Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • The Big One

    The outside limit of survival in a collapsed building, rescue experts say, is about a week, although as a rule the great majority of victims succumb within 72 hours to dehydration, shock or compression of the internal organs. That is also the point beyond which the will to live becomes problematic for people trapped in the stifling dark, often with loved ones dead and dying around them. But as late as noon on Thursday, 57 hours after a devastating earthquake flattened whole blocks of the Turkish city of Izmit, there was still reason for hope when Coleen and Vasco, Swiss rescue dogs trained to sniff out avalanche survivors, caught the scent of life in a heap of rubblethat had been a 14-story apartment building. The front-loader that had been eating away at the ruins fell silent and the crowd began the primitive, painstaking work of moving debris by hand. From a hole near the bottom of the mound, a child's voice was heard, calling for water. Out of the rubble came a boy of 7 or 8,...
  • One Crazy 'Summer'

    Once, there was another killer who haunted the night, struck out of nowhere and slipped away. Before John Wayne Gacy, the clown-suited slaughterer of teenage boys; before Wayne Williams, the strangler who stalked the poor black kids of Atlanta, there was David Berkowitz, who cruised the streets of New York City after midnight with a loaded .44, looking for young women to shoot. In a terrifying yearlong spree before his arrest on Aug. 10, 1977, he shot six people to death at close range, wounded seven others and wrote his nickname in 72-point type across the front pages of New York's tabloids: Son of Sam.To New Yorkers of a certain age, the name will forever evoke a time most of them would rather forget: a steamy summer in a crumbling city that paused in its everyday mayhem (1,553 murders in 1977, compared with 631 last year) only for an all-night riot touched off by a citywide power failure. But the era also saw the first stirrings of a vocation in a college student named Spike Lee,...
  • Stress

    1) IMMEDIATE ...
  • Yucca-Dusted Foie Gras

    In the history of American dining, there are pivotal moments when a cuisine makes the sublime leap onto white tablecloths. It happened to Italian when the spaghetti joint morphed into the Tuscan trattoria; it happened to Cajun when Paul Prudhomme invented blackened redfish. Now, up from the lunch counters of a hundred barrios, comes the delicious cooking of Latin America: exotic enough for North Americans to play the menu game of "find the steak"; incredibly fattening, yet high in beneficial complex carbs and unsaturated fats--actually, high in everything; culturally avant-garde and politically correct, but with rum-based cocktails of Hemingwayesque potency. ...
  • Devils Lake Gets Its Due

    As recently as 1993, when residents of little Minnewaukan, N.D., went fishing for walleye, they drove past farms and range land to the shores of Devils Lake, eight miles away. But now, after six years of precipitation averaging 25 percent above normal, the lake has come to them. Rising an astounding 24 feet on the virtually level prairie, it has quadrupled in area to 194 square miles, swallowing 70,000 acres of farmland and devastating nearly 500 homes. The creeping waters have been kept away from others by an elaborate breastwork of levees, so that once fashionable lakefront houses in the nearby town of Devils Lake now have views of a wall of dirt. "It's a flood that never goes away," says the town's mayor, Fred Bott.North Dakotans are experiencing the pitfalls of living in "prairie pothole" country. Here rainfall doesn't run neatly into streams and rivers; it collects in low spots scooped out by glaciers, forming lakes that shrink and grow from year to year--and on climatic cycles...
  • Ghost Of Everest

    He must have died near, or even after, sunset, because he had taken off his goggles and stowed them in a pocket. The unnervingly white skin of his back was bare to the sky where the wind had flayed off his clothing, seven layers of cotton and wool. From the evidence, George Mallory, the first man to attempt the summit of Mount Everest, had fallen to his death, landing several hundred feet below the ridge that leads to the peak. The astounding discovery of Mallory's body answers one question about what happened after he and Andrew Irvine disappeared into the clouds one day in June 1924. If it was near dark, he almost certainly fell on his way back down. But that only raises a second question, still unanswered: before turning around, did Mallory reach the summit?Among mountaineers, solving this puzzle would be akin to finding a manuscript of "Othello" in an envelope with Shakespeare's return address. Thus, on the morning of May 1, five American climbers fanned out on a steep and rocky...
  • The Truth About High School

