Reading: Turtles All The Way Down. By John Green

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

 

Title: Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green
Type: Fiction
Finished: September 14, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aza Holmes is a high school woman who is having an existential crisis caused by – or compounded by – OCD triggered by an anxiety disorder. She is prone to thought spirals which take over her mind and body

I feel like a noose is tightening around me and I want out, but struggling only cinches the knot. The spiral just keeps tightening… [p 165]

As those spirals continue and she thinks about her friendships, she considers  “I couldn’t make myself happy, but I couldn’t make people around me miserable.” [p 157] Regardless, Aza works hard to maintain a friendship with Daisy and rekindles a crush with Davis – a rich boy whose father has disappeared. These relationships set them off chasing a mystery.

The idea of “self” ties in with her mental health struggle and we see the idea surface again and again:

“‘I think I might be a fiction,’ I said”

“How’s that?”

“Like you say it’s stressful to have a change in circumstances, right?”

She nodded.

“But what I want to know is, is there a you independent of circumstances? Is there a way-dow-deep me who is an actual, real person, the same person if she has money or not, the same person if she has a boyfriend or not, the same if she goes to this school or that school? O am I only a set of circumstances?’ [p 165]

As the story moves along we see Aza struggling with these questions again and again until it is almost too much; but then I saw that really it’s a technique to make clear the challenges she faces

John Green does an excellent job in tying together the hunt for a missing billionaire, friendship, romance, and Aza’s anxiety disorder in a quick paced story. I found myself putting off other activities and chores to read this novel. The fact that the author has suffered from mental illness since he was a teenager brings a authenticity to the story. What we want – or what I want at least – is to encounter meaningful and realistic lives in novels. Although there may be a few stretches here – can high school students really recognize lines from “The Tempest”? – it delivers throughout.

Be forewarned, that realism has a cost: you may find yourself avoiding peanut butter sandwiches for a while after starting this novel.

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Reading: Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

https://www.amazon.com/Clock-Dance-novel-Anne-Tyler-ebook/dp/B078QSXG2R/

Image from Amazon.

 

Title: Clock Dance
Author: Anny Tyler
Type: Fiction
Finished: August 27, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Tyler is a master storyteller probing the lives of the people in dysfunctional families. This is the third novel of hers I’ve read, the others being Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and Breathing Lessons. In this novel we follow the life of Willa Drake. We check in on a few days when she was a child  in 1967; again ten years later when she is in college; then 1997 when she is married with children. Those are prologues to the main part of the story in 2017.

Through some misunderstandings Willa travels from Tucson to Baltimore to take care of the child of her son’s ex-girlfriend – Denise – when Denise is in the hospital. The child is no relation to Willa. It is a beautiful story of Willa’s growth.

Because of her childhood experiences, Willa spends much of her life in the background of others.

Sometimes Willa felt she’d spent half her life apologizing for some man’s behavior. More than half her life, actually … forever charging ahead while Willa trailed behind picking up the pieces and excusing and explaining. [Loc 2533]

Tyler does a great job of showing how her early years made Willa the woman she became. Denise – the woman  she is caring for – at one point discusses with Willa why she isn’t more direct in dealing with her son.

“I still don’t get why you can’t ask Sean for a ride”

“I was hoping he’d think to offer,” Willa said.

“But why just hope? Why pussyfoot around? Why do you go at things so slantwise?”

She was right. Willa knew it. … [Loc 2639]

One of Anne Tyler’s many strengths is her ability to realistically capture thoughts and actions of a character in a moment in time. In the 1977  chapter Willa is having breakfast with her parents and her boyfriend in a way that we – at least I – can relate to.

Quietly buttering her biscuit, she felt important, suddenly. She was the sole reason these three people were sitting here. For once she was the absolute center of her world, and she took her own sweet time over the biscuit, keeping her eyes lowered and spreading the butter exactly to the biscuits edges with slow, even strokes that felt languorous and self-indulgent. [Loc 814]

Tyler’s characters are well drawn and three dimensional. It is a delight – even if painful at times – to follow Willa through the years.

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Reading: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon


Title: The Godfather
Author: Mario Puzo
Type: Fiction
Date Finished: August 18, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I caught the last half of this movie last summer – right when Sonny was killed – come on, that can’t be a spoiler almost 50 years later. It struck me that this was a hit book back in 1969 before it was a novel. It turned out to be a fantastic summer page-turner.
The movie is very faithful to the book although the novel – as they do by virtue of their longer format – gives more background to the characters.

