12.12.14

a mattress, the missus

CONSUMED: A PARTIAL LIST.

the bear went over the mountain (book). william kotzwinkle, national magazine award winner and author of the novelization of E.T., was recommended to me by a lovely british writer and frank zappa enthusiast i met in turkey. i wish i could tell that writer (who followed up via twitter to see if i read the book as promised) i found kotzwinkle as witty as he does, but he...reminds me of thomas pynchon at his slapstickiest? the bear went over the mountain is intentionally ridiculous—it's about a bear who finds fame and fortune in the '90s publishing world posing as the author of a novel he finds in a suitcase under a tree in maine—but the sometimes-inspired absurdity is studded with weird little laddish details i found alienating. is it fair to wonder if a bear posing as a bestselling human author would fixate on women in thongs? in semi-related news, i will probably be alone in hating paul thomas anderson's film version of pynchon's inherent vice.

hammam al ándalus madrid (public baths). the beauty editors on my turkey trip came back raving about the scrubbings they'd received at a hammam near the hippodrome in istanbul; i'd opted to visit sultan ahmed's mosque instead, so i could but imagine what mysterious cleansing rituals went down in the baths beneath the city. madrid's restored arabic baths were in a cistern just a few blocks from our little apartment on the plaza mayor; alors, they seemed like the perfect prelude to our mid-week football match. i had the kessa, a scrub on heated stone with a textured cloth and foam from red grape soap, and joe had a massage; for the rest of our ninety minutes under the street, i swam from room to room glowering and pretending to be a man-eating carp. there were maybe...ten other people in the facility with us for the session? the mint tea flowed freely, the waters smelled fantastic, and i hardly had to get naked at all. this bath ritual stuff is A-OK.

pocatello (play). years after MDF pointed me at the whale, the missus and i are still samuel d. hunter superfans. we saw the few this spring, and i finally caved and got us kiddie-pool memberships to playwrights horizons so that we could book fancy early seats for pocatello this fall. i'm glad we did; t.r. knight is wonderful as eddie, the soft-spoken manager of a dying olive garden in the middle of nowhere. the story that surrounds him isn't especially exciting, but i'm not sure that it needs to be; like the whale, this is a play with a sinkhole of anguish at its center. i'm man enough to admit that i felt nearly as much for the crappy old olive garden as i did for eddie; that's where we went for Special Occasions when i was a kid, and my heart broke a little every time someone at college sneered at it (we had dinner there when i got accepted to college, assholes).

the secret history (book). a donna tartt book i can sort of get behind, internets! the secret history's formal whydunnit structure (the main characters commit murder in the prologue, and the majority of the book flashes back to what led them to it; tartt likens her plot to a classical tragedy in which the details, not the well-known denouement, provide the tension) suits the material and the narrator, though i'd have liked to hear from him at a more advanced age (he's a twenty-eight-year-old, roughly tartt's age when she published the book, remembering his college years). like the goldfinch, the secret history is a page-turner with weird flaws (would a narrator who lays down ancient greek without providing its equivalent in english for the reader also refer to "charles baudelaire" by his first and last name?), but there's more at stake here; i appreciate that, even though i went on to have gory, shouty dreams as a result.

slowdive @ terminal 5 (concert). i risked losing out on my stay at a cappadocian cave hotel to rush home for slowdive's only NYC show—probably my sexiest saturday night ever, there, rolling straight from istanbul to a slowdive concert—and am ever so glad i did; this was my equivalent of the soul-bending my bloody valentine reunion shows at roseland ballroom in 2008. like MBV, slowdive blossoms live; unlike any other band i've seen, they actually make terminal 5 (a cavernous concrete box) sound good. rachel goswell's venusian choirgirl voice is as pure now as it was when my friends and i wore flannel boxer shorts in mixed company; i'd always assumed her vocals were forced and looped like tulips on a turntable, but that's all rachel, internets. neil halstead still sounds like a thick pair of socks, but when one is in new york rather than san francisco (looking at you, slim's) and neil has a kick-ass band at his back, that's actually a fine thing. i didn't mean to cry when they played "blue skied an' clear," but it couldn't be helped; that performance was one of the loveliest things i've ever experienced. fuck yeah, slowdive.

