Gaining Independence, Finding A Bond

Dan Barry: EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Sunday wedding that was months away, then weeks away, then days away, is now hours away, and there is so much still to do. The bride is panicking, and the groom is trying to calm her between anxious puffs of his cigarette.

Peter and Lori are on their own.

With time running out, they visit a salon to have Lori’s reddish-brown hair coiled into ringlets. They pay $184 for a two-tier cake at Stop & Shop, where the checkout clerk in Lane 1 wishes them good luck. They buy 30 helium balloons, only to have Peter realize in the Party City parking lot that the bouncing bobble will never squeeze into his car.

Lori, who is feeling the time pressure, insists that she can hold the balloons out the passenger-side window. A doubtful Peter reluctantly gives in.

“I’ve got them,” she says. “Don’t worry.”

Peter Maxmean, 35, and Lori Sousa, 48, met five years ago at a sheltered workshop in North Providence, where people with intellectual disabilities performed repetitive jobs for little pay, in isolation. But when a federal investigation turned that workshop upside down last year, among those tumbling into the daylight were two people who had fallen in love within its cinder block walls.

The Priviledge And Burden of Franklin McCallie

Joan Garrett McClane: They came from across the city. They came black and white to the towering brick house on Read Street.

Bankers, lawyers, judges, government workers, retirees, contractors, small-business owners — a constellation of the middle class.

Greeted with tiny coffee cups and wedges of chocolate cake, they stuck name tags to their shirts and blouses and exchanged polite hellos and handshakes until a bell rang and the crowd settled like dust into chairs and couches. Forty-five people, many meeting for the first time, crammed into the living room and waited for a word from the host.

Franklin McCallie looked across the room and was in awe of the sight. The mix was just right, he thought.

This would be the perfect beginning to his small revolution.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Greg Maddux

I’m always a sucker for a Wallace Stevens homage, and this one, from SB Nation Longform, is special: a heartbreaking memoir about two best friends and the 1995 World Series.

Jeremy Collins:

Maddux was warming up to begin the second when Jason returned with two cups of coffee and bag of peanuts. He handed me a coffee.

“Let’s get to work, Gregory,” he said.

Jason used “Gregory” when Maddux was in trouble, which was rare that year (19-2, 1.63 ERA). But against Cleveland — Lofton, Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Eddie Murray — the water was deep.

“There you go, Gregory. Fastball inside. Now, change up away.”

During his tenure with the Braves, Maddux had a cadre of entirely forgettable catchers: Damon Berryhill, Charlie O’Brien, Eddie Perez, Paul Bako, Henry Blanco. Maddux’s personal pitching valets. Catcher caddies. Unknown to the sporting world in 1995, Maddux also had a singular fan, a real fanatic, from the Latin fanaticus, meaning “enthusiastic, inspired by a god.”

“There you go, let him ground out Gregory.”

“Cutter inside. Handcuff him. Yes. Like that.”

“Curve, Gregory, then fastball, then change.”

By the third, Jason was speaking only to Maddux, calling pitches and predicting where the outs would fall. Grounder Belliard. Ground out Lemke. Strike three looking.

Maddux found a groove, a keyhole, and Jason did too.

It’d be too much to tell you that every pitch and pop of the bat traveled the path of Jason’s words, but for three straight innings the ball seemed to do exactly that.

Into The Black

Charles Anderson in New Zealand: He awakes alone in the black at 12.03am. He does not look at the clock but he knows the time. He cannot see their faces but he knows who they are. The silhouettes surround him in silence. He is not afraid. He closes his eyes and remembers their story. It is his too.

He remembers the taste of salt, the smell of gasoline, the constant slap of water against his skin. He remembers what absolute loneliness feels like.

He will say he was ready to die. He will say his entire life led up to the moment when he decided not to.

There were nine, including him. They had set out together on a boat called the Easy Rider. The only difference in their story is that he is alive and they are not.

Expos Nation

It’s been 10 years today since Montreal’s beloved baseball team played its last game. Adam Gopnik attended every Expos home opener from the very first, in 1969, until he left for New York in 1981.


I shut my eyes, and I think, God help me, that I can actually summon that opening-day lineup from forty-five years past. Let me try (no googling or post hoc emendation, I promise): first base, Bob Bailey; second base, Gary Sutherland; shortstop, Bobby Wine; third base, Coco Laboy; right field, Rusty Staub; centre field, someone like Don Hahn; left field, Mack Jones; catcher, John Bateman; pitcher, Mudcat Grant. How did I do? Let me see…not too badly, though it is strange I forgot it was Maury Wills—the only original Expo who had any kind of shot at the Hall of Fame—who actually started at shortstop. Strange and perhaps significant: I edit out their small chance at excellence, because we didn’t really ask that the Expos be excellent. They were merely special, in ways that I suspect the far more successful teams—I almost wrote “franchises”—were not.

