Thursday: Hili dialogue

It’s Thursday, January 19, 2017; posting will be light today as I have a piece of journalism to do, so bear with me. It’s National Popcorn Day, a comestible that I find an adequate substitute for dinner when I just can’t face cooking. It’s also the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe (1809, died 1849), marked by the Poe Toaster at his grave in Baltimore. What is the Poe Toaster? Here’s Wikipedia’s story:

Poe Toaster is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified person (or more probably two persons in succession, possibly father and son) who, for over seven decades, paid an annual tribute to American author Edgar Allan Poe by visiting the cenotaph marking his original grave in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early hours of January 19, Poe’s birthday. The shadowy figure, dressed in black with a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf, would pour himself a glass of cognac and raise a toast to Poe’s memory, then vanish into the night, leaving three roses in a distinctive arrangement and the unfinished bottle of cognac. Onlookers gathered annually in hopes of glimpsing the elusive Toaster, who did not seek publicity and was rarely seen or photographed.

According to eyewitness reports and notes accompanying offerings in later years, the original Toaster made the annual visitation from sometime in the 1930s (though no report appeared in print until 1950) until his death in 1998, after which the tradition was passed to “a son”.Controversial statements were made in some notes left by the post-1998 Toaster, and in 2006 an unsuccessful attempt was made by several onlookers to detain and identify him. In 2010 there was no visit by the Toaster, nor has he appeared any year since, signaling an end to the 75-year tradition.


On this day in 1853, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore had its first performance in Rome, and exactly 100 years later over 70% of all American television sets were tuned into I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth to Little Ricky. On January 19, 1978, the last VW Beetle was made in Germany (they’re still made elsewhere). I never had one, but I much admired them and rode in many.

Notable people born on this day include, besides Edgar Allan Poe, James Watt (1736), Robert E. Lee (1807), Paul Cézanne (1839), Lester Flatt (1914), Phil Everly (1939), Janis Joplin (1943), Dolly Parton (1946) and Cindy Sherman (1954). Those who died on this day include Thomas Hart Benton (1975), James Dickey (1997), Hedy Lamarr (2000), Wilson Pickett (2006) and Stan Musial (2013; one of my baseball heroes and a great guy; I watched him play once). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is affronted at not having a proper place to sleep:

Hili: This is an imitation
A: What of?
Hili: A proper cardboard box.
In Polish:
Hili: To jest imitacja.
Ja: Czego?
Hili: Porządnego kartonu.


  1. eric
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Kind of a shame they couldn’t just let the Poe Toaster go about his/her business. I’m curious as to their identity too, but it seems a sort of ‘cut off your nose to spite your face’ gesture to try to satisfy that curiosity in a way that forces them to stop or prevents them from doing the toast.

    For that reason, I’d like to think the (“son”) person is still doing the cognac toast, albeit either at home or maybe in the graveyard but on a different night.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      There are times to set aside scientific curiosity and just watch the sunset.

  2. Art
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Bought a brand new 1970 VW bug when I got out of the service. Best car I ever owned. Wish I still had it. Not the safest car in the world, but dependable and fun to drive. Good snow car, except for the heater.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      A nice thing about the old bug was, it was so easy to fix. I had a copy of “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot” which had wonderful drawings of every single part and procedure. I was unafraid to drop and replace the front axle, tune the engine, repair the exhaust, just about anything. A friend of mine was even more ambitious. He pulled the engine which swung on a rope over a tree branch. He overhauled the cylinders, and he was a humanities guy.

  3. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Il Trovatore is the opera being prepped and performed in all the backstage scenes in the Marx Brother’s “A Night at the Opera” (an ironic choice given the dark surprise twist that occurs 30 seconds before the curtain falls).

    It was inevitable, but the Poe toaster gave rise to the following piece of satirical art.

    • Posted January 20, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I see I am not the only one who thought of the other meaning of toaster!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 20, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Better to be a “Poe toaster” than a “poetaster,” I always say (though there are those critics who claim Poe himself was the latter).

  4. Janet
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Popcorn for dinner, yes. A man after my own heart.

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