free hit counter Snacks, please!: The other Mary Ellen

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The other Mary Ellen

I just finished reading True Story by Michael Finkel, the former New York Times reporter whose identity was adopted by a true admirer of his written work. What a compliment! (I don't think anybody ever pretended to be me when I was not the lead education reporter at the Herald.) Or...was it? His identity thief also happened to be a quadruple murderer -- he strangled his wife and oldest child, and dumped the two youngest off an Oregon bridge, still wearing their footie pajamas. (Certainly, anybody who would pretend to be me would be a much more moral person, and hip, and good-looking, and smart, and, oh yes, very very funny.) Anyway, eventually the identity thief/killer was caught, living in a beachfront cabana in Mexico and pretending to his new German photographer girlfriend that they could work together on travel stories. He was extradited to the U.S., and then, in 2003, sentenced to death.

But that's not the whole Michael Finkel story! The killer didn't actually choose that well. Yes, Finkel had quite a portfolio of exotic-sounding stuff-- and his story aboard a Haitian refugee boat to the Bahamas was pretty impressive (although much too much about Finkel, as opposed to the refugees, IMO) -- but, eventually, he too was caught making up stuff for the NYT Magazine and fired.

I always have mixed feelings about plagiarists. They're bad, obviously. But then I feel sorry for them too -- that they ever felt that desperate. Anyway, Finkel is not my favorite liar -- that would be Stephen Glass, whose totally fictitious story about a telephone psychic was a great piece of work! Still, it has always been my opinion that you don't NEED to make stuff up. Life is pretty interesting, as it is. Which brings me to today's game: Two of the following stories are real ones that I wrote about and one is fake. Guess the fake!

1) A Florida school district is building a new school and discovers gopher tortoises, a protected species, on the site. They can pay a "kill" fee to the state, but that sounds bad, doesn't it? Or they can find them a new home. The local nudist colony offers their back acreage. Because I am an intrepid reporter, I go to see their new digs (haha) and helpfully brush a mosquito off the naked back of my tour guide.

2) A school bus driver isn't making enough money (a living wage, if you will...), so she decides to take advantage of her split shift schedule by, ahem, entertaining guests during the lunch hour. In the bus! She is discovered by a mailman, whose first-grader happens to ride that very same bus. Subsequent investigation, by yours truly, reveals a host of traffic infractions by Madam Driver -- giving the district an easy reason to fire her before her other charges are adjudicated.

3) A Haitian high school student contracts TB on a visit home. It's discovered during fall vaccinations and she's installed in a local hospital for treatment. But then, her mother breaks her out! To seek a voodoo cure in their community! For days, she's missing and health officials are scrambling. I broke the story on Day 1 -- but, by Day 3, my role has sunk to this: Sitting in front of the hospital, hoping they'll return. I can't quite figure out how I'm going to recognize them and can't quite stomach the idea of going up to every black person to say, "Are you, perhaps, the voodoo mother?" So after an hour or so, I take off for the local coffee shop.


Anonymous Alex said...

Ok, so I've now posted on your last three entries. I have a final exam to write for three loser seniors who can't pass American Literature, so this is the last one. Really. I think yours is a trick question because they're ALL true! Ha!

May 8, 2007 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Alex! Your children are the future!
No, the second one is fake... I was inspired by the DC Madam. (Just to be clear: I have nothing against school bus drivers, I swear... Go drivers! Fight the man!)

May 9, 2007 at 10:49 AM  

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