Spare Your Friends: Make a Mini-Movie of Your Fabulous Vacation


Showing all of the videos from your travels can be cumbersome. Instead, stitch them together into a short highlight reel.

ImageVisitors relax on deckchairs in the sunshine on the beach by Brighton Pier in Brighton, Britain, June 28, 2018.CreditCreditHenry Nicholls/ReutersJ. D. Biersdorfer

Let’s be honest, no one wants to see all of your little vacation video clips one at a time on your phone.

Sure, grabbing a quick video instead of snapping a photo is second nature now to many travelers — a slow pan around that medieval castle or that gorgeous ocean sunset. It’s a dynamic way to preserve those memories for yourself.

But the videos — and photos — add up quickly and showing them all off is cumbersome. Rest assured, everyone else just wants to see a highlight reel.

Never edited a movie before? Not to worry, as there’s a wide variety of beginner-friendly video apps that will stitch your snippets into share-worthy vacation “trailers” with just a few taps or clicks on your part. And here’s the best news of all: Making a video can take less than an hour. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Pick an app that works for you

You’ll want an app that does everything you want to do in your movie, like the ability to add photos or audio, but not so complicated that it is tough to use.

You may even have one already. Good options include Microsoft’s Movie Maker 10 for Windows, Cyberlink ActionDirector for Android, Apple’s iMovie for macOS and iOS, Adobe Premiere Clip for Android and iOS — or any of the dozens of video apps in the Google Play and iOS App Store. Read the reviews or dabble around until you find one you like.

While the design of these apps vary, most work the same way — once you add clips to your project, you put them in the order you want to see them by dragging them around a visual timeline. (But if that sounds like too much work, look for an app like Magisto that automatically combines a batch of clips to crank out an instant movie.)

ImageDozens of video-making apps are available for mobile and desktop systems, and most of them work the same way, with a timeline for arranging your clips.CreditJ.D. Biersdorfer/The New York TimesStep 2: Import your video clips

If you’re working on the smartphone you used to film your scenes, this is easy. Just open your video-editing app, create a new project or movie, look for an Import or Create button and select the clips you want to use.

If you’d rather do your editing on a tablet or desktop system because it’s easier to see what you’re doing, it’ll take another step or two because you’ll need pull in the clips there from your camera or smartphone. You can do this in several ways: connecting the devices by USB cable; wirelessly slinging them with Apple’s AirDrop, Android Beam or Bluetooth; or transferring them via cloud drive.

To get started, open your chosen editing app, create a new project or movie and then select clips from your phone or computer video library.CreditJ.D. Biersdorfer/The New York TimesStep 3: Arrange your scenes

The timeline or storyboard area in a video-editing app shows the sequence of the separate scenes in your movie. Once you add the clips to the timeline, you can drag them into a different order, trim off the boring parts and the beginning and end, or split one clip into two.

As you move the different parts around, think of the narrative you want to show your audience as each scene passes by. Do you want to go in chronological order or mix it up? And keep in mind, long scenes where not much happens can be boring for the viewer. (Vimeo has a blog full of tips for video newbies.)

On your app’s timeline, drag the clips into the order you want to see them. In many apps, tap a clip to get an editing tool for trimming the dull beginnings or ends of scenes.CreditJ.D. Biersdorfer/The New York TimesStep 4: Mix in other visual elements

Video-editing apps like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker include text tools so you can insert title cards and add identifying captions. Some can apply Hollywood-style transitions (like wipes, fades and dissolves) to glide between scenes, too.

To add a title or transition between scenes, look in your app’s toolbar for the appropriate element and drag the icon for a title or transition you want onto the timeline between scenes. Click a clip with the text tool to add a caption. Got a gorgeous photograph you want to add to the video tour? If your app supports photos, add it to your timeline and set it to linger for a few seconds to vary the video’s pace.

