chicago] poem and some others, was to look around the streets, at the billboards and the advertising slogans, and see in those things a language,” Berman says. “And he was able to figure out that this language itself contained poetry.”

There is poetry in great cities and, yes, a yearning for the variety and uniqueness of downtowns where people gather, things happen and the look and culture is much different – and vastly more interesting – than a strip mall or suburban shopping destination surrounded by acres of parking.

In one of my favorite Sandburg poems – Limited – the narrator is headed to a city, or at least a final destination.

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
of the nation.

Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.

(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
pass to ashes.)

I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
answers: “Omaha.”

Read some Sandburg. This is a great site to sample some of his enduring work.