05.11.24 [on the F train]

sprang! subway! no one is awake for a good reason! i couldn't fit a volunteer shift in last month and shouldn't really be starting with catchup now, i have a nasty week i should be pregaming, but the cats sense weakness and have been wedging my jet-lagged ass out of bed, so here we are. we did not see any of the solar-storm super-southern aurora borealis last night—even if it had been clear, light pollution is of course dreadful here—but i did see enough of it on social media to wish in the abstract that we were still in scandinavia. in practice i was in stockholm last friday, copenhagen the friday before that, and tulum the friday before that, so i'm pretty okay with never going anywhere ever again (except philadelphia next month for a rolling stones concert? i have no good excuse for that).

mexico was wonderful, the first press trip i've taken in a long time that made me feel like press trips are worth my time—which sounds silly, but since my main travel outlet switched over to all paranormal content a couple of years ago and i'm neither about to start ghost hunting nor especially interested in wooing new outlets, it's tricky to come up with ways to write about the things i'm invited to experience that don't make me feel like a shill. in truth i'm a writer who likes to travel rather than a travel writer, probably—one of the other americans on this trip was telling me about the industry conference i avoid every year and she and many of the writers i meet on these things seem to feel are indispensable, and it sounded like immersion therapy, or enhanced interrogation, or rush week at a southern school—matching with and speed-dating PR reps who then might or might not invite you to fly halfway around the world to spend two days at an all-inclusive resort devoted to steak, everclear, and show tunes, and while i get that this kind of full-body shudder is such niche privilege that i should just offer myself up as the first protein when the resource wars begin (you know they're coming soon, these lisa frank trapper keeper skies last night were no accident), wow, ritualizing what i do in a baldly networky way makes me want to walk into the sea. another beauty of the mexico trip is that for once i knew what (and that) i'd be writing about it before i accepted: a dear old friend from my magazine-staffer days asked if i would go and cook up a piece on solo travel for her new magazine, and that's very much the sort of thing i can get excited about doing. amusingly, though the trip was pitched to her/me as a gender-specific thing, other writers didn't arrive with that frame—and lo, there was a dude among us (two, counting the photographer/influencer who shot us all week). so technically a vagina travelogue it was not, though it functioned that way anyhow, a bit—beyond the collective appreciation of each other's sundresses and blouses that kicks off group meals on most temperate press trips, talk stayed reasonably clear of lady zones. despite my disdain for networking crap and industry gossip, i also picked up some interesting stuff about how other clients and markets work—like, if you're an australian writer it's hard to pitch a trip unless you're the only person in the country writing about it, and though US-based writers almost never feel obligated to promise coverage beforehand (and i can count on one hand the times i happen to have done it), it's standard practice in other places? i still haven't written about the cruise joe and i took last fall and the crazy bahamas trip that happened 16 hours after we got back from paris, and while i plan to get on that, i'm not especially excited about it. it feels significant that i haven't made much of an effort to fold these subjects into my pitches for the outlets i typically save for passion projects. am i quiet-quitting this phase of freelance writing, at least for now? mexico makes a compelling case for keeping an open mind—it was the perfect trip for me to take without joe, given the focus on swimming in caves and waking up before dawn to streak into the ocean. if i can position myself as my friend's startup's tropical goth crone, maybe i can wriggle out of the world of slideshows and bullet points and sing of iguanas in my own dialect. it has a certain something.

03.30.24 [on the J train]

there's an oak leaf pressed in this notebook from the owl funeral i attended last month—along with the zoo photo safari i'd taken just over a week earlier, one of the stranger trips i'd taken for an article, though there's a strong likelihood i'd have gone to the funeral anyway. i've now been writing and/or fretting over my latest Earnest Science Feature for nearly three months, though it feels more like thirty. i haven't begged joe to read any of this one except for the first version of the opening scene (one of my favorite will mcphail panels is the one where a woman asks a spider she's trapped under a glass to read something she's written), but given how much i've bitched and tossed around in bed about it, i'm sure he'll be as glad to see it out of our lives as he was, say, when i finished my orwell essay for the new york times. out, it will soon be out! until i get a big old tattoo of its subject in may, that is. (owl, not orwell.)

