Up to their Knees in Cranberries: A critical moment in my career

The date of this cranberry career-enhancing newsletter is 1974, but it might be yesterday and tomorrow.

In October 1973, I returned East from San Francisco before there was a Silicon Valley.


In San Francisco:

  • I wrote television reviews for the Village Voice.
  • I covered the World Series of rodeo for the Saturday Review.
  • Before San Jose became capital of the Silicon Valley, I wrote an article describing my riding horses at an equestrian school and horse farm that extended for acres.


Years and years later--viz. 1995--  Cisco Systems' construction all over San Jose replaced farmland and horse trails. Then, shortly after I lost the ability to walk,  KLA (later to become KLA-Tancor) hired me to write a manual on the company's system for manufacturing computer chips.
The system  analyzed wafers and killed the ones that would become faulty chips early in the process before they would be sent out to ruin your computer or mine. The words "kill ratio" appeared frequently in my document.View Post
That was much later.


After interviewing Timothy Leary

In 1973, I decided to come East because I had interviewed Timothy Leary at Folsom Prison. The interview, for a magazine finally that paid good money, convinced me I was wasting my time with yesterday’s news.


When I saw John Dean’s testimony in San Francisco before the Watergate Committee, I decided to move to Washington, D.C Go directly to You Tube or see below.

The big news was coming out of Washington, D.C. The slow process leading to President Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings and eventual resignation was beginning. I wanted to be in on the action. My friend Lee, whom I met in first grade on the playground of the Hebrew Academy of Miami Beach, had just rented a two bedroom apartment next to the Iwo Jima monument across the Potomac River from D.C. He invited me to be his roommate and I jumped at the chance.


After driving cross-country in my 1956 Morris Oxford, I arrived in time for the Saturday night massacre. By the end of the year, I responded to an advertisement in The Washington Post. I was hired to run a newsletter on the problems of migrant workers and farm workers. Over the course of the year, I flew to central Florida and watched as workers brought in from Jamaica cut sugar cane by hand. My final issue, produced below, appeared in time for Thanksgiving. The words of the Edward R. Murrow broadcast into my grandmother’s Brooklyn living room, Thanksgiving Day, 1960 were ringing in my ears as I planned my 1974 issue.

Desperate phone calls to Massachusetts finally resulted in the phone ringing. An employee of a Boston poverty program who spoke Spanish agreed to meet me at Logan Airport. We speeded to Cape Cod where hidden close to what had been President Kennedy’s compound were cranberry bogs.

Surrounded by bleak cabins, workers from Puerto Rico had been flown in to wade into the water-filled bogs pushing cranberries with poles toward a machine that scooped them up. With the help of my translating colleague, I had the workers tell me their story. Then I went to the Ocean Spray factory and watched as cranberry sauce was manufactured, bottled, and shipped to stores to celebrate the holiday.

This issue became critical to my career as a professional journalist. Shortly after this newsletter appeared, I signed a contract for a book published as The Politics of Food. Within months after signing, The New Republic began publishing my articles on agriculture policy. There I was in the briefing room at the White House asking rude questions of the Secretary of Agriculture, a controversial figure who succeeded, as no Secretary of Agriculture since, to make the front pages of every major newspaper in the country.

Or go directly to You Tube:

Since the 1960 Edward R. Murrow broadcast, our country’s farms became factories that went on for thousands of acres. The workers were replaced by mechanization, insecticides, and genetically manipulated food. Tomatoes, for example, were designed to be picked by machines. Their skins were so tough that it was easier to dent a car bumper made in Detroit than to dent a tomato.

As machines replaced farm workers, they migrated by the thousands, especially to Detroit where there were good paying jobs on assembly lines. The jobs required no education or special training just the ability hour after hour to perform the same routine task. The prosperity of Detroit’s African-American community led by the late 1950s and early 1960s of the joyful Motown sound. The Supremes served as the most famous example of many groups on the Motown label that transformed Rock & Roll such as the one below:

Or go directly to You Tube:

By 2013, the automobile industry that dominated the world was no longer centered in Detroit. When I was born, Detroit was the fourth largest U.S. city. Today it is the 18th. With $11.7 billion dollars in debt, Detroit became the largest city to become bankrupt. Predictions, such as mine last year, that Detroit might die led me to hours of research, analysis, and feverish writing.

Last week, my editors Isabelle Lomholt and Adrian Welch at U.K.-based e-architect published my second column on Detroit. This column predicts an optimistic view of Detroit’s future

I write:

” I am seriously considering moving to Detroit. It would be easy to persuade me.” Perhaps, at 67 I have arrived at another turning point in my career.