Columbia, S.C.—Early last summer my wife and I were having dinner with some friends in Springfield, Virginia. By “dinner” I mean that our hosts made tacos and we stood in the kitchen eating them—the tacos, not my friend and his wife—while drinking beer. Then the men in our group started talking, as Men Do, about work. The man of the house, whose common sense I have never gainsaid, insisted there was no way Donald Trump was serious about running for president. Male heads bobbed in agreement. My wife, the happiest pessimist of my acquaintance, insisted that we were fools.
A dozen exhausted people stood at Terminal 2 of Dulles Airport on a Sunday morning in October. For nearly two hours they waved flags, shook signs, and readied applause as the automatic doors opened to reveal… yet another passenger pushing a cart full of luggage through the threshold. They’ve never seen Naqeeb Jaan, but they know he can’t be the middle-aged man disembarking from Emirates Flight 231, direct from Dubai. They know because Janis Shinwari told them so.
I paid someone to shave me on my first morning as a Democratic activist. It was expensive, but very pleasant. The barber didn’t take debit cards, so I had to run to an ATM in order to pay him. When I returned wheezing in my well-chosen tweed and lavender cashmere sweater combo—I thought hard about my outfit that day—I apologized. “No problem,” he said. “Happy to wait. You look so handsome.”
Augustus Sol Invictus first made headlines last month when the Associated Press reported that the Orlando-based attorney seeking the Libertarian Party nomination for the Senate seat held by Marco Rubio had ritually slaughtered a goat. “I did sacrifice a goat,” Invictus told the AP, adding that the avowed act of sorcery was “probably a quibble in the mind of most Americans.”
I was sitting in the basement of a Hampton Inn in Winchester, Virginia, when I first realized I was in over my head. As I sat wondering about the basic rules for each of the twelve different stages of the National Rifle Association’s World Shooting Championship (WSC) that I and the 225 or so people around me would be competing in over the next three days, the people who do this for a living peppered the organizers with detailed questions about the minutiae of how each stage is scored.
SIMI VALLEY, Calif.—There are many things that only someone who made the trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley for the second round of 2016 Republican presidential debates could tell you about. I could tell you about the teenager holding a “KANYE FOR PREZ” sign or the line of people chanting anti-Planned Parenthood slogans or the shirtless kids who threw their Oakland Raiders banner over the window of the press shuttle at the foot of the hill leading up to the library. I could tell you how, unless you ignored the directions emailed to members of the press, which took me and my Uber driver to a strip mall miles away from the spot where I eventually picked up my press credentials, it was very difficult to get in to the library and nearly impossible to get out.
The boat carrying former Marine interpreter Sami Kazikhani began to take on water a couple dozen meters from the coast. All that stood between the 50 souls on board and doom was the thin layer of black rubber that was built to sustain 25 people. Passengers started ditching the bags that carried what was left of their possessions into the sea. Some men hopped out to push the craft toward shore.
Just before midnight on Dec. 17, 1874, a crew member cried out on the deck of the steamship S.S. Japan. There was a fire. In just 45 minutes, the flames engulfed the 4,000-ton ship’s wooden hull, trapping some of the passengers below deck. Others, mostly Chinese migrant workers, could not reach the lifeboats and jumped into the South China Sea, where they were weighed down by their gold-filled belts and sank to the bottom. The Chinese laborers were returning home from the American West.
I arrive just in time to see a white man slip something that looks like a bag of powder to a black man wearing a green Red Sox cap. The hands part and go into the respective pockets, no need to double check the cash or product. Behind them a group of three dozen yuppies play bocce ball. A normal Tuesday evening at Franklin Square’s I Street entrance.