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Just before the coast disappeared into sea and sky, Jerrie Mock switched on her airplane’s long-range radio and found only silence. She tried again and again, leaning her ear to the speaker, and still heard nothing, not even static.
When Mock departed from Columbus that morning, she had heard the tower controller’s voice on a loudspeaker. “Well, I guess that’s the last we’ll hear from her,” he told the crowd gathered to see her off to Bermuda. He was joking, but suddenly his words had the ring of truth.
In an aircraft not much larger than a cargo van, surrounded by gasoline tanks, Mock was completely alone, navigating to a speck of an island with a compass and paper charts. Unable to report her positions or call for help, she could have become another Amelia Earhart: a woman trying to circle the world, lost at sea, never to be found.
Yet Earhart was a full-time aviator with a passenger who served as navigator; Mock was a full-time mother of three flying solo. Earhart had crossed both oceans; Mock, a licensed pilot for only seven years, had never flown farther than the Bahamas. Compared with Earhart’s brand-new, twin-engine airplane, Mock’s single-engine Cessna was 11 years old, with fresh paint covering the cracks and corrosion.
Suddenly — and suspiciously — cut off from communications, Mock considered turning back. She wasn’t flying around the world to become rich or famous. Initially, she hadn’t even realized she could set a record. Her original impetus for making the trip: She was bored.
Micheline Bérnard always loved Lionel Desormeaux. Their parents were friends though that bonhomie had not quite carried on to the children.
Micheline and Lionel went to primary and secondary school together, had known each other all their lives—when Lionel looked upon Micheline he was always overcome with the vague feeling he had seen her somewhere before while she was overcome with the precise knowledge that he was the man of her dreams.
In truth, everyone loved Lionel Desormeaux. He was tall and brown with high cheekbones and full lips. His body was perfectly muscled and after a long day of swimming in the ocean, he would emerge from the salty water, glistening.
Micheline would sit in a cabana, invisible. She would lick her lips and she would stare. She would think, “Look at me, Lionel,” but he never did.
When Lionel walked, there was an air about him. He moved slowly but with deliberate steps and sometimes, when he walked, people swore they could hear the bass of a deep drum. His mother, who loved her only boy more than any other, always told him, “Lionel, you are the son of L’Ouverture.”
He believed her. He believed everything his mother ever told him. Lionel always told his friends, “My father freed our people. I am his greatest son.” In Port-au-Prince, there were too many women. Micheline knew competition for Lionel’s attention was fierce. She was attractive, petite. She wore her thick hair in a sensible bun.
On weekends, she would let that hair down and when she walked by, men would shout, “Quelle belle paire de jambes,” what beautiful legs, and Micheline would savor the thrilling taste of their attention. Most Friday nights, Micheline and her friends would gather at Oasis, a popular nightclub on the edge of the Bel Air slum. She drank fruity drinks and smoked French cigarettes and wore skirts revealing just the right amount of leg.
Lionel was always surrounded by a mob of adoring women. He let them buy him rum and Cokes and always sat at the center of the room wearing his pressed linen slacks and dark tee shirts that showed off his perfect, chiseled arms.
At the end of the night, he would select one woman to take home, bed her thoroughly, and wish her well the following morning. The stone path to his front door was lined with the tears and soiled panties of the women Lionel had sexed then scorned.
On her birthday, Micheline decided she would be the woman Lionel took home. She wore a bright sundress, strapless. She dabbed perfume everywhere she wanted to feel Lionel’s lips. She wore high heels so high her brother had to help her into the nightclub.
When Lionel arrived to hold court, Micheline made sure she was closest. She smiled widely and angled her shoulders just so and leaned in so he could see everything he wanted to see within her ample cleavage. At the end of the night, Lionel nodded in her direction. He said, “Tonight you will know the affections of L’Ouverture’s greatest son.”
At 46, “Terrible” Terry Norris has the lean, muscled frame of a former pro boxer. He’s just a little taller than average, with a thick, black Van Dyke framing a bright smile.
Gray creeps in at the edges of his beard, but his shaved head seems the only concession to age, a paring away of the intricately razored box cut of his heyday, now some 20 years gone.
These days, he teaches cardio boxing in a converted garage north of Hollywood; upstairs, he shares a loft with his wife, Tanya, who also teaches and runs his gym.