suzanne vega @ joe's pub (concert). erin agreed to be my date for the suzanne vega show last month, which was good of her; she also agreed to eat at korilla beforehand, which was downright heroic of her (i'm willing to believe their korean burritos are great served from a truck, but they were weirdly joyless eats in a brick-and-mortar setting). like slowdive's rachel goswell, la vega seems to have been spending time in a hyperbaric chamber; i'd go so far as to say her voice made my ears feel minty. her pretty young backup singer turned out to be her daughter, ruby froom (the "beautiful child" who gave soul coughing's ruby vroom its name); if i may echo my boyfriend anthony lane in his babadook review, let a law be passed, requiring all comeback tours to be made by female singers who harmonize with their daughters. it happens that there are in fact bad-ish seats in joe's pub, as we were squished with another pair of ladies at a two-top, but the sazeracs were plausible and suzanne vega had a top hat, so i can hardly complain.


imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 would a bear be as interested in posing as a bestselling author today as william kotzwinkle posited he would have been in 1996?
02 does john irving find his novels in suitcases beneath trees?
03 have you ever been to public baths? did you feel like a carp?
04 if you've read both the secret history and the goldfinch, which did you prefer?
05 what ranks as your sexiest saturday night ever?
06 how do you feel about korean burritos?

12.05.14

gallipoli souvenirs

we made a beeline for the prado when we arrived in madrid two weeks ago. bosch is one of my favorite painters, and i wanted to see the garden of earthly delights as soon as possible. goya's black paintings were high on my list as well; lots of morbid art majors in my family. we were on our way to the bosch, i think—i have a terrible sense of direction at the best of times, and we'd had an hour of sleep in the last thirty-six—when we stumbled into goya's third of may. i had been prepared for hellscapes, for the gut-punch of guernica when we got to the reina sofia, but—

i thought of gallipoli, and the long, solitary walks my colleagues from australia and new zealand took at anzac cove. i thought of our turkish guide, and how his face dented subtly, like a can just past its date, as he pointed out the ridges where his people had waited for theirs.

12.02.14

in sultan ahmed's mosque

CONSUMED: A PARTIAL LIST.

birdman (film). i heard birdman described as a cross between louie and black swan, which is about right, though i wish the parallels there could have extended to some rodarte costumes for ed norton. fetishizing the exotic is kind of lazy, ed norton in rodarte aside, but a mexican director (alejandro gonzález iñárritu) skewering hollywood and broadway is much more interesting to me than, say, woody allen doing the same. birdman isn't A Great Movie, but it's a limber (the cinematography in particular is wonderfully cartilaginous) and sly one. we were talking today at the wild bird fund about whether or not shakes made with ferret food could be the next fad diet, speaking of limber and sly. i myself am convinced of it.

cooking with fernet branca (book). i have been trying to limit myself to a single purchase at my weekly shift at housing works bookstore and failing rather miserably; i feel like a man-eating carp working at a hammam. cooking with fernet branca, one of my first and splashiest acquisitions, is that rare modern british satire that doesn't make me want to start a bar fight (looking at you, david lodge). published a decade ago, it's (among other things) a fine takedown of yuppie porn like under the tuscan sun, featuring a british ghostwriter, an eastern european film composer who lives in the next villa over, and recipes for the repellent meals they share. choosing a favorite passage is like choosing a favorite cat, but -
Beyond this point we enter the realm of the sacramental, and words all but fail me. All I can say is that Alien Pie, hot from the oven and with a jaunty buzzard feather stuck in the top, should be eaten on a terrace overlooking a distant ocean above which the remnants of sunset brood like old wounds seeping through a field dressing. It is one of those experiences poised exquisitely between sorrow and oblivion.

[...]

"Perfectly correct, papà," says this vision, flashing me a smile I want to lay away in lavender in a dark drawer for the rocky years ahead.

[...]

When I turn back to the scene I've just left—which despite the fire brigade is still considerably ablaze—it's just in time to see an extraordinary thing. The two tall cypress trees are standing up to their knees in incandescent scrub and brushwood. One is just beginning to catch fire, the flames running up it like a bright liquid under pressure. The other, though, simply begins to—and I can scarcely believe what I'm seeing—to bend very slowly from the waist, as if it were an elderly butler greeting a monarch. As I watch, the bend accelerates into a grovel and the cypress wilts like a dildo in a smithy, its crest coming to rest on the ground. Curious, I think as I trudge woozily away with my ears singing. Most curious.

