Dan Barry, who pens the "This Land" column for the New York Times, filed an ostensibly straight news story for Sunday's front page from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, "Kennedy Mourners Memorialize 'Soul of the Democratic Party." Instead, Barry got caught up in strained poeticism positioning Kennedy for secular sainthood.
The nation said final farewell on Saturday to Edward M. Kennedy, who used his privileged life to give consistent, passionate voice to the underprivileged for nearly a half-century as a United States senator from Massachusetts. He was the only one of four fabled Kennedy brothers to reach late adulthood, and he was remembered for making the most of it.
Along the rain-dappled roadways of Boston in the late morning, and then in the sweltering humidity of Washington in early evening, people waited for the fleeting moment of a passing hearse so that they could pay respects to the man known simply as Ted. At the United States Capitol, where Mr. Kennedy had served for so long, his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, stepped out of a limousine to receive hugs, bow her head during prayers, and to hear the singing of "America the Beautiful."
New York Times "This Land" columnist Dan Barry landed on Friday's front page with his literary, slightly affected profile of a "tent city" for the homeless in Providence, Rhode Island -- and may now wish he hadn't.
Because there was something left out of Barry's portrayal of John Freitas, the "chief" of the homeless encampment and a major part of Barry's column.
The chief emerges from his tent to face the leaden morning light. It had been a rare, rough night in his homeless Brigadoon: a boozy brawl, the wielding of a knife taped to a stick. But the community handled it, he says with pride, his day's first cigar already aglow.
By community he means 80 or so people living in tents on a spit of state land beside the dusky Providence River: Camp Runamuck, no certain address, downtown Providence.
Because the two men in the fight had violated the community's written compact, they were escorted off the camp, away from the protection of an abandoned overpass. One was told we'll discuss this in the morning; the other was voted off the island, his knife tossed into the river, his tent taken down.
The chief flicks his spent cigar into that same river. There is talk of rain tonight.