When you get your clips in order, add title cards, captions and scene transitions from the program’s toolbox. Your app’s on-screen manual can guide you.CreditJ.D. Biersdorfer/The New York TimesStep 5: Add audio

KineMaster for Android and iOS and iMovie are among the apps that let you record your own documentary-style narration.

Look for a menu item or button to add an audio track along your timeline. For better audio quality, consider getting a USB microphone. You can also add a song as a soundtrack, but be mindful of copyright when using someone else’s music.

Some programs allow you to make a soundtrack from music on your device, but you can also record your own documentary-style narration. Just look for a microphone icon. The audio track is displayed along the timeline under the video clips.CreditJ.D. Biersdorfer/The New York TimesStep 6: Preview, compress and share

Once you get all the elements in order, preview your creation within the program and make any last-minute adjustments before you finalize the project. When you’re satisfied, save the video and select an output size if asked. Just a few minutes of high-definition or 4K video can make for a hefty file, but you can pick a smaller output size for sharing or streaming.

When the app pops out your finished masterpiece, share away. And now you can start planning for your next vacation.

When you finish editing your video, save it, export it or post it to your favorite sharing site so friends and family can see your vacation in action.CreditJ.D. Biersdorfer/The New York Times

J.D. Biersdorfer has been answering technology questions — in print, on the web, in audio and in video — since 1998. She also writes the Sunday Book Review’s “Applied Reading” column on ebooks and literary apps, among other things. @jdbiersdorfer


A New Class of Voting Rights Activists Picks Up the Mantle in Mississippi

“The methods have become more sophisticated, but the broader issues are still in play,” said Jim Kates, one of the Freedom veterans who, along with others, returned to Mississippi to assist Ms. Bennett and the other young organizers.

A Lesson of Fear and Hope

Part of what made Freedom Summer, first called the Mississippi Summer Project, so successful was that it exposed the horrors blacks faced trying to assert basic citizenship. Those experiences were exported to the masses in stark news dispatches. The volunteers, recruited by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Congress of Racial Equality activists, trained at an Ohio college, then traveled some 800 miles south by bus or car.

At great personal risk, hundreds of black families hosted the volunteers in their homes. In turn, the volunteers met at black churches, to distribute registration information, helped to fill out forms and escorted them to the courthouses.

The veterans remembered a summer wrapped in fear but also hope. The volunteers were harassed by both the police and white residents. They were arrested and jailed. Beaten. Firebombed. And they were murdered. In the first week of the project, three activists — Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney — were abducted and shot just outside Philadelphia, Miss. Their corpses, brutalized and buried, were discovered two months later.

“You never really felt safe. And you never knew if some kind of harassment was going to turn into something more,” said Benjamin Graham, 73, who left the University of California, Berkeley, to spend that summer in Mississippi.

Mr. Graham, who later became a doctor specializing in internal medicine, still remembers with chilling clarity lying in bed one summer night in the house of a Batesville family. It was his first night back in Mississippi after a quick return trip to California. Suddenly, around 2 a.m. his chest began to tighten. His breath had shortened and he was wheezing.


To Get to the Boston Marathon, Run Faster, and Faster

For thousands of runners, that dream of running in the Boston Marathon just got a little more far-fetched.

Boston is a rare marathon that admits most runners based on merit. To qualify, runners must complete another marathon during the year or so leading up to the registration under a certain time, dependent on their age and gender. For men 35-39, for example, the time is 3 hours 10 minutes; women 60-64 must run in 4:25.

But in recent years, Boston has been getting more qualified applicants than it can handle, since its permit limits the size of its field. It solves this by admitting the fastest runners, while turning away those who only barely met the notional qualifying time. And the problem keeps getting worse.

Boston announced Thursday that only those who bettered the qualifying times by 4:52 would be accepted for 2019. Suddenly that man in his late 30s who thought his 3:09:59 got him into the race found that he really needed to have run 3:05:08.

The marathon said that 30,458 qualified applications had been received; of those, 7,384 were turned away because their times were not 4:52 better than the standard.

