‘I Get Things Done’

Eli Saslow: ORLANDO — She was scheduled to deliver a speech across town in 30 minutes, but she did not know where to go, or how to get there, or exactly what she would say if she managed to arrive on time. Bertica Cabrera Morris revved the engine in her Jaguar and an alarm on the dashboard warned that she was almost out of gas. She grabbed her cellphone to make a call and watched the battery die and the screen go black.

“Papa Dios!” she said. “Are you kidding me? Why is this happening now?”

Purpose In Exile

Chris Goffard: Reporting from Imbaseni, Tanzania — The fugitive shuffles to his computer and begins typing out his will. He is about to turn 71, and it is time. “My life,” he writes, “has been a wild and wicked ride….”

All Pete O’Neal has amassed fits on two pages: A small brick home with a sheet-metal roof. A few road-beaten vehicles. A cluster of bunkhouses and classrooms he spent decades building, brick by scavenged brick, near the slopes of Mt. Meru’s volcanic cone. Everything will go to his wife of 42 years, Charlotte, and to a few trusted workers.

He prints out the will late one Saturday morning and settles into his reclining chair to check the spelling. He signs his name. Then, to guarantee its authenticity, he finds an ink pad, rolls his thumb across it, and affixes his thumbprint to the bottom of the page.

“I think that’ll do it,” he says.

(h/t Mark)

If You’re Late, You’re Dead

Fun Q and A with Kerry Burke, a murder and mayhem reporter for the Daily News:

When you arrive at a crime scene, what’s generally happening? How do you go about reporting?

Very often it’s absolute chaos. But, you know, I’ve been doing this for a while, and I read scenes to figure out what’s happening when the world’s gone mad. I realize, okay, these detectives are the actual case detectives and those detectives aren’t. Okay, that’s family. Okay, the shots had to have come from over there. You figure out what happened just by looking at the lay of the land and everybody involved.

I see the pack of reporters, and I don’t follow the pack. I try to go off in a different direction. I keep an eye on them—I understand that playing defense is a part of every game – but I don’t just hang around waiting for the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information (DCPI), the press liaison on crime scenes, to give me handouts. Basically, what they give is cop version.

So a DCPI shows up at every crime scene?

No, they don’t. Very often they don’t show up at all. And very often when they do, they don’t talk. I respect what they do, but frankly that’s not where you get stories. If you’re just going to produce all the same stuff as everybody else, how good are you at your job?

(thanks, Doyle)

The Waffle House Terrorists

Tom Junod: The guys were coming over. That’s what Fred and Charlotte Thomas both called them — “the guys,” as though they were Fred’s poker buddies. Fred and Charlotte were both in their early seventies. They were retired. They were living in a place that was still new to them, and in some ways still foreign. They weren’t in the best health — Charlotte had pain in her legs, and Fred, just a month before, had endured having half a lung removed by doctors who had misdiagnosed him. They thought he had cancer, when in fact the growth was a fungus. Fred had lost half a lung by mistake, and now both Fred and Charlotte had trouble climbing the stairs in their tall, narrow house. It had been a tough year, and when Fred told her that the guys were coming over, she was just happy he had friends.

It was March 17, 2011, when they came over the first time. Saint Paddy’s Day. Charlotte and Fred had gotten some pizzas and beers so they would have something to eat. Then she went upstairs, to leave Fred alone. Or maybe she went out. She doesn’t remember. She didn’t know that many of the guys, anyway. Oh, she knew Dan — Fred’s friend Dan Roberts. The rest of them were new. There was a guy named Anthony, and another guy whose name she forgot. There was a guy named Joe, and then there was Joe’s son, also named Joe. The first Joe was much younger than both Fred and Dan — at least twenty years younger — and the second Joe was just twenty-five. Well, Fred and Charlotte were used to that. They were used to having younger friends.

Sink Or Swim

Eli Saslow: CONWAY, S.C. — He awoke to his alarm on Monday morning at 6, just like always, even though his handwritten schedule for the day read only: “Find something to do!” Steven Murdock, 39, poured himself a cup of coffee and rummaged through the defrosted Thanksgiving leftovers in an otherwise barren refrigerator. He grabbed the phone that bill collectors were threatening to turn off and made his first call of the day.

“I need some kind of odd job to help me get by,” he told a neighbor. “Know of anything?”

It was the beginning of another workweek in a town with too little work, and all around Murdock, the South Carolina economy of 2012 stirred to life. Forty people formed a line outside the downtown food bank, carrying empty plastic bags they hoped would be filled. Dozens more waited for sunrise at the unemployment office. A sign at the Department of Social Services directed all comers to an overflow parking lot, built to accommodate the 25 percent of Conway’s population that now survived primarily on government support.

(thanks, Mark)

Racing Katrina

Chris Rose, circa 2007: As is the fate of most self-styled inventors, pioneers and visionaries — those who toil in decades of anonymity, never realize their dreams and eventually die of broken hearts, or worse — J.T. Nesbitt and Andy Overslaugh’s grand scheme never really had a chance in hell.

Fortunately, they did not know that. Or, more likely, they were too stubborn, too determined and simply too beat down to accept it. After all, delusions of grandeur led to things such as Mount Rushmore and a rocket to the moon.

For this modern-day tandem of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, it wasn’t windmills they were fighting. It was much more personal than that. Much bigger than that.

(h/t, Barry Yeoman)