Monthly Archives: July 2018

Avocado Toast and Chai

From there we headed to Richmond, and had dinner at a brasserie.  We met our old friend Mike, from Opcode, Saturday morning, meeting at a place which definitely had fresh-squeezed orange juice.  It also had an entire section on its menu dedicated to avocado toast.  They were quite generous with the avocado; ours also had radishes on it.  When did avocado toast become shorthand for everything Trump voters hate?  It seems arbitrary, but “Insensitivity bordering on cruelty to displaced industrial workers trying to raise families” takes too long to say.

We then spent a few hours at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which had a great Art Deco furniture collection, a large Tiffany collection including four eggs, and much more.  And then off to Mike and Val’s place in Reston, in the Virginia suburbs of D.C.

Sunday we drove into D.C. and met our friend Seth, also from the Opcode days.  He was there with his 15-yr-old programmer son Austin.  We had some excellent vegetables and fish at Ethiopic, and then proceeded halfway down the block to Sidamo, where we had great coffee (espresso-based, and also traditionally-brewed Ethopian-style) and Sidamo Chai Leben, which was pretty sweet but very interestingly spiced.  Afterwards, we went to the National Gallery of Art, parked nearby on the street, and saw the Sally Mann exhibition, and part of an exhibition on “Outliers”, which was mostly about the reactions of “professional” artists to “outsider art”.  We drove back to Reston, and walked to a neighborhood place in a small mall.

Monday we said goodbye, drove back to the National Mall, accepted how much it would cost to park, parking someplace which was unnecessarily far away, and returned to the National Gallery to complete the “outliers” and to see as much other stuff as we could in the amount of time we had.  We stopped at a Bolivian restaurant in Falls Church for lunch, put gas in the car, and returned it to Dulles, where we began the pair of Southwest flights taking us home via Denver, arriving in SF at 12:30 AM.  My friend Kahlil was sweet and picked us up and took us home.

Musical Instruments of Appalachia, part 2

Thursday morning we drove off to Johnson City, Tennessee, to see a friend of Ray’s.  He had been a programmer his entire career and was engaging in the fad of Swedish Death Cleaning.  I looked up Swedish Death Cleaning in Google.  It appears to derive from one recent book.  I can’t find any references to the topic reliably before about 2016.  Google Date Search is not very clever.  They will tell you something was dated in 2009 but the text you were looking for might be on that page with a 2017 date.  It’s a hard problem.

We then drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and went on a walk through a rhododendron forest.  Untortunately it was not yet in bloom.  We did see two completely different kinds of trillium than we have in California.  It’s a nice drive, there are no stop signs anywhere on it.  We stopped just across the Virginia border to spend the night.  We could have stayed in Mount Airy, NC, the inspiration for Mayberry, but instead we went to Hillsville, VA, which was much less expensive.  With few dining options, we found a so-so Mexican place.

I learned a new word there, from the ESPN big screen:  Cornholing.  Actually, I already knew the word, but if you’re in Dixie, it means something completely different.  It means beanbag-tossing.  They fill the little bags with corn, see, and toss them into holes.

Friday morning we backtracked a little, and went to the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway.  After another nice walk, we returned to the center where a circle of Appalachian musicians had gathered for the daily jam session (from noon to 4pm every day).  Three mandolins, two banjos, guitar, violin, bass.  They were awesome:  we listened for about 45 minutes.

A Professor in Appalachia, Part 2

We drove off to Knoxville, to my cousin Margaret’s house, and had time to sneak in a nice walk in a quarried area just outside town.  We walked downtown to Kaizen, a little izakaya with dumplings and noodle bowls for dinner, all delicious.  There was a pig diagram on the wall, and I noticed another one on a bicep peeking out from a shirtsleeve.  As we left, I got the guy to pose so I could get both in one shot.

Margaret (who is from Kansas) has her PhD in philosophy, and specializes in aesthetics. She is also an accomplished violinist and flutist.  She teaches logic and other classes at the University of Tennessee, and we had some great conversations, including one about belief.  Is a belief something that you actually regard as true, or is it something which you know deep down is false, but that you have chosen to pretend is true?

Wednesday we had a great Southern breakfast at OliBea, which had a very friendly waiter.  The day was somewhat lazy, though we did walk downtown to see the art museum; the history museum was closed.  We ate at a nice Southern place downtown, and then visited Margaret’s boyfriend Andrew’s law office.  He is interested in Russian history, and has been quite an eBay collector of old military uniforms and other memorabilia.  He has some of them displayed there, which ought to surprise his clients, but they don’t notice, for the most part.  Their minds are on their own problems, not Czar Nicholas’s.

