Monday, December 8, 2008


Dear readers, please see the new Rye-grass website: I'm posting all of these articles there, but there is more!
FlavorAware acts as a guide to experiencing the stories of local flavors. You can be a flavorologist (someone devoted to writing and studying the life and death journeys of food and flavor)!
If you would like to be a flavorologist in your own location start a blog and email me the update, or I can subscribe the blog. I'll build a profile for your city in FlavorAware and post your articles.
Best of luck,

Eugene Sunlight

Crystal clear day, Eugene, OR. Sidewalks have a rough texture; rocks and pebbles wedged in solid sand cast small shadows. Empty lots become beaches soaking sunlight. Graffiti on pealing plaster walls is a metropolitan art show. The fairgrounds of Jefferson Westside lie between Amazon Creek to the south and 13 avenue to the north, a reservoir of sunlight.

A number of buildings make up the grounds; the most prominent is rectangular. Its primary doors open to the west- average sized glass doors under a broad awning. Far above is a large cube shaped glass skylight. If the fairgrounds has a tower, a rotunda, a sparkling dome, this is it. Notably, this one is translucent and, today, heaven's light spills into the exhibition hall. This hall is, usually, where the Holiday farmer's market is- lively stalls, free samples, friendly smiles, and brightly colored produce. In front of the main building is a large plot paved with black asphalt. Closest to the building, tall trunked maples in square plots lined with yellow paint stud the asphalt.

If Eugene has a broad plaza, this "parking lot" is it. In many old cities there is a former palace, converted into a modern civic space. The Fairgrounds in Eugene would be that palace. Over the last 160 years the ancient landed people lost much of their land and history tells of the free-for-all that followed. Whomever could cut and process the most timber, grain, grass seed, these people became wealthy. But today, at the fairgrounds I encountered a different kind of wealth.

Under that great big glass skylight, the merchants are accountable. As they invest time and energy living here, they are slowly taking what the landscape gives them- milk, cheese, wood, beets, inspiration- and they offer these gifts to me with a smile. By talking to these people, I learn where they live, where their animals live, where their trees live. Someday, perhaps, I can even visit. What I'm buying here, albeit transformed into different shapes, is a little piece of Eugene, OR, sunlight.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Victory Gardens For All

November 29th was a beautiful late fall day in Eugene. Blue sky stretched from Butte to Butte and the city of Eugene shined like an old barn that, after being hidden by fog for weeks, is suddenly exposed to brilliant light and sunny skies. Looking for adventure, I found my way to the Fairgrounds in Jefferson Westside. Following the sounds of drums, flutes, and Celtic violin I happened upon Eugene's Holiday Market- a tangle of shops selling woodwork, ceramics, tie dye, hemp clothes, pad thai; as well as the farmer's market where I listened to mycological tales and ate samples of fresh chevre. The path out of the Market lead me to Monroe and then to Blair street in the Whiteaker neighborhood. At the Whiteaker Station I met Charlotte Anthony, founder of the popular community garden phenomenon, Victory Gardens For All. Anthony, like many I have met, values community, living with the landscape, and sustainable agriculture, but something makes her outstanding. She is willing to work and get her hands dirty doing it.

Sitting in the sunlight out behind the Whiteaker Station, Charlotte, a woman who composes herself to speak but often lets out a big smile and laugh, began to explain the world of perma-culture. "Perma-culture can mean permanent culture or permanent agriculture, definitions vary," she told me. In a perma-culture, the whole community of organisms is involved in the process of living. "Stacking functions' is one of my favorite terms." She went on, "Many things coalesce, energy from the water, water from the water... compost in a greenhouse heats the greenhouse. Making the systems inter-digitate, we're part of it, it all works together, like a house facing south for solar [heat]." Many groups discuss these ideas and ideals but don't take the necessary steps to make their own local system operational. Charlotte Anthony started Victory Gardens For All so that people can actually make a little bit of these ideas into a reality.