kantin (restaurant). in the afternoon, istanbul professionals flock to kantin in posh nişantaşi for the artisanal lunch spread: the shop floor is jammed with bread baked from thousand-year-old strains of wheat, refrigerator cases full of handmade mustard and catsup, and terrier-sized wheels of cheese. the fancy-rural implements on the wall would transfer quite handily to a millionaire-mom cafe in park slope. at night, the upstairs dining room becomes a dionysian temple of modern slow food. i suspect the four thousand courses we were served had something to do with the fact that we were travel journalists, but i can't deny that şemsa "alice waters of istanbul" denizsel and her team have more ideas about what to do with local ingredients than i have hairs on my head. roasted pumpkin with oyster mushrooms! sorrel with caramelized pear! green tangerine sorbet with mastic pudding and sour cherries! i'm even sort of OK with the fact that they snuck a bunch of spicy cheese in with the halvah for the last course of the night.

maleficent (film). i boarded an evening flight to istanbul by myself, chewed a complimentary piece of turkish delight as the runway unspooled beneath us and we rose into the sky (well done on those individual links to the cockpit cam, turkish airlines), and realized i needed to watch maleficent, a film that should be mummy-wrapped with trigger warnings for PANKs (professional aunts, no kids). i think i started crying when angelina jolie first laid eyes on elle fanning (aurora), and it's entirely possible that i sobbed audibly when i thought i knew how the story would end (my apologies, sweet retired rowmates en route to a fancy hike in cappadocia). i'll refrain from revealing how it ends, as i'm hoping one of you will see it and help me understand why it manhandled me so. as matt zoller seitz puts it, "it has a primordial edge that the clumsy filmmaking can't blunt."

nightcrawler (film). not since some demon stylist gave javier bardem a pageboy for no country for old men has villainous hair performed such heavy lifting. like drive, another hypersaturated movie with an implausible jacket, this one is much more about style than it is about nuanced statement; though both los angeles and jake gyllenhaal look quite spooky, gestures alone don't add up to much of a takeaway. nightcrawler goes down a bit like an off-brand black jellybean.

raki (spirit). like most supposedly beloved national drinks, raki tastes like anise and regret; you pour a finger or two of it into a tumbler, fill the tumbler the rest of the way with water so that it turns milky, and tell yourself you're having an authentic local experience. our turkish tour director told us that raki is a good drink if you want to laugh and cry and sing. i didn't laugh and cry after confronting it near gallipoli, but i did end up at something called a Fancy Boozy Roof Bar (which was not on a rooftop) singing "california dreaming" with my fellow journalists, including an australian former newspaper editor who'd borrowed a guitar from the departing band. i spotted a small bottle of raki in my mini fridge a few nights later and did not disturb it.


imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if ferret-food shakes had magical dietary properties, would you try one?
02 have you ever used a recipe you found in a novel?
03 when were you last reminded of brooklyn when you were elsewhere? (a madrid restaurant menu advertised a Brooklyn Hipster Sandwich last week. it did not remind me of brooklyn.)
04 are you fond of any beloved national drinks?
05 if you were to serenade a bunch of journalists with a borrowed guitar, what would you sing?

11.30.14

THREE DREAMS I HAD AFTER READING DONNA TARTT’S THE SECRET HISTORY FOR THE DURATION OF A NINE-HOUR FLIGHT HOME FROM FRANKFURT

01 i work at a clifftop coffeehouse. i go to restock the fancy baked goods counter and a shifty-looking wolf follows me up to the crag we use for storage. i give the wolf a sudden push and he falls to his messy death; his corpse turns into my friend’s ex-girlfriend. YOU’RE A USER, i shout at her. THE GOVERNMENT WILL ISSUE COINS TO COMMEMORATE WHAT A USER YOU ARE. SEVENTH-GRADERS WILL WRITE ESSAYS ABOUT IT.

02 my seventh-grade history teacher is lecturing us about crests painted on medieval shields. i ask if a certain kind of shield would be held by a lancer or a swordsman. “i think you should spend less time thinking about what’s on the knights’ outsides and consider what’s on their insides,” he says, not unkindly.

03 i have a bunch of slick blazers like donna tartt’s.

11.14.14

on recumbent bikes at our soviet-era gym, my septuagenarian neighbors discuss kim kardashian {I}

1: she has a butt, is the thing. you have no butt.
2: it's true, i have no butt. and you have no waist!
1: i have no waist, but you should see my daughter.
2: you talk to her, what, five times a day?
1: five times a day. i'm going to go call her—i'll see you on sunday, unless something happens.

