01.02.20

when i was a kid, fellow southern californians were obsessed with The Big One—it was not only inevitable, it was immediately imminent—and i remember kicking some nerf product across our semi-bricked patio in the late eighties, thinking well, this is how the world ends, and picturing the chasm. it came again when bush the first declared war on iraq and i expected my fellow kids to walk out of school in protest (no one walked out of school). i return rather a lot to the morning my college roommate's mother called to alert her and me to what had happened in new york city, two weeks after i started writing here, almost two decades ago. san francisco was convinced it was the next target (after the world trade center and the pentagon, one strikes the golden gate bridge, of course). roommate and i drove from russian hill down to market and passed a cafe because it was the only storefront that had opened its grate: "WE STILL HAVE EGGS," a maitre'd called to no one as a newscast blared behind him, "EGGS!"

[msnbc is running ads for erection pills and annuities]

my dad and i walked around the central park reservoir a couple of times this afternoon; we talked about cognitive dissonance, how we don't think we've become more centrist over the years, and how a lot of the people i encounter on social media are probably too young to have vivid memories of bush v. gore. he offered that he thinks my stepsister, once focused on a single issue, is now woke. ("woke" is new in our conversations; he refers to "the twitters." in return, i introduced shit the bed.)

maudlin and anxious, i insisted on a few extra awkward hugs before joe went to sleep tonight. i then settled back into our expansive couch.

01.01.20

2020: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

i zapped some of the vegetable dumplings i had the foresight to bring home on new year's eve.
i thought about running six miles and ran four miles.
i ran, emptied, and loaded the dishwasher a couple of times.
i entered a crossword puzzle tournament and booked a hotel for the weekend (hotel gal: "you kick butt in that tournament!").
i ate some of the blood orange bread pudding we made and flambéd last night.
i trimmed our little cat's claws.

12.31.19

i'll have read at least 60 books by the end of this year! let's ignore the fact that i am a childless freelance writer and pretend that it is a proper feat. this is how i've felt about the last dozen (part 1 of 2).

verge (lidia yuknavitch): i have already forwarded my advance copy of this short-story collection to a friend, which might have been a terrible idea: there's wonderful stuff in there, to be sure, but there is also a (moving) story about a fellow with an artificial eye which might at one point have been called "eye of the beholder" (again, copy already forwarded). i liked it well enough that i took the book of joan (a novel) out of the library and will read it with gusto when i finish philip pullman's the secret commonwealth (lyra still seems a bit like a tween! the hbo adaptation kind of sucks!).

the contender: the story of marlon brando (william j. mann): mann's premise is that brando is a misunderstood dick, and this biography did little to shake that noun; he seems to have been a lackadaisical pet-raccoon custodian, a terrible romantic partner (in the loosest possible sense of the term), and a flaky activist. (disclosure: i have not seen on the waterfront.) i am prepared to revisit my opinion of brando via another biographer, but i expect deirdre-bair-level energy.*

catch and kill (ronan farrow): farrow's indictment of harvey weinstein, matt lauer, and his former employers at nbc is searing; i admit that as a self-centered former research chief, my first reaction to his impeccably-sourced work is predictable. you know the #metoo story, but the background is worth your time; it's also reason number four thousand and eighty-seven to appreciate gives-zero-fucks rachel maddow. passed this one to the same friend who received verge and i appreciate that she still wants to hang on new year's eve.

in the dream house (carmen maria machado): i loved CMM's short-story collection and knew her memoir would be wonderful; i didn't know that she would reframe my understanding of both queer abuse and emotional abuse as a general proposition. i want very much to pass this to one person in particular, as i think it would help her understand her past—as machado says, "if you need this book, this is for you"—but the person i have in mind has some extenuating circumstances. if you can read it now, please do.

the elusive moth (ingrid winterbach): woof. my literary experience with south africa is mostly limited to a couple of j.m. coetzee novels, and i was decidedly unready for this one, which is a painterly (literally, winterbach is also a painter) take on a small free state community in the '90s and a woman who returns there to Find Herself. the sense of place and history is strong, but the characters flit out of your hands like (don't say it, don't say it). (aside: while the novel's english translation is called the elusive moth, it's named for its protagonist, karolina ferreira, in the original afrikaans.) i would like to say that i'm getting better at reading experimental/ish fiction in my dotage, but this confounded me a bit unless i thought of it as a tone poem. i don't think that's what i was meant to think.

