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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey Panic!


Here comes Thanksgiving, with my annual Turkey Panic. Is there anyone else who has reached a ripe old age and, having prepared Thanksgiving dinner for what seems like eons, still gets her knickers in a twist over baking that great huge bird?    


Illustration published in The Birmingham Eccentric, Nov 23 1992, by T. Graves

 I have kept this picture for years, covered with scribbles and post-it notes. You would think memos like “14 lb took whole 5 hours,” “Use foil at browning time, not throughout,” “In at  9 done by 12.30 but too dry – baste more,” or “O.K., no problem – cooked in 4 hours,” would reassure me that I have lived through this before and will again, but I always confront some new worry.

There was the time my ten year old daughter opened the oven so many times to baste the turkey that it took eight hours to cook. There was the time when I roasted it at home and brought it to my younger daughter’s apartment an hour’s drive away, only to find it stone cold and dried out on arrival. There was the year that my older daughter became a vegetarian because she didn’t want to eat anything that “had eyes and could look at me.”  She was delighted with her Tofurkey, but the rest of us felt weirdly guilty feasting on our succulent bird. Then there was the time when my younger daughter ordered a complete dinner from Whole Foods because she would be coming home from the hospital with her new baby on Thanksgiving Day.

            “Put your forks down,” declared my son-in-law, brandishing a ladybug he had found in the stuffing. “We can’t eat this!”

            Thawing a frozen turkey was always problematic, so I decided to order a fresh one, only to find it icily solid, fore and aft.  I telephoned the butcher in a panic. He told me to immerse it in lukewarm water for an hour and a half on each side; it felt like giving a bath to a wrinkled baby.

            When the family is all at the table and we are saying grace at last, it is always, always worth it. In 2001, in spite of the enormous tragedy of 9/11 and my husband’s death the year before, our hearts were full of thanksgiving for two new arrivals in the family.  My granddaughter had been born on September 18 and then, in October, my younger daughter and her husband underwent an arduous trip to Ukraine to bring my seven year old grandson safely home. The first time he saw a potato he wanted to peel it and cook it. He only spoke Russian, but  it was clear to us that he had spent a lot of time in the orphanage kitchen.

         He was puzzled by the turkey on his first American Thanksgiving, but wolfed down a big serving of the mashed potatoes he had prepared himself. Then, with an enormous grin, he realized that he could ask for more.

(Written for for November 21, 2012)       



Wednesday, October 24, 2012



            Although I still have friends who refuse to have anything to do with them, I fell in love with computers early and hard.

             In the beginning I was as resistant as anyone when my boss insisted that everyone in our office had to learn to use a computer, and that we must attend a course to do so.

            “He is trying to make us into our own secretaries,” I moaned, glaring at the heavy hard drive that had been inserted under my desk and at the weird Zenith monitor cutting my work space in half.

“Mother,” said my daughter, a computer science major, “here’s the thing. I’ve had to watch you correct page after page of the books you are writing; I can’t bear to see how frustrated and upset you get. With the computer you won’t have to white out all your mistakes or go back and rewrite from scratch. You can cut and paste — move sentences and paragraphs around without having to type every page all over again. How many drafts do you think you throw away?”

            “Oh, eleven or twelve for every page,” I replied sadly.

The problem is, I’ve had a mild case of dyslexia all of my life, which means that I just plain miss a lot of typos and grammatical errors, necessitating rewrite after rewrite.

            “Just take the course. When I get home for Christmas I’ll sit down with you. It’s really easy – you’ll see.”

            So I trotted off to that word processing course where we were handed  light blue notebooks which I remember very fondly for the world they opened up to me. Although the learning curve in those days was very steep indeed, from the first time I moved a paragraph from one page to another and saw a clean copy of a page scroll out of my printer, I was hooked. No more was I wading through a quagmire of typos and erasures; every time that azure screen came up, it beckoned me to new worlds of thought and imagination.


