08.27.14

geraldine in the hotel


at JFK i overheard her telling another member of our group that she'd once gone to the ukrainian border to examine the potatoes grown for chopin vodka, but i'd have picked her out anyway: there's a certain kind of lightweight trench coat one only sees on traveling wine-and-spirits journalists. when we were on the jetway waiting to board our plane to reykjavik, her companion wondered if martin miller was still alive. "he died in december," i blurted, because i am only sometimes able to remember that real life is not like watching jeopardy! in your living room.

we coincided a few days later when i was working my way through the group with questions about ethics; it had shocked me to learn that, for example, the new york times asks its travel writers to sign statements saying that they haven't taken a press trip in the last five years (my magazine allows its writers to go on press trips and has given its blessing for each of mine). she'd just written a book about press trips, as it happened. her co-author used a pseudonym; "i, of course, will be the baroness," she said.

i didn't really get the baroness thing until we shared an armrest on our flight back to new york the next morning. i mentioned somewhere over greenland that joe and i would be celebrating our wedding anniversary that week, and she told me that her marriage had soured quickly. she'd lived in her husband's castle for four years, she told me, and was miserable; after nine years, he wrote a single line—I DISINHERIT MY WIFE—and killed himself with a shotgun.

we exchanged contact info when we parted at customs. "i don't have my other cards with me," she said, "so i'll give you a baroness card." "i haven't got one of those yet," i said, and she laughed.

08.25.14

sock dog for violet

i'm a really lousy multitasker, so it's terribly exciting when i manage to pull off something like rolling into a friend's daughter's first birthday party with a handmade gift and a big weekender full of clothes for an international press trip.* behold your sock dog, wee violet! i'm martha sandiego or carmen stewart or something! i'd been staying up late reading the first two books in laini taylor's daughter of smoke & bone trilogy, though, and i managed to sew one of the poor little sockshund's forelegs ninety degrees past the direction in which it should have faced; thematically appropriate for the series, but potentially disturbing for a stuffed animal.

this laini taylor trilogy: you know of it, yes? last week i was reading a think piece on supernatural YA fiction—not that new yorker piece on dystopias, another one i can't seem to find now—that name-checked taylor's stuff with glowing praise. that's just the sort of thing i should check out from the library and read on the subway and at three in the morning so i'm not tempted to bring it on the plane to reykjavik and squander hours in which i should be resting up for my one half-day of free time, i thought, and i was right! i don't want to say too much about the plot, as it features some excellent surprises, but i will say that it revolves around karou, a seventeen-year-old blue-haired art student in prague who was raised by devils who collect teeth. like john cry-your-face-off green,** taylor has a knack for dialogue that's both smart and plausible; it's particularly enjoyable as the story gets weirder and the conversations shift from gossip in a local cafe to other topics in other places. she's also fantastic at tucking supernatural flourishes into previously-conventional settings, à la neil gaiman's wonderful london underground in neverwhere. she also also burdens her heroine with brutal consequences for seemingly-trivial decisions, as philip pullman does with lyra in the his dark materials trilogy, and has a stunning, kelly-link-esque imagination.*** it's probably terribly lazy to describe an author primarily by comparing her to other authors—here's a diligent review if you'd prefer one—but in my defense, i think reference points can be particularly useful when one is clattering around in this subgenre. there are walls full of supernatural YA at what remains of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and trails of names are handy when the covers all look the same (these books, i'll warn you, have silly covers). on silly, i was prepared to fling daughter of smoke & bone from my person when it became clear that romance was quite central to the story, but don't make that mistake: karou is a real character, not a vampire's girlfriend like twilight's bella or even a cool fighter and eventually-catatonic wife like katniss in the hunger games. if i have the willpower to wait a few weeks before going back to the library, i'll be reading the last third of her story on the beach in california, and probably crying my face off.