Musical Instruments of Appalachia, Part 1

I forget which day this happened, but at a rest stop in North Carolina, there were signs for the men’s room and the women’s room; and in the middle was a room titled Mechanical Room. You can say what you like about NC gender troglodytion, but they are looking to the future.  When I first visited the South black people couldn’t use the same bathrooms as white.  Going with a white woman would get you killed.  Now I see mixed race couples all around Wilmington. 

We hopped into the car and sped off to Asheville, where we had a date for lunch with two Opcode-era personalities, Gerry and Geary.  It was nice hanging out with them and talking about life.  Afterwards we walked around town and saw the Art Nouveau / Art Deco architecture, then headed off to our hotel.  We didn’t really need dinner that night.

Breakfast Tuesday was at OWL Bakery, which was all tasty but pricey.  They did squeeze oranges, they had rye pound cake, and they meticulously measured coffee doses.  They also made good hot chocolate.  Dreamboat barista.

We drove back into town and took a tour of the Moog factory, which was fun.  They build the old-fashioned analog gear just like they always did, with hand-soldering onto PC boards.  They also make a bunch of less expensive modern gear, with surface-mount components.  The Black Mountain College museum was closed, unfortunately.  Next time.

A Professor in Appalachia, Part 1

Midafternoon Sunday, we left for Durham.  The car was a Toyota Corolla with a cruise control system that automatically slowed down when following a car.  That resulted in my driving slower than I otherwise would, forgetting to change lanes and pass.  The worst part was that it followed rather distantly behind the car ahead, making people behind me want to pass me and fill in the gap.

We stopped at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, which had closed but whose grounds were still open for walking around.  There was quite a bit of sculpture outdoors, including a little Rodin garden, with the sculptures having been donated by none other than Iris and Gerald Cantor, for whom the Stanford art museum is named; it also has a large Rodin collection.  A class of art students were visiting.  One was crying.

We drove on to Durham, found our Days Inn, and went off to dinner at Viceroy, a restaurant downtown celebrating the relationship between Britain and India:  India had been colonized by Britain, and British pub culture had been colonized by Indian food.  The owner told us the story of many of the pictures hung on the walls, and the decor just generally.

We hadn’t been able to see our friend in Durham that night, but we arranged to meet with him for breakfast Monday at Monut’s.  Adam is a “lecturing fellow” in anthropology at Duke, which doesn’t give him tenure or anything, or even much of a salary, but provides him with a place he can continue to do his research into child-raising in the Central Africa Republic.  It’s hard when your friends live in a war zone that’s colored red on the State Department Warning map.  Adam has been doing a bit of child-raising of his own as well.  We met them briefly.

As we were eating breakfast, who should walk into the restaurant but the bride and groom, whose flight had been delayed by eight hours, and for whom Monut’s was an old favorite spot.  Small world again!  After breakfast we drove over to Duke and checked out the gardens and the chapel.  It looked Ivy League.

Cape Fear

We arrived at the hotel around midnight via Uber, since the hotel’s shuttle doesn’t run that late.  The Uber employees in Wilmington said that it offers a better deal than Lyft; most of the drivers work for both.  On the way to the waterfront from the airport there is a sign that says WHITEVILLE.  And then the driver turns on the street and the street is Martin Luther King Boulevard.  There’s also a Black’s Tire Service visible right there.

People were evaluating their friends long before Mr. Zuckerberg first logged on to hotornot, but I plead paraleipsis and won’t go into rating Lyle and Christa’s wedding and associated parties compared with all the other ceremonies we’ve attended over the course of several generations, some poison’d by their wives, some sleeping kill’d.

Wilmington, North Carolina, is a pleasant little tourist town with a typical Southern tourist town history: first as a cotton and slave trading port, then as a cotton and exploited worker trading port, then depression and depopulation, followed by Urban Renewal to replace most of the classic buildings downtown with 1960’s commercial rubbish, until the citizens realized that leaving the old ones standing would be more attractive to tourists, then refurbishing the few remaining public buildings and putting plaques in front of virtually all of the pre-WW I houses remaining near downtown.  And lastly, opening restaurants that use the ingredients the slaves brought over, made with tools and imagination borrowed from California and Barcelona.

