The article focuses on an ex-cop named
Rick Strawn, who will come and take your
kid -- in handcuffs if necessary -- to a
place that will whip him into shape.
Nadya Labi, a senior editor at Legal
Affairs, followed Strawn as he snatched
Louis, a 16-year-old, out of his bed in
Tampa and took him to Casa by the Sea, a
school in Mexico that specializes in
American teens who are, Labi writes,
"talking back, getting poor grades,
staying out late, drinking, having sex
too soon, or taking drugs."
Louis's parents hired Strawn --
for $1,800 -- because their son's grades
had plummeted, he kept sneaking out
after his 9 p.m. curfew, and they
suspected he was smoking pot.
When Strawn arrived, at about 2
in the morning, Louis was fast asleep,
clueless about his parents' plans. His
father popped open Louis's locked
bedroom door with a dinner knife and
Strawn stepped into the room, where the
boy's teddy bear sat in an armchair.
Louis woke up, his face swabbed with
acne cream, and he fumbled for his
glasses, utterly baffled.
His parents kissed Louis
goodbye and left. Then Strawn and an
assistant handcuffed the boy, flew with
him to San Diego, then drove him to
After he dropped Louis off at
Casa by the Sea, Strawn ignited his
traditional victory cigar and blew out a
celebratory smoke ring. Another job well
Or maybe not. Labi, a dogged
investigative reporter, reveals some
disturbing facts about the foreign
"schools" that cater to troubled
American kids, and about the unregulated
"teen transporter industry" that
includes Strawn's company and about 20
others around the country.
For instance, Casa by the Sea,
which costs $30,000 a year, offers, Labi
writes, "no traditional academic
instruction." Instead, the students
watch self-help tapes and attend
behavior modification seminars. Kids who
break the rules are punished with
solitary confinement. "I had to sit with
crossed legs in a closet for three
days," one Casa alumna told Labi.
Labi also uncovered that, in
1997, Strawn pleaded guilty to reckless
conduct and DUI after an incident in
which he was accused of kicking his
stepdaughter, choking his wife and
firing his gun in a drunken rage. A
judge sent Strawn to an alcohol
treatment program for six months, and he
was permitted to retire from the Atlanta
police force the day before he would
have been fired.
Strawn is sober now, a
religious man who never takes off his
"What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet and
likes to pray with the kids he
transports. Still, there are problems
sometimes. Three years ago he took a
17-year-old Alabama girl to a school in
Jamaica that is run by the company that
owns Casa by the Sea. The next day, the
girl ran out of a classroom and
committed suicide by leaping off a
Wanna get rid of your kid?
Believe me, I understand the feeling.
But don't do it before you read this
very disturbing story.
The Road Less Traveled
These days, you can drive on interstates
from sea to shining sea and not see much
of America except guardrails, billboards
and rest stops. Writer Charles Graeber
decided to try something different.
Graeber and his girlfriend,
photographer Bree Fitzgerald, drove a
Jeep from Canada to Mexico -- entirely
on dirt roads. They've chronicled the
long, strange trip in a delightful piece
in the August issue of National
Geographic Adventure magazine.
Starting at the northern tip of
Idaho's panhandle last October, they
spent 20 days slogging through 3,168
miles of Oregon, Nevada and California
on wretched rocky roads over mountains
and across deserts. It was a tough trip
but the scenery was spectacular -- huge
rocks that look like "a sea of melted
Hershey's kisses," a sunset "resembling
rhubarb pie with peach ice cream" and a
valley of Joshua trees that "spike the
desert like millions of happy green
Traveling off-road, they met
some wonderfully offbeat Americans.
There's Tosh, a cowgirl who used to be a
promoter for rap musicians. And Sue, who
has been cooking for a crew of
power-line builders in Hells Canyon,
Idaho, since her fourth divorce: "Last
Sue saw of her number four was over a
shotgun barrel, him running naked
through the trailer court, still covered
And then there's Rose, who
works in a motel near the bombing range
at the Naval Air Weapons Station at
China Lake, Calif. "I've lived near the
bombing range all my life," Rose says.
"I won't get out of bed for anything
less than six on the Richter scale."
By some strange quirk of art history,
the man who inspired Doonesbury creator
Garry Trudeau to draw his first cartoon
was . . . George W. Bush.
Trudeau tells the story in a
rare interview in the Aug. 5 issue of
Rolling Stone. He met Bush at Yale in
the '60s, when Bush was a junior and
Trudeau a freshman. "He was just another
sarcastic preppy who gave people
nicknames and arranged for keg
deliveries," Trudeau says.
The following year, Bush became
the rush chairman of the Delta Kappa
Epsilon fraternity. "I do believe he has
the soul of a rush chairman," Trudeau
says, acidly. That year, the Yale Daily
News ran an exposé of hazing techniques
at Deke -- initiates were branded on the
butt with a red-hot coat hanger -- and
the paper's editor asked Trudeau to
illustrate it. "So the very first
cartoons I did for the Yale Daily News,"
Trudeau says, "were about Deke and
As Doonesbury readers know,
Trudeau was no fan of the first
President Bush, but he's really
scathing about the second.
was a competent public servant but no
leader," Trudeau says of our president's
father. "Now, of course, he seems to me
a paragon of decency, moderation and
thoughtfulness, everything his arrogant,
radical, proudly ignorant son is not.
What a shame the world has to suffer the
consequences of Dubya not getting enough
approval from Dad."