Paul Salopek’s Stories

Now that he’s been arrested in Sudan and charged with espionage and “writing false news,” one of the best reporters in the country is finally on the national radar screen. He should have been there long ago for his elegant, poetic writing and dogged reporting.

Stories like this one about a 7-year-old bride.

Or this one about wealthy countries pirating the fishing stocks of poorer countries:

Fade to blue

A tale of fish, pirates, greed and the end of a global frontier

World fish stocks vanish in hidden food war

Story by Paul Salopek
Tribune foreign correspondent

Strange blue stars are appearing in the west. False stars. They rise unnaturally, against the usual migration of the constellations, from the smooth dark skull of the Atlantic.

These are the deck lights of the foreign poachers. They are Chinese boats, mostly: big diesel-powered trawlers slipping inshore to plunder Angola’s rich waters. The fish they come to steal–teeming shoals of hake, sole and grouper–are frozen and shipped to warehouses in Asia, Europe and the United States. If you eat packaged seafood, some will end up on your plate.

By contrast, the open boat Daniana fades into the dusk. It is an Angolan catronga, a frail, 24-foot-long craft that rides the waves like a lurching coffin, and it leaks. A waterlogged Portuguese Bible is its only emergency gear. Rusty wires angle up from the rails to a tubular steel mast. Draping them, the skins of flayed moray eels flap in the salty breeze like grisly scalps.

“Whore pirates,” mutters Antonio Rodriguez, the skipper, peering through the gathering darkness at his enemy. “Taking the food right out of our mouths.”

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What Drove The Preacher’s Wife?

Mark Johnson writes: “The L.A. Times had a haunting narrative this week on a preacher’s wife who killed her husband with a turkey gun. The writer, Peter H. King, makes it more than just a crime story. It’s a story about a small town that seems to be living in a different time when church elders held power and people kept each other’s secrets.”

Read the story: If the minister’s widow can be believed — and, accused of his murder, she might prove less than reliable — Matthew Winkler’s last, gasping utterance before he left this world was a question, one that would haunt this town for months to come, haunts it still: Why?

A Homer’s Odyssey

Read his story: Every community that doesn’t have a Mark Opsasnick needs to get one. He is a tall and obsessed man from Greenbelt who quietly rages against forgetting. What he rescues from collective amnesia are not the big things. One of his favorite phrases is: “miscellaneous and unknown.”

He’s the guy to ask about, say, Patsy Cline’s seminal gigs at the Dixie Pig in Prince George’s County. Or James M. Cain hard-boiling his last novels in a house near College Park. Or the true story of the local “haunted boy” who inspired “The Exorcist.”

This morning Opsasnick is driving down a winding street in Alexandria. Anybody else would have seen just the tall oaks and blooming crape myrtles shading neat Tudors and Colonials. Opsasnick looks more deeply and sees something that isn’t here anymore.

“We’re entering Morrison country,” he says dramatically, like a tour guide to a secret landscape. “These are the streets he walked on, these are the fields he played on, the sidewalks he traveled to visit his friends.”

That would be Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors.

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Remembering Katrina

Bruce Nolan recreates the storm: Two hours before dawn, at the threshold of the darkest week in the history of New Orleans, a hand shook Cyril Crutchfield awake in lower Plaquemines Parish, 45 miles southeast of the city.

“Wake up. Wake up! Water’s comin’ in.”

Crutchfield sat up on the hard table that had been his makeshift bed in the darkened cafeteria of Port Sulphur High School. He could hear Hurricane Katrina in the night, its wind keening and moaning with unnerving power, much stronger than when he had fallen asleep two hours earlier.

It sounded like a beast. A living thing.

Some Reading

Lane DeGregory with i am pretty sure that i know u, and Dan Barry’s back down south, following the corpse on Union Street: More than a week after Hurricane Katrina nearly leveled this city, workers newly assigned to collect the dead stopped on a downtown street. There before them, on its back, lay another corpse, all but baked into a pose of submission by several hot suns.

The workers placed the corpse in a zippered black bag somewhat larger than the kind used to protect rented tuxedoes. They slid their collection into the back of their vehicle, closed the door, and drove off into the ebbing chaos.

So began one dead man’s journey toward eternal rest, a journey that continues to this day.

Bragg Sunday

I call it: Fun With Archives. It’s something I do while waiting for someone to call and say, Go home. And why not share. Here are a few from Rick Bragg in the late 80s and early 90s.

Living in another world, Lesson linger from a lost war, All that matters is if you can play, Little women look back on a lost world, and, my favorite 176-word brief ever, Airborne clipboard knocks out glass eye: Patrick Malloy was walking home from work Wednesday night when a clipboard left on the bumper of a passing ambulance flew into the air, ricochetted off a railroad track and knocked out his glass eye.

Malloy, 42, of Bradenton, wasn’t badly hurt. But he can’t find his eye.

Yeti Man

Read John Barry’s story: O mighty is man’s lust for Mount Everest that a team of climbers recently pronounced a frozen companion dead and left him behind in their quest for the summit. A few days later, he inconveniently turned up alive.

On dozens of visits since April, James McCown has left his wife and two children behind at Disney World to rearrange his vital organs aboard the Himalayan roller coaster ride, Expedition Everest.

They escort Dad to the roller coaster. He puts on his toboggan hat, his sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, his furry blue Yeti Man hands. He says “namaste” to the girl at the turnstile. (It means “hi” in Nepalese.) The family takes a couple of turns with him, then goes off to other attractions.

James rides on. His personal best is 63 times in a day. Up and down the hairpin turns he goes, defying Yeti, protector of the sacred mountain. “Yeti is mad!” James exclaims. “His fur is flying! His teeth are flashing! He is trying to rip your head off!”

L.A.’s dopest attorney

Read her profile: Matt Farrell, a video producer, needed an attorney after he had been charged with growing marijuana. He hired Allison Margolin, “L.A.’s dopest attorney,” on a friend’s recommendation.

Farrell’s first impression was “she was hot.” His second was doubt. She looked too young to be a lawyer.

Then he saw the Ivy League degrees on her wall.

Like actress Reese Witherspoon’s character in the movie “Legally Blonde” — a rich, ditsy Beverly Hills blond who goes to Harvard Law School — Margolin, 28, is the kind of lawyer who might be easy to dismiss. The graduate of Beverly Hills High talks like a Valley girl, preceding adjectives with “like” and using “whatever” as a period.

Her years at Columbia University and Harvard Law School failed to dim her fascination with movie stars. She is devoted to the tabloids and knows intimate details about the rich and famous.