Slouching Towards Bantry

A journey is a hallucination. -- Flann O'Brien

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Trade Secret



As a fledgling reporter many years ago, I remember being struck by words of advice offered in an Esquire magazine interview with journalism icon Carl Bernstein.

Bernstein opined there were three universal rules: never keep the company of women who can't put their lipstick on straight, reside only where palm trees grow and the truth is always in the details.

Bernstein's glib throw-away lines seemed, at the time, to pocess a cocky self-assuredness that I longed to call mine. His lipstick remark was obviously a reference to his womanizing exploits. And, of course, the "truth" and the devil are both in the details, nothing too original there. But the palm tree remark had a certain allure to me because the exotic plants can't survive a Midwest winter any better than they can in Washington, D.C., from whence Bernstein had escaped, after a not too graceful fall from his personal pedestal in the Fourth Estate, aka, The Washington Post.Apparently, by the time I read his words of "wisdom" in the 1980s, the once-heralded reporter who helped bring down Tricky Dick in 1972 had been banished to a place where palm trees grow, which, in retrospect, would seem not so bad a place to go into exile. Better than Siberia.

The great secret I didn't know then but have just discovered is that even though Cork lies more than 10 degrees north of St. Louis and Galway and Dublin more than 15, palms trees grow in all three cities and elsewhere throughout Ireland -- all year round -- outside. These are not potted plants, but trees 15 or even twenty feet tall. Say what you will about the wind and the rain, Ireland has a mild, temperate climate for both nurturing palms and journalists on the rebound, I suspect.

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