Why 4:52 and not an even five minutes? Those eight little seconds mattered: 433 runners who would not have made it if the cutoff had been five minutes sneaked into that tiny window.

The times that runners need to receive an invitation are dropping by more than a minute per year of late. For 2018, the figure was 3:23. In 2017, it was 2:09.

The marathon also announced that in view of the increased applications and faster times, the official qualifying times would all be made fully five minutes faster for 2020.

About 80 percent of the field of 30,000 qualifies on merit, and some elite runners get special invitations. The rest get in as part of charity programs. A few hundred who have completed 10 straight Boston Marathons also get in.

The news was a blow to many runners who had been buzzing in recent days with hope that they would get into the race. There has been much speculation on where the cutoff would fall this year, with many close qualifiers, sometimes known as “squeakers,” holding out hope they would sneak into the race.

Boston is for many lay runners the ultimate American marathon, and running in it can be a career pinnacle, a moment that in some runners’ minds separates the serious marathoner from the hobbyist.

Many runners are finding their dream keeps slipping away, by a minute or so every year.


In Hong Kong, Hepatitis E Strain Jumps From Rats to Humans

HONG KONG — A man in Hong Kong has been found to have a strain of hepatitis E that had been seen previously only in rats, researchers said on Friday.

While rats have passed on several other illnesses to people, this was the first discovery in humans of the rat variation of hepatitis E, a liver disease. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong identified the infection last September in a 56-year-old man who had received a liver transplant in May 2017.

He was cured of the disease in March, after which they verified their findings before announcing the case.

Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, chairman of the infectious diseases section of the microbiology department at the University of Hong Kong, called the case “a wake-up call.”

And Dr. Siddharth Sridhar, a clinical assistant professor in the university’s department of microbiology, said it suggested that Hong Kong needed to work harder on rodent control, as the city did during the SARS epidemic of 2003 and 2004.

In densely populated areas like Hong Kong, “infections that jump from animals to humans must be taken very seriously,” Dr. Sridhar said. “For these kinds of rare infections, unusual infections, even one case is enough to make public health authorities and researchers very alert about the implications of the disease. One is all it takes.”

Although the patient had received a liver transplant, researchers ruled out infection from his blood and organ donors, which all tested negative for the disease. The researchers instead highlighted rat droppings, piles of uncovered garbage and open passageways found near the patient’s home as major risk factors in rodent-borne diseases.

The researchers said that routine hepatitis E testing would have failed to identify the strain, which is significantly different from the one that typically infects humans. They detected the source of the patient’s infection in this case after finding similarities with infected rats in Vietnam.

When they tested rodent samples that health officials had collected in his neighborhood in recent years, they found hepatitis E in at least one rat.

It is not unusual for diseases to pass between animals and humans — the Ebola virus most likely originated in an infected animal, for one. But scientists have struggled to measure the threat from rats and how they spread diseases.

Rat-borne infections are relatively rare. There have been just four in Hong Kong this year, and nine last year.

The World Health Organization estimates that the human variation of hepatitis E infects 20 million people each year, most commonly in East and South Asia. About 44,000 people died from it in 2015.

Most human cases of hepatitis E, which typically causes mild symptoms including nausea and diarrhea, resolve themselves within six weeks, but they can be more serious for patients with weakened immune systems. The disease is most common in areas with substandard sanitation and water supply.

The rat variation of hepatitis E was discovered in 2010 in Germany, researchers said. It has been found in rats worldwide, including the United States.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: In Hong Kong, Hepatitis E Strain Makes Jump From Rats to Humans. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


The New Birds and Bees: Teaching Kids About Boundaries and Consent

Don’t treat body parts as shameful

Shame about body parts, Ms. Van der Doef says, comes from a child’s environment: they learn from their caregivers when to be squeamish and embarrassed. By normalizing all body parts and speaking of them regularly and straightforwardly with correct language, we send the message that every part of a person’s body is healthy, wholesome and worthy.

