shoe-cozies, lower east side

season's greetings, all; i hope your toes are precisely as warm as you would like them to be.


101 in 1001 {III}: 009 go whalewatching [completed 09.28.12]

watching for whales

though the whalewatching trip we took in iceland this september was my first, i think i can say that it was unlike what we would have experienced anywhere else. in mexico's sea of cortez, the harpoon-scarred gray whales of baja surface near boats, their babies at their sides: though we're utterly undeserving, they've forgiven the awestruck humans who come to them in peace. it's not like that in the north atlantic, not where we were. icelandic whalers ignore international regulations, and it's getting worse: in the 2010 hunt alone, 148 endangered fin whales and 60 minke whales were killed (the united states considered sanctions against iceland last year, but obama declined to invoke the pelly amendment). cognitive dissonance among icelanders outside of the whaling industry is pretty intense: while only 5% of them claim to eat whale regularly, some pollsters report that up to 75% of icelanders believe that whalers should be permitted to continue. japan imports the majority of the whalers' meat, but it's estimated that 40% of tourists in iceland eat it - which is where we came in. elding, the whalewatching company we chose, takes the "meet us don't eat us" campaign very seriously, and our golden-haired guide spent most of the trip from grindavík out to sea pleading with us on the whales' behalf. nothing abstract about that: she sounded close to tears at a few points, and there the minke whale was on the menu at dinner later that night, beside smoked puffin as part of a "taste of iceland" special. it's pronounced "minky," that whale's name. you can eat a minky whale.

that's the backstory - but the watching, now. we had planned to depart from reykjavik's old harbour, but the wind whipping into the bay wasn't interested in that; instead, we took the slowest double-decker bus in iceland (the only double-decker bus in iceland?) to a little fishing village forty minutes down the road. if the harbor at grindavík was considered placid, i shudder to think of what we left behind. i swallowed my gratis seasickness tablet like a good landlubber and have an unremarkable relationship with most vehicles, but when we left port and i went belowdecks for my industrial strength whalewatchin' onesie (the north atlantic is, unsurprisingly, colder than shit) i lost my abilities to walk in a straight line, stand upright, and speak english for a good twenty minutes or so. (extra-confusing when i rejoined joe, since the icelanders we met already thought he was a local. i think it was the beard.) that settled the issue of whether or not i would attempt creature-photography; in the absence of both fine motor skills and one of the semiautomatic, massive-barreled cameras the tourists around us were sporting (how close can you feel to a subject when there's a yard of equipment between you and your own lens, to say nothing of the distance between you and it?), i decided to document any whales we watched with, you know, my feelings.

september falls at the far reaches of whalewatching season, as most of the local baleen whale population migrates to warmer waters at summer's end, and it was clear from the way our guide was hyping dolphins that she didn't have high hopes for the afternoon. then, o then, the smallest spout at ten o'clock! at one o'clock! at one o'clock again! when it seemed the mysterious spouter was heading in a straight line, we followed it at a respectful distance, and our guide's voice rose in joy from the crow's nest: "and there's the fluke! it's a humpback!" the migration sometimes leaves younger whales behind, you see, and we found one, probably planning the whale-equivalent of a filmic eighties house party when one's parents are out of town. we followed his spouts and dives for an hour; we all knew where to look, but that joyous, lilting "and the fluke!" rang out each time he dove again. that happiness is as integral to my memory of the day as that magnificent tail.


hell's kitchen tree lot, 2012

someday i'll write a terrifically long poem about manhattan christmas tree "lots." i know already that it will be terrible, but it will vibrate with feeling.

the cat has been arranging himself beneath our tree (which is still but half-adorned, for the weather hasn't been conducive to drying things out on the porch). "i am nearly finished," i tell him. "pracky," he replies, eyeing my little ceramic cherubs' tinfoil hats.