      Then, there came email.  It was cumbersome and full of coding marks in its early versions, but I wonder if I would have such a lovely correspondence with my daughters during their college and young adult years if it hadn’t existed?  It is always special when a hand written letter comes through my mail slot, but in the days of snail mail I never heard from my childhood friends more than once or twice a year. Now, we email back and forth several times a month about the books we are reading, what we think about politics, and how to heal family vicissitudes. I have always been a volunteer and grassroots activist; now email makes it exponentially smoother. Instead of moiling and toiling with telephone trees and leaving messages, I can send reminders to volunteers with a click of the mouse and get stirred to action by emails from causes I support. I’ve been through two presidential elections using a handy dandy “Dashboard” for making campaign calls.  I set up my trusty laptop on my kitchen counter, and a screen pops up with a script for what to say that day to a chosen nearby group (seniors, women, for example). There is a name and address and a telephone number, with boxes where I can check off their presidential choice and whether they want to volunteer themselves.   

I was glad when cell phones came along for the safety they provided on car trips, and I used mine for travel until, one day, I went for an upgrade and purchased an I Phone. On this marvelous invention I can get my email, check the status of my stocks, take and send photos, find out what the weather is like, play a game of solitaire, access the Internet, check the status of my flight or the progress of my train, get the latest from all of my favorite news stations and watch episodes of shows that I have missed.  And I have gotten my hands on some truly miraculous “apps” (applications).

Nxtnutrio takes a picture of the bar code on food I am thinking of purchasing and tells me whether it is genetically modified or contains something I am allergic to. Drawfree is a word-guessing game I can play any time with my granddaughter far away in Colorado, with Leafsnap I can take a picture of some leaves to identify trees. My absolute favorite is TuneinRadio which brings me any station on earth — broadcasts from New York City or Madison or Boston or California. I am so entranced with this service that I have bought a gizmo which looks like a miniature boom box into which I slot my I Phone to amplify my radio shows. I keep it next to my bed so that if I have insomnia I can tune into BBC London’s breakfast program where the host puts me to sleep again by reading the newspaper out loud.

            Then there’s my GPS which, like my cell phone, I bought for safety purposes. I have a mild case of night blindness — not enough to stop driving but enough to make it hard for me to make out house numbers when I am going out to dinner.

            “You have reached your destination,” announces Charles in his British accent, “On the left hand side of the rrroad” (he has trouble with his Rs).

            The original computer voice had a much nastier tone —controlling, and mean spirited. A friend and I were on a road trip to Toronto. I told her how intensely I disliked the GPS  cyber bitch.

            “You don’t have to put up with her,” said my friend, “Go to settings; what does it say?”

            “Australian – we can have Australian,” I replied; “Or American—north or south. And, oh look, we can have British: male or female, and cockney or standard. Let’s try standard.”

            When we arrived in Toronto we discovered that we were staying in a neighborhood called The Annex, a maze of one way streets and confusing street signs.  Charles was right at home, and guided us plummily through the weekend. 

             For older people scornful of technology, I can’t emphasize the element of safety enough.  If you have a flat tire or your car breaks down, with a cell phone you are one click away from rescue; think of the difference between waiting in the heat of summer of the cold of winter for someone to come along and help. In case of an accident or sudden illness at home I have a Mobil Help system, which responds to a button I wear around my neck. Its speaker box asks me if I need help and, if I don’t respond, calls my daughters, a close friend, and the nearest emergency medical technicians. It came with a little all in one button and response device I can take along in my car and use at my summer cottage, making me feel much better about being all alone out there in the woods.

Enthusiast though I am, I’ve experienced the inevitable technological goof ups. Just after I purchased the Mobil Help service and had taken its  GPS device to my cottage,  I inadvertently sat on it. The next thing I knew I had frantic telephone calls from both daughters and my friend, while an ambulance siren wailed in the driveway.

            “Never mind,” said a policeman who also turned up, “It’s obvious that we need to know where you are, and now we do.”

Nor is Charles infallible. From his satellite up in the sky he can’t tell the difference between dirt roads and paved ones and has left me bouncing along over boulder strewn rural byways. I was going out for dinner one night to a house on a street that curved around so that it had two entrances onto the main road. He took me up the wrong one and announced that I had reached my destination when I hadn’t, refused to stop saying so and redirect me. Fortunately, I had my I phone with me and could call my hostess for directions.

            I am always trying to start my television set with my I phone; the other day I tried to dial a telephone number on my remote control.

