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Cool as a Cucumber:

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Eating my vegetables never tasted so good. Until last night I’ve eaten the Jolly Green Giant’s peas, Food Lion’s beans, and even my wife’s tomatoes, but never MY vegetables.

As I crunched my cucumber, it struck me as criminal that a decent person could live 50 years without eating one vegetable he planted in his backyard. Is it “progress” that generations now live and die without eating anything they themselves have planted? In my defense, my childhood backyard was a 12 x 9 section of cement with cinderblock walls 6 feet high—nearly cellblock specs. A lone, caged oak grew through our front sidewalk. I still wonder what crime the tree committed to deserve solitary confinement.

This commentary began as a rambling chat with Gwenyfar Rohler at Old Books on Front Street. We spoke of banned books [during last week’s Banned Books Week and about] how important her [Live Local] column is to the region. How, especially, in the age, her bookstore is a vital, local physical nexus of good people and ideas. We waxed philosophical about how important deriving physical and intellectual nourishment from our own backyards will be in “saving the planet.” Actually, we talked more about survival than saving the planet, but sometimes we lose sight of one in search of the other.

I rambled about the elegance of Beinhocker’s “Origin of Wealth” and raised questions about our valuation of imports. I’ve got nothing against the Chinese, but the cost of imports from the Far East once reflected their distance and rarity. Walk into any store today, and you’d think Beijing was beside Burgaw. I got really bugged at Burgaw’s Blueberry Festival last June when Jersey’s blueberries cost less than Burgaw’s. (I bought Burgaw’s best.) Shouldn’t cost reflect distance traveled?

On a recent Monday night, I listened to David Gessner speak at WHQR. If the Patriots weren’t playing, he would have said a little more about his books, “My Green Manifesto” and “The Tarball Chronicles,” and a lot more about how to save the planet without being so serious. He touched on at least a few of the issues that have bugged me since Uncle Ronnie saved us from Professor Carter. Like why is Cowboy Capitalism cool but environmental activism and eating your own vegetables criminal? (A Michigan woman and a Kentucky teacher face fines and maybe hard time for growing vegetables in their front yards. “Crimes against nature” used to mean unmentionable sexual offenses but apparently planting vegetables where nature intended a pesticide-rich putting green of a lawn now qualifies.) And why are so many left-leaners paralyzed by ordinary hypocrisies? Al Gore’s jet fuel bills shame many ‘Chicken Little’ lefties to silence about the realities of climate change. Cite 10,000 righties for fraud, drug abuse, “crimes against nature”; oceans will rise, economies will fall, and they’ll continue to shamelessly mount the “moral high ground.”

Which brings me to Reagan’s “shining city on the hill.” Perched on moral high ground, above rivers of refuse (Gessner’s Charles, my Schuylkill, our Cape Fear), it’s got a “Star Wars” missile defense system and a border fence that separates us from them. It’s a city with putting green manicured lawns and without sidewalks. A shining sterile city of steel and cement.

No, I’m not going to turn a cool cucumber commentary into a hot-headed Stop Titan rant. I will say if we needed a new cement plant, if it would bring substantial profit to both the local economy and environment, I’d be for it. The necessity is nil, job growth minimal, environmental and health impact potentially large, and the financial fruits enjoyed on Wall Street and in bankrupt Greece (Titan’s HQ), not here.

I’ll say my HOA may have to contend with zucchini beside zinnias next spring; and though I’m not inclined to hug a tree, I’ve learned the names of 83 trees in the habitat around my house (among them, Athena, Vonnegut, McCartney, Darwin, Kurosawa, Salinger, and of course, Hammerin’ Hank Thoreau). Nothing in my backyard habitat grows through cement or in a cage. In my view, there are far better materials with which to rebuild the local economy and bind us to a fruitful future than cement.

See, concise and cool as a cucumber.

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