Joe Gould’s Teeth

Jill Lepore: For a long time, Joe Gould thought he was going blind. This was before he lost his teeth, and years before he lost the history of the world he’d been writing in hundreds of dime-store composition notebooks, their black covers mottled like the pelt of a speckled goat, their white pages lined with thin blue veins.

He wrote with a fountain pen. He filled it with ink he stole from the post office. “I have created a vital new literary form,” he boasted. “Unfortunately, my manuscript is not typed.”

He told everyone who would listen that he was writing down nearly everything anyone said to him. “I am trying to record these complex times with the technique of a Herodotus or Froissart,” he explained to the Harvard historian George Sarton, in 1931, soliciting support. Herodotus wrote his Histories in ancient Greece; Jean Froissart wrote his Chronicles in medieval Europe. Gould was writing his history, a talking history, in modern America. “My book is very voluminous,” Gould told Sarton:

I imagine that the most valuable sections will be those which deal with groups that are inarticulate such as the Negro, the reservation Indian and the immigrant. It seems to me that the average person is just as much history as the ruler or celebrity as he illustrates the social forces of heredity and environment. Therefore I am trying to present lyrical episodes of everyday life. I would like to widen the sphere of history as Walt Whitman did that of poetry.

The Lost Girls

Jason Cherkis: In 1974, when she was only 14, Jackie Fuchs would wake up way before her parents and catch a ride with friends from her house in the San Fernando Valley across the Santa Monica Mountains and into Malibu. She’d hit the beach and paddle out in the quiet, pre-dawn dark.

It was the only time she could be on the water and not have to deal with the catcalls and the teasing, the good-natured gibes that gradually shaded into something harder and meaner. Before sunrise, she was just another surfer, her back to the sand, waiting for the right wave. She liked being the only girl out there.

Tall and slender with bright blue eyes and brown hair down to her shoulders, Jackie could have passed for Mary Tyler Moore’s daughter. The surfer dudes called her “Malibu Barbie.” One editor of a surfing magazine struck up a correspondence and sent her letters addressed to “Maliboobie.” “You had better get hot and send some good photos,” he wrote to her in black marker. “Your competition in photos is getting tough! You should see what some girls are sending in!” She could never tell how seriously to take the attention. In a letter to the editor published in June 1974, Jackie admonished one magazine for its skin-deep coverage of female surfers: “If they’re so hot, why don’t you show them surfing? Some of us chicks have more than just hot bods! Awoo!”

When Jackie heard that only male surfers were being paid to attend the national championships that year in North Carolina, she organized two benefit screenings of surf films to cover the travel expenses for female competitors. She cold-called directors to cajole them into donating reels of their documentaries for her events, and phoned local officials to arrange for fire permits, security and space. She passed out hundreds of homemade flyers up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. At the door, she took tickets until there wasn’t room left to stand. No one seemed to care how young she was.

“As rebellious as we thought we were,” says Steven Diamond, a childhood friend, “we were nothing compared to Jackie.” She was smarter and bolder than the other teenagers, constantly doing things girls were told they shouldn’t. She attended summer school just to take shop. She learned power chords on her Stratocaster and went to bed with the radio on, hoping to hear Fanny, the one all-female rock band in the universe, on KLOS. A middle school friend remembers driving to the grocery store with her mother one afternoon and spotting Jackie at the freeway on-ramp, her 6-foot-10-inch custom fiberglass swallowtail board under one arm and her thumb out.

Bernie Sanders Has A Secret

This is how you profile.

Michael Kruse: One morning last month in Burlington, Vermont, at the law office of John Franco, one of Bernie Sanders’ best friends since the 1970s, Franco talked to me at length about Sanders’ commitment and his consistency and his charisma. Even at the beginning of Sanders’ career, he said, four decades before he started packing arenas in college towns and liberal havens as a renegade 73-year-old self-described socialist taking on Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment, “people didn’t want him to stop talking.” He talked about how Sanders “completely changed the political culture” in Vermont. He talked about how Sanders’ surprising current surge in national polls is “validation.”

“I’m proud of Bernard,” he said.

All of that was interesting. But I wanted to know not just about what Sanders has done. I wanted to know more about who he has been. So I asked what I thought was an innocuous question about Sanders’ son. How did Sanders juggle aspirations as an eager political activist with his role as a divorced young father?

