He Died In Vast Isolation

Remember the racket a few weeks ago about the old man who died in his house and was found 13 months later, still in front of the turned-on TV?

LAT’s Erika Hayasaki brings us the backstory (thanks, Cory): Southampton, N.Y. — THE blind man died alone in front of his television in a lounge chair, near a table covered with medicine bottles wrapped in rubber bands and a cereal box stuffed with mail. Each rubber band marked a prescription he recognized by touch. Each envelope contained information he could not read. He never received letters, only bills.

A neighbor called police after she noticed a pipe had burst at his house. His double-door garage was cloaked in a frozen waterfall. Police discovered the man inside, still as the icy water. His television still buzzing, his living room blanketed with dead flies. His electric bills had gone unpaid, but the company for some inexplicable reason had not shut off power. Warm air had preserved his face almost perfectly, like a dried rose.

They found him 13 months after his final breath.

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Zach and The Reading Thrones

Our friend (and Gangreyer) brings us this story (via, Nieman Narrative Digest): Just before suppertime on Feb. 7, 2006, a little boy named Zach Kroeker, who lived on a farm in Jefferson County with his dad and his mom and his sister and his calves and his cats and a dog named Henry, died.

Instead of flowers for his funeral his teachers filled a basket with pencils and rulers and two books.

One was called “Salt in His Shoes,” and it was the last book Zach finished reading in Mrs. Comer’s first-grade class.

The other, “Horrible Harry in Room 2B,” was the book he never got to finish.

They put the books in the basket because Zach loved reading.

And because Zach loved reading something very special happened in the months that followed that terrible February day.

This is that story:

Lies and Memories

Jack Shafer on the embellishment trap (thanks, Cory): If you’ve never embellished an anecdote to get a bigger laugh from your drinking companions, please stand up. If you’ve never lifted an emotional story from your kid brother’s life or from a book you’ve read and then plugged it into your own narrative, you can stand up, too.

If you’re still sitting, stand up and join the other liars. Everybody embellishes and steals a little, and some of us do it a lot.

To Breaking News

If you’ve ever covered something spontaneous near deadline, you know it’s easy to ditch style and story for the sake of getting all the stardard information in short order. That’s why it’s refreshing to read this Alex Zayas story about a car accident late last night.

Oceans of Promotions

Libby Copeland in the sunshine: The sand is white, the water is blue-green, and the nation’s college students are celebrating the proud rites of spring as they always have, with Keystone Light and wet T-shirt contests. What more could they possibly need?

More. So much more.

Behold, the marketers of spring break have descended, transforming the beach into a corporate wonderland. There’s a Geico gaming tent and a Neutrogena spa, and the Trojan booth offers pina-colada-scented oxygen you can inhale through a tube. There’s free mouthwash and chewing tobacco, free sunblock and tampons, and after a free massage, you can make a delightful lunch out of Jack Link’s beef jerky and 180 energy drink. So very free!

Look: Here are two attractive fellows carrying rakes. They’re part of a promotion for the Venus Breeze razor and their purpose is to help young women find comfortable spots in the sand.

“Can we rake the sand for you?” one of them asks.

Oh yes, darling. Yes, you may.

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Tea Town

Kruse with a study of sweet tea geography trends: McDonald’s has been selling its so-labeled and specifically pitched product called Mickey D’s Sweet Tea for a while now in select markets on the East Coast and particularly in the South. Here’s what’s interesting about this: Hernando County has not been one of those markets.

Mickey D’s Sweet Tea is sold in Ocala. It’s sold in Orlando. It’s sold in Perry and in the Panhandle and even in Naples and New Port Richey.

But not here.

Here, then, in the form of a drink offered, or not offered, at McDonald’s, is another, potentially meaningful way to get at something of an answer to what has been a longtime question: What is the South and what is the North here in Florida? And here in Hernando?

What can Mickey D’s Sweet Tea teach us about where we live?

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I Don’t Have Sex With My Monkey

Here at Gangrey we generally focus on craft, but this one wins on content.

The narrative is a litle convoluted and hard to follow. But it may be the best news story of the year.

To untangle it a bit:

Man’s monkey gets seized by the cops. Monkey goes to live in an educational exotic-animal center run by the school district. Man is heart broken. He sends the monkey a care package: a box of monkey toys. And an audio tape.

That’s where things get peculiar.

Animal center caretaker listens to the tape. He draws his own conclusions about what the man might have been doing while making the tape, and about the nature of the relationship between man and monkey. And he shares his conclusions with the local newspaper.

Man responds:

Mr. Crawford said he did send a tape for the monkey to listen to, but that he was probably crying when he recorded it and that it contains nothing but comforting baby talk. He said there was nothing sexually suggestive on the tape and called Mr. Dunlap’s initial conclusion “ridiculous.”

Read the rest and see if you can spot how Mr. Dunlap may have arrived at his (alleged) misapprehension.

Tuesday Reading

Sorry for the few posts last week. I took a vacation with my family. Back, now, and ready to roll.

Robert D. McFadden on the rampage a few weeks ago in Greenwich Village.

Brick from Merritt Island, Fla.: The old-timers still talk of manned rockets and raucous nights at the space cowboy roadhouses, the Moon Hut and the Mouse Trap, places where yesterday’s gravity resisters could raise a beer to honor the Moon and missions thereabouts.
Since those days, a whole generation has known space travel only by the shuttle, its orbital perambulations practically terrestrial by comparison. But in a quarter-century of blastoffs here, that bulky, snub-nosed, imperfect craft has gained its own set of admirers and collectors along this space coast.

And Ira Glass on Storytelling (Thanks, Jeb). Here, here, here and here.

Branson

I seem to recall a conversation late one night not all that long ago in a so-so hotel room just off an I-4 exit ramp in Orlando in which Ben asked that someone please write … THIS.

What The Tut-Tutters Fail To Understand

A smidge of Hank Stuever on a Sunday morning: As the details of Anna Nicole Smith’s death (you may have heard about it already) were being orgiastically reported in print and on TV, I was spending time at a spiritual retreat house in New Mexico that is staffed by nuns, one of whom, for reasons I’ll never have enough space to explain, is my 73-year-old mother. Over dinner one night, the sisters asked me who, exactly, Anna Nicole was, and why everyone was so interested in her. I did my best to explain …

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