Sampling of Stuff
Live and Let Die
How a small, simple feeding tube triggered a global war over when it is, finally, time to die.
LOST ON EARTH
Harrowing tales from the Cold War's collapse. "Reads like a volume of beautifully imagined short stories," says Salon.
Power of Parental Grief
Sad, driven parents make for good drama, but often bad laws.
Nothing Happens for a Reason
I've been riding since I was twelve and haven't improved much, if you count skill, but always keep a proper distance from the traffic behind me and always split lanes only to annoy you. I've devoted my life to avoiding slow or sudden death. So be kind, unwind and don't tailgate a motorcycle, because the rider just might be somebody's demented old granny with a hankering to try out that totally legal new assault weapon.
All seriousness aside, my name is Mark Fritz, and this is my footprint on the Web. There are 187 people with my name in the United States alone, and most of them have websites. But mine is special. Links are broken and photos make no sense. This site is about crickets and tumbleweeds. Comments are welcome but never acknowledged.
Recently, I think I finally destroyed this bike, which had the soul of the triple two-banger Kawasaki H2 I bought in 1973 when I was sixteen. Just 277 miles into a ping-pong trip across the country and I rode off a Blue Ridge mountain and broke my sternum and ribs four through eight. Separated both shoulders and blew out a knee that was pretty messed up anyway.
This is a 500 pound bike pumping 200 ponies, and force plus velocity divided by human daydreaming equaled me and machine hurtling through 40 yards of field and into a ravine that bled into a canyon in the great catatonic state of West Virginia. Imagine falling from a building and bouncing off the sides, only horizontally. The bike and I collided a couple times like twin Nordbergs, and my chest sheared off the handlebars as the Ninja vanished in a cloud of pieces, some hanging from trees. I grabbed weeds about 20 feet down down the ravine and worried absurdly that I might get poison ivy.
Fortunately, it was a nice revenue source for the local EMTs, cops, tow truckers, the sleazy motel operator, funeral directors and an Appalachian hospital where flies, flickering lights, little-seen staff and horror-movie interior design nailed the Southern Goth vibe. The most rational person in ICU was a woman screaming with horrific urgency and chilling vocal pitch for someone to "HELLPP MMEEEEE!!!! I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!!" After five hours of waiting for at least an aspirin, I walked out of that place happy that I had half a rib cage totally uninjured.
Mourning my machine and zoned on painkillers, I subsequently went on Craigslist and bought a Bandit 1250, which I tricked a bit to boost performance and glued rocks and slathered red paint to give it a rat-bike look. I'm mostly healthy, though my body is now shaped like a recliner. Thanks for asking.
This is just one of the crazy-ass transit flubs inflicted on yours truly, who nevertheless is the greatest drag racer to ever split traffic on Manhattan's West Side Highway. I was crowned king of the road by somebody (OK, it was me) who spent hours, days, past lifetimes, filtering and threading through Earth's angriest motorists against an equally asinine opponent until one of us beat a light and left the other stopped dead at a red. Legend has it that I lost only once, when I was pancaked by a crack-addled cabbie and a white Chevy van both vying to cut me off. My jaw was wired and I discovered a whole new world of chilled avocado soup with swirls of butternut squash.
In retrospect, riding off a Blue Ridge Mountain was pretty cool, just another reminder that you can leave this mortal coil without letting the attrition of age take its long, miserable toll. I've embraced year-round sport touring for lack of anything better to do. My career as a newspaperman pretty much ended with the mass suicide of newspapers, which, frankly, was a good thing. Journalism needed a reboot.
Mainly to get out of the office, I've been a roving national or international correspondent for The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and Boston Globe. I covered the unification of Germany, collapse of the Soviet Union, and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Lower Manhattan, Somalia, Chechnya, Bosnia, Liberia, and places I forget.
For my Rwanda coverage, I won a Pulitzer. I wrote a book about the 1990s from the entertaining viewpoint of real people trying to avoid getting killed in horrible ways all over the world. It won a very cool award from Salon, thanks to the one critic who actually read it and called it "strangely delightful."
I love the news, the process of finding pure truth and delivering it cleanly and clearly. My stuff is cited in a broad range of books, including several on journalism. Amazingly and alarmingly, a pretty routine war story I wrote was among "101 Masterpieces" in "The Mammoth Book of Journalism." The hack in me got a kick out of joining Orwell, Dickens, and Twain, among other other temporary immortals, though I don't know why we should let that prick dwarf Hemingway into the club.
I quit newspaper jobs on eerily consistent bad terms to perform humanitarian work for the International Rescue Committee in the Sudan, mainly in Darfur; and as war crimes investigator for Human Rights Watch in Uganda. Charitable groups are their own worst enemies because of endless in-fighting and cheap gin.
My last old-fashioned news job was at that right-wing rag, The Wall Street Journal, which at the time had an arcane and bizarre formula for writing a hard feature, which wound up obliterating the actual point of the story for an artificial angle. People clung to this formula like zombies eat brains.
Aside from war, I have written way too much about the medical establishment's fleecing the elderly whilst keeping them alive by any means necessary, creating a country full of lucrative vegetable gardens of imminent obits. I also write about the role of propaganda in wartime strategy, the uselessness of laws based on emotions, the generational conflicts triggered by the aging population, the epic routes taken by massive amounts of immigrants, the impact of changing demographics on the environment, and the genetic engineering of the food we eat.
I also wrote about rainstorms that devastated southwest Michigan's pumpkin crop, leaving growers with a hollow feeling inside. (Heh)