Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I had a great holiday. My mom and I drove up to good old Crawfordsville, Indiana, to spend the holiday with my grandparents. My grandfather hasn't been doing so great lately, so it was really good to see him again. We had a nice quiet turkey day where everyone ate a lot and then napped. My cousin came into town on Friday from Illinois. It was great to see him. On Saturday, we helped my grandparents celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. To understand how incredible this is, let me give you a rundown on average life expectancy in some select nations:

United States: 77.1
United Kingdom: 77.7
Peru: 70.0
Mexico: 71.5
Canada: 79.5
France 78.8

So this means that my grandparents have been married for almost as long as most people can reasonably expect to live. Wow. Each day, the mail carrier came with a giant stack of cards from all over the country. Their local newspaper carried a small story about them (on the heels of a much longer story about their 65th anniversary), and the local radio guy gave them a quick shout-out! A nice thing about living in a small town. The flower man showed up Friday and had to make three trips to the van to bring in all the goodies. It's so nice to see such an outpouring of love and support for people who have spent their whole life spreading love and kindness to their family, friends, and community.

While I was there, I got a chance to do some reading. I took in another book by George Pelecanos, Drama City. It's another story based in the underbelly of Washington DC. This time it's about people and whether or not they can change. If you get past the grit, it's an interesting and thought provoking plot. Can people change? If they think they can't, is it because they are scared to change, or just that they really are "born a certain way". It's an interesting way of looking at the nature vs. nurture debate in the context of a crime novel. The other book I got through last week was 1812, The War That Forged A Nation, by Walter Borneman. This was a fast paced read about the War of 1812, a conflict that is really underserved by traditional history classes as taught in high school and college. I learned a lot about the causes of the war, the major players, and the incredible ineptitude on both sides that marked much of the battlefield 'strategy'. To be sure, the leaders of the early 19th century can certainly be seen in their early careers - Winfield Scott, the leader of the military campaign against Mexico, Andrew Jackson, who later ascended to the presidency, William Henry Harrison. Pretty impressive group. It was a decent book - I would recommend it.

Now I have moved on to reading Manhunt, The 12-day Chase For Lincoln's Killer, by James Swanson. I kept on seeing it in the bookstore, and coming off of reading Team of Rivals, I was drawn to it as a natural sequel. That, and still trudging through Alexander Hamilton. It's a great book so far, but still a long way to go before I can give my final report.


MPatten said...

The best book to read on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and escape of Booth is American Brutus by Michael Kauffman, a leading expert on the assassination and the Booth family. Mr. Kauffman leads the popular Booth escape route tours and is an excellent writer. The History Channel will present a special on the escape of Booth on December 23 and Mr. Kauffman was the consultant for the program that is based on the information in American Brutus.

Kirk Gray said...

Awesome! As a DC-area native, it's great to read local history, so I will check that one out as well. It's a lot of fun to imagine DC as it was back then when I am walking through the city. Thanks for the tip!