Recent Readings for July 8, 2016

July 8, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 8, 2016

I spent a great deal of Independence Day reading. Here’s a selection of worthwhile #longreads for you to enjoy!

• “The Devil on Paradise Road.” Bruce Barcott tells the gripping story of a fatal shooting on New Year’s Day 2012 at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state. After an Iraq war veteran with a history of domestic violence and alcohol abuse shot a park ranger and disappeared into the wild, authorities attempted to rescue their wounded colleague and to protect numerous park visitors without knowing where or when the next bullets might be fired.

• “A Short-Order Murder.” In 1969, newlyweds Helen and Peter Menicou moved to America. In 1997, she was shot to death by a cook whom she’d worked with amicably for years. Lisa Davis’s feature article, published a few months after the slaying, vividly conjures the atmosphere of San Francisco’s Pinecrest Diner and sketches the universally beloved victim:

Sometimes the topic was money — fortunes were made and lost in the Pinecrest stock market — but whatever the subject, the discussion always occurred underneath the smell of bacon grease, sweet, sticky syrup, brewing coffee, and grilled meat all mixed together.

Helen usually participated in the banter, issuing an opinion, then speeding off to warm up some customer’s coffee, and then rushing back again to the cash register to ring up a bill. She was manager, maitre d’, waitress, cashier, and bookkeeper, simultaneously. [Diner owner Bill] Foundas trusted her and put her in charge during the day. Though Hashem [Zayed, a cook] had been there two years longer, he did not read or write English, which, for Foundas, made Helen the more logical choice to be de facto manager. Besides, she was clever. Helen seemed to be on a first-name basis with half of San Francisco and found something to say to the other half, anyway. Big shots got the same treatment as wannabes and nobodies. And Helen always met any attempt at flirtation with the same satirical answer: “I’ve got a husband at home I can’t get rid of. What do I want with you?”

• “Blindsided: A Dream Engagement Turned Nightmare.” Mary Milz describes the unusual story of Don Huckstep, a small-town Indiana divorcé whose fiancée abruptly breaks their engagement. Later, Huckstep and the authorities discover that that woman, Teri Deneka, has left a chilling trail of carnage in her wake…

• “The Big Hack.” Reeves Wiedeman describes a scenario in which New York City is brought to a standstill on Dec. 4, 2017, by a coordinated series of hacks that compromise hospitals, elevators, traffic control systems, power plants and even individual vehicles. The story is fiction, of course, and yet at the same time it is all too plausible. Wiedeman studs his piece with 47 footnotes documenting the actual incidents on which the article is based. All in all, he paints a pretty bleak picture of tomorrow’s next big disaster…

The security consultant who’d found the mess with the water-treatment plant went on TV to tell people that it appeared cyberterrorists had tried to hack the water supply. False reports of attacks on the stock exchange and Amtrak and a gas pipeline and a factory shot around Reddit and Twitter, until nobody wanted to do much of anything but get home, unplug their wireless router, and hope for the best. “With cyberattacks confirmed against cars and several hospitals, it’s impossible to say what might happen next — ” Blitzer said, before televisions around the city went blank.

When the power went out, at 1 p.m., hundreds of subway cars carrying thousands of passengers who had decided to risk the ride suddenly found themselves stuck between stations; one group that got trapped in an L train under the East River had to walk more than half a mile underground to get to First Avenue, using the light of their dying cell phones to navigate. Many of them said later they were expecting another threat — a bomb, a gas attack — figuring whatever sinister group was behind all this was sophisticated enough to coordinate that, too.

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