The Obit

Wow. Kruse: CLEARWATER — The obituary was only the beginning.

It read like this: Czernia, Oren, 34, of Clearwater, passed away on Jan. 16, 2010. A University of Miami graduate, he is survived by parents; daughter; sister, nieces and nephews. Mitchell Cremation Chapel.

A post then appeared on a message board for Bruce Springsteen fans at It was written by someone called MrBaseball907. That was Oren’s screen name.

Hello, the post began.

My name is Michael — the name of one of Oren’s friends — and today I come to you with a very heavy heart. I know how much this place meant to him so I thought I should notify all of you. After a brief illness Oren passed away … He was my best friend and I will mourn him for the rest of my life.

The responses to the post started immediately.

my god no

Chasing Jose

Pat Jordan (thanks, Eric): I have been pursuing Jose, like the Holy Grail, for three months now, trying to nail him down for a magazine profile he’d agreed to do in January, partly because, as his lawyer/agent had told me, “Jose’s on the balls on his ass,” and partly because Jose was trying to interest a publisher in his second steroids-tell-all book, which existed only as a two page proposal of typos that had yet to interest any publisher. This second book would be titled “Vindicated,” and it would “encompass approximately 300 pages and will require six months to complete.”

My pursuit of Jose began in January when I called him in California. His girlfriend, Heidi, answered the phone. I told her that I was writing a magazine story about Jose writing a book. “And a movie,” she said. “Jose is writing a book and a movie about himself.” I said, “You mean a screenplay?” She paused a beat, then said, “No, a movie.” I said, “Of course.”

The Buddhists And The Cats

Richard Lake: On a dusty corner in North Las Vegas, there is a Buddhist temple. On that temple’s property, there are cats. Many, many cats. Dozens of cats, in fact, have been known to congregate there.

These are feral cats, meaning they live wherever they darn well please. Apparently, the Buddhist property in the sparsely populated residential neighborhood at Gowan Road and Simmons Street suits them.

The Buddhists, being people to whom all life is sacred, care for the cats. They feed them, give them water, offer a gentle rub behind the ear when it seems a good idea.

After all, the Buddhists believe in reincarnation, which means they never know who that cat might once have been or might some day become.

Rules For Writing

The Guardian asked 29 writers to list their rules for writing, and it’s pretty freaking wonderful.

Like …

Jonathan Franzen’s No. 4: Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.

And 5: When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.

And 9: Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.

Esther Freud’s No. 2: A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn’t spin a bit of magic, it’s missing something.

And 3: Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life.

David Hare’s No. 3: Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.

Zadie Smith’s No. 10: Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

What are your rules?

Holding It To The End

Check this one out. Did it work?


John Maccarelli awoke to a Pasco County sheriff’s detective knocking on his door. What happened to the baby? Maccarelli, a 33-year-old construction worker renting a house in Holiday with his longtime girlfriend and her 9-year-old daughter, knew right away what Detective Janet Raybuck was talking about. Or so he thought. The night before, he had watched a 3-month-old named Joshua for an acquaintance. Sometime during the night, Lola, his 25-pound beagle, had jumped on the bed and scratched the baby across the nose, he said. It was upsetting, but he didn’t think it would bring a detective to his door. Raybuck questioned him about the dog. A technician videotaped Lola jumping on the bed. The next day — Jan. 12, 2009 — the detective charged Maccarelli with aggravated child abuse. Joshua had been beaten. He was in serious condition at Helen Ellis Hospital in Tarpon Springs. A headline in the Tampa Tribune read, “Holiday Man Accused of Child Abuse Blamed Dog.” Bloggers had their way with Maccarelli. It would get worse.

Border Towns

Dan Barry: EL PASO

At the foot of a bridge that helps bind El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, a United States Border Patrol officer warns two pedestrians not to stray once they reach the Mexican city. Stay on the main road. Avoid side streets. Very, very dangerous city. O.K.?

The pedestrians nod and join the back-and-forth human flow between one of the safest cities in the United States and one of the most violent in the world — getting worse by the month. Including a pause to take in the Rio Grande, here just a muddy stream with a boastful name, their walk takes five minutes.

A Search For Finality

Meg Laughlin: PETIONVILLE, Haiti

Jan. 12 was a happy day for the new American chef at the Villa Therese Hotel. Wearing a white chef’s coat with his first name embroidered in black over his heart, he walked through the wrought-iron gates at the elegant 14-room hotel, past mangos and palms, to the kitchen.

Rodney Rightenburg, 51, had moved to Haiti in 2009, after his divorce. Just two days earlier, he had called his former wife and 5-year-old son, who live in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and told them he was doing well.