*it's also terribly exciting, if we're being honest, that i managed to cram clothes and shoes and plastic animals enough for an international press trip into a big weekender. imelda marcos i ain't, but joe's the packing talent at our place, and asking for his help before flying off without him would have been kind of shitty.

**i did not cry my face off when i read green's the fault in our stars, though i did like it and did almost cry a little bit when i saw a skinny foreign tourist girl on the subway with an "okay? okay." shirt a couple of weeks ago.

***neil gaiman: "kelly link is probably the best short story writer currently out there, in any genre or none. she puts one word after another and makes real magic with them—funny, moving, tender, brave and dangerous. she is unique, and should be declared a national treasure, and possibly surrounded at all times by a cordon of armed marines."

08.22.14

streams at deildartunguhver

i flew home from iceland on tuesday morning just before another flurry of earthquakes turned the aviation alert orange. i don't really want bárðarbunga to erupt and flatten the tourism industry again, but i wouldn't have minded being stuck in reykjavik for a while.

teach yourself icelandic

mér er kalt á fótunum, i have cold feet
á laun, in secret
jafna sig, steady oneself
vera i goðu skapi, to be in good spirits
innst í hjarta sínu, in his innermost heart
hábúar (colloq.), "air-dwellings"

08.12.14

my friends and i were hired as extras when flubber, a remake of the absent-minded professor starring robin williams, came to shoot its basketball scenes at stanford's maples pavilion. it was just after the start of my freshman year, i was seventeen, and it was fantastic: we spent all night up in the bleachers eating oreos from the craft services tables and waiting to stream out the doors for the occasional crowd scene. fresh from babysitting and food-service jobs around the country, none of us had ever been paid so much to do so little. after one of our walks, i joined the crush around williams and introduced myself; "now you know what it's like in the quad at noon," i said, and made some forgettable joke about cows. he did me the kindness of laughing—who knew better how good it felt to get a laugh?—and shook my hand, and a current of joy ran through me. when we wrapped, we were all wilting with exhaustion—except, of course, for williams, who was plucking characters and imaginary instruments from the air at four in the morning to entertain the crew just as he had been when we'd arrived twelve hours ago.

a year and a half later, a nurse at the university hospital wheeled my bed up to a wall-mounted phone so that i could call my mother and tell her i'd tried to kill myself. i've been thinking about what sort of feeling i'd share with robin williams if i could, and i thought at first that it would be how i felt delivering that news—but shame doesn't save people.

can love? as andrew solomon writes in the noonday demon, "love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. in depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. the only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance." could all of our anecdotes and multimedia tributes and exhortations to look out for one another have made a difference? do they make any difference now?

i'd share the shore re-exposed when the tide of my depression went back out, no one but the moon to damn or thank for it. i would share being nineteen. i don't think he was able to feel that.

08.08.14



the missus and i headed out to sunset park last night for a rooftop screening of pulp: a film about life, death & supermarkets. the director, florian habicht, saw pulp's farewell show at radio city* in 2012 and invited jarvis cocker to his latest project's debut at the london film festival. they decided at an ensuing cafe meetup that florian would go up to sheffield, scare up and film a bunch of locals, and then follow the band's final hometown performance in motorpoint arena. the documentary they put together (quite together: jarvis watched three different cuts back to back before giving florian notes) is even more enjoyable than i, the easiest of easy marks, thought it would be: butchers at castle market speak of jarvis's family's affinity for fish,** a tween girls' dance troupe performs to "disco 2000," an elderly singing group accompanies a guitarist upstairs at the market through "help the aged," an old knifemaker notes that if he had his life to live again he'd spend it making knives. the concert footage is as marvelous as that radio city show was for me (i still can't bring myself to delete the long, terrible iphone video i took of "this is hardcore"). the rooftop venue is as close as we get to something as lovely as cinespia (no graves out there among the warehouses, but the moon was bright and the whole block smelled like baking bread). i came extremely close to breaking my no-talking-to-celebrities rule and introducing myself or awkwardly asking for a picture one of the ten jillion times jarvis walked by, but my willpower kicked in right when my nerves settled down, thank god. i'm a little sorry that i didn't try out for the pulp karaoke contest jarvis and florian judged at the afterparty even though "like a friend" wasn't on the song list—in the words of youtube's jerseygurl620, there is a dark remote corner of my heart only [that] song can access—and a smidge sorry that we left just before a nine-year-old won the whole thing with "this is hardcore," but who am i kidding? nights like that are the superb fairy-wren songs that tell me this town's my baby.***