As I learned from the Dutch example, normalization goes beyond talk: day-to-day nonsexual nudity — in homes, picture books, mixed-gender school bathrooms, kids’ television programs, and public changing areas and wading pools — reinforces the tenet that bodies are nothing to be ashamed of and nothing we can’t discuss (in words any caregiver, teacher or health provider will recognize) if need be.

As we respond to kids’ natural, healthy curiosity about the human form, we can instill in them the idea that all people are born with wonderful bodies capable of feeling pleasure and pain.

Teach the importance of consent

It can be daunting to explain the emotional and relational aspects of human sexuality. Yet this is our richest opportunity to instill empathy, consent, inclusiveness and egalitarianism.

Preschool is the age to teach children the hallmarks of a healthy, trusting friendship. Children at this age can be made aware of the gender-role stereotypes they’ve absorbed (for example, girls like pink and boys have short hair). A simple role-play with stuffed animals in which a “girl” teddy bear wants to play football and a “boy” animal wants to wear a dress can teach it’s hurtful to limit one anther’s opportunities.

Preschoolers and even toddlers can learn rules for playing contact games with friends such as tickling, chase and “doctor”: everyone must agree happily to the game; no hurting allowed; anyone can say “no” or change their mind. As adults, we can model the importance of consent when children want to climb on us by reminding them to ask first. We can model respect for the importance of consent, too, when a child is reluctant to give a high-five, hug or kiss — especially to an adult, and this does include Grandma — by suggesting a contact-free alternative like a verbal greeting or a wave.

Elsbeth Reitzema, a sex education consultant and curriculum author for the sexual health institute Rutgers in the Netherlands, says it’s impossible to warn children of every scenario and impossible, too, to protect them 100 percent of the time. Specific scenarios such as the lap-patting relative or lollipop-offering stranger can be good to mention, but it’s most important to instill an understanding of consent. This goes for friends, relatives, teachers and even physicians. When children expect to ask, give and deny consent at their own discretion, sexual transgressions stick out as clear violations.


Killer Whales Face Dire PCBs Threat

Most people thought the problem of polychlorinated biphenyls — known as PCBs — had been solved. Some countries began banning the toxic chemicals in the 1970s and 1980s, and worldwide production was ended with the 2001 Stockholm Convention.

But a new study based on modeling shows that they’re lingering in the blubber of killer whales — and they may end up wiping out half the world’s population of killer whales in coming decades.

“It certainly is alarming,” said Jean-Pierre Desforges, a post-doctoral researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark and the lead author on the new study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Whales sit at the top of their food chain. Chemicals like PCBs are taken up by plankton at the base of the food chain, then eaten by herring and other small fish, which are themselves eaten by larger fish, and so on. At each step in this chain, PCBs get more and more concentrated. The most at-risk killer whales are those that eat seals and other animals that are themselves fairly high on the food chain and quite contaminated, Dr. Desforges said.

Killer whale populations in Alaska, Norway, Antarctica and the Arctic among other places, where chemical levels are lower, will probably continue to grow and thrive, the study found. But animals living in more industrialized areas, off the coasts of the United Kingdom, Brazil, Hawaii and Japan, and in the Strait of Gibraltar are at high risk of population collapse from just the PCBs alone — not counting other threats.

Dave Duffus, who directs the whale research lab at the University of Victoria in Canada and was not involved in the new research, said its conclusions are “shocking, but I don’t doubt them.”

Whales near him in the Pacific Northwest are surrounded by contaminants, face changes in their food supply and are continually bombarded with noise. “You can see the downtrend in their population,” Dr. Duffus said.

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The researchers used blubber samples to estimate the amount of PCB contamination in killer whales around the world. They also developed a model to forecast the amount of PCBs passed on to calves through the placenta and breast milk as well as from eating prey. Researchers then compared these concentrations to the known damage that can come from different amounts of PCBs.