12.12.12: the dirty dozen

{twelve more snippets of amy stewart's marvelous wicked bugs: the louse that conquered napoleon's army & other diabolical insects*}

01 "The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electo-Mechanical System (HI-MEMS) seeks to implant computer chips inside caterpillars before they undergo metamorphosis into moths or butterflies. They hope to use that circuitry to remotely control the flight paths of insects so that they can someday be used to fly into enemy locations and transmit intelligence without ever being detected." (21)

02 "Mayans had been using [bees and wasps as weapons] since 2600 BC; their legends describe the use of human dummies with a gourd filled with stinging insects for a head.


One of the most intriguing uses of bees in warfare was recorded by a contemporary of Socrates named Xenophon. He described the use of poisoned hives in Greek warfare around 402 BC: 'All the soldiers ate of the combs, lost their senses, vomited, and were affected with purging, and none of them were able to stand upright; such as had eaten much were like mad-men, and some like persons at the point of death.' The soldiers had, apparently, been given beehives filled with the honey of bees that had feasted on rhododendron and azalea, plants that produce neurotoxins so potent that they remain active in the honey. Those who eat the honey succumb to honey intoxication, also called grayanotoxin poisoning."** (21-22)

03 "Pliny the Elder wrote in about 77 AD that the scorpion was 'a dangerous scourge, and had venom like that of the serpent; with the exception that its effects are far more painful, as the person who is stung will linger for three days before death ensues.' He added that the sting of a scorpion was 'invariably fatal to virgins, and nearly always so to matrons.' (23)

04 "In 1939 the London Zoo killed its black widow spiders, along with its venomous snakes and insects, as a precaution against the possibility of their being liberated during air raids." (44)

05 "Don't be fooled by the fact that [the puss caterpillar] looks just like a tiny Persian cat. The so-called flannel moth or asp moth is one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America. Anyone who rubs up against its long, silky golden-brown hairs will find those hairs embedded under the skin, where they cause severe burning pain, a rash, and blisters." (50)

06 "'One day,' [Charles] Darwin wrote, 'on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare beetles, and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas! It ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third one.'" (53)

07 "Although it sounds too horrible to be anything more than an urban legend, in fact, cases of German cockroaches crawling into people's ears and getting stuck there have been well documented in medical literature. Emergency room doctors can pour oil in the ear to drown cockroaches, but often have a hard time extracting them afterward. Some doctors swear by a squirt of lidocaine, which irritates the roach so much that it can send it running out of the ear and across the room." (88)

08 "[P]erhaps their most horrifying quality is the way in which aphids reproduce: some species are actually capable of "telescoping generations" in which one female aphid contains within her the beginnings of another youngster, which is herself already pregnant with yet another generation." (95)

09 "Justin Schmidt, an entomologist who studies venomous stings, created the Schmidt Sting Pain Index to quantify the pain inflicted by ants and other stinging creatures. His surprisingly poetic descriptions*** give some order to the hierarchy of ant stings as compared to those of bees and wasps:

  1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
  1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
  1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
  2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
  2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.


  4.0 Tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
  4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like firewalking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel." (137-138)

10 "A team of researchers in Venezuela found one of these giant centipedes hanging upside down from a cave wall, happily munching away on a small bat. After observing the same behavior several times, they realized that the centipedes were hanging from the cave by their last few legs and catching bats in midair as they flew by, demonstrating a rather frightening level of forethought and ingenuity." (146)

11 "A French research team recently discovered that mosquitoes are more attracted to beer drinkers." (165)

12 "And then there was the tarantula pie. [Would-be murderess] Carole [Hargis] kept a pet tarantula and at first she considered [killing her husband] by putting the hairy spider in bed with him, hoping he would get bitten. But then she had a better idea: she removed the tarantula's venom sac and hid it in a blackberry pie. Mr. Hargis's luck held out a while longer: he took a few bites of pie but never touched the venom. It was beginning to seem like he was invincible.


[T]he bite of a tarantula is really no worse than that of a wasp or bee. It will certainly sting—in fact, scientists recently discovered that the bite of the West Indian tarantla Psalmopoeus cambridgei goes to work on nerve cells with the same mechanism employed by habanero peppers." (234-235)

13 {bonus, non-insect-book-related} joe went out to put some trash in the chute last night and saw a young guy he didn't know leaning against the table outside our apartment door. when the guy saw him, he jumped up guiltily and disappeared into the stairwell. joe called down to our doorman to say there was a random guy on our floor. "oh," said the doorman, "him? he's drunk and hiding from his grandma."