            People complain that technology is eroding our humanity, making us forget how to talk to each other.  I agree that nothing is better a face to face natter with a good friend, but how about being able to use my I Phone to message back and forth with a daughter who is nervously awaiting a major operation? It is always reassuring when my younger daughter messages to let me know her plane has safely landed. My teenage grandsons have reached a non-communicating phase; without Facebook, I’d never know what they were up to from one end of the year to the next.

            Having always felt that it is our sense of humor that makes us human, the Internet’s  treasure trove of jokes has provided frequent balm for my soul. When a second grade granddaughter is coming for a visit I go to Prairie Home Companion’s handy dandy repository of second grade jokes.  When I am down and despairing, which happens more and more often as age nibbles away at my sensibilities, something hilarious from a friend arriving in my email can completely change my day.
Like this:





Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Going Political Widdershins

All winter long, I kept an astonished eye on the gaggle of Republicans  contending against each other in their primary, wondering where on earth they were coming from. Rick Santorum declared the abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests the result of “academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America.” Rick Paul called for the abolition of one government department  after another, including the Federal Reserve; Mick Romney,  his campaign coffers full of money from corporations, insisted that corporations were people; and Newt Gingrich announced his plan to found a colony on the moon. 

I knew where Newt was coming from, having encountered him as a graduate student who considered himself endowed with such a magnificent destiny that the normal rules of academic procedure didn’t apply to him.  Not all the candidates were suffering from megalomaniacal grandiosity; the rest seemed to be arguing from principles with which a significant number of Americans agreed.

Since the “anyone but Romney” candidates insisted that they were more conservative than he, while he insisted he was every bit as conservative as they, I decided that I needed a refresher course in conservatism.  My friends were appalled.  Why waste time examining irrational delusions entertained by proto-fascists?  The academics were especially dismissive. When I asked them where they thought Santorum, or Paul, or Romney was coming from they didn’t think at all—they just threw their heads back and shouted “Rick Paul!” or “Santorum!” or “Romney!” with expletive force  accompanied by spatters of contemptuous spit.

This did not seem a particularly rational response.  How can we argue from our own principles without a firm grasp of the opposition’s?  True, when I was young and callow I didn’t study the first principles of Barry Goldwater and John Birch. When the sneering mien of William F. Buckley Jr., that pioneer of nasty-mouthed right-wingery, appeared on my television set I changed channels with self-righteous contempt.   But now that I am (so very much) older and wiser, isn’t it useful to go widdershins for a spell, starting with my old sworn enemy?

  A new biography by  Carl T. Bogus,  William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism,   seemed a useful place to start.  Although he was a libertarian every bit as vituperative as our present day Tea Party, Buckley opened the pages of his National Review to a variety of conservatives, including Russell Kirk and Gary Wills, who were much more traditional than he.   

Conservatism, I learned, derives from the philosophy of the 18th century thinker Edmund Burke, who fostered

·       honor for traditions of culture and nation

·       accumulated wisdom and experience of our ancestors

·       reform of old institutions while relying on the wisdom embedded in institutions and law, understood as valued history and tradition to be passed on in an intergenerational covenant.

This feeling for community values is different from libertarianism, which, taking individual freedom as the primary good, opposes any tradition or institution that interferes with individual liberty.  Albert Jay Nock, an early libertarian influence on Buckley when he was still in school,  argued in  Memoirs of a Superfluous Man,  “against statism and collectivism in all forms” insisting that “governmental power will inevitably be turned against the individual” (68). Buckley was also taken with F.A. Hayek’s  The Road to Serfdom (1944), which opposes all forms of economic planning which “would require an economic dictator to make fundamental choices for the society.” 135

Do you recognize Ron Paul here?  These are the basic tenets he enunciated with admirable consistency to large audience of cheering twenty-somethings during the primary,  hailing Hayek as one of his most important sources.

Traditional conservatism is not so dismissive of the community and economic regulation. Even Adam Smith wrote that the free market was not free to damage civil society, and should be regulated accordingly.  In the early years of editing the National Review Buckley encouraged a broad spectrum of conservatives like Russell Kirk and Gary Wills, both of whom were eventually alienated by his libertarianism.

