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What Happened Here cover hi-resI knew all about the crash when I moved onto Boundary Street in 2003. Everyone in San Diego did. Twenty-five years earlier, the deadliest airline disaster in U.S. history occurred above our homes before we lived here. It’s still the deadliest in California. PSA Flight 182 and a Cessna collided mid-air over our North Park neighborhood.

The perspective from the ground was shown afterward on the cover of TIME Magazine and newspapers around the world:  The flaming Pacific Southwest Airlines jet carrying a hundred and thirty-seven passengers plunged towards what was now our backyards.

Who do I dream of, if I do not dream of Sylvie? In whose arms do I imagine myself, if not in hers? In whose embrace do I slumber in my most precious heart?

She was my only. No crush or boyfriend could compete. She was the beginning and end of my experience with falling in love.

Sam’s co-worker Carla is talking about her three-year-old son Rico’s obsession with death. “He says to me, ‘Mama, I don’t want to die. I really, really don’t want to die.’”

We were both eighteen but Rebecca was hopelessly naïve. She talked about her crush, Brother Matthew, with an unbridled enthusiasm I hadn’t seen since middle school. The first time he flirted with her, she told me the story like her life was never going to be the same.

When he was “babysitting” Rebecca and her brother one night, Matthew opted to join her on the couch instead of sitting alone on the love seat. The babysitting thing was pretty ridiculous considering that Rebecca was old enough to menstruate, drive and even vote, though as a Jehovah’s Witness, she never would.

Tortilla

On Thursday Nights I take a class at the Junior College.  Philosophy 101.  I know, I know, you’re supposed to call them Community Colleges, but they’ve only been Community Colleges for, oh, maybe fifteen years.  For thirty years I knew it as East L.A. Junior College.  It still sounds better to me.  Looking up is better than looking down.

Kill-Marguerite-Megan-Milks-webLevel One: The Rope Swing

BEGIN>> So they are at the rope swing, swinging. The rope swing is this dinky little wooden seat knotted onto a long rope that hangs from a sturdy big tree branch and it swoops back and forth over Swift Creek Reservoir, and you can stand on the seat or sit or whatever. Some of the boys even climb up the rope while it’s swinging because they’re showoffs like that. And there is Caty in her jean shorts and old New Kids on the Block t-shirt getting Hot and Heavy with Alex on the rope swing, at least she guesses that this is what that means.

Karate Chop“Nat Newsom”

If I were to single out one person in particular from my extensive studies of human behavior it would have to be Nat Newsom, whom I knew ten years ago, or rather ran into outside the McDonald’s I passed each day on my way to work at Columbia University. Nat Newsom opened the door for the customers of McDonald’s while rattling a plastic cup he for want of a better solution had taped to his wrist. The reason Nat more than anyone else stands out for me as special is not simply that he was able to keep his spirits up despite lacking health care and the deposit his former landlord had vanished into thin air with. That was part of it, but more specifically it was because of the paradox of Nat, genetically predisposed to naïveté as he was, lacking the very quality that characterizes the condition.

ISLECoverLessons

1.

There are four of them.

Dana, Jackie, Pinky, and Cora are cousins. Pinky is also Dana’s little brother. They call themselves the Gorillas because all gangs need a name—see Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Stopwatch Gang, Winter Hill Gang—and also because they wear gorilla masks during their hold-ups. They are criminals, but they still have rules: no hostages, small scores, never stay in one town for more than a week. It’s late summer and they’re roving through the Midwest, from motel to motel, making just enough to keep going. Dana watches the impossibly flat landscapes of Lafayette and Oneida pass through the car window and wonders how they all ended up here. Why didn’t they go to school and get regular jobs and get married and live in houses? The short answer: they are a group of people committed to making life as hard as possible.

kealey_thievesknownThe Boots

from Thieves I’ve Known

 

It was a visiting priest, as it often was, and the two altar boys half-listened to the homily and stared out at the small congregation. Snow was falling fast outside, and many of the old people had stayed home, but there was one man – more ancient than any they’d seen – sitting in the back of the church, and he was obviously a homeless man and a little drunk tonight.

