Search Results for: knife ax

My Year on a Shrinking Island

Historic Map Works / Getty, Animation by Homestead Studio

Michael Mount | Longreads | Month 2019 | 25 minutes (6,236 words)

The home I moved into was not what you might associate with Martha’s Vineyard: it wasn’t a sweeping palatial estate near the ocean with views of crispy white foam. It was a simple shingled house tucked far in the woods, sitting in a rustic subdivision near a graveyard and just beyond the commercial centers of the Island, with power lines cutting an artery through its backyard. I schlepped my things inside, bubbling with optimism about what my year of rest and revelation would bring. My housemate was a 70-year-old man who helped me move my luggage while screaming at the Patriots game every time he walked by. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that he asked questions.

“Most people don’t move out here until May,” he said. “What are you running away from?”

“Just New York.”

“I don’t blame you,” he said, laughing.

It was September of 2013 and I had left everything in Brooklyn. All of the carefully assembled Ikea furniture. My job. It all seemed to recede behind me on that final glimpse from the ferry that morning as I watched Woods Hole, Massachusetts, shrinking to a pinhole. All of the chaos and the heartbreak of summer in New York was like a muted roar — Facebook would remind me, but I had every reason to forget.

Some families have houses on Martha’s Vineyard. I don’t. My friend from home (home is a distant place) had moved to the Island last year to work full time for an agricultural non-profit. I did not know her well but her suggestion came to me in a time of need:

“If you hate New York so much,” she said, “you should move out to the Island for a winter and write your book. There are tons of writers out here.”

I was 24 and as weightless as dandelion molt. Leaving a job meant nothing. My longest relationship had been eight months long. I knew one person on Martha’s Vineyard and — it seemed — only a few more in New York. It hardly felt like a sacrifice. Those in New York whom I told about my plan expressed two contrasting perspectives: “Why would you do that?” and “I’m so jealous.” I chose to listen to only the latter.

It only took two trips to the car to carry all my things into the old man’s house. He seemed fine with me renting the room for next to nothing — if anything he was enthused to continue renting past Labor Day, to have company at the end of the season.

That evening we watched Tom Brady smear the Jets. During commercial breaks he fiddled with a small police scanner sitting beside his armchair; there were distant calls for drunk driving or speeding incidents. When it was time to eat he walked slowly to the kitchen and boiled two hot dogs, piling them on a paper plate.

“No dishes this way,” he said. “Bachelor life.”
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Downsizing the American Black Middle Class

Illustration by Neil Webb

Bryce Covert | Longreads | September 2019 | 13 minutes (3,448 words)

Yvonne Renee Evans has been a nurse for more than 30 years, and she has spent most of them in the private sector. It was difficult to get ahead. “I put in multiple applications and never got a chance to advance,” she said. “The opportunities might be there, but I was always given a reason.” As a black woman, she wondered if it “could have been a racial issue.” But it was difficult to prove, even when people who had been there for less time or that she had even trained herself were promoted above her. And “they could remove you at any time,” she noted. Once when she managed operating room scheduling at a hospital with a young, white woman, the hospital decided it wanted to downsize the team to one person. Evans was the one removed from the role, demoted to a lower-level position with a pay cut. “I could have fought it, but it wasn’t worth it,” she said. “You pick your battles, and that wasn’t one I chose to pick.” 

But then, after retiring from two different private sector jobs, she took a position at the John D. Dingell Veterans Administration Medical Center in Detroit in 2008. She didn’t need the work — she could have gone into full retirement — but her husband is ex-Army, and she wanted to serve veterans. She quickly found out it was also a rewarding place to work — very different than what she’d encountered in private hospitals. “The advancement here was wonderful,” she said. “You could move up the professional ladder in leaps and bounds as long as you did the work, you had the credentials. You could get to higher levels than you could in the private sector.” 