*highly recommended; everyone should ride the f train with a book cover that shouts BEWARE! THE SORDID LIVES OF BUGS BEHAVING BADLY.

**this came up at a holiday party on saturday night, when my friend dan told me several useful things and i exclaimed that i would have to tell him several things about bees in exchange for what i had just learned. ah, said he, but my parents have kept bees for years, so you can't tell me much about bees i don't know. i said, well.

***combining the insouciant tones of an upscale wine list and the conclusions of choose your own adventure plot lines.


open, closed

If such a creature is frightening to humans, imagine what it would look like to a honeybee. Scientists observing wild colonies of the Japanese honeybee, Apis cerana japonica, have long known that the colonies are vulnerable to attacks from the giant hornets. Usually a single hornet shows up first to scout the area. It kills a few bees and brings them back to the hive to feed its young. After a few of these trips, the hornet tags the hive by smearing it with pheromones, signaling that it is time for an attack.

A gang of about thirty hornets descend on the hive, and within a few hours these monstrous creatures massacre as many as thirty thousand of the small honeybees, ripping off their heads and tossing their bodies on the ground. Once they've killed the bees, the hornets occupy the empty hive for about ten days, robbing it of its honey and stealing the bee larvae to feed their own children.

Recently, Masato Ono and his colleagues at Tamagawa University discovered that the Japanese honeybees had devised an extraordinarily clever way of attacking back. The first time a solitary hornet approaches the hive, worker bees retreat inside, luring the hornet to the entrance. Then an army of over five hundred honeybees surround the hornet, beating their wings furiously and raising the surrounding temperature to 116 degrees—just hot enough to kill the hornet.

This is a dangerous procedure for the honeybees: if the swarm gets just a few degrees hotter, it will kill them as well. In fact, some worker bees do die in the struggle, but the swarm pushes them out of the way and carries on until the hornet is dead. It can take twenty minutes for the honeybees to bake their enemy to death. While it is not unusual for insects to mount a group defense against an enemy, this is the only known case of using body heat alone to defeat an attacker.

(amy stewart, from wicked bugs)


adventures in street garbage, cont'd.

The scholars spent little time rehashing the legendary première. The event is familiar even to those who know little of modern music: the boos, the whistles, Stravinsky leaving in a rage, Nijinsky yelling out beats, Gertrude Stein watching a man smash another man's top hat with a cane, Florent Schmitt's cry of "Shut up, bitches of the seizième!"

(alex ross, "primal scream," new yorker 11.19.12)


t-giv 2012 with the missus

thanksgiving gets a bit simpler every time we celebrate it, it seems. we decided years ago that we'd stay in town for the weekend from here on out, and we've settled into tasty vegetarian ways of observing a holiday which focuses in part on a big old dead bird. this year the meal was decidedly casual and local, the big pot of foreign cheese notwithstanding: we had fondue with fragrant baguettes from pain d'avignon at the essex street market (with absurd purple broccoli, math-glam romesco cauliflower, and brown cremini like fat little sparrows from union square), roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette (barefoot contessa, i salute you - i've already redeployed the recipe), and david lebovitz's butterscotch-pecan ice cream. a few of the veggies required a bit of prep, and i had to start the ice cream on wednesday night, but the heaviest lifting i did was at crate and barrel, for a proper pot (do not believe what snootier cookware-slingers will tell you about fondue vessels, internets; this cast-iron fellow got the job done for a quarter of what he would have cost elsewhere). joe conferred with our local wine shop for a few bottles of cava, i pulled our wedding dishes and a few vintage glasses down from our cabinet of favorites, and all was well on the lower east side.


this guy, columbus

The children had already been trundled off quarreling to distribute nut cups to veterans, Gerardo had already made his filial call from St. Moritz, Elena had already been photographed in her Red Cross uniform and had changed back into magenta crepe de chine pajamas.

(joan didion, from a book of common prayer)

It’s like, how did Columbus discover America when the Indians were already here? What kind of shit is that, but white people’s shit?

