Saturday, September 3, 2022

Bummer Summer Part II: Awful Things That Happened in September

Content Warning: Accidents, natural disasters, death, guns, mass death.

This is a second sneak peek at a very tentative, very early-stage work in progress I call Erin O’Riordan’s Almanac of Bad Days. Part I dropped on August 3, 2022

September 1, 2019: Spanish dancer Joana Sainz Garcia is killed while performing during a music festival when a pyrotechnics display malfunctions. A faulty cartridge strikes the 30-year-old in the abdomen.

September 2, 1900: A tropical hurricane formed over the Atlantic Ocean makes landfall in the Dominican Republic. This storm is among the deadliest in U.S. history, with a large number of fatalities coming from Galveston, Texas. Meteorologists of the time, and in particular Isaac Cline, didn’t believe that a significant hurricane was possible in Galveston, and so rejected requests from the townspeople that the city should build a sea wall. As many as 8,000 people in the Caribbean, the U.S., and the Maritime Provinces of Canada are thought to have lost their lives in this storm, including Cline’s wife and some of his children.

September 3, 1991: Fire breaks out inside the Imperial Food Products chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. Some workers are unable to escape due to locked doors, including one door labeled as a fire exit. The building had no sprinkler system or fire alarm. Of the 90 workers in the plant at the time of the fire, 25 died and an additional 54 were injured. Plant owner Emmett Roe pleads guilty to manslaughter and serves nearly four years in prison. 

September 4, 2006: Wildlife expert, zookeeper, and filmmaker Steve Irwin is filming a dive in shallow water near the Great Barrier Reef. He is struck in the chest by a stingray’s tale. The barb of the tale pierces his heart, killing him.

September 5, 1983: Canadian stunt performer Ken Carter is killed when the rocket car he’s using to jump over an Ontario pond overshoots the landing ramp, flips, and lands on its roof. 

September 6, 1951: Joan Vollmer is shot and killed in an American-owned bar in Mexico City by her husband, William S. Burroughs. Both were intoxicated. Vollmer is alleged to have placed a glass on top of her head, and Burroughs was supposedly trying to shoot the glass off her head with a pistol. Instead he shot Vollmer in the head and killed her instantly.

This is portrayed in the film Beat (2000). Vollmer is played by Courtney Love and Burroughs by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland

Courtney Love attending Life Ball in Vienna, Austria, May 31, 2014. Public domain image.

September 7, 2018: Rapper Mac Miller, aged 26, dies of an overdose of alcohol, cocaine, and fentanyl. 

September 11, 1987: Reggae artist Peter Tosh and two friends are shot and killed when Tosh’s home is invaded by a street gang demanding money.

September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a third target are attacked by commercial jets hijacked by terrorists. Nearly 3,000 people are killed.

September 13, 1996: Rapper and actor Tupac Shakur dies from gunshot wounds in Las Vegas.

September 14, 1899: Real estate developer Henry H. Bliss becomes the first person killed in the U.S. from a motor vehicle collision. The previous day, he had stepped off a trolley car and been struck by an electric taxi cab, knocking him to the ground and crushing his chest. 

September 14, 1927: Dancer Isadora Duncan is killed in Nice, France, when her scarf becomes entangled in the open-spoked wheel and axle of the car she’s riding in, breaking her neck.

September 16, 1977: T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan, who never learned to drive, is the passenger in a Mini 1275GT automobile when it crashes into a fence post and then a tree, killing Bolan instantly.

September 16, 1985: Aerobatic pilot Arthur “Art” Scholl crashes his plane and is killed while filming spin footage for the movie Top Gun. He crashes into the Pacific Ocean; his aircraft is never recovered.

September 18, 1970: 27-year-old Jimi Hendrix dies of asphyxiation at St. Mary Abbots Hospital in London. He appears to have aspirated vomit after taking an overdose of barbiturates, presumably his girlfriend’s sleeping pills.

September 19, 1902: One hundred fifteen members of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, are killed in a stampede after one of them called out “Fight!” and this was misheard as “Fire!” 