The Hilton Riverside was listed as “Permanently Closed” on Google Maps.  It turned out it had been renamed as Hotel Ballast, part of the “Tapestry Collection by Hilton”.  Who makes up these surreal names?

We didn’t eat at the hotel.  They wanted $12 for breakfast.  Friday morning we explored the immediate neighborhood, including the Java Dog Coffee House, and a very grand old post office.

I mailed post cards I had written in Haiti, because Haiti doesn’t have a postal system.  They are so far ahead of us in all respects.  The man at the counter in the enormous Colonial Revival Post Office was all that a Southern Gentleman Civil Servant should be.  I listened to him for a long time.  He remembered seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan but he didn’t pay any attention to them, and when he was stationed in England and heard that John Lennon had been assassinated, he said, He was the one with the glasses, right?  Interesting that he remembers that of all incidents — maybe it’s the best story to tell to customers of our demographic.

I looked for fresh-squeezed orange juice at an organic grocery store across the street, but was told that the number of inspections and requirements were way too tough to meet.  Ultimately we found the PureLife Wellness Center which, among their scented candles, herbs, and jams, was a juice bar.  They didn’t squeeze oranges either, but after very laboriously cutting off the rinds, threw them in a blender and juiced them that way.

We mostly talked to our friends, the groom and his family.  It’s more fun than touring.  We walked around and had a lunch of sorts, with the groom’s mother, and his newly-out brother’s boyfriend.  (At this point we’ve talked to the boyfriend more than the brother.  Gay men whom you’ve known since infancy are usually embarrassed to talk to you for the first couple of decades of adulthood.  The Internalized Homophobe Dan Savage doesn’t think Young Gay Men need Old Gay Men in their lives, anyway.)  And later we walked through the center of town, past a bunch of mansions housing rich families but now housing law firms, and ate at Rx Restaurant, a really nice Southern-cuisine farm-to-table restaurant where we had fried chicken, shrimp and grits, deviled eggs, all delicious.  Dessert was a peanut butter panna cotta, apparently invented by our waitress.

The rehearsal dinner was a small affair for only a core group of 30, but we were invited to come by afterwards for drinks.  It was pretty festive.  The groom’s sister-in-law Courtney, and a friend of hers, Diana, posed in their similar dresses for an Instagram picture; we happened to be in the background, and it was labeled #beardedmenphotobomb.  The next morning, our friend Meagan texted me the picture; her friend Nadine, who had gone to school with Diana, had noticed it.

Saturday was another pretty lazy day.  More coffee at Java Dog, more juice at PureLife, and brunch nearby at The Basics.

In the afternoon we walked to Brooklyn Arts Center, the wedding venue.  Part of it was previously a church, and the ceremony took place in the backyard.  There wasn’t a microphone, and I couldn’t really hear anything anybody said, though I did hear quite a bit of bird foley in the trees above.  But it was still a beautiful ceremony.  There were hors d’oeuvres, including a bottomless platter of oysters.  That’s not the right metaphor, but the caterers kept refilling it.  In other metaphors, someone had set up an hourglass with sand from different parts of the world, and the guests added spoonfuls of sand to it.  I am not sure if it was meant to be a time-out device for future fights, or a Robert Burns reference straight out of the Loved One.

Anyway, everyone went inside after the ceremony and had food and then a loud band came on and played wedding music.  After their contract expired, the guests wandered out, through a sparkler gauntlet, and discovered that the bar “Goat and Compass” they were expecting to meet at for an after party was closed: who closes a bar at 11 PM in a tourist town on a Saturday night?  (Too bad, we lost the opportunity for good Lion & Compass jokes.)  Instead we walked a few blocks to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which had a good ol’ band playing, and great cocktails.  We stayed there until they finished playing, and went to sleep.  There was a rumor that the bride and groom had had sex at some point in the proceedings, which would be I think the first time in my life I’ve been to a wedding ceremony where the bride and groom weren’t too tired for it.  Parties are primarily about your friends hooking up with each other.  Even more so, weddings.

Sunday we took the shuttle to the airport, picked up our rental car, and drove to Wrightsville Beach for the next wedding event, a picnic.  It was a perfectly nice beach, and we stood and walked around for several hours.  The water was too cold for anything but wading.  Has thermohaline circulation shut down already?  The wedding guests include lots of Central California surfers, some of whom swam.