If you are looking for a quick, exciting read – though with the suspense gone if you’ve seen the movie – pick it up.

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Columbia Gorge 2.2: Where’d All The Trains Go?

Pictures Date: September 2, 2018

After a restful night in The Dalles I was ready to head out on my second day chasing trains. I was determined to get out east of  Maryhill, Washington. It is a loooong way out to Maryhill from Portland – about 120 miles.

I thought it would be useful to include a map showing where I went – you can click on the map screenshot to bring up Google maps to get a closer look at any of the destinations.

An overview of my route with stops. Click to bring up Google Maps with the details.

An overview of my route with stops. Click to bring up Google Maps with the details.

On the map the road next to the tracks is called Maryhill Highway. Well, it might have been a highway back in the pioneer days but now it is a well maintained gravel road – so  I bumped along at 10 MPH. But I saw plenty of campers in RVs and trailers out there. Although it’s gravel it is accessible.

The other thing I discovered is that although the tracks are a short distance from the road, they are WAY up on a berm. I stopped to get a few pictures of an early morning oil train that will give you an idea.

BNSF Oil Train at "The Wall" Celilo, WA

Looking up at a west bound BNSF oil train at “The Wall” from Maryhill (gravel) RD east of Maryhill, WA. GPS coordinates estimated

 

BNSF Oil Train at "The Wall" Celilo, WA

Looking up at a west bound BNSF oil train at “The Wall” from Maryhill (gravel) “Highway” east of Maryhill, WA. GPS coordinates estimated

Close up of the locomotives pulling a BNSF oil train rolling across the "The Wall" east of Maryhill, WA

Close up of the locomotives pulling a BNSF oil train rolling across the “The Wall” east of Maryhill, WA

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BNSF oil train continuing west across the “The Wall” east of Maryhill, WA

The railroad berm is manmade but the geological structure is called “The Wall” as you can see in the first picture. Looking back west you can see how it came by its name – with Mt Hood way out in the background.

"The Wall" Celilo, WA

“The Wall” Celilo, WA

Comparing these photos with those of the day before you’ll notice it is much more desert like on this day. That is because we’ve passed through the Cascade range which effectively blocks the clouds and rains allowing us to enjoy both all during the winter. The Cascade Range – along with the Pacific Ocean I suppose – is the reason the Willamette Valley is so green.

Here is a graphic display – another Google Maps screenshot. You can see where the mountains are by the change from green to brown.The changeover occurs between Hood River and The Dalles.

Map showing the stark vegetation difference west and east of the Cascade Range. Click to zoom in.

Map showing the stark vegetation difference west and east of the Cascade Range. Click to zoom in.

Railroad Island Park is near John Day Dam. Just below the dam are a number of fishing platforms. Before the dam was built there was a large waterfall collection of waterfalls where Native Americans fished with nets and poles for over 15,000 years. In 1957 the dam opened and the waterfalls were no more. Some platforms are still maintained.

Fishing platforms near John Day Dam

Fishing platforms at the old Celilo Falls area – now John Day Dam

Just as I reached Railroad Island Park another train was rolling over the berm that creates the lake separating it from the Columbia River. It was clear that I was on the wrong side of the tracks to get the best light.

BNSF at Railroad Island Park

Westbound BNSF grain train on the causeway at Railroad Island Park, Washington. Near John Day Dam

There is a nice camping spot at the lake – big enough for a couple of trailers – that an extended family was using.

Railroad Island Park, Washington

Railroad Island Park, Washington

There is a pier at the lake and pleasure boats can head out east for a mile or so then cut under the railroad tracks and into the Columbia River. After a boat left the pier I took up my sentry duty – again wishing I had a chair to sit in.

But, no trains – for an hour. Finally I saw a high railer – a pick up truck outfitted with train wheels – heading westward. That usually means maintenance or inspection work and would explain why there were no trains.

I was as far east as I was going so I decided to head back toward home. I wasn’t going to go back over the gravel road; instead I opted for the paved John Day Dam Road which leads back to Washington SR 14. Not far from the park I saw a dirt road turn off leading up to a high spot where an RV was parked. I took the road and had a look around – I got a beautiful vista of the area I had been looking at from ground level. You can see the little lake to the left of the tracks. I had a great conversation with the RV camper – he told stories about hopping freights as a kid.

