Strange Things Are Happening

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June 3, 2006 7:09 p.m.

I got a chance to see the freelancer Fein. He was back from Iraq. I met him for dinner at Macaluso's, a place with rules.

I had eaten in places with rules before without incident. Louis' Lunch in New Haven, for example, the place that claims to have invented the hamburger. In Louis' you couldn't ask for ketchup, and you had to know how to phrase your order.

"Two works," meant two cheeseburgers with tomato and onion. I would go with two cheese and tomato, and then order another when they came.

In Macaluso's there are no substitutions and no menus. I was briefed on the former but not the latter. Meatballs, chilled Chianti, white cake and cannolis were recommended.

"The simple things in food make an impression," Fein said. They had brought him olive oil, cheese, bread and a red pepper. There were chunks of black pepper in the oil. He tore the bread and soaked it up. I had seen Fein eat many times but I smiled as he disappeared, with head lowered, tearing the bread, soaking up a chunk of parmesan and a piece of red pepper with each sopping bite.

After a while he looked up.

"Some strange things are happening," he said, then drank off a glass of Acqua Panna. The waitress refilled his glass, and I waited.

I wondered what would be strange from a guy who traveled with helicopter pilot's headphones.

"I was reading the paper the other day," he said, "about these guys on motorcycles, the Patriot Brigade. They go to funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq. I was reading the article on the plane and I started crying."

Fein took a drink of his chilled Chianti. I didn't think he drank.

"The next day," he said, "I was reading an obit of this guy who was a double Medal of Honor winner. It said how he attacked pillboxes full of Japanese in the Philippines, then attacked a tank, alone. And I started crying again."

Fein smiled. I didn't say anything.

E-mail Harrigan
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Hi Steve,

I lived in Venezuela for 3 years. My dad's job took us down to Caracas....Most people in the United States have no clue as to what is happening down there. Someone needs to bring Chavez into the light.

Kyle K,
Tulsa, OK


Thanks for coming to Venezuela and reporting on what is going on here. I've known Venezuela for 32 years. The country has great income now that the petroleum price is high again, but the economy is still like a poor third world country with street vendors everywhere, because they can't find any other work. I could write a book about all the things that are going wrong.

Caracas, Venezuela

Dear Mr. Harrigan,

Thank you for the time and effort you put into your reporting. As an expatriate American, I know that too many of my fellow Americans do not, cannot, appreciate the circumstances that most in the 3rd world live in.

Please keep the reporting coming.

Warri, Nigeria

Hello Steve,

I just wanted to let you know that I have really enjoyed reading your logs from Colombia. My wife is Colombian. We have been watching the election very closely. I myself have been to Colombia twice. I wish it was safe enough for more Americans to experience, because it is a beautiful country with wonderful people.

Thanks for reporting on the going's on down there.

York, Maine