September 20, 1997: Musician Nick Traina, the son of author Danielle Steele, passes away from an overdose of the prescription medication lithium. He is 19 years old.

Link80fan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

September 22, 1978: Stunt performer A.J. Bakunas dies from his injuries after a failed stunt fall from Lexington, Kentucky’s Kincaid Towers the previous day. Bakunas lands on the air bag as planned, which splits, allowing his body to hit the ground at approximately 115 miles per hour.

September 27, 1986: Metallica bassist Clifford (Cliff) Burton dies in a tour bus accident in Sweden. The bus skids off the road while members of the band are sleeping in their bunks. Burton is thrown out of his bunk and through the window; the bus falls on top of him. 

September 30, 1997: Post-modern writer Kathy Acker, age 50, dies of breast cancer while undergoing alternative treatment in Tijuana, Mexico.

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Friday, September 2, 2022

Flashback: The Cleveland Museum of Art

Sunday, September 2, 2001, Cleveland: We visited the Cleveland Museum of Art. Its main exhibit was of Japanese painted screens. These were somewhat interesting, but I didn’t deeply connect with these centuries-old images of nature and of scenes from samurai novels. I enjoyed the hall of Asian sculpture more, with its life-sized Hanuman, Buddhas, Krishnas, and Durgas. 

Among the European medieval artworks I particularly enjoyed a sculpture of St. Sebastian. European arts led into French furniture, but I had little appreciation for these French arts. We took lunch in the museum’s cafeteria. We ate in the courtyard, which had a bubbling fountain, sculpture, and nice shaded tables. 

After lunch we saw a more enjoyable part of the museum’s collection, the ancient Egyptian art and the 20th century art, which included a Dali and a Jackson Pollock. The museum also had multiple Blue Period Picassos. The Egyptian collection wasn’t huge, but it was very cool. It had a fantastic bust of the lion-headed goddess who personifies the heat of the desert sun, Sekhmet. 

For dinner we put on the best clothes we’d brought with us and went to the Ritz Carlton. The sushi chef made us California rolls with flying fish roe plus salmon, squid, tuna, and octopus sashimi. The second course was fresh asparagus. For my entree I had red snapper served over tomatoes and potatoes. The fish was so meaty it almost had the texture of chicken. As an after-dinner treat, the chef presented us with a bowl of fluffy pink cotton candy. 

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Thursday, September 1, 2022

September 1: Walden and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


Sep*tem"ber, n. Etym: [L., fr. septem seven, as being the seventh month of the Roman year, which began with March: cf. F. septembre. See Seven.]

Defn: The ninth month of the year, containing thirty days.


Sep*tem"brist, n. Etym: [F. septembriste.]

Defn: An agent in the massacres in Paris, committed in patriotic frenzy, on the 22d of September, 1792.

September 1, 1846: “Already, by the first of September, I had seen two or three small maples turned scarlet across the pond, beneath where the white stems of three aspens diverged, at the point of a promontory, next the water. Ah, many a tale their color told! And gradually from week to week the character of each tree came out, and it admired itself reflected in the smooth mirror of the lake. Each morning the manager of this gallery substituted some new picture, distinguished by more brilliant or harmonious coloring, for the old upon the walls.” 

- Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, September 1, 2001: We left the house at precisely 8 a.m., driving east along the I-90/I-80 toll road. We stopped twice, once for breakfast at Hardee’s and again to stretch our legs and get hot beverages from Starbuck’s. We arrived in Cleveland around noon. 

We walked from our downtown Holiday Inn hotel to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From the ceiling hung the cars that U2 used as stage props during the Zooropa tour. On the lower level we saw a Jimi Hendrix exhibit; I was most interested in his drawings and the handwritten lyrics to his songs. We perused the collection of stage and album cover outfits worn by everyone from Dave Matthews to Madonna, including Madonna’s wedding dress from her “Like a Virgin” video. We saw Jim Morrison’s baby book (donated by his parents) and the not-terribly-impressive art of the lost Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe. 