She now runs a podiatry clinic. “Every year I get appreciation awards,” she noted. She’s also been awarded for being an exemplary employee at the VA. “I never would have gotten awarded like that in the private sector. Never.” The money doesn’t make her rich, she said, but it does allow her to save for retirement and help her grown children if they need it. “I am truly the middle class,” she said.

Evans wouldn’t have always found a welcoming workplace in the government. As late as the turn of the 20th century, letting black workers into the federal government was seen as “akin to bringing down the federal service,” explained Frederick W. Gooding, assistant professor of African American studies at Texas Christian University and author of American Dream Deferred. Under President Woodrow Wilson entire departments within the federal government were segregated, with literal barricades separating black and white workers in some agencies and extra bathrooms installed so they wouldn’t have to share the same facilities. But then World War II hit. The government needed a lot more employees — both for the war effort and to staff up President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vast expansion of the government. “Because there’s all these new positions, managers can hire people of color without displacing white workers,” said Jennifer Laird, assistant professor of sociology at Lehman College. By the 1960s, that expansion “gave African American workers a foothold in the public sector.” Black people were fleeing “vitriolic racism in the private sector,” Gooding noted. But the racism they once found in public employment was mediated by need. “It’s not because the federal government woke up one day and said, ‘I’m feeling quite altruistic, let’s give blacks opportunities,’” Gooding said. “They needed bodies, it’s simply a supply and demand equation.”

The Great Migration helped take care of the supply. As black families moved en masse from rural Southern areas to urban cities in the North, they found employment with the federal and local governments when they arrived. That movement from the private sector to the public sector built a black middle class across the country, one that to this day is sustained in large part by public sector employment like the job Evans was able to secure at the VA. Those gains, however, are tenuous, and they are particularly threatened as President Trump and his fellow Republicans strive to severely reduce the size of the federal government.  Read more…

My Love Affair with Chairs

Willian Justen de Vasconcellos, Getty

Keah Brown | An excerpt adapted from The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me | Atria Books | 2019 | 17 minutes (4,556 words)

 

My longest relationship has been with chairs. We are very happy together, committed and strong, in sickness and health till death do us part, etc. There are arguments and disagreements as in any other relationship, but we apologize and make up before nightfall so we don’t go to bed angry. The notion of love at first sight is a little cheesy but true. Chairs and I have traveled around the world and back again. We cuddled on the beach in Puerto Rico, shared stolen glances in the Virgin Islands, danced the night away in Grand Turk, and gave some major PDA in the Bahamas. My chairs are loyal, with vastly different personalities but an equal amount of appreciation for the butt of mine that sits in them. A few of them like to play it cool: they don’t want me to think that they care as much as they do, and I let them believe that it’s working. After all, sometimes you have to let your partner think they have the upper hand, to work toward the long game of the bigger thing you want later. However, you and I, dear reader, we know the truth. The chairs in my life love me, and I honestly can’t blame them. Read more…

Fugitive Justice

Illustration by Lily Padula

Jennifer Lunden | Longreads | September 2019 | 25 minutes (6,331 words)

Our fuchsia had vanished. The empty pot lay broken on the front porch where just the previous day the fully flowered plant had hung, splendid and cheery. I found one lone tendril in the driveway — its three pink and purple blossoms still miraculously attached, its roots still flecked with soil. I tried to piece together the mystery, but I could not.

Later, I got an email from our tenant, Annie:

Someone absconded with one of the hanging fuchsia! Because I am a person with a strong sense of justice, I tracked a trail of blossoms and stems up to Cumberland Ave this morning, where I found the pot smashed and the tendrils scattered.

She had reclaimed our busted pot and left it on the porch. Annie chalked it up to a drunken lark, a random act of vandalism. But somebody had climbed our front steps, unhooked our hanging fuchsia, and left a trail of uprooted stems all the way around the block. Who would do such a thing? I wondered. Why?
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Mountains, Transcending

Illustration by Jason Raish

Ailsa Ross | Longreads | August 2019 | 22 minutes (6,062 words)

It’s the winter of 1923 and a five-foot tall woman is shooting at brigands in Tibet. She’s surviving a blizzard by eating boot leather. She’s accepting a maggot-dancing stew from a drug-addled butcher and having a face-off with a snow leopard.

