The next edition of 40 Towns will begin publishing on the Ides of March, but in the meantime here's a one-shot magazine: 10A. 10A is the course hour for my spring literary journalism course, "Ordinary Extraordinary." In addition to prose, we're "reading" photographs, by established masters such as Robert Frank, Milton Rogovin, Diane Arbus, and Ray DeCarava, and by working photographers and documentarians such as Ruddy Roye, Tanja Hollander, and Duncan Murrell who've been responding to student work, including their "Instagram essays" -- pictures+words.
This past Thursday, I sent my students out of the classroom: with a simple assignment: Find someone or something to photograph. Write a true story. Publish by the end of the class. Here it is: a portrait of one hour and fifty minutes within walking distance of classroom Reed 102 at Dartmouth College. Pictures+words. Instagram journalism. True stories, as true as we could make them in the space of one class meeting.
1. A Story About His Cop Days / by Carl Neisser
“Boston got another foot of snow,” he says to a worker shoveling on the sidewalk. The shoveler shrugs him off but I catch up to him as he shuffles away on his walker. He was looking for someone to talk to. I take him up on the offer. “My name’s Carl too. What’s your last name? What is that, Jewish? I grew up with Jews. They’re good workers. I grew up Episcopalian––know what that is? Same as Catholic, but bishops, no pope.” I ask if I can interview him, knowing he’ll say yes. “We’re gonna have to sit down and get a cup of coffee.” “Two sugars, two milks. I’m a New England boy, just like you.” I buy the coffee and he gets us a table. “V-A-L-L-I-N, middle initial F. You ever see an Indian travel card?” I tell him no and he pulls it out of a wallet bulging with twenty other plastic rectangles. “Cherokee on my mother’s side––I’m 30 or 40 percent. They’re a good people.” “I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease. I’m a guinea pig.” Between “Hey, Soul Sister” on the radio and the blender screaming behind me, I’m sitting a foot away from his face, which he keeps covering up with his unrestrained left hand. He mumbles. “They’re gonna take some blood out of me. Those DHMC doctors––they’ve got attitude. Great food there, though.” “I miss my godfather, my friends. My father used to hit us. My mother tried to commit suicide three times.” He tells me a story about his cop days, but I only hear the end: “when all those nurses got killed? Remember that? That was my buddy who broke that. Those were good days.”
2. Her Last Day / by Shoshana Silverstein
Two women are counting change by the register. Cass looks up. “For here or to go?” I tell her I’m a writer. I ask if I can take her picture? She gives me a skeptical look. Her ponytail flips around as she turns away. That’s when Elyse comes out from behind the pastry case. She’s timid, but gives me a large smile and pushes the loose golden tendrils behind one ear. “She’ll do it, it’s her last day. She wants to.” Cass says over her shoulder. Last day of three years. She’s studying to be a vet tech. Like me, she’s a Vermonter. “I like the quiet here,” she says. "but I can’t wait to get rid of the weather.” Her new school is in Florida.// Elyse smiles, turns. Her lip stud flashes light pink. She fiddles with the scale. I’m fairly certain we’re both blushing. We study the croissants.// A man in a light brown Carhartt steps up, orders an iced coffee. Cass says, “It’s Elyse’s last day.” “You’re leaving us?” He throws his arms up. “What are you going to do?” Cass cuts in again. “Run away.” He asks, “Are you going to tell off some costumers before you go?” Cass: “You.” Elyse laughs, says something quietly as she hands over the oversized plastic cup to his oversized hands.// A few Dartmouth students come to the front of the line, and Carhartt moves to put sugar in his drink. I turn to ask him his name, but before I do he’s back in front of the pastry case. “You know some of us rely on a million friendly faces when we come in here.”// As Elyse blushes gently, Cass again steps in, busily ringing up the students’ orders. “Tomorrow is my last day.”// When I ask for Cass's name, she hesitates. This time Elyse steps in. "It's Cass."
3. In the Summer, He Mows / by Kimberly Mei
4. I Still Wear the Hairnets / by Jordyn Turner
5. Domesticity is for Dogs and Rabbits, She Said / by Tara Wray
6. What Does It Take For Someone to Carve His Masculinity So Deeply?
/ by Charli Fool Bear-Vetter
7. Look Close, and You'll See the Fissures / by Lacey Jones
8. Scrape. Stop. Scrape. Stop. / by Katie Williamson