    It was one careless moment in the cafeteria that she now believes will haunt her forever, or at least until graduation, whichever comes first. Blond, smart, athletic and well off, she must have thought she could get away with sitting down with a couple of gawky skaters from the fringe of high-school society, if only to interview them about hip-hop music for the school newspaper. She should have known that in high school, appearance outweighs motive by 100 to 1. There were giggles and stares, then loss of gossip privileges and exile from her seat at the center table next to the jocks. Now, a year later, recovered from a bout of anorexia as she tried to starve her way back into favor, she has found new friends. But the formerly cool sophomore, too humiliated to bear being identified, views her years in a West Coast high school as "hell."It should come as no surprise, given the events of two weeks ago, that teenagers can turn their social lives into a matter of life and death. Since...
  • Now, It's Designer Meals

    Would you like the chef to cook for you? Once, ordering a restaurant meal was a straightforward transaction, requiring only a simple balancing of greed against calories and price. That, though, was before American chefs became almost as famous as fashion designers. Today, the same people who aspire to wear designer clothes want to eat designer meals as well. For them, restaurants have created the "tasting menu," a customized selection of small dishes, inspired by that day's market bounty and prepared personally by the chef, rather than a journeyman cook who turns out the same dishes every night. When the chef offers to cook for you, he is challenging you to match your appetite to his ingenuity, your expense account to his gall in setting a prix fixe. The correct response is not to nudge your wife and say, "No, wise guy, we'll just have these sandwiches we brought." It is, "Of course, and what part of Nantucket Bay do tonight's scallops come from, exactly?"For years tasting menus...
  • At Home In The Big City

    The building was fine when it was built in 1874, a 21/2-story Victorian with 12-foot ceilings, a home for the burgeoning middle class of downtown Indianapolis. By 1981, when Susan Williams and her future husband, David Rimstidt, bought it for $15,000 in cash, it was a dilapidated wreck on a street of flophouses. The only bank willing to make a renovation loan assessed the property at exactly $0. And now the mysterious workings of the American economy have brought it back into fashion, along with the whole Chatham Arch neighborhood and much of downtown Indianapolis itself, where city officials are emptying housing projects as fast as they can find places to move the families--and selling them to developers to convert into apartments and condominiums. Asking price for a similar house on Williams and Rimstidt's block today: $300,000.Less than a decade after Joel Garreau proclaimed the triumph of the "edge city"--a cluster of office parks, malls and subdivisions plunked down at the...
  • Check, Please

    THE LONGEST-RUNNING MANHUNT IN New York--the quest by restaurant owners to lure, identify and stuff foie gras into all-powerful New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl--is over. Reichl, 51, announced last week that she is leaving after five and a half years to become editor in chief of Gourmet magazine. This means she can go out to eat without one of the legendary disguises with which she preserved her critical anonymity. ""In the last year I've had the feeling they're on to me,'' she says. ""Nothing feels stupider than sitting there pretending to be 70 while they're in the kitchen snickering--unless it's pretending to be 30.'' ...
  • Hurts So Good;At Work: What Full Employment Is Li

    FAST-FOOD WORKERS RECEIVE signing bonuses, paid vacations and 401(k) accounts. Salesclerks are in such demand that managers at the mall are poaching one another's employees. And the unemployment line--well, there really isn't one. Virtually everyone here who wants a job has one. Is this a worker's paradise? No. Just Fargo, N.D. In October, greater Fargo-Moorhead--as statisticians call this area of 160,000 people in the Red River Valley on the North Dakota-Minnesota border--became the nation's first metro area to record an unemployment rate below 1 percent since the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics began its current system of record-keeping in 1990. With unemployment at .9 percent, the bureau says, just 957 people here were jobless. ""We're humming,'' says C. Warner Litten, retired manager of the Fargo Clinic and a local civic booster.As Fargo goes, so goes the nation? If you want to know what a zero-unemployment economy could be like, this is the place to look. Full employment...
  • Tricky Dick's Missile Crisis

    FOR HISTORIANS, THIS WAS THE year of the tapes. A new history of the Cuban missile crisis, based on secretly recorded White House conversations, depicted John Kennedy as a thoughtful leader steering the nation through a potentially catastrophic nuclear confrontation. And at just about the same time, a new collection of Nixon tapes showed Tricky Dick as a vindictive schemer obsessed with getting even with his political enemies. Which got us wondering: what would have happened if the Soviets had installed missiles in Cuba on Richard Nixon's watch? Herewith, a fanciful reconstruction of the White House tapes from the great Cuban missile crisis of . . . 1972: ...
  • A Matter Of Faith

    Driving hime from Thanksgiving dinner in New London, Conn., to Spencertown, N.Y., the Kirsch family talked about the tree. They've had one every Christmas since Claudia Ricci and Richard Kirsch got married in 1978--even though a rabbi helped marry them, and even though their three children are being raised as Jews and even though Claudia herself, baptized a Roman Catholic, became a Jew eight years ago. Over that time the tree has come to seem increasingly out of place in their home. ""How would I feel if the rabbi saw this?" Ricci wondered. ...
  • The Screeching Halt

