Interviews & First Person

A Play at Contrition

His hands were in the belly pockets of the coat and as he drew close I noticed that he had a lazy eye. I don’t like to categorize people on the basis of their looks, but this man was a perfect rendering of a pulp novel hustler, appearing dangerous not so much for what he could do physically but, rather, morally.

For David Walley

Like a boxer, he was light on his feet, he hit from the center of his weight outward, and you didn’t know where it was gonna come from, but it always connected.

Unbreaking the Circle

05.19.2006 | John Sprung | Interviews & First Person | 17 Comments
Literature and music are replete with images of the circle as a signifier of completion and fullness. Steinbeck’s Preacher Casey as well as songwriters Joni Mitchell and Harry Chapin have utilized this metaphor, and the old hymn, “Will the circle be unbroken” points us to that someday when all will be made whole. Completely unbeknownst to me at the time, a circle began forming for me on July 6, 1967, when a fellow Air Force officer named Melvin Pollack climbed into his F-4 fighter jet for his 78th and final mission over the unfriendly skies of North Vietnam

Hardly A Headline

For a while as an AP reporter in Los Angeles, I started my day chatting up the mother of a man who murdered Bobby Kennedy, tearing a big hole in U.S. history. Most of the world probably missed it last week when Sirhan Sirhan was again turned down for parole. Like a tree that falls unheard in the forest, little note was made of it -- even Sirhan didn't show up for his 13th parole hearing.

An Inconvenience Rightly Considered

Just before dusk, the people of San Carlos disappeared into their houses and pulled the curtains shut, as if an air raid siren had gone off at a frequency I couldn’t hear. Then, as the sun sunk over the lake, the chayules came. Tiny green gnats, flying in thick clouds, crowding my eyes, my nose, my throat. I tried to cover my face, but they darted through my fingers and into my mouth and ears. The occasional car, sliding by like a ghost in the gloaming, would illuminate hundreds of thousands of insects in their headlights. Because the chayules are attracted to white light, all the light bulbs in San Carlos are dark red, giving the empty city a hellish scarlet glow.

Getting It Right

“Hey – Stuckey says Wallace has been shot!”

My mind raced back to the night when an AP reporter phoned the bureau with the stunning report that Robert Kennedy had been shot. Before moving the bulletin, the bureau chief queried the reporter to make sure there was no mistake.

I grabbed the telephone. Now it was my turn to ask the questions.

© 2006 Hanna Mandelbaum

Ali's Nose

01.21.2006 | Hannah Meyers | Interviews & First Person, Science | 13 Comments

If she only had a sense of smell, Alison Bernstein has told friends, she would be perfect. But as it is, she wanders the world cut off from the sensations and signals that guide those around her. She can’t identify her boyfriend by the smell left on his shirts. When she passes the Nuts4Nuts vendor, and friends exclaim over the delightful aroma, she can only nod and smile.

Saucy Scene

01.10.2006 | George Zucker | Interviews & First Person | 2 Comments

Don’t look for the film in the dark recesses where video stores hide the adult tapes and DVDs. At the Florida premiere, and in the years since then, millions of moviegoers have missed the saucy scene because it’s on the screen for barely a heart-stopping instant.

Rape? A day in the life of an aspiring artist

I didn’t know if this was rape or not. I didn’t know whether her plea was merely a request or a firm stance on the matter.
“Keep shooting!” said Big A.
N. kept shooting.

You Rip Out His Eyeball…

Welcome To Lolita-Land

Lolita is obscene. It is a love story, but there is nothing redeeming in this love, only the all-consuming sexual obsession of our pedophilic hero.
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The Spoiled Coconuts of Bikini Atoll

07.18.2005 | George Zucker | Interviews & First Person | 2 Comments
The returning Bikinians would inherit the massive concrete bunkers and miles of copper cable – the only visible reminder that the tiny atoll had known the fury of the atom. No relic of their culture remained, save a few scarred tombstones in the village graveyard.

Space Monkeys, Gooney Birds and the Summer of 69

Over eight weeks, my small AP bureau in Honolulu lurched through the world’s top stories — the mysterious demise of Bonny the space monkey, Kennedy’s crash, the return of man’s first moonwalkers, a naval disaster that killed 74 American sailors, and the first U.S. troop withdrawal from Vietnam.

The Day the Martians Came

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Carl Phillips again, at the Wilmut farm in Grovers Mill. This is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed. Wait a minute – someone’s crawling, someone or something. I can see the thing’s body. It’s large as a bear, and it glistens like wet leather. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva ripping from its rimless lips. It’s about 20 yards to my right….”

Cafeteria Culture & the Kettle Choppers

"The cafeterias and the automats were the center of New York intellectual life back then," they told me, each one finishing the other's thought, as old couples often will. "You'd buy a sandwich or a piece of pie, both if you could afford it, but what you really went there to do was talk." It was they who explained to me the odd Yiddish idiom, "to chop a tea kettle." "It means," they said, "that a person makes a lot of noise without accomplishing anything."

Letter from Budapest -- My Grandmother and Other Ghosts

My grandfather had warned me not to go to Hungary, that there was nothing for me to see. He had gone back a few years after my grandmother died and found nothing left to speak of in his Transylvanian town, not even a memorial plaque, and had gotten lost on the subway. If it was possible to further estrange him from Eastern Europe after the Holocaust, this seemed to do it.

Carpet Smuggling in Azerbaijan

The official looked troubled but also reluctant to jump start his brain with such a dilemma so early in the morning. Why would a foreigner have gone to the trouble of getting an export certificate for one carpet and not the other? Why had he been so eager to show off the silk carpet yet so absent-minded about the wool one? How could he strictly observe the caviar export limit yet so brazenly ignore the rule on carpets? Foreigners were liable to the most curious and inexplicable behavior.

The Disappearance of a Lover's Face

I was shocked by the photo of a former lover...

Debris -- Murder and Regret

I spent the next three days pushing buttons. I wanted to help and they told me the best way to help was to do what I was told. That's how I got my Emmy. For doing what I was told and watching people jump out of the Twin Towers, in fast forward and reverse. Some sixty times I watched the Towers fall. Like a chimp in a Skinner box.

Napoli, Mi'Amore

The Japanese have fallen in love with this city because of a near unlimited supply of extraordinary sea food, because of its pizza (the best in the world), because of the cheap, hip clothing and cafes, and -- don't let the teenagers riding Vespas haphazardly on jam-packed sidewalks fool you -- because Napoli is possibly the most laid back place in the world, and the Japanese really need to relax.

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