This woman is Parisian opera singer-turned-anarchist Buddhist lama Alexandra David-Néel, and she’s kicking through Tibet’s wild hills and steppes as she strides on foot across the Himalayas from Kanchow to Lhasa.

Alexandra’s starlit memoir recounting her adventure is no Thoreauvian nature journal. This is a tale that demands to be read in a cool bed while the night paws at the windows — or in my case, by the fire while my dad watches Come Dine With Me repeats on a black January afternoon.

I started reading My Journey to Lhasa because I love adventure stories. And while I’ve never pushed myself to extremes, still I felt a kinship with Alexandra. “Ever since I was five years old,” she wrote, “I craved to go beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by, and to set out for the Unknown.” She didn’t dream of towns or parades, but a solitary spot where she could “sit alone, with no one near.” As a child, her nannies often found her crouched behind bushes or hidden up trees in Paris gardens.

Quiet spaces — I’d needed those since I was a teenager.

I was most in search of a quiet space while teaching in Seoul in 2012. I was twenty-four and tired — of living in that crunching city of 26 million, of being in a job I was no good at, of lying awake in the self-hating 2 a.m. dark with a burnt throat from smoking cigarettes on the kindergarten rooftop. I wanted to feel clean again, like a child who’d spent the day by the sea. Read more…

Nashville contra Jaws, 1975

Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Illustration by Homestead

J. Hoberman | An excerpt adapted from Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan | The New Press | July 2019 | 30 minutes (8,492 words)

June 1975, six weeks after Time magazine headlined the Fall of Saigon as “The Anatomy of a Debacle” and wondered “How Should Americans Feel?,” brought two antithetical yet analogous movies: Robert Altman’s Nashville and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Each in its way brilliantly modified the cycle of “disaster” films that had appeared during Richard Nixon’s second term and were now, at the nadir of the nation’s self­-esteem, paralleled by the spectacular collapse of South Vietnam and the unprecedented Watergate drama.

In fact, in their time, Jaws and Nashville were regarded as Watergate films and, indeed, both were in production as the Watergate disaster played its final act in the summer of 1974. On May 2, three days after Richard Nixon had gone on TV to announce that he was turning over transcripts of forty-­two White House tapes subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee, the Jaws shoot opened on Martha’s Vineyard with a mainly male, no-­star cast. The star was the shark or, rather, the three mechanical sharks — one for each profile and another for stunt work — that, run by pneumatic engines and launched by a sixty-­five­-foot catapult, were created by Robert Mattey, the former Disney special effects expert who had designed the submarine and giant squid for the 1956 hit Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Brought to Martha’s Vineyard in pieces and cloaked in secrecy, Mattey’s sharks took longer than expected to become fully operational, and Jaws was further delayed by poor weather conditions. Accounts of the production routinely refer to the movie itself as a catastrophe only barely avoided: “All over the picture shows signs of going down, like the Titanic.”

In late June, a month when Jaws was still unable to shoot any water scenes, and while Nixon visited the Middle East and Soviet Union in a hapless attempt to, as the president wrote in his diary, “put the whole Watergate business into perspective,” Altman’s cast and crew arrived in the city of Nashville. They were all put up at the same motel, with everyone expected to stick around for the entire ten­-week shoot.

There is a sense in which Nashville represented a last bit of Sixties utopianism — the idea that a bunch of talented people might just hang out together in a colorful environment and, almost spontaneously, generate a movie. Even by Altman’s previous standards, Nashville seemed a free­form composition. It surely helped that neophyte producer Jerry Weintraub’s previous experience lay in managing tours, for Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley among others, and packaging TV specials. Read more…

Whole 60

Evgeny Buzov / Getty

Laura Lippman | Longreads | July 2019 | 15 minutes (3,660 words)

1.