a man on this train is snoring the sort of snore that seems like it'd rouse the snorer, or jolt him a few inches in the air, at least, but he snores on, and i wish him well; it would be nice to be flat for a few more hours. i'm trying to get a few more bleary mornings volunteering in queens out of the way early this spring, as i'm going to mexico on assignment(!!) in a few weeks and joe and i are then meeting my folks in copenhagen, where i have decided i don't care if it's touristy to truck out to elsinore kronborg castle. we have planned little else beyond a few meals and a night at the opera and, oh, a shared airbnb i picked for when we migrate to stockholm. will my stepfather, aghast at the way i live when i'm not at a high-end hotel, decide he doesn't love me anymore? will joe out-snore this guy on the train, who sounds with every breath more and more like he's awake and trying to fool schoolchildren? will i join the danish swans and leave my terrestrial life behind once and for all? hard to say. i ended up not interviewing a colleague out in prospect park for the swan essay i sent off to the printer this week, as the thing was short enough that bringing in another voice was going to be kind of weird and she was being flaky enough about meeting that i didn't have the energy to keep chasing. i did send a draft of the piece to my friend R at the bird hospital—not because i needed to check facts, exactly, but because anyone who knew what i was talking about would know where i was talking about, and i wanted her blessing.

she called me from her long-overdue vacation and gave it, and told me Secret Owl Things about my other feature, and let me know, when i finally screwed up the courage to ask, that bird ben, the northern cardinal i've loved for a a decade, died last summer. i don't know how to write about that, and imagine i won't for a long time; knowing ben changed me in a way i might not understand until i'm very old, if i get to be very old. i do know that R's three-part benediction—you've done right by swans, i trust you enough to tell you confidential things about the owl, we can remember ben together—felt a bit like permission to take full height in this version of myself. i wonder sometimes if she knows how badly i wanted her to see this identity all those years i cleaned cages and wrestled geese, and i know that one of her great gifts is to speak to the people we want to be on our best days. i don't mean that i'm a few inches in the air like the snorer uptrain (who's still at it!), but i have had occasion to say yes, yes, that is what i meant.

02.03.24 [on the J train]

i've had a run of really wonderful reads at the start of this year: turning into a shark, swapping bodies with your spouse, defeating conversion camps, it's all been lovely. speculative fiction makes me itch to write strange things, though not to write fiction—i have tried that a few times and everything about it feels wrong. which is lucky, really, as i then get to enjoy others' stuff with absolutely no skin in the game. on that, though, i had a funky twinge yesterday that is leading me to look into the possibility of writing a nonfiction book? it would not be a collection of essays, nor would it be a memoir; it would have a principal and lots of secondary subjects that are not me, and you would just smell me in the structure and language, or maybe, maybe i would lean a bit into a framework like the one in preparing the ghost, where the author talks about the first photographer of a giant squid and also, semi-related, about his own working out of an ice cream truck in chicago. i will probably spare posterity stories of my slinging health food in orange county, but maybe other glimpses could end up in there? more importantly, the prospective subject spent significant parts of her life close to new york city, so if i decide i really want to dig in on research—a copy of her out-of-print midlife memoir is on its way to me now*—i could make a lot of initial progress without shelling out for plane tickets or making myself vulnerable in, i don't know, residency applications or whatever. i am still not at all sure that writing and especially selling and marketing a book are things i truly want to do, but i know i want to read this memoir to see if i like the idea of spending a lot more time thinking about this woman, and that's something?

the owl pitch i mentioned last month landed, speaking of writing. it landed this past wednesday because my editor missed my email the first time and then had COVID, so the time-sensitive part of the story is spoiled, but i get to spend the rest of the month thinking about owls—for money, and that's the dream, really. yet another bird pitch flew out of me about a week ago, and before that another about a world war two pilot and candy, and if all of them hit, february is going to be a bit of a shit show—but perhaps it's time for me to develop the ability to juggle passion projects instead of packing them in the tissue of better-paid busy work. the ceramic flamingo i ordered after embracing a flamingo in the bahamas last fall was bubble-wrapped just beautifully, and it still arrived on our doorstep with a broken neck.