YOU CAN EVEN BRING YOUR BABY: PEOPLE YOU WILL MEET AT PULP KARAOKE

01 the girl who marched up to jarvis and said, "mister cocker, may i shake your hand?"
02 the guy who asked jarvis to autograph his relish
03 the pregnant woman who performed "monday morning" with a talcum-powder finale
04 the guy in a hoodie pulled up over a ball cap who earned the chance to perform "sorted for e's & wizz" by photoshopping his head onto lil' kim's body
05 the girl in the gin line with panther-frame glasses
06 the gangly frizzy-haired kid who wore a marvelous cockeresque maroon suit, performed the first half of "babies" with flawless moves, then fell off the back of the stage ("i have fallen off the stage many times myself," jarvis noted)
07 the guy who "performs karaoke in bars around the world," showed up in a white jacket with black piping and an embroidered crest ("a good jacket," per jarvis) and simulated his own reverb for "disco 2000"****
08 the girl who earned her spot when, informed that the nine-year-old had already claimed "this is hardcore," said "i can fucking beat a nine-year-old," then went for it with a delivery that sounded like nancy sinatra talking in her sleep ("you had a difficult song with a minute of nothing at the start, and you handled that well," jarvis said; "also you drove me to this place, full disclosure."*****)
09 the girl who came onstage dressed like an old lady ("help the aged") and sang-talked slowly (joe: "she's shatnerizing this?"), stripped down to a black one-piece bathing suit over the course of her performance, then asked for the glasses she'd whipped into the crowd ("i actually need those to see.")



imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 would you have introduced yourself or awkwardly asked for a picture with jarvis cocker?
02 what would you wear to pulp karaoke? what would you sing for it?
03 what would your family's superb fairy-wren song be?
04 is it reasonable for a nine-year-old to sing "this is hardcore"?
05 is it reasonable that joe wanted me to come home with him even though i don't get sleepy? (the walk back to the subway was sketchy, he argued.)
06 should i hunt down those panther-frame glasses?


*gather ye dirty while ye may indeed.

**not quite as squicky as it sounds; his saturday job was at the fishmonger, which, as he explained, made it difficult for him to chat up girls later that night (he soaked his hands in bleach for ten minutes to try to get rid of the fish-stink, "and then i smelled of fish and bleach, which was even worse").

***so are brooklynvegan commenter fights about show recaps, if we're being honest.

****he weathered some serious glitches on the part of the karaoke machine with professionalism. "if we were scoring for accuracy you'd be the top, but we're not," said jarvis.

*****i thought that was a metaphor until he explained that he was afraid of not having a ride home. the crowd booed her (high) score.

08.07.14

from my balcony on maui

i'd been working on a second post about my trip to hawaii, but i realized somewhere around the catholic church on my walk to the subway this morning that i need to write a poem about it? as the F train rumbled up i pulled out the little muji notebook in my giant mom-purse and discovered a rumpled piece of hotel stationery covered with notes from my second night on maui, maybe ten flights below where i took this photo. being forgetful is both a pain in the ass and occasionally quite exciting. i took a few more pages of notes.