When I was in high school, I would walk to the Waldenbooks in the mall near my home and read novels while standing up. This was the 1970s, long before bookstores became places that encouraged people to sit, hang, browse. There were no armchairs in that narrow store on the second floor of Columbia Mall in Howard County, Maryland.

Reading while standing up felt like stealing, a pathetic thrill for this straight-A goody-goody. I had money — I babysat, I eventually worked at the Swiss Colony in the same mall. I could buy any volume I truly desired. But my stand-up reads were books too embarrassing to bring home. I remember only two.

One was The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden, a British novelist perhaps best known today for inspiring the name of Bruce Willis’s and Demi Moore’s oldest daughter. It now strikes me as a perfectly respectable book; I could have forked over $1.25 for it.

The other one was — I couldn’t begin to tell you the title. It was a slick psycho serial killer tale that began with a young couple parked on Lovers Lane, where they were attacked by a man with, if I recall correctly, a metal hook for one of his hands. He used his hook to slash the roof of the convertible, or maybe it was a knife, and as the metal blade (or the hook) pierced through the canvas, the beautiful, vain sorority girl — it was implicit that she deserved to die if only for her smugness — thought: “I should have had that slice of cheesecake at dinner.”

It has taken me more than 40 years, but the singular achievement of my life may be that if I am attacked by a serial killer on a deserted Lovers Lane, I almost certainly will have had dessert. Not cheesecake, because I don’t like cheesecake. Possibly some dark chocolate, preferably with nuts or caramel, or a scoop of Taharka ice cream, an outstanding Baltimore brand, or one of my own homemade blondies, from the Smitten Kitchen recipe.

Maybe a shot of tequila, an excellent digestif. Maybe tequila and a blondie.

But only if I want those things. Many nights, I’m not in the mood for anything sweet after dinner. Every day, one day at a time, one meal at a time, one hunger pang at a time, I ask myself what I really want. I then eat whatever it is.

It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
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The Brazilian Healer and the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes

Illustration by Aimee Flom

Leigh Hopkins | Longreads | July 2019 | 25 minutes (6,131 words)

 

The roosters started at 4:30 in the pasture behind the inn. On the second crow, I rolled onto my back and blinked at the jalousie window’s slatted light, considering my first day at The Casa. We were allowed to ask three questions, no more. A visit with the world’s most famous spiritual surgeon was like going to see the wizard.

Mariana was silent in the bed next to me, the sleep falling in loose spirals across her face. I pulled back the sheets and slipped inside. “Bom dia.”

“Bom dia, meu amor.” A soft sound from a distant place.

Seven and a half years later, I receive a text from a friend in Rio: “Did you see the news?” She links to a New York Times article: “Celebrity Healer in Brazil Is Accused of Sexually Abusing Followers.”

***

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Oh, Girl!

Migrant children, some of whom are unaccompanied minors, lean against a fence at the Home for Children in Reynosa, Mexico. (Photos by Jacky Muniello)

Alice Driver | Longreads | June 2019 | 21 minutes (4,024 words)

DISPONIBLE EN ESPAÑOL

“I will go with a map,” decided 16-year-old Milexi. Her love of maps, she said, was part of what gave her the confidence to migrate roughly 1,460 miles from El Portillo, Honduras, to McAllen, Texas, alone. When I interviewed her in August 2018, she sat, her body tense, her gaze direct, on the sunlit patio of the Border Youth Care Center (CAMEF El Centro de Atención a Menores Fronterizos) in Reynosa, Mexico. Milexi’s hair was parted down the middle, and it shined in the sun as she said, “My dream was always to travel on the Beast,” as the train that runs from one end of Mexico to the other is known; migrants hop on and off it as they work their way through the country, sometimes losing a limb or two if they miscalculate the jump onto or off of the train. Milexi dressed as a man and made it as far as Reynosa before being caught and turned over to the Center, where she had then spent 57 days and made the request to receive asylum in Mexico.

