For eight hours last fall, Paradise, California, became a zone at the limits of the American imagination—and a preview of the American future.
It was just a kayaking trip. Until it upended three men’s lives.
A profile of Dr. B.J. Miller, a triple amputee whose own near-death experience in college–and his return to life afterward–inform his approach to palliative care.
Mooallem follows two ex-convicts who pick up inmates the day they are released and help then navigate through their first day of freedom.
A global design firm makes an attempt to change the way we prepare for death.
Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of the Oracle Corporation, bought 97 percent of the Hawaiian island of Lanai. Ellison wants to make Lanai a premier tourist destination and “the first economically viable, 100 percent green community,” but things haven’t gone as planned.
Jon Mooallem meets Pastor Dean, who uses religion to help baseball umpires deal with what can be an emotionally difficult job:
Every day is Judgment Day for an umpire. In the early days of organized baseball, team owners actually encouraged fans to harass umps who made questionable, or just unpopular, calls – throw beer bottles at them, or even the occasional brick. The sadism of Orioles fans was especially well-known, according to the 2008 book Death at the Ballpark. “They broke the spirits of some fine men,” one ump later remembered. By the end of the 1920s, at least 10 umpires had been killed or mortally wounded on the field – in one case, an umpire was punched so hard in the face that a fragment of his jaw ripped through his brain like a spear. In 1911, a semipro player in Georgia got so tired of insisting that the umpire had the score wrong that he walked off the bench with a pistol and shot the man.
Jacques-André Istel and his wife Felicia built the tiny town of Felicity, Calif. in the middle of a desert. Istel convinced a county board to recognize Felclity as “the center of the world” and has been at work building monuments depicting the “History of Humanity”:
The afternoon that Istel walked me through the monuments, six or seven other people were ambling around, too. This was high season for tourists. Istel does not advertise and almost never approaches the media. His attitude is: There will be plenty of time for humanity to appreciate what he built. But every winter, retirees from frigid places like Edmonton and Idaho take up residence on tracts of nearby land and sometimes wander in. From the highway, you can see their white R.V.s clustered in the emptiness, like desert blooms.
Istel was glad to have guests. “Welcome to Felicity,” he said, bowing and clasping the ladies’ hands to pantomime a kiss. “What do you think of this?” he kept asking. Their responses did not seem very satisfying — nearly everyone said, “It’s very interesting” — but Istel seemed genuinely touched. “What do you think of this?” Istel asked a large man from Missouri in jean shorts. The man was wheezing a little — it was hot. After a beat of silence, his wife said, “A lot of engraving!”
A species of ant is discovered in Texas, and their giant swarms have wreaked havoc on those who discover them on their land and inside their homes:
Soon ants were spiraling up the tongues of my sneakers, onto my sock. I tried to shake them off, but nothing I did disturbed them. Before long, I was sweeping them off my own calves. I kept instinctively taking a step back from some distressing concentration of ants, only to remember that I was standing in the center of an exponentially larger concentration of ants. There was nowhere to go. The ants were horrifying — as in, they inspired horror. Eventually, I scribbled in my notebook: “Holy [expletive] I can’t concentrate on what anyone’s saying. Ants all over me. Phantom itches. Scratching hands, ankles, now my left eye.” Then I got in my car and left.
“At the furthest, most mundane reaches of this almost incomprehensibly sprawling program to protect the fish, the government has even hired ordinary Americans—retirees, housewives, at least one moonlighting concert clarinetist—to work as census takers in a cramped office inside the dam, several stories down, staring through an underwater window to count each and every fish that swims past the glass, an average of 4.5 million fish every year. On the morning I visited, a rail-thin woman named Janet was sitting at an old-fashioned metal desk, six hours into her eight-hour shift, scrunching her eyes with unshakable concentration as fish dribbled by the window one at a time, or swarmed through in rapid-fire mobs. Janet frequently dreams about counting fish, she told me. Once, she sat straight up in bed next to her husband and screamed, ‘Did you see the size of that one?'”