Bergmann, a field botanist for the Montgomery County Parks Department, extricates herself from the thicket and in the meadow shows me that what I take to be blades of grass are actually shoots of trees, mowed to a few inches high. There are countless thousands, hiding in plain sight in Great Seneca Stream Valley Park. If it were not cut back once a year, the meadow would become like the adjacent screen, wall upon wall, acre upon acre of black-limbed, armored trees worthy of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
“You can’t mow this once and walk away,” said Bergmann, who began her 25-year career in the department as a forest ecologist but has been consumed by an ever-pressing need to address the escape of the Bradford pear and other variants of callery pear, a species that originated in China, along with other invasive exotics.
The U.S. Agriculture Department scientists who gave us the Bradford pear thought they were improving our world. Instead, they left an environmental time bomb that has now exploded.
My last memory of Philadelphia: four months on testosterone. 91 degrees and counting. I leave the gym covered in a wet shirt. I take it off, walk down crowded Frankford Ave in my sports bra, drinking iced coffee from a sweating cup. Every day my shoulders are bigger, the hair on my legs a touch thicker. But I am the least of the strange things one can see here on a Saturday morning in Fishtown. It is gender euphoria.
In the summer of 2017, when I was 41 years old, I temporarily lost my parents. This is both less and more dramatic than it sounds. On August 1st, the start of the Long Island beach house rental I’d arranged for the month, I got into a car with my mom and dad, who’d helpfully flown up from Florida to join me for the initial stage of this retreat after I realized I hadn’t driven since I was a teenager, and I wasn’t going to start trying again on the Long Island Expressway.
After we loaded the rental car and I dutifully fastened my seatbelt in the backseat, assuming the position of so many family road trips past, I realized I hadn’t mailed my maintenance for my Brooklyn apartment. “Hang on — I’ll be right back!” I yelled, grabbing the envelope with the check in it and dashing across the street toward a mailbox. My dad waited at the side of the road, but then came a surge of traffic, and then a cop, and he had to drive on. “Noooooooo!” I yelled, chasing after the rental car (what kind was it anyway? I had no idea!) in the heat, knowing even as I did my perfunctory sad jog that there was no way I’d catch up.
I had no phone, no purse, no keys, no way to communicate with them other than to send mental signals: I will be right here waiting for you, a Richard Marx song on repeat. When you lose someone, stay put!, I remembered, a lesson imparted at various times during my childhood. So I waited. And waited. Finally, I saw the rental car heading back in my direction. No need to know the make or model when Mom was leaning out of the passenger side window, waving in the wind, shouting my name at the top of her lungs. They’d found me.
It was not the most auspicious beginning to our trip, and I felt relief and embarrassment in equal measures. I was, by all accounts, an adult. Yet I was never really a grown-up, particularly not when my parents were around.
Written by the actor over seven years, without the aid of a ghostwriter (a crutch often used by celebrity authors), this somber, intimate and at times wrenching self-portrait feels like an act of personal investigation — the private act of a woman, now 71, seeking to understand how she became herself, and striving to cement together the shards of her psyche that have been chipped and shattered over the course of her life.
Jill Lepore is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and These Truths is nothing short of a masterpiece of American history. By engaging with our country's painful past (and present) in an intellectually honest way, she has created a book that truly does encapsulate the American story in all its pain and all its triumph. And with this country once again struggling to define itself, Lepore's timing couldn't be better. "To study the past is to unlock the prison of the present," she writes. "The past is an inheritance, a gift and a burden. It can't be shirked. You carry it everywhere. There is nothing for it but to get to know it."
A year later, he tried another experimental procedure — an artificial heart developed and some would say stolen from his rival at Baylor University in Houston. He never asked the university’s permission because, well, that would have required going through a committee run by said rival. “We administered to Baylor University the biggest enema,” Cooley reportedly told a colleague after the surgery. “It will be remembered in years to come.”
And this, readers, is how the first artificial heart came to be implanted in a patient. (The man survived three days with the device, before receiving a transplant from a donor and dying the following day.) Such are the brazen feats that Mimi Swartz chronicles in her book “Ticker,” a brief history of the artificial heart. Swartz is an executive editor of Texas Monthly, and she is based in Houston, home to four medical schools and much of the last century’s pioneering heart research. These are physicians who have a lot more in common, she writes, “with the people who crossed Everest’s Khumbu Icefall or took the first steps on the moon.”