There was panic involved in finding the marriage certificate which needed to be witnessed before everybody left.  I think the emergency was that they were going to need the signed license to qualify for a scuba honeymoon discount in the Maldives, and the officiants and the witnesses and the new family were all going to split in different directions and they all had to sign, and the piece of paper was nowhere to be found.  You’d think the resort could just look up the records on line.  Or not care.  If they aren’t making money on their honeymoon package, they shouldn’t be offering it.  Anyway, it finally turned up.  Exeunt omnes.  The bride and groom had to leave super-early in the morning for their flight.

Roi Christophe

We were met at the bus stop in Cap-Haïtien by Basil, a driver for Moise, a local tour operator.  Basil drove us without incident through largely stopped traffic to our hotel at the other end of town, the Roi Christophe.

Hotel du Roi Christophe is a Grand Old Hotel, like the late Kenilworth Lodge in Sebring, and Grand Old Hotels are not without their issues. Somewhere between the Grand Old Roi Christophe and the Grand Old Expedia, our reservation was lost.  The hotel was fully booked, but:  the proprietor put us in a room which she never rents out.  Room 39 is in the new wing.  The shower drain in room 39 is connected to the Wave Organ in San Francisco.  Loud and melodic intermittent gurgling.  Nothing is actually coming up from the drain, for which one is grateful, but the amplification of the sounds is dramatic.  Perhaps the sounds would have been different, sonically, if there were hot water.  There were electrical insufficiencies, but it wasn’t like the place in Kidapawan in 1988, it wasn’t even like Faith, South Dakota, in 1959, and certainly not like the Howard Johnson’s where the faucet flowed oobleck and my father really went off on the desk clerk.  Hey, we slept under the I-80 viaduct for pole position at the Big Deal Art Auction.

As it happened, the next day a room in the main building became available, so the staff moved all of our luggage for us while we were touring Sans Souci.  Everything was good after that.  Wonderful breakfast, all days.  Fish stew over yucca or cornmeal, pancakes, just great.  Different juices.  The grounds are pretty as well, although just past the walls, Haiti resumes, with its noise and garbage: nothing like Port-au-Prince, though.  Haiti isn’t an easy environment to be a hotel owner.  

Sans Souci, Haiti, is not in as good shape as Sans Souci, Potsdam.  They are both UNESCO World Heritage sites, of course.  But the Germans had more money.  A dead king, an earthquake, and an economic blockade that lasts more than a century, leaves little but the standing walls.  Basil came for us in the morning, and drove us to the village of Milot, where we met our tour guide, Maurice.  Basil drove us to Sans Souci, and then we drove and walked up to the Citadel, which defended the valley from a distance.  The philosophy of the Europeans was to build forts along the coast; the Haitians (who had been trained in France before the slave rebellion) took a different approach, and built castles inland, from which they could launch guerrilla raids against the European soldiers and planters who had not yet died of Yellow Fever.  The rebellion was an awful thing.

Roi Christophe had a portrait of Napoleon on the wall of his bedroom, even though Napoleon had revoked the emancipation of the slaves that Robespierre had championed on February 4, 1794.  Roi Christophe was OK with that, because Napoleon was a great general; but he cut the picture down off the wall when Napoleon was captured.  Roi Christophe thought a good general should not be captured alive.  Roi Christophe died by this belief: when he had had a stroke, and his rival Alexandre Pétion approached from the South, he shot himself with a silver bullet.  Where do you get silver bullets, anyway?  I mean, working ones?  If you google “silver bullet eBay” you get pointed to exonumia that don’t appear to be actual cartridges that can be loaded.

Maurice wanted us to take a piece of slate from the rubble on the floor.  It had been a roof tile.  I don’t think much of looting World Heritage Sites, so I declined.  After wandering through the palace ruins, we got back in the tour van (we were the only customers that day) and headed up to the Citadel.

The Citadel is a mile walk from the parking lot, though there appears to be a service road.  There are people there selling everything.  Especially, they want to rent a horse to you to ride up the hill, and also their service as a tour guide.  This is where you really see the poverty in Haiti: the main reason to get a tour guide is to ward off other potential tour guides: in countries as poor as Mali and Myanmar and Cambodia, this works.  But here, the touts come up to you asking to be your tour guide even though you had your own tour guide right with you.  Maurice tried to whisk them away, but it was to no avail, as he was on a horse (with a boy following, whom he knows and hires regularly) and often a few feet from us.  And truthfully, Winston and Arcy (the two most persistent touts) did tell us a couple of things that Maurice left out.