    Orville and Wilbur Wright had barely touched down on the North Carolina sand when military strategists began plotting ways to fight in the air. There had already been a few experiments with hot-air balloons as scouting devices. While the U.S. Army contracted with the Wright brothers for the first military airplane, the navy appointed a captain, Washington I. Chambers, to invent naval aeronautics. His problems were the most basic: how to enable pilots to take off from, and land on, a floating ship's small runway? The landing was solved first. A civilian pilot, Eugene Ely, flew a 50-horsepower Glenn Curtiss plane onto the armored cruiser Pennsylvania on Jan. 18, 1911. The landing platform had been rigged with ropes attached to sandbags. Aviation pioneer Curtiss had suggested a hook on the tail of the plane that would snag the ropes and stop the plane. Thus the "tailhook," now greatly strengthened to stop jets, was born. Chambers's idea for the takeoff was a catapult, driven by...
  • The 24-Hour Banker

    Now that practically everything in life is a 24-hour-a-day proposition, we forget that there used to be such a thing as "banker's hours," and many of them were spent waiting in line. It was in just such a line that a Dallas marketing executive named Don Wetzel was standing impatiently in 1968 when he had the inspiration that turned into the ATM, or automatic teller machine. Mechanical cash dispensers had existed in Europe. But they were clunky affairs that generally required paper vouchers that the machines, in a foreshadowing of ATM headaches to come, would "eat." Wetzel, with the help of two engineers from Docutel Inc., developed an ATM that operated with reusable plastic cards. Their magnetic strips contained a personal code that the user had to enter on a keyboard, along with instructions on what the computer should do (anything, evidently, but break a 20). The first such ATM debuted in 1969 in Rockville Centre, N.Y. But true networking didn't take hold until banks hooked up to...
  • Clip And Save

    Nobody's quite sure who came up with the first paper clip, but it's a good thing somebody did. Imagine having to tie papers together with a ribbon threaded through a series of holes, or being forced to fasten documents with rust-prone steel pins. These became indignities of the past with the introduction of the modern, bent-wire paper clip around the turn of the century. A Norwegian named Johan Vaaler may be the man responsible: he ginned up a few clip designs--including one that looks similar to the now standard Gem design--in 1899 and patented them in America in 1901. But by that time, a few other paper-clip patents were on the books. In 1900 Cornelius Brosnan of Springfield, Mass., patented a similar device called the Konaclip. A year earlier a patent had been issued to William Middlebrook of Waterbury, Conn., for a machine to manufacture paper clips, and its output, too, resembled the Gem. "When all is said and done, any attempt to sort out the origins and the patent history of...
  • Three Magic Wands

    As a teenager, his biographers tell us, Henry Ford loved to fix pocket watches. He would open up the backs and poke around inside that marvelous universe of balance wheels, springs, gears and ratchets, then put them all together again to witness the miracle of their motion synchronized to the spinning of the Earth itself. Mass-produced watches were one of the highest achievements of 19th-century ingenuity. In the 1700s, the English inventor John Harrison had labored for a lifetime to make a single clock accurate enough to keep time on an ocean voyage; Ford, before he devoted himself to the motorcar, calculated he could build watches by the millions at a cost of about 30 cents each--although he doubted that many people would ever need to own one.If he were alive today, Ford would find the world awash in clocks and watches, silently blinking away the minutes of the night from every coffee maker and microwave, but the exercise of taking them apart would be pretty unrewarding. He would...
  • Bundles Of. . .Joy?

    MANY PARENTS, LIKE THE MCCAUGHEYS, regard their children as gifts from God, which is very good for the children. The implied corollary--God wants you to get out of bed and warm up that bottle--is one reason most babies make it past infancy. Even though she hadn't had any children yet, Brooke Zacher of Florida, 31, understood perfectly well that a gift from God comes with strings attached, which is why she remembers crying for three days after being told last spring she was pregnant with triplets. That's about all she remembers of 1997, in fact, having gone almost without sleep since she brought Tyler, Jacob and Grant home in June. She thinks the McCaugheys may have been carried away with the thrill of having septuplets. Or, more bluntly, ""I think that woman in Iowa is totally nuts. And if she's not nuts now, she will be.'' ...
  • Nobody Beats The Pentagon

