Its Delicate Marriage Of Order And Violence

KVV: On a hot summer evening, when you drive the stretch of highway that snakes its way through water tower towns and the green and golden fields of farmland that make up the landscape between Northeast Indiana and Western Ohio, it’s easy to get lost inside your own head.

There are vast stretches of Middle America where the ground is so flat, if you stare out at the horizon line long enough, you can almost make out the gentle curve of the earth. Large white clouds loom overhead, casting shadows that give shelter to livestock and cool the steady string of rusting grain silos that dot the topography. But when the road is straight and the sky feels infinite, the mind wanders.

Especially when you’re chasing a dead man.

The Princess of Matamoros

You’ll want to read this one. Beautiful piece of work from Corpus Christi.

Mark Collette: CORPUS CHRISTI — Phil Rosenstein prescribed himself the only medicine he can fathom for a lonely heart: Honor her. Honor her ceaselessly, fearlessly, publicly.

He skipped wearing it on his sleeve and went right to the front of his shirt, emblazoned with Margarita’s calming smile and eyes like dark bottomless pools. The photo was taken at a dance, in embrace, but Rosenstein cropped himself out.

She died Sept. 10, 2011, the date etched on hundreds of ink pens Rosenstein has distributed at the senior center, at the Robert Drive H-E-B, to the staff of the Taquería Acapulco — to anyone who will stop and listen and to anyone who won’t.

Each question about the shirt, about the pens, about the yearning old man in the same corner table on every visit to the taquería, is another invitation to extol Margarita.

A Stupendous Desolation

Big writing from Michael Browning, 20 years ago: There is simply too much sky.

A fortnight after the attack of Hurricane Andrew, the southern arc of Florida lies luminous and shadowless in an extraordinary wash of daylight, despoiled, naked, hammered by the sun and open to every random rain.

The locust-winds of this tremendous storm, now sped and gone, have fretted every green leaf, stripped tree bark and twig down to the last tendril. Through these shadeless boughs a blank heaven shines, filled with wandering clouds — clouds that float unconcerned, white, serene and neutral over a scene of devastation unwitnessed in this peninsula for over half a century.

“I tell you Haiti is better than America, after this hurricane,” said Billy Louis, 20, a refugee from the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, as he sat on a ruined porch in Florida City where he, 11 other adults and four children are dazedly waiting for relief.

Seventeen Days

Wright Thompson reports to the marrow:

HAARLEM, The Netherlands — Everything that would destroy them had already been set in motion when Gregory and Jason Halman squeezed into the narrow staircase that led to the tattoo parlor. They turned sideways to fit through the opening, their broad, muscular shoulders crowding the walls. Paolo Ponziani drew the design they described, then sat them down, one after another, to ink it in the place they requested. Even as he started to outline the cross and the initials G and J, the symbolism struck him. The location, a tattoo high between the shoulder blades. I’ve got your back. The cross, which was almost always in memoriam. Never before had he done a tattoo expressing such a close bond between people who were still alive. The needle hurt in the sensitive spot on the back of the neck, and the brothers howled. Jason, younger by 18 months, had a higher tolerance for pain. Paolo finished, and the brothers took turns in the mirror, making sure the tattoos were identical.

Gregory and Jason shook hands. “It’s done,” they said.

Paolo looked at the powerful teenagers and their fresh wounds. A promise, or perhaps a prayer, was written in cursive letters above and below the arms of the cross.

Brothers for Life.


Inside The Uprising

C.J. Chivers: TAL RIFAAT, Syria — Abdul Hakim Yasin, the commander of a Syrian antigovernment fighting group, lurched his pickup truck to a stop inside the captured residential compound he uses as his guerrilla base.

His fighters had been waiting for orders for a predawn attack on an army checkpoint at the entrance to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The men had been issued ammunition and had said their prayers. Their truck bomb was almost prepared.

Now the commander had a surprise. Minutes earlier, his father, who had been arrested by the army at the same checkpoint in July, had called to say his jailers had released him. He needed a ride out of Aleppo, fast.

(thanks, Mark)

For Sale: Camel

Rukmini Callimachi: SAKABAL, Niger – In a part of the world where the worth of a man is measured by his animals, Tuareg nomad Soumaila Wantala has come to this market to do the unthinkable: Sell his last camel.

He crouches in the shade of a thorn tree as traders haggle over the 4-year-old male animal, Yedi. When the sale is complete, Yedi rears his enormous neck and lets out a cry, like the deep, subterranean call of a whale. It takes three men to drag the camel out of the arena, as if he understands the fate that has just befallen his master.

(thanks, Nigel)

Arnie, The Money-Hungry Beagle

Peter Jamison: LARGO — Arnie is a dour 10-year-old beagle known for his eccentricities, not the least of which is a propensity to eat hundreds of dollars in cash.

Seven years ago, the dog devoured $150 that Largo residents Corey and Hope O’Kelley had left out on a coffee table. The money was a gift from Hope’s father, and the couple managed to recover $100 intact after it had passed through Arnie’s digestive tract.

A long time went by after that. Arnie, known to his human companions as “the weird one” — possessed of a misanthropic bent at odds with the affectionate manners of the O’Kelleys’ other dog, Hoover — lived his own, quiet life, immersed in whatever thoughts eccentric, money-eating dogs like to think. In contrast to most members of his sociable breed, he disdained human contact, except with Corey, his original owner.

Then, last week, his hunger for greenbacks reasserted itself.

Saving The School

Our friend, Michael Brick, has a new book out today. It’s a great, important read.

Dana Goldstein:

Brick has done his homework on the history of American education, and he accurately assesses why schools like Reagan often appear to be such blighted places: less because their teachers are uniformly uncaring or their students unmotivated than because so many impoverished schools have become, over the past 30 years, increasingly cut off from the mainstream of American society, situated in neighborhoods victimized by white and middle-class flight; asked to compete with charter schools; and then left to educate a greater proportion of poor, special education, and non-English speaking students than the public school system at large. Reagan High is a good stand-in for the approximately 1,700 high schools across the country that are classified by the Obama administration as “persistently failing.” They are also sometimes known as “drop-out factories:” schools where more than half of the freshman class never graduates.

Go find a copy. And tell Brick you love him.