Saturday, June 27, 2020

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger




This is a work of utter goddamn genius, and it deserves a thoughtful, laudatory review. Unfortunately, it will not get one here, because as I write this, there are goddamn bunnies wreaking havoc on my garden! It should come as no surprise to anyone that bunnies are one of the most reviled animals on the planet. Equally destructive and unsightly, these crafty little fuckers are hell bent on ruining my day, which puts them in rather copious company.

I'm afraid I have to take some responsibility here. For a number of years, I have surrounded my garden with three-foot chicken wire, which was pretty effective. But it was getting harder and harder for me to reach over the fence and pull out a radish from the center of the garden, what with my bad back, knees, shoulder, ankles, and hip. Which is not to mention my bunions, which don't really affect my gardening, but still hurt like a bitch. So this year I went with a more alluring welded wire fence that was only two feet high, which helped me out some and looked pretty good, if I must say so myself. Which I must, because no one visits me any more and my neighbor Margaret just stares out her window looking jealous.

But, as you can see, two feet was insufficient. At first, the bunnies just ate the kale, and I didn't really care that much. I don't even like kale. No one likes kale! People just like the idea of kale - it's kind of like marriage. I only started growing it as a conversation piece for when my son Larry used to take me to his university events. That way he could say, "Good afternoon, Professor Pretentious Asshole, this is my father - he grows kale." And all the pompous yuppie professors would swoon and say "Wow! That's amazing! Lacinato or curly?," as if they knew the difference (lie) and then say shit like "Oh, Seymour, you really must try the creme brulee here at the faculty club. It is one of a kind!" (lie), and then pontificate about nothing for an hour and tell me what an honor it was to meet me (true), but they didn't mean it (so really, another lie). Of course, Larry doesn't take me to those events any more, but what do I care?

Anyway, when the kale was gone, they started in on the beans, and that was when I got my M1 Garand rifle and my hunting cap and went out to sit guard in the backyard. Ok - the rifle is a replica that I found at a flea market, but I didn't think the bunnies would know the difference. It was going pretty well, actually, until Margaret starting calling me Elmer Fudd, and I just couldn't bear to give her the satisfaction any more. So here I am watching them out the window, just praying that they don't get into my cucumbers, because if I can't make pickles this fall, I'm not really sure what the point would be any more. It's like that famous gardening quote: "First they came for the kale, and I did nothing. Then they came for the beans, and I thought, oh shit, I do not like where this is going. And then they came for the cucumbers, and it was evident that I truly and royally fucked." Or something like that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow




Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

I hate to disappoint you all, but I'm back. And I'm fine, or at least as fine as you can be at my age. So thank you for your messages of concern, but no, I am not sick; no, I was not attacked by my neighbor Margaret's goddamn yippy schnauzer; and no, Gerry, I did not "realize the stupidity of this entire enterprise." What happened was, my grandson sent me a health report from Breitbart News that said you can get COVID over the internet and that elderly people were particularly susceptible. This resulted in some very peaceful weeks of solitary reading in my La-Z-Boy, but it turns out that once again, Jackson is full of shit! Furthermore, that Breitbart guy isn't even a doctor! So I will add this to the list of things that young people don't know shit about, and against my better judgment, I will return to wasting the small remaining portion of my life on this damn machine.

Another thing young people don't know shit about is American history. As a mature adult, I have found that reading about American history is both depressing and infuriating. In this way, it is similar to reading about the American present and the American future. One particularly enraging aspect is how different we think we are now from how we were then. But politics at the birth of the nation is just today's politics with asinine accents. I promise you that anything that pisses you off about today's politics was happening in Washington's era. Politicians lying to the public? It's in there. Presidents complaining about fake news? Pandering to public opinion by repeated flipflopping on the issues? Scapegoating immigrants? It's in there. Supposed statesmen enriching themselves by exploiting people of color while unironically complaining about encroachments on their freedom? Looking at you, Jefferson. It's like a goddamn jar of political Ragu - it's all fucking in there! And we think our society is advancing.

I'll tell you one area where we are actually advancing, and that is killing each other. Given today's state of arms, the Revolutionary War reads like a playground skirmish. Half of military strategy appears to have been predicting the weather, which of course they couldn't do for shit. The war turned multiple times on this idiocy! The kidnapping of a general foiled by uncooperative river currents. The destruction of an army avoided by fortuitous fog. At one point, our army's major strategy was to stack hay bales so the enemy couldn't see what we were doing! These are our national heroes, people. When my kids were young, I once built a hay maze for Halloween, which I believe would have qualified me to be a brigadier general under Washington. I was just a few years too young, as it turned out. It makes you wonder where we might be if we had advanced politically at the same rate we did militarily. Or maybe you don't wonder that - what the hell do I know?