08/15/2005 01:13 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The "Have a Heart" Trap

We are in Vermont on vacation. Our friend Anita was having trouble with raccoons going through her garbage. She caught one with a “have a heart” trap, and invited me, and my children, to come and feed and water it before she took it somewhere else to let it loose.

It was a very cute, young one. Very smart too. My kids gave it birdseed, but it wasn’t having any of that. It wanted the water that was sitting in front of it in a jar. It waved it’s little hand-like paws dismissively at the seed, and reached through the bars to grab the jar. My son lifted the jar for it, and the raccoon helped him, and then with it’s little hands, tipped the jar to its mouth, and drank. Very smart.

We were all suitably delighted, thanked Anita, and went on to our next stop which was Rainbow Sweets in Marshfield for a cherry cheese Danish, just out of the oven, the likes of which you won’t taste outside of New York City, if anywhere. Bill and Trish have been running the cafe for 30 years and are good friends of ours.

Over my cappuccino and Danish, I read an interesting article in the Times Argus, about a bookstore in Iraq, where intellectuals met secretly during Saddam’s reign, and the bookstore owner had to hide his favourite books in a vault. Everyone was jubilant at his overthrow, and now two years later, look back on their reactions as naïve, as more murder and fear sweeps the country.

Our friend Bernie read Frank Rich’s column in the New York Times aloud to our table, and hence to the entire café. I kept looking over my shoulder nervously as the door would open revealing new customers, and had to keep reminding myself that free speech is still allowed in this country.

I once sat next to Frank Rich at a dinner party in New York. I was a young actress, just off the stage for the evening from the Atlantic Theatre Company’s production of “Dangerous Corner” by J.B. Priestly. I was a little over-awed to be sitting next to the man who could close a Broadway show with one vitriolic wave of his poison pen. As the evening went on, and I sat ‘mute as a turnip” I heard him say to his neighbor something about his twenty years writing the theatre column. I whipped up enough courage to say, “Gosh, Mr. Rich, you must have seen some historic productions in your time!”

He turned to me with a look of real, genuine pain, and said rather miserably, “I have had to sit through some of the worst productions ever staged. Twenty years of terrible, awful theatre.” Or something to that effect.

I was surprised. It had never occurred to me that that could have been his experience. But looking at him, and he said it with feeling, I could see his point. I felt sorry for him. I thought, “there’s a man who really hates his job!”

The poor man!

I’m glad he finally found a job he likes.

I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but at any rate I think he must be happy now. He writes beautifully, and seems to be in his element with politics. He is bold and brave.

I don’t pretend to know anything about politics, especially in this country, and expressed an interest to learn a little, so my husband gave me “The Last Hurrah” by Edwin O’Connor. The main character is based on James Curley who was mayor of Boston in the 30’s. It is a magnificent book about old style American politics. As I read it I’m struck by how a good politician back then, and I suppose now, must of course be smart as a whip, but also must be someone who just loves a good scrap. Who loves his enemies almost more than his friends, because they offer the chance of a damn good fight? He or she must be brave and not too concerned about the opinions of others, except of course, the electorate.

I seemed to have digressed from my friend the raccoon. But speaking of raccoons, maybe politicians nowadays must have some of the qualities of the raccoon. Apart from the obvious ones of being very canny, scurrying through the forest, and having rings on their tails.

They must enjoy going through the trash.