When Lafayette met him in 1775, the first volume of Raynal’s 1770 History of the Two Indies had already been banned, which is to say it was a popular success, the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books being the unofficial bestseller list of the day.

All those adorable towheaded kids in the promotional film are going to turn thirteen. Once a family member hits puberty, odds are that everybody is not going to have the same ideals. Unless everybody gets together and agrees that the new ideals involve turning the front yard into a skate ramp and officially changing Dad's name to Fuckhead.

I have intimate knowledge of what it was like to be young and uneasy and outraged under Reagan. My high school was 1980s America in miniature--you either belonged or you didn't, you learned to seek relief where you could find it.

The air has that bracing autumnal bite so that all you want to do is bob for apples or hang a witch or something.

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, Robert Lincoln bought a nice ski lodge.

So, the moral of that story, other than never underestimate an independent bookseller, was that the Continental Army and its commander in chief had a soft spot for Chief Artillery Officer Henry Knox.

Sir, I said, except for the people who were there that one day they discovered the polio vaccine, being part of history is rarely a good idea. History is one war after another with a bunch of murders and natural disasters in between.

The doo-wop stalker love song on a Cincinnati oldies station--you broke up with me because I was an obnoxious jerk and now you're dating him, so I drive by your house and stare in your window every night, thereby proving that I'm an even bigger creep than you thought.

--a man without birth, without courage, without conduct. For my part, I declare, sir, it shall never be said that I made such a man my master.

A humble, bootstrappy patriot, Knox wooed, then married Lucy Flucker, the highbrow daughter of the Loyalist governor of the province of Massachusetts.

Jesus and Lincoln, Moses and Jefferson can seem so long gone, so unbelievable, so dead.

There's nothing more depressing than bad capitalism.

Freedom of expression truly exists only when a society's most repugnant nitwits are allowed to spew their nonsense in public.

Um," I asked, "isn't the whole point about being a slave that you don't have a choice to be anything else?" Prettying up the word slave with the adjective-noun constructions makes "enslaved African" sound nonchalant. As in "Those were the cabins of the jolly leprechauns.

Relics are treasured as something close to the divine.

You know you've reached a new plateau of group mediocrity when even a Canadian is alarmed by your lack of individuality.

At a Clinton press conference, I'm given the luxury of daydreaming, of being comfortable enough that he could find Peru on a map, say, that I don't have to hang on his every word, praying he won't fuck up.

We go in to liberate Cuba, but Cuba still isn't free; we don't really think through what we'll do after the initial treaty is signed, but we're still occupying. There's chaos and torture and finally an outcry.

She is either male property (Mrs.), wannabe male property (Miss), or man-hating harpy (Ms.).

The modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.

There are freaky talking mannequins in the Salem Witch Museum that recite the Lord's Prayer and while they do resemble shrunken apples they nevertheless help the visitor understand how hard it must have been for the condemned to say the line about forgiving those who trespass against us.

In America, on the ordinate plane of faith versus reason, the x-axis of faith intersects with the y-axis of reason at the zero point of "I don't give a damn what you think".

In other words, every cent the French government spent on guns for the Americans was another centime it would not have to spend on butter for the starving peasants who would one day storm Versailles.

The victory at Trenton boosted morale among the troops, the Congress, and the people to a degree possibly unwarranted by winning back a town in New Jersey, what with it being a town in New Jersey.

I was a big Nancy Drew reader. Nancy figures it out. Case closed.

His pictures of this region summarize the soulful emptiness of a country where, as Gertrude Stein observed, 'there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is.

Lafayette took umbrage - just gobs and gobs of umbrage - at the patriots' vilification of his countrymen for leaving Newport.

Despite his consistent party-line voting record, some independents and Democrats still think of Senator McCain as the most palatable, independent-minded Republican. But this is the sort of empty compliment a friend of mine once compared to being called the coolest Osmond.

Owen is the most Hitchcockian preschooler I ever met. He's three. He knows maybe ninety word and one of them is 'crypt'?

You think this is a mess? New York is a mess! Why should it matter if I spill anything inside? The whole city is a dump! I'm not pretending the inside is any different from the outside anymore!

I am pro-plaque.

Like Lincoln, I would like to believe the ballot is stronger than the bullet. Then again, he said that before he got shot.

We are flawed creatures, all of us. Some of us think that means we should fix our flaws. But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left.

David, you don't want to get rid of the cracks and the crevices in the building because that's where the ghosts hide. And if you get rid of the ghosts, the Chelsea will just be any other building.

Jefferson's pretty phrases were incomplete without the punctuation of French gunpowder. That.

Lincoln, of course, was giggling at the moment of impact; Booth knowing the play Lincoln was watching by heart, chose a laugh Lin on purpose to dampen the noise of his Derringer's report.

You know your country has a checkered past when you find yourself sitting around pondering the humanitarian upside of sticking with the British Empire.

Radio is the playground of coincidence.

I'm a big fan of editing and keeping only the interesting bits in.

But I can no longer ready any faith's Napoleonic saber rattling without picturing smoking rubble on cable news. I guess if I had to pick a spiritual figurehead to possess the deed to the entirety of Earth, I'd go with Buddha, but only because he wouldn't want it.

A couple of times he called the second he'd finished reading a novel and just had to tell me about it, and I know it sounds hokey and librarianish to say so, but I just swooned when he did that.

The internet is the nerd Israel, a place to speak and listen to spectacularly specific concerns.

Dig deep into its communitarian ethos and it reads more like an America that might have been, an America fervently devoted to the quaint goals of working together and getting along. Of course, this America does exist. It's called Canada.

I've always had these fantasies about being in a normal family in which the parents come to town and their adult daughter spends their entire visit daydreaming of suicide. I'm here to tell you that dreams really do come true.

I suspect that the day a person gives up on the Geneva Convention is the day a person gives up on the human race.

When I think about my relationship with America, I feel like a battered wife: Yeah, he knocks me around a lot, but boy, he sure can dance.

Before the verb to electrocute came to define death by electricity, Edison advocated that the verb be named for his nemesis, that a person who had been electrocuted would have been westinghoused instead. I bet Westinghouse came up with some possible definitions of what it meant to be edisoned himself.

There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind who alphabetize their record collections, and the kind who don't.

Picpus Cemetery, where Lafayette is buried under dirt from Bunker Hill.