07.31.14

sunrise at waikiki

i went on a press trip to hawaii last month. i told you about this, yes? i climbed into a plane in new york at dawn and hatched like a chick twelve hours later in honolulu, where a handful of writers and i were coddled and hustled all over the islands for a week. wellness-themed press trips are sort of a cross between the amazing race and america's next top model: at each new destination someone draped a lei around my neck and someone else put a drink in my hand, and each time i retired to my room i found a little gift and a note wishing me a pleasant night's sleep. one night there was a photo of me on my nightstand.

our last day on oahu began when we crawled out to greet the sunrise with a cleansing ritual on the beach, where the morning's first surfers already bobbed like flotsam out near the horizon. we considered water deities: hey, kanaloa! hey, namaka! there was unironic chanting. the woman leading the cleansing encouraged us to think about the constellations of choices that had resulted in our gathering on the sand, everything that we and our ancestors had done to generate that particular smattering. the implication was that the smattering was fortuitous—outside of honeymoon in vegas, it seems like most people consider themselves fortunate to end up in hawaii—but it was a gentle implication.

i'm estranged from a few of my relatives and dislike most of the rest. i know little about my grandparents' parents and almost nothing about anyone who came before them. at some point during world war one we pretended to be french, and some cousin of my grandmother's kept a pet lion in upstate new york. my grandfather's mother was known to light a cigarette before picking up the phone if someone called her in the middle of the night. as i walked into the waves on waikiki, i thought about how my aunt ran away from home and ended up at her sister's nunnery in san francisco, later the site of my sister's wedding. i thought about how a tiger decided not to eat my great-grandparents on the road to nham khan. i floated on my back in the amniotic water and considered my grandfather, too old and sick to go back to england, and the coins he gave me to buy myself a pint from him when i married joe in oxford. various writers' toes brushed against me as we pinwheeled in the water. "thanks, grandpa," i whispered.

07.29.14

parts, williamsburg

The Second World War was a manual-typewriter war. One would be tempted to say that never will typewriters be nearly so important in a war again, were it not for the many manual typewriters in the Serbian and Croatian alphabets that Mr. Tytell has sold for use in Bosnia in recent years. Armies in the Second World War took typewriters with them into battle and typed with them in the field on little tripod stands. In the United States, typewriters were classified as wartime matériel, under the control of the War Production Board and unavailable for purchase by civilians without special authorization. Among the ships sunk off Normandy during the D-day invasion was a cargo ship carrying twenty thousand Royal and Underwood typewriters intended for the use of the Allies. Mr. Tytell says that as far as he knows, all twenty thousand are still down there. More than other veterans, a man whose life has been typewriters is likely to divide his history into short summaries covering before the war and after the war, and volumes in between.

[...]

[Mr. Tytell] spent much of his time assigned to the army's Morale Services Division, at 165 Broadway, which dealt in information and propaganda. There he received his hardest job of the war—a rush request to convert typewriters to twenty-one different languages of Asia and the South Pacific. Many of the languages he had never heard of before. The War Department wanted to provide airmen, in case they were shot down, with survival kits that included messages on silk in the languages of people they were likely to meet on the ground. Morale Services found native speakers and scholars to help with the languages. [Mr. Tytell] obtained the type and did the soldering and the keyboards. The implications of the work and its difficulty brought him to near collapse, but he completed it with only one mistake: on the Burmese typewriter he put a letter on upside down. Years later, after he had discovered his error, he told the language professor he had worked with that he would fix that letter on the professor's Burmese typewriter. The professor said not to bother; in the intervening years, as a result of typewriters copied from Martin's original, that upside-down letter had been accepted in Burma as proper typewriter style.

(ian frazier, from "typewriter man," 1997)
ian frazier exacerbated my fascination with siberia, and i search ebay for little bits of it every few months; last night i found a thunderful old landscape painting of chelyabinsk that belongs in my life. gone to new york, the collection in which "typewriter man" and "all that glitter" appear, features a really moving introduction by jamaica kincaid (man does she love ian frazier) and is the best vacation reading ever.