51jB6gR4KMLTerror Birds

 

Jack: My mother used to tell me that I was a changeling, born out of an ostrich egg. We lived then on an ostrich farm, so it was not as strange as it sounds. At the age of nine, I went through a monster phase, in which Mom indulged me. She and I would drive to the library and come home with books of real-life horrors, which she would read to me before bed, as though to guarantee I would not fall asleep until dawn. I loved them all: giant squids, alligators, and woolly mammoths, now extinct. But none could touch the majesty and strangeness of the beasts I was accustomed to. 

 Dark Lies the IslandERNESTINE AND KIT

Two ladies in their sixties made ground through north County Sligo in a neat Japanese car. The sky above Lough Gill was deep blue and the world was fat on the blood of summer. The speed limit was carefully abided and all the turns were slowed for. There was the carnival air of a fine Saturday in June. A vintage car show had drawn a crowd in 1920s boaters and blazers to Kilmore; the old Fords and Triumphs honked cheerfully in the sun, and the ladies as they passed by smiled and waved. There was a lengthy queue for the ferry ride to the lake isle of Inishfree, there were castles to be visited, and way-marked walks to be hotly trailed. All the shaded tables outside the village pubs were full and tinkled with glasses and laughter, and children played unguarded in the cool of the woods.

‘When it gets a good old lick of weather at all,’ Ernestine said, ‘this is one powerful country.’ 

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Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula

One. In high school Peggy Paula worked as a waitress at the Perkins. Night shifts were her favorite, kids from her school would come in after games or dances with bleary eyes and messy hair and Peggy Paula knew they’d been drinking and smoking those flimsy joints she’d see them passing, the girls with smudged makeup and rats nests in the back of their heads, proud unblinking eyes, scanning the dining room like I dare you, I dare you to guess what I just let Jared or Steve or Casey do to me, I let him and I liked it and I don’t care, and Peggy Paula honored just to be near these girls, envious, taking their orders for French fries and Ranch, keeping their secrets and the sticky lipgloss tubes they’d sometimes leave behind, watermelon and cherry and berry and once a spicy cinnamon that burned Peggy Paula’s lips for an hour, what kind of girl wanted burning lips, poison lips,

fun partsThe sign in the Sweet Apple kitchen declared it a nut-free zone, and every September somebody, almost always a dad, cracked the usual stupid joke. The gag, Laura, the school director, told Tovah, would either mock the school’s concern for potentially lethal legumes or else suggest that despite the sign’s assurance, not everyone at Sweet Apple could boast of sanity.

Today, as Tovah leaned into the fridge to adjust the lunch bag heap, a skinny gray-haired man in a polo shirt, old enough to be the grandfather of the girl who called him “Papa” as he nudged her toward the cubbies, winked at Tovah, pointed to the sign.

Here it came, the annual benediction.

Winter was coming and Herbert was afraid that he had not adequately prepared. It was an abstract and, in many ways, absurd fear, given that his radiator functioned perfectly and his checking account was plentiful, given that for long stretches of winter one could simply forget about the weather roiling outside. One could stay inside. Herbert was a man for whom the Internet meme “first world problems” had been coined. Recently, at a literary event in East Atlanta Village, a local author had juxtaposed the image of hipsters wallowing in self-induced poverty with that of AIDS-ravaged sub-Saharan Africans, as if to say to Herbert, and people like Herbert, boy, do you have it good. And he had not taken it personally. Indeed, he had laughed as loud as anyone. He did have it good.

Spectacle-1I once hung out with this shit group of kids and they were just such shit.

This to say I made some mistakes.

Like breaking into this one guy’s car.

Like stealing the stereo out of that car.

I was young and I didn’t steal the stereo because I wanted the stereo.

I stole it, rather, because I wanted the guy.

This to say I just wanted some thing the guy owned.

This more to say that nothing else mattered in that moment except this thing the guy owned, this thing that, I now know, was not the guy.