Can This Man Save SeaWorld San Antonio?

San Antonio Magazine

Carl Lum stands near the bottom of Shamu Stadium, close to the pool, and looks out at the arena. He has a commanding presence—tall with broad shoulders—but with his unassuming polo shirt and khaki slacks he looks like any other employee. In a relaxed tone of voice, he talks through the changes that are coming. He points to the large, oval-shaped pool, long used for the killer whale shows. He gestures to the huge, multicolored fin that decorates one side and the two large monitors. “That will all be gone,” he says. “It’s just way too Hollywood.”

In the five months since Lum transitioned from leading Busch Gardens Williamsburg to replace Dan Decker as president of SeaWorld San Antonio (both are owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment), he’s been thinking a lot about what needs to change. In his nearly 20 years with the company, Lum has been the guy who takes on big projects, sees opportunities and finds solutions. Now, he faces his biggest assignment: reinventing SeaWorld San Antonio. 

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Pretty River

San Antonio Magazine

It’s still beautiful. It’s just different. Cindy Meeks has to remind herself as she stands in the backyard of her home on the Blanco River in Wimberley. It’s been nearly a year since her family’s home, their business, Rio Bonito Resort, and the landscape in front of her were destroyed by the Memorial Day weekend flood—the greatest in recorded history on this part of the river. She’s still getting used to the new view. 

Before her, the ground slopes gently down toward flowing water, where Cypress Creek gives way to the mighty Blanco River. Where there was once a row of more than 50 cypress trees shading the water, there is now an expanse marked by a few scarred but surviving trees, remaining limbs stabbing into the air at awkward angles. Giant holes are left where the biggest and oldest trees were ripped out at the root. The manicured grass Cindy had so enjoyed mowing (her “therapy”) is now patchy, marred by bare expanses of mud. The white rock shelves near the bank that had made a beach for summertime swimmers are buried by heaps of gravel and debris. Across the river, an SUV is tangled high in a tree.

Despite the change in scenery, Cindy and her husband, Steve, still love it here. Through the wreckage, Cindy has noticed a beautiful new type of bird on the water and new trees sprouting from the ground. Nature is starting to rebuild itself. The Meeks are rebuilding, too. Cindy tries to focus on her hopes for the future—but it’s hard at times. There are days when she can’t help but relive that horrible night over again.

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Dead Ends

Indianapolis Monthly

In January 2013, Janis Copeland called her daughter. “I think something is going on with my sinuses,” she said. “I’ve started smelling this weird smell, like a sulfur smell.” A few weeks later, the aroma was so strong that she hobbled to the neighbors’ house to ask for help. She knew her own name, but she couldn’t remember the year. And she didn’t know who the president was. Her neighbor helped her into the car and raced toward the hospital. 

Kyle Burke was next.

His wife, Vickie, arrived at their home to find his car running in the driveway, the radio blaring. She went inside and discovered him facedown on the floor, coat still on, blood streaming from his mouth and puddling on the floor.

“What happened?” she said.

“I just don’t feel good,” he mumbled.

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Bitter Pill: Planned Parenthood of Indiana Struggles to Distance Itself from the National Scandal

Indianapolis Monthly

One Tuesday this past summer, Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), opened an email that would shape the rest of her year. A video circulating online about Planned Parenthood was igniting a firestorm, it said. She skimmed the message, saw the video, and clicked “play.”

As she watched, Cockrum initially thought the footage looked like the familiar “gotcha” videos she had seen from other anti-abortion activists. Released by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, this clip had the same secret, undercover look. The images showed a Planned Parenthood physician talking to people who (off-camera) were posing as vendors. But this one was markedly different in terms of content. Comprised of scenes of the doctor talking about fetal tissue donation, the video followed up with screens claiming her comments pointed to illegal activities. The topic was unfamiliar to Cockrum—she didn’t know much about fetal tissue donation procedures—but she was instantly alarmed.

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The Proposal 

Indianapolis Monthly

*Inspired ABC 20/20's segment "What the Doctor Ordered" & featured on 

On paper, Gregory Konrath looked like Mr. Right, a take-charge guy with a list of bona fides that made him hard for Joannah Bierzychudek to ignore. Stable: prosperous doctor, a surgeon. Check. Active: mountain climber, one who had traveled the world and mastered the Seven Summits. Check. Creative: author, a self-taught, self-published writer of a political thriller set in the Middle East. Double-check. In the realm of online dating among a pool of 40-somethings looking for that second or third chance at love, Konrath was swipe-right–worthy.

After dating Konrath for four months, Bierzychudek, a quiet nurse, moved into his home in Peru, Indiana. But on a June 2014 vacation in Puerto Rico, almost a year into their relationship, she realized that twice-married Gregory Konrath—doctor, climber, author—could be much more.