    IT WAS A BOLD STRIKE BY the U.S. Air Force, in the one theater where American supremacy has never been challenged: military procurement. Only the world's remaining superpower could rise to the challenge of buying 21 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets it doesn't need, at several million dollars a copy, just so another country wouldn't get them instead. But for the men and women who sign the checks for the B-2 stealth bomber, it was all in a day's work.The operation began last February when the former Soviet republic of Moldova, a nation of more than 4.4 million near the Black Sea, bounded by Romania and Ukraine, advised the United States that it was negotiating to sell what amounted to virtually the entire air force it inherited at independence. The prospective buyer: Iran, which already owned 30 MiG-29s, but none of the nuclear-capable S models, the most advanced fighter in the Soviet arsenal. Moldova had 14 MiG-29 S's, along with a few older models, and thought it could make better use...
  • The Civil Warriors

    THEY WERE THE FIRST American heroes after the Revolutionary War, and the models for all those who came after: fearless, supremely competent and self-reliant, even while living off a government expense account, which they overspent by some 1,500 percent. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark went, literally, off the edge of the map. At a time when the United States essentially ended at the Mississippi River, they walked, paddled and rode across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and back again. With the bicentennial of their expedition approaching in 2004, and with a best-selling account in the bookstores (Stephen E. Ambrose's ""Undaunted Courage''), Lewis and Clark have emerged from the shadow of Disneyland legends like Davy Crockett. They stand at the intersection of such potent trends as multiculturalism (they had a Native American woman translator, Sacagawea), regional cuisine (they were the first Americans to eat grizzly bear and prairie dog) and, of...
  • For Humans, Evolution Ain't What It Used To Be

    AMONG LARGE LAND animals, there's one species that eats the others for breakfast, and you know which it is. The rise of human beings to the top of the food chain was so astonishingly swift and decisive that it's natural to view the evolution of intelligent mammals-us, in other words-as preordained, the working out of biology's deepest principles. And natural, also, to assume that the same trends will continue, filling the future with ever more perfect humans. If you like Homo sapiens (so cute, the way those thumbs work! so clever, they never run out of stuff to say!) you'll love what evolves out of them. ...
  • How Kids Mourn

    THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY,'' SAYS Geoff Lake, who is 15 now, and was 11 when his mother, Linda, died of a rare form of cancer. He is only starting to realize it, but at each crucial passage of life--graduation, marriage, the birth of children--there will be a face missing from the picture, a kiss never received, a message of joy bottled up inside, where it turns into sorrow. His sleep will be shadowed by ghosts, and the bittersweet shock of awakening back into a world from which his mother is gone forever. If he lives to be 100, with a score of descendants, some part of him will still be the boy whose mother left for the hospital one day and never came home. ...
  • We'll Take Manhattan

    TOUGH TOWN, NEW YORK. BEFORE leaving Sarasota, Fla., for last week's free concert by country singer Garth Brooks, Mary Steele took a few sensible precautions, such as leaving all her jewelry home and telling her mother who should get it in case she died in a suicide bombing in the subway. Then she and her boyfriend, Paul Rinehart, drove right past New York to a motel 50 miles away in Connecticut, having been warned that it would be useless to look for parking any closer to Central Park. From Chippewa Falls, Wis., John Kloss, a truck driver, and his wife, Roxanne, a schoolteacher, drove straight down 57th Street en route to the North Meadow, keeping one hand on the window crank as a first line of defense against carjackers. But they made it safely through the gantlet of giggling high-school girls lined up to get into Planet Hollywood. Later, relaxing on the grass amid 250,000 fellow Americans in cowboy hats and a handful of local TV reporters attempting to mimic a slack-jawed country...
  • Chariots Of Fire

    stock-car racing, that if they didn't have a race to go to, they would be just as happy to spread a little 10W-40 on the street and watch the neighbors crash into each other. But anyone who goes to a race can see that's not true anymore, now that ticket prices have been raised enough to keep out the riff-raff. ""No sir, I don't come here to watch a wreck,'' says one man, wedged into a folding chair on a bluff above the straightaway at New Hampshire International Speedway, where the Jiffy Lube 300 was run earlier this month. He is a model stock-car fan, a living monument to American prosperity, glad to fork over nearly $1,000 to park his RV on this hillside and watch the race without the risk of ever running out of beer. He has on a Dale Jarrett T shirt that, spread out, would just about cover the hood of Jarrett's Ford. ""I don't want to see nobody get hurt, that's for sure,'' the man says. ""Even if it's Jeff Gordon.'' ...
  • Where The Books Are

