The Times' John Woodrow Cox was a finalist for Scripps Howard's Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Storytelling
The other finalist was former Times man and current Los Angeles Times star Chris Goffard. The winner was Andrea Elliott of the New York Times. Big boy stuff. Here are the five stories that were in John's portfolio:
MADEIRA BEACH — She cracks open the first can of Busch at 6:22 a.m. "Ching ching," she says, holding it up to her roommate. "To a good day, a good trip." She has endured five days on land and off the water. Too long. She needs to go. The sun has just risen as she climbs onto her purple Schwinn Ranger and rides south. Down Gulf Boulevard, down to the docks. "Hey, baby," she hoots at a friend. He hollers back. Here, everyone knows "Hollywood" Kim Imhoff. Here, she doesn't walk, she struts. Kim can fish and fight and spit as well as any man on any boat, and she knows it and so do they. Kim is 44, a sinewy 145 pounds of bones and bungee cords wrapped in a hide of sun-broiled leather. Not long ago, two drug addicts attacked her outside a gas station. They knocked out her two front teeth with a brick. No big deal, she says. They didn't get her $13. In a brawl last year, she hit a woman in the head with a purple, battery-operated dildo. Kim went to jail but won the fight.
He reached for a round brush next to a green box of Polident. The bristles glided through his fading, feathery blond hair. From his medicine cabinet, beneath a shelf of pill bottles for blood pressure and cholesterol, he plucked a glass jar of 212 Sexy Men cologne. Nine puffs draped him in a bouquet of vanilla, mandarin and self-assurance.
TAMPA — The alarm blared just after 6 that morning, but Jean Azor was already up. He showered, then rushed into his closet. He pulled on a pair of black slacks and a beige polo, his uniform at St. Joseph's Hospital. Behind his bed table, a newsletter was pinned to the wall. A photo on it showed him crouching next to a little boy with blond hair and blue eyes. Jean glanced at it and smiled, as if he had a secret. "I know he's coming," Jean said in a thick Haitian accent.
PINE ISLAND — He squatted between a bleeding air mattress and a coffeemaker perched on a blue cooler. It was still dark in his new home, around 7 a.m. A lamp cast a web of shadows over the creases around his tired green eyes. Fred Bellet stood, and at 5 feet 6, his head nearly touched the ceiling. Behind him, two dry cleaner tickets were pinned to the lampshade. They told him that soon everything would work out. Fred then peeled open the Velcro flap and, on his 10th day living in a tent, he stepped out into the dawn.
On the morning he was sure his life would change forever, the man with a silver crew cut and the shoulders of a fullback sat in the quiet fluorescence of a doctor's office, his knee bouncing and his breaths long.
The door opened.
"We're ready," said a thin woman in dark slacks and a white coat. "Are you?"