*ETA as i finally get around to uploading this written-on-the-subway post: it was getting weird that the memoir i mentioned hadn't arrived as of today, so i checked my alibris account and realized i hadn't succeeded in buying it. it's finally en route for realsies! since i'm updating, i can also now report that the other bird pitch also hit and i finally got a weird no about the pilot, like, monday, february 20th. i'm a little shocked at the rejection, as that pitch was really good, but juggling three semi-recreational stories this month would have broken me. i am at peace.

01.06.24 [on the J train]

if eater posts an item about a delicately-braised writer turning up on a platform in queens later today, that's me; i took the clinic-escort volunteer leaders' email about extra-cold-weather layering too seriously and am sous-vide'ing myself in some zippy thing i bought in akureyri last year and snow boots that are bigger than the cat. i am not one of those people, alas, who thinks sweltering one's way to the great mixed-recycling bin would be better than freezing to death.

one of my milder personal nightmares came to life yesterday evening at this off-broadway riff on a mentalist show at which i was singled out for a bit of audience participation. this was my own fault, since the performer was narrowing down his field of targets by telling people to sit down if they weren't left-handed and so on—i could have just done that—but being compelled to lie is also a personal nightmare, so that was off the table. luckily the guy doing the audience work seemed to catch my awkward-collaborator psychic stink and moved on. i told my mom about the show and she sympathized—she once got plucked from the crowd at a penn and teller show in las vegas. my mother is a brutal disappointer of magicians—an occasion on which she did so at a southern california fuddrucker's is canonical in my family—so this fascinated me. are these guys (they are always guys) like cats who know when someone doesn't want them to sit in their lap?

i sent my first passion-project pitches for the new year earlier this week and—you might want to be sitting down for this—they are about birds. it's time to write a weird science piece about birds! the ideal weird piece about birds would be a deep dive on the state of sky burials, as caitlin doughty talked about in from here to eternity (her boss book about death practices around the world and why pretty much all of them are a better deal than what we do here in america); as i recall, it's getting tougher to do them in places like india because the necessary raptors no longer show up (pollution? habitat loss?), whereas here we have carrion birds aplenty but it's illegal. which reminds me: i wrote several pieces for a friend's end-of-life startup (heh) years ago and never bookmarked their eventual URLs; is my relatively mixed-company-friendly explanation of what happens when a body is embalmed still out there somewhere? what about the quaker funeral breakdown? (for what it's worth, i like the sound of quaker funerals: simple, pretty green.)

the bird pieces i pitched are about owls and flamingos, so no human-corpse-eating to report out, probably. if i pitch the owl idea to another outlet i'm considering mentioning that my enthusiasm for them is so consistent that the only smartphone lock screen i've ever had is a grainy old shot of the midtown hooters marquee. a little beside the point, maybe, but it's true, and i eventually landed that piece i wrote about collecting nineteen eighty-four because i emailed a stranger about the time a pigeon threw up in my mouth, so...maybe?



i gave a french couple directions to bryant park.
i went on my mushroom club's pop-up central park walk.
i learned a difference between snail eggs and slug eggs.
i decided to order crispy pickled artichokes instead of pickled crudités.
i shaved my legs in a bubble bath.
i extended my duolingo streak.
i remembered the bottle of kombucha in my tote bag.
i opened a window in the bedroom.

12.31.23 [on the F train]

i spent the last of the morning setting out the final, top row of pieces to conclude the first stage of my pandemic english paper piecing quilt, a project that might actually have been simmering since 2019, now that i think about it—i bought some of the fabric for it when i was on st. croix for agrifest in february of 2020, and it was well underway by then. this portion is one of the loveliest for me—i've carried up from the waterline flash of sunset fire up to billowing clouds pieced with sherbet-colored liberty fabric, then bled those hues into bolts of darkening sky that becomes grey cosmic whorls and, finally, graphic black-and-white hexes that feel a bit like regolith liberated from a moon's gravity, or what a lithographer like jacques hnizdovsky would see in his mind's eye if he stargazed on a shore. the foot of the quilt features abstracted and rearranged grey-and-black koi on kimono fabric mixed in with some of my favorite hand-drawn blues to give the look of tide and pools mixing it up on a rocky shore, and at first i thought the final row at the top would include a bit more of those dusty floral greys, but i think that conclusion of unbroken darkness–or lightlessness, maybe—is fitting, as i for one don't know what comes next. i remember sewing that cartwheeling horizon together on a long-gone new year's eve and thinking: something is afoot.

