Now Lee Ielpi is an ambassador for the dead, crisscrossing the country to talk to school and community groups about the moment that jarred all our lives and continues to shape our future.
On Tuesday Sept. 11, as midnight approached, I reluctantly reached out and turned off the television. Like every American, I felt shocked, sickened, dispirited.
Movies and television shows are stories a culture tells about itself. But who is doing the telling? And what is their point? We live in a culture that venerates the psychopath.
Two weeks ago, I was just a journalism professor with a bad attitude, but now I’m Mick Dillon, avenger of justice and world-weary shamus, poking my nose into the dark corners of home and hearth. It ain’t always pretty.
“Amadan,” for instance. There’s a word I’ll surely never hear again. It is an old Gaelic word that translated loosely – and gently – refers to someone who is not terribly bright. More specifically, when I was a boy, an “amadan” was any careless driver (see also: “horse’s ass” who pulled into my father’s path on the highway.)
In Upstate New York, the merest rumor that El Niño might touch down in Tibet is cause for the cancellation of school. I stumbled downstairs to make a strong pot of coffee.
If what happened to Abner Louima had happened in Haiti, or Honduras, or El Salvador, or Mexico, it would not have been news. Torture and execution are so commonplace in many Central American and Caribbean countries, and the ability of the press to report so weak, that only a day without state-sponsored brutality would truly qualify as newsworthy.
In contrast to Elvis’s spare, countrified arrangements of the 1950s, Chuck Berry’s tunes sounded like late night traffic jams, with guitars crashing into drums and horns swerving around staggering bass notes.
The circus comes to us from an age beyond living memory; something resembling a circus first appeared in Philadelphia in 1793 and Aron Turner took a canvas big top on the road in 1830. But the circus as we know it took shape and reached its peak of popularity in the 1890s, as did the World’s Fairs and the scientific museums – developments that not coincidentally paralleled and age of American expansion and imperialism.
Robert ordered a double shot of vodka, slid onto a stool and peered through the smoke of the 8th Avenue bar in search of a good listener. There were few. Between gulps of whiskey and beer everyone was jabbering and no one was listening. Robert is 60 years old, but looks 70. Time has whittledContinue reading “One Guy Keeps Alive a Lost Art”
From a distance, it was a touching scene really. The big man’s arm was wrapped around the slender shoulders of his woman, his enormous, calloused paw gently cradled her head, his gait slowed to a shuffle so she could walk at her own slow pace. The nurse directed them to an examining table and pulled a curtain to remove the couple from view, but their voices could not be curtained.
Bloomsburg Press-Enterprise, August 8, 1987 The sky was blue and blinding but in the hollow there was no sunlight. Tree limbs hung in a canopy over the road and on each side of the road the forest was deep, layered with pine needles, hollow and lightless. A white van was parked on the side ofContinue reading “In that place where the spirit fails”
The kids on the hillside had it good. We had neighbors and stores and could go downtown. But we could also retreat to the forest and in the summers we did, playing war among the crumbling stone walls of long-gone farms, building forts, making death-defying climbs along the 50-foot cliffs out of sight of meddlesome parents. When we got older, we hauled sleeping bags, food and, invariably, a six-pack pilfered from someone’s parents, to the cliffs, building bonfires and settling to sleep watching the lights blink out one at a time in the hills beyond.
His name was Charlie Washington and he was returning home from his mother’s house in Cleveland. He had been hiding out there for the duration of the Elvis-death celebration in Memphis. Guys like Charlie, who live mostly on the street in Memphis, are quickly shoved out of sight when the tourists are in town to mourn the King.