Question: Can you suggest any home remedies to brighten my smile?
–Betsy Wilson, Omaha, Nebraska
Look no further than your kitchen. Several compounds found in foods have been shown to clean and whiten teeth. For a youthful appearance, International Academy for Dental-Facial Esthetics expert Marc Liechtung offers several natural whiteners:
Strawberries: Malic acid in strawberries is good for weekly whitening. Mash 2 or 3 berries with a pinch of baking soda. Brush for several minutes, then rinse well.
More fruits and veggies: Apples, pears, cauliflower, and cucumbers boost saliva production, helping to wash away stains.
Seeds: Poppy and sesame seeds act like natural toothbrushes.
Hard cheese: Academy of General Dentistry says enzymes and calcium in hard cheese fortify teeth and gums.
Steak: According to the American Dental Association, phosphorus in steak strengthens tooth enamel.
Tea: Delivers antioxidant polyphenols and fluoride, which protect against tooth erosion.
Sugarless gum: Artificial sweetener xylitol has been shown to stop tooth decay.
When I was a younger man, I didn’t understand the meaning of the expression “No good deed goes unpunished.” Well, I do now. All I have to do is look in my mailbox.
You see, I’m basically a generous guy. I donate regularly to a lengthy list of charities and causes. I always have; it’s the way I was raised. Even in lean times when I can barely make ends meet, I’ll send $10 or $20 to support this or that group in its time of need, which, as it turns out, is always. I’m billions apart from the likes of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, but I do what I can.
So, what has been my reward, aside from a small tax deduction and a nice, warm feeling, for this largesse? An ever-rising tidal wave of appeals–as many as a dozen a day–designed to guilt me into a donation. A punishing procession of abused animals, starving children, displaced families, alarmed environmentalists, disabled veterans, even aging nuns–all with their tin cups out.
They arrive not only from the usual suspects, but also from organizations I’ve never heard of before. Obviously, some of my favorite charities have been selling or sharing their donor lists, and I’m a big, fat target for every kindred nonprofit. The mailman must think I’m bucking for canonization.
Now, I understand these folks need to solicit money to continue doing whatever good it is they’re doing. I sympathize, really. But what ticks me off are some of the ways they go about it. There are the unsolicited “special gifts” that invariably get tossed out: key chains, rosary beads, calculators, (hideous) holiday cards, calendars, “Native American” blankets (made in China!), mailing labels (which I never use if I haven’t made a contribution). The thinking behind these cheesy gifts is blatant: We gave you something, now you give us something in return. No thanks.
The blue ribbon for most annoying solicitations, however, goes to those that come with pennies or nickels glued inside (“Just 2 cents a day can keep little N’gomo alive”). I suppose this tactic works, since so many organizations employ it. But it doesn’t work on me. I can’t help thinking: If they need money so much, why are they sending it to me? For the longest time, I would return the coins. No more. Now I peel them off and put them in a jar to save toward donations to my favorite charities, ones that don’t send me useless gifts or loose change.
What’s truly sad about this development is how it has hardened me. It used to pain me to throw away an appeal because I didn’t have the money. But the sheer volume has become intolerable. Recently, I calculated how much I would pay out in a month if I donated just $5 to every appeal I received in the mail. It came to nearly $850 a month, or more than $10,000 a year. It’s getting easier to sigh and throw the lot in the recycling bin.
No, I’m not going to stop giving, but I’m more selective. I wish charities would realize that it doesn’t pay to abuse their donors with constant solicitations. You could kill the Golden Goose that way. Instead of sending key chains or nickels, maybe they should invest in follow-up software that tells them that I’ve just donated so leave me alone for at least a couple of months. Or that they’ve approached me four times already this year with no luck, so I’m obviously not interested. There has to be a better way of doing good.
Just stop the punishment, please.
She stood there in her velveteen dress, blooming and exotically perfumed, like a hothouse rose sprouting from the asphalt-colored carpet. Her hair, in defiance of modern styles and gravity, had been sculpted into a magnificent bouffant, and her white pumps matched her patent-leather pocketbook exactly.
“May I help you?” I asked, intrigued.
It was early January. The office was sluggish with post-holiday funk, and I hoped this singular woman would provide an engaging distraction.
She placed a hand on her chest, fingers splayed in a fan, long nails shining red. “My name is Darla. I’m the new secretary.” Her words hung in the air like ripe peaches, heavy and sweet.
“The new—” I broke off, confused. The CEO of our small company was out of the country, wooing some potential clients in Beijing. If everything went well, our business would double over the next two years, and more office help would be a necessity. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize we’d hired an administrative assistant.”
Darla gave me a pitying look. “Oh, honey, you mean no one told you I was comin’? Well, don’t you worry, that sort of thing won’t happen around here anymore. I’m an absolute whiz at the organizational arts.” She opened her pocketbook and pulled out an envelope, which she handed to me with a flourish. “Here are my references.”
At that moment, Gordon, our senior VP, stomped out of his office holding a thick printout. “Guess what, folks? No one ever updated the old spreadsheet with the new product codes, and now all the orders that have come in for the last six weeks will need to be re-entered!”
Doors opened cautiously at the sound of his raised voice, and employees popped their heads out like prairie dogs.
“It’s going to take forever,” Gordon continued, “and all of these orders will probably arrive late, or with the wrong parts. Or both. We’ll lose customers over this. Vanessa’s gonna have a conniption when she gets back from China.”
He paused to wipe his mustache and seemed to notice Darla for the first time. “Who’re you?” he said.
She was unfazed by his hostile tone. “I’m your new best friend, darlin’,” she replied, plucking the sheaf of papers from his fist and smoothing them out.
I glanced down and was surprised to see that I was now holding her pocketbook as well as her references. When had that happened?
The timbre of Darla’s voice changed so that she seemed to be addressing not just Gordon but the entire office. “As soon as somebody finds me a desk and a comfy swivel chair, I’ll set down to work and straighten out those pesky numbers for you.”
Gordon blinked. His face was that of a man who unexpectedly finds himself standing in a sunbeam after months of cold rain.
We held our breath, waiting to see how he would respond.
After a few seconds, he spoke. “Kate, would you please show our new assistant to her desk? She can use Roger’s old office until we can get a more suitable workspace set up for her.”
“Sure,” I said. “It’s right over here.” I was very conscious of Darla gliding along behind me while I walked up to the door. As I opened it and turned on the light, I felt unaccountably nervous. It was a nice enough office, but it was on the small side, and there was no window. “Will this be all right?”