we humans haven't been beyond lower earth atmosphere, where the international space station does donuts around our planet, since the early '70s, a factoid i don't imagine many non-scientists think about too often. fungi hae also been that far in recent years–we and fungi, out there deciding what we're going to do about cosmic radiation and what our next shelters will look like. i'd like to sew the last hexes in place tonight.


the dirty dozen (highlights of "the quest for a crocodile dictionary," new york times, 08.24.03)

01 By Anthony Ham
02 "[T]here are also nonvocal forms of 'speaking,' like head slaps on the water, narial geysering (when a crocodile dips its nose beneath the water and spouts water into the air), narial toots, and, yes, blowing bubbles."
03 "Vladimir Dinets of the University of Tennessee has studied American alligators from Texas to South Carolina and described a ritual in which alligators gather to swim in circles 'like an old-fashioned village dance.'"
04 "He has also observed what he calls 'alligator choruses' during the spring mating season in Everglades National Park in Florida."
05 "...said Dr. Dinets, who is not involved in the crocodile dictionary."
06 "Even studying captive crocodiles has its complications: The crocodiles at Australia Zoo kept eating the microphones."
07 Splash Splash A male crocodile makes a narial geyser with his nostrils. Recording by Sonnie Flores/University of the Sunshine Coast.*
08 OY, NY, NY, Aug. 24: "[F]from most of what I have seen animals are not limited by their expressive abilities but more because they have limited things to discuss. Food, mating, danger, competition, and the early plays of Kaufman and Hart."
09 HERMAN, PA, Aug. 24:
"If they can get enough to eat from the remaining
mammals they could be the dominant species
Evolution could eventually get them a more
sophisticated language and they could find
ways to write plays and novels"
10 On Edge, Philadelphia, Aug. 24: "Like possibly 'My Dinner of Andre'?"
11 Linda Fernberg, New York, Aug. 24: "Sounds like peepers (frogs) peeping at the first sign of spring."
12 Cliff, Union City, MI, Aug. 25: "By the way the turtle is pretty good sized with a sharp beak and a head the size of a small dog, that could take off several fingers with one snap. But he seems pretty contented sitting in the guys lap, riding along, seemingly enjoying his notoriety for the day."

*the times and the researchers were too classy to say so, but the sound file embedded beside this [one of three in the article, all of which are vital; the second is the reptilian version of the law and order noise] is unquestionably the sound of a saltwater crocodile, or "saltie," flushing a toilet.

12.23.23 [on the F train]

it is too early to make good decisions! the anti-abortion extremists who harass patients outside the far-flung clinic to which i am en route would never yell something like that and i'm not about to suggest it, but–they wouldn't be incorrect? i nearly grabbed the wrong train just now as i was congratulating myself for waking up without my alarm for this morning's escorting shift. of course, i'll never rise naturally because birdsong summons and the sun warms my bones or whatever; worry is the only thing that gets me up without assistance. i don't mind that so much, as it sort of means that the worst moments of my day are inevitably the very first ones. once i know i won't sleep late i can pose for the river with the cats and contemplate late-stage capitalism with my microwaved day-old coffee. we are staying put for the holidays as we usually do, and it's even lower-impact than in previous years: we'll go out to a movie on christmas eve but aren't doing one of the fancy dinners i invariably hate. i still haven't figured out how to strike a balance between joe's interest in complicated-food-and-drink-related celebration and mine in comparative frugality (in that context, at least) and temperance, but i hope we're getting better at meeting each other halfway.