During classes he looks fit and powerful, his fists still preternaturally fast. Only when he speaks, in a low, raspy murmur bordering on unintelligible, do you wonder at the damage he’s suffered.
He started boxing when he was nine years old, a black kid growing up in Lubbock, Texas, a conservative, predominantly white industrial city best known as the birthplace of Buddy Holly. His mother wanted to keep her mischievous son, “Terrible,” off the streets; his father was a former fighter.
At 19 he turned pro. World Boxing Council light-middleweight champion at 22. Three more titles followed; he finished his career at 47-9, with 31 knockouts, and joined the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
FLORIDA’S UNDERCOUNT OF CHILD ABUSE DEATHS
The state says abuse and neglect deaths are receding after a spike. But are they? And, if so, by how much? A closer look at the numbers.
Vincent Canzani spent most of his evenings at Easton Town Center, an upscale outdoor shopping mall that seems like a great idea from April to October in Columbus, Ohio, and a less great idea the rest of the year. The routine began when Canzani managed a tire shop — he’d close down the store in the evening, then head to a cigar shop at Easton called the Tinder Box. With an iPad in one hand and a cigar in the other, Canzani would park himself in the shop’s lounge or sit on the adjacent patio at Fadó, an Irish pub. After quitting Mr. Tire, this little corner became Canzani’s second home. He came by five or six days a week and even picked up a shift selling cigars one day a week. An avid photographer, he took portraits of employees and shot various events at the shop.
It was a warm night on June 21, 2013. Canzani was shooting the breeze with fellow Tinder Box employee Todd Gordish. After Gordish closed the shop at 10 p.m., he and Canzani walked over to Easton’s movie theater to catch an action flick.
They made plans to go to a Columbus Clippers baseball game the next day, then parted ways around 12:30 a.m. Canzani wasn’t ready to go home quite yet, probably because “home” had become indefinable. Ever since moving back to Columbus from northern Ohio after his marriage of 10 years ended in 2012, his birthplace felt like a different town.
The late comedian George Carlin once said, “It’s called the American Dream because you need to be asleep to believe it.” But locked in a 5-by-9 cell, behind maximum-security walls, a 6’1, 175-pound living nightmare of a jailhouse fighter had his own American Dream and he wanted it televised nationwide.
For a short time, that dream instilled enough fear that it gave the light heavyweight champion insomnia. Promoter Don King, sports’ most successfully rehabilitated ex-con, himself a man who newspaper columnist turned novelist and screenwriter Pete Dexter once described as “easiest to imagine as a disease,” someone who “for 15 cents will put boys in the ring and girls on the street,” wouldn’t go near this convict’s request to promote his next fight.
Even King, Mr. “Only in America!” in all his devious genius, couldn’t believe any fighter, let alone the public, would want any role in the twisted saga of James O. Scott. Some 30 or 40 years ago, just how important was boxing to America? It transcended sport.
And boxing had Muhammad Ali. On Sept. 15, 1978, only three weeks before James Scott fought Eddie Gregory, the No. 1-ranked contender for the light heavyweight championship in New Jersey’s Rahway State Prison, Muhammad Ali fought his rematch against Leon Spinks for the heavyweight crown in front of more than 63,000 fans at the Superdome in New Orleans. Cable TV was in its infancy. There were only four national television channels and 90 million people — 73 percent of American households — watched the fight on ABC. It was bigger than the Super Bowl and Ali reclaimed his championship in front of more eyes than any sporting event in television history (it’s still in the top 10 today).
So how in the world did a career-criminal snatch the keys to this kingdom from his cage in Rahway and convince Home Box Office to tag along and let him loose in every living room in the country?
Meet Ursula Franklin.
The 92-year-old metallurgist pioneered the field of archeometry, the science of dating archaeologically discovered bronzes, metals, and ceramics.
Her research into spiking levels of radioactive strontium in baby teeth factored heavily into the U.S. government’s decision to institute a nuclear test ban.
She delivered the Massey Lectures—an important, annual series of talks delivered by Canadian public intellectuals—in 1989, and she was the first woman to be named University Professor at the University of Toronto, the university’s highest position.
She was also born in Munich in 1921, and was imprisoned in a Nazi work camp for the last 18 months of the war.