She brushed past me, dusted off the seat of the chair, and settled herself into it. “It will do just fine for now, honey.”
By the following week, Darla was installed behind a large desk in the main office, greeting visitors with irresistible Southern charm, answering the phone, and presiding over everyone’s wellbeing. The stress level in the office had never been lower; our purchasing manager actually cancelled a vacation he’d planned on taking, saying he’d rather be at work than tramping around a muggy amusement park in Florida with his kids. All the little annoyances of the workplace—paper jams in the copy machine, forgotten network passwords, an empty five-gallon bottle on the water cooler—were addressed with relaxed good cheer.
It wasn’t that Darla was fixing these problems herself, but rather that her presence had a calming effect on all of us, and we wandered through our daily tasks with the dopey smiles of lotus-eaters. We all intuitively understood that she was far too busy to be bothered with changing the toner in the printer or refilling the stapler. As a formality, Gordon had called her references, and all of them had said they missed her terribly and their businesses were never the same after she left.
Darla started every day with a towering pile of paperwork on her desk: data that had to be entered, bills and invoices that needed to be paid, printouts of emails that required replies, various forms that needed updating, instruction manuals that had to be proofread, and all kinds of other things. We had yet to discover any document she wasn’t willing to add to her daily stack, which was often two or three inches high by nine o’clock.
Her efficiency was remarkable; as soon as she was finished with one paper, she would reach over and take another, pulling it in a graceful parabola from the pile to the space beside her keyboard, upon which she would immediately start to type with the flamboyance of a concert pianist, each keystroke an event. The whole performance was thrilling to behold. By the end of the day, without fail, the entire stack of papers would be gone.
“How do you do it?” Gordon once asked her. Vanessa had decided to extend her trip to Beijing upon hearing how smoothly things had been running in her absence, so he was still our de facto boss.
“Do what, darlin’?” she said, pushing a tray of double-fudge brownies closer to the edge of her desk. Darla brought in homemade cookies or biscuits or dessert bars for the entire office two or three times a week; a few of our regular customers had already started calling us The Bakery.
“Awwuv ith” —Gordon swallowed a mouthful of brownie— “All of this.” He indicated the tottering pile of papers on her desk. “I’ve never worked for anyone who could get through so much so quickly.” He frowned as he realized what he had said. “Or with anyone,” he added lamely.
“Well, that’s simple,” she said. On this particular day she was wearing a polka-dot blouse with an enormous bow at the neckline. “I know, deep down on the inside, that secretary is the role I was born to play. I’m just a natural helper. I get so much satisfaction from knowing you all can focus better on your own jobs because of my assistance that it barely even feels like work to me.” She peered closely at Gordon. “Were you born to be a vice president, honey?”
Gordon’s mustache twitched. “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess so.”
“Well, you’d better think on it. You’ll never be happy or reach your full potential unless you know yourself. After all, you can put a saddle on a hog, but that won’t make him a show horse.”
Gordon nodded at these wise words and walked away, deep in thought.
Darla took another paper from her stack and resumed her typing, humming to herself.
The thought of waves crashing on the beach, the warm white sand, the hot sun, and wading into cool waters makes the daily 9-to-5 bearable. However, we only seem to consider the best beach moments. We conveniently forget the hassle of what it takes to get there.
Throughout history, covers on The Saturday Evening Post have brought those dreamy thoughts down from tropical blue skies and white clouds. The beaches of Post covers deal in a humorous realism. They explore the tiresome preparation involved in reaching coastal paradise.
This narrative began with “Broken Beach Chair,” the August 12, 1939 cover by John Hyde Phillips. Flimsy chairs get in the way of enjoying the sun. A woman puckers her face in a mix of surprise and embarrassment as she hits the ground. Either it’s been a while since that chair left storage, or beach supplies were just as cheap then as they’ve ever been.
James Williamson’s August 1, 1959 cover, “Beach Parking Lot,” expands on this difference between expectation and reality. Before they can reach the promised relaxation of a lounge chair, sand-bound hopefuls bumble through cars and cabanas.
Parents are loaded down, carrying their children, umbrellas, beach toys, books, bags, towels, lotions and creams, wallets, hats, and other miscellaneous gear. And once beachgoers reach the sand? There’s the trouble of finding an open spot to drop the lot and set up camp. Even on vacation there’s work to be done.
And of course, the warming glow of the sun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Kurt Ard’s August 16, 1958 cover “Sunscreen?” reminds us the sun’s charm has a way of turning malicious. A pale man rests in relaxation, but his skin is covered head-to-toe in heavy, sun-blocking fabric. Even a thin veneer of newspaper drapes over his robed chest to protect himself from what could be a nasty sunburn.
Despite the frustration and misfortune that a beachside vacation can cause, all is not lost. George Hughes’s “Couples at the Beach” from August 2, 1952 shows us the value of a day at the beach. Fun in the sun is multi-generational. Kids play in the sand. Couples picnic. Adults unwind appreciatively. Retirees leisurely enjoy what for them is a normal stroll along the shoreline.
The beach is worth the struggle, worth fighting for a spot in the parking lot, traversing the hot pavement, applying sunscreen, and getting a seat. It’s a paradise people work toward all year, and nothing can ruin the beach.
Rockwell’s famous painting The Runaway depicts a child literally on a pedestal–well, barstool–surrounded by a protective and understanding community.
The setting is pristine; this is no ordinary diner. It’s the Platonic ideal of a diner, where the floor is immaculate, the counter gleams, and even the waiter’s clothing and towel are unsullied.
The only prop that suggests a disturbance is the wannabe hobo’s stick and handkerchief.
Normally a scene featuring a runaway child evokes anxiety. Instead, Rockwell’s painting radiates comfort and safety in the form of a triangle of protection surrounding the boy. To the left is the fatherly state-police officer, at the top is the counterman, and to the right is an empty coffee cup, suggesting another good Samaritan had been sitting there not long ago. Perhaps the anonymous diner made the initial call to police and then stayed with the boy until the officer’s arrival. The complete narrative depicts a cocoon-like community taking shifts to watch over a child in trouble.
In the painting, Rockwell portrayed an idyllic version of small-town America. In his sweet, safe universe, no child is ever in danger and no task is more pressing for an officer of the law than to spend a morning with a young runaway. After appearing on the September 20, 1958, cover of the Post, The Runaway began to grace the walls of countless diners and police stations throughout the country.