"A lot people were buying houses in Eugene so they could garden, and then every year, instead of gardening, they bought a gardening book." For $50 Anthony and her team installs a fully operational garden, complete with healthy seedlings. The catch is that the homeowner agrees to help with 3 more gardens, and so becomes part of the gardening team. Victory Gardens for All has installed 350 gardens in Eugene and the group is currently looking into building large scale gardens with the Youth Eatin' Project and Food Security as well, other food oriented community groups in Eugene.

Victory Gardens For All applies the ideals of perma-culture to real life situations where residents and neighborhoods can benefit. The mission is to build a "neighborhood synergy of resources. [For example,] using algae and fish ponds to generate heat and electricity. Take everything- we can do it at a local level." She explained how we can harvest and store fruit from the trees in town instead of just letting it rot. Laughing she said, "No Child Left Inside, everyone gets out and enjoys and encounters nature... [we're usually] trying to fill our needs by buying, rather than being with nature, a world we can participate in." Victory Gardens For All provides people with a little piece of that participatory world.

Charlotte Anthony hopes to be "inspiring people by trying to show how food is grown." Seeing space come alive as a garden is inspiring -neighbors big and small, bacterial, mineral, vegetable, and human, become recognized as members of a community, each with their own important part to play.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

All American Holiday

As I understand it, Black Friday is a day of unrestrained capitalist greed, a day to wake up at 4 am and stampede the greeter at Wal-Mart. Such was not the Black Friday I encountered. At the food court of Valley River, Eugene, I found a warm hearted American holiday sweetened by frozen yogurt and temptations of Cinnabon.

Waking from a tryptophanic turkey coma at 11 am, after nearly 13 hours of sleep, the family convened to discuss the days shopping. Cell phones falling apart, jackets zippers broken, and a host of other small needs criss-crossed the breakfast table airways. Stacks of Consumer Reports ignored, internet consulted, and a phone number called, we settled on going to the Valley River mall. As is usually the case with my family, we managed to buy little, but strangely, we did enjoy our visit.

"All American Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, and Smoothies" was destination of choice. Like most vendors in Valley River, All American is brightly backlit. Brilliantly dressed young people with creamy skin and well kept hair serve with a smile. I went with white chocolate macadamia nut, dutch chocolate, and black berries on top. I was hungry and I was overdressed, dressed to walk around in November temperatures, not season-less mall temperature. My belly met frozen yogurt, and enjoyed it. As to the flavors, I can say that they did taste like macadamia nut white chocolate and dutch chocolate- if these things came from flavor tubes and were made out of sugary-syrupy substances. The blackberries were reddish and sat in a syrup of their own. The overall mixture was both tasty and satisfying. Thank you, All American. We then watched, entranced, the Cinnabon artisans roll dough and sugar. If only the Lipitor salesman had been there too, he could have been handing out free samples.

In the food court people were genuinely enjoying themselves, and not only the usual 15 and 50 age group- whole families filled the food court. Couples and kids young and old forked teriyaki sauce, rice, and meat into grinning mouths. I wonder if the satisfaction of Thanksgiving, that holiday we devote to family, cooking, and sharing, had rolled over into Black Friday, the one we usually give up to greed and capitalism. Perhaps this is the silver lining of the crashing stock market- we can still shop even if we don't have to buy buy buy; we can still stroll through palace-like malls devoted entirely to purchasing power, even if we don't purchase.

For the first time in quite a while, my folks and I walked through the mall as if we were in a mediterranean town, to see people, shops, and to relax. Thank you, All American.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oakway Center, Chapala, hauntings?

In the little town of Oakway Center there is an alley between the main square with its venerable oak trees and the large asphalt blacktop where cars are parked.
In the alley a group of people have set out booths, tables, and chairs. On the walls electric candle lamps shed soft light. This alley, called Chapala Restaurante Mexicano, is a very pretty and soothing place to have a meal or a drink.
Here, they serve Mexican food. Perhaps the food is meant to be inspired by Jalisco where lake Chapala lies, or, perhaps the alley is meant to feel a bit like an alley in the city of Guadalajara located near lake Chapala.