i didn't think i was going to have much free time here at the end of the year, but work is mostly done? i have to turn in a revised draft of my MUSHROOMS IN SPACE! essay back in over the first week of january, but it feels like the tweaks my editor and i talked about aren't going to break my head. i'm hemming and hawing over what my next passion projects (or at least the ones that i pitch instead of just accepting) will be and...meh? it was humbling to eat it with my first new yorker humor submission, though my dad made a valiant attempt to console me with the repeated story of how some friend of his has submitted hundreds of thousands of cartoons to them and is still waiting for a nod. i appreciate his point, but i am a very special girl and this is totally different.

speaking of special girls, my favorite former staffer from the bird hospital, a woman i haven't seen in person since well before the pandemic, popped up in my instagram feed as a full-fledged (heh) urban ranger in central park. i have absolutely nothing to do with that, but hot damn did it activate my proud-auntie parasympathetic system! one day you're swooning at the smell of crow blood in front of a gal and the next she's in your phone delivering a totally polished minilecture about weird duck season. i'm very curious to know if she's blown the whistle on mouse park, i.e. the spot where we'd sneak behind some trees and release the mice we'd caught nibbling on bird seed in the hospital's basement treatment room, but my feeling is that i should let sleeping liberated rodents lie. god i'm happy for her.

11.25.23 [on the J train]

i finished the book i was reading, i finished the book i was reading! that's generally what happens if you keep at it and turn the pages when you should, but this book kept getting longer, as if a malevolent troop of gnomes was scaling my etagère each night to add new chapters. if i hadn't come to the end at last after three hours of reading yesterday i was seriously considering setting out sticky traps. i have been splashing around in horror and horror-adjacent novels since my mycological society's book club read mexican gothic (appropriate for a bunch of mushroom enthusiasts but kind of squelchily confusing in its own right–i would have gone for some lovecraftian uncertainty at the end, e.g. "what i beheld when i followed the tunnel of luminous fungi to the unholy altar overwhelmed my senses so completely that darkness swallowed me whole and i knew no more," but part of the author's whole deal was to poke holes in racist lovecraftian bullshit, so i soupfooted my way through the too-too climax like a realatively good sport). i then read leech, which the cool kids at pegasus books in oakland recommended as i was buying mexican gothic, and that i appreciated much more; turns out i was in the mood for mid-apocalyptic, bipedal parasitism, and the premise was both terribly clever and well-developed. i still don't really understand why the image of dogs' noses kept popping up, but we're all entitled to a mystifying metaphor every now and again, i hope. speaking of, the weird humor piece i finally finished this fall and sent off to the new yorker right before we left for canada was at long last rejected, and then mcsweeney's rejected it with dispiriting alacrity. i was so sure i had a weird gem on my hands! joe, who isn't in the habit of inflating my expectations about writing stuff, was so sure i had a weird gem on my hands! maybe i'll just post it here, and dance like three readers are watching.

our trip to paris was remarkably pleasant–i'd built in a bunch of toothsome stuff, as i mentioned, and figured it would be decent, but i feel like a couple of decades have really done a number on the city's ambient misanthropy, maybe i'm a better tourist now that i've lived in a big city for a long time? maybe all the extra-crotchety boomers that made my family's visit difficult and then ingored me as a solo flâneuse have buggered off to the suburbs? people were great about speaking french with me, and having a smartphone meant that i was able to be generically chatty rather than a supplicant most of the time. our airbnb appeared to be some dude's actual apartment as opposed to some LLC's investment, and the sneakers i had to buy when my chuck taylors fell apart on like our second day didn't give me new-shoe blisters, a no-shit travel miracle. we even found what genuinely seems to be an old isfahan rug at a flea market, and while its mysteriously low price probably means that its previous owner was murdered on it or that it's full at the very least of continental poltergeists, it seems so far that they're the less-is-more sort of phantasms that knocked around that novel the gnomes kept writing. we really needed an extremely big floor covering, so this tradeoff is okay with me.