the silence of the girls (pat barker): it's hard to talk about this one without talking about madeline miller's circe and the song of achilles (both of which i also read this year, in that order); those novels are both what i would consider high-romantic takes on myth, and i found the former much more successful than the latter (achilles is just a dirtbag, even through the eyes of a devoted narrator as in miller). barker's novel leans into achilles-as-dirtbag, but she does it in an unapologetically contemporary way that's somehow even more off-putting than miller's occasionally-stilted style: i don't expect achilles and agamemnon (and briseis, the trojan woman at the core of barker's novel and homer's epic) to sound homeric, but i don't know that i'm ready for them to sound fully modern (with modern-ish slang!). i thought after reading miller that i wanted to see old villains in newer clothes, but barker made me realize that i actually want to see marginalized characters in properly heroic (and traditional!) weeds. briseis doesn't need a translator: she needs room where she lives.


*deirdre bair is one of the greatest biographers of all time. don't @ me.

12.20.19

we realized a few months ago, abruptly and pretty decisively, that it would be a good idea to leave new york city and move to portland (oregon). joe's work situation was horrifically stressful and seemed unlikely to improve; given his status as a tenured civil servant, transitioning to something outside of city work with analogous literal and figurative benefits would be difficult if not impossible; our parents (and sisters' children) are still young and fun and we would like to spend more time with them; the idea of new york money in oregon was inexpressibly sexy. i sat and thought about what our lives would look like if we stayed here for the next decade and felt that i would like to not know what would come next. i have a pretty good idea of what we would be if we persisted here.

i had a dream about psychoanalysis a couple of nights ago, or about the trappings of psychoanalysis. i was reviewing an insurer's bill for a terribly long group session, and it included both copays and little instances of self-awareness: at one point someone demonstrated admirable growth and got a twenty-five-cent credit, at another point someone else broke down and incurred an extra fee. there was an occasional incidental charge for slicing cake? (i don't have a non-dreamland group session, or any sort of session. i gave up on doctor omnibus a year ago when i cried in front of him for the first time—about loneliness over the holidays, in fact!—and he wouldn't look me in the eye.)

we spent a week in portland to see how it would feel, and while most locals were absolutely lovely i cracked a number of times because i missed pigeons (there are pigeons in portland, but it's not the same) and because new york is unquestionably my home. that said, we're going to save, and think, and approach portland again in—a year? joe's work situation has improved but is still dodgy. i still feel that if we don't exercise our DINK privilege and broaden our horizons we deserve to be recycled.

i have spent more than a decade telling myself that i am a better daughter/sister/partner because i am the best version of myself when i live in this city. while i know i wasn't wrong, i don't feel that i'm quite right.

12.17.19

the dirty dozen {excerpts from yelp reviews of crystal springs rhododendron garden*}

01 During our trip to Portland to see extended family, I set a goal of walking as much as I could.

02 I came across this online and realized it's not too far from our house. I thought it would be a nice excuse to get outside and do something on a decent weather day.

03 I will say there was one very big duck that I definitely got frightened of and I felt like the other ducks could probably feel my fear.***

04 Some poor fool was disappointed that there was no "foods."  It's a fucking park, bring a picnic for yourself if you must have "foods" "because this is America ."

05 I went to the garden and the lady at the front desk had the audacity to yell at me and my Girl Scout troop. All we did was walk up to have a ceremony with my girls to celebrate growth in there life. and she screamed at us with a horrible tone.

06 Not a concern unless you have a bee allergy. It is a garden, so there are, naturally, bees around the area. Be aware of this if you are allergic to bees. 

07 Turns out I spoiled an opportunity to get proposed to in the rain on the bridge by the lake. It's a perfect setting to be proposed to. The person that gets propose to here would be lucky. 

08 Watch some birds do bird things.  Sit by a pond or lake.  Stare down a squirrel.  All around good times.

09 If you're having a tough time deciding whether you want to procreate, there are usually enough well-behaved, cute kids here to push you over on the side of spending the quarter million dollars it will cost you over 18 years. And then you, too, can take your own cute, well-behaved kids here and hear them scream, "Look at the weird duck, Mommy!"

10 It's a garden. And like the many other gardens, foliage, parks, and recreational destinations in and around Portland, it's gorgeous, well maintained, and generally awesome. I love shit like this.

