It isn‘t the first time this has happened, but if you happened to peruse last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, you might have noticed that the feature well was once again dominated by a pair of Bernal Heights writers. This edition featured two of Bernal’s most glamorous literary-journalism superstars: Neighbor Liz Weil and Neighbor Jon Mooallem, both of Ellsworth.
Neighbor Liz’s article is a profile of teenage running prodigy Mary Cain:
The 800 [meter] is a crushing race. Runners go out hard, then try to hang on to the pace in a showcase of will. Through the first six and a half laps of that eight-lap relay, the announcer called the event gamely, like a horse race — “Bishop Guertin! Bronxville! Achilles!” — playing up the tension, implying that anybody could win. But shortly after Cain took the baton, the race became disorienting. Everybody was running one speed and Cain — eyes down, body tilted forward — was running at another. Like watching a turntable with one record spinning at 33⅓ r.p.m. and another at 45 r.p.m., it scrambled the brain. Cain completed her first lap in 58 seconds, only half a second slower than Roger Bannister ran his first lap at Oxford on May 6, 1954, when he became the first man to break the four-minute mile. The announcer, flabbergasted, began shouting: “Bronxville! Mary Cain! Bronxville! Mary Cain!” at irregular intervals. She ran her 800 meters in 2:03.74.
Immediately following that… as part of his excellent, ongoing investigation into oddball ways that humans relate to wild animals, Neighbor Jon tells the sordid tale of Arlan Galbraith, a man who turned pigeon breeding into a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme:
Pigeon King International sold breeding pairs of pigeons to farmers with a guarantee to buy back their offspring at fixed prices for 10 years. Initially, Galbraith told farmers that the birds were high-end racing pigeons and that he planned to sell the offspring to the lucrative markets that support the sport overseas. Later, Galbraith changed his story, telling farmers that the birds were part of his trailblazing plan to elevate pigeon meat, known as squab, from a fringe delicacy in North America into the next ubiquitous chicken. But in the end, “they were neither,” the prosecutor said; Galbraith never sold a single pigeon for sport or meat. He seemed to have merely taken the young birds he bought from Pigeon King International farmers and resold them, as breeding pairs, to other Pigeon King International farmers, shuttling pigeons from one barn to another. And this meant continually recruiting new investors so he would have the cash to buy the pigeons his existing investors produced every month. When Galbraith’s scheme finally fell apart, Pigeon King International had almost a thousand breeders under contract in five Canadian provinces and 20 U.S. states. He’d taken nearly $42 million from farmers and walked away from obligations to buy back $356 million worth of their baby birds, ruining many of those investors.
PHOTO: New York Times magazine table of contents, March 8, 2015 by Telstar Logistics