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Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?

The writer joins a Texas couple on an elephant hunt in Botswana and questions whether a regulated hunting industry could help the elephant population in the country:

“If he charges, I’m gonna shoot him,” Robyn says. The entourage begins a dainty heel-to-toe march into the spiky undergrowth. As it turns out, it is not one elephant but two. One is the big, old, shootable bull. The other is a younger male. Elephants never stop growing, a meliorative aspect of which (elephant-hunt-misgivings-wise) is that the mongo bulls that hunters most want to shoot also happen to be the oldest animals, usually within five or so years of mandatory retirement, when elephants lose their last set of molars and starve to death.

For the record, this detail does not soothe me as the guns make their way toward the elephants under the tree. I have not yet figured out how to dislike elephants enough to want to see one shot. In private treason against my hosts, I am thinking, Not now, not now. Let it please not get shot today.

PUBLISHED: June 4, 2014
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8196 words)

The Elvis Impersonator, the Karate Instructor, a Fridge Full of Severed Heads, and the Plot 2 Kill the President

The strange story behind the Mississippi man who sent ricin laced letters to a local judge, a senator, and President Obama:

"After a long and pointless back-and-forth, they put their cards on the table. A Homeland Security agent asks Curtis point-blank, '"Are you familiar with ricin?"

"'And I say, "I don’t like rice. I don’t really eat rice. If y’all look in my house, you won’t find any rice."

"'He’s like, "Ricin, Mr. Curtis, ricin. Like anthrax."

"'I say, "I’ve never heard of that in my life, sir."

"'He says, "You’re a liar."'

"At the end of a seven-hour grilling, the agents are beginning to suspect that they’ve picked up the wrong man. 'Finally, they know they aren’t getting anywhere, and they ask me, "Do you have any enemies? Do you know of anyone who wants to harm you?" I say, "Yeah, Everett Dutschke."'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 30, 2013
LENGTH: 36 minutes (9024 words)

The Old Man at Burning Man

[Not single-page] A son and his father take a trip together to Burning Man:

I return to the safety of the RV after several hours roving the playa. My father is MIA. I picture him on a gurney, succumbing to a bronchial attack. Maybe lost in a dust storm, pedaling out into the desert's lethal infinitude. Close to dinnertime, he returns, and in the manner of some nagging spouse, I commence to chew his ass. 'Where the hell did you go?'

He shoots me a blank and rather guilty look. 'James and I went to the Naked Tiki Bar,' he says.

'You got naked?'

'I certainly did,' he says. 'It was a remarkably friendly place. And I actually found it very liberating to see these enormously fat women being perfectly willing to bare everything. It was fun to see all of that voluptuality. What did you discover?'
PUBLISHED: Feb. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 34 minutes (8736 words)

Desperately Seeking Mitt

[Not single-page] What is Mitt Romney's true personality? And can joining the press on his campaign bus for five months shed any light on it?

"When the speech winds down, I talk with a woman named Pam DeLong, who is a Tea Partier here in Laurens. She is for Newt because he's for real, he's a smarty, and because of stuff like the Jordan Cash moment. 'When that little boy came over, he stopped and talked to him, and he was so natural, and then he just went back into his speech without missing a beat. Romney couldn't do that. Newt knows what he's talking about. He doesn't let things fluster him, which is why I think he'd be the best guy to take on Obama.'

"In other words, Newt is an ideal candidate because when an infant pestered him, he hacked it, took it like a man, a pro. If it were Romney? And an infant started fucking with him? You know it would be bad, some pediatric version of the time he sang 'Who Let the Dogs Out' to black teens in Florida. 'Hello, little organism different from myself. I will now make noises that I believe are comprehensible to your kind.'"
PUBLISHED: July 24, 2012
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7926 words)

The Well-Hung Boy Next Door

Men rarely become porn stars, but James Deen has found a large following simply by being "average":

"James Deen, whose real name is Bryan Sevilla, grew up in Pasadena, California. His parents are both, after a fashion, rocket scientists. His father is a mechanical engineer for NASA. His mother does data analysis for the space agency. Deen, contrary to our notion of porn stars as survivors of sexual trauma, does not recall any sexual abuse or destructive misadventures, other than a teacher who Deen says tried to molest him when he was 8 or 9, but Deen "punched his testicles a lot" and made good his escape.

"Deen lost his virginity at age 12 during a sleepover at a Jewish camp. Not long after, in junior high school, he made enemies of the football team by having sex with a player's sister in the school pool during gym. He had some drug escapades in junior high. He spent a couple of years in outpatient rehab. Around age 15, he left high school and moved out and spent two years more or less homeless, hanging around with a crew of gutter punks. Relations with his parents remained reasonably cordial. They furnished him with a cell phone, and he periodically snuck into his mom's house to do laundry. (Deen's parents are divorced.)"
PUBLISHED: July 2, 2012
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7570 words)

Post-Darwinian Experiments in Consciousness and Other Stories

[Fiction] “It just doesn’t make sense,” she said. “I mean, my sisters get pregnant looking at a cologne ad. They get pregnant in pollen season.” For six months they had been trying to conceive, and still her period was as regular as the tide. She decided to see a doctor. He told her it would be a waste of money, that the fertility counselor would probably recommend treatments linked to uterine cancer. He went into obscure specifics about the effect of fertility drugs on “weak hydrogen bonds” in the DNA molecule. She listened because he was a very intelligent person who knew more than she did about most things, but in the end she arranged an appointment anyway. To her surprise, the fertility counselor told her that drugs were not necessary. Her hormone levels were fine, and her ovarian reserve was well above the baseline for her age.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 28, 2011
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1602 words)

Welcome to the Far Eastern Conference

Exiled from the NBA, vilified by the press, and ridiculed for a serious of questionable YouTube videos (eating Vaseline? c'mon!), Stephon Marbury is seeking redemption—and vast riches—in basketball-mad China. Now, if he can just win over his Communist bosses, he'll be the biggest thing since Yao Ming
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2011
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5683 words)

Barry Hannah in Conversation with Wells Tower

"Barry Hannah is America's greatest living writer" is something I started saying when I first read Hannah’s work in the late 1990s. I’m sad I had to stop saying it on March 1 of this year, when Barry passed away. ... "HANNAH: The alcohol had the code and mystery about it as a writer’s drug, but I’m glad that’s been debunked. But the trouble with the drinking, much as I hate to admit it, is it helped the work. The first two drinks were always wonderfully liberating. You think better. You’re braver, and you’ll say anything. If you could just hang in there with two or three, it’d be beautiful. The trouble was I couldn’t."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 1, 2010
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4488 words)


[Fiction] A young boy plays with the truth as he skips school one day:

"Your stepfather walks toward you. He takes your chin in his thumb and forefinger, and turns your face back and forth, as though it were a piece of merchandise he was thinking about buying.

"'You must have fallen pretty easy,' he says. 'When you faint, you go down hard. You don’t have any cuts.'"

PUBLISHED: Nov. 10, 2008
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4559 words)