11 On the way out there was an enormous road sign that said "Inmate Work Crew Ahead" that wasn't there on the way in.  Now, I'm sure they were all non-violent offenders but if I was a Mom with an infant in tow I think I would be a bit unnerved.

12 They have some hideous and rare type of goose here that has a red fleshy head similar to a turkey.  Does anyone know what this hag bird is?****

*where we saw our first nutria!** we thought they were beavers and then that they were muskrats, but no, they were nutria.

**i pity the nutria, and the other invasive species portland rehabbers like the local audubon society won't help; it's not their fault they were brought here for their fur. we're an invasive species, too, and our fur is worthless. 

***i'd totally forgotten joe is afraid of waterfowl until he startled away from a couple of canada geese. geese, no less! i'm a goose whisperer, he totally gets the family and friends discount!

****yeah, a muscovy duck, hater.

11.23.19

i was back at the bird hospital for the first time in three months today. they probably didn't need me; they lacked volunteers in the morning and evening, but three of the four slots in the afternoon were filled. i offered to clean the isolation ward, which is my customary power move, but the staffers asked me to give pigeons baths* instead, which is fine. i'm great at giving pigeons baths! rosa, one of the center's two house grackles, assumed a decidedly feline loaf position over my left shoulder as i sat on a bin of ferret food and gave a formerly-tanglefoot-addled pigeon a post-bath blowout. we're not supposed to talk to patients, but rosa is a permanent resident, and it is delightful to squeeble with her; she raises the feathers on the back of her head if you make a solid point. one of the pigeons i bathed and dried started stargazing — a lovely term that, sadly, describes a likely neurological disorder — and the staffers hastened to tell me that the stress of getting the bath probably revealed the pigeon's issues, it wasn't my fault, goodness. i saw the hospital's founder a few minutes later: "it's been a while!" i wanted to and did not hug her. a guy who was filming the hospital for reasons i never asked about came and got me giving another pigeon a bath; i pushed an old broom aside so he'd have a clear shot. i don't know if he wanted me to narrate my bird-washing procedure, but he left after a few minutes and i was glad.

*the pigeons i bathed were covered with tanglefoot, an ostensible perching-bird deterrent that cripples those birds.

11.20.19

talking about how i've missed you is a blog cliché. forget it, who can confirm it if it's just us.

i have settled into a freelance writing career that doesn't make me throw up (more than once or twice a year)! i've been to nice and the isle of greece (and have gotten to the point where i judge hosts who don't welcome me with themed novelty chocolates)! i wrote a dorky piece for the new york times, and while i'd love to have been cool about it, i bought three copies at our bodega and told them why!

we're doing this, is what i'm saying.

09.10.19

the next dirty dirty relay trail race is in like a month! i am not our team captain but i have decided to take the wheel on making shirts.

the dirty dozen {twelve youtube comments on dexys midnight runners' "come on eileen"}

01 I told my dad that the denim look was how I pictured all of the 70s/80s people, he said I was accurate but also told me to piss off
02 i can't wait for this dystopia where we all wear jean overalls
03 Always after me lucky charms.
04 I'm dedicating this song to my latest nurse Eileen.
05 "Me Too Ra, Too Ra, Too Ra Ay Era" doesn't quite have the same ring to it...
06 This song gets such huge airplay over Trader Joe's PA system.
07 Distinct Celtic pimp vibes with this
08 It's about being a catholic.
09 bros help bros. thats just what they do
10 Every time this song comes on, the rest of the prisoners laugh at me.
11 It has that Irish tone that makes people happy.
12 Better than that stalker Sting.

07.16.19

the dirty dozen {recurring dreams}

01 the kitten will die if someone doesn't do something
02 we have to leave new york city
03 y kant lauren type
04 time is running out in san francisco, but what about a burrito
05 accidental commitment to grad school
06 iceland
07 david bowie and i have the talk
08 this whole apartment must be painted and furnished
09 no traffic on the service road
10 pregnancy
11 swimming as shortcut
12 punching donald trump

07.13.19

the dirty dozen {instagram accounts i appreciate}

01 @drlindseyfitzharris: a medical historian; i have yet to read her book on joseph lister and victorian medicine, but it's on the list for later this summer. posts fascinating, disturbing images of everything from shrunken heads at the warsaw ethnographic museum (processed with rocks and sand over fires, then worn around warriors' necks) to the french death mask that became what we know as the cpr doll. captions are mini-essays.