Columbia River overlook near John Day Dam

Columbia River overlook near John Day Dam

Just look at that berm the railroad tracks are on; the engineering, material,  and work that goes into building the railroad just amazes me. There is even a built up berm for maintenance vehicles to use to get to the tracks.

Here is a panorama of the area showing the dam

Columbia River overlook near John Day Dam

Columbia River overlook near John Day Dam

I’ll definitely be back to this spot on a future trip.

On the way back west I stopped off at the railroad town of Wishram, Washington. This is a moderately sized BNSF area with its own Amtrak station.  Like elsewhere that day, I found a train idling waiting for the line to clear.

Idling freight at the BNSF yard in Wishram, WA. - Columbia Gorge

Idling freight at the BNSF yard in Wishram, WA. – Columbia Gorge

As I continued toward home a train or two rolled by indicating traffic was starting to unfreeze a bit. So I stopped again at my new favorite train spotting spot – Horsethief Lake Park. A family with young kids was hanging out at the small boat launch ramp – we said hello to one another as we watched some barge traffic head up river.

Barge pushing up the Columbia River

Barge heading up river near Columbia Hills Historical State Park, Washington

It continued up to the locks at John Day Dam and I watched it slowly disappear. I was able to catch a picture with my zoom lens.

Barge pushing up the Columbia River

Barge pushing up the Columbia River east of Columbia Hills Historical State Park

Eventually I saw a westbound train snaking its way down the river.

BSNF grain train at Columbia Hills Historical State Park

My new favorite train photo location near the Columbia River at Columbia Hills Historical State Park

 

Not much else was happening on the Washington side of the river, but I heard a couple of Union Pacific trains on the other so I grabbed a long distance photo.

Union Pacific train headed toward Portland, OR on the other side of the Columbia River.

Union Pacific train headed toward Portland, OR on the other side of the Columbia River.

Remember my post about the previous day when I mentioned that these trains can be sneaky quiet? While I was gazing across the river an eastbound train was cruising up on the tracks behind me. When I heard the horn for the crossing I was way out of position. I jogged up but missed a good opportunity to catch it crossing in front of me; but I got a shot of the garbage train rolling away up river.

Garbage train passing through Horsethief Lake state park headed toward Roosevelt, WA

Garbage train passing through Horsethief Lake state park headed toward Roosevelt, WA

Yeah, you read that right – a garbage train. Each day two or three garbage trains carrying refuse  from Seattle, Alaska, and even Hawaii roll up the Gorge to Roosevelt, Washington.

It was mid afternoon and I was ready to  head home so I headed back west down SR 14 to The Dalles Bridge; crossed over to Oregon and headed home down I84. Being Sunday afternoon, my Los Angeles Dodgers were on the radio so I got to listen to the game most of the way home. I haven’t found spots on the Oregon side to train watch  – I think it’s because of the freeway with limited access as opposed to the two lane highway over in Washington. While I couldn’t stop and get pictures I did catch up to and pass that same Union Pacific train on the drive.

I got home around 4:00 with a little more than 300 miles on the odometer. A fun but tiring trip.

 

 

 

 

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Columbia Gorge 2.1: So Many Trains

Pictures Date: September 1, 2018

On my first train-hunting trip in early August I came away with photos of only one train; so it was only a matter of time before I tried my luck again. My wife headed out for a 4-day trip so the time was right. Since she had an early flight I dropped her off at PDX and then headed east out the Gorge. The best thing about my earlier trip is it allowed me to adjust my stopping points so I had a better plan this time. That wouldn’t necessarily mean I’d see more trains but I felt I’d have spots with good visibility and nice backdrops.

Now it is said that the best light for pictures are the golden hours around dawn and again around sunset. I was lucky enough to be up at the Cape Horn Lookout a bit before the sun came up. I parked and took photos for about 15 minutes as the sun was coming up.

Looking up the Columbia River from Cape Horn Lookout

Looking up the Columbia River from Cape Horn Lookout

Although it was hard to see straight down at the tracks, I heard a train rolling up the Gorge so I had high hopes for the day.

My first stop for trains was at the St. Cloud hiking area around milepost 29 on Washington SR 14. Soon after I got out my camera an eastbound freight with a Norfolk Southern GE unit in second position was moving toward me.