Milexi left Honduras because her stepfather beat her mom and one of her brothers. She said that he beat her mother for years, that he fractured her 11-year-old brother’s knee. She said that she started cutting herself at age 7, but was also proud of herself because, for the past year, despite feeling anxious, she had not cut herself once.

Then she added a detail: One night her stepfather beat her mother. She waited until he was asleep then got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed him. “I had bad luck and the knife struck in the wrong place,” she explained without blinking. Her stepfather survived and after that, she decided to leave Honduras.

Milexi hoped to request asylum in the United States on the grounds of domestic violence, perhaps unaware that U.S. policies related to domestic violence had changed. In June 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a decision titled Matter of A-B- vacated an immigration court decision to grant asylum to a woman fleeing domestic violence. A federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s policy ending asylum for those fleeing domestic violence, but the situation for migrants who request asylum based on domestic violence claims remains in limbo and is still open for interpretation. Orange County–based immigration lawyer Ashkan Yekrangi said that Session’s actions have created a gray area in which judges are unsure of how to treat asylum cases based on domestic violence claims. For now, according to Yekrangi, “The majority of cases are still being denied because judges and the Department of Homeland Security are relying on the Matter of A-B-.” Read more…

How I Became ‘Rich’

Illustration by Homestead

Stacy Torres | Longreads | June 2019 | 11 minutes (2,629 words)

On my first two trips to Hawai‘i I photographed things people who live there might consider mundane: red dirt along a paved road, sunlit hibiscus draped over a parking lot wall, blue-faced Zebra Doves so calm I almost tripped over them because they didn’t skitter away like the nervous pigeons back home in New York City. The only palm trees I’d ever seen before appeared on postcards, television, and luau-themed party decorations. In Hawai‘i I wasted no time filling my camera with pictures of real ones: swaying palms against a light-filled morning sky, baby palms trees in the midday sun, and full-grown trees wrapped in twinkling lights under an aspirin moon.

The first trip, in 2009, happened by accident. At least it felt that way. My then-boyfriend wanted to go somewhere tropical. I wanted to go somewhere interesting, though I had no inkling of the plan he was hatching when I mentioned Hawai‘i. I figured this discussion was just another of the fantasy trips we often took in our heads after watching the Travel Channel. Neither of us had passports or much money. But my boyfriend’s job as a New York City public high school special education teacher had wrecked him. For the past few years, half the teachers at his school left by year’s end. C. stood on the verge of quitting too. Instead, he started drinking on the train ride to work in the mornings. Then he took his tax refund and booked us a trip to paradise.

At first he refused to tell me where we were going. “Block off a week,” C. said. I’m going to need you not to be interrupted.” I pressed for details. After about age 12, I’d stopped liking surprises. By then I’d learned they could herald sudden bad news, such as when I awoke to find my mother applying antiseptic to a knife slice on my father’s temple after he got mugged coming home from work. Worry grew about some emergency lurking behind his request, a not unreasonable idea given the last few rocky years. Only after several days of persistent badgering, he divulged, “We’re going somewhere.” I grew more fearful. Where were we going? Why?

We didn’t go places, except the occasional day-trip to Philadelphia on a $10 round-trip Chinatown bus ticket. Sometimes we hopped an Atlantic City casino bus out of Port Authority. We got most of the bus fare back in a cash voucher to be redeemed at Harrah’s, but we dumped that and a few more bucks into the penny and nickel slots. Lucky Lemmings was our machine of choice. We always fooled ourselves into believing riches lay just one more pull away, and cheered when we hit a bonus game. The cute animated lemmings delighted us when they dived from the cliff, or trampolined off a lavender walrus’s back into caves marked with different credit amounts. If we got really lucky, the machine rewarded us with a lemming stampede, and they continued jumping in and out of the caves, green bills swirling and swooshing in their tracks, and manic jangly beeping ramped up as we racked up more credits. We never knew when to stop and usually returned home losers.
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