When they died in 2004, ten years ago this October, and found a new life as the Washington Nationals, the part of me that took its identity from baseball died too, and left me with little love for the game.

‘Do you find sentences fascinating?’

Dinty W. Moore of Brevity Magazine, in The Review Review: I have a standard answer for folks who ask me, “Do you think I should be a writer?” Or “Do you think I can succeed as a writer?”  My answer is, “Do you find sentences fascinating?” That’s what it comes down to in the end.  It is a good thing to live a rich life full of experiences, it is a good thing to have boundless curiosity about what drives people, it is a good thing to be disciplined, it is a good thing to see the world from interesting angles rather than straightforwardly and predictably, but after all of that — and all of that is important — you are alone in your room, changing and changing and restoring and reversing and starting sentences all over again, trying to decide “How do I capture this thought, feeling, scene, action on the page so that it pierces the reader’s awareness?”  If you find that latter process – at the level of word choice, the phrase, the sentence — fascinating, addictive even, then you’ll get where you want to be as a writer, eventually.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it is what I believe.

This is pulled from The Unslanted Truth: a Conversation With Four Editors of Today’s Premier Creative Nonfiction Literary Magazines. The four editors were Moore, Hattie Fletcher of Creative Nonfiction, Donna Talarico of Hippocampus Magazine and Sarah Wells of River Teeth Journal.

Lost Orphans

Scott Atkinson: FLINT, MI — Ermina Hagerman could not have known she was sending her children to die.

It was November 1885, and it was a desperate time. Her husband, Charles, had died just a month before. He had enlisted in the Civil War at 14, lying about his age, and had survived it all. But now at 34, he was gone, leaving Ermina — or Minnie, as she would be known all her life — alone with their four children. It would have been impossible in such a time for her not to think of how she should have had five children, had they not already lost Leo, one of her oldest twin boys, when he was small.

Minnie was 33 years old. The year 1885 was not a time when you would expect a woman with four children to work, and anyway, the village of Constantine, where she lived, was not one of great opportunity. “Nothing spectacular about it, other than the St. Joseph river flowing through it,” as one local historian said.

Minnie applied for government assistance. She had family in nearby Three Rivers, but they could offer only so much help when it came to her children. Rice and Grace, her two youngest, twins, were deaf.

In this, at least, there was hope. In a city called Flint, halfway up the state, there was a new school operating under what was still a radical idea: Perhaps the deaf and blind could be taught. Perhaps they were capable of learning like the rest of society, capable of learning skills, contributing to and participating in the world, and communicating with it. Her children would have a chance at a future, a trade and a voice.

It was also a boarding school. Minnie’s child-rearing load would be halved. And so she traveled with them, one after the other, to the Michigan Asylum for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, and returned home.

She could not have known that she was sending them to their deaths, nor could she have known that in time, her two youngest children would come to be called orphans, lost to history and forgotten for more than a century until someone came to find them.

Harvest of Change: Virtual reality journalism

The Des Moines Register has a new piece up. It looks like a video game, informs like journalism. They partnered with all kinds of people to put this thing together, combining photos, reporting, standard and 360-degree video and audio recording into a 3D rendering of an Iowa farm. The full package includes text, photos, video and the virtual reality environment. Learn more about how they did it and why.

Sharyn Jackson and Christopher Gannon (Part 1 of 5): 

On the lawn of a ranch house abutting rolling acres of emerald pasture, a red-haired girl, almost 7, leads a calf in circles with the help of her family.

It’s early July, and Jillian Dammann is getting ready to show her bottle calf, Olaf, at the Page County Fair. Her parents, Justin and Jennifer, are teaching her how to lead him, and her little brother, Jayden, is helping.

Named after a character in Disney’s “Frozen,” this calf from the Dammanns’ livestock breeding operation lost its source of sustenance when its mother died. So Jillian helps rear it, feeding Olaf milk from a bottle that’s bigger than the pink cowboy boots she wears, here in the southwest Iowa county where Jessie Field Shambaugh founded 4-H clubs more than a century ago.

Get the little details

Rob Rogers: By the end, they had just eight pieces of bread and a half tank of gas left.

It was Sunday night, Nov. 3, and Mark and Kristine Wathke, missing since Oct. 28, were sitting in their Kia Forte trapped in a foot of snow above 10,000 feet on the Beartooth Highway. They had come to the realization that probably they weren’t going to be found, that this was likely the end.

It had dropped to 7 degrees below zero that night; Mark’s water bottle, sitting in the back window, froze solid in a matter of hours.