Make More Pie
Make More Pie
Crime and Punishment and Dessert

Crime and Punishment and Dessert

John Wayne Gacy, MOCT, Paul Rossi, lemon mousse

Good morning on the 25th of April, and though I did not plan it, on this date in 1994, I was driving from Los Angeles to Illinois in a rented Ford Tempo with a pen pal of John Wayne Gacy’s, to visit the serial killer on death row shortly before his execution. Let’s say there was a lot of urgency to this trip, some of which could not be relayed in the feature, available for reading here and which I recorded for you last night (linked above!).

Why did I do this? First, because it had never been recorded. Second, because it was a rainy Saturday night and I’d just rolled back into town with nothing else planned for the evening. Third, I’d had contact a few days earlier with an academic interested in why I’d made the trip and what transpired.

I’ve written some unpublished stuff about how I wound up traveling with Rick, how the story wound up not where it’d been commissioned (Details magazine) but in the the LA Weekly (my first feature!); how I’d been so excited I waited at the newsstand on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Cahuenga at eight in the morning for the delivery truck to toss off the bundle of Weeklies and, seeing my story on the cover, went into a alley by the newsstand and screamed. There’s also a lot of other stuff, sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll and talking our way out of getting shot in the basement of a St. Louis ice-cream-parlor-cum-punk-rock-club, and the girl who, when I asked if she had a Tampax, said, “No, I’m Catholic.” Someday I’ll tell you, maybe over a Manhattan. There’s a little of it in here, in a beautiful 15-minute mini-doc about my daughter (and me), made a few years ago by the luminous Bennett sisters, Kelsey and Remy; it was Kelsey’s apartment I first sublet when I moved back to New York, which some of you remember fondly.

Soon after the Gacy piece published, the woman who would become my sister-in-law and I rented a $90 a month, 8-by-8 foot office in an earthquake-condemned building overhanging the Hollywood Freeway and called it Beyond the Office of the Super Vixens because why not?

We each had a little kid, as freelancers we never had enough money, and we realized, we needed to specialize in order to make a living, cover stories about serial killers not coming along often enough to feed the kitty. The two areas that interested me were sports and food; I wound up going with food and had a good sideline going with Bon Appetit and a gazillion food columns, until, after one too many people referred to me as a “food writer,” I shrugged the gig off like an itchy sweater.

Weirdly or not, murder is something I keep going back to, starting with Gacy, continuing with “Sacrificing Rebecca” and then, in 2018, To the Bridge, A True Story of Motherhood and Murder, which is many ways felt like the book I’d been gearing up my whole life to write. And look! It’s coming out in Russian in May.

Share Make More Pie

In case you missed it, Paul Rossi, a math teacher at New York City’s $57,000 a year Grace Church High School, published an essay on Bari Weiss’s Substack “Common Sense,” called, “I Refuse to Stand By While My Students are Indoctrinated.” A clip:

My school, like so many others, induces students via shame and sophistry to identify primarily with their race before their individual identities are fully formed. Students are pressured to conform their opinions to those broadly associated with their race and gender and to minimize or dismiss individual experiences that don’t match those assumptions. The morally compromised status of “oppressor” is assigned to one group of students based on their immutable characteristics. In the meantime, dependency, resentment and moral superiority are cultivated in students considered “oppressed.”

All of this is done in the name of “equity,” but it is the opposite of fair. In reality, all of this reinforces the worst impulses we have as human beings: our tendency toward tribalism and sectarianism that a truly liberal education is meant to transcend.

Rossi goes on to detail what happened when he challenged this orthodoxy, essentially an all-school denunciation. You can hear more from Rossi in what I think is one of the most important and urgent and also lovely Fifth Column episodes to date.

Bari also did a Zoom with Rossi.

And here is Rossi’s head of school, what a fucking mess.

