Articles Published From 1996 to 2000

The Triumph of Burbopolis

I grew up in a pretty nice subdivision on Long Island, but try as I might to kindle some spark of nostalgia for “the Gates of Woodbury,” the gravitational pull of the place is almost nil. It has been nearly 30 years since I left, and at least until a couple of months ago, I could think of no reason to go back: no people to see (everybody I knew had also left), no curiosity to satisfy. In my imagination Juneau Boulevard is the same as it ever was, except maybe for the cars and the people, which I assume have been regularly updated. Isn’t that the way it has always been in the burbs—change without history? More of the same?

The Way We Live Now: Feeding Frenzy

Gazing nervously across the Atlantic at European outrage over genetically modified food, industry and government leaders have been quick to reach for words like “hysteria” and “madness.” How else to explain the uprooting of biotech crops in English fields? Or naked protesters in Rome pelting American cabinet secretaries with genetically engineered (“G.E.”) soybeans? It’s irrational, surely, to reject out of hand such a shiny new technology, especially one that comes with the seal of approval of American regulators (the vaunted Food and Drug Administration, no less).

Our Time

A wide gulf of time separates this issue’s two intended audiences. It is addressed to those reading it today, on a Sunday on the verge of the year 2000, and also to those reading it—assuming that quaint practice survives—on a distant today in the year 3000. Every time capsule is a kind of mirror. An

The Way We Live Now: A Very Fine Line

The same week that a Republican candidate for President spent struggling to compose ever more tortuous nondenials of his drug use as a young man, a former Republican Presidential candidate could be seen in full-page advertisements forthrightly acknowledging his own use of another drug. Oh, I know: two completely different and incomparable situations; how unfair

The Way We Live Now: Land of the Free Market

I live just beyond the dilating fringe of the New York metropolitan area, in the kind of place that was called “the country” until a few years ago. That’s when the ratio of urban refugees to farmers shifted in a way that made that designation feel self-conscious, so people began calling it “the exurbs,” a

The Human Habitat: The Real World of Interiors

The twilight struggle between Life and Design surely counts as one of the great long-running stories of the century now ending. This clash of terms has given us battles drenched in both tragedy and farce, on fronts as different as the Iron Curtain and the curtain wall, Soviet collective farms and Corbusian villas, American urban-renewal

Breaking Ground: The Call of the Wild Apple

ALL the way in the back of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station’s orchard here stand several jumbled rows of the oddest apple trees you’ve ever seen. No two are alike, not in form or leaf or fruit: this one could pass for a linden tree, that one for a demented forsythia. Maybe a

Playing God in the Garden

Planting Today I planted something new in my vegetable garden — something very new, as a matter of fact. It’s a potato called the New Leaf Superior, which has been genetically engineered — by Monsanto, the chemical giant recently turned ”life sciences” giant — to produce its own insecticide. This it can do in every

Breaking Ground; Seed. Reseed. Secede.

WHERE do you go to shoot a movie about a perfectly ordinary American whose whole life, unbeknownst to him, is a scripted show for television? Ideally, you’d find a place that looked so stereotypically small-town America, so thoroughly front-porched and picket-fenced, that it could pass for a movie set. This is what the producers of

Gardening

Reading along in THE INVITING GARDEN: Gardening for the Senses, Mind, and Spirit (Holt, $40), I suddenly came upon this provocative sentence: “Gardening is not a hobby, and only nongardeners would describe it as such.” For a writer as genial as Allen Lacy, this qualifies as a shot across the wheelbarrow. “There is nothing wrong

Breaking Ground; The Chain Saws of Salvation

ON a bright, chilly morning last month, I joined a small group of my neighbors who had gathered just south of Kent, Conn., chain saws and loppers in hand, to face down a threat to one of the prettiest landscapes in New England. Known locally as the “southern gateway” to the Berkshires, this particular stretch

Dream Pond: Just Add Water. Then Add More.

NOT long ago, I found myself in a crowded lecture hall surrounded by grim men and women sitting before specimen jars brimming with an alarming assortment of scums and growths in brodo. We had come to this annual Pond Management workshop at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., because we all had ponds

Town-Building Is No Mickey Mouse Operation

The sun was barely up over the brand-new town of Celebration, Fla., and the Rotarians had gathered in the clubhouse at the golf course for their weekly breakfast meeting. I’d come fully expecting to meet a bunch of white guys in polo shirts who’d remind me of my father, and there were quite enough of

Gardening

What is a garden for? “Pleasure” is the obvious answer, though you’d never know it from reading Americans on the subject. We have an old habit in this country of weighing down our gardening—indeed, all our commerce with nature—with barrowfuls of moral and political significance, an inheritance, no doubt, from the Puritans and probably also

Breaking Ground; So Beautiful This Ghastly Flower

STRUGGLING the other evening to stake a particularly menacing Scotch thistle without incurring too great a loss of blood, I suddenly realized that Morticia Addams has become an important influence in my garden. I haven’t quite reached the point where I snip the blooms off my roses in order to showcase their thorns, but the

The Pot Proposition; Living With Medical Marijuana

One morning in May, Sgt. Scott Savage of the San Jose Police Department’s narcotics unit paid a visit to the newest tenant in the modest one-story professional building at the corner of Meridian and San Carlos: the Santa Clara County Medical Cannabis Center. Sergeant Savage, who has the upbeat demeanor of a young suburban cop

Homes & Gardens: Inner Space

A room of one’s own: is there anybody who hasn’t at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn’t turned those soft words over until they’d assumed a habitable shape? In my own case, there came a moment—a few years shy of my 40th birthday—when the notion of a room of my own,

Opium Made Easy

Last season was a strange one in my garden, notable not only for the unseasonably cool and wet weather—the talk of gardeners all over New England—but also for its climate of paranoia. One flower was the cause: a tall, breathtaking poppy, with silky scarlet petals and a black heart, the growing of which, I discovered

Living at the Office

I was tapping away at my computer on a bright summer morning when I first heard, or felt, the sound: a series of distant, muffled explosions, followed by a low rumble that seemed to roll across the ground and rock the foundations of my office. Were I still living in my apartment on upper Broadway,

Building a Room of My Own

I NEEDED A PLACE TO WORK. THAT AT least is the explanation I prepared for anybody who asked about the little building going up, very slowly, in the woods behind my house. I was building a “home office,” an enterprise so respectable that the Government gives you a tax deduction for it. The fact that

Gardening

Along with the seed catalogue, the book lies at the heart of the winter garden. Through its pages the gardener, who has worked more or less in isolation all summer, steps out into the wider gardening world, renewing his acquaintance with other gardeners and returning with a rich store of information—the printed kind, of course,