02 @secondshelfbooks: a boss new bookstore in london that focuses on rare and rediscovered books by and about women; sold me a boss inscribed copy of eavan boland's object lessons when we were in town this spring. a+ source for zelda fitzgerald's thoughts on breakfast, gorgeous woolf editions, modern dances for english ladies. go to there.

03 @asari.wildlife: turkish wildlife photographers abdullah and pinar; they said hello a year or so ago after i uploaded a few images of patients at the wild bird fund. what could be finer than glamour shots of long-eared owls, european bee-eaters, and common kingfishers? learning to greet them by their names (kulaklı orman baykuşu, arıkuşu, and yalıcapkını, respectively) in turkish, obvs.

04 @gatheredgrown: nate's the brother of a friend of a friend; he and his wife, emily, live on a small lake in rural northern minnesota and make, well, everything? it's hard for me to see things like the knife he forged and sheathed in a rawhide beaver tail, but it's impossible not to appreciate their craftsmanship and commitment to sustainability. i learned the term "competence porn" the other day; this is legit competence porn. bearpaw snowshoes! mukluks! a damn canoe! i try not to think about the bear fat in the birch syrup cookies.

05 @vandervonodd: the first and last time i wore a corset—for a rasputina concert with dirty uncle paul—i ended up freaking out in a denny's on el camino, a literal and spiritual place to which i hope i shall never return.* vander von odd (aka antonio yee) won the first season of dragula and makes me want to wear corsets and wigs and this cursèd dress, and to drop $350 on a victorian mourning collar. in a world where marilyn manson keeps whatever his version of a low profile is, vander von odd saves me.

06 @fiance_knowles: south african textile artist danielle clough last sold some of her original embroidered rackets when we were in india last fall, and i wanted one so badly that i spent almost a full day in goa trying to figure out how to jump into her online store as soon as they dropped (reader, i failed). she embroiders rackets, scrap metal, surgical masks...and shows the backs of her projects, oh my heart. look at these fucking portraits.

07 @drinkingwithchickens: i have yet to watch the second or third seasons of stranger things, but when i do i will put on my big bartender pants (a thing) and make kate's tribute to barb ("rum, curaçao, coconut water, and lime, with a drizzle of blood orange grenadine"). she'd be a wildly talented and entertaining garden-to-glass mixologist anyway (hi, peppered rose paloma and honey basil julep), but she has all these chickens and she shoots them with her drinks. a ginmaker i know checked out my instagram feed a few years ago, took note of all the birds and beverages, and gently steered me over to kate's. other boozestagrammers, please try harder.

08 @hannahflowers_tattoos: i follow a lot of tattoo artists (surprise), and the local ones in particular are dangerous as hell: why, i could be at kings avenue in fifteen minutes if i wore my running shoes. tasmanian artist hannah flowers is a leetle safer, as she's london-based and her work would require a big commitment (from both space-remaining-on-my-body and plunge-into-a-new-style perspectives), but not much: i gasp every time i see one of her art-nouveau / art deco / vargas-inspired women (and she's fantastic with animals, too, gulp). while i admire the traditional tattoo aesthetic, its female nudes tend to get me down; hannah's, on the other hand, feel like characters rather than objects. her skill with color and white detailing, particularly in faces, is flat-out stunning. okay fine, i kind of want a lady.

09 @isopresso_balloon: self-taught japanese artist masayoshi matsumoto spends between two and six hours weaving balloons—and that's it, no cheats like adhesives or embellishments—into critters like violin beetles, octopuses, colossal squids, snow monkeys...i'd say clowns, please try harder, but it's irresponsible to encourage clowns.

10 @TheAmandaWoods: amanda woods, an australian writer i met on a press trip in turkey,** has carved out a magnificent travel niche for herself: she's the flame-haired queen of super-fancy transportation (like the belmond grand hibernian, singapore air's new 787-10, the belmond royal scotsman, the venice simplon orient express...yeah). beat envy is rare for me, but i have a thing for trains, and she takes the kind of trips i thought joe and i were going to take when we booked a "deluxe" cabin from milan to berlin. i bet she has to solve murder mysteries on her trips all the time! happily, she's such a lovely person that i can just enjoy her agatha christie-ing vicariously and without rancor.

11 @angeladeane: angela deane's ghost photographs give me life; in my last year as an editor in an office i got myself through lulls and frustrations by paying homage to her with wite-out and magazine spreads in my cubicle. we actually own a print of one of her older works, and as soon as i get around to actually pulling it out of its mailer and framing it i will tell you precisely which one it is. strong work with witches, too.

