In the flesh, she does not have an aura. She’s not lit from within. Heads do not snap in her direction when she walks through a hotel lobby in a baggy maxi-dress and brown calf-high boots, flanked by her dutiful makeup artist of 35 years and her imperious publicist — the few celebrity trappings of a woman who stubbornly considers herself a working actor, and nothing more.
“Mid-winter. When I was about 7 years old. My sister and a couple of her friends were playing on a frozen creek that was not frozen entirely. And I told her, ‘Get off the ice. It’s not safe. It’s too dangerous. I’ll check it out for you.’ And then the ice cracked under me, and I fell in.”
"It's uh known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there."
That's Janie Crawford in Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God," and I think she's right. I like to go places and write about what it feels like to be there, or live there. The model, of course, is Henry Allen's concept of "What It Felt Like."
Sanford is a brick-paved main street lined with antique shops. Sanford is a forlorn acreage of shuttered housing projects whose closure scattered residents across town. Sanford is a small galaxy of gated communities with names like “Plantation Lakes” and “Hatteras Sound.” Which Sanford was Trayvon visiting in February 2012? Which Sanford was Zimmerman protecting, or protecting against?
It’s a 2.3-mile drive from the Newtown station to Sandy Hook Elementary School: A left, a right and another right. The first on the scene were nine Newtown officers, divided into three teams of three, including the police chief. They were the first, after the shooter, to force their way into the school, via the front lobby and the rear door.
Inside: silence. The air smelled like the department’s firing range: spent gunpowder.
This summer may mark the end of Leeville, a town birthed by a hurricane, then destroyed by one, resurrected by oil and now destroyed by oil. It isn't the only dying town outside the levee systems in south Louisiana. Subsidence, the sinking of delta land, has long been the existential enemy down here. Now wild crude has delivered what may be the final blow, choking off commerce. Some residents foresee an abandoned landscape, something right out of a Wild West movie, with empty slips instead of silent saloons, belly-up redfish instead of skittering tumbleweeds.
In 2013 I wrote a long feature story for The Washington Post on three activists who broke into a nuclear-weapons site in Tennessee. I adapted that story into a non-fiction book that traces the history of nuclear weapons, from the discovery of fission in the 1930s to the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima in 2015, and the bold strain of activism that has resisted these weapons. It's part history, part moral thriller, part courtroom drama. I also think of it as a theory of sociopolitical relativity, but that sounds pretty pretentious, doesn't it? Publication is July 12 but you can order it now.
My tentative book tour dates:
July 14, 2016. Washington, D.C. Politics & Prose.
July 25, 2016. New York. Half King Pub.
Aug. 4. Knoxville, Tenn. East Tennessee History Center.
Aug. 5. Fairhope, Ala. Page & Palette.
Aug. 11. Buffalo, N.Y. Talking Leaves.
Sometimes I jump down rabbit holes and cough up a bunch of words on a particular topic or theme.
Chris Earnshaw is an odd and brilliant and sloppy man who vibrates with great joy and grand melancholy. For decades he has ambled through bandstands, major motion pictures and demolition sites, searching for prestige and permanence, all while being ignored on the gray streets of a humdrum capital.
“You know, I believe in the inevitability of the spirit,” he says. “I’ve heard about people gripping the rails of their deathbed, thinking the void awaits them. But that can’t be it, can it? There must be something next, something beyond, for all of us. I don’t want my life to end with people not knowing, or people saying, ‘He could’ve been something!’ ”
So several years ago, he put rubber bands around some of his photographs.
Photo by Michael S. Williamson for The Washington Post
Margaret is buried 1.4 miles from the pool, in Oakwood Cemetery, between her mother and her brother, who died in infancy in 1893. The stones are dateless and unadorned. During demolition and renovation this year, some community members visited the graves to pay their respects, to smooth out any karmic disruption between the distant memory of a girl’s country home and the future vision of a waterslide and volleyball pit.
Somewhere between the desert basins and craggy mountains of far west China, in the lonely expanse to which criminals and subversives have been exiled for generations, a human rights lawyer named Gao Zhisheng presumably sits in prison.
Meanwhile, 6,600 miles away, his wife peels a tangerine in the underground cafeteria of the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. She’s been wearing the same beige blouse for three days. The bunkerlike eatery echoes with lunchtime chatter. She understands little of it.
I met him once. Rather, I ambushed him. It was in the thin air of Telluride, Colo., for the film festival, in 2004. He had just finished a conversation with New Line executive Bob Shaye and came out of the clock tower on W. Colorado Avenue. He was small in person, his face gaunt from skirmishes with cancer. I approached him, joined him in his quarter-mile walk to his lodgings, and spilled it.
Photo illustration by Susana Sanchez-Young & Anne Farrar for The Washington Post
Facebook bought Instagram on Monday for one buh-buh-billion dollars, a tectonic lurch in the realm of social media, and what does this have to do with the real world — the chaotic world that surrounds us, not the orderly one that is contained in the tininess of our smartphone screens?
The cultural legacy of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is at once intensely personal and too galactic to fathom. Without “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” where would we be? We wouldn’t have T-shirt bedsheets, footless pantyhose or the “The Color Purple,” the musical. We wouldn’t have a council of chatty behavioral gurus upon whom Oprah has bequeathed fame and success: financial taskmaster Suze Orman, cooking sprite Rachael Ray, decor wizard Nate Berkus, and doctors Oz and Phil, who’ve made it their business to be in ours.