Tag Archives: original

The Case for More Female Cops

Betty in uniform for the Wichita Police Reserve, 1977. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Smarsh)

Sarah Smarsh | Longreads | July 2016 | 20 minutes (4,886 words)

 

Betty was in the bathroom dyeing her platinum hair black while the kids played with her teenage sister down the hall. Betty had recently left Bob. He’d beaten her, which was officially a crime, but there wasn’t any use in calling the cops. A hometown boy and typesetter for the Limon Leader, Bob knew everybody in their small Colorado burg on the plains, from the police station to the butcher. Betty, my future grandma, was a 23-year-old outsider from Wichita—a social challenge likely not helped by her unapologetic wearing of miniskirts in 1968.

Two years prior, Betty had blown into Limon, 90 miles west of the Kansas border, with her four-year-old daughter, Jeannie, and a pair of go-go boots. Her mom, Dorothy, and little sisters, Polly and Pud (as in “puddin’”) were along, too. Betty and Dorothy both had just washed their hands of Kansas men. Back in Wichita, Dorothy’s third husband, Joe, had strangled her. Betty’s jealous first husband, my biological grandfather, routinely beat her up and, Betty suspected, had paid someone to throw gasoline on her male friend’s face and set it on fire. So Betty and Dorothy piled the kids in a jalopy and headed west, destination unknown, to start over.

“Why Limon?” I asked her once.

“It was where our car broke down,” Betty said with a shrug.

Betty and her daughter Jeannie at City Park in Denver in the mid-1960s, when she worked as a highway-diner waitress in Limon, Colorado. (Courtesy of Sarah Smarsh)

Betty and her daughter Jeannie at City Park in Denver in the mid-1960s, when she worked as a highway-diner waitress in Limon, Colorado. (Courtesy of Sarah Smarsh)

Betty and Dorothy took jobs working in diners along the highway that cut through town. Betty waited tables, her mom cooked specials. Before too long, Betty hooked up with a customer named Bob. Then she got pregnant. She drove past the chapel the first time and left him at the aisle, but on the second try they got married. She gave birth to a son, Bo. Then Bob hit her and snapped his belt at Jeannie one too many times. After just a couple years of marriage, she moved out and filed for divorce.

Now Betty had a 6-year-old daughter with a dangerous Kansas man, a 2-year-old son with a dangerous Colorado man, and a divorce decree pending at the courthouse. Custody of their child, Bob had assured her, would go to him. He’d make sure the judge knew what kind of woman she was.

She had the dye worked into her hair when the phone rang. A voice warned that Bob was on his way over, and he was mad. There wasn’t time for Betty to rinse her hair. She wrapped a towel around her head. Dark dye dripped down her neck as she and Pud put the kids in the car. They rolled through town until the road turned into a highway.

Then, sirens and flashing red lights. Read more…

Danny Thompson Drives Like a Bat Out of Hell

Photo: Danny Thompson Archive/Holly Martin Photography

Matt McCue | Longreads | January 2016 | 9 minutes (2,136 words)

The Crazy Quest

Almost every day, for the past five years, Danny Thompson has pretzeled his creaky, five-foot-seven frame into his Challenger II car’s cockpit to eat lunch in a space so tight it could double as an isolation chamber. Thompson settles into a custom seat he built by pouring liquid foam into a trash bag and nesting in the plastic for two hours until the foam molded perfectly to his body. The 32-foot-long, cigar-shaped vehicle—the missing link between car and space ship—rests on blocks in the middle of a cavernous warehouse building three miles from the Huntington Beach surf. It often is stripped of its wheels. That hardly matters to Thompson. He sits in the Challenger II to become one with the car, he says.

A Southern California native, Thompson has a sun-bleached face, rusty-blond surfer hair and likes to describe things as “bitchin.” His hands are stained by tar-black oil and electric-blue paint, or whatever he’s tinkering with that day. Despite scrubbing his paws raw with a Scotch-Brite brush, he can’t completely remove the layers of grease and grime that have built up from 50 years as a gearhead. Read more…

Come Hear My Song

Aaron Gilbreath | Longreads | June 2015 | 18 minutes (4,437 words)

I came here looking for something

I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Hey, I’m not tryin’ to be nobody

I just want a chance to be myself.

 ─Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens, “Streets of Bakersfield”

***

On North Chester Avenue in Oildale, California, an 83-year-old honky-tonk named Trout’s stands down the block from a saloon with an aged western facade, and across the street from a liquor store that sells booze and Mexican candy.

Trout’s opened in 1931 to give hard-working locals a place to dance and drink and unwind to live music.  During the 1950s and ’60s, local country music legends Buck Owens and Merle Haggard played Trout’s, in their own bands and others, and kept people dancing while helping popularize the raw, propulsive style known as the Bakersfield Sound. Read more…

A Very Naughty Little Girl

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Rose George | Longreads | March 2015 | 21 minutes (5,358 words)

 

 

She was a name on a plaque and a face on a wall. I ate beneath her portrait for three years and paid it little attention except to notice that the artist had made her look square. There were other portraits of women to hold my attention on the walls of Somerville, my Oxford college: Indira Gandhi, who left without a degree, and Dorothy Hodgkin, a Nobel prize-winner in chemistry. In a room where we had our French language classes, behind glass that was rumored to be bulletproof, there was also a bust of Margaret Thatcher, a former chemistry undergraduate. Somerville was one of only two women’s colleges of the University of Oxford while I was there, from 1988 to 1992, and the walls were crowded with strong, notable women. (The college has since gone co-ed.) Read more…

A Birth Story

Meaghan O’Connell | Longreads | Nov. 6, 2014 | 57 minutes (14,248 words)

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It was Monday, June 2nd, and I was wide awake at 6 a.m. Maybe to some of you this hour doesn’t sound remarkable, but for me it was. It was the first day in a lifetime of six in the mornings, and I made the three-hour leap all in one go.

By this point, it was 10 days past my due date, and I had a very specific and recurring fantasy of being moved around town in a hammock flown by a helicopter. I wanted to be airlifted between boroughs.

When I told my fiancé, Dustin, this wish, he was quiet for a second. He had learned to reply to me with caution, but I imagine in this case he just couldn’t help himself.

“Like a whale?” he asked.

I laughed, standing on the curb somewhere. Actually yes, come to think of it: Like a whale.

On the morning of June 2nd I had been waking up “still pregnant” for quite some time—41 weeks and two days to be exact; 289 days. My mom was in town already, at an Airbnb rental a block away. Dustin was done with work. I was chugging raspberry red leaf tea, bouncing on a purple exercise ball whenever I could, shoving evening primrose oil pills up my vagina, paying $40 a pop at community acupuncture sessions I didn’t believe in, and doing something called “The Labor Dance.” The Dance (preferred shorthand) involves rubbing your belly in a clockwise direction—vigorously—and then getting as close to twerking as one can at 41 weeks pregnant.

Read more…

Untangling the Knot: My Search for Democracy in the Modern Family

Sabine Heinlein | Longreads | October 28, 2014 | 16 minutes (3,966 words)

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