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.
Sometimes I jump down rabbit holes and cough up a bunch of words on a particular topic or theme. Excerpts and links on the left.
The Prophets of Oak Ridge
Illustration by Jeffrey Smith for The Washington Post
In the summer of 2012, in the dead of night, three peace activists penetrated the exterior of Y-12 in Tennessee, supposedly one of the most secure nuclear-weapons facilities in the United States. A drifter, an 82-year-old nun and a house painter. They face trial next week on charges that fall under the sabotage section of the U.S. criminal code. And if they had been terrorists armed with explosives, intent on mass destruction? That nightmare scenario underlies the government’s response to the intrusion. This is the story of two competing worldviews, of conscience vs. court, of fantasy vs. reality, of history vs. the future.
Their country was turned upside down by the American-led invasion in 2003, and now Iraq’s young — their worldview indelibly shaped by a U.S. military presence that ends next month — are preparing to inherit a nation that still struggles to right itself. Some young Iraqis say they are glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein but feel less safe — and therefore less free — than before 2003, a sentiment reflected in dozens of interviews in eight provinces.
At Cincinnati IRS office, surprise over claims of partisan villainy
Photo by Al Behrman (AP)
The fog of scandal hangs over a boxy, modernist, 10-story building that looks like a monument to paperwork. Shrubs and chain smokers flank its front entrance here on Main Street, in the heart of downtown. Every day, 2,000 employees go to work at various federal agencies in this John F. Kennedy-era structure, whose chief tenant is the Internal Revenue Service — which is having just about the worst week an agency can have.
The U.S. military closed the second of its three regional headquarters in Iraq on Thursday, redeploying 750 soldiers, consolidating command of nationwide operations under a single Army unit and maintaining a rapid pace of withdrawal 10 weeks before the expiration of its security agreement with Baghdad.
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.