In fact, the rooftop bar of their resort hotel was just the kind of place where one might propose marriage. From a white outdoor sectional, Konrath ordered Bierzychudek a fruity concoction and got himself another rum and Diet Coke. They talked about plans for the week, the beautiful weather, how nice it was to relax in the warm ocean breeze. But then Konrath grew cold, twisting the conversation and spilling the black details of a plot—some of the pieces already in place—to kill his ex-wife, Ana.

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Back Home Again in Indiana: A.J. Foyt Returns to the 500

SB Nation Longform

November 20, 2014 Baylor-St. Luke’s Medical Center

It’s a week before Thanksgiving, and A.J. Foyt is asleep in a hospital bed in Houston. His chest heaves up and down, but the air in his lungs isn’t his own. For eight days, a ventilator has been aiding his breathing.

After triple bypass heart surgery, he had severe complications. Doctors put him in a coma to heal, but he isn’t getting better.

A.J. and his wife, Lucy, had discussed what they would do in a situation like this. She knew he didn’t want to use extraordinary measures to keep him alive.

A hospital stay isn’t anything new for A.J. Both during and after his racing career he’s had injuries, health complications, long hospitalizations and even longer rehabs.  But this time is different. This time it seems like they might really lose him.

Still, every day A.J.’s family members have come through the door expecting him to be awake. Expecting him to complain about the hospital. Or the food. Or the medicine. Instead, they find him quietly in bed. Eyes closed.

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Selfless Portrait

Indianapolis Monthly

*Finalist in the 2015 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists & featured on  

The chartered jet was hard to miss. Multimillionaire Guy David Gundlach, a childless bachelor well into his 50s, certainly owned plenty of valuables. Eleven homes scattered across the country and abroad— some with waitstaffs and groundskeepers, others containing oddities like family photographs, Legos, and, in one, a potty-training chair. Fifteen vehicles that included a Bentley and a Rolls-Royce. Hundreds of pieces of art, including a figurine of Salvador Dali’s Nobility of Time, which was one of many cast from the moustachioed surrealist’s two-dimensional works shortly before and after World War II. Pieces of furniture designed by Queen Elizabeth’s nephew. Countless packages of dress shirts and unworn slacks.

But Gundlach’s most singular indulgence was the use of a Cessna Citation X, the fastest civilian airplane in the world. Often his jet departed from the Los Angeles area, where the middle-aged man with a sweep of light blond hair was spending an early retirement looking for a golf game or a seat at a poker table, and arrived at his boyhood home: Elkhart, Indiana, where he had grown up as the son of a widow. The business jet, Cessna promises its well-heeled clients, “is going to get you where you’re going before anyone else.”

And though the aircraft sat nine, David Gundlach was usually a flight manifest of one.

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Teen Model: Grace Hartzel's Rise to the Runway

Indianapolis Monthly

Mary Clarke sat in a St. Louis Cheesecake Factory and scanned the room. As owner of Mother Model Management along with her husband, Jeff, Clarke had kept her head on a constant swivel for 25 years. She was well-known in the industry for having discovered a young Ashton Kutcher in an Iowa bar and supermodel Karlie Kloss at a cattle call for a local charity fashion show. But what were the chances of spotting a model in a Cheesecake Factory? She had popped into the chain restaurant for a bite to eat after scouring the adjoining mall, often the best place to scout young talent. But as she ordered her meal, her eyes came to rest on a nearby table. There sat the most beautiful family, an attractive middle-aged couple with four children—two younger girls, a boy, and the eldest sister, who was chatting away. The girl’s expressive manner emphasized her high cheekbones and sharp angles. Her huge blue eyes looked exotic on her girl-next-door face. Even sitting, the girl was obviously tall—and very thin. Bingo.

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Sister Sarah

The News-Gazette

As Sarah Roy walks down Sixth Street, her pale blue eyes squint slightly at the sun and her black veil gently whips behind her head. She’s among a sea of North Face jackets, Ugg boots and orange and blue sweatpants. She herself is donning her normal garb – black jumper, black tights, black veil and black mary-jane flats. It’s the same uniform she has worn nearly every day for the nine years since she became a Roman Catholic nun. Today she has added a navy hooded sweatshirt over her jumper – it’s a little chilly.

The University of Illinois campus is always busy just before noon students hurrying to class. Sarah is instead hurrying to noon mass at St. John’s Catholic Chapel at Sixth and Armory streets. She hops up the familiar concrete steps to the chapel, opens the heavy glass door above which is carved: “Teach ye all nations all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

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