05.26.15

as of the middle of june, our little family will boast a total of zero steady jobs, unless you count whatever it is that steve does. joe realized a few weeks back that he needed to stop spending three hours a day getting to and from his office in the bronx, that we should reap the benefits of having been employed and childless before we are too old to really appreciate said benefits, and, oh yeah, that we should stick with the plan of picking up the old car we were going to buy from his parents (to streamline the process of getting to and from the bronx) and we should drive it across the country. i agreed to all of that, he put in his notice, and now we're planning a month-long road trip? customary catsitter, please reconfirm for me that you're able to feed and water the dudes in our absence (this is, predictably, one of the most stressful parts of what's happening, for me).

frequently and/or fictitiously asked questions

Q: what will joe do now?

A: we don't know. something in the same field, probably. an important part of the job-leaving experience is the lack of a job on the other side, he tells me, so i made sure we were up to date on the sort of things you need comparatively fancy health insurance to tackle, and that was that.

Q: where will you go?

the car is in phoenix, so we're starting there; after visiting with his parents for several days, we'll drive to los angeles and see some of my family, see showgirls, and start heading east.

Q: how are you addressing the fact that since matty hides from strangers, no one is going to see him for a whole month?

A: a wi-fi pet camera to catch him when he sneaks out for food, sort of the yuppie version of the planet earth tech used to film the elusive snow leopard? i'm still working on this.

Q: is benjamin black's the black-eyed blonde a worthy successor to raymond chandler's novels?

A: no, unfortunately. that times review i linked in the title made me laugh, as i too read "cancer stick" and promptly checked to see if the term would be anachronistic for a chandler character (it probably is). in my case i wasn't jumping on black because i thought he was too good; i think he chokes the reader with (often subpar) chandlerisms, and i really hated his zillion clumsy references to the long goodbye (for my money, chandler's best work). the black-eyed blonde is worth reading as a chandler-nerd talking point, but it belongs in the canon like a pearl onion on a banana split.

Q: what does the old car look like?

A: this, more or less.

Q: are you going to write about the trip?

A: we've made plans to stay in a '55 spartan imperial mansion in west texas and at the mississippi crossroads where robert johnson sold his soul to the devil so he could play the blues. what do you think?

05.15.15

the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:19 p.m. The caller said a doughnut shop was open but the front had been unattended for more than 20 minutes and there were people inside.
Citizen assist. 12:33 p.m. The caller said his neighbor yelled at him the night before.
Citizen assist. 10:25 p.m. The caller reported kids running a stop sign and said they didn’t apologize to her.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 7:47 a.m. The caller reported a man digging a large hole, saying it looked like a shallow grave.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:26 p.m. The caller said a stranger rang the doorbell and knocked on the door last night and now there is a cardboard box at the door with writing that says, “We’re watching you, happy birthday.”
Petty theft report. 5:56 p.m. The caller reported her knitting bag stolen.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 7:33 p.m. The caller reported a man who had a prescription pad and had written his own prescription.
Disturbance – family dispute. 6:52 p.m. The caller said his wife is refusing to let him take a walk with their kids.
Keep the peace. 12:34 a.m. The caller reported a female neighbor who called the police on him for loud music.
Suspicious person in a vehicle. 2:11 p.m. The caller reported two men in a truck with an attached trailer who asked if she was waiting for a sofa delivery, but she didn’t see any furniture.
Disturbance. 7:52 a.m. The caller said her husband is acting crazy, yelling and chasing her around the house. She said he is on steroids and this could be a possible side effect.
Vandalism report. 8:40 a.m. The caller said he called about neighbors above being noisy the night before, and in the morning he found that they dumped blueberry pie mix and caramel on his patio and damaged his plants.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 3:04 p.m. The caller reported a man with a camera set up across from the fire station for the last few hours, filming fire engines.

*previous installment here.