10.28.23 [on the F train]

it wasn't painful to get up just after six this morning! it's not something i want to get in the habit of doing, mind, but i didn't feel like i'd been hurled through an interstellar hatch to the waking world, blinking and about to freeze solid in airless space, and that is something. speaking of airless space, i am batting .500 on landing interviews with moon- and mars-colonization experts for an upcoming essay and feeling pretty fancy about it. some outlets' names get me instant yeses, but this one is niche and much trickier; if i spent my days thinking about terraforming and organic architecture i like to think that i would find queries like mine enchanting, but i appreciate that when one is focused on keeping our sorry asses alive beyond the home planet we've trashed it's important to allocate resources practically. i haven't decided if i'll do a video or phone interview with my yes; it can be easier to refer to my notes when i'm not visible, but it can be easier to establish a rapport with my subject when i am. she seems like a cool lady, so maybe i'll go for video? it might sound a little silly to be proud of just gaining access, but this expert wanted to see my questions before making up her mind on if or how we'd be in touch (not as weird as it sounds when you're talking about a science- versus personality-driven exchange; clinicians and researchers often want to know that you have your shit together before they promise you their time, and that's fine and fair. i'm not trying to trick her into a juicy quote about what happened after she slept with justin timberlake).

we are leaving for paris at the end of next week, my first time back since the ignominious visit of '97 when i wept my way across the city and had the best fried potatoes of my life with a man who mistook me for a hooker. i thought joe would make some restaurant reservations and we'd otherwise kinda walk the earth, but i've booked quite a few afternoons and evenings: we'll be rolling out for a rothko exhibition, an opera, a bicycle-themed film festival, and a jazz show. i revisited grace jones's memoir to take note of where we're supposed to look for 1000-3000 piece ravensburger puzzles (the book's most delightful aside) and my memory had played tricks on me: she actually just name checks a department store and isn't specific about location. her sister suggestion for new york city puzzle purchasing, in turn, is "times square." where in time square is grace jones shopping for puzzles? this is the sort of thing that would dominate my signage, had i commercial space in midtown.

within something like 18 hours of getting back from paris i'l be flying off to the bahamas for my first proper press trip since the pandemic started. it's a citizen-science-themed visit, one that could dovetail nicely with all the notes i took when we cruised around canada last month. i keep thinking every invitation will be my last, since i turn most of them down and i don't publish much in the way of entry-level travel roundups like i did a few years ago. that's okay, really: since i'm now a vegetarian teetotaler, i'm even more ill-suited to wining and dining than i used to be. i for one welcome a future in which i'm occasionally asked to catch an expedition boat or, like, pick up beach garbage in the bahamas. joe didn't seem to have FOMO about not being invited to join me for the latter, and that was definitely so when i noted this will be the first time i visit a place name-checked in "kokomo." find someone who loves you as much as my husband hates "kokomo."

09.02.23 [on the J train]

i made what turned out to be the extremely solid decision to read david copperfield right before* reading barbara kingsolver's demon copperhead, which i managed to hear almost nothing about aside from the whole riffing-on-dickens stuff. i don't know if you know this, but david copperfield is a RIPPING YARN; perhaps dickens was always this way and i just haven't read him in 20 years, maybe he hits a little different when you read him as a crone, maybe that's one of the best novels in the english language or something. but i'll tell you what, it also turns out to be a respectable summer read, immersive as it is, and all of the little adult-dave asides on kid-dave as he saw his mother for the last time and so on–lovely, just lovely. it was excellent to have all of that fresh in my mind when i moved on to barbara kingsolver for comp-lit cud-chewing purposes, even if some of the analogs were a bit superficial, though it turns out i really missed having mister micawber as a major-ish and sympathetic character? (the mccobbs in the contemporary novel are pretty uninteresting, and not at all epistolary). i didn't really respond to opioids as a big plot point, in turn–while i appreciate kingsolver's criticism there and realize that her being moved to make it is a lot of what got her to dance with dickens in the first place, there wasn't much elegance in how it was framed. collapsing the weirdness of the hero's first marriage into the collateral damages of big pharma–demon's first love is infantile because of drugs!–robs that character of the neat little glimmer of sympathy one develops for her at the end, at least for me. rose dartell, in turn, is just boring–and rose dartle was mysterious and a little terrifying in david copperfield!

i've moved from my copperfield/copperhead adventures to paved paradise, a book about parking and americans' disastrous addiction to it, and if i double back and read a victorian city-planning treatise afterward i will surely perish. that said, it's taken care of at least some of the insomnia that's been swiss-cheesing summer nights for me; after 20 minutes of [very astute observations about] parking, half an hour tops, i am fit only for oblivion.