I ordered a chicken enchilada and a chicken taco. Nestled beside them were "ranchero" beans, and a little brown sauce too.
I don't know their source, although they did have that distinctive Costco flavor. It all sat in a big yellow fiesta plate.
What does the food tell me about the place?
It tells me that the "owners" had access to rice, beans, chicken, iceburg lettuce, tomato, and chips. It tells me that as a customer I didn't need to know where it came from and maybe there is a reason I am not supposed to know.
But the dining environment could not be more peaceful...

There are a few things you should know about this alley and this town.
The alley closes every night; it is very regulated. There are only two entrances and nobody can come in who is not going to eat at the tables. The main town square with the oak trees is owned by the McKay Investment Company and regulated as well. Filled with the excitement of having found a little town like Oakway in Eugene, OR, I called up Oak Leaf Property Management and explained how great their public space is. I was told, "The important thing to remember is that it is not really public space. It's owned. A lot people think it's public and it's not... Most of the businesses are open from 10am-6pm although most of the national [chain stores] stay open until 9... We don't allow panhandlers." They are having a Christmas tree lighting on Sunday and they provide music in the summer. Yet still, even the owners don't live there. There is no castle nestled in the Center where the McKay family lives. The kind and polite people who staff the tables and kitchen in Chapala don't live there either.

In fact, nobody lives in the town of Oakway. In the festive alley of Chapala there are windows on the walls of the alley, even images of people looking out of those windows. Closer analysis, however, will reveal that these are only drawings of people. In fact, behind the windows there is nothing but empty wall. Empty.
The town clears out at night, and it seems there is some reason that nobody lives in town. Is it a haunted place? The owners have created laws that keep certain people away and regulate visitors. Why? Is it to protect them from ghosts, zombies, or those similarly afflicted?

Perhaps there are answers to these questions tied into the stories of places all around this place near the Williamette river. Perhaps, by peering into the shadows of places like Oakway, I can find the ghosts and zombies that the McKay Company and so many others are afraid of...

Valley River Center, made in China

Here in Eugene, Oregon, I decided to go on a little walk down by the Williamette river. Throughout Eugene the Williamette is flanked by large parks and community gardens right? I imagine it as the core of the city- it is geographically located between 3 of the city's largest shopping districts, Valley River, Oakway, Downtown, and further up the river it is close to downtown Springfield as well. At the Williamette I expect to see the best of Eugene's past and present meld into a bright future.

I headed through the Whiteaker neighborhood where smallish homes built of wood often stand in small gardens with picket fences and wild yards. To my inexperienced eye, I would say some of the hippie spirit remains in the Whitaker. I also saw a couple of gardens marked as "Victory Gardens" and I wondered if people had caught onto Michael Pollan's call for a vast new change of American food producing habits by planting gardens. He writes of it in his letter to Barack Obama.

I cut by Lane Community college down a bike path towards Sladen Park. There I saw a mysterious man trudging through the fir trees and I decided to continue to the river. At Jacob's Park along the river there is a beautiful stretch of beach filled with white water birds and a few ducks. I wonder if the birds come there to bathe in the patch of slow current or to ask for some food from people like me. The grass was spotted with green droppings. That is more than reconstituted bread, I thought. People seemed to be choosing the earthen path close to river rather than the asphalt bike path so I followed it right through some muddy spots and a carpet of yellow fall leaves. All along the river, here, there are tall deciduous trees and many still have brilliant yellow leaves that twinkle and twist in the wind. Many paths lead to private spots along the water. Later, i saw a man standing next to the water, and another fishing.

I crossed the foot bridge and found myself at the back side of Valley River Center. Rather, I found myself on the edge of a large parking lot. A few cars were parked closer to the buildings. Walking along the side of Executive Parkway, the access road to the parking lots, (there are no sidewalks) I wondered where I could find the entrance to Valley River Center.