The Citadel is a big old castle, similar to other castles of the era.

Maurice’s ancestors were slaves in Cap-Haïtien.  He is descended from the bricklayers who built the Citadel. On January 2 his grandmother would clean her grandfather’s shotgun.  Maurice knows and is cousin to everyone in the town of Milot.  After we’d seen the ruins of the palace and the Citadel, he took us to the Centre Culturelle, where we had the best meal of Haiti, and maybe the whole trip, if you add in the educational value: I’ve already had perfect steaks in starred restaurants, but not any of the peppers in the pickled pepper melange.  There was also a sullen live band, who would probably rather have been listening to hip-hop than playing for green-eyes, but they need the money.

Cap-Haïtien traditional music is heavily influenced by the captives on a slave ship from Dahomey, which Roi Christophe liberated in 1809.  The freed slaves became his palace guard and influenced the culture disproportionately.  So said Maurice.

Haitian hip-hop is a separate genre.  You don’t hear much Bob Marley here, in contrast to nearly everywhere in the Sotadic Zone for the last thirty years.

After lunch, we drove out toward the border and visited a European fort, Liberté, which is not a World Heritage Site, so I accepted a piece of roof tile from it.  People swim off the point that the Fort is on.  I sure wouldn’t swim that close to the shore in Haiti.  At some point in my life, I’m likely to decide that the whole of Earth’s ocean is too polluted to risk.

By sundown we were back in Cap.  We ate at the three best reviewed restaurants in Cap-Haïtien on the three nights we were there: Roi Christophe, Kokiyaj, and Lakay.  Haitian food is not French.  It is West African, entirely.  More similar to what you get in Central America than in the other islands, especially the French speaking ones.  But the cuisines of cultures without a long history of refrigeration is at least fresh.  Or, salty.

Our last day in Haiti, the big accomplishment was a walk, going to the cathedral (closed for repairs), the market (you might think you don’t have agoraphobia.  Don’t make a final judgment until you go here), and a cemetery, where we accidentally walked in on a Vodou cremation ceremony and walked away quickly.  We also bought a couple of souvenirs at the tourist market, which was deserted as there are no cruise ships around.  The Haitian souvenir industry is predictable:  there is not one of anything.  If you see something you like, there will be a hundred copies of it in fifty souvenir shops.

On Thursday morning, we had our last breakfast in Haiti; more fish stew over, I think it was beans, this time.  A young guy across the room was looking at me wondering how he could exchange sex for money with two old white guys (my gaydar is no good but that look is evident) and then he got up and dropped the sugar bowl into the top of his boot. I looked away so he wouldn’t see that I saw but he knew that look too; and he wasn’t the coolest stud in the room any more, and he did not meet my gaze another time in the whole of breakfast. Nice looking fellow, too, in a stylish gray-lavender vest.

After some worry and another text exchange with Voyages Lumiere, Moise came to drive us to the airport.  Basil joined in later.  Maybe he carried one of our bags into the Departure line.  It’s all families here, not individuals. Cap-Haïtien has a small airport, with a small amount of chaos.  We flew to Miami, from there to Charlotte, and from there to Wilmington, North Carolina, another small airport with no chaos at all.

Security Bubble

We flew on Friday morning from Orlando to Port-au-Prince on JetBlue. It seemed as if some people on the flight were unfamiliar with assigned seating. Maybe they’ve only ever flown on Southwest. The JetBlue attendants are fluent in Afro-Caribbean body language and intonation, and I suppose Creole as well.

Lyle had arranged to expedite our arrival in Port-au-Prince. As the guest of an embassy worker, we were met by a man holding a U.S. Embassy sign, who stands in front of the immigration lines to greet flights. He ushered us into a room and took our passports, and there we waited while the US Embassy staff fulfilled all the formalities of getting our passports stamped and picking up the luggage from the carousel. He took us to our chauffeured Corps Diplomatique vehicle, and off we went to Lyle’s house.

Embassy people aren’t allowed to go in most of the town, or anywhere outside the immediate community on foot. There haven’t been any attacks on diplomatic cars, because such an attack would be investigated by the National Police, and the case would be solved because a $20 bill would turn virtually anyone into an informer. There aren’t political goals. Just robbery. But the State Department doesn’t want any more Benghazi incidents, so the security around the houses of the staff is elevated. Maybe not as much as the Cone of Silence.