07.21.14

returning to new york city from a wedding weekend in portland was rough: sunday evening in northern oregon was a charming windswept grab bag of sunshowers and summery northwestern gusts, and last monday morning in line for a taxi in queens was like stepping into an elevator full of trolls. 75% of portland is painted the color of our bedroom, so spending time there was like getting the best room service ever (though i'd never eat in bed, i'm not a monster). it felt good to find a place that made me want to want to leave manhattan, even though i'm years and years from really and truly having that kind of yen.

CONSUMED {IN PORTLAND}: A PARTIAL LIST.

blue star donuts (shop). i'd probably have toddled down to the massive line wrapping around voodoo doughnut in the absence of expert guidance; it's part of just about every portland-adjacent food show i've ever seen, and it's smack in the middle of old town, so those of us with questionable senses of direction tend to circle the vortex like doomed sailors. those of us who also have a bespoke map from rachel, now—we get to start the day at blue star, where the front of the line is four people away, there are seats facing the street, and the old-fashioned donut chock full of locally-sourced goodness will make you cry just a little bit into your stumptown coffee (we also bought a meyer lemon donut filled with key lime curd, a blueberry-basil-bourbon donut, and a tres leches cake donut with hazelnuts; they were all excellent). i congratulated the guy at the counter on how pleasant it was downtown. "the streets are clean," he said, "but the people are dirty."

boxer ramen (restaurant). late-morning weekday downtown portland is informative and exhausting, for every shopkeeper will tell you about the last three west coast cities in which he or she lived and explain the intricacies of the local public transportation and give you gentle hints about where to eat without actually disparaging any of the places at which you probably shouldn't eat ("wait to have one of their burritos until you've had time to temper your expectations of what a burrito should be, maybe"). we heaped praise on blue star donuts to a kind and gregarious man selling selvedge denim and were directed to a ramen place owned by the blue star guy just a few doors away—perfect, as we were inexplicably hungry again. boxer ramen is goddamn adorable, its vegetarian curry is mild but delicious (and a mere $10), and if humming along with mid-'90s r&b in a mostly-empty air-conditioned room with a bowl of noodles, the missus, and a $4 beer isn't happiness, well.

floating world comics (shop). part of floating world's record-store vibe is the fact that it actually is a record store; it's also a gallery, a publisher, an art and design store, a cheerful zine-buyer (portland must be our nation's mightiest producer of zines), and an utterly magnificent repository of both mainstream and indie comics, and while i'm used to that kind of well-groomed enthusiasm from places like rough trade's new music store/venue in williamsburg, it, i don't expect it with my serial art. my (huge) mistake.

grassa (restaurant). by the time sunday night rolled around, we'd followed the 12hrs hipster guide across the river and back, powered down fancy corn nuts to soak up tiki drinks before tricia lockwood's reading, taken selfies over fancy wedding dinners, and eaten tater tot nachos on elephantine leather sofas underground while messi lost to germany in the world cup; our last group dinner didn't need to be great, it just had to be uncomplicated and pleasant. it was uncomplicated and pleasant, team! as the aforementioned denim guy said, the nice thing about portland is that you don't have to work yourself into a fomo-lather over must-sees and must-dos and hype or backlash; you can follow hunches when things look appealing and be reasonably confident that you'll enjoy yourself. at grassa, you order items from a chalkboard menu, pay up front, take a seat at one of the long communal tables, then tuck into fresh homemade pasta and a glass of local wine. mine was modest, comforting, and perfect for the end of a long weekend.

hand-eye supply (shop). THING I PURCHASED AT HAND-EYE SUPPLY, UNQUESTIONABLY THE FINEST ARTISANAL HARDWARE STORE I HAVE EVER SEEN: safety glasses which are now in rotation with my regular sunglasses, even though they were packaged in an airless plastic bag and are going to smell like feet for a while. THING I VERY NEARLY PURCHASED: a bar of otter wax for the brass otter i found at hippo hardware. THING I SHOULD HAVE PURCHASED: the clampersand. a clampersand, i said! i'm not sorry i got the smelly glasses, but with the smelly glasses and a clampersand i'd really be going places. a ferocious shower kicked up just as we were leaving hand-eye supply, and the friendly gal behind the counter rooted around in her storeroom until she found a plastic bag big enough to protect all of the posters and zines and david lynch art books i'd just purchased at floating world comics. gal, you were good to me.