Kirk called himself a “New conservative,” fostering authority and order, including that of states and governments.   The conservative, “ he insisted in In The Conservative Mind , always stood for true community, the union of men, through love and common interest, for the common welfare…Individualism is social atomism, conservatism is community of spirit” (111). In  Confessions of a Conservative  Gary Wills wrote that “no society can ever be formed on the basis of  individualism …conservatives value continuity and tradition.”  Wills was troubled by the way Buckley  “placed the free market at the center of its philosophy.   Since “capitalism was all about risk taking and seeking new markets… it is ”therefore not a force for continuity and stability.”  He was dismayed that business had become the principal source of power in modern America. “We rather simple-mindedly kept the nexus power=conservative, even when the power involved was a revolutionary and unstable one”  (332).

Wills distrusted market fundamentalism, which Buckley took as a given. Carl Bogus, by no means a conservative himself, provides an interesting analysis of where Buckley’s emotion-laden belief system came from.  “William F. Buckley Jr.’s ideology was not the product of study and reflection,” he asserts, but mirrored the libertarianism, neo-conservatism, and religiosity of his domineering, homeschooling father, who instilled his moods as well as his values in his  ten children.  William F. Buckley Sr.’s tenets derived from keeping his oil business profitable during the Mexican revolution, which left him a life-long proponent of stability, government by an educated class, and protection of private property, including that belonging to the church and to foreign nationals like himself.”  The intensity he brought to his conservatism, and his diatribes against liberalism, came from closer to home in Connecticut , where the family was never accepted by the liberal protestant elite.

In his writings and television punditry Buckley Jr. took his father’s beliefs and distastes as givens. Profoundly racist, Buckley Sr. felt that American Negroes were intrinsically inferior. In  the National Review,   Buckley Jr. responded to the Civil Rights Movement by insisting that the white community in the south is “the advanced race” with a claim to civilization, even to the extent that “the great majority of the Negores in the south who do not vote do not care to vote, and would not know for what to vote if they could”  (157-158).  Anyone who ever watched Buckley’s television program witnessed his self-righteous fury against his enemies, chief among whom were the “liberal elite.”  This enmity, channeled from his father, became gallingly personal during his senior year at Yale. He had been invited to give a graduation speech to the alumni but, having read it, the university retracted the invitation.  Enraged, he published the speech as God and Man at Yale, where he argued that the university had failed in its duty to “Christianize Yale” because of its erroneous belief in “academic freedom” which he sees as a “myth.”  Yale should have indoctrinated students in religion, free enterprise, and limited government.  

Does anyone recognize Rick Santorum here, drifting into use of the “N” word, warning against government moving into every corner of American lives, exhibiting  contempt for “the east coast liberal elite” and its mouthpiece, “the liberal media, and vomiting about the separation of church and state?

“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” remarked Joe Biden the other day, and it is far from the moderately conservative Republicanism of  Governor Bill Millken of Michigan, Senator Nelson Rockefeller, George Bush Sr. or even  Governor Mitt Romney  of Massachusetts.  What we witnessed in the primaries was closer to the Republicanism of Ronald Reagan, who was converted to William Buckley’s neo-conservatism when he read the National Review during his travels as a salesman for General Electric or to George Bush Jr. channeling the neo-conservatism of  Cheney and Rumsfeld.
     As spring arrived and the Republican field narrowed, I realized that I was as appalled by the emotionalism of neo-conservatism as by its principles. Giving one’s intellect over to anger, always disturbing in an individual, becomes terrifying when taken up by the mob. Several years ago, a friend and I waded into a crowd of 70,000 Tea Party marchers on the Washington Mall because we wanted to reason with them about  the Affordable Health Care act. Their pickets with “Don’t Kill my Grandmother”  and “Bury ObamaCare with Edward Kennedy ” that they were waving were less frightening than the expressions on their faces. 

“But we are grandmothers,” we reasoned, “and we love what the Act is going to do for us.” Their eyes glazed over; they didn’t hear a word we said, the reasoning function of their brains having been entirely overwhelmed by their emotions. 

It seems to me that the response to rampant conservative emotionalism on the part of liberal intellectuals shouldn’t be rampant liberal emotionalism.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit down with a conservative and have a good long conversation about traditions and values, starting with what we have in common, then reasoning together about the practical application of our different positions?  If the Republican Party had continued in the conservative tradition of Kirk and Wills, we might be able to look at President Obama's list of values:
  • Hard work
  • Lookin out for one another
  • the idea that we're all in this together, and that I am my brother's and my sister's keeper
and see where we might find a common ground to bring our common values into realization.