Eastbound BNSF at St. Cloud Hiking Area - Columbia Gorge

Eastbound BNSF at St. Cloud Hiking Area – Columbia Gorge

 

Off I went again. The next stop was a maintenance of way rail storage spot near Skamania Landing Road. As I was waiting for a train I noticed the big beautiful moon above. I have been astounded by some moon photos on Flickr taken with a Sony RX10M4 like mine.

View of the moon from the BNSF maintenance of way area at Skamania Landing RD off Washington SR 14

View of the moon from the BNSF maintenance of way area at Skamania Landing RD off Washington SR 14

It looks blue here – from looking through the beautiful morning sky. I think the contrast in black and white really shows it off. Frankly, I’m really impressed at the images the Sony RX10M4 captures.

Monochrome view of the moon from the BNSF maintenance of way area at Skamania Landing RD off Washington SR 14

Monochrome view of the moon from the BNSF maintenance of way area at Skamania Landing RD off Washington SR 14

Once again it seemed like my luck was going to be better this trip: a westbound grain train approached soon after I got the moon pictures.

Westbound grain train at Skamania Landing RD, WA - Columbia Gorge

Westbound grain train at Skamania Landing RD, WA – Columbia Gorge

Off again. As I headed toward Stevenson, WA I spied the parking lot for the North Bonneville hiking area. Since the path looked like it headed toward the railroad tracks I jumped – well at my age I don’t actually jump – out of the car and headed up a trail, a branch of which led right over a railroad tunnel. I found a spot and waited for a train to roll by. Since it was coming out of the tunnel I couldn’t see or hear it making it difficult frame a great shot – but it was nice nonetheless.

BNSF emerging from tunnel near North Bonneville Hiking Area. Columbia Gorge

BNSF emerging from tunnel near North Bonneville Hiking Area. Columbia Gorge

I should have taken a jacket out with me as it was windy and chilly on the trail. I hopped – well, see my comment about jumping – back in the car and continued east.

I hadn’t eaten breakfast so I stopped at a place called TJ’s – if I remember correctly. I was given the opportunity to use one of favorite lines. When the waitress told me I could sit anywhere, I looked at a man and his son and told him “I’m afraid you’ll have to move – she said I could sit anywhere.” Usually this gets at least a grin – but this guy just wasn’t having it. Oh, well.

After breakfast I drove to the stern wheeler parking area in Stevenson, Washington. It was still early so the stern wheeler American Empress was at the pier.

American Empress Stern Wheeler at the Stevenson, WA pier

American Empress Stern Wheeler at the Stevenson, WA pier

There was also a fun sculpture at the entrance to a nearby park. You can’t tell by the photo but it a kind of mobile with things rotating and spinning.

Moving sculpture near boarding spot near the stern wheeler boarding arean Stevenson, Washington

Moving sculpture near boarding spot near the stern wheeler boarding arean Stevenson, Washington

This is a great place to grab train pics. There is a crossing so you’ll hear the train horn a ways off and there are signal lights you can keep an eye on. It wasn’t long before the Portland section of the Empire Builder headed toward town.

West bound Portland section of the Empire Builder rolling through Stevenson, WA

West bound Portland section of the Empire Builder rolling through Stevenson, WA

A few years ago we took this train the other direction all the way to Chicago. One section originates in Portland and the other in Seattle; they meet up late at night in Spokane, Washington. The Portland section is a real treat as it rolls beside the Columbia Gorge all the way up to the John Day dam where it turns north.

Having gotten up at 4:30 AM I was a bit sleepy and I still had a full day in front of me; so I reclined my seat and dozed a bit figuring I’d hear when a train approached. I ended up spending more than an hour there – which gave me the opportunity to grab pictures of another westbound grain train.

West bound BNSF grain train rolling through Stevenson, WA

West bound BNSF grain train rolling through Stevenson, WA

Next stop: Home Valley campground where I found a pedestrian bridge over the tracks on my last trip. It’s funny – as big and powerful these trains are they are relatively quiet. You may not believe it but if there isn’t a crossing nearby or another reason to blow their horns they just roll up on you. It’s a good reason to be safe – which I am – and not be too close to the tracks. As I was looking westward from the bridge I heard a train coming from the east; I didn’t have much time to get set for the picture.

Taken from the pedestrian bridge at the Home Valley campground, WA. Columbia Gorge

Taken from the pedestrian bridge at the Home Valley campground, WA. Columbia Gorge

By now it was pushing into mid afternoon and I had a way to go before the day was through so I headed out toward Columbia Hills Historical State Park. I tried to get here last time but didn’t realize there are four parts to the park. I took the first turn which sent me way out into the hinterlands along Dalles Mountain Road – I didn’t get near the tracks but I did get this picture of an old freight wagon.