According to their calculations, roughly half of the killer whale populations in the world will stop expanding and then will shrink in coming decades. Dr. Desforges said he could not be certain how long it would take for these populations to collapse, but his team estimated the impact of contamination over a century — and the clock started ticking about 40 years ago when PCB exposure levels were at their highest, he said. PCB exposures declined with the bans, but levels have stopped falling in long-lived marine predators like killer whales, he said. The whales only very slowly metabolize the PCBs during a life span of 50 to 80 years in the wild, Dr. Desforges said.

PCBs remain the highest chemical contaminant in the whales’ blubber, and are known to disrupt the whales’ reproductive, endocrine, thyroid and immune systems, harm their brains and trigger cancer. Other chemicals are also present, but in lower concentrations and with far less known about their potential hazards, he said.

“We’re looking at one contaminant among many, and this is one risk factor among many,” Dr. Desforges said.

Despite the depressing results, Dr. Desforges said he remained hopeful about the future of killer whales.

“It’s not a dead-end story. There’s still lots we can do about this,” Dr. Desforges said. Many countries are not living up to their commitments to dispose of old, PCB-contaminated equipment appropriately by 2028, he said, so more could be done to keep new PCBs from entering the oceans.

He said he hoped that policy makers would do more to help protect them, with the study helping to persuade them as well as the substantial appeal orcas have with the public.

“If killer whales can’t do it in the water, like pandas on terrestrial sites, I don’t know who will,” he said.


Should You Give Birth at a Birth Center?

Sometimes birth centers “have a comfortable agreement with the nearby hospitals and midwives have privileges there, and that’s fine,” said Dr. Woo, who has advocated for improved integration of birth centers. “Other times, they have no relationship, and then that often is what leads to bad outcomes, because there will be delays in transfer of care,” she said.

In the United States, about 22 percent of women planning to give birth at a birth center end up transferring to a hospital during labor or soon after giving birth with 2 percent being emergency situations.

Unfortunately, Dr. Tarr was one of these. She unexpectedly hemorrhaged after her daughter was born and had to go by ambulance to a hospital. It was scary, but she got appropriate medical attention in time, and the admitting nurse told her that the midwife had done everything right. Still, Dr. Tarr isn’t sure she would choose a birth center if she had another child. “I am happy with the birth experience I had there, but I am also more scared of what can happen, with no warning, even if you’re low risk.”

Giving birth outside of a hospital doesn’t mean it’s more dangerous, said Dr. Calvin, who specialized in high-risk obstetrics for 25 years before opening a birth center.

Wherever you give birth, your safety depends on what Dr. Calvin calls your “perinatal safety net.” How far are you from an operating room, an anesthesiologist, a blood bank, if something catastrophic happens? Consider that distance in miles, in minutes, and in the vigilance of the people you’ve trusted with your care. Ideally, a birth center should be within 10 to 15 minutes of a hospital, with a well-defined plan for transport, he said.

Dr. Calvin also points out that access to these medical resources is not a given in the United States, even in hospitals. A California study found that just 50 percent of community hospitals had 24-hour anesthesia availability and only 56 percent could perform an emergency C-section within 30 minutes.


New York’s Next Nickname: The Big Sponge?

New York City has its nicknames: the Empire City, Fun City, the city that never sleeps. Now, because of a partnership between New York and Copenhagen, another might join the list: Sponge City.

New York, city officials said, needs to do better at dealing with weather phenomena that are becoming more common — cloudbursts, which are especially intense rainstorms that dump enormous amounts of water in a short time. Climate change means cloudbursts are likely to happen more frequently.

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So officials have spent three years studying how Copenhagen coped with heavy storm water runoff after a deluge in 2011. A Danish official called it a thousand-year weather event.

The storm drenched Copenhagen with six inches of rain in two hours. Afterward, officials considered ways of making the city more absorbent with design changes, like planting grass to replace asphalt (because asphalt does not absorb rainwater) or lowering playgrounds and basketball courts so they hold water in a storm.

Then in 2012, Hurricane Sandy flooded 51 square miles in New York, about 17 percent of the city’s total land mass, according to city statistics.