hippo hardware & trading co. (shop). if i knew more about rebuilding vintage doors or was responsible for a full-body house rehab like jen's, i could have burned a few hours admiring the fancy knobs and swapping this old house quotes with the kind woman downstairs at hippo hardware. as i would surely be the worst contractor ever and had only five minutes to shop before heading back across the willamette for a big pre-wedding brunch with our friends, i merely bought a brass otter from the brusque woman upstairs. where did it come from? "from a supplier," she growled. "they supply us with brass otters."

portland saturday market (sprawl). i sing of east-to-west jet lag that pries me from bed at weird hours and flings me at coffeehouses and street fairs! on saturdays in new york i'm rarely wearing pants at noon, but on saturday in portland i'd scorned questionable ceramics, bought vegan black licorice lip balm (hey!), and tasted local hard cider (meh?) before ten. the saturday market felt like a cross between one of the summer street fairs that pop up on avenues in manhattan in a burst of mozzarepas and tube socks and the corner of the union square greenmarket where the farmstands start mixing with guys selling novelty tees; i wish it had been a bit farmstandier, as the buckets of wildflowers were, as rachel predicted, gorgeous and nearly free, but i will apply my lip balm and keep my gripes to myself.

powell's books (shop). while i can't know for sure that i'd happily swap new york's strand with powell's even if my first visit to the latter hadn't been for tricia lockwood's friday-night reading and it seems kind of mean-spirited to pit independent bookstores against one another—i treasure all of them except for san francisco's city lights, which can suck it—i sure would like to swap for powell's. it's more comfortable and navigable than i'd have thought a store of that size was capable of being, its displays are intuitive and dynamic, it managed to trick joe "all digital all the time" s. into falling in love with a big-ass book about soviet architecture, and it programmed a hot poetry event for the one weekend i'd be in town. i went back half a dozen times before we left portland on sunday night. please shop at powell's instead of on amazon.

rum club (bar). knowing of my and joe's love for laid-back bars and tiki, rachel sent us to meet the giant wooden bear with a shriner's fez at rum club in the industrial district; "the wallpaper is also amazing," she noted. she's right, and as always, she steered us true; daiquiris here are rarely that good, and they're never that cheap. our evening plans on the other side of the river kept me from establishing a scandalous all-night cocktail fiefdom at our little collection of tables, but i dream about it still (rachel's full portland and eugene write-up is here). that gossipy late afternoon with our friends was one of this summer's best.

07.15.14



John H., Queens: We have had glitter parties that were something to behold. Our loft has uneven floorboards, and at night the lines between the boards are a vista of glitter highlights. In our loft it blows into glitter drifts and glitter dunes.

[...}

Amy L., San Francisco: We made a batch of fifty-two glitter valentines for my daughter to send on Valentine's Day, and later I felt so guilty thinking of all that glitter all over everybody's house in San Francisco. My husband Mike is a really, really orderly guy, and as he was Dustbusting it from between the cracks in the floor he looked up at me and said, "Never, ever do this again."

[...]

There's a piece of glitter on the carpet between my feet. From here, as I move my head, it flashes like a mirror signal from a distant ridge. Now I lie on the floor and look at it close up, through a photographer's loupe. The carpet strands are a glossy thicket, with the piece of glitter among the branches in the understory. Magnified, it is a coppery gold of uneven sheen.

[...]

Just now, my sister-in-law brought over her new baby daughter. I had never seen the baby before, and the baby had never seen New York. Her wide, dark eyes did not seem to blink as she moved them with a series of short adjustments from one new apparition to the next. She is a first child, cared for with the precision parents often give to their first. I looked her over carefully but could find no glitter at all. Before long, a piece will adhere to her, marking her as our own.