This time I took the correct turnoff for Horsethief Lake Park. This park features a whole wall of petroglyphs from the Native Americans back in the day. Lewis and Clark saw them back in 1805. I was hoping to find “She Who Watches” but I must have walked past it;  I liked this one:

Petroglyphs at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

Petroglyphs at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

This spot turned out to be a really nice place to photograph trains. You can see the westbound trains miles away giving you plenty of time to set up. It’s fun to track a train as it snakes its way down the Gorge. At first you see just a trace of movement way up the river, then the train gets closer and closer.

Westbound BNSF oil train at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

Westbound BNSF oil train at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

Westbound BNSF oil train at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

Westbound BNSF oil train at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

Hmm, I noticed the side of the train was in shadow. I was on the south – or river – side of the tracks for my pictures but I guess at this point the train isn’t heading true west. No worries; after the train passed I simply parked on the other side of the road.

Westbound BNSF grain train at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

Westbound BNSF grain train at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, WA. Columbia Gorge

BNSF West Bound at Columbia Hills Historical State Park

My favorite picture of the trip. BNSF West Bound at Columbia Hills Historical State Park

As I was sitting in the hot car I was thinking that bringing along beach chair would be nice so I wouldn’t have to stand for an hour at a time so as to not miss a train rolling up while I was in the car.

On I went. I had planned to go out to Maryhill and the John Day Dam but figured I was running out of time. Nevertheless, I continued out the Gorge to checkout Horsethief Butte. But it looked like a big hike without promise of good train pictures so I decided to save it for another day. My plan was to drive east until about four o’clock when I would turn back to The Dalles where I would spend the night.

I happened upon the turn off for the Avery Recreational Area and headed down to check it out. It looked like another great place for train pictures. No sooner had I parked than I caught a westbound coal train – the vast majority of trains I saw this day were heading west.

BNSF Coal Train passing Avery Recreational Area, WA. Columbia Gorge

BNSF Coal Train passing Avery Recreational Area, WA. Columbia Gorge

Another – lower priority – train was idling down the tracks a bit. I took the opportunity to get up along side it.

Idling BNSF at Avery Recreation Area, Washington

Idling BNSF at Avery Recreation Area, Washington

I waited a while longer but nothing else was on the rails. I figured that was a sign to head to The Dalles for dinner and bed.

That’s enough words and pictures for me to write and you to read for one post. I’ll write a second post about my second day when I would head out to Maryhill and the John Day Dam.

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Reading: The Republic for Which It Stands by Richard White

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 2.07.15 PM

Title: The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. 1865-1896
Author: Richard White
Date Finished: August 6, 2018
Report Posted: September 4, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

 

 

 

 

This book is a comprehensive view of Reconstruction to 1900s. Politics, power, culture, western expansion and industrialization. It would be impossible to address everything this book covers so I’ll stick with a couple of the central themes.

The ideal of “home” is a theme that ties much of the book together.  At end of Civil War the prototypical “home” was a self-sufficient farmer or small tradesman in a town like Springfield, Illinois. By the end of the century “home” had transitioned to an apartment in a  big city like Chicago with the wage-starved tenants barely able to get by. 

The idea of home was part of the drive to eradicate the Native Americans. They were depicted in popular culture as the enemy of families in the west. Native Americans had to be murdered to keep homes of the white settlers “safe”.

Likewise, the newly freed blacks were seen as a threat to the idyllic white home of the South. Laws and culture were built up to protect the white people’s homes by squashing Blacks. The chapters on the systematic denigration of Blacks is more than depressing, it is sickening. Andrew Johnson – Lincoln’s Vice President  who became president following the 16th president’s assassination – was racist from start to finish. In addition the North lost its appetite for pursuing equal opportunity following the Civil War. As a result the Ku Klux Klan worked hand-in-glove with Southern politicians to effectively deprive Blacks – through intimidation and murder –  the right to vote or work as anything other than sharecroppers. Since they were now workers instead of property (slaves) the Whites physically mistreated the freed people even worse than they had prior to their emancipation.

Throughout the book we read how corrupt the upper levels of society and politicians were. The author details the building of the railroads which settled the American West. The railroads were given tens of thousands of miles of territory. Financing was done through back office deals and outright bribery of Congressmen and Senators. They were so badly managed it’s a minor miracle they were built at all. Nevertheless, Jay Gould and the other heads of the railroads reaped enormous profits.

