Thursday, August 14, 2008

Next, You Drop the Film Canister Into the Cavity

 . . . but keep it sealed tightly, unless you want it covered in sauce. Apparently Julia Child was a spy.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I don't have a green thumb; in fact, I'm pretty sure plants shudder inwardly when they discover I'm tending to them (if they were capable of it, that is). Throughout the past six years, I've waged a losing war against the weeds in my yard, and I don't want to talk about the trees.

However, this changed a bit last year when Darcy convinced me to plant several cherry tomato plants. I watched them grow all summer, and enjoyed fresh tomatoes all summer.

Shortly after we returned from Jamaica, we decided to expand the garden. I tilled out the old garden area and dug out more yard for it, and we planted away. Now we're starting to see some produce, and I was getting excited.

Tomato sauce, sandwiches, tomato soup - they all danced around my head as I checked on the garden every day. I eagerly watched the biggest, juiciest tomato start to ripen the other day, and I was ready to get to the picking.

Until yesterday.

I walked out and checked on the garden, only to see that the big tomato was gone. I found it a few feet away, about a third of it chewed off. Apparently, we have critters.

Actually, I'm not worried about squirrels - they largely left the garden alone last year. I'm more concerned about opossums or raccoons, and I'm not really sure what to do with them. Back in the day, I could have left my -ahem- trusty watchdog to protect my produce, but that's not an option. Poison? Not around the fruit, thanks. Traps? What the hell would I do if we actually caught one? Sitting outside all night with an air rifle and a flashlight? Intriguing, but I might get bored and start shooting at the neighborhood kids while they ride their bikes in the alley, and apparently people frown on that. Plus, Darcy didn't like the idea of me sitting outside all night with a rifle - something about that disturbed her.

That leaves us with one other option - fencing off the garden and seeing if the critters stay out. Hopefully it'll work; otherwise, I'm going to have to start laying mines in the backyard - making lawn mowing that much more difficult.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Awhile back, I read a fascinating account of how, on the night of Martin Luther King's assassination, riots broke out in virtually every US city. Every city except for Indianapolis. That night, in front of a crowd that was largely black - and extremely pissed off - Robert Kennedy gave an impromptu speech that calmed the crowd and helped lock him in the country's imagination forever.

As the train carrying Kennedy's remains traveled across the country, two million people lined the tracks to say goodbye. The last time something like that happened, the train was carrying Lincoln's body.

Thurston Clarke's The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America attempts to explain who Kennedy was in the light of his brief presidential campaign - and how it had such a powerful influence over the United States.

One of the sadder aspects of the book is the specter of death looming over the campaign. Everyone - Kennedy included - expected a hail of bullets at any moment:

"Yes, of course he has the stuff to go all the way," John Lindsay replied. "But he's not going to go all the way. The reason is that somebody is going to shoot him. I know it and you know it. Just as sure as we're sitting here is somebody going to shoot him. He's out there now waiting for him . . . And please God, I don't think we'll have a country after it."

Despite the premonitions and the pall hanging over the campaign, it pressed on, through Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon and California. At campaign stops, Kennedy defied all logic - and advice - and repeatedly told off his audiences. '"To the club members-big, heavy men, most of them well-fleshed and still occupied in shoveling in their lunch - the Senator from New York spoke of children starving, of 'American children, starving in America.' It was reverse demagoguery - he was telling them precisely the opposite of what they wanted to hear,"' wrote Tom Congdon, Jr. of the Saturday Evening Post.

Despite this - crowds were drawn to Kennedy, and Clarke does a fine job evoking the carnival atmosphere at many campaign stops, along with the crowds surging ahead, desperate to see or touch him before he left.

Clarke doesn't waste any time with speculation - something a lot of people might have done. He has no idea what a second Kennedy administration would have been like. Instead, he focuses on what it was that drew people to him - his humanity and sincerity. In an era where politicians talk down to crowds and pander to their worst instincts, Robert Kennedy spoke to their intelligence and better impulses, and he paid the ultimate price for it.

I read a lot of nonfiction - histories and the like, but I can say that so far this year, it's the best history book I've read.