The large cars zipping around were disorienting after the walk on footpaths by the river. In fact, the whole outside area of the Center was built on the scale of cars. After passing the large black monolithic empty seeming buildings sitting in the parking lot next to Keefer Mazda I found my way to Goodpasture Island Road, another street built on the scale of 10 foot long people powered by gasoline (cars). Finally, the entrance to Valley River.

Valley River is owned. I once tried to register voters here, and was asked to leave. I left, after all, it is someone's property. It was built, as a lord would build a castle, in 1969, and "heralded as the largest shopping mall between Portland and San Francisco". It still is and, in 2006 it was worth $187.5 million. Beyond it's walls are "over 130 national stores and restaurants." It's owner is the Macerich Company which owns 95 malls in 19 states, one of the largest such owners in the US.

I enter JCPenny, a large store with beautiful clothes in tight professional packaging. I notice that a shirt is made in China and I wonder- how much of the cost of these clothes comes from shipping costs?

Flannel plaid, made in China.
A hanger of shirts made in India.
Even the "Oregon Duck" sweatshirts are made in Pakistan. Is the "Oregon Duck" worth it's weight in petroleum fuel costs?
A childs "Fast Track Pinball" set, made in China. The clerks eye me.
Union Bay Bronco loose boot- Hong Kong.
American Living. A western style corduroy American Living shirt with an eagle and flag on it. Made in India. Hat with similar eagle- Made in China. A sweater with the eagle and flag knitted into the material all across the chest. Surely this is made in America. Nope, made in Hong Kong.
Havanera Guayabera shirts, made in China.

Finally, I ask a clerk, "My uncle is a patriot and I was looking to get him something made in America. Do have anything made in America here?"

"Maybe Levy's? Naw, not Levy's," he looks at another clerk. She agrees. He recommends I speak to a manager at customer service in their office.

I meet an older woman who says, "I don't know, you can check the tags, we don't order. Not much is made here anymore."

As I check a lamp stand made in China, a young lady in an American flag themed shirt working the floor says, "Everything here is made in China or Vietnam. You can check the 'Made In Oregon' store in the mall?" She smiles.

On the way I stop at a booth selling Hickory Farms sausage and cheese. I ask her where the sausage and cheese comes from. The lady finds a magazine somewhere in her booth; seeing the mailing address, she says, "Ohio!"
I ask where the food actually comes from, like, "where are the cows?" and she just shakes her head and says, "I don't know."

Inside this mall I could be anywhere in America- among the "130 national chains and restuarants." In fact, with all those clothes made in India and China I could be almost anywhere in the world- if the Macerich Company owned places like this outside America. Santa sits with a brilliant smiling little child on his lap. I know he and the elves live far away. I just didn't think they lived in China.

The Made In Oregon store is full of nicely wrapped transportable gift ideas! 2oz of Gary West meats Oregon Elk meat from Jacksonville, Or, $8. The beef is $6. 2oz of Tory's Smoked Sockeye wild salmon from Oregon City, $11 (I don't think you can catch Sockeye in Oregon city anymore, I might be wrong. It said, "Pacific Salmon" on the box, so I imagine it was from Alaska, although on the box there is a picture of a native man dip netting in the river.)

At the back of the store are the Pendletons. A Pendleton "trail shirt" that is "good for life" has a tag on its button saying "Exclusive Pendleton Fabric woven in our USA mills." Another tag reads "Oregon heritage of quality that is woven into every product. So when you buy a Pendleton, you're buying a part of Oregon." $98. You're also buy a little part of a factory in Mexico because the "trail shirt" is assembled in Mexico.

Only the Pendlton Blankets are actually made in the USA. These may be the only article of clothing sold at the entire Valley River Center that is made in the USA. Their tag reads "Pendleton Indian Friendship Beaver State Indian Blankets. Made in the USA." $110-$198. Another tag reads,

"Long before there were white men in America, there were blankets. Some were stitched together from fox or wolf pelts. Some were woven or twisted from thin strips of cedar bark fiber, bird, beaver or rabbit skins. Some were loomed from wild cotton and colored with native dyes.