11.11.14

graffiti, istanbul

{graffiti in istanbul}

i finally purchased a pad for the beauteous turkish rug i sort of haggled for* in cappadocia and then stuffed into overhead compartments all the way back to new york city! of course, the suitcase i lugged beside said rug is still sitting next to our front door and serving (as most of turkey did) as a makeshift cat-home, but we're leaving for a week in madrid next friday, so it almost makes sense. that trip has nothing to do with my new career as an international woman of mystery, at least not directly; joe and i decided months ago that we wanted to get out of town for thanksgiving this year. the trip was to be even longer, actually, but as i've raked in about $500 in the last month and joe hasn't had much of a chance to accrue vacation time at his new job (we keep things exciting around here), we're sticking to spain. i refuse to haggle there, though.

on transactions, i've set some parameters for myself in my post-office life (run >5 km/day, volunteer >8 hrs/week, write >1 draft/day, NO PAJAMA PANTS, and so on). the drafts are a bit of a bitch—you know you need to fine-tune your process when you find yourself thinking fondly of the wide-open, tech-free hours you had to yourself at jury duty—but i've been told that these things take time. several colleagues have made the transitions associated with becoming a freelancer sound rather like the transitions associated with becoming a vampire, actually, which i take to mean that it's bewildering and painful at first and you have to crouch in the dark and catch rats for food, but eventually you realize that time was a threadbare human construct and enjoy unlimited power.

Not that I have the slightest desire to leave any lasting mark, of course. One barely casts a shadow even while the sun's out. But I shouldn't mind doing something that temporarily engages me. Actually, I should like to lose myself totally in a piece of work, but I can't imagine what it would be. And whatever it is I'm damned sure nobody would pay me to do it. In the meantime, then, is one to go on tossing fanciful recipes and fanciful arias into the face of despair? Is one to go on writing asinine books about asinine people with a few felicities thrown in to relieve the private torment? Answer: Yes. Keep bearing in mind that tunnel at the end of the light, Samper, the one that goes on for ever.

(james hamilton-paterson, from the exquisite cooking with fernet branca)


*surely i was the worst haggler in all of turkey; on several occasions i was perfectly content with a price, a shadow would pass over the face of the gentleman i was dealing with, and he'd duck into his shop and come back with some lower amount or a freebie to accompany my purchase. in ürgüp a guy actually dashed down the street to hand my friends and me pairs of free socks post-deal.

11.04.14

NYC STREET INTERACTIONS: A HIERARCHY

“want to sample our new smoothie?” who doesn’t want to sample smoothies? monsters, that’s who. let’s do this.
“have you voted yet?” yep, but i like this democracy-in-action business. carry on.
“have you heard the good news?” frequently and vehemently, as i grew up in megachurch country in southern california; since you’re unlikely to chase me down the block to hand me that pamphlet, whatever.
“do you like to laugh?” yes, though i’m not sure what that has to do with times-square-adjacent standup. moving on.
“do you have a moment for the oceans / gay rights / homeless children?” i rarely carry cash and i’m not going to give my credit card info to some undergrad with a clipboard on the sidewalk. DISCONTINUE THIS, NONPROFITS.
“why don’t you smile?” because facial expressions are my signifiers, not your wallpaper.
“can’t you acknowledge a compliment? [crickets]
“you wanna – ?” wow, the dude i married hasn’t ever asked me that, and we’ve been together for fifteen years! points for novelty, you psychopath.

11.02.14

a bit of light from the surface

also i was on a press trip in turkey for a week! filing from the road was difficult, as the turkish wifi access i attempted to purchase at the airport in istanbul proved wildly unreliable, and even the best wifi falters when, say, one is attempting to report from a cave. this is not that cave (which was far and away the finest of the trip's accommodations; in all seriousness, i wish to move to a turkish cave hotel), but a shaft of light from the surface at derinkuyu, an underground city in cappadocia. full-time freelance writing is a bit like cave-dwelling, as it happens! there is ample opportunity to nap and take intense bubble baths, but the isolation can be a bit daunting and the ceiling discharges tiny rocks every now and again.