05.14.15

ghost fridge

CONSUMED: A PARTIAL LIST.

the girls from corona del mar (book). i've been meaning to crack a book by someone my age that takes place where i grew up for years. i've resented maggie shipstead a little for painting the OC broadly in comments, but she isn't really talking about my (middle-middle-class, public-school) orange county. rufi thorpe, on the other hand, is: i know the shabby condo apartments she describes, the planned parenthood in costa mesa. that said, that mia and lorrie ann's afternoons sound like mine with my elementary-school best friend owes more to thorpe's facility with emotional architecture than it does with the fact that i too have admired the koi at fashion island in recent years; her tale of a stone-hearted girl who is terribly fortunate and an angelic girl the vultures of bad luck won't let alone, and how their relationship mutates as their fates develop, hits me where i live. i have some people to call.

glow (book). in thinking about young ned beauman's third novel i'm trying not to focus on the charming inscription (to someone who is not me) in the uk edition of it i found at my bookstore last week or the equally charming way he directs readers to his "new personal" twitter account, with some but admittedly limited success. glow concerns itself with south london, neurochemistry, pirate radio, and foxes, and i will tell joe to read it if he ever finishes kavalier & clay on his terrible daily commute to the bronx (why are you so far away, the bronx? i need that zoo); it feels like contemporary noir, but for the fact that the main female character is three-dimensional and determined (unlike the main character's sidekick's three indistinguishable japanese fashion-student roommates, described only and always as "magnificent," which is funny until it's insulting and, alright, possibly funny again). beauman was the youngest writer included on granta's most recent 'best young british novelists' list, but i don't feel the sort of contempt for him that many friends of mine developed when, say, jonathan safran foer turned his princeton thesis into a novel; this could be because in my mid-thirties i've lost the ability to care about when and how other writers decide to publish things, but i think it's because he sounds like a decent guy.

it follows (film). horror is the capsaicin of the film world, right? those jolts of unpleasantness goad your body into releasing serotonin as a self-soother, and you get a nice flush of feel-good chemicals to congratulate you on simply identifying with a pretty detroit-adjacent teenager who sleeps with a new guy and is consequently terrorized by an invisible-to-everyone-else sex demon instead of actually being one. good on writer-director david robert mitchell for using detroit and its suburbs as a thoughtfully updated version of the landscape john carpenter moved through in halloween instead of two-dimensional ruin porn, and for depicting a group that contracts protectively around an imperiled friend instead of scattering and getting picked off one by one, a la the majority of mainstream horror characters. i also very much appreciated how mitchell flipped the script (several times) on traditional treatments of sexuality; it follows is no mere VD metaphor, but a fine exploration of personal responsibility. it also scared the shit out of me.


imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 have you admired the koi at fashion island?
02 are you able to get rid of books which have been inscribed to you without removing the inscription?
03 would an art project involving books inscribed to strangers be exciting or unsporting? both?
04 who's the best young british novelist?
05 how does one defeat an invisible-to-everyone-else sex demon?

(ghost photograph on our refrigerator inspired by angela deane)

05.11.15

There is this kind of construction crane—the sort you have to get a whole crew of skilled workers to assemble before you can build the thing you needed the crane to lift into being. These cranes are stories tall and when they begin to take shape, they appear sturdy, permanent. And as you watch one getting built, you think you’re watching an end unto itself, but it’s the making of the means. The moment when the crane-not-structure realization hits you is confusion, longing, recalibration of expectations and a little bit of awe. I recount this analogy at lunch one day with the poet. We pull apart our grilled salami sandwiches and wipe grease from our fingers as we talk. Building these things—this marriage, this home, this family—and then dismantling them: my life thus far has been spent building a crane I needed to build the life I was building all along.

(michelle mirsky, from "it's all gonna break..." in no fear of flying: kamikaze missions in death, sex, and comedy)

05.06.15

ye private infinity pool

still recovering from the loss of the private infinity pool we had in grenada last week. it's going to take some time.

04.21.15

he grew up under stars suspended in black aspic, no city illuminated in any direction. there weren't really roads in his part of morocco; during the day cars could follow ruts in the sand, but at night their headlights would strain at the darkness. who could see tire tracks? he and his friends would follow those golden threads across the desert and aid the foundering travelers they found at the end of them. that was how N began to do what he does.