Fun fact: The Runaway was staged in a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Rockwell later removed all traces of the chain restaurant in favor of a simple blackboard listing the daily specials often found in country diners “to suggest the kid had gotten a little further out of town.”
There once was a rooster named Sunny
In love with a young hen named Honey.
Pink, yellow, and blue
Her eggs were a clue
She’s more than just friends with the Bunny.
—Jane Yunker, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin
Congratulations to Jane Yunker! For her limerick describing Kenneth Stuart’s illustration (above), Jane wins $25—and our gratitude for a job well done. If you’d like to enter the Limerick Laughs Contest for our upcoming issue, submit your limerick via our online entry form.
Of course, Jane’s limerick wasn’t the only one we liked! Here are some of our favorite limericks from our runners-up, in no particular order:
She’s obviously proud of her layin’
Old Rudy’s concern he’s displayin’
But back in the coop
The girls know the scoop.
And who is the Dad they’re not sayin’
—Steve Boneske, Greenfield, New York
Said Rooster to his own dismay:
“Not my hens, such eggs, no way!
There’s but one cock so bold
To make me cluckhold;
That rascal they call Fabergé!”
—William D. Conrad, Vancouver, Washington
They couldn’t tell who was who,
Each egg was a different hue.
Though the hen smiled,
The rooster was riled.
Oh what a ‘fowl’ thing to do!
Louis DiSanto, St. Paul, Minnesota
The rooster who crowed to his honey
Was alarmed when their eggs turned out funny,
He screeched to his hen
“We’ll try it again,
“After donating this batch to the Bunny.”
—Terry Free, Andover, Minnesota
When he looked down, the rooster recoiled
As his plans for a family were spoiled.
While the eggs all looked good
He gave up fatherhood
When he saw that his kids were hardboiled.
—John Peacock, West Dundee, Illinois
Alas, my curiosity begs.
What have you done to those eggs?
The last I knew
My blood line was blue.
Could they have walked in without legs?
—Andrew Janik, Hadley, New York
The hen liked her colored eggs best,
Having left the plain ones in the nest.
But the haughty old rooster,
No Easter egg booster,
Told her to go sit on the rest.
—Ben Lightfoot, Hanston, Kansas
Of all the ridiculous things!
My poor decorated offsprings.
When hatched from the eggs,
They’ll have stems for legs,
And petals all over their wings!
—Angie Gyetvai, Oldcastle, Ontario
This new batch of eggs that we’ve gotten?
I’m feeling like something is rotten.
You’re trying to hide
Some tail on the side,
A tail that (I’m betting) is cotton.
—Jim Schweitzer, Elkhorn, Wisconsin
On a sunny fall Friday in 2012, hundreds of students flocked to the Dillon Gym for the Princeton Career Fair, an annual event that is attended by tech giants, Fortune 500 companies, and large nonprofit organizations.
I walked past orange-shirted career services workers, past booths set up by investment banks and consulting firms that came bearing slick banner displays and free golf balls, and into a phalanx of job-seeking students.
I was at Princeton to finish my investigation of young Wall Street recruits almost three years after I began it–on the campus of a top-flight university that sends a plurality of its graduates into the financial sector every year. I was curious about how the aftermath of the Great Recession had changed the way students at target schools saw the financial industry, and whether the same frantic desire to secure banking jobs still existed among them.
In Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis wrote that when Wall Street banks began recruiting at Princeton each year in the 1980s, the campus career center “resembled a ticket booth at a Michael Jackson concert, with lines of motley students staging all-night vigils to get ahead.” But at this year’s career fair, many of the most prestigious banks were no-shows.
There was no Goldman Sachs booth, no eager recruiters from Morgan Stanley or J.P. Morgan handing out key chains and Frisbees. The biggest names from Wall Street were Credit Suisse, Barclays Capital, the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, and a number of mid-sized hedge funds and private equity firms. Trumping them all was the Anheuser-Busch booth near the back of the gym, where Princeton alumni in red track jackets were giving out free, Budweiser-branded sunglasses under a sign that read: “Increase your liquid assets!”
The financial firms in attendance were using largely the same vague pitches I’d heard years earlier. One bank advertised its “global transaction advisory for the new economy.” Another offered students a chance to “bring your career into focus.” Jane Street Capital, a medium-sized hedge fund, had a banner promising its recruits a “dynamic, challenging environment. Rapid advancement. Idea-driven meritocracy. Informal fun and open atmosphere.” (Oh, and last on the list: “Generous compensation.”) I walked around the gym for an hour, listening to recruiters attempting to reel in students with time-tested come-ons:
“I love my job, and I love what I do.”
“Just because you don’t have a finance background doesn’t mean you won’t like the job.”
“It’s a total rush. Wouldn’t lie to you, dude. And even if it’s not for you long-term, it’s just two years.”
(The financial firm recruiting plan nicknamed “two and out” had a brilliant tactical move. Selling Wall Street jobs to undergraduates as a temporary commitment rather than a lifelong career enabled banks to attract a whole different breed of recruit — smart, ambitious college seniors who weren’t sure they wanted to be bankers but could be convinced to spend two years at a bank, gaining general business skills and adding a prestigious name to their résumés in preparation for their next moves. The strategy also created a generation of accidental financiers — people who had graduated from elite colleges with philosophy or history degrees, had no specific interest in or talent for high finance, yet found themselves still collecting paychecks from a big bank three decades later.)
But now most students didn’t seem to be jumping at the bait. Several of the ones I spoke to told me they weren’t interested in finance at all. A Princeton senior named Maxwell told me that he had once considered working at a bank, but had instead decided to pursue his dream of working in the sports industry.
“Look, I could work myself to the bone and make a lot of money in finance,” he said, “but I’ve known people who did that, and it’s not rewarding. In finance, you’re just playing around with numbers. I feel like, for me, it wouldn’t really be accomplishing anything besides making money. I would get bored.”
Other Princeton students I talked to said that while they were interested in finance, they didn’t want to work at just any big bank.
“I’m personally looking for a place that can promote economic development and growth in whatever industry it’s working in,” a junior named Shawn said. “I mean, everyone wants to make money. But when I’m working in the place, I want to know that I’m doing some good.”
I talked to dozens of Princeton students that day and found, to my surprise, that hardly any of them were gung-ho about becoming financiers. Many were applying for programs like Teach for America or AmeriCorps, and a significant number planned to go work for tech companies. I met aspiring accountants, management consultants, and graphic designers. And although I did meet a cadre of students who were planning to do two-year stints at a bank after graduation, they sounded apologetic about it. Many of them swore that they would leave Wall Street after their two years were up to do something “good” or “useful” or, barring that, “more fun.”