05.13.12

administrative note: blogger swallowed this post a few years ago and regurgitated it this week. insofar as it's ever 2014 on kidchamp dot net, rest assured that it's 2014 on kidchamp dot net.

the unrelenting onslaught of wisdom and beauty you know as kidchamp dot net has been stemmed this month for administrative reasons; after ten-plus years of assembling the site as a narcoleptic would a scrapbook or a swallow would a nest (dozily, that is, and with unsightly mud), i finally handed the whole thing over to a professional to be reassembled as a killer robot from the future. the good news is that once the fine-tuning is complete, the shambolic horror that is the current commenting platform will be no more; the bad news is that i haven't been able to keep you abreast of the latest developments at headquarters (as new posts would obviously spawn hordes of comments which would then have to be painstakingly exported, reformatted, plunked into the hole where the robot's heart will never be, and so on). that said, construction is on hold for the time being, so i'm free to tell you that joe's nose recently went on a tiki tour of new jersey and staten island.

leaving lani kai, the n

the nose began its tour at lani kai, an artisanal cocktail lounge near the holland tunnel in manhattan. this was more heroic than it sounds, for the nose concluded its evening at the campbell apartment after the manhattan cocktail classic opening gala mere hours earlier. ironically, the hideous limo-van that would ferry the tiki tourists from manhattan to jersey and staten island (for tropical cocktails and the operation of heavy machinery are a terrible blend) was pulled over for inspection and ran an hour late; the tour guides pacified their already-mellow charges* with dark and stormys and bar snacks. yes, short pants and long fuses in that crowd - which turned out to be a good thing, as (more irony) the freshly-inspected limo-van lacked air conditioning and we spent an hour inching up broadway in swampy, ninety-degree car-fug. this the guides battled with party cups of premium rum for everyone and tiki trash talk ("that guy's so tiki he takes a shit and garnishes it with a pineapple slice and a little umbrella." "that guy's so tiki he takes a piss and tops it with a float of 151.") morale remained high.

chan's dragon inn, the nose

the nose's first port of call was chan's dragon inn, a c. 1962 polynesian-chinese joint in ridgefield, new jersey. i believe the nose tucked into a mai tai and i had a zombie, or was it the other way around? the menu was limited, but the towelettes were moist, the mustard was sinus-rejuvenating, and the (non-vegetarian) pupu was on fire. (we made ourselves a fairly substantial lunch before embarking on the tiki tour, which is why i'm here to tell you about it today.)

jade island, SI, the nose

after a round of dead bastards (served with a jovial "see you in hell, motherfuckers") and another hour on the bus, we reached staten island and our second far-flung stop: jade island (est. 1972), shaolin's only tiki bar, once host to anthony bourdain (there on a visit with buster poindexter on an outer-borough episode of no reservations). weirdly, it was just across the strip mall from the pathmark of the damned, where, a few years ago, i spent ten minutes in line behind a woman trying to return a half-empty bag of dog food (without a receipt, naturally) because her dog "didn't like it." but that's neither here nor there; the nose called for an epic pineapple drink, i acquired a tiny umbrella which eventually migrated to my ear, and we wandered into what i imagine will end up being the most in-depth discussion of fruit juice our civilian radar will ever map.

departing staten island with the nose

on its third hour-long bus ride of the day (abandon all hope, ye who enter the holland tunnel), the nose was presented with a rum old-fashioned, and straight rum, and a handful of mel torme singalongs; the sun fled to western new jersey and disappeared, and assorted drink accessories crept into updos. lani kai was regained after dark, and the sleep of the just was eventually slept.

*fellow tiki tourists, i salute you and your unassailably good moods. the setbacks on our outer-borough slog could have been irritating or even alarming, but to a man, you kept it together (in flowered polyester).

10.09.14

sunrise over the east river

oh, timing. sometimes one has both a relatively significant life change to announce and a pre-jury-duty photo of the williamsburg bridge in the foreground of a dawn-drenched simmering hellscape to share; which of those things should one hold back to avoid cheesy new-beginning imagery? i'm no good at holding things back.

after a decade of highs, lows, hot husbands, and listicles, the ladymag and i have parted ways. it wasn't entirely a surprise; given what's happened across the industry over the last several years, everyone still in print knows that they're in for a wild ride. i've gone to work with my heart in my mouth since 2008, when my magazine faced its first big round of layoffs, and my first feeling when it happened to me—my department was consolidated with several others, and my editorial position was eliminated—was relief; when the worst thing finally arrives, you don't have to be afraid. you just become the next version of yourself, right?