On the second floor we saw recording equipment from Sun Records, an exhibit about disc jockeys, and the covers of Rolling Stone and other music magazines. The largest exhibit was about John Lennon. Many of its photos and artifacts were on loan from Yoko Ono, so not much came from the Beatles years. Instead we saw pictures of John as a schoolboy, a few report cards, pictures of his teachers, and his drawings of make-believe characters. A cute set of photos showed John, Yoko, and their little son Sean on vacation in Japan. 

Particularly interesting was a set of collages John made from magazine clippings. He gave them to friends, including Ringo Starr and George Harrison, for their birthdays. Another portrayed various cute, naked men and was a birthday card John made for Elton John. 

On a much sadder note, the exhibit included the paper bag containing John’s clothes that the coroner gave Yoko after John’s murder. The museum even displayed the blood-stained glasses he’d been wearing when he died. 

Another fascinating object was a white telephone which, supposedly, Yoko will occasionally call. How I hoped she would call! I would have told her how I admired her when I read her introduction to She’s a Rebel by Gillian G. Gaar. The phone did not ring. 

After the Hall of Fame we walked along Lake Erie, taking in a beautiful pink sunset.

Saturday, September 1, 2007: Mom and I went to Plymouth, Indiana, for the annual Blueberry Festival, as I wrote about previously on this blog.

September 1, 2019, Indianapolis: We went to Greenwood Park Mall, where we had lunch at TGI Friday’s. Afterward we stopped at Home Depot. Tit wore his Slaughterhouse-Five t-shirt from Out of Print. The cashier told us about the years he spent volunteering at the Kurt Vonnegut Library and Museum and the one time he met Kurt Vonnegut. The cashier told Vonnegut, “You remind me of one of my drunk old uncles,” to which Vonnegut is said to have replied, “Could be.”

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Saturday, August 6, 2022

Happy 50th Birthday, Geri Halliwell!

August 6, 1972: Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell (now known as Geri Horner) is born. Happy birthday, luv!

Find Geri's memoir on Goodreads

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Bummer Summer Part I: Awful Things That Happened in August

Content Warning: Accidents, natural disasters, death, child death, mass death.

As I mentioned back in June, I've been working on a time-based project. A sort of almanac, if you will. That project was well underway as I sat in the Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie the other day, watching Jordan Peele's Nope

I'm not going to spoil anything major about the movie, but here's a minor spoiler that occurs in the first few minutes: Weird things fall out of the sky. 

This reminded me of a particular genre of reading I enjoyed as a young adult: Collections of short, weird, allegedly true paranormal happenings. These books would collect ghost stories beside tales of strange happenings like alleged cases of spontaneous human combustion, reincarnation, and rains of weird things such as frogs

It occurred to me that part of Jordan Peele's writing process was collecting bits of news, little ripples of anxiety that run through our American culture, and weaving them together into a story. This reminded me of my almanac project, which isn't specifically focused on cultural anxieties or weird happenings, but does mention some of them incidentally. For example, I was alive on September 11, 2001, and I've written about it; some of that writing made its way into my first almanac draft/work-in-progress.

I don't want the entire almanac to be a bummer. But this gave me an idea: What if I wrote a separate document, a companion almanac, a slimmer volume that was focused on the bummer parts of history and American culture?

This is the first little peek at what I'm tentatively--very tentatively--calling Erin O’Riordan’s Almanac of Bad Days. I'm me, so it's still a bit literary-focused.

August 2, 1973: Approximately 50 people are killed when the Summerland indoor amusement park catches fire. The building’s ceiling is constructed using a transparent acrylic material, which melts, raining burning-hot liquid acrylic down on the victims of the fire.

August 2, 1997: William S. Burroughs dies, having had a heart attack the previous day.