As I made my way back to the Princeton Junction train station that day, I found myself trying to envision what Wall Street will look like 10 years from now, when students like these have had a chance to settle into their careers and the finance industry has fully absorbed the shocks of the 2008 crisis. And I came up with three predictions.
So you’re planning to take an airplane trip. Good for you! Every year, millions of people “take to the skies” for business or pleasure, and statistically only a small percentage of them are killed.
Nevertheless, if this is your first flight, or you haven’t flown in a while, or you’re simply one of the many stupid people found in airports, you’re probably unsure about what to expect. So let’s review the basics:
Q: I have an infant or small child. Are there any special preparations I should make for flying?
A: Definitely. Before you leave home, gather together whatever toys, books, or games you will need to keep your child occupied. Then remain home, occupying your child, until he or she is a minimum of 16 years old.
Q: When should I leave for the airport?
A: You should already be at the airport.
Q: Should I check my luggage?
A: That depends on several factors, the main one being: Do you ever want to see your luggage again?
Q: What are the “do’s” and “don’ts” of airport security screening?
A: We’ll start with a “do”: Relax! Airport security is handled by the Transportation Security Administration, which is an agency of the federal government (Motto: “A Gigantic Bureaucracy Working for You”). Some TSA procedures may seem ridiculous, but remember this: There are real terrorists out there, and it’s the TSA’s job to make sure that these terrorists do not get on an airplane until they have fully complied with TSA procedures.
Make sure your carry-on luggage does not contain any prohibited items, including liquids, gels, gases, or solids. If you plan to wear underwear, wear it on the outside of your other garments so that it is clearly visible to the TSA agents. The heart of the screening procedure is when you go into the “scanner,” which sounds scary, although, in fact, it’s nothing more than a giant microwave oven that bombards your body with atomic radiation.
But there’s no need to worry: The scanner is completely safe for humans as long as (a) you do not remain in there longer than the recommended eight-tenths of a second and (b) TSA agents have remembered to change the power setting from POPCORN back to HUMANS after their break. The scanner serves a vital security function: It “sees” through your clothing and captures an image of your naked body, which is transmitted to a room where specially trained TSA agents decide whether to post it on Facebook. If you would prefer not to have this happen, simply ask to have an agent grope your genitals manually. It’s your right!
The main “don’t” of airport security is: Don’t make inappropriate jokes. TSA agents are responsible for your safety, so they must take every possible threat seriously; if you engage in inappropriate humor, they have no choice but to shoot you.
Q: How do I know which seat on the airplane is mine?
A: It will be the one directly in front of the screaming infant.
Q: When the flight attendant announces for the third time that all cell phones must be turned off immediately or the plane cannot leave the gate, does that mean I should turn my cell phone off?
A: That announcement does not apply to you.
Q: I’m a little nervous about flying. Is this normal?
A: Absolutely! Believe it or not, even many airline crew members admit that flying gives them the “jitters.”
Q: How do they handle it?
A: They smoke crack.
Q: What if something goes wrong with the airplane while it’s flying?
A: There’s nothing to worry about! The pilot will simply land the plane on the Hudson River, where it will float until rescue boats arrive.
Q: What if we’re not flying over the Hudson River?
A: Then you will die. Basically, you should restrict your air travel to flights between New York and Albany.
Q: But I don’t want to go to Albany.
A: Good, because that flight has been canceled.
Some deaths are such cultural touchstones that they become imprinted on our own memories too, like a personal tragedy. That, at least, is the case with Vincent van Gogh. Our collective image of the artist’s last morning, slashing away at a canvas in that Provençal wheat field, the angry crows wheeling above like a beaky Greek chorus, the brooding sky watching as he puts the gun to his stomach, makes for an almost operatic vision. Few endings are as poetic or fitting; we remember Van Gogh’s masterworks but it’s his apotheosis as the artist-turned-ultimate outsider, and sacrificial lamb, that shapes his legend.
The irony of course is that the man famous for his lyrical death adamantly refuses to die. In fact he keeps popping up again and again, and the resurrections seem to be escalating. In the last several years Van Gogh has resurfaced almost monthly in the news. First there was the 2011 biography, Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, that claimed his death wasn’t suicide but murder, committed by a bullying, gun-happy teenager.
Then there was the report that his famously blue The Bedroom was never meant to be blue at all; the original palette, researchers discovered, was a violet that changed color because the artist was using cheap, unstable pigment. And then there was the news, in 2013, that the painting Sunset at Montmajour, once rejected as an obviously kitsch, phony forgery, had been reclaimed. Curators at the Van Gogh Museum, giving it a closer look, called it an authentic canvas by the master, suggesting that maybe more Van Goghs are waiting to come tumbling out of some attic, adding to a legacy that keeps growing, changing shape, and just won’t sit still.
All of these new takes on Van Gogh and his art, though, may be eclipsed by a bigger revelation, a reinvention of sorts. The artist, it turns out, was a Dutchman. This of course seems like an obvious epiphany. But most of what we think we know about Van Gogh relates to his French years in Provence, and in the popular imagination the artist–despite that classically guttural Dutch name–has become so Gallic, he has morphed into a flâneur wearing a beret, chomping on a baguette. When people talk about following in Van Gogh’s footsteps they typically mean the paint-splattered circuits around Arles, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and Auvers-sur-Oise, a route that the French, absconding with the Dutchman, have wisely turned into a tourist attraction.
But the Dutch are reasserting their own claim. They see Van Gogh not as some Frenchified savant, but as an emphatically homegrown master painter firmly grounded in their spongy, lowland soil. It’s a chauvinistic reclamation that I embrace like any true Dutch-ophile. Blame it on a personal kind of patriotism. My family moved to Holland when I was 4 years old, and the dreamscape of humpbacked bridges and tilting gabled houses looked like the antidote to the anodyne American suburb we left behind.
And although we came back to that suburb a few years later, my Dutch ardor has only grown over the years on frequent return visits to Holland. So it’s heartening to see my own swelling Dutch pride echoed by the country itself. Tired of being cast as a pit stop on every stoners’ year abroad, the Netherlands is focusing on its richer, truer cultural history.
