Tuesdays with Harry

Are pit barbecues truly outlawed at commercial establishments  in the jurisdictions surrounding the District of Columbia?

It’s part of my job to track down such grains of truth.

The fact-checking process can be arduous and occasionally repetitive, but it’s gratifying to learn the intricacies and quirks of assembling a monthly magazine.

One of the finest perks is the opportunity to tap writers and editors for explanations of various choices within stories.

After reading Harry Jaffe‘s account of murder within the Univ. of Virginia lacrosse ranks, I questioned his lead.

Instead of sending a random email with a response rate close to the amount of water in the Reflecting Pool, I can walk seven steps to a writer’s office.

I would have started the piece with the second paragraph — Berkley’s fish-head chop trick.

“Huguely had to walk 75 paces and climb two flights of stairs to reach Love’s door.”

Jaffe thought for a moment, called up the piece, reread it.

He said he wanted to put his readers in that place. He’d spent a good chunk of time walking around Charlottesville and was keen on the idea that the two lived close to each other.

The 75 paces was the punchline, he said, a tool to build foreboding. I’d noticed others.

“The door was not locked.”

On the quote about the culture of athletics beyond fraternities or sororities, I told him that I would never know what it was like to be in that position, forced to consider the murder of a teammate.

I paused.

It’s a scary thought.

But I informed him that there existed a collectivism far beyond any Greek system. Track kids are my family. We ate together. Traveled together. Saw each other seven days a week. The track team is more than family.

That, he replied, was what struck him most. Given the incredible circumstances, even Huguely’s teammates were tired of his antics.

“But Clements testified that he had heard Huguely coming down the stairs and locked his door. When Huguely asked to visit, Clements said, ‘Go away—I’m studying.’  … 

“It was in that hour that George Huguely had walked the 75 paces to Yeardley Love’s apartment and back.”

It’s fascinating to deconstruct pieces with the authors. I plan on more of these reverse engineering lessons as the summer progresses.

I only walk seven paces.

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