Running for Your Life: Election Protection

Comes a time when the right mind comes to the right topic at the right time. That happens in the essay that follows from the current Harper’s magazine. Enjoy (at least from the standpoint of giving concrete, critical form to what we are watching, dumbstruck, upon the political stage …)


DON THE REALTOR
The Rise of Trump
By Martin Amis, Harper’s August 2016

Discussed in this essay:
Trump: The Art of the Deal, by Donald Trump with Tony Schwartz. Ballantine Books. 384 pages. $16.99.

Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, by Donald Trump. Threshold Editions. 208 pages. $25.

Not many facets of the Trump apparition have so far gone unexamined, but I can think of a significant loose end. I mean his sanity: what is the prognosis for his mental health, given the challenges that lie ahead? We should bear in mind, at this point, that the phrase “Power corrupts” isn’t just a metaphor.

There have been one or two speculative attempts to get Donald to hold still on the couch. Both Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have called him a “pathological liar,” but so have many less partial observers. They then go on to ask: Is his lying merely compulsive, or is he an outright mythomaniac, constitutionally unable to distinguish non-truth from truth — rather like those “horrible human beings,” journalists (or at least spiteful, low-echelon journalists), who, Trump claims, “have no concept of the difference between ‘fact’ and ‘opinion’ ”? PolitiFact has ascertained that Donald’s mendacity rate is just over 90 percent; so the man who is forever saying that he “tells it like it is” turns out to be nearly always telling it like it isn’t.

Running for Your Life: Promise of Paradise Found

Miola, Puglia
June 2016

When you find the perfect place
And you’ve been searching your whole life long

There is a moment

This one under the pinos in a hummocky field cleared of rocks, the mura antica,

kissed by cool breezes that waft over us in the shade
from a pitiless sun, essential for the plants, the citrus and flowers,

so numerous that it would drain
the pen dry to put down.

And, yes, the breeze now stirs to a rustling wind, chases off the fly
And so keeps the promise of paradise found.


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Running for Your Life: Puglia Poetry

Polignano a Mare

Cold of the sea surf washes over us
As we sit on a rock

A Wicklow man
rescue team member on mountain trails

trains his eye
on a boy
gangly and good natured
shy to be the center of attention but relief
washes over him as our Wicklow man rises

out of the sea like
an Irish god, yellow locks
wet down an ample back that the boy is soon
making sweet use of as the act of mercy is performed
on the shifting rocks, the boy hopping on one foot, smiling
even now

with his Italian visit in tatters, his ankle, what has drawn our
hero’s eye, swollen to three times its normal size, something
the boy has not seen or felt before
but known all too well by the Irishman of the Wicklow trails.

“I have seen a fair thousand of these,” he says with a light
glowing from somewhere inside, not leaving the boy until
the story takes a turn toward a direction that is familiar and sound.


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Running for Your Life: Puglia Puglia

It’s been about a month since being in Puglia (Apulia, in English), but the magic of the land, the light, the air stirs within me still. That is saying something, given the month of tragic headline news we've had back in America.

M and I never fully grew accustomed to where we were living: a masseria, or fortress farm, built in the early 1700s and renovated three centuries later. (In the vein of receiving a phone call from the Pulitzer committee – My response: Are you sure you have the right Larry O’Connor? Chances are …)

No, our two-week masseria, with a late eighteenth-century fresco in the farm’s former chapel (now drawing room) was not meant for someone more deserving. It was for us. Two writers who didn’t know how much we could take advantage of a sanctuary retreat like this one.

Inside the fortress farm: courtyard piazza, converted cow barn (with feeding station plaques and birthdates for three cows who lived there – Contessa, Principessa and Bianchina) to game room, where M spread out her latest novel manuscript on the netless ping pong table; a cheese room with vintage fireplace; second story sleeping quarters, with back deck for night sky watching. The door leading upstairs has a lock on it so old that it has to be turned with a metal key the size and weight of a small dog.

Puglia, in southern Italy, is not on the tourist trail. In the hills where we stayed, it is a place of sunny days and cool nights. Lemon and orange trees. Olives and capers and cherries and almonds. Primitivo red wine made with the grape that when it migrated to Napa Valley put Zinfandel on the map. But Primitivo in the terroir that is Puglia Puglia tastes nothing like the food clobberer that is California Zinfandel.

Looking for an Italy that is not Venice, not Florence, not Rome, not Tuscany, not Umbria? Consider Puglia Puglia. It will stay in your blood long after you leave it.


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Running for Your Life: This Is Your Brain on Parasites

When it comes to the “body” journalism there is a lot to choose from. Diet books, exercise books, lifestyle books. At root, we’re either looking for validation of the choices we are making, or guided by fixes we feel we need to make: lose weight, build muscle, improve our sleep, revive energy.
Then there is This is Your Brain on Parasites by journalist Kathleen McAuliffe. As Publishers Weekly aptly notes, McAuliffe presents her research “less as fact than in a spirit of exploration.”

Understandably this book will piss off the serious science readers, but for a layman like me there is so much to chew on.  Here’s a sampling of my title page note-taking: Roundworms! Chance Favors the Prepared Mind; Guinea tapeworm body marauders; Malaria contraction wonders; Wasp vs. spider/cockroach; Caffeine and bees, before that ants/fungus! Sex = biological uniqueness; Bears and pelt cleaning; dirt eaters; Disgustology!

What's your appetite? Diet, sleeping, sex? Probiotics!

Do yourself a favor and look this title up. Among “body” book readers, you’ll be the talk of the beach.

Next: Running for Your Life: Puglia Poetry