The zealous renovation of Amsterdam’s trifecta of art museums that frame the city’s Museumplein underscores that rediscovery. The contemporary Stedelijk Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum all reopened, after the city invested millions of dollars in their refurbishment. It is the Rijkmuseum that is winning the most attention for its sleekly reformatted powerhouse galleries that make the case for rediscovering the Dutch masters, those peerless Vermeers and Rembrandts lining the Gallery of Honor.
It’s an easy case to make. Those 17th-century works, the very definitions of masterpieces, remind us that while their European counterparts were still painting fussy royal portraits and martyred saints, Dutch artists, commissioned by more pragmatic burghers, were capturing the beauty of our sensual, earthly world. As the first true modernists, they saw the physical radiance of our everyday, purely human landscape: the parrot tulip and string of pearls; a canal lit by golden lowland sun; and the quietude of a cobbled courtyard.
But it is the Van Gogh Museum that may, in the end, make just as radical a point, arguing for the pioneering force of Dutch art, by refocusing our distracted gaze on a more fully realized Van Gogh. He isn’t just the maestro of Arles in this gallery, but the man who came of age and discovered his artistic, outlier’s voice as a Dutchman.
Planning your own trip to Holland? Click here to find out where to stay and where to eat in Van Gogh’s homeland.
I HADN’T PLANNED TO RUN INTO HARVEY DECKER.
I do sometimes, plan to run into people. I go back to my hometown planning to run into my first true love, a boy who never gave me a look. I rehearse long, desultory conversations we will have–I take both parts: his, wistful with regret and keen awareness of missed opportunity; mine, cavalier and funny and remarkably kind. I’m always planning to run into people, rehearsing how surprised I’ll be. I just hadn’t planned on Harvey Decker.
“Call me if Carlton ever runs off with his secretary,” Harvey Decker called out as he drove away, the last time I saw him, which would have been the summer of 1974. Approximately once in a lifetime someone tosses off a line that will invite chill winds to cause a shiver down your spine, a line that blows the future’s cover, lets you peek inside the crack in time. Just as, once in a lifetime, Carlton, your beanbag of a husband, will suddenly remember, after almost 30 years, that he never wanted to be married in the first place, and in celebration of the dawning of awareness blares easy-listening soft-rock music 24 hours a day. In two months’ time, he’s got his own apartment and says he wants to date around. It’s called midlife dementia.
And when that happens, you remember Harvey Decker’s telling you to call him if you ever find your life turned into a land mine of a cliché. When that happens, you remember everything that anybody ever said to you in your whole life: the guys in college who put the “Help Cure Jock Itch” medical ointment advertisement in your intra-campus mailbox; the blind date who asked you–15 minutes into the proceedings–did you have any girlfriends you could introduce him to; the svelte, blond cousin who gushed in stage whispers at your wedding, “It’s a miracle. I can’t believe it. It’s a miracle.” When your husband of a quarter of a century absconds with both your near and distant futures, memory calls back a whole lifetime of one-liners.
I’m back in Albany for a conference which the signboard outside calls The Psychology of Dental Wellness, which I’m hoping is a serious typo, or I will be the only psychologist in a room crammed full of dentists. I’m working out the logistics and advisability of running a group therapy session for 137 unwilling dentists, when I spot Harvey Decker. He’s wearing a name tag which helps with the what-to-call-him part, but his face I recognize right off the bat. He’s wearing no doubt the same granny glasses that he wore to sharpen up the ’70s, specs resting on the same nose, above the same small mouth with tiny, child-sized teeth.
He doesn’t have a clue who I am. It’s a good thing I didn’t call him up when my husband Carlton did jump ship. (What did you say your name was? Ran off with a secretary you say?) But once I have convinced him that time has indeed done all this to my one face, he seems to remember me entirely.
“I’m really glad to see you,” Harvey says. He sounds glad.
“Where’s Carlton? Is he here too?” Harvey pulls the name out of thin air. The man’s a midlife wonder. Not only does he look about 27, he has a fully functioning memory. I’m 52 and can remember names of close family members. For the rest I rely heavily on pronouns. I, who have abhorred name tags all my life, now wish they were mandatory for anyone appearing in public. “Is Carlton here?” Harvey says again.
“No,” I say. “Carlton isn’t anymore.”
“You mean he’s dead?”
“Only to me,” I say. “We’re divorced.”
“When did that happen?” Harvey says. And it comes back to me. Harvey always had a way of sustaining interest in another person’s life.
“Oh, it’s three years now. The last of our three sons went off to college, and Carlton left the weekend after that.”
I’m hoping Harvey doesn’t say something about why didn’t I call him, but he just shakes his head like that’s about what a person would have expected Carlton to do. He gives no evidence of having been sitting by the phone waiting for my call, lo these 27 years.
“My boys all went to Cornell,” I say. “Didn’t you go there?”
“Stanford.” Harvey smiles.
“Oh yeah, right.” It would have been nice if I could have remembered one proper noun from his past life.
“So,” I say. “I wonder whatever happened to our boss on the education project. Remember Ron-the-priest and the other guy, Sandy?”
“Randy. I see him and his wife Joan a few times a year. Ron Baylor’s still around too. He might be here today. He comes to a lot of these meetings.”
I am dumbfounded. It’s as though I imagined all these people existed only as minor characters in my life story, then disappeared or went on living only in my head or were still sitting in the large upstairs storage room that was our office for the year we worked together, sitting in that high school waiting through time and all eternity for the nasal door chime of a dismissal bell to ring.
For the past century, the United States has frequently gone to war in the interests of freedom and democracy–often with the unstated (but not necessarily secondary) purpose of protecting our sources of oil or for access to populations who would buy our goods or services.
But the costs lately have become overwhelming, whether measured in cold, hard cash or in lives lost. America has lost its appetite to serve as policeman in the earth’s most horrific trouble spots. We just want to be left alone.
March 2014 marked the first month in more than a decade without a single American combat casualty anywhere in the world. For the vast mass of the American people, getting out of military entanglements is now the expectation rather than some vague hope. After two wars stretching back 13 years, American sentiment has once again tilted toward the isolationism that marked the end of the First World War. “[That conflict] was followed in the ’20s and ’30s by something that…was in fact a rejection of a certain role in the world,” says Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution and a foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign. “It wasn’t just, ‘Let’s have a little time out here.’ It was, ‘We are not going to be doing that.’”
In fact, it would take a challenge to our very way of life–in the form of Hitler, Mussolini, and that dastardly backdoor attack on Pearl Harbor–to draw us into World War II. And we never really emerged. The Korean War followed just a few years afterward, then it was on into Vietnam, and almost before we all realized what happened, we were on to the Balkans and Sarajevo; the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan; and now there’s Syria and Crimea and Ukraine.