When New York officials learned that Copenhagen had developed a master plan to deal with storms and runoff, the two very different cities formed a partnership. Copenhagen’s population is less than 10 percent of New York’s, and Copenhagen covers far less land than do the five boroughs.

“Yours is much, much bigger, but the principle is the same,” said Lykke Leonardsen, a Copenhagen official involved in the partnership. “The idea of creating a new type of infrastructure for the management of storm water is a way of making sure that you do not experience an unwanted flood from sewer water and storm water, because then you’re not just talking about a nuisance but a health issue.”

Officials from both cities decided they needed open space that can, in effect, absorb water like sponges, or at least slow runoff gushing through populated areas during or after a storm. Finding such spaces is a tall order in urban areas, but “sponges” help to keep water out of the sewer system when sewers are overwhelmed in a storm.

“The obvious thing is, why don’t you build bigger sewers,” Vincent Sapienza, the commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Protection, said in an interview. “One is, they cost a fabulous amount of money to do, and two, on many residential streets, there’s no room for bigger sewers.”

Ms. Leonardsen said Copenhagen’s experience showed that turning to green infrastructure and solutions like sponge areas had economic advantages.

“We found that instead of digging down in underground reservoirs and expanding the sewer system,” she said, “this was much cheaper.”

After the 2011 cloudburst, Copenhagen began 300 projects to drive storm water away from populated areas and manage flooding better. “Copenhagen showed you can take it a step further by creating spaces where you can store larger volumes of water,” said Alan Cohn, a managing director in the environmental agency’s Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis.

Adding green space or replacing asphalt with grass could increase the spongelike properties of a neighborhood. And when sewers are overwhelmed by a rainwater runoff, he said, the goal should be “flooding by design” — that is, designing the landscape so water goes where it can be stored temporarily if it cannot be absorbed into the ground.

Designing a basketball court like an amphitheater, with steps leading down, could accomplish that.

On an appropriately recent rainy day, officials from the two cities, along with environmental experts and officials from other cities, gathered at the Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village for a discussion of what could be accomplished through international collaboration.

Susanne DesRoches, a deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said the project with Copenhagen had been “a huge success.” Mr. Sapienza said the partnership would continue and expand to include other cities.

Other officials said it was important to share ideas because each city tends to formulate plans in its own way.

“There’s no cookbook for how to make cities resilient,” Ms. Leonardsen said. “It’s new for us, and we all have to figure it out.”

In 2016, the second year of the partnership, New York began a cloudburst study in southeastern Queens, where storm water drains into Jamaica Bay. Now in the planning stages is a pilot program at the South Jamaica Houses, a public-housing project that dates to when Fiorello H. La Guardia was mayor.

A second pilot-project area is in St. Albans, Queens, which also sustains heavy flooding.

Southeastern Queens is shaped somewhat like a bowl and sits at a low elevation with inadequate sewer infrastructure, officials said, so the city is committing $1.9 million to reduce flooding and improve street conditions there. The money will go to 45 infrastructure projects to be completed over the next 10 years.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, co-chairwoman of the New York City Panel on Climate Change and a professor at Barnard College, said municipalities across the country needed to think bigger.

“In Europe, they take a larger approach,” she said. “Here, we take a jack-o’-lantern approach,” concentrating on limited projects that are the equivalent of the eyes or the mouth on a Halloween pumpkin. “We need to scale up to the neighborhood level and beyond.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: City Soaks Up Lessons From Copenhagen on Coping With Intense Rainstorms. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


Trim and Fit? You May Still Have Heart Disease

“When a very fit 73-year-old with a family history of heart disease reports several episodes of exertional chest pain, you don’t dillydally,” Dr. Heller told me.

Dr. Hammoud said his decision to send Jeff for surgery rather than stenting was endorsed by interventional cardiologists, the doctors who insert stents. They reviewed Jeff’s angiogram and agreed that bypass surgery was a better option given the severity of left main blockage, the extent of his disease and his otherwise good health, Dr. Hammoud said.