(ian frazier, from "all that glitter," 1995)

in other news, instagram frames on embedded photos are really terrible. get it together, instagram.

06.16.14

101 in 1001 {III}: 070 make beer [ongoing]

my night of triumph was at hand: after saving up and sanitizing eight empty swing-top grolsch bottles (arduous; grolsch is not very good), acquiring a brooklyn brew shop kit with ingredients for a gallon of their warrior double ipa, mashing in, collecting and boiling wort, adding hops, pitching yeast, watching the beer-beast freak out on our counter for three days, installing an airlock, some other steps i'm probably forgetting, and letting the growler of whatever it was at that point become self-aware in a dark corner of our bedroom closet for two weeks, it was time to siphon and carbonate and bottle and promote my homemade beer, which would be the finest beer in all the land. i would call it grand street brown-brown, perhaps, in honor of matty, who supervised and inspired my efforts à la brooklyn brewery's beloved monster. i sanitized and prepared my racking cane and tubing, realized i hadn't yet prepared the honey and water mixture in the bottom of my sanitized pot, spilled a bunch of honey on the cat (who had started drinking the sanitizer when my back was turned, then panicked and scattered my bottles when i caught him at it), fled to retrieve the growler from the bedroom closet, and found that a pile of laundry had snapped the airlock clean off at the growler's open mouth, which explains why our clothes have smelled so spooky this week. a hop-addled moth traced a crooked spiral out of the closet.

06.11.14

culture blotter {kara walker's "a subtlety" at the domino sugar plant}

kara walker's "a subtlety"

kara walker, 1 of 3

kara walker, 2 of 3

kara walker, 3 of 3

i've always appreciated the derelict domino sugar plant's silhouette across the river, and have followed developers' plans to erect fifty-story residences in its place with a bit of sadness; the city needs more affordable housing, and nasty old buildings shouldn't live on the river because i find them interesting, and i'll be sorry to see them go all the same. kara walker's "a subtlety" ("or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant"), a massive installation in the plant's largest storage room, is the farewell i didn't know i wanted, and i jumped at the opportunity to have a look inside. i've seen and appreciated walker's stuff at the whitney and the brooklyn museum—she's fantastic at repulsing her viewers, her silhouettes will drive you right out of the room—but i've never really known what i'm supposed to do at that point.

"a subtlety" (here meaning, among other things, an extra-fancy illusion dish prepared for a medieval feast; this sphinx is a 75-foot-long, 35-foot-tall foam sculpture covered with sugar) is her first large-scale public work, her first literally huge piece, and like all nyc-area installation art, it's attracted all sorts of attention. artnet noted a week or two ago that it's spawned an ongoing series of lewd instagrams, an outcome she surely anticipated (visitors are encouraged to use a site-specific hashtag and told that they are part of the exhibition). hyperallergic wondered how the exhibitors were keeping vermin away from those forty tons of sugar (answer: rat traps, but most pests seem to be leaving the site alone*). little clumps of hipsters and art-world types trooped in and out of the building like ants. what i didn't expect, even in brooklyn, were the strollers: mothers were wheeling their children right up to the sticky little sugar babies, whispering in their ears. a sunshower pattered on the roof, the sickly-sweet crystals on the walls smelled of molasses, and we processed around walker's queen like the mourners we were.

[full set here.]


*"According to Ed McLaughlin, service manager for Regal Pests Management, which [the exhibitors] called in to deliver estimates for preventative services last winter, ants are a cause for greater worry than rats. 'Rats as a rule probably would not be attracted to a big amount of sugar, especially in an urban area,” McLaughlin said. “A rat can’t live on sugar alone. They’re going to need more palatable foods … basically anything they’ll find in the garbage. Things that are attracted to sugar are obviously ants, depending on the specific colony, roaches … bees.'"