12 @tasteofstreep: self-explanatory, and immensely satisfying.



*costumes and denny's and i have a weird past: at some point high school friends and i went to disneyland on halloween (which was free if you dressed up and got there early enough), and i dozed off at breakfast and woke up without the faintest idea of why i was wearing a nun's habit. harrowing.

**that shot on her homepage is from our cave hotel in cappadocia, my all-time favorite digs. we attempted to go rogue and take a hot-air-ballon trip one morning, but it was too windy.

07.12.19

CONSUMED: A PARTIAL LIST.

horses and divorces (bar). joe and i visited our local honky tonk a few weeks ago and spied a poster for a bar that advertised a rosé super soaker as part of its fourth of july party. fellow tonkers told us that it was a burt-reynolds-themed sister joint a few blocks away, and i insisted on stopping by—not because it was the fourth of july (it was not) or because i was interested in being sprayed with rosé, but because i appreciated the terrible audacity of that establishment's plans—on our way home. we encountered and eventually exchanged soulful hugs with both the bouncer (who had shared a ride with joe from manhattan a few hours earlier, and was a buddy of ours from the tonk) and a mancunian olympic judo fighter (who shared our opinion that morrissey must be stopped). i left my phone there after hearing a-ha's "the sun always shines on TV" and demanding to buy the perpetrator a drink,* and when joe went back to williamsburg to retrieve it, he met another mancunian who attempted to take him home. horses and divorces has shag carpet on its ceiling.

los espookys (series). i am, for the most part, no good at watching shows as they air; season-long netflix-ish drops work for me, but i can't be bothered to tune in at the same time every week for series that aren't game of thrones or the handmaid's tale, both of which end/ed up making me feel uncomfortable and, oddly, hungry. enter los espookys, which caught my eye on a bathroom wall because i thought it was a band with an especially good name. i looked it up when i got home, as olds do, and reader! it is the six-part (this season) story of a group of friends in an unnamed latin american country that produces scrappy horror scenarios. it is mostly in spanish, and it is aspirationally absurd. i have rewatched each of the five episodes that have aired. you are much cooler than i am and already know all of this already, but OH MY GOD LOS ESPOOKYS.

trader joe's tofu spring rolls (foodstuff). while i understand that my longstanding amazon boycott is probably ludicrous when one considers all of the big tech and big-box properties i continue to enrich: fuck amazon, fuck it right in the ear.** my grocery shopping became considerably more difficult when amazon bought whole foods, and i was, if i'm being honest, pleased when trader joe's moved into the lower east side. it's been a godsend for styling props for the craft projects i've published over the last year—i'm good at foraging for floral arrangements, but i'm not that good—and though i can mostly ignore its superplastickypackaged treats, these little vegan slugs are A Thing. you've got to drench them in sriracha, but friends. i am trying to roll into my locals, spread my apron, and ask them to fill it with millet, and in the interim i am >75% questionable tofu spring rolls, and content. (con-TENT, not CON-tent.)



*it was the bartender, and i sketched him out, of course. "THIS WAS THE FIRST TAPE I EVER OWNED AND I BOUGHT IT WITH QUARTERS FROM MY ALLOWANCE!" "to...[clink] the eighties?"

**this was a problem last year, as i'd been doing a brisk business in lifestyle shopping roundups, and one of my biggest writing outlets transitioned to affiliated stories. i miss that money.

07.09.19

the dirty dozen {excerpts from yelp reviews of the brooklyn bridge}

01 Dirty, noisy​ and full of freaks.

02 Probably one of the most stressful things I've done this year, if not my entire life.

03 The overall design of the bridge is pretty cliche if you ask me. It looks like every other bridge that is featured in almost every movie.

04 The main stressor in my life.

05 Do the bicyclist have shame that they have taken much more than their fair share. I think they don't.

06 I went here during construction so it smelled weird

07 Yes, it's iconic, but it's a bad idea, and it doesn't work.

08 All in all, This is my second favorite East River bridge after the Williamsburg Bridge!

09 Ok, so I guess it's pretty cool to walk across such a glamourous bridge, but be prepared to dodge throngs of others thinking the same thing.

10 Personally it no "wow" factor for me because of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF.

11 what would really make this walk more exciting is if the street vendors sold broom sticks so you could whack the bikers.

12 Manhattan is a grid, my a**.