The left main artery supplies blood to two-thirds of the heart, and if it becomes totally obstructed, the patient usually dies without immediate medical intervention. When there is an 80 percent blockage, a complete closure can occur at any time if a small clot or piece of plaque should fill in the remaining opening in this artery.

Still, surgery, especially heart surgery, is not a walk in the park, so it’s important to review the benefits, risks and recovery issues with the surgeon and, if possible, one’s doctor and family members before deciding how to proceed.

Short-term surgical risks include heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, even death, all of which occur most often in people who, unlike Jeff, were in poor shape to begin with. The overall mortality rate is about one in 200.

When Jeff was told that open-heart surgery would give him 20 more years with a healthy heart, he decided it was worth enduring three hours of surgery and four to six weeks of postoperative recovery that included no driving.

He is now devoted to a heart-healthy diet that includes no added salt, lots of vegetables, fish and skinless poultry but little or no meat and saturated fat. Gone from his larder are butter, cheese, full-fat ice cream and store-bought pies and cakes. Nutritional information and ingredients labels are now assiduously consulted before any packaged food is purchased.

Within two weeks of surgery, he began working on a backlog of legal cases. He expects to soon be back on the tennis court, trying cases and hauling wood to help heat his home in snow country.


Impersonating Philip Marlowe – The New York Times

I had worked as a small-time reporter on the United States-Mexico border at about that time. Not as a gumshoe, but not dissimilar. The paper was The San Diego Reader. When I arrived there from England, inexperienced, arrogant, penniless, I had no idea where I was. For my first assignment I was sent to the Sycuan Indian casino in El Cajon, where I won $2,000 on the Crazy Bow Tie bingo game televised live from Oklahoma City. It was larger than any check I had ever received from a publisher in London, and I began to wonder if California was really where I was meant to be. Among the books stacked in my 1940s Hillcrest apartment were the seven Chandler novels, which I repeatedly reread because they now seemed so much less fantastical. Above, the shrill blue sky of our little nightmares; below, the San Diego canyons among which Chandler was now buried.

Thereafter I was dispatched to places like Mexicali, Sonoyta and Tijuana to report on illegal immigration, local crime and the occasional lucha libre wrestling tournament. Then further afield to Mexico City to take the coyote buses that leave from the Terminal Central to the northern border. I learned Spanish, and moved to Baja for a while. But inevitably things went south in more metaphorical ways.

On one assignment I was sent to do a nocturnal police ride-along in the gang-infested desert town of El Centro, right on the border, a place straight out of “Touch of Evil.” I misspelled the name of a cinema over whose roof I reported clambering with a rookie cop while holding his shotgun, and the mayor hauled me in for a blistering rebuke, after which I was fired for misrepresenting “the community.” I think it was fair enough. I also now had a setting that I would never use creatively until Ed Victor made his call: the landscapes of the Anza-Borrego, the half-dead settlements of the Salton Sea, where occasionally I reported stories of con men or real-estate shenanigans, and, of course, the long mapless journeys by bus around Mexico that never had a logical beginning or end.

The Hotel Portales in Colima, the Salton Sea and the saloon bars of El Centro and Mazatlán: These were flyblown places that all remained internally fossilized. But with the excuse of a genre outing, an impersonation of another writer, I found these places suddenly liberated from their bedrock. Far from being an impersonal pastiche of a distant time, my Marlowe novel, “Only to Sleep,” became, during the writing, an act of memoir. Those places came back to life.

What I remembered most from those years on the road was the absoluteness of the loneliness. Every day you wash up alone in some bar or restaurant and take your beer among strangers, talking insanely to yourself, looking out on to squares and streets you don’t know, and then the following day you climb into a bus going somewhere you haven’t yet quite figured out and move in to another bar and restaurant with the same beer and the same flies and the same strangers. I used to think it was a particular kind of madness to which I was prone. But you can’t spend so much time doing what I did for no reason. It must answer a yearning that has no prospectus. All this passed into my Marlowe.