Facing Up To Firepower

Thanks to Kovac for digging this one up.

Francis X. Clines: As he lies healing in a hospital bed, Louis McLendon is a wonder of ballistics: He has nine bulletholes in him from six slugs fired from three different weapons.

Pretty good shooting considering the blur of a target he presented in the Montego Bay clothingstore in Jamaica, Queens, on New Year’s Eve, when he suddenly, rather maniacally, stood up toa terrifying holdup gang of five young men brandishing a semiautomatic arsenal.

“I figured they were in there to hurt people,” said this durable 47-year-old New Yorker, who gavebetter than he got. “I figured, they find me with a gun they’re gonna kill me anyway.”

He leaned back gingerly in his quiet pain of survival. “But, God, I didn’t know there were that many of them.”

Is Everyone A Writer?

Is narrative hardwired in all of us? Is it only a matter of tapping into our innate creativity?

Dan Kois: … Barry isn’t particularly interested in the writer’s craft. She’s more interested in where ideas come from — and her goal is to help people tap into what she considers to be an innate creativity.

“Kids don’t plan to play,” she told her class in the first day. “They don’t go: ‘Barbie, Ken, you ready to play? It’s gonna be a three-act.’ ” Narrative, Barry believes, is so hard-wired into human beings that creativity can come as naturally to adults as it does to children. They need only to access the deep part of the brain that controls that storytelling instinct. Barry calls that state of mind “the image world” and feels it’s as central to a person’s well-being as the immune system.

To explain, she told a story about the neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran, who helps patients experiencing phantom-limb pain. Barry discussed one patient who felt that his missing left hand was clenched in a fist and could never shake the discomfort — could never “unclench” it.

So Ramachandran used a mirror box — a compartment into which the patient could insert his right hand and see it reflected at the end of his left arm. “And Ramachandran said, ‘Open your hands.’ And the patient saw this” — Barry opened two clenched fists in unison. “That’s what I think images do.

“I think that in the course of human life,” she continued softly, “we have events that cause” — she clenched her fist and held it up, inspecting it from all angles. “Losing your parents might cause it. Or a war. Or things going bad in a family.”

The only way to open that fist, she said, is to see your own trouble reflected in an image, as the patient saw his hand reflected in a mirror. It might be a story you write, or a book you read, or a song that means the world to you. “And then?” She opened her hand and waved.

Crow Patrol

Dan Barry in Terre Haute: Her Cadillac glides slowly through the rain-glossed streets of this traumatized city, her gat within reach. The ominous evening sky has yet to turn black, but it will. Oh, it will.

Her name is Joy Sacopulos. She is 72, bespectacled, and so small in her boat of a de Ville that she seems at eye level with the wheel. But don’t let her play you for a sap. By day she might be the civic do-gooder, planting dogwoods in the park; by night she is the dame packing pyrotechnic heat, intent on keeping the city’s streets — and cars, and benches — clean.

Crows. That’s right. Crows.

The Man Who Sailed His House

Michael Paterniti (thanks, Varma):

Later, lost far at sea, when you’re trying to forget all you’ve left behind, the memory will bubble up unbidden: a village that once lay by the ocean.

Here are the neatly packed homes with gray-tiled roofs over which the mountains rise in rounded beneficence, towering over lush rice fields that feed a nation. Here are the boats that fish the sea, in all of its blue serenity, and the grass in all of its green. There is such peace in this picture of abundance: lumber from the mountain, rice from the field, fish from the deep ocean. People want for nothing here.

This village woven together by contentment is yours, Hiromitsu, and it is here, in the memory of it whole, that you know yourself best, the fourth-generation son of rice farmers. Here among a hundred wooden houses is the concrete one your family built. The house is made with metal pilings, which by your calculations will stand any high tide or errant wave. On your verdant plot a mile from the sea, a garden bursts with peonies, outbuildings sag, a koi pond teems. Here you live with your wife, Yuko, to whom you daily profess your love, and your parents, whom you still honor with the obedience of a child. In the barn are the pigeons you adore, for there’s no more beautiful sight in the world than a flock mystically circling deep in the sky, then suddenly one breaking for home, wings aflutter, straining, as if to say, I’m here.

In this cage lie the chuckling pigeons, and in this barn of theirs, your happiness. Against the wall are full bags of rice seed—and from outside you can hear your wife’s voice calling your name. Hiromitsu. Night falls—and in the bedroom you lie beside her. You will remember this later when trying to keep yourself alive: falling asleep one last time by the body of your wife in your house, beneath its roof of white tin, in the shadow of the sea.

So She Fought

Joshua Wolfson: She visits him there, beside a lilac bush, framed by Casper Mountain and the city where he died.

A pair of vases bookends the headstone they will someday share. She wipes away dust from the marker and arranges the flowers. Lilies around Easter. Orange roses — his favorite — when she can find them.

She buys small American flags from Hobby Lobby or the Dollar Store and keeps them in her car. Four times a year — on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Flag Day and his birthday — she sets a new one in the vase above his grave.

Before she leaves, Darlene Mitchell says a prayer.

She’s been leaving the flags since her husband, Patrick, died 14 years ago. More than anything, that’s what he wanted.


Ben: Allie Mae Neal pushed through the screen door and found a shady spot on her porch where the summer sun didn’t bite. Kittens purred at her feet and wasps flitted in and out of holes in the roof. The few neighbors who passed by saw an old woman in a wheelchair, blue eyes lazy and unfocused behind thick glasses. She’d wave and they’d wave back. Black or white. She has never held a grudge.

“I never blamed nobody,” she said. “I never knew who to blame.”

She never knew because nobody was ever charged with a crime, and because no man spent a single second in a cell for the things they did to her father, with knives and rope and hate.

Seventy-seven years have passed. She can’t remember his face. If she ever wanted to look, she could study the single photograph of him that exists. But in it, he is hanging from a tree.

The story of her father’s death ran in newspapers from New York to Los Angeles, detailing how a small band of men killed him, and how a mob mutilated his corpse. They called it a spectacle lynching, and historians say it was perhaps the worst act of torture and execution in 20th century America. The killing became Florida’s shame. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew her father’s name.

Claude Neal.

He Said He’d Never Return

Brendan McCarthy: Early in Paul Gailiunas’ film, “The Florestine Collection,” there’s a song that plays as a love letter of sorts to New Orleans. It’s an upbeat, joyous ditty on the city’s allures: red beans and rice, the Rebirth Brass Band, chicory coffee at 3 a.m.

“We want our children to know why we love that city, so let’s go back to New Orleans,” he sings.

Gailiunas wrote it years ago — after the flood, before he and his wife and their infant boy returned to their adopted city. He wrote it before his wife was killed here, before gunshots wrecked his hand, before grief sent him away vowing never to return.