i loved my ten years editing a women's magazine; i wasn't paid very well, but my colleagues were kind and the work was deliciously weird. the way my workload waxed and waned over the course of each month left me plenty of time to do my own writing, and every year or so i'd resolve to get back into it. i never did, exactly, but i would.

two days after my layoff i was in california with family. let's all raise a glass to dumb luck in vacation planning! my sister and brother-in-law are artists—he's been doing his thing for several years now, and she went full-time freelance a year ago—and we've had dozens of conversations over the years about stability and passion, the man versus the muse, all the fun holiday chats. she had champagne and sparklers waiting for us when we got to their place in los angeles, and she and i finally started using hard numbers as we talked about work. you sound more like you when you talk about writing, she said; you sound more like you, now.

my other first feeling was that i need to write for a living; i need to stop pretending that that isn't what i've wanted all along. it feels a lot like nausea, but it's motion sickness.

09.17.14: on anthony bourdain (part I)

the library emailed me a few days ago to let me know that the anthony bourdain crime novel i'd reserved was going to get reshelved if i didn't come by to pick it up. i am weirdly vulnerable to admonitions from the NYPL and considered rushing across town over my lunch break, but internet, i think it's okay for me to walk away now. i've sat beside joe through hours and hours of a cook's tour and no reservations and various extra-special top chef episodes, i have read kitchen confidential, and i have read medium raw. i feel like i can say, with the conviction of a diligent viewer and reader rather than reflexive righteous vegetarian indignation, that anthony bourdain is a—but let me explain.

i've bristled at bourdain's casual pot shots at vegetarians for years, but i felt i should consider some of his more thoughtful remarks before making conclusions. i started with kitchen confidential, his blockbuster memoir, in which i learned that
Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accommodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a 'vegetarian plate', if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.
tony, toni, toné. for ethical vegetarians like me, the consumption of meat and the pure enjoyment of food are mutually exclusive. my body is nothing like a temple (i was a pack-a-day smoker for 11 of the 22 years i've been vegetarian), and i don't give two shits about how much healthier or sicker i'd be if i ate like he does. i've gotten pretty good at telling when a chef is welcoming a challenge and when straying from the side salad will cost me $25 and an hour of staring at a pile of listlessly steamed vegetables called something like "the haystack." kitchen confidential's vegetarians aren't people like me, though, or people at all: they're just jokes, part of the shtick bourdain turns on for appearances like his larry king live segment (and "rematch") with jonathan safran foer. don't we get it?

bourdain's follow-up memoir, medium raw ("a bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook"), wastes no time in waddling back to the inflatable punching clown that is The Vegetarian Perspective in a Tony Bourdain Book. he opens by covering his head with a napkin and devouring ortolan, an endangered (and protected) songbird that had the bad luck to be blinded, force-fed, drowned, roasted, and stuffed into his yap.* bourdain is uncompromising in his pursuit of self-satisfaction, you guys! zero fucks given re: jonathan franzen's beloved birds (aside from the ones franzen himself ate before he could get to them, maybe)! in case we waterheads were still unclear about his feelings on our feelings, he doubles down on them in his chapter on meat:
PETA doesn't want stressed animals to be cruelly crowded into sheds, ankle-deep in their own crap, because they don't want any animals to die—ever—and basically think that chickens should, in time, gain the right to vote. I don't want animals stressed or crowded or treated cruelly or inhumanely because that makes them provably less delicious.
that deliciousness point isn't universally accepted, actually, as cnn reported last year.** the main point here, of course, is that improvements in animal welfare which benefit human consumers directly and immediately are the only improvements a reasonable person can care about. and how he cares! bourdain is so grossed out by factory farms' cheap, shitty meat that he's developed classy socratic dialogues to steer his little daughter away from fast food ("Is it true that if you eat a hamburger at McDonald's it can make you a ree-tard?"). refusing to consume animals for their sake, on the other hand, is acceptable strictly in the context of an ethos too exotic to criticize with confidence.
Okay. I am genuinely angry—still—at vegetarians. That's not shtick. Not angry at them personally, mind you—but in principle. A shocking number of vegetarians and even vegans have come to my readings, surprised me with an occasional sense of humor, refrained from hurling animal blood at me—even befriended me. I have even knowingly had sex with one, truth be told.*** But what I've seen of the world in the past nine years has, if anything, made me angrier at anyone not a Hindu who insists on turning their nose up at a friendly offer of meat.