I spoke to her recently by phone. It was a snowy day in Toronto, she said and she was happy to stay inside. “I’m here and ready and have a cup of tea and a pad of notes,” she told me, “and so I’m happy to meet you.”
It’s 4:30 P.M., early December 2004, and a caravan of Humvees rumbles out of Camp Victory carrying Staff Sergeant Jeffrey S. Sarver and his team of bomb-squad technicians from the U.S. Army’s 788th Ordnance Company.
As Sarver’s team bounces down Victory’s rutted roads, the convoy passes a helipad where Chinooks, Black Hawks and Apaches thump in and out, some of them armed with laser-guided missiles and 30-millimeter cannons that fire fist-size shells. Sarver sees the Bradley and Abrams tanks sitting in neat rows, like cars at a dealership, their depleted-uranium bumpers aligned with precision.
All that lethal hardware is parked, more or less useless against the Iraqi insurgency’s main weapon in this phase of the war: improvised explosive devices made from artillery shells, nine-volt batteries and electrical tape—what the troops call IEDs.
As they leave the front gate, Sarver is in high spirits.
He grabs the radio and sings out in his West Virginia twang, “Hey, ah, do you want to be the dirty old man or the cute young boy?” “I’ll be the boy,” comes the response with a laugh. It’s Sarver’s junior team member, Specialist Jonathan Williams.
"Okay, cute boy. This is dirty old man, over." "Roger, ol’ man. We’re en route to the ah-ee-dee."
One day in late January, the novelist, n 1 editor, and now self-taught Marxist political economist Benjamin Kunkel left Buenos Aires and flew to Rio.
He’d been living in Argentina more on than off since the recession hit, an enviably high-minded take-the-money-and-run expat in the frothy wake of his novel Indecision, and his travel schedule was like a con man’s, always shifting.
In Rio, he met the leftist playwright Wallace Shawn and his girlfriend of 40 years, the short-story goddess Deborah Eisenberg, who were staging a one-night-only performance of Shawn’s The Designated Mourner for the benefit of Glenn Greenwald, the national-security-state crusader and Edward Snowden accomplice, who lives there.
Not to benefit; for the benefit of. Greenwald couldn’t feel comfortable coming to New York to see the play, which describes the death of liberal culture at the hands of reactionary forces, so they took the entire Public Theater production to him—“A show of solidarity,” Shawn says. Kunkel calls it “a stunt.” But he says it lovingly, admiringly. “Maybe everything the left does is.”
Brad Will always turned up where things were happening. Even to write that in the past tense seems strange, almost laughable, and nobody would laugh about it more than he would, with his conspiratorial raised-eyebrow chuckle, a laugh that let you in on a secret joke. To write it in the past tense negates the immortality that we often felt around each other. But he’s dead now, and so I have to write it that way, because it seems the only way to believe it enough so as to set some part of his story down. I still half-expect him to come rolling around the corner on his bike, dirty from traveling, eating a dumpster-dived bagel while gesticulating theatrically, recounting his latest adventures in Brazil or the South Bronx.
In a decade of living in New York City, time and again I would run into Brad in the middle of the action, whatever that action happened to be: a street protest at the Republican National Convention, a guerrilla dance party on the subway, a crowd of thousands fleeing the collapse of the Twin Towers. I once saw him, while being chased by the police among hundreds of bicyclists on a protest ride through Times Square, shoulder his bicycle and run right over the top of a taxi to freedom. He always gravitated toward the conflict and conflagration, loved getting close enough to touch before leaping back. He was fearless, and he usually got away with it, coming back with stories of how the cops were just inches from grabbing him, how the railroad bull walked right by his hiding place without spotting him. And later, as he went further, to countries where tectonic social conflicts rumbled just below the surface, drawn by that same impulse, some junk-craving of conscience and adrenaline, he spoke of how the bullets whizzed by without hitting him.
So when a friend of ours called me one morning in late October 2006, her voice cracking in that tone that conveys the worst news: it’s Brad … I already knew, but still didn’t believe. Everything else was mere detail, whens and wheres, unmoored fragments of fact: Oaxaca. Filming a street demonstration during the teachers’ strike down there. Twice in the chest. Never made it to the hospital.
He filmed his own assassination.