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The Sun Interview

When A Tree Falls In The Forest

An Interview With John Seed

He’s been called “the town crier of the global village.” But John Seed does far more than sound the alarm of impending environmental disaster. Whether fighting to shut down uranium mining in Australia, organizing grassroots efforts to halt the destruction of rain forests in New Guinea and Ecuador, or putting himself in the path of bulldozers, Seed is a tireless advocate for the planet.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

How To Kiss The American Dream Goodbye

Here’s one small metaphorical leap from travel literature: the journey of life can be enjoyed even in cheap hotels. This idea is standard in any folk philosophy better to have modest means and do what you enjoy. Even in the carpeted corridors of yuppiedom, people are considering “downsizing” their frenetic careers, although this is more a search for sanity than the pursuit of an ideal. What I advocate is more radical than winching down from six digits of income to five.

Saturday Matinee

When I was a boy in the fifties, nothing was more dear to my heart than a Saturday matinee at The Birmingham. The theater’s very name, like those of so many similarly ornate movie palaces built in the twenties, conjured up images of taste, refinement, and wretched decorative excess. This particular example happened to be named for my hometown, Birmingham, a refuge for the patrician classes located safely north of Detroit. Those with long memories will recall that Detroit was once the Rome of the industrialized world, ruled by a triumvirate of the Big Three automakers. The economic health of the entire galaxy seemed to be pegged to how many cars the city fathers churned out, and The Birmingham accordingly styled itself as Circus Maximus.

The Vet

At first, I couldn’t see anything but the tanned, crepey skin of his forearm through the small window. When I opened the door, he jerked himself into an erect posture, as if he’d been called to attention, and smiled. He was leaning heavily on a walking stick made from a gnarled oak branch, which made him seem ancient, though in fact he was no older than I. His eyes were sunken and sad. He was wearing old jeans and a threadbare flannel shirt, and carrying a plastic tote tray with four cans of spray paint — two white and two black — a set of large numeral stencils, and a rag. His shoulder-length hair stirred listlessly in the breeze.

Call When You Get There

There are no plants, no posters, no homey touches at the driver’s license bureau, just a few desks jammed together under the harsh glare of fluorescents, and seated behind them, in starchy uniforms and neckties, the examiners. The women examiners wear ties, too, though theirs are shorter than the men’s — either as a concession to fashion or evidence of the usual pecking order.

Fiction

Gestures Of Protection

“It’s like a spiritual cruise ship, a love boat,” says Joan. She’s determined to be positive. The lounge on the first floor is decorated with large posters of attractive, radiantly smiling men and women who have given money to the ashram. All the women appear fitter, happier, more relaxed than she. Few of the men are as handsome as her husband. Joan cannot imagine Richard raising up his arms in an attitude of joy, as a man with curly gray hair is doing in a field of daffodils. Underneath the posters are racks of brochures with quotations from the guru and lists of activities available to guests.

My Life As Giselle

Giselle gets to have more than one cup of coffee a day. She drinks it in a bowl with hot milk for breakfast, then has tiny black cups later on, or bigger cups with creme, whatever she feels like. She also has a pastry for breakfast every morning. She doesn’t give a thought to blood sugar levels or fiber.

Small Favors

I started using carry-out at the grocery store when I got pregnant. Even when I could still lift the bags, I decided not to. Having put off pregnancy until forty, I didn’t want to take any risks. After a month or two, Cao showed up. He looked Vietnamese, his black hair slicked back, new-employee shiny. At first I didn’t care who carried my groceries, but then I started lining up for the registers he worked. Cao made the extra effort. He frowned slightly as he dealt the items into sacks that were just heavy enough. He double-bagged without being told. And he smiled: a smile and a little nod to sort of bump it into place, then a shy look away, back to business.

Readers Write

The American Dream

For years I thought I’d grown up in a family that sneered at the American Dream. We believed it was a naive fantasy of immigrants who were unable to accept that our streets weren’t really paved with gold, who were brainwashed by politically motivated propaganda. Certainly, my parents were, and are, deeply cynical about the political process and what it means economically for people without advantages or connections.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

When you’ve parked the second car in the garage, and installed the hot tub, and skied in Colorado, and wind-surfed in the Caribbean, when you’ve had your first love affair and your second and your third, the question will remain, where does the dream end?

Mario Cuomo

More Quotations ▸
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