And each such adventure has its own price tag. Iraq, a country from which we have already technically departed, is still costing us $3 billion per year. The overall Department of Defense budget totals some $496 billion, or 13.6 percent of the total federal budget today–and that’s with a rapidly shrinking military.
Compare these numbers to those of the Korean War, which cost us $30 billion ($262 billion in today’s dollars) or less than one-third of the cost of the post-9/11 war on terror that includes Iraq and Afghanistan, which the non-partisan Congressional Research Service puts at $859 billion.
With 20/20 hindsight, it’s beginning to look increasingly like our all but universally accepted role as the world’s policeman really peaked sometime during the Korean War. Then began a long, slow descent, largely perceptible only to the most astute observers positioned outside the Beltway. When John F. Kennedy sent us swaggering into the Indochina Wars at the very moment a far more nimble Charles de Gaulle was already extricating France, we were still operating under the assumption that America somehow had a higher calling we needed to fulfill. It seemed only America had the might, and the moral will, to prevent the rapid spread of that evil virus called communism across Indochina, into Thailand, down the Malay Peninsula and across Southeast Asia.
As it happens, I was present as a journalist to witness the final days of America’s foray into Southeast Asia. The final days and weeks of the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge were not amusing. Seeing the conflict at this late stage, one forgot the original point of the American mission, to serve in a police capacity in this region.
But was that even an appropriate use of American power and influence? Neither in Korea nor in Vietnam nor in any other police action since–certainly not in Afghanistan or Iraq–has America had the kind of influence over the outcome envisioned at the start of our engagement. Our role was always presented to the public as a limited exercise: Act the role of the good cop, oust the bad guys, clap them in jail, then get the heck out of Dodge.
Of course, it’s never quite worked that way, and we have never learned our lesson. The failure derives not from a lack of good faith, but rather from a lack of vision. When we entered each of these rabbit holes, we never had a real understanding of how we’d emerge. As is clear now, the end game is in most respects far more significant than the entry point.
But if the American people have come full circle in the past century, arriving today at a reluctance for combat that mirrors post-World War I isolationism, many nations still look to the U.S. to play the role of global cop–if only because no other nation has the might or the will to play such a role. “I fear that what is going on now is that Americans are quite understandably not only tired of the burden, but they no longer understand the reasons why we even took on this burden in the first place,” Kagan says.
About those reasons: Sixty years ago, The Saturday Evening Post article “Can We Remake the World Without Going Broke?” observed that the nation’s Mutual Security Program, newly signed into law by Truman with bipartisan support in Congress, was staking the future of the American economy upon “the hope of revolutionizing the non-Soviet world.”
The piece continued: “This program pushes American military frontiers far out into Europe, Asia, and Africa. It consolidates an American pattern for reorganization of the entire non-Soviet world through combined military, economic, financial, and social measures.…It appeals to those who believe that ‘sharing our wealth’ is speeding up some form of world government.…On the other side, it appalls those Americans who are chiefly concerned with the radical changes which ‘mutual security’ means for the American traditional system: indefinite conscription of our young men, Federal expenditures greatly in excess of revenues, unparalleled taxes which are certain to increase, the overhanging threat of monetary inflation which already has reduced the purchasing power of the dollar by more than half.” (For more selections from the Post archive, see page 37.)
Gordon saw a rump in the air. An enormous rump, with purple fabric stretched taut over its rolling curves to form an oddly soothing landscape. A woman was on the ground, hands flat on the asphalt, peering under a silver Mercedes.
Engine trouble? Some sort of leak? Gordon edged away. The workings of everything—from staplers to carburetors—baffled Gordon. This was a lifelong source of humiliation, made worse by the fact that people tended to turn to him for just such advice. It was his appearance, no doubt. Gordon had regular features, terrific posture and the tucked-in look of a Scout leader. At times he wished for his grouchy son’s receding chin and myopic look. No one mistook Kyle for someone with know-how about ignition switches.
The woman was emerging now. She backed up, straightened her arms and heaved herself up. As she rose into the sunlight something glinted off her black tee shirt, which Gordon noticed was from the famous Aquarium down the coast. A dense school of tiny silver anchovies glittered across the vast sea of her chest. The dazzling display disappeared as the woman leaned to brush the grit off the knees of her purple pants, after which she lumbered to the back of the car and lowered herself to the ground again.
Gordon knew that to stand there and watch would lead to the expectation on anyone’s part, including his own, that he offer assistance. He spun around and found himself staring at a Hallmark store window display leaping with leprechauns. Freckle-faced sprites in green plaid coats peered out from behind oversized shamrocks and buckets brimming with gold. Inside, a cashier was ringing up a pair of glittery green Derbies and laughing with a customer. Here was an entire industry Gordon had never considered. Legions of people designed, manufactured, marketed, delivered and sold geegaws for major and minor holidays and personal milestones, which, in turn, legions of others shopped for with relish. There were all kinds of jobs, when you thought about it.
Gordon checked his watch. He’d promised Barbara to come straight home after the interview this time instead of wandering around for hours, which he’d been guilty of lately. It was hard to watch his kind wife try once again to muster her confidence in him. Her propped-up cheer was flagging. She spoke less and nodded more, as if she were gathering herself for some kind of decision or hard-to-deliver statement. And Kyle? He acted like he didn’t care one way or the other, which, of course, maybe he didn’t, which could, of course, be viewed as either good or bad.
But Gordon had good news this time. Just two hours before, he had felt the interviewing manager’s vigorous handshake and heard his hearty “Welcome aboard!” Only Gordon was having a hard time imagining himself in the lunchroom with the other red-apronned “associates” of the home repair emporium even if his job was just working the returns counter. They would all talk shop and rehash weekend DIY projects. They would know how to help customers find the correct pipe wrench on aisle eight. Gordon would be trading a now-familiar worry about unemployment, which at least held the prospect for some kind of unimagined good outcome, for a fresh daily panic. He needed to—what did the kids say these days? Man up?
Suddenly, the purple pants lady’s face sprung up between two leprechauns. A reflection. She was standing behind the car, staring at Gordon’s back. What if she called to him? Gordon took a step to the right and pressed his palms against the glass door, unleashing a jingle of tiny bells and a blast of potpourri.