            So let’s keep our minds open, but use them.  Let’s see, what shall I read next?  How about the two volumes that a brilliant intellectual who was a member of the Bush Jr. Administration, has written
                                   ~ Condoleeza Rice!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Catching the Acela


     As I get older, I sometimes treat myself to an upgrade when I travel— a slightly better (though far from luxurious) hotel than the motel I usually go to; or business rather than coach class on the train to Chicago.  It was a bit more of a leap than that when, for the Washington-New York leg of a trip east to see what was in the museums and warm my roots a bit, I bought myself an (expensive) ticket on the Acela.

               I had first seen this marvel of a train one summer when I was boarding the Lakeshore Limited in Boston’s South Station, on my way home to Detroit.  The first leg of that trip involves a slow haul over the Berkshires at maybe twenty miles an hour, huffing and puffing all the way up like the Little Engine that Could.  But there, right on the other side of our boarding platform, sat an engine crafted out of gleaming steel, its long streamlined nose regarding us lesser passengers haughtily.  It was reputed, I remembered, to accomplish what in France they term  TGV—“très grande vitesse”—a speed of 120 miles an hour.


           Now, I’m going to take that someday,” I promised myself; and so I did.

           There is nothing so heart-warming as talking for hours with a friend who (swears she) met you when you were still in your baby carriage.  She has settled at last in a home of her own, a pleasant house in Richmond cozily furnished with pieces I recognize from our Connecticut childhood summers. Her living room is done in  beige tones, the dining room painted dark red, with family portraits impressively arrayed on the walls.  

We sit in her breakfast nook to talk…and talk…and talk, about our youthful shenanigans and our grown up daughters, about what is going on in Washington politics these days and what is going on with our grandchildren,  all interlarded with “organ recitals,” recounting our illnesses and recoveries and exclaiming how lucky we are to still be here—laughing and gossiping and philosophizing while I revel in expressions I had thought disappeared forever: 

“What a lark,” she exclaims.

 “Hell's bells,” I find myself saying.
                “Long story short,” we demur frequently as on and on we go, weaving our web of memories with a warmth that only a long, long friendship can engender.                                               
            As my visit drew to an end I began to worry about the next leg of my journey, which involved getting back to Washington to catch the Acela for New York.  All tired out from so much fun, I hauled my bag onto a regional train that runs between Newport News and DC.  It seemed pleasant enough, and I found  an empty seat and settled down next to the window, gazing at reeds blowing in the wind and the vista of a broad, misty marshland. As the conductor approached I got out my ticket, and noticed that the train continued on to New York.  Ever nervous about my travel arrangements, I said

               “I see that we go all the way to New York City. Can I stay on if I miss my  connection to the Acela?

               No problem, if we have a seat for you. Worst case scenario, we put you off in DC and you catch the Acela when it comes through.”

               I sat there doing mental arithmetic, which I was never good at.

              1. They put me off in DC.

               2. The Acela, much faster than this regional, comes whistling ‘through.’

                3. If both get to New York City at 5:45, won’t the Acela accelerate itself past where I am put off before we get there?

               4. This depends on how late the regional is.

Recalling puzzlers like “Train A goes at 60 miles per hour and train B goes at 120 miles per hour. If a little old lady is put off of one to catch the other, how many minutes can train A be late to allow her to catch train B,” but  answer comes there none.

               At Fredericksburg, I acquire a seat mate.

               At Quantico, there is an announcement that the train is now full.  I resume my calculations on time/motion train  A vs train B problem, but still to no avail.

               At Woodbridge, I climb over the knees of my seatmate, only to discover that the toilet is out of paper.

               “We are sorry,” comes the announcement,” but all of the toilets on this train are out of paper.”

               My favorite meal on Amtrak is a Hebrew National Hot Dog so full of sodium that I wonder what would happen to me if it raised my blood pressure and triggered a stroke?  Nevertheless, I would really enjoy one just about now.

               Announcement resounds though the car that the café is out of 1. Sprite and 2. hot dogs.

               I would like to take out my knitting, but the seats are so close together that I might find myself elbowing the nice but rather capacious lady sitting next to me.  There is a lot more talking now, some of it quite loud, and children are skittering up and down the aisle. The car is beginning to feel close packed and stuffy; and what is that smell?