The US Embassy wouldn’t like it if I put down the coordinates of Lyle’s house in Port-au-Prince, so the coordinates above identify a great restaurant called Le Liane Courtois, which you must go to if you go to visit him. We ate there twice, on their covered patio overlooking the parking lot and the wall which surrounds every building of value in Port-au-Prince. There is no menu. The waitress comes out and tells you they have fish, goat, and chicken, and you say which one, and she asks, Grilled or in Sauce.

TripAdvisor refuses to publish my review of Lianecourtois. They don’t recognize that it exists. Of course there is no way to talk to any person, to get any data more precise than “Your information doesn’t meet our standards.” I recall having this trouble also before, trying to add Laguanacazul in Rio Gallegos to their database. I guess it’s good that they defend so strenuously against Fake Restaurants, but Bayes is messing with their algorithm.

Also we ate once at Observatoire, a view restaurant south of town in the mountains; and on the first night there, Lyle and I made spaghetti Bolognese in his kitchen.

Our time in Port-au-Prince was quiet. It was the weekend before Lyle was to be married, and it was the weekend, which is his chance to play video games and not think about the lives he must responsibly impact five days a week. It’s hard being a grownup. I don’t know very many.

So, on Saturday we went out for a drive with another of the embassy personnel, to the view restaurant; and Sunday we didn’t do much of anything. This vacation has been pretty busy for us, and not doing anything was really attractive. It was especially nice to listen at length to someone who has done so many more things than I have, in a life not even half as long. We are all tourists in the lives of our friends. I hope they don’t mind.

Monday, Lyle had to go back to work. Our travel agent, Voyages Lumieres, arranged to send a driver around to take us to the bus station. There are flights to Cap Haitien, but I wanted to take a bus. See the country a bit. Port-au-Prince is a desperately poor and dangerous city. The rest of Haiti is only desperately poor.

The driver was scheduled to arrive at Lyle’s gate at 8:15. You’ve heard of island time? this guy arrived a half hour EARLY. We weren’t fully packed, even. We got to the bus station in plenty of time to buy a ticket; I had been worried about this all weekend. It took half an hour to drive a couple of kilometers to the bus station. The driver is plainly used to nervous tourists with GPS and explained what he was doing every time he took a detour down a seemingly impassable alley to avoid an actually impassable street.

The bus station for Transport Chic is a chic little building near the airport with plastic chairs and no trash or bad smells. They run a nice bus, too. On Haitian roads. National Highway 1 runs from the capital to the next largest city, and there isn’t a meter of it that is as good as Highway 84 and large stretches that are worse than the dirt road into our backyard. A few scary dropoffs also, which we didn’t go over. The driver slowed down more than some buses do. Chic.

They are working on some of the road. A road crew consists of a lot of machines of a modern sort, many Haitians sweating, and your occasional Chinese person wearing a sun hat and nicer clothes.

The historians of the future will find it quite astonishing that America abdicated world leadership and didn’t even know it.

There is a myth running around the right wing, that America gives money to foreigners and we should put America First. This belief is about as bizarre as the currently clickable Flat Earth kerfuffle, but has considerably harsher consequences in the direction of Making America Puny Again.

Every empire since prehistory has paid off the satraps of the bordering unconquered tribes, for their quiescent loyalty. Foreign Aid is the modern version of that bribery, and most of the money goes to US campaign donors anyway via their Large Corporations that sell Cement and Rebar. Everywhere we’ve been in the last 15 years, there are Chinese projects: the road to Timbuktu, the stadium in Addis Ababa, government buildings in Tonga. Meanwhile, the Americans are withdrawing in surrender. I am mystified. But it does happen, from time to time. A spate of superstitious isolationism during the Ming Dynasty led to the recall of Zheng He from his voyages of exploration and trade, and left Africa to the Portuguese and other European colonists. Maybe China will implode again, but for the moment, they are preparing to command the world.

Lyle was posted with the Peace Corps in Togo and pointed out that Haiti could pass for West Africa in all respects. Almost all: there aren’t people wearing African fabrics. Haiti is an entire country wearing second hand clothes. Half the GDP is remittances from overseas Haitians.

But like Africa, it is knee deep in trash. Why does being poor mean you don’t pick up garbage? It has been offered as an explanation, that people haven’t really internalized the permanence of it; that plastic isn’t reeds and won’t just go away after a time. They need Lady Bird Johnson.