He paused inside the door, taking in the display of cards for the grad, the dad, the coach, the new baby, the bereaved. All moods represented—bawdy, mournful, cloying, apologetic, blank. A woman with a purse over her arm was reading and replacing card after card from a circular rack labeled Friendship. Gordon eased by her and took up a position against the wall.
After a moment, a very tan woman in a denim dress called from the register, “May I help you find something?”
Gordon flushed, exposed—the only man among the handful of customers, all of whom had lifted their heads to look at him.
“Just waiting for my wife!” he blurted. Why had he said that? He better leave. Gordon glanced out the window. The Mercedes was backing out of its spot. At the wheel, a white-haired man wearing aviator sunglasses, alone.
The denim lady looked up as Gordon headed for the door.
“I’ll just go see what’s keeping her,” he explained.
The purple rump had moved one car over. It angled up now from beneath a maroon minivan. Had this woman no idea what kind of picture she presented? Surely he had the right to stare now. The rump wagged as she swept her arms back and forth beneath the car. Then she backed up and sat on her haunches. She snapped her head round to throw her brown hair out of her face. It landed in a smooth pageboy, the ends turning neatly under, bracketing a series of chins. Gordon was surprised by her hair, which was thick and glossy and the warm, rich color of expensive wood.
She caught him looking.
“Wretched little bugger!” she said.
“I beg your pardon?” Gordon stammered.
“I don’t suppose you’d like to give me a hand?” she said, clearly not expecting anything of him.
“A hand? With what?” Gordon asked. “What is it that you’re doing, exactly?”
“Trying to get this goddamn bird out from under this car,” she said, hoisting herself up and plodding around to the other side of the van, intent on her mission, ablaze with purpose. Welcome aboard! Gordon imagined someone saying to her and clasping her wide, can-do hand.
“Why do you have to get him?” Gordon asked.
“Because he can’t fly and he’s going to get run over. That’s why,” she said, dropping out of sight again. “That’s why” echoed in Gordon’s head, its cadence a playground retort.
“If you could just block the other side,” her voice called from under the car, “I might be able to get my hands on him.”
A group of laughing women carrying leftovers in waxed boxes walked by, falling silent as they heard this exchange and glancing from Gordon to the protruding rump.
In “New Beginnings” (July/August 2014), Matthew Bolger talked with writer Chris Benghue about how he survived a brutal beating by a group of teenaged neo-Nazi skinheads, and the chance encounter with his attacker 25 years later that led to forgiveness, and even a kind of friendship.
Inspired by the two men’s journey, film director Jason Cohen adapted the story to the silver screen in an Academy Award®-nominated documentary short, Facing Fear. The film retraces the two men’s upbringings, the attack, and the events that ultimately brought them to reconciliation. Watch the film’s trailer below, and visit the film’s website for more information.
Visit the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance website for more information about stopping intolerance and hatred.
Though I live in Los Angeles, my wife and I rarely venture into Beverly Hills. I have very little to look at in these posh palaces of luxury, and thankfully my wife, who is a weaver, prefers to make her own clothing. But she does like Coach bags, and there happens to be a Coach store on Rodeo Drive.
What surprised me when we looked at their window display was a baseball theme, with two-color bats and some multi-colored leather baseball gloves (orange/white, squash/fawn, navy/turquoise).
Inside, in the back of the store, is a small department for men. And sure enough, among the baseball beanbag paperweights and baseball-leather wallets, were some smooth leather baseball gloves that brought back a flood of childhood memories when I slid my hand into one. Good God, I thought, this was my Proustian madeleine.
I remembered Little League tryouts when I was 11 years old. The tryouts were meant to determine which boys would play in the Majors. I was a skinny kid, not very tall or strong, and I clearly belonged in the Minors; but when one of the coaches hit a fly ball to me, I chased it down in the outfield and somehow miraculously caught it. That ruined my chance to play much that summer.
I was put in the Majors, along with boys two and three years older than me where I sat on the bench, waiting to be tapped to pinch run or to play the last inning of a losing game. But still, a memory that I hold most dear is of that special catch during tryouts. The long run on the outfield grass, the hardball arcing over my head, my outstretched left arm, the ball landing in the deep pocket with a thwunk! and the look on everyone’s face when it didn’t drop out of my glove.
As my wife browsed bags, I tried on and pounded a stunning navy/turquoise leather glove. I remembered our junior varsity team in high school. I was 13, playing second base, and I convinced my dad that I needed a new infielder’s mitt. We went to a sporting goods store and I found a nice golden Spalding glove with the name Sam Esposito scrawled in the pocket. Esposito was a utility infielder for the Chicago White Sox in 1952, and from 1955–63. He had a lifetime batting average of .207 and hit just eight home runs in 10 years, so he wasn’t a major league ballplayer for his bat. His fielding percentage was .957. Esposito was a glove man.
I was a die-hard Yankee fan, so I didn’t really follow Sam Esposito, but I liked the glove and have never forgotten his name.
Nor have I forgotten when Mr. Morelli, our junior varsity head coach, decided to move me from second to first. “You need to get a first baseman’s mitt,” he told me. When I protested that I had just got my Sam Esposito infielder’s glove, he said, “You can’t be a first baseman with a glove like that. If you don’t get the right glove, I’ll have to bench you.” Those are cruel words to say to a fledgling ballplayer who had dreams of turning spectacular double plays and not fearing line drives. My dad had paid $29 for that glove. I knew I couldn’t tell him I needed another one, so I stuck to my guns and insisted I could play first base with the glove I had. Mr. Morelli stuck to his guns as well and put another kid at first.
This led to thoughts of my dad. Having a catch was one of the things we did in our backyard on weekends. He was a lefty, so he had an old mitt that couldn’t be passed down. We would play imaginary games, pitching to imaginary hitters, calling balls and strikes as we threw the ball back and forth. I think it’s the nicest memory I have of being with my dad. And just sticking a glove on my hand brought this back to me. If memory can be triggered so powerfully by something this simple, maybe it was worth forking over $348 to buy the glove.
A recent Pew survey shows a growing division between Americans. Conservatives and liberals are increasingly separated by a political “chasm,” and hostility between the factions is rising.
At least one third of Americans on both the right and left wings believe their ideological opponents pose a “threat to the nation’s well-being.”
Troubling as this might be, we have seen far worse. Fifty years ago, the political divide in America involved more than media spin and postings on partisan websites.
In 1964, African Americans were struggling to win something closer to equal rights through demonstrations, marches, and bloc voting. On the other side of the racial divide, white political organizations in cities and states were opposing them through intimidation, legal obstruction, and violence.