    THEY ARE WHAT ANGKOR WAT IS TO Cambodia, or Disney World to America: the very souls of their countries, rendered in glass, wood and brick. In Paris, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France - four towers at the corners of a vast plaza - opened last winter with an exhibition whose title (""All the World's Knowledge'') suggests that whatever library might occupy second place, you don't need to know about it. And in London, passersby can at last glimpse the shape of the British Library, whose architecture Prince Charles once famously likened to an academy for secret police. It is the most expensive building in Britain and its foremost monument to the national pastime of muddling through. Or it will be, if it's ever finished.For architect Colin St. John Wilson, the British Library has ruled his life since the fateful day 35 years ago when he was asked to design a new home for the book collection of the British Museum. Over the next decade and a half he did two completely different plans for...
  • 'Road Rage': We're Driven To Destruction

    In the simple act of merging into traffic on the highway you can see how evolutionary history has failed to prepare human beings for life in the 20th century. It is there that humanity's powerful instinct for territoriality, designed to operate at foot speed, is tested in the split seconds that separate a merely assertive maneuver from a provocative one at 60 miles an hour. And it was at such a juncture that the lives of a 24-year-old mother named Tracie Alfieri and 29-year-old Rene Andrews came together for a few fateful seconds last fall, at an on-ramp to I-71 near Cincinnati. Apparently enraged by the manner in which Andrews pulled into her lane, Alfieri, according to witnesses, attempted to pass her on the right shoulder, then pulled around Andrews's car on the left, cut in front and hit the brakes - causing Andrews to swerve into a stopped tractor-trailer, resulting in multiple injuries and the loss of the 6-month-old fetus she was carrying. Convicted on May 2 of aggravated...
  • Coming Soon On The Thames: A Giant Whoopee Cushio

    AS A TOURIST ATTRACTION, the prime meridian, passing within a few miles of central London, is one of the world's great unexploited natural resources. Rich in historical associations and scientific significance, offering people the unique experience of standing with one foot in each hemisphere, it still somehow fails to make most visitors' "must see" lists. Tourists, perhaps, are put off going to see something whose description invariably begins: "An imaginary line..." But it is precisely the imaginary nature of the meridian that gives it marketing synergy with another great abstraction, the millennium. Jan. 1, 2000, will arrive locally at dozens of instants around the globe, but by agreement of the 1884 International Meridian Conference it becomes official for the entire world "at the moment of mean midnight" in the London suburb of Greenwich. More or less in the same spirit in which Columbus, Ohio, welcomed tourists commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America,...
  • Magma Force

    IT'S A QUESTION ONLY HOLLYWOOD--which can make up any answer it pleases--would dare ask: why are there no volcanoes in southern California? To the north and south of Los Angeles, the "Ring of Fire" stretches for thousands of miles of Pacific coast; underneath the city and its surroundings, the earth shakes and cracks, but nothing erupts out of it. If "Volcano," which opened last week (review), suggests that the forces of nature were just waiting for mankind to build a subway under Wilshire Boulevard--well, science offers a more reassuring explanation. But geologists also warn that even though, in most years, as many Americans die from volcanoes as are abducted by aliens, a major disaster is only a matter of time--human time, not geologic. It will kill not by fire but by ice, mixed with rocks, mud, dust and ashes--less photogenic than the movie's roiling, 2,000-degree lava but just as deadly, and even harder to escape. ...
  • Rudy To World: Drop Dead

    IT'S ONE OF THE LONGEST-RUNNING diplomatic disputes of the century: New York versus the rest of the world. Even after the retirement of famously combative mayor Ed Koch and the breakup of his nemesis, the Soviet Union, New York remains the only American city with its own foreign policy. The difference is that with the defeat of communism, current mayor Rudolph Giuliani has been free to focus on an issue dearer to New Yorkers than freedom itself, namely parking. Just last month, he got the State Department to agree to take away the license plates of diplomats who haven't paid their parking tickets in more than a year. At the United Nations, this was widely regarded as one of the gravest abuses of diplomatic hospitality since Philip IV moved the papacy to Avignon for most of the 14th century. Work on the great issues of war and peace ground momentarily to a halt as the Committee on Relations With the Host Country last week voted, 13-1, to refer this outrage to the General Assembly. In...
  • Two Days On Top Of The World

    IT IS ONE OF THE CRUELEST SURPRISES of middle age, that life holds challenges for which no amount of time on the StairMaster can prepare one. Climbing Mount Everest, for instance; the eight men and women who died there on May 10 and 11 last year were all fit, experienced climbers, and two of them--expedition leaders Rob Hall and Scott Fischer--were considered among the best in the world. But the mountain claims whom it will, the strong and the struggling alike--which is the essential lesson of Into Thin Air (293 pages. Villard. $24), journalist Jon Krakauer's firsthand account of those two fateful days on the highest place on Earth. ...