Then from Europe, came wool and still more colors for the native artist's expressions. And later came men from Pendleton woolen mills, who studied the designs, striding to capture their true spirit in blankets produced with modern machinery. the work of those men resulted in the first Indian inspired Pendleton robes and shawls.

Today, that tradition of complimentary creation lives on in Pendleton Indian Robes and Shawls, still woven from the finest fleece wool, meant to be used and cherished from generation to generation."

Oregon's minimum wage law is $7.95 an hour. For someone earning such a wage it would take over 23 hours of labor to buy one 64'x80' blanket- the only article of clothing one can buy at Valley River that is made in America. (I suppose that is less than the perhaps 350 hours it can take, including preparation of materials (sheering sheep, cleaning and carding yarn, spinning yarn, dying yarn, and weaving), to weave a Navajo rug. These rugs are sold for $700 to $4000 each.)

Back over on the south side of the Williamette, in the George Owens Rose garden, there is a large Black Tartarian Cherry tree, perhaps the largest of its kind in the state. It stands approximately 161 years old this year. I wonder how many dollars I could pay for one cherry. Yet, I imagine, if this tree still bears fruit, most of it probably just rots in the grass.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Life as meaning in narrative, for metal and fleshy creatures

This weekend I saw Wall-E, an animated film by Pixar, in which a small brave-little-toaster like robot, Wall-E, saves life on earth. Humans, lead by the Buy N' Large company have consumed all of earth's resources and by the year 2110 decided to leave the planet a literal waste-land of trash and tour the solar system on a cruise while "Wall-E" robots clean up the mess. 700 years later, Wall-E is still doing the job crushing trash into cubes and stacking these into mountains. However, the little robot collects various other inanimate objects of interest who are his friends, along with an indestructible cockroach that survives by eating twinkies. Out of the trash Walle also finds a film of humans dancing and singing in live action. This little piece of recorded life becomes the narrative by which he recreates the living world through meaning.

A robot named "Eve" lands on the wasteland of earth in search of a plant specimen, evidence that it is possible for the humans in their cruise to return. Eve, who looks like an egg with computer screen eyes, is given the plant specimen which Wall-E has found. She then shuts off, impregnated by the plant, until a pod from the mother ship comes to get her. Wall-E chases after her, inspired by the old film recording of humans holding hands. He too longs to recreate this vision.

On the ship, humans have become nearly indistinguishable from inanimate objects, except that they are the lords and the metal robots are their slaves. The captain of the human race eventually comes into contact with dirt which inspires him to look up "earth" on his computer. Tapping into the narrative of life, he finds meaning in his existence, just like Walle already has done. Together, with Eve, they manage to return the plant specimen to earth and, in the process, come to life.

The film is a creation story in which all beings have the potential to live, if they are inspired by a narrative to LIVE. Like the book, The Giver (Lowry: 1993), living is a not simply continued existence, but the ability to see life through the inspiration of a narrative. One could call this tradition. The Giver was written before computers and robots became a central focus of American life, yet the message is very similar. Walle is a creation story because it is about the beginning (or re-starting) of intelligent life. It contrasts with other animated films like The Brave Little Toaster (Disch: 1980, Rees: 1987)) and Toy Story (Lasseter: 1995) because in those works the inanimate objects are already animate, as are the people; the conflict is that they live in a world in which people do not see or recognize the meaning in their not-so-fleshy lives.

Wall-E discusses the idea that the difference between "humans" and "robots" is really one of life and narrative, not of shape, size, or body type (metal versus flesh). Metal creatures can be "human" by way of meaning and narrative and fleshy bodies can achieve a state of in-animation much like objects. Life itself, as discussed in Walle, is about meaning. After all, within the world of animation, computer generated images, like drawings, animate into meaningful narratives. Perhaps the real issue here is the perceived divide between the "real" world and the "virtual" world. In Wall-E's (animated) world inspiration came from a recorded live action film set in the real world. The reverse of this would be real world people deriving inspiration about life from an animated "virtual" film.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I want to bring attention to Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, the artist of M.I.A.

