Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (Scribner, 2010)
Last fall, PBS aired Ken Burns’ latest documentary project on the subject of Prohibition. One of the advisors used for the film, and who appeared onscreen, was Daniel Okrent, who had his own book on Prohibition in the United States. Both projects’ developments ran in parallel; the inevitable cross-polination between the two led Okrent to call his and Burns’ works first cousins.
Like Burns’ doc, Okrent begins Last Call in the late 19th century with the rise of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Anti-Saloon League. From the point of view of almost 100 years later, it just seems ludicrous that the movement toward Prohibition went as far as it did, toward its enshrinement in the Constitution of the United States. It wasn’t necessarily the enduring issue to begin with, but other events (such as the First World War) made Prohibition front and centre in the second half of the 1910s.
Okrent weaves many stories: from the crusaders who brought Prohibition from a religious movement to a political one; to those within government who weren’t really enamored of the whole thing and went out of their way to avoid enforcing the Volstead Act; and the bootleggers and criminal masterminds who built empires around the provision of illegal liquor to the masses. He then spends the last chapter winding down those stories, describing what happened to them when the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th, ending a 13-year experiment in alcohol proscription. Some have been forgotten into the mists of history, while others (Al Capone being an obvious example) live on in popular culture.
Clocking in at almost 400 pages, Last Call may be long, but it’s certainly not dull. It is a very intriguing look at the Prohibition era, and is a good complement to Ken Burns’ doc, but is just as enjoyable by itself, or perhaps your favourite drink.
Related: my review of Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol
My brother got me this shirt from his trip to the UK earlier this month. With me heading to New York later this year, the shirt got me to thinking about future marathon plans. London will definitely be part of it, as are Chicago and Berlin. With Boston and New York, the five races form the World Marathon Majors [wiki]. Running while traveling has become a norm for me (see my previous posts on running in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Hawaii), so I’ll probably keep an eye on racing calendars next time I plan a holiday. I’m also accepting suggestions!
Someone sent me an email about a documentary on CBC Radio’s Ideas program. “Footprints Kenya” explores the rise of the Kenyans as the dominant runners in recent years, and how a visit to a training camp in the Great Rift Valley shows their incredible work ethic. Kathrine Switzer provided some insight, and there is an interview with Mary Keitany, winner of the 2012 London Marathon and a favourite to win gold this summer at the London Olympic Marathon. The program aired May 14, but is available to listen on demand by clicking on the link, and it’s also available as a podcast.
Yes, I’m smiling in that picture, but the elation has slightly given way to frustration and self-doubt.
It might have started when I caught the bus to get as close to the start line as possible. It detoured away, but when I realized the bus is not going to stop until a transfer point next to the Canada Line, I almost freaked out. But I briefly forgot that I can take the Canada Line one stop to King Edward, the closest stop to the start line.
Besides the new courses, the race organizers set up corrals for runners, based on predicted finish time. The thing is, I didn’t know which corral I was assigned until I got to the start area. For future races, that should be something for the organizers to include for runners picking up their bibs.
Less than 24 hours to go until the start of the Vancouver Marathon. I’m not nervous now, but I’ll probably feel it a bit more when I’m standing in the corral, waiting for the gun to go off.
The marathon is the culmination of almost six months of solid training. And that training is as much a milestone as finishing the race itself, so that mission is accomplished. It almost fulfills the “Redemption” theme I gave myself at the start of the year.
I’ll also be going into this marathon knowing I’ll be doing this all over again in six months. I somehow managed to be selected to run the New York City Marathon! I’ll detail my future plans with my next post, when I run down my experience at my hometown marathon. For now, to everyone who’ll be joining me at the starting line on Sunday, whether in the full or half marathon in Vancouver, or in the many other runs taking place around the world: have a great race!