On June 21, the bitter contest reached a turning point when three civil rights workers–James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner–disappeared near Philadelphia, Mississippi.
It is significant that their disappearance–with no evidence of a crime—prompted a national outcry and a federal investigation, because it meant nobody believed civil rights workers just wandered off the map in central Mississippi in 1964. People rightly assumed they had been murdered.
Their presumed deaths were another argument in favor of the recently passed Civil Rights Act. Surely, proponents argued, federal laws were needed to secure equal rights when local law enforcement appeared unable, or unwilling, to prevent such crimes.
The federal government had been intervening for years to prevent racial violence, but government efforts were often inconsistent.
Under pressure from President Johnson, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent an agent into central Mississippi to investigate. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 150 federal agents.
Sailors from the nearby naval base in Meridian were ordered to help in the search. They began trudging through muddy swamps in Neshoba County and searching cotton fields for freshly turned earth.
But after a month of searching, they found nothing. Only when the FBI paid an informant $25,000 did agents learn the three men’s bodies had been bulldozed into an earthen dam at a local farm.
The murders were, perhaps, an inevitable outcome of the fierce division of opinion about the rights of minorities. What brought matters to the point of bloody confrontation was a new spirit of activism in the black community and organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE).
In the Post’s July 25, 1964 issue, James Atwater interviewed a SNCC volunteer in Mississippi who told him, “I feel I would be willing to give up my life for this movement.” Another volunteer added, “I feel the same way, a willingness to give yourself to a cause that is really great, maybe the only great cause in America.”
The men were not merely idealists. They had already met the hard edge of resistance. Recruited on college campuses to work in the Mississippi Summer Project, they were helping African Americans register to vote and learn reading and writing. And they were being beaten, shot at, and firebombed.
The students knew what awaited them if they met a lynch mob or, worse, hostile police officers. “When you go down those cold stairs at the police station,” said a SNCC volunteer, “you don’t know if you’re going to come back or not. You don’t know if you can take those licks without fighting back, because you might decide to fight back. It all depends on how you want to die.”
After the bodies of the activists had been found, details of their murders emerged, which indicated far more planning than a simple lynching. The White Knights had specifically targeted Schwerner, who was working with members of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Longdale, MS. To draw him into a trap, Klan members attacked and beat members of the Mt. Zion congregation. On June 21, Schwerner, Goodman, and Cheney drove to Longdale to encourage the church members not to yield to intimidation.
When they left that afternoon, they avoided the lonely, backwoods road to Meridian and chose to take the highway through Philadelphia. Just as they entered town, Neshoba’s deputy sheriff Cecil Price stopped them for driving 65 mph in a 30 mph zone. He locked them in the county jail for seven hours without allowing them a phone call, and then released them on bail. The last he saw of them, he told the FBI, they had resumed their drive to Meridian.
In fact, Price had used those hours to summon Klan members, who were waiting when Price raced after the blue station wagon and stopped it again just before it reached the county line. The Klansmen took the civil rights workers to a secluded area, shot them at close range, and disposed of the bodies.
Eventually, the FBI claimed 21 men were part of the conspiracy to murder Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. When the state of Mississippi refused to prosecute any of the men, the federal government charged 18 of the men with violating the victims’ civil rights.
Seven of the men were convicted, but none spent more than six years in jail.
Forty years after the killings, however, a group of white and black citizens of Philadelphia asked the state to reconsider the case. In 2005, state prosecutors charged Ray Killen with planning and directing the murders. He was convicted on three charges of manslaughter and is still in a Mississippi penitentiary.
Perhaps we exaggerate when we say the murder of Schwerner, Goodman, and Cheney marked a turning point in the dispute over civil rights in America. Such a term implies that matters improved afterward, or healing began between segregationists and integrationists. That simply did not happen. But, as with other bitter disputes in American history, extremists eventually committed an act that repelled the general American public, and cost them any chance of success.
Golf arrived in the United States as a sport for the wealthy, even though the country club pastime originally came from Scottish shepherds in the Highlands.
Over the course of the twentieth century, golf’s popularity grew in American culture, and as its notoriety expanded, the sport trickled down the social ladder to become an iconic activity of casual business and suburban relaxation.
Three Saturday Evening Post covers, “Woman in Sandtrap” by Penrhyn Stanlaws from June 9,1928; “Golf Driving Range” by John Falter from July 26, 1952; and “This Car Needs Washing” by Amos Sewell from October 3, 1953, document the growth of golf in America from luxury haute-couture sport to chore-shirking fun for all.
“Woman in Sandtrap” is a 1920s era, Gatsby-esque watercolor that depicts a formally dressed female athlete out for a sporting day on the links. Her aristocratic attire of sport coat, skirt, and hat complement her determination to take the game seriously.
By the 1950s, golf had emigrated from the wealthy country clubs to middle-class America via the maturity of young, teenage caddies into active adult males. The once-boys of America who worked for tips as bag carriers had, by the 1950s, now mastered the game. These men had spent entire childhoods walking the country’s greatest courses, learning the game, and watching the players.
Falter’s “Golf Driving Range” amplifies this socioeconomic change in the sport’s athletic base. The sport moved from the aristocracy, who had time in their day for such leisurely activity, to the American middle class.
Falter illustrates the wide breadth of working class America practicing its swing by evening lamplight. Along the line of swings, a professional gives lessons, a wife reads a magazine while she waits for her husband, a couple is out on a date, a family takes turns, and men and women practice their drives.
These middle class Americans gather at the driving range after working hours on a weeknight. This isn’t the best time to hit the driving range since daylight is optimal for spotting the tract of a golf ball in motion, but these players are devoted. They show up after work to practice at the range so that they have all day to play the actual 18-hole game over the weekend.
Sewell’s cover “This Car Needs Washing,” makes a joke out of the commonplace nature of the sport in American popular culture. Also painted in the 1950s, this piece shows a husband willfully ignoring his wife’s dust-drawn message to clean the car. He neglects his assigned chore in favor of an afternoon on the greens and fairways. The husband whistles in feigned absentmindedness, an attempt to pretend he hasn’t noticed his annoyed spouse at the door.
Even today, this image resonates with suburban America. Golf is now so beloved by the country that most could understand why a weekend of golf would be well worth the ensuing anger for shirking chores.
Golf, as a single-athlete sport, has become a game for the whole country. Couples, parents and children, single individuals, friend groups, and business associates all head out to talk, drink, and play when the weather’s right.