I don't care what you do in your home, but the idea of a vegetarian traveler in comfortable shoes waving away the hospitality—the distillation of a lifetime of training and experience—of, say, a Vietnamese pho vendor (or Italian mother-in-law, for that matter) fills me with spluttering indignation.

No principle is, to my mind, worth that; no Western concept of "is it a pet or is it meat" excuses that kind of rudeness.
one wonders what would happen if bourdain rolled into a deeply authentic place in, say, southeast asia and was offered a binder of his host's finest kiddie porn. no principle is worth the unforgivable condescension of morality out of context, amirite? bourdain's parenthetical about his mother-in-law is very nearly too pathetic to address at all, but i would note that when i was a junior in high school, my beloved boyfriend's ultra-catholic italian family invited me to stay at their home the night before we all went up to pasadena for the rose parade and the rose bowl; when his mother served us "vegetarian" soup made, alas, with chicken stock, i at sixteen was able to root around and find the balls to thank her and decline it as politely as possible. she made me sleep under the christmas tree that night, and two decades later i think she still calls him every now and again to make sure we haven't somehow gotten back together.
"I feel too lucky—now more than ever—too acutely aware what an incredible, unexpected privilege it is to travel this world and enjoy the kindness of strangers to ever, ever be able to understand how one could do anything other than say yes, yes, yes."
you know what? yes is easy. yes is sucking up to your mother-in-law. heaven forbid you should actually have to think on your feet and come up with a gracious way to turn down someone's offer of hospitality for moral reasons. i'd sleep under that christmas tree again.

to be continued.

*that's the traditional method, anyway; bourdain claims his ortolan was merely hoodwinked with a cloth and then soaked with armagnac after death, which makes the whole scene completely respectable.

**from cnn's piece on dog smuggling from thailand to vietnam:
A common belief is that stress and fear releases hormones that improve the taste of the meat, so the dogs are placed in stress cages that restrict their movement.

Eventually, the dogs are either bludgeoned to death or have their throats cut in front of other dogs who are awaiting the same fate. In some cases, they've been known to be skinned alive.

"Dogs are highly intelligent animals so if you kill a dog and you have a whole cage of dogs next to the one that's being killed, those dogs that are going to be killed next know what's going on," [the director of a Hanoi-based animal welfare group] said.
an opening scene for bourdain's next book, perhaps?

***[crickets]

09.16.14

YE OLDE TRAMP-FOR-DAYS FOTOMEME (origin here): 6 things i see every day

fotomeme: 1

the freedom tower mural at henry m. jackson playground, across the street from our local fine fare (which reopened during the lower east side blackout after sandy when the owner saw people lining up outside the steel shutters; runners with flashlights would take orders and venture back into the dark aisles to fill them). you can see the actual freedom tower a block or so later down east broadway.


fotomeme: 2

st. mary's, where hearses park for funerals during the week and the sidewalk is full of worshipers after ten o'clock mass as i pass on the way to the wild bird fund on sundays.


fotomeme: 3

for about a month we shared the street with a film crew for the cobbler ('[adam] sandler plays a lonely new york shoe-repairman who senses that he’s let life past him by. but when he discovers a magical family heirloom that allows him to literally “walk in another man’s shoes,” he embarks on a great adventure with far-reaching ramifications.') no word on whether or not sandler's character, like the actual shoe-repair guy, also makes shabbos keys for our neighbors (who can't carry house keys on the sabbath but can "wear" them as tie clips or belt buckles).


fotomeme: 4

the mural-bird in the alley west of the great wall, the first chinese restaurant on the south side of grand street en route to chinatown. i feel like his name would be alvin or nelson.


fotomeme 5

if you look to your left when you get to this tag you'll see STEAMS BUNS, one of my favorite lower east side awning-slogans. if you keep going down essex and hang a right at delancey you'll hit another, AS OLD AS HILLS, just before the williamsburg bridge.


fotomeme: 6

i couldn't keep the staircases straight for the first several weeks i took the subway to and from the office; i get turned around easily, and street names and directions slip away from me like wet bar soap. i go right if i emerge in front of the orchard mural, and left if i'm in front of the leaping fish. right orchard, left fish. right orchard, left fish.