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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Glean Team

In the late days of summer we find ourselves not just in good books but purusing with interest and appetite the local foliage as well.   Though we are very urban here, just a mile or so from downtown, there a good many fruit trees in the area filled with bounty that is dropping earthward.  We’ve been getting in the way some.  Troy and I climbed to the roof of a local abandoned building (easily accessible as it’s on a steep slope and one side is very low) and harvested apples and figs last week.  A few days later we ravaged an Italian plum tree in front of an apartment building just a block away.  And today Amy and I went with ladder and tarp to a local cherry plum tree, as Amy had procured a cherry pitter from her mom.  As with operations of the recent past, I climbed up the ladder and sometimes into the tree, and Amy worked the ground.  When we arrived there were a couple of urban hipsters already harvesting the tree we had planned to pick.  One was draped sloth-like across the lower branches and the other holding a glass bowl over his head like a Greek statuette one might pass on at a garage sale.  When we expertly unfolded our tarp and ladder, they examined our approach with interest and commented grudgingly on our “technology.”  There was plenty for all parties.  We tried both branch shaking and picking the fruit individually.  The tree was really heavy with fruit and it was fermenting all over the ground.  We left with two large bags full; Troy pitted them all, and we made plum butter. 

Reading Notes 
Gleanings in literature have included a very clean copy of Joe Sacco’s Palestine, the award-winning graphic depiction of his visits to Jerusalem and Palestine and the very gritty times he had there.  It’s a very real and accurate, often dispassionate look at the extremely sorry state of affairs there and the ease with which so much of the world, including the local Jewish population can overlook, or justify even, the prison-like atmosphere that pervades the region.  Sacco is a skilled artist and the pages sometimes rival Crumb for the minute and intricate cross hatching and complex layout.  Sacco has a thing for mouths though, and teeth, lips -- his own, notably -- that is a little hard to appreciate.  But it sinks into the experience he creates on a page and stays with one: all the talk, the hunger, the shouting and the words, the coarse manipulation lips can wrap themselves around when backed by the black steel of guns and concrete.  Edward Said impressively writes the intro, mincing about as few words on the matter as his long-time associate and co-author, Chomsky, who has called Israel a "pariah state," responsible not just for behavior that rivals anything ever done to the Jews short of gas chambers at home, but for supporting black operations and the most brutal of regimes with arms, equipment  and training all over the world.  It’s great to see the form broach such a heavy issue of our times with the poignancy that documented personal experience can provide. 

I’m also reading Death Beat, “a Columbian journalist’s life inside the cocaine wars,” an ARC that’s falling apart in my hands, by Maria Jimena Duzan.  It’s a pretty great story, told firsthand from an employee of  the paper El Espectador, who witnessed the rise of the cocaine economy in Columbia through the 80’s and 90’s with the likes of Pablo Escobar and the Cali and Medellin cartels doing battle between themselves, the government, the U.S. and just about everybody there.  She writes from a very classist perspective, and her opinions about the various players certainly are in accord with this; but she is a skilled reporter as well, and the sheer madness and lawlessness that grips the entire country as their economy gets sucked into an enormous battle of wills, with competing forces inside and outside the historical power structure all earning huge sums of money providing the U.S. with snortable goods is truly an amazing story.  It’s kind of like what the U.S. would look like if all the war and covert operations and economic manipulation we do throughout the world all happened within our borders.  As if the back room deals between the Contra mercenaries and coke heads and Iranian hostage takers and Israeli mercenaries and guerilla armies were to all center on New Jersey.  Imagine how  this would tear the fabric of this culture as tens of thousands of our most notable persons were gunned down by all sides and how it would shred the polite (comparatively) system of government we live with at home like so many stacks of El Espectador when their headquarters was bombed.  It’s a very lively and astounding tale,  just down the coast from the home we know. 

-- Sean

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