John McWhorter, who for my money has one of the best brains out there (and, for good measure, a lovely speaking voice), wrote in a similar vein last week on his Substack, “It Bears Mentioning,” in a piece entitled, “No More Tests: We Should Measure Black Kids on Their ‘Desire to Know.’” A clip:

…I knew something was really wrong when in 2019 at a conference in New York City for the city’s principals and superintendents, participants were presented with an idea that to teach with sensitivity to race issues meant keeping certain issues in mind.

These included ways of looking at things that are “white” rather than correct: namely, objectivity, individualism, and valuing the written word. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza was fine with this, happily telling the media that it’s white people’s job to do the “work” of identifying the racist assumptions in how they go about their business.

So: to stand outside of matters and analyze them with one’s own private mind, and perhaps couch one’s conclusions with the considered artifice of writing rather than the spontaneity of speaking, is inauthentic for black and Latino people. It is racist to impose such things on black and Latino (and Native American?) kids. Or at best, brown kids should be taught this uptight “white” business only as a gloomy alternative to the realness of just hanging out sharing passing personal impressions via chatting.

Can we, all of us, recognize and call out the jaw-droppingly blatant racism masquerading as progress at elite institutions and elsewhere? Yes, we can and we must. McWhorter ends the essay with an analogy I have not been able to shake:

Any white person who embraces the idea that precision is “white” is, quite simply, a bigot.

I pity them because what made them a bigot was infection by a virus idea.

There are worms which, as larvae, burrow into a grasshopper’s brain. (How does he know? I happen to like this kind of stuff – although I suppose it’s all a little precise for a black man …) The worms, as adults, are aquatic. They affect the grasshopper’s brain such that when the worms become adults, the grasshopper’s brain is transformed into driving the poor thing to seek water, dive into it, and drown – but allows the worms to be in water and thrive and reproduce.

Elect ideology makes good, smart white people drown themselves in nonsense.

Rossi & Fifth taped last week in Paloma Media while I was next door doing the Clubhouse we are now calling “Policing and Perception.” It got a little heated last week, several young people joining and stating they would not ask or entertain questions from anyone until he/she admitted to their white fragility. The panel, made up of law enforcement, PIOs, journalists and citizens remained courteous and the conversation was productive and, co-moderator Yael Bar tur and I are told, one we are not hearing elsewhere. Hop on if you’re inclined, every Wednesday at 8pm EST.

Do I have a little more spleen for you before we head to dessert? I do. I’ll save what I have to say about Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for the Paloma Media podcast Matt Welch and I are doing this evening; suffice to say, I feel like chewing through tin cans at the man’s utter ineptitude in running the city these past two years, wtf did he think was going to happen?

Who stands with him? Well, maybe the silent majority, but they’re not going to stick their necks out. That, or they think his calling for peace is funny, laughing and cheering as black bloc walk into a local bar.

I’ve been pretty certain since last summer that none of the violence in Portland would not die down and, given the right medium, would grow.

I further think this reading Tonight We Bombed the Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America’s First Female Terrorist Group. As you can see in yesterday’s tweet storm, I think the people willing to commit violence and/or those who will see their way to condoning them, are readying in Portland. Why do I think this? Because the people who commit such acts in the name of what they see as justice are often well-educated idealists, the sorts of people who, throw up a nickel in Portland, and five times out of ten you hit one in the head.

Okay, that’s enough spitting of nails, how about some lemon mousse? Which Lizzy Wolfe and I will be eating on-camera in the next episode of (drumroll, please!), “Hot Stuff!!!” (a Paloma Media production!). Oh, it’s a corny name, who cares? We might be cornballs but we can bake our asses off, we like to drink, we like to talk, and we want to talk to and feed you.

Until then, all the love and a puckered-up kiss from the citrus xx

Share Make More Pie

Make More Pie
Make More Pie
Posts on Portland, New York, media, murder, culture - conflict and the fun stuff - and pie, both literal and figurative. Come on in