04.17.15

ten minutes after the last stragglers had trotted into the press and industry screening, the film students and i flopped against the carpeted wall in the theater lobby. the one from staten island showed me smartphone photos of the lighting gels he'd used for a friend's music video. "sylvester stallone sold his dog when he was making rocky, he was so poor,"* he said. "the studio wanted to use a different director and actor, and he sold the dog so he could do things the way he wanted." "geez," i said. "how much do you think he got for it?" "i don't know, but when he finally made some money and tried to buy it back, the guy said no!** and the dog had been his best friend!" "uncompromising," i nodded.

*true, per a 2013 interview.
**false; per stallone, the guy sold the dog back for $3,000 and had a cameo in the movie.

04.16.15

vipers

04.04.15

BIRDS THAT HAVE BITTEN ME

american crow
american robin
blue jay
bufflehead
brant
canada goose
chukar
herring gull
house sparrow
laughing gull
mallard
mourning dove
muscovy duck
mute swan
northern cardinal*
red-breasted merganser
ring-billed gull
rock pigeon
ruddy duck
snow goose
wild turkey

*a permanent resident at the wild bird fund, ben deserves special recognition for having inflicted more bites than the rest of the list combined. do what you do, dragonbird. i love you madly.

04.02.15

in half an hour or so, i'll head across town to pick up my fourth tribeca crew tee. it's nearly film festival time, internets! i fantasized about taking shifts every day for two weeks and retiring with my earnings, but i can only work 32 hours over the course of the whole extravaganza for what i presume are weird-local-income-tax-related reasons. guess i'll have to continue to spend most of my time pitching and writing and running to avoid pitching and writing.

on pitching and writing, i've been wooing new outlets with something like success; i'm in no danger of being able to retire with these earnings, either, but i enjoy visiting slick magazine websites and growling MORE! as evidence of strangers' approval accumulates. it's a little like faux-casually breezing past a dish you've prepared and deposited at a potluck to see if it's being eaten. you take that casserole and you come back for seconds, mister. (i recently made a pretty great casserole, by the way. the broccoli should have gone in raw and it could have used a little cayenne, but i must say, recreating canned cream of mushroom soup at ten times the price is actually rather justified in that context.)

03.24.15

the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:35 p.m. A caller said he witnessed a man expose himself to a woman. The man was described as in his late 40s and possibly wearing an Angels beanie.
Suspicious persons in vehicle. The owner of a tire shop called because two men came in asking to have a tire repair and he suspected they were under the influence and the car smelled like weed.
Disturbance. 12:37 p.m. A woman was selling expired coupons to elderly people. The caller said it was an ongoing problem with the woman.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 8:50 a.m. The caller reported a man looking into yards.
Terrorist threats. 10:03 a.m. The caller reported a man who threatened a driving evaluator after he failed his driving test.
Burglary in progress. 2:26 a.m. A man, about 30, with a medium build wearing a black baseball cap with orange writing, a black shirt and black pants, was reportedly trying to break into the newspaper stand. The caller said he saw quarters falling from the man's pocket.
Drunk in public. 6:47 p.m. A juvenile was reportedly drinking beer out of a water bottle. He was reportedly stumbling and skateboarding.
Annoying phone call. 5:27 p.m. The caller said her soon to be ex-husband is calling her at work and complaining about her babysitter.
Assist outside agency. 12:37 p.m. The caller reported a combative man in a wheelchair behind Wells Fargo.
Reckless driving. 5:20 p.m. The caller reported a Cadillac going across all lanes, stopping suddenly and stopping to ask for directions.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 7:22 a.m. The caller reported a homeless man sleeping outside the office. The caller was afraid to go to work.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 4:14 p.m. Several subjects were reportedly drinking beer behind flamingos.

*previous installment here.

03.17.15

one of the six dozen public-address systems along the half marathon route began to thump with the piano notes at the top of "empire state of mind" as i made the turn from seventh avenue to forty-second street. i'm guessing it played once every ten minutes for three or four hours sunday morning, but there was something undeniably inspirational about how jay z kicked in just as my metrocard completed its intimate migration down my running shorts (when i am a second-time half-marathoner i shall wear pockets). last week i speculated that i became a real new yorker when a fancy pigeon pooped in my armpit; i now know that the magic happens when one runs through times square with a metrocard in one's ass. excelsior!