August 7, 2016: 10-year-old son Caleb Schwab is killed while riding the Verrückt water raft ride at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The tallest such ride in the world at the time, the ride had a screen over the top, held in place with a series of metal support rings, to keep guests from accidentally flying off the ride in the event that the raft should become airborn. Caleb, who was riding on the front of a raft with two unrelated women riding on the back, struck the metal support ring and was decapitated when his raft became airborne. 

August 10, 1978: Three teenage girls, all members of the Ulrich family, are killed in an automobile accident while riding in a Ford Pinto. The state of Indiana charges the Ford Motor Company with homicide, claiming that the company was aware of manufacturing defects that made the vehicle more likely to cause death in the event of certain types of accidents. Ford is found not guilty.

August 12, 1964: Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels and of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, dies.

August 12, 1982: Japan Airlines Flight 123 crashes into a mountain after the pilots lose the ability to steer the plane. Of the 509 passengers and 15 crew members, only three passengers and one crew member survive. Rescue operations are delayed due to darkness and mountainous terrain, which means many people who may have initially had non-fatal injuries died of exposure, blood loss, and other conditions. 

August 13, 1521: Hernán Cortés and his small army of Spanish conquistadores conquer the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán after an extended siege that began in 1519. 

August 13, 1944: Lucien Carr, friend of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, stabs and kills his acquaintance David Kammerer. Carr will serve two years in prison for manslaughter, then go on to father children who include novelist Caleb Carr

August 17, 1966: English race car driver Ken Miles is killed when the Ford Mk IV he is test-driving crashes at over 200 miles per hour.

August 21, 1986: A naturally-occurring limnic eruption of Lake Nyos in Cameroon releases poisonous carbon dioxide into the air, killing 1,746 people. 

August 25, 1984: Truman Capote dies of liver disease.

August 26, 2001: Tit and I got out of bed this morning and turned on the news to hear that the singer/dancer/actor Aaliyah had perished in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Born in 1979, she was only 22 years old.

August 27, 1883: Mount Krakatau (Anglicized as Krakatoa), which had begun to erupt on the 20th of May, intensifies in seismic activity with an eruption that destroys more than two-thirds of its island. The eruption is one of the loudest sounds ever heard by human ears, with the explosion being heard 4,800 miles away from the Indonesian site of the volcano. Pyroclastic flows, ash expelled into the atmosphere, and resulting tsunamis are estimated to have killed more than 36,400 people. Only the 1815 Mount Tambora explosion is thought to have been deadlier.

August 28, 2020: 43-year-old actor Chadwick Boseman passes away from colon cancer.

Monday, August 1, 2022

My Visual Art on Pinterest

Did you know that in addition to writing, I also draw and make old-fashioned, analog collage art? I drew this Little Golden Book in 1998.

The image makes a cute design for a baby onesie.

This old-fashioned, cut-and-paste paper collage, also created in the '90s, decorates the inside of one of my diaries. 

Another cut-and-paste collage from an old diary represents my favorite color.

I drew Madonna (Ciccone) in the style of a Fernando Botero Madonna. 

This collage represents a more traditional Madonna, although with the addition of a few beauty products as a frame. 

I've even designed a few dresses.

Comment with the name of your Pinterest profile so I can see some of your favorite pins.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

July 31: Lammas Eve

July 31, 1994, South Bend. After a visit to Target at which I ordered a Frozen Coke in the café, I saw Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet for the first time. I wrote, “It really is a good story. The actor who played Romeo was seventeen when it was filmed.” I noticed Leonardo DiCaprio but I didn’t know his name yet. 

According to Shakespeare, July 31st or Lammas Eve is Juliet Capulet’s birthday:

Nurse. Even or odd, of all days in the year,

Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.

Susan and she—God rest all Christian souls!—

Were of an age: well, Susan is with God;

She was too good for me: but, as I said,

On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen;

That shall she, marry; I remember it well.

Saturday, July 31, 2010, Mishawaka: Tit and I went to Battell Park for a free, open-air performance of The Taming of the Shrew by Notre Dame’s The Young Company. It was positively delightful. It had been too long since Tit and I had seen live Shakespeare.