I, like a lot of people, read quite a bit of news online. The stories that I find the most interesting, and that tend to linger with me, are about people. Not famous* people, but instead quasi-regular people whose stories intrigue me. This blog will simply be a place to store some of these articles.
*I will, occasionally, post an article about someone that some might consider famous, but probably rarely and definitely not anyone who is in the headlines regularly.
For three decades, Julie Flores was unable to stand upright — the result of a crushing combination of scoliosis and severe dystonia that twisted her spine, quite literally bending her body in half.
“Everybody just laughed at me and called me names, and they were rude to me, and I just didn’t like it,” remembers 39-year-old Flores, whose mild cognitive impairment causes her to speak in a simple, straightforward style.
But last fall, the pain from being bowed in half for most of her life became too much to bear.
“It got to the point where it was so severe, it was crushing her lungs, and her spine was crushing into the rib cage of her pelvis,” says her mother, Lidia Flores, who lives with her husband and their daughter in their South El Monte, Calif., home.
Now, thanks to a remarkable spinal surgery, Flores stands upright, pushing 5-foot-3 — two inches taller than her mother.
by Michael Finkel
photograph by Steve Pyke
“The first thing Daniel Kish does, when I pull up to his tidy gray bungalow in Long Beach, California, is make fun of my driving. ‘You’re going to leave it that far from the curb?’ he asks. He’s standing on his stoop, a good 10 paces from my car. I glance behind me as I walk up to him. I am, indeed, parked about a foot and a half from the curb.
The second thing Kish does, in his living room a few minutes later, is remove his prosthetic eyeballs. He does this casually, like a person taking off a smudged pair of glasses. The prosthetics are thin convex shells, made of acrylic plastic, with light brown irises. A couple of times a day they need to be cleaned. ‘They get gummy,’ he explains. Behind them is mostly scar tissue. He wipes them gently with a white cloth and places them back in.
Kish was born with an aggressive form of cancer called retinoblastoma, which attacks the retinas. To save his life, both of his eyes were removed by the time he was 13 months old. Since his infancy — Kish is now 44 — he has been adapting to his blindness in such remarkable ways that some people have wondered if he’s playing a grand practical joke. But Kish, I can confirm, is completely blind.”
“Lori Berenson has always loved to walk. When she was a high-school student in Manhattan in the mid-1980s, she walked home at night from her job at Pasta & Cheese, on the Upper East Side, to the apartment where she grew up, on East 25th Street. When she began her prison sentence in Peru, in 1996, for collaborating with a terrorist group, convicted terrorists had to spend 23½ hours a day inside their cells. Even then, Berenson walked in the 6-by-9-foot space she and another woman shared — two steps forward, two steps backward — for hours. “People ask, what did you miss most?” she said in August, two and a half months after she was released on parole, having served nearly 15 years of a 20-year sentence. “This was definitely it.”
It was after dark, and we were taking a rapid, circuitous walk through a park that clutches the crumbly cliff tops in the Miraflores district of Lima, where Berenson and her 15-month-old son, Salvador, had been living since her release. (Berenson’s parole requires that she remain in Peru until 2015.) They were sharing an apartment with a family friend and, temporarily, Berenson’s parents, who were visiting from New York. Berenson had recently separated from her husband — Salvador’s father — whom she’d met in prison while he, too, was serving a sentence for terrorism. Soon after his release in 2003, they married, and Salvador was conceived during a conjugal visit. The boy spent his first year of life with Berenson in the women’s prison in Chorrillos, Lima.”
“From the time he was young boy, Mark Hawthorne understood the power of words. His father was a reporter for the Associated Press and his mother was a school teacher. So when Hawthorne landed his dream job and became a reporter for The New York Times, everything seemed to fall into place. Except that it all fell apart.
These days, Hawthorne uses the power of words in a different way. Mostly, it’s to say, “fuck you” or “I hate you.” For the past 25 years, Hawthorne has lived on the streets of Berkeley, where he’s developed a following and is known by the moniker “Hate Man,” or simply “Hate,” as he prefers. But Hate isn’t hateful, per se. Rather, he believes that people are most caring when they’re upfront about their disdain for each other. Only then, he says, can people trust one another.”
By Manny Fernandez
“The cigarettes Audrey Silk used to smoke — Parliament Lights — are made at a factory in Richmond, Va. The cigarettes she smokes these days are made and grown in Brooklyn, at her house.
Ms. Silk’s backyard is home to raspberry and rose bushes, geraniums, impatiens and 100 tobacco plants in gardening buckets near her wooden deck. Inside her house, around the corner from Flatbush Avenue, in Marine Park, she has to be careful stepping into her basement — one wrong move could ruin her cigarettes. Dozens of tobacco leaves hang there, drying on wires she has strung across the room, where they turn a crisp light brown as they age above a stack of her old Springsteen records.
She talks about cartons and packs in relation to crops and seeds. Planted in 2009, her first crop— 25 plants of Golden Seal Special Burley tobacco — produced nine cartons of cigarettes. Ms. Silk would have spent more than $1,000 had she bought nine cartons in parts of New York City. Instead, she spent $240, mostly for the trays, the buckets and plant food.”
“The more, the merrier is certainly true for Ziona Chana, a 66-year-old
man in India’s remote northeast who has 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren — and wouldn’t mind having more.
They all live in a four-story building with 100 rooms in a mountainous village in Mizoram state, sharing borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, media reports said.
‘I once married 10 women in one year,’ he was quoted as saying.
His wives share a dormitory near Ziona’s private bedroom and locals said he likes to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.
The sons and their wives, and all their children, live in different rooms in the same building, but share a common kitchen.”