February 2010


Today, February 22, is George Washington’s actual birthday, not to be confused with Presidents Day, celebrated last week across retail land as Presidents’ Day or President’s Day. Nothing honors the father of a country like inconsistent apostrophization followed by the word “sale.”

Every year on this date I lament all over again that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are now forced to share a holiday, not only with each other but with every Tom (Jefferson), Dick (Nixon) and Harry (Truman) who ever became president of the U.S.

Among my vivid childhood memories is sitting in an overheated classroom, crafting silhouette portraits of George out of construction paper. Some years we went upscale, fashioning him a wig out of cotton balls.

Now we have this generic Presidents Day holiday that floats across the calendar, landing anywhere from February 15 to  February 21, celebrating, bet your wooden teeth, that “all you presidents are winners!”

So by George, here’s George, here’s to George — and only George.

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Lurking outside the O. Henry House in San Antonio. Apparently I lurk a lot.

Here I am hanging outside the O. Henry House in San Antonio, Texas.

William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry, lived and wrote in this house in the mid-1880s.

While O. Henry did not create the Oh Henry candy bar, he did coin the term “banana republic.” It was more or less accidental, in the way any experience that occurs after fleeing to Honduras to avoid prosecution for embezzlement is accidental. Who hasn’t been there? In an accident, I mean. I’ve never been to Honduras.

The journal that O. Henry edited was named The Rolling Stone. I don’t know if he ever made the cover.

The photo was taken by my husband, Chris, on a weekend jaunt to San Antonio with our daughter, at the time a student at Rice University in Houston. She’s not in the picture because she doesn’t like posing for family pictures on demand. She does like the clothes at Banana Republic.

William Sydney Porter aka O. Henry

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Movie ad spoiler alert: All the movie goers in the online Twitterish commercial for the movie “When in Rome” loved it and unanimously agree that everybody in the movie is great. Really great. I can tell the movie goers in this ad are sincere because they’re flashing smiles at a voltage that could fire up an electric chair and are gushing about the movie like a water fountain gone berserk.

Blog post detour alert: There was recently a terrific article in The New Yorker about a company called WET which designs those breathtakingly beautiful how-do-they-do-that dancing fountains that make people happy like all the people in movie ads. But I digress. Sorry. Also sorry for juxtaposing references to electric chairs and water fountains. Safety first in this blog.

Visual: Me dragging myself back to the point at hand. Uff da. I know what you’re thinking. Movie companies only use clips of people who can get all gushy about the movie so that people who see the ad will think that seeing this movie will be a life-enhancing experience and make them as happy as if they’d just seen the design and engineering marvel of a breathtakingly beautiful water fountain. Would you stop with the cynicism already? I won’t have it.

And by the way, everybody is great in the ad saying the movie is great. Really great.