“That’s out of bounds,” Franco said.

Out of bounds?

“It’s none of your f—-ing business,” he said. He smiled, but he wasn’t joking.

The Invisible Man

Jeff Sharlet: Open your eyes. Sunday. Another lucky day. Darkness. A luxury afforded the man who owns two tents, one popped right inside the other. No street light filtering in, no headlights rising along tent walls. Just—dark. You could be anywhere. Your father’s house, before dawn, in Cameroon, or Paris, or Berlin. Or America. Stretch: You want to run, the canyon, your long legs striding, up out of the city until you reach the vista. L.A. You’ll close your eyes and feel the sun on your face, and in your mind a movie will roll, the film of all that is yet to come. You’ve always been gifted like this, granted stories and the power to believe them. Merci, you think. Thank you, God. Blessed with this body. Lean. “Very, very strong,” says your sister, Line, the other half of who you are.

Open your eyes. March 1, 2015. Sunday. You need to call her. Bonne nuit, you texted her last night. Every day you text her. I’ll call tomorrow, my heart, my dear.

Darkness. Silence. Earplugs: You don’t hear the street begin to breathe. The tent people and the blanket people, the single-room-occupancy people coming out for prayer and breakfast at the missions, the stay-awake-all-night dancing-in-place-for-twenty-hours tweaking people, the flat-out face-down sidewalk people. The corner men who piss at the foot of the two-story glass cross on the side of the mission. The cross that brought you to this corner.

Now, They Hug

Robert Samuels: URBANDALE, Iowa — As this state’s most visible culture warriors, Bob Vander Plaats and Donna Red Wing have hurled insults at each other for years.

Vander Plaats’s organization, The Family Leader, has derided same-sex marriages such as Red Wing’s as “unnatural.” Red Wing, leader of the LGBT rights group One Iowa, has called Vander Plaats “bigoted” and “cruel.”

But when they ran into each other on the day the Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples could marry anywhere in the country, crossing paths between dueling interviews at a local TV station studio, they locked eyes.

And then they hugged.

A Long Walk’s End

William Browning: On a Saturday morning in May, 2015, a group of law enforcement agents, the FBI among them, knocked on the front door of the Montgomery Homestead Inn in Damascus, Virginia. The proprietor, a retired kindergarten teacher who lives across East Laurel Ave. from the inn, happened to be there at the time. She does not know for sure how many agents were on the inn’s porch. She guesses three or four, though her husband told her later another man was positioned at the back door.

“There were just a lot of men out there,” Susie Montgomery said.

Damascus (pop. 800) is in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains, along the Appalachian Trail. Downtown consists of about five blocks “but in those blocks there are five churches,” Montgomery said. A visitor crosses one bridge coming in, another heading out. Idyllic is the word. The Montgomery Homestead Inn is only an old, two-story brick home with four bedrooms travelers can rent. On the morning those FBI agents came knocking, it was the weekend of the annual Appalachian Trail Days Festival, when something like 20,000 hikers descend on the town for fellowship and revelry, and the inn’s four rooms had been booked for weeks. Montgomery did not know what business the men crowding the porch could have there.

When she opened the front door, one of the agents held up a photograph of a man and asked if she knew him. She looked at it and said, “Yes. That’s Bismarck.”

Bismarck was the trail name of an Appalachian Trail hiker who had checked in the previous day. He had been staying at Montgomery’s inn periodically since 2010. She considered him an “easy guest.” He usually stayed for three days, paid in cash (like everyone else), and each time he left, the bed would be made and the room was clean.

The agents asked if Bismarck was inside. Montgomery said she was not sure, and what was this about, anyway? The men identified themselves as law enforcement agents and said they needed to talk with Bismarck about a case of fraud. Montgomery asked for identification, which they provided, and she took them to the room where Bismarck was staying.

Long Strange Trip

Jay Cridlin: TAMPA — Minutes after midnight, Uncle John’s Band closes another sprawling set at Skipper’s Smokehouse with the Grateful Dead’s U.S. Blues, drawing cheers from the tie-dyed faithful.

Bassist Mike Edwards deflates into a stoop at stage right, wincing, rubbing his hip and his head. He fingers a cigarette as giddy fans share kudos.