Arulpragasam only recently has been living in Brooklyn, before that England and Sri Lanka(, but she captures a lot in her flurry of pictures and sounds that her video "Paper Planes" encapsulates. "Paper Planes" is really genius because it captures the role Americans have in "terror".

The character she plays is an American image, a beautiful young immigrant Indian woman working in a hot-dog truck and convenience store. At one point she wears those popular big black sunglasses as if she were high in public. There is darkness and shadows elsewhere in the video too. A black cash register, small dark rooms, the dark city, twilight, black and white city streets, a black skull and cross bones UPS truck, dark clothes, dark blue eye shadow. The girl counts money, wears gold chains, and dances; readily accepting money from the customers at her sandwich truck. She smiles and dances in the truck, in the convenience store, and through the streets.

The video begins with an image of many small paper planes flying into New York City. Lines about planes, visas, bombs, and records conjure up immediate thoughts of "terrorism," but they are skillfully intertwined with images and references to "American" ideas so much that it is difficult to differentiate the two. She sings, "Sometimes I feel sitting on trains/ Every stop I get to, I'm clocking that game,/ Everyone's a winner, we're making that fame". References to city life in America are paired with images of New York. Arulpragasam's song brings home the idea that as we are "pumping that gas" and delivering like "UPS trucks" we are actually pumping "lethal poison through their system." She describes "All I wanna do is... take your money... some I murder... some I let go." To carelessly take part in this system of poison, money, and terror, is to "fly like paper, get high like planes" and the result is the current state of "third world democracy." Or perhaps that first image of paper planes flying towards the towering buildings of New York refers to the thousands of immigrants that come to New York each year, for whatever reason (maybe for freedom), people who did not want to leave their countries but were forced to because of world forces beyond their control, often powerful forces that today emanate from NYC. Each paper plane flies beautifully, with American freedom, but as I watch them flying down dark streets towards towering buildings, I can't help but think of planes flying into towers, a terrorizing expression of global freedom and murder.

The lyrics are as follows(

I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border, I got visas in my name
If you come around, I make'em all day
I get one down in a second if you wait


Sometimes I feel sitting on trains
Every stop i get to, I'm clocking that game
Everyone's a winner, we're making that fame
Bona fide hustler making my name


All I wanna do is
And a, and take your money
All I wanna do is
And a, and take your money


Pirate skulls and bones
Sticks and stones and weed and bombs
Running when we hit'em
Lethal poison through their system


No one on the corner has swagger like us
Hit me on my banner, prepaid wireless
We pack and deliver like UPS trucks
Already going hell, just pumping that gas

All I wanna do is
And a, and take your money
All I wanna do is
And a, and take your money


M.I.A. Third World Democracy
Yeah, I got more records than the KGB
So, no funny business, are you already?

Some some some I some I murder
Some I, some I let go
Some, some, some I, some I murder
Some I, some I let go

All I wanna do is
And a, and take your money
All I wanna do is
And a, and take your money


Music by M.I.A.
essay by Alan Waxman

Friday, May 30, 2008

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Memorial Day Weekend I took the train, the Amtrak, from Eugene, Oregon, to Emeryville, California. For the first time in my experience it showed up in Eugene on time. It arrived in Emeryville only 1 hour late. The train is a fantastic way to meet Americans. Much like on the Greyhound, everyone sees everyone else and for those who choose to talk, everyone gets equal airtime. If automobiles separate Americans into groups and the mass media privileges the voices of a few, then the train is one method by which, for about 12 hours at a time, the opposite is done. On previous trips I rode down to California with a man who once was served as part of the US occupation of Japan and then rode back to Oregon next to a woman from Japan. This time I rode next to a US servicewoman currently in the army reserves; her story shed light on the state of the war and the role every American plays.

