When we brought up the question of city planning, Mr. Gruen grumbled that “planning” has become a dirty word in this country. “Almost as bad as if Lenin had invented it,” he said. “The fact is no city was ever planned enough. Planned and replanned. Here in New York, we’re like a big family that’s all dressed up with no place to go. Wherever we turn, it’s jostle and bustle and frayed nerves and bad tempers. In Detroit, six or seven thousand people make their way to Northland on Sunday afternoons. The stores are closed, so what are they doing there? Looking for open space. They window-shop and stroll through the gardens and sit on benches and soak up the sun and enjoy the fountains and sculpture. What Northland teaches us is this—that it’s the merchants who will save our urban civilization. ‘Planning’ isn’t a dirty word to them; good planning means good business. Besides, any improvements they make are tax-deductible. Sometimes self-interest has remarkable spiritual consequences. As art patrons, merchants can be to our time what the Church and the nobility were to the Middle Ages.”

“New City,”  Andy Logan and Brendan Gill, New Yorker March 17, 1956

Maiden's blush

In my garden this summer, Maiden’s Blush has flowered largely, some of her blossoms flushed so deeply pink as to deserve the adjective émue. So what does it mean to look at the blossoms and think of sex. Am I thinking metaphorically? Well, yes and no. This flower, like all flowers, is a sexual organ. The uncultured bumblebee seems to find the blossom just as attractive as I do; he seems to be just as bowled over by its perfume. Yet I can’t believe that I gaze on the blossom in quite the same way he does. Its allure, for me, has to do with its resemblance to women—to “the thighs of an aroused nymph,” about which I can assume he feels nothing. For this is a resemblance my species has bred, or selected, this rose to have. So is it imaginary? Merely a representation? (But what about the bee?! That’s no representation he’s pollinating.) Are we, finally, speaking of nature or culture when we speak of a rose (nature) that has been bred (culture) so that its blossoms (nature) make men imagine (culture) the sex of women (nature)?

This may be the sort of confusion we need more of. (97)

 Michael Pollan Second Nature: A Gardner’s Education

This has to be one of the most ugly and confusing paragraphs I’ve ever read from Michael Pollan. I’m sure it’s intentional and its structure mirrors its concept. However, I can’t help but think there has to be a better way to describe this relationship. The cooperative nature of man’s relation with plants becomes his subject in The Botany of Desire, but what fascinates me here is his probing of the relationship between the symbolic and the actual/functional character of things.

Future Chill

UP Reefer cars

Lydia Sigourney’s 1854 lament about progress speaks to the emergence of a desire for mobility, for travel at increasing rates of speed:  “We plod after it in our antique, lumbering stage-coaches, and can scarcely keep in sight the smoke of its engine. We can not overtake it, and it will not stay for us.” It isn’t just about the speed though; it’s a matter of climate control. Food, one of our most basic “goods,” is endlessly tangled up in the need for speed and narrow spectrums of climate.

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“Every year of my life,” says Cecil, “I grow more convinced that it is wisest and best to fix our attention on the beautiful and the good, and dwell as little as possible on the dark and the base.” Yet it is said that the past-meridians are prone to be querulous, dissatisfied, and to multiply complaints. I think I have heard a few of these. Supposing we should listen to and examine them. ” The world is not what it used to be.” No. It is in a state of palpable progress. It has thrown off its seven-mile boots, and travels by steam. We plod after it in our antique, lumbering stage-coaches, and can scarcely keep in sight the smoke of its engine. We can not overtake it, and it will not stay for us. The world is in a different phase of  action. It pleads guilty to this accusation.

What next? ” We do not receive the respect that was once paid to age.” Perhaps we expect too much. Is not something due from us? We think the young neglect us. Do we not owe something to the young ourselves? Those who linger at a banquet after others are gone, should take especial pains to make themselves agreeable. If we find less courtesy than we wish, let us show more. It becomes us to be very meek and patient, to make amends for our long entertainment at life’s board. “I had a beautiful dream,” said a bright boy. “I thought we children were all in heaven, and so happy. By and by, grandfather came in frowning, and said as he always does, ‘Can’t these children stop their noise?’ So, we all ran away.” (24-25)

Mrs. L. H. Sigourney. Past Meridian (1854)

High Noon

Poster - High Noon_23

Poster - High Noon_03

High Noon was one of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s favorite movies. In fact, it’s one of the movies most frequently screened in the White House, according to Wikipedia at least. It is a distinctly American story.

Released in 1952, it tells the story of a town marshall (played by Gary Cooper) who is about to be married to a nice quaker girl (played by Grace Kelly). Because of her devout Quaker pacifism, he is going to step down from his postion to lead a quieter, non-violent life. However, an outlaw the marshall was instrumental in convicting has been pardoned and is returning to the town and kill him. Cooper’s successor as marshall had not yet arrived in town, and rather than flee his potential killer Cooper stays in town to fight alone— the citizens refuse to help him.

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6412 Mignonette

My father and I in the backyard of 6412 Mignonette Street, Bakersfield, CA

If gardening is an exploration of a place close to home, being a teenager is an exploration of mobility, and these two approaches to place, or home, are bound to sooner or later come into conflict. For at least a decade I probably didn’t think once about plants or even notice a landscape. Eventually, though, I came back to the garden, which is probably how it usually goes. Much of gardening is a return, an effort at recovering remembered landscapes. (33)

 Michael Pollan Second Nature: A Gardner’s Education

Roadside Halwa

In a moment of weakness, I bought a five pound bag of carrots at Sam’s Club a week or two ago. I usually try to get the smaller organic carrots simply because they taste better, but for what I was making these seemed easier. They are big and easy to peel. I wanted to make an Indian desert, gajar ka halwa– a sort of carrot pudding. I tend to choose produce based on how healthy and tasty it is, not where it comes from. These Sam’s Club carrots looked a bit better than what I’d been using from the locally-focused supermarket I normally shop at.

Something really familiar struck me when I pulled out the bag today, attempting to make more progress in using it up. I know Grimmway Farms!

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