April 26, 2016

Cattle rustling, signature crime of the Old West, has returned to Texas. “These days, we got more rustlers than you can say grace over,” Ranger Wayne Goodman told me. “It used to be you didn’t catch a rustler that didn’t know cattle, or at least have some kind of agriculture in their background. Now, what with the drought, it doesn’t take much skill. Cows are so thirsty you can lead them into a trailer with just a bucket of water.”

March 28, 2017

If you live elsewhere in Florida, and happen to have grown up in another state, Key West provides a nostalgic return to normalcy.

June 13, 2017

Photographs from the Summer 2017 issue by Johanne Rahaman with an introduction by Sarah Stacke.

Built in the early 1940s, Blodgett Homes is a 654-unit public housing complex. According to Cherlise, who was born in 1982, the community there used to operate like a family-minded village. But a downward spiral began in 1960 when Interstate 95 was built—with the government’s full understanding of the disruption it would cause—on the complex’s doorstep, provoking many families to move.

June 12, 2018

A Points South profile from the Summer 2018 issue

There was no telling how long the stoplight at the base of the 8th Street hill would stay green when Grant Taylor began bombing toward it. He was in a low crouch, muscling his skateboard against the blacktop, popping ollies and carving tight S curves down the center stripe of one of midtown Atlanta’s steepest streets. With each push of his left leg, exponentially more asphalt roared past him.

November 20, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

I first heard Wesley Johnson’s name in 2008 while speaking with Carlotta Fleming (née Samuels) about her vocal group, Odyssey 5. After recording their lone LP, First Time Around, for Brunswick Records in 1974, she’d spent a few years in Italy singing in a group called Wess Machine, the namesake disco ensemble of a man named Wesley Johnson—a Winston-Salem native who’d been moving and shaking to some degree in Italy. I didn’t get tied up in the few details Fleming had to offer, so I was floored a decade later to encounter a box of Wesley Johnson LPs—all Italian pressings—in a Jamaican record shop. These beautiful, gatefold affairs revealed that Johnson was not some draft dodger or bail hopper, but a prolific expat whose overseas success story remained mostly unknown back home. In Winston-Salem, his sister Linda told me the best person to speak to about Wesley would be his best friend, Carl Ray Johnson, whom I knew as the drummer and primary songwriter for the Eliminators, another important local soul combo from the seventies. Luckily, I was already in touch with Carl.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Before she was Catwoman on the television show Batman in the 1960s, before she spoke out against the Vietnam War and was exiled for it, before her redemption and the sold-out shows with a multicultural international repertoire at Café Carlyle in New York City in the 1990s, she was simply Eartha Mae Keith, a little girl who never knew her daddy and whose mama had given her away before she was school-aged because she couldn’t afford to keep her.

September 05, 2013
The first thing Brooks County lead investigator Danny Davila wants to know is whether I have a weak stomach. He shows me pages from “the Dead Book”—inside are dozens of laminated photographs of the remains of the thirty-four undocumented immigrants who have died in the county’s scrub brush so far that year. Then, a rancher called in a Code 500; the thirty-fifth body of the year has been discovered. If my stomach is up to it, I can accompany Davila on the retrieval.
February 02, 2017

When CeDell Davis was a boy, his mother told him he would go to hell if he kept on playing the guitar and messing around with the devil’s music. Davis was born in the Delta town of Helena in 1926, and there was no shortage of devilment. A bustling cotton port on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, Helena was like a Chicago or Memphis in miniature, home to scores of white saloons and black juke joints where bootleggers, gamblers, and hustlers gathered. It was violent and wild and music was everywhere, from the clubs downtown to the street corners by the docks. “Back then, Helena was wide open,” Davis told me. “If you had the money, you could get whatever you want.” 

March 28, 2017

When it’s the end of the world as you know it, the qualities you look for in a leader begin to coalesce mainly around finding stuff to eat. 

April 18, 2017

But those are facts, and “facts” are exactly what I don’t want to know, inasmuch as they will inevitably get in the way of the little fictions I’ve enjoyed telling myself during my walks for most of the last twenty-five years.