               At Alexandria, I look at my watch and discover that it is an hour before my confirmed ticket on the Acela, so  I decide it will be well worth the effort to make the switch and enjoy my treat after all.

               I haul my suitcase into Union Station with plenty of time to lug it to the bookstore where I buy a Wilson Quarterly,  a journal so full of wonky articles and well reasoned book reviews that it is always good for a train journey.

            I am sitting in the waiting area absently scanning the announcement board when time/motion problem is solved by my discovery that there is an Acela every hour. It must have been the next one I was supposed to “hop on” to, though how to achieve that without a reservation is not entirely clear. Perhaps these luxury trains never fill up entirely?

               I love walking down the platform alongside a train, refreshed by air so much cooler than inside.  This time, there is the gratification of glancing up at the gleaming, streamlined engine I had so envied in Boston.  As we get underway through the rail yards and begin to pick up speed in Maryland, we  move along the tracks, in contrast to the regional’s bumps and grinds, like a knife through butter.  Soon everything is going by so fast that I don’t have my usual chance to identify the duck on a particular pond or what crops are at what stage—the landscape seen from an Acela is more prototypical than particular, affording the general idea of meadow or forest, like a kind of Platonic ideal.

 The seats are capacious and comfortable, with a surfeit of leg room and plenty of space between, though I am without a seat mate at the moment.  Perfect, I  realize, for knitting! I am working on a little yellow baby sweater for a friend’s first grandchild and need to get on with it as I am hosting her granny shower right after I get home, so I take to  knitting and purling in blissful comfort.

          That is, until I notice rows of finely tailored trousers relaxed between seats and foot rests in all the seats around me. Good heavens! My car is occupied by men in elegant, well fitting (bespoke?) suits, who must be  Very Important People.   I recall that the Acela is much frequented by Senators and Congressmen—Joe Biden and all that—and isn’t that Brent Scowcroft sitting across the aisle, glancing at me with mild surprise before politely averting his eyes?  It must be unusual among this dapper crowd to spy a lady in red blazer, pink blouse, and pearls carrying on with her knitting.  I don’t feel “unimportant” to myself—Full Professor, Feminist Founder,  Academic Author and all that—but I must look unimportant to them. I wonder if there is a car full of well-dressed, powerful women somewhere on this train, or can they afford it?   

Never mind—there are those lovely pastures streaming by and the intimate windows of cities to glance (fleetingly) into, so I turn my sweater to a purl row, though I am beginning to get awfully hungry.

               Walking through the cars to find something to eat, I pass an enclosure with armchairs and little tables and a sign affixed to the glass that identifies it as a “Quiet Room—no Cellphones or Children.”  There are elegantly suited women working busily at their laptops, and a dapper executive’s legs stretching out from his Wall Street Journal.  I am surprised to find that the dining arrangements are the same as on the regional, just a café with no Hebrew National Hot Dogs on offer but adequate if plain sandwiches and good strong coffee.

Returning to my seat, I notice right at the beginning of my car that a tiny  lady, probably in her sixties, is perched on a  stool provided for a laptop table, busily tapping away while urgently telling someone at the other end of her cell phone how to prepare the room for  a speech she is going to make at the Hilton.  Then I settle down with my Wilson Quarterly noticing that, as always on a moving train, I am suddenly capable of grasping concepts that otherwise elude me.  Soon, however, I need to visit the bathroom   (Toilet Paper! Clean Sink! Scented Hand Soap!) and on the way back walk slowly enough to read over the urgently busy lady’s shoulder.  The masthead of her stationary reads

                           REPAIRING THE WORLD!

 Good for her, I say to myself, thinking of Tikum Olam, that marvelous creation story where God sent his light into the world with such power and glory that it broke all the jars he had set out to contain it, their shards scattering all over the universe so that we human beings are left to repair the world by collecting the thousand thousand things and refashioning their containers. Good for the tiny  lady repairing the world on her laptop and cell phone and good for the women working away in the quiet room and for all of these busy, dapper men, too, if they are of honest intent, and good for me and my friends renewing the light of our friendship, I revel, as we streak through the wetlands of New Jersey at more miles per hour than I have ever experienced on a train before, until the towers of the city where I was born  rise in all their splendor out of the marshes.