Apple Picking


Reading this week:

  • Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Africa by Hussein Solomon

I was warned that this would happen almost as soon as I arrived at Yale, but I have talked about Marx more in the past two months than I think in the entire other 30 years of my existence. I don’t know how unusual that is, given that I lived in prototypical suburban America growing up, and then went to the Naval Academy, and then of course was in the Navy for five years before briefly working for Amazon Web Services, none of which are particular hotbeds of pro-proletarian revolutionary thought. In the Peace Corps there was of course much more of a leftist lean, though I think that manifested itself more as something like radical feminism or anti-patriarchy sentiment without ever quite getting to the notion that we’ll have to break down the foundations of capitalist society, or whatever (two months have not made me a Marxist scholar, as you can tell).

I do remember reading while in the Peace Corps In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck. In this book, as Wikipedia explains, “the central figure of the story is an activist attempting to organize abused laborers in order to gain fair wages and working conditions.” For me, besides of course rousing me to the fight for worker’s rights, the significant part of the book was that it is another example I think of how if you poke at the edges of some of the core authors of the American education system’s literary pantheon you find actual literal communist sympathies that we never quite get around to mentioning in high school. I’m going to lose the narrative thread here but yesterday one of the women in my program got Yale to sponsor an apple-picking trip for us to go on. So part of Yale’s endowment income (derived in a not-insignificant way from the fossil fuel industries) went towards providing a group of largely white and by definition privileged set of men and women the opportunity to pay to perform manual labor on an apple farm. What was the work the abused laborers were doing in the Steinbeck book? They were apple picking.


It was a lot of fun! We had hired a big yellow school bus to pick us up from New Haven to take us to the farm. The first activity was a “hay” ride. We in fact rode, but there was no hay, so the name is misleading, but it was pretty pleasant. The scheme here is that the tractor hauls its load of graduate students to the far end of the orchard (part of it anyways; I think they said they had something like 400 acres and we certainly didn’t see quite that many apples) and then you wander your way back picking apples and hanging out with people and apparently most importantly taking Instagram photos. I do not have an Instagram so I was at somewhat of a handicap.

They had a wide variety of apples and people had a whole lot of apple opinions but despite being perhaps the world’s #1 fan of apple pie I have never developed any strong feelings about apples. Some were better than others though. We sampled liberally as we moved along. The uh, cabaret apples I think were my favorite. Something like that. Some apples were clearly more popular than others, given the barren nature of the trees by the time our group got there, but that made it fun because you had to hunt down some exclusive apples. I had to climb a tree at one point. I was wearing my safari jacket though and ready for an expedition.


The day was pretty warm and the colors were fairly gorgeous. At one point I wandered off by myself to the crest of a hill (the trees were too young there to be bearing fruit) and looked out over the acres of trees. It was all pretty and peaceful and stuff. After we all managed to return from the fields the final part of the trip was apple cider and um, cider? donuts up at the barn/store thingy. That was yummy and we hung out some more before getting back on the school bus to head back home. Quite a fun afternoon. That evening I made apple cookies and I still had a lot of apples left so I will have to figure out what to do with them. Pie probably. I had imagined offering these baked goods to people but I think everyone else has the same idea so there will be too many apple-based baked goods. Very inefficient. I think we have discovered why we need collective action to make any real change.