[postscript as i finally input this train-post three months later: that parking book was pretty fantastic, and i think it radicalized me? or radicalized me about something else, i mean. i hope these out-of-sequence updates aren't too annoying, and i'll get better about transcribing them in a timely manner in the new year, baby, believe me this time.]

*technically i took a break and read idra novey's excellent take what you need when it popped up among my library hold requests right in the middle; it's also about the rust belt, and maybe better than demon copperhead, but that is a story for another time.


no publication-related love (at least from my two outlets of choice, and i am too fickle to pursue others) for my little humor piece that could, alas—but it makes me laugh, and that's what's important. here's what in my head felt like a cinch:

These Trader Joe’s Hacks Are Magical

Foraging, grave robbing, waiting for a blue moon—who has the time? Whether you’re prepping for weeknight rituals or planning a ceremony for someone special, this grocery-shopper’s grimoire cuts to the chase and won’t cost you your soul, probably.

Hungry for a bit of cross-cultural, carb-based divination? Clear your mind, gather bagged treats as their shapes catch your eye in the aisles, then choose one that is slightly larger—say, a Parmesan Crisp—to represent yourself. Attach meanings to each of the others: a Spicy Porkless Plant-Based Snack Rind for Trickery, an Organic White Truffle Potato Chip for Prosperity, and so on. Set the Self item in the center of a tea towel, then cast the other items atop it and let their arrangement reveal cleromantic meaning. Know that if the snacks are fickle you may not receive a message—but you can serve them again and again until your intuition serves you.

When you’re in the mood for love and glamour and can’t maintain a herd of 700 lactating donkeys, we’ve got you covered. Give your charisma and attractiveness a dairy-free boost by boiling together a bottle of Charles Shaw Rosé, a carton of Unsweetened Almond, Cashew & Macadamia Nut Beverage, and a bag of Joe Medium Roast Ground Coffee. Stir clockwise until the mixture is browned and fragrant, then pour it into a hot bath and take a good, long soak. Absorb even more of the mixture’s benefits by removing all of your hair below the neck with Honey Mango Shave Cream.

Swig this to sidestep the Black Death when cozying up to questionable corpses. Pour out half a bottle of Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, then pop in four peeled garlic cloves. Add a small handful each of Seasoning in a Pickle, Herbes de Provence, Everything but the Elote, and 21 Seasoning Salute, then reseal the bottle. Let it sit for four full days, shaking once a day, then strain and rebottle. Hack on a hack: To banish someone bothersome, write their name on a piece of the Fearless Flyer. Soak the paper in your vinaigrette, charge it with the full force of your repulsion when the moon’s face is hidden, fold it up as small as you can, and compost it.

We could all use a little help in the kitchen—and cooking up a sous chef has never been simpler. Line an ungreased loaf pan with Plain Pizza Dough, pour in a carton of Cage-Free 100% Liquid Egg Whites, then fold the dough inward and pinch the edges to create a pocket. Cover with horse dung, then leave the pan to putrefy somewhere warm and dark for 40 days, or until the dough begins to be alive, move, and stir, which can easily be seen. Warily and prudently nourish and feed the dough with Bloody Mary Mixer With Clam Juice and more horse dung for the space of 40 weeks, and it will become a true and living infant.

Ready to gain knowledge of the arts and sciences once and for all? Create a protective circle with 7 Salts of the Earth’s Hawaiian Black Lava (absolutely no gaps!), then create a second circle of White Chocolate Baking Chips within its confines. Use more Chips to trace an inverted pentagram, place Nutmeg Scented Candles at each of its five points, then place a sixth Candle and a pile of Golden Rounds Crackers beside it. Light the candles, then step between the circles; chant “Linan tasa jedan Paimon,” and picture a gloriously-crowned rider on a dromedary camel. Pro tip: Your guest of honor hath a great voice and roareth at their first coming, so summoners in the know tuck Bamba Peanut Snacks in their ears. Survived this recipe? Received dignities or lordships? Drop us a line in the comments!