Gloves Off

OK, so Ben and I were just having an e-mail conversation about Gangrey, and we were talking about how many stories go by without comment.

The ones that get the most comments are usually the best ones. Which is excellent. Credit where credit is due and all that.

But if we’re all here to help each other improve, maybe it should be the other way around. Maybe we should tell each other how the work could be better.

I’ll quote Ben’s e-mail on this one:

“Not every posting is an endorsement. Some are sent to me because the author is seeking a group edit.”

So. If you get time to read it, and you think of a way it could have been better, maybe you could share your thoughts. Nicely, of course. Preferably with your real name.


Mark Johnson on the following story from Mike Berger: It’s about 60 years old, but is the best piece of deadline writing I think I’ve ever read. According to the explanation, Meyer Berger was assigned to the story shortly before 11 a.m., caught a train from N.Y. to Camden, N.J. and turned in 4,000 words by 9:20 p.m., an hour before deadline. One account has it that Berger interviewed 50 people that day for his story and wrote it in 2 hours.

However he did it, it is amazing.

Here’s Mike Berger’s story: CAMDEN, N.J., Sept.6–Howard B. Unruh, 28 years old, a mild, soft-spoken veteran of many armored artillery battles in Italy, France, Austria, Belgium and Germany, killed twelve persons with a war souvenir Luger pistol in his home block in East Camden this morning. He wounded four others.

Unruh, a slender, hollow-cheeked six-footer paradoxically devoted to scripture reading and to constant practice with firearms, had no previous history of mental illness but specialists indicated tonight that there was no doubt that he was a psychiatric case, and that he had secretly nursed a persecution complex for two years or more.

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The Long Road

Kaustuv Basu: CANAVERAL GROVES — The last time he came out here, Officer Vann Streety ran from a gunman who shot him six times.

The last time, on this dirt road called Satellite Boulevard west of Cocoa, he ducked into a thicket among the Brazilian pepper trees and the wax myrtle shrubs, hoping to lose his assailant.

The last time, he lay bleeding in the back of a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission pickup truck, a tourniquet on his left arm, before being flown to the hospital in a helicopter.

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Ready. Aim.

Dan Zak: BUCKINGHAM COUNTY, VA. — He emerges from the woods, a vision in wool. His walking stick leads and his black boots follow. Underneath a tricorn hat, his white hair flows into a powder bag and rests on the shoulders of his frock coat. His waistcoat is navy, his britches yellow, his nose Roman, his bearing presidential. From their sagging camp chairs next to scuffed coolers — somewhere off Route 610, down a dirt road that coils into the sticks, past the sign that reads “END STATE MAINTENANCE” — his constituents watch him approach. Here, on a hot stretch of acreage converted into a 500-yard firing range, the father of our country meets his flock.

A hawk tilts on a thermal overhead. The people drink grape juice and eat granola bars as George Washington orates. He recalls mustering a militia for the struggle against England. A disarmed people is a helpless people, he says. He extols the vast natural resources of the American land, the courage of its citizens and the liberties for which his countrymen started fighting at Lexington and Concord 235 years ago.

“If you cannot make from all this a great and happy and prosperous nation,” Washington intones, sweeping his arm past the trees, the grass, the sky and the shooting targets staple-gunned to plywood, “you only have yourselves to blame.”

Still Life

The 2010 National Magazine Award for feature writing goes to Skip Hollandsworth: Compared with the glistening two-story mansions that surrounded it, the house looked like something from another time. It was only 2,180 square feet. Its redbrick exterior was crumbling, and its gutters were clogged with leaves. Faded, paint-chipped blinds sagged behind the front windows. Next to the concrete steps leading to the front door, a scraggly banana plant clung to life.

Built in 1950, it was one of the last of the original single-story homes on Northport Drive, in Dallas’s Preston Hollow neighborhood. The newer residents, almost all of them affluent baby boomers, had no idea who lived there. Over the years, they’d see an ambulance pull up to the front of the house, and they’d watch as paramedics carried out someone covered in a blanket. A few days later, they’d see the paramedics return to carry that person back inside. But they’d never learned who it was or what had happened. Some of the local kids were convinced that the house was haunted. They’d ride their bikes by the lot at dusk, daring one another to ring the doorbell or run across the unwatered lawn.

A Ferret In The Mail

Jorge Valencia: Stamps the ferret was shipped from a Lynchburg post office in a cardboard box stuffed with food, toy cars and a doll. The destination was a town near San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Stamps may have made it there — had he stopped wiggling.

A postal inspector, David McKinney, got the call about it at his Roanoke office on the afternoon of Monday, April 5, hours after Stamps and the package had been deposited and $63.55 was paid for overnight delivery.

“The box was dropped off at 2 p.m., and it started moving about 5 p.m.,” McKinney said. “Periodically, it would just vibrate. The postal workers put their hand on the box and it kind of freaked them out.”

A Life In Zippers

Ralph Blumenthal (thanks, Craig): What, you need a zipper? O.K., Eddie Feibusch is going to sell you a zipper. Brass? Nylon? Swarovski rhinestone crystals? What color? Mystery orchid? Big or little zipper? For a purse? Or a hot-air balloon cover? How many? One? A thousand?

Doesn’t matter. Mr. Feibusch is sure that he has the zipper for you. It’s somewhere in his store, ZipperStop, at 27 Allen Street between Hester and Canal Streets, among three floors of shelves with boxes of zippers in 502 colors.

How many zippers does he have? “One million, millions, I don’t know — more than a million,” said Mr. Feibusch, 86, a zipper man going on 70 years. His Web site plays Sinatra singing “New York, New York” and says, “Unzipping America since 1941.” Of course he has a Web site. This is 2010.

Life Without Bush

James C. McKinley Jr.: The first thing you see when you arrive in this minuscule town is a defunct curio store where people once bought souvenirs of their visit to President George W. Bush’s adopted hometown.

Only one of the five shops that used to sell memorabilia to Bush admirers remains open — The Red Bull, down the street. Popular items include magnets and coasters that say “The Western White House.” Phony dollar bills with Mr. Bush’s face on them also sell well. But the biggest demand has been for bumper stickers with Mr. Bush’s likeness and the caption “Do You Miss Me Yet?”

“They are sold out,” said Jamie Burgess, the owner’s daughter.

“We haven’t died,” Ms. Burgess said of post-Bush Crawford. “There is still a reason for people to come in and see Crawford.”