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Nathan Allebach doesn’t consult a formula, research keywords or track online trends before he hits “send” on one of his tweets. That would, in a lot of ways, defeat the point of his abstract craft. Sometimes, he bolts awake in the middle of the night with a genius idea for a truly dumb shitpost. Other times, he lets loose his views on the world while stuck in a mid-day doldrum.

On September 26th, the 27-year-old published a tweet thread underlining his reflections on why young people feel so alone online and in their physical lives — only he did so as Steak-umm, the East Coast frozen steak brand noted for its use in discount Philly cheesesteaks. …

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Manny Balestrero should have never walked into that life insurance office. But on January 14, 1953, he did, looking to borrow $325 from his wife’s policy in order to pay for some critical dental work she needed. The next night, as he unlocked the door of his modest stucco home in Queens, he heard a voice from behind him. “Hey, Chris!” a man called out, referring to him by his formal first name.

Balestrero turned and spotted three police officers. They were detectives, and they were adamant that Balestrero needed to come with them, as he was suspected to be a serial robber who was hitting targets all over Queens. Balestrero had no idea what to say — he was a bass player at the Stork Club, happily married if struggling a bit financially. Yet as the detectives toured him through a string of Queens liquor shops, drugstores and delis, as well as that Prudential life insurance office, a string of witnesses confidently proclaimed him as the culprit. …

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For more than 40 years of his life, James Hall couldn’t decipher a restaurant menu by himself unless it had photos. He couldn’t navigate a bus schedule, choosing either to memorize the rhythms of its arrivals, or if he was somewhere unfamiliar, asking another person at the stop. He couldn’t read the details of a bank statement, use a computer to research a recipe or comprehend the front page of the newspaper in Cleveland, where he grew up.

This had been the case since he first started elementary school. Putting letters into words and words into sentences felt like trying to grab smoke from the air with his fists, despite the fact that Hall didn’t struggle to speak. But he’d gotten used to life in this in-between purgatory, supporting himself just fine through jobs as a janitor or in kitchens — jobs that he could talk his way into, with minimal testing or paperwork. In the meantime, he worked to put aside regrets about not learning how to read and write properly, focusing on the things he could do. …


Eddie Kim

LA-based reporter penning features for Mel Magazine.

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