Sunday, June 21, 2009

Let Us Now Praise Not So Famous Men

So I post this photo here for some simple reasons. It's Father's Day. And the first day of Summer two thousand and nine. And this picture - isn't it great? - captures both these thoughts pretty well. My dad died when I was nineteen years old and he was just 49; I was born on his 30th birthday. He was a riot, a charmer, a ball buster, a little bit Dean Martin a little bit Robert Mitchum. He taught me how to fish, tell elk prints from deer, make donuts and marinara sauce, the importance of hard work, beautiful music, raucous laughter, card games, true love, attention to detail, compassion, tolerance, wisdom, fearlessness.
Having a life. Not watching other people's lives pass by and calling it good, but honestly breathing and accomplishing something every single damn day. Even as he was sick and dying of cancer he was building a deck on our house. Passion, that's a good enough word. Passion for breathing in and breathing out. Here's to every father who lives with that kind of intensity, that kind of grabbing at life and appreciating its singular intensities. Here's to Charlotte's Dad and the time she had with him. I wish there had been more. And here's to the first day of Summer and the second day of Summer in Italy. Right now it looks like blue skies ahead.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Food, Inc. Because we are what we eat. So what are we?

A few weeks ago 96,000 lbs of US beef was recalled. Again. Ninety-six thousand pounds of meat and honestly no one here even bats an eye. Two years ago 15,000 Americans got sick and several died from eating salmonella contaminated Vegetable Pot Pies. Just a few weeks ago, thousands of gallons of mineral water tainted with E coli was recalled in Ireland. Across America we’ve had salmonella outbreaks in spinach, tomatoes, peanut butter and pistachios and too much e coli to count. It’s insane and shameful and still people – friends and strangers alike – find it more interesting to worry about 'swine' flu then they do the food and the lard and the truth right in front of them. On their plates.

Each time this happens, for a week or a few days, people won’t eat peanuts. Or they’ll throw out their spinach. They won't touch raw tomatoes but they'll eat fast food, processed food, gobs of it without caring what's in it or what it's doing to them. Because they don’t care about the big question: why does this keep happening, again and again, and why aren’t we doing anything about what’s causing it in the first place?

And now, because ConAgra can’t pinpoint which of the 25 ingredients in their pot pies carries salmonella, 100 million pot pies have just been labeled both ‘unsafe’ and ‘consumer is responsible for safety kill step of food’. That means you. Your grandmother. Your kids. We’re responsible and if we die, we really should have read the fine print. Because you can’t rinse E coli or salmonella off food. You can’t soak it or pray for it to be gone. And if it happened to tomatoes one month and peanuts the month after that and frozen food today, what makes you – any of us – think it won’t happen again and again ad nauseum (literally)? And unless it makes you sick – or makes your child die – do you even pay attention? Do you even care? We aren’t just what we eat. We’re how it was grown. How it was processed. How it was watered and picked and stored and distributed. Whatever we eat, be it animals or vegetables, we're also what we eat eats. If pesticides are used, we eat those. If hormones are used (hello meat, milk, eggs, ice cream, cheese) we’re that, too. What’s in our food, your food? Formaldahyde. Estrogen. Feces. Half of all US Sewage ends up on crops. Half of all US sewage waste – feces, PCBS’ dioxins, DDT, asbestos, parasitic worms, ratioactive material from hospitals – that’s right baby, radioactive waste - sleeping pills, birth control pills, etc etc etc all the stuff we throw down a toilet without caring – 50% of it ends up on crops. Not organic crops. Not sustainable crops. Big fat you just got it at Costco and Safeway and Fred Meyer crops. Because of loopholes in regulations, and the fact that Cargill, ConAgra, and Monsanto are as vocal and voracious as Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and Big Guns have ever been. In my view, worse. Because they are slowly, and in some cases, not so slowly killing us. Killing our children. If your children matter to you, shouldn't you give a damn? Shouldn't their health be as important as you keep saying it is?

Eating is a choice. It's a choice just like every other choice we make and it’s not nearly as difficult as most of them. You are what you eat. Where you eat. You are also where you refuse to eat. So what, exactly, are you? Go see the new film Food, Inc. Go to

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


That’s the word of the day.

Sometimes it’s the one thing we don’t have much time for, that chance to feel grateful. Or it’s a passing emotion we barely acknowledge. But as trite or common or na├»ve as it may sound, there are so many things that deserve our gratitude. Our children being healthy instead of ill. Having a job we love that occasionally loves us back. Having a job at all in times like these. Great friends who keep us sane, or give us sanctuary, or who make us laugh like sinners, or forgive our sins on a daily basis. Friends like my stockbroker who’s getting his company to donate all – all – of their charitable donations this year to fight breast cancer. Answered prayers. Or ones that may yet be answered. Second chances and second chapters, because our lives are full of them, regardless of what Fitzgerald wrote. Today I kept internally complaining about the stupidest things – if it’s not the vacuuming or the sweeping or the laundry or the dog hair it’s the garden or the weeding or the watering or the cat food. It’s the writing job I don’t want to do but that screams to be done. The invoicing the clients the conference calls the essentials and the demanding and the needy and they never go away. But if they did, then what? Then there’d be complaining about that, too. I walk out and see the garden growing like literal and delicious (truly edible) weeds and think, we did that, we cultivated that, it’s worth everything and more. But it doesn't take a garden. It takes observation. It takes knowing things could be much worse. Much harder. Much less. We must find – I must find, anyway – the space to be consciously grateful. And some sort of constant way to be thankful more often than not.