“That was a long four hours,” he says, limping off stage.

The hours are all long these days, but Uncle John’s Band keeps rolling. This was the Grateful Dead tribute act’s 850th gig at Skipper’s. But for Edwards, the group’s sole remaining founder, their gigs this weekend will top them all.

Friday through Sunday, for the first and last time, Uncle John’s Band will finally cross paths with the band they so faithfully honor. The Grateful Dead’s four core surviving members — Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart — are reuniting for three star-studded, 50th anniversary farewell concerts at Soldier Field in Chicago. Each day, Uncle John’s Band will headline a four-hour pre-show party at the Field Museum just across the street.

It would be a tasty gig for any tribute band. But for Edwards — a Deadhead lifer who has seen the band live about 95 times, more than all other members of Uncle John’s Band combined — Chicago represents something greater. It’s the culmination of a life in service of the band that shaped his identity.

Hate, Hurt And Healing

Anne Hull: CHARLESTON, S.C. — The glow of their phones lighted up their faces in the night. Terrell White and his friends kept looking down at the updates, trying to separate rumor from conspiracy theory from actual fact. It was 9 o’clock — 24 hours after a suspected white gunman had killed nine black people at church two miles to the south — and here on King Street, the struggle to understand was underway.

“People at Bible study, hearing God’s word?” White said, shaking his head. “That’s no heart. That’s no fear.”

“That’s white America,” said Abdul Denmark, a barber at Fresh Cuts No. 2.

“Man, I wish we had some answers,” White said.

A Flower for the Graves

Eugene Patterson, Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 16, 1963:

A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.

Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.

It is too late to blame the sick criminals who handled the dynamite. The FBI and the police can deal with that kind. The charge against them is simple. They killed four children.

Only we can trace the truth, Southerner — you and I. We broke those children’s bodies.

We watched the stage set without staying it. We listened to the prologue unbestirred. We saw the curtain opening with disinterest. We have heard the play.

We — who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.

We — who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.

We — who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.

We — the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition — we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.

This is no time to load our anguish onto the murderous scapegoat who set the cap in dynamite of our own manufacture.

He didn’t know any better.

Somewhere in the dim and fevered recess of an evil mind he feels right now that he has been a hero. He is only guilty of murder. He thinks he has pleased us.

We of the white South who know better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment.

We, who know better, created a climate for child-killing by those who don’t.

We hold that shoe in our hand, Southerner. Let us see it straight, and look at the blood on it. Let us compare it with the unworthy speeches of Southern public men who have traduced the Negro; match it with the spectacle of shrilling children whose parents and teachers turned them free to spit epithets at small huddles of Negro school children for a week before this Sunday in Birmingham; hold up the shoe and look beyond it to the state house in Montgomery where the official attitudes of Alabama have been spoken in heat and anger.

Let us not lay the blame on some brutal fool who didn’t know any better.

We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has so been led. May what has happened hasten the day when the good South, which does live and has great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity, and in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.

The Sunday school play at Birmingham is ended. With a weeping Negro mother, we stand in the bitter smoke and hold a shoe. If our South is ever to be what we wish it to be, we will plant a flower of nobler resolve for the South now upon these four small graves that we dug.

Platforms and presentations

What are your favorite non-print presentations of stories? I’m partial to reading something on paper, but most of the things I most want to read are only available to me digitally. There are some slick things out there, but sometimes it feels like the flashy presentation gets in the way of the story.

I really enjoyed the Tampa Bay Times’ comic book treatment of The Incredible Adventures of Chuck, the Carpenter. (Written by Caitlin Johnston, illustrated by Cameron Cottril)

The New York Times is doing great work, at Upshot in particular, in building interactive pieces built on data. It’s not traditional story-telling, but it ends up presenting something tailored to an individual reader. This piece was really fun to play with, comparing how different counties stack up. As was this one, that allowed people to see how their perception of the link between income and college stacked up against reality.

I’m fascinated with Fold. I played with it earlier this year, to build a digital history of the Mark Jensen case, which has played out in the courts over the past 18 years. The format let me pull in things that could never really have fit in our print product (or on our website, without being incredibly clunky).

Anybody have other links to share?