Suzanne (this is not her real name) has five children, looked around 35 or 40 years of age, and wears a t-shirt that says, "Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Self-less Service." When I sat down next to her she was trying to sleep. She was on leave from the reserves and had just spent a short stay in Portland with her kids. Now, she was taking the train down to Chico, California, to meet her boyfriend for 5 days. She is a polite woman and she really didn't want to make me move when she got out of her seat momentarily. The most striking thing about her is her passion for speaking. Once we started talking Suzanne talked and talked. Then when I went into a different car to eat and chat with a friend, she started talking to the Frenchman across the aisle, for hours. Obviously she has something to say.

When the twin towers were hit, Suzanne was flying with her two young boys from the East Coast to Portland. When she landed every flight in the country was cancelled. Realizing that she and her boys could easily have been turned into a bomb to destroy her own country, she enrolled in the reserves. She wanted to do her part for the values that she cares about.

"They treat their women differently," she says. In Iraq, "our boys walk into a room and there is a woman strapped down and beaten up, surrounded by men raping her. Our boys aren't allowed to stop that. They come back different. We don't treat our women like that. When I get deployed I'll have to stay in the safe zone because they shoot for women. They don't care if they kill a woman, in fact, they want to." As she says this I am thinking that this is not Iraqi culture; that's not a culture. She is wrong. But, I came to realize that she was not saying that Iraqi's are evil, but that they have a different country that we should not be messing with. In fact, she explained that the war has exacerbated the maltreatment of women over there; and the maltreatment of children. Adamantly she told me, "My daughter was never her father's property nor will she be her husband's. I will fight with a war cry! Woo Woo!" Later she told me about her mother who at 67 broke her pelvis barrel racing, but she got better and she is still raising horses for pay. He mother is a horse whisperer from Las Vegas who now lives in Chilequin, a small Oregon American Indian community, and works for a cowboy and riding camp. It is no wonder that Suzanne values the power and freedom of American women.

Suzanne has a 12 year old son. She repeatedly mentioned how "they train 12 year olds to fight. They desensitize them to violence. How does one of our guys shoot a 12 year old. He's holding a gun at you and will kill you. You've got a 12 year old kid yourself, but you have to shoot this kid or else your not gonna see your kids at home. You come back changed. We are on the cusp of another Vietnam - shooting kids with laundry." It became clear that in Iraq, 12 year olds are being trained to fight because the men older than 12 are already dead. "They have discipline" she said. "They know they aren't going home ("they are home," I added and she smiled), so they'll die to kill us. They are training the new breed of Taliban."

"This war has the lowest American deaths, but the highest rate of other kinds of casualties" she explained. Service men come back changed. Many are missing limbs and many more have psychological problems. She told the stories of a few friends of hers. Here is one: " You come back and you can't live a normal life. My friend was 17 when he joined and now he's 28. He can't live a normal life. he worked with the big guns. he used binoculars and told his best friend, 24, to shoot. He shot, they shot back, and he watched his friend's head get blown up. Now he has a twitch in his eye. The cost is too great.

When I ask her when we should have gotten out she tells me that she probably should be not speaking against her government but she thinks we should have gotten out five years ago. I expressed some surprise and mentioned that more Americans should talk to people in the service. She told me, "People should definitely, definitely talk to people in the service. While you're bitchin' about your food being too cold there's a guy in a foxhole opeing up his last food ration so you can bitch. He's killing people and you know he doesn't want to. It is time to bring them home." Needless to say she supports Obama or Clinton.

"United We Stand, Divided We Fall," she said.
"Every American needs to do their part... Stop Driving." With a smile Suzanne tells me, " I rode the train because I wanted to save gas... do my part."

by Alan Waxman


Rye Grass holds fast
loose Palouse soils.
if we search the roots about us,
we too will not be blown away in the wind.

This blog is devoted to research of the world in which we live, each place has its own rye grass, here we write about it.