Free Services

Excerpts from “A Free Shave,” by Ernest Hemingway, from The Toronto Star Weekly, March 6, 1920:

If you want to save $5.60 a month on shaves and hair cuts go to the barber college, but take your courage with you.

For a visit to the barber college requires the cold, naked valor of the man who walks clear-eyed to death. If you don’t believe it, go to the beginner’s department of the barber’s college and offer yourself for a free shave. I did….

…Just then I noticed that my barber had his left hand bandaged.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“Darn near sliced my thumb off with the razor this morning,” he replied amiably.

The shave wasn’t so bad. Scientists say that hanging is really a very pleasant death. The pressure of the rope on the nerves and arteries of the neck produces a sort of anesthesia. It is waiting to be hanged that bothers a man…

…Free barbering is not the only free service to be obtained in Toronto…

…If you wish to secure free board, free room, and free medical attention, there is one infallible way of obtaining it. Walk up to the biggest policeman you can find and hit him in the face.

The length of your period of free board and room will depend on how Colonel [George Taylor] Denison [police magistrate] is feeling. And the amount of your free medical attention will depend on the size of the policeman.

Iceberg Sources

A question regarding long-term reporting projects.

With as many interviews as you’re likely to do, you probably can’t (or shouldn’t) quote everyone.

So is there a good way to tell the person who just gave you an hour of their time that they probably won’t appear in the story?

Should you inform them of that possibility beforehand?

These days especially, certain people give interviews about someone else or something else specifically because they want publicity for themselves.

Is it our job to let them know they might not get it?

Salinger Dead At 91

Charles McGrath: J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.

The Coulee

Gary Smith: Maybe, if you were lucky, you had one too. Maybe you had your own patch of earth where your legs and mind might roam and you could make a sport your own.

I once had such luck. It came in the unsightliest of forms, a crater bulldozed in a field of weeds where workers at the cemetery behind our house dumped the browning wreaths and flowers that had been left upon the graves. What else, to my 12-year-old eyes, but a baseball stadium?

The embankments created by the earthmover became my backstop, my bleachers, my outfield walls. The wreaths became my bases. I cleared away the stones and withered sorrow, burrowed a hollow in the dirt wall along the first base line and roofed it with scrap plywood: my dugout.

No parents or pressure ever approached my ballpark, no meddling or minivans, just me and a buddy and our imaginations.

What follows is the story of a family, someone else’s, perhaps the most remarkable sporting clan in the United States.

But it’s really an ode to a ditch.

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State Of The Union

Best thing out there. Charles Pierce: It’s a wonder he didn’t laugh out loud.

Looking out over the frauds and lightweights and bland hunks of man-cheese that make up the assembled political establishment, and beyond them to a spavined and impotent political culture that would embarrass any self-respecting monkey house, and beyond that to a country willing to abandon almost anything it once deemed important to the first huckster who turns up weeping on cable television, Barack Obama must have been sorely tempted to let out one final, mighty guffaw and close his first State of the Union address with the words, “And I am the only president of the United States in this room, motherfuckers,” after which he would return to the White House and eat Mitch McConnell’s gonads on toast.

24-Hour Cycle

N.R. Kleinfield (thanks, Scott): At the laundromat, irregular things happen. People square off over washers — mine; no, mine. They sit on the counters where you were planning to fold T-shirts. Women conveniently forget a negligee in a dryer so you’ll find it and marry them. Street people try to sell utterly unnecessary things. Pesky process servers visit bearing summonses. People stare without mercy.

Charles Johnson has a 10-second rule. Mr. Johnson is 44, an occasional personal trainer with loose hours, and was juggling three loads one Wednesday afternoon at the Clean Rite Center in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. He insists on doing the wash for his family (wife, two kids) “because I do it better, not because I have to.”

He does the cleaning too. In eight years, he said his wife has touched a mop perhaps twice. She cooks.

“In a laundromat you get a lot of eye drama,” he said. “That’s when someone may or may not like you and they look at you and you look at them and then you try not to look at them. So my rule is if you stare at me more than 10 seconds, I’ll talk to you and find out why you’re staring at me.”

Benjamin, The Bunny

Reid Forgrave: Walk into Donna Toombs’ apartment on the ninth floor of Plymouth Place, a retirement community in Des Moines, and you can almost feel the ghost of Benjamin the Bunny around you.

The first thing inside Toombs’ door is a framed photo of Benjamin, who died earlier this month. And that’s only one of a fistful of photos scattered about her place. Dozens of rabbit statues and stuffed animals adorn the apartment. There’s a rabbit head cover on a golf bag, plates decorated with rabbits, a stained-glass rabbit in the window, rabbit calendars, a rabbit table runner.

Lest there be any confusion over what this story is about, let Toombs and her friend, Kay Gerhart, explain:

“This is about Benjamin,” Gerhart said.

Along The River

Missed this way back when. Here’s Chris Goffard: After the killings, the people on the river slept with their knives closer. They leashed guard dogs outside their tents and cardboard lean-tos. They listened for strangers’ footsteps above the thrum of traffic on the bridges overhead. They got used to the sight of police stepping carefully along the big white rocks of the embankment. Below, in its concrete jacket, the dirty river crawled.

Violence is common and often unreported along the 51-mile Los Angeles River, daytime haunt of the occasional jogger and bird-watcher and in many parts a lawless no-man’s-land populated by hard-core addicts, the mentally ill and uncountable others, broke or hiding. But what happened last November made an already fearful place feel more perilous still.

On Haiti

Two stories about searching.

First, from Theola Labbé-DeBose and Wil Haygood (thanks, Mark): At 5:30 on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 12, William Saint-Hilaire rose from his tiny Silver Spring basement apartment to get ready for work. By 2 o’clock, he had finished at his job installing sprinkler systems for a company in Bethesda and returned home for a bite. A short while later, he left for a 4:45 appointment at Montgomery County Community College to meet with an academic counselor about an English course he hoped to take.

“I was sitting there,” he recalls, “talking to the counselor, and my cellphone started going off.” He had the phone on vibrate. He did not want to be rude by answering it, so he let it go.

(Intersting stuff on how this story came together from the Post’s Story Lab.)

The second is from Meg Laughlin: PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

For nearly a week, the road to find Daniel Thelusmar’s brother was blocked by a nation of people desperate for help.

He left Tampa three days after the earthquake. He left his job at Humana, left his Creole radio show, his college coursework, and his church congregation in north Tampa. He promised to call his wife and his three young children — if he could — and he got on a plane. Born in Haiti and fluent in six languages, Thelusmar, 31, knew he could help with the relief effort. What he didn’t know was whether his older brother, Fenel, was alive or among the estimated 200,000 who had perished in the quake. But from the moment he landed at the airport in the Dominican Republic, finding Fenel seemed to fall farther down the list of things he had to do.

An American rescue worker needed help getting his search dog through customs. Thelusmar translated and then accompanied him all the way to Port-au-Prince. “I was thinking of all the people trapped in buildings and I had to help him,” he said. Hospitals needed translators for foreign doctors. Food and water distributors begged for someone to guide them through a nearly unnavigable city. Three more days passed. Wednesday, his mother called him. Please, she implored, stop what you are doing. Go find Fenel.

Thursday morning Thelusmar climbed into the front seat of an SUV he procured for the day and asked the driver to take him to Matissant, the neighborhood where he grew up and where he hoped to find his brother still alive.