My biggest take away was how Congress and the judiciary turned milestone laws on their heads. Although industrialization had changed the way society worked, “the court acted as if industrialism had changed nothing essential and the economy still consisted of open competition between small independent producers.” [p871] For example,

“… judges appropriated the democratic language of Jacksonianism, which had sought to protect the many from the few, and turned it into a legal vocabulary that protected the few from the many. Turning people into commodities was impermissible, but turning people’s labor into a commodity  – a piece of property to be bought and sold – was the source of progress. Freedom became the protection of property.” [p 812]

Likewise, the Supreme Court turned the 14th amendment on its head. The end result was that

“By rendering freedom as the ability to dispose of ‘property’- either labor or capital – liberal judes cast restraints on property as potential attacks on freedom. … [A]nything that restricted contract freedom – whether licensing laws, certain kinds of public health regulations, strikes, boycotts, or the closed shope – became the legal equivalents of slavery. Such restrictions violated either the rights of workers to pursue a calling or the freedom of citizens to use property as they saw fit. Old protections against seizure of property without due process morphed into the ‘right’ of capital to a fair expected return on investment.”[p 814]

[Note: the term “liberal” judges should not be seen using our current terminology; it is a term to identify a group in the late 19th century.]

Corporations held all the cards. Strikes were illegal and workers had no rights to negotiate salaries or work environments. The law written to maintain competition and put controls on corporations was subverted.

“The Sherman Antitrust Act became virtually a dead letter against corporations for much of the 1890s, but unions, which were not the original concern of the legislation, became its targets. The courts could empty laws of content and fill them with new meaning. Of thirteen decisions invoking antitrust law between 1890 and 1897, twelve involved labor unions.” [p 819]

This book details the dismal lives of the majority of citizens and demonstrates what happens when money and power go untethered. As I’ve said before – what is good for business is not necessarily good for the citizenry.

In between we read about people and events that have come down through history. John Henry Brown has been memorialized as dying while racing a machine building a railroad. In truth he was most likely a prisoner rented out to the railroad and worked to death. The book also chronicles John Wesley Powell’s exploration of the United States arid reaches west of the 100th meridian.   We are also treated to stories about Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, General Custer and more.

I see parallels between that age and our current one. The power the one percenters have over our society today is similar to that of the Gilded Age. The early 1900s ushered in the Progressive Era where many of these injustices were addressed and corrected. I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that the same will happen today.

The Oxford History of the United States is a fantastic series which gives a comprehensive view of America’s growth. This is a worthy entry in the series.

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Maine Clam Boil at Hood Canal

Date of Visit: August 25, 2018

Most of the smoke from the day before was gone so we decided to stay rather than head home. Good thing! Our hostess had a great treat on the menu for us – a Main Clam Boil. There would be nine people altogether: our hosts, friends they’ve been with for 30 or so years, us, and some folks who used to live in our hood but have since moved to Washingon,

Clams are easy to come by at the cottage on the canal. Simply walk out into the mud flats during low tide and dig up what you need.

The ingredients are simple but delicious

New Potatoes are at the bottom

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Shallots and aromatics go in first

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Sausages and hot dogs

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Clams, of course

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and corn on the cob

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The clam boil itself requires  a LARGE pot with a large burner to get the water boiling. I don’t know how many gallons this pot holds, but it is big. I can’t imagine doing this on the stove top – at least for the size of crowd we had. Many years ago when we were traveling in the South of France we had a local vendor come out to the house to cook us a huge plate of paella – the burner was similar to the one we used.

John was the head cook.

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First the potatoes, shallots, and aromatics are placed in a basket and go in the simmering water for 5 to 10 minutes.

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Then everything else goes in: sausages and clams,

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with the corn on top.

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The corn is just about done

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When the corn is done and the clams have opened it’s time to pull everything. The corn goes in its own serving bowl; everything else is in the basket.

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John had a steady hand

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Our hosts have a great island in the kitchen with a stainless steel top so the hot stuff can lay on it easily. The basket has some feet on it to keep it up a bit. The plates were prepared – plenty of melted butter is a must of course.

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And dinner was served

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What a delicious dinner! We stayed at the table and chatted for hours.

Good times with good friends; it’s always a treat for us when we are invited up.

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