(miles davis, from miles: the autobiography)


dan perjovschi installation at the reykjavik art museum

i was reminded on the squeaky, stuttering F train this morning that i mustn't sigh about having a massive backlog of new yorkers to chew through, even if most of the talk of the town pieces and even some of the feature writing has been rendered hopelessly out of date by last week's election. for the november 12th issue (also pre-election, in magazineland), professor and poet dan chiasson wrote a thoughtful piece on his colleague, the formidable louise glück:
"The poet is supposed to be the person who can't get enough of words like 'incarnadine,'" Glück writes in her essay "Education and the Poet." "This was not my experience." Instead, a handful of recombinant integers—moon, evening, pond, hill—have to do all the work.
have integers ever sounded so fine? i've had the good fortune to have all kinds of poetry in my pants of late, from a solemn nocturnal bat-gift from my beloved gal amanda (the book came in a jack o'lantern full of swedish fish, plastic spiders, and wax lips; she knows me well) to balloon pop outlaw black, patricia lockwood's first book. from "the quickening" (a poem about a boy who goes fishing and catches a nibble and swallows it, and is then swallowed by a whale), from inside the whale:
A field trip to the seashore is in here, and the week of anticipation is in here, and the boy who got lost there is in here too. An early obsession with Lake Michigan is in here, and its shores of polished Petoskey stones. His newspaper kite is in here, and his struggle with the kite string. His spiral Vocabulary book is in here, and trouble telling the difference between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and a spanking he got for eating mercury, and a collection of 100 dimes all stamped the year he was born. The Presidency of the Fossil Hunter's Club is in here, and how he longed to find a femur of anything. A chapter of News of the World is in here: "America Swallows the Mermaid Hoax!" A shoebox diorama of the Chugwater Formation is in here, with flecks of mica and flecks of quartz shining between the layers, and its lack of a skeleton still in mid-swim is gleaming in here too.
His year in the school orchestra is in here, when it was his job to raise a hand high and bring it down boom on a drum, and make the sound a cartoon makes when it gulps down something good.
His jump-rope record of 24 continuous jumps is in here too, like 24 ribs of the whale.
The whale asks, "Aren't you happy at all? Think of the cramped handwriting you left behind, how it lives in a boardinghouse with low stained ceilings, how a train goes by day and night, how the walls are thin as you-know-what."

"How do you know my handwriting?" The boy closes his eyes and tries to remember it; he looks out at the waves and sees it slanting to the right. "You used to chew scraps of your notes," the whale says tenderly. "Your small gray spitballs fly through my blowhole all day and all night long."
And the boy feels a sudden substance in his mouth, and the stub of a pencil behind one ear.
it would be misleading to call tricia lockwood louise glück's opposite, though she feels like the opposite of the glück in chiasson's new yorker essay ("Every poem Glück writes seems one she has denied her adversary—that is, every other human being."). she has a wonderful, filthy, sprawling twitter feed, which is where i first stumbled into her. both there and in her poetry, her precision is generous: it tricks you into a better working relationship with your own brain, and it's where i turn when social media bullies me between the borders of its instagrams and tells what to follow. quoth she,
I have no problem thinking of tweets as poetry, because the really great ones function in the same way that poetry does to me. They are clear and cubic thinking, and they repay obsessive thinking-about. 140 characters is just about the right length to get inside your head, so if I walk around all day chanting “apnews: an girl go back in time to shhot cow that start gret chicago fire . cow say “i expect you” shoot her an start fire with i’ts cigaret” to myself the same way I walk around chanting “The milkman came in the moonlight and the moonlight was less than moonlight,” I see no reason to make a distinction, because I’m not some sort of taxonomy psycho. Honestly, when I think of the question “what is poetry” I picture Linnaeus and David Lehman absolutely making out, hands up each other’s shirts, while everyone who participates in modern American poetry watches.
balloon pop outlaw black is well worth your twelve dollars, is what i'm saying.



joe and i got up an hour early this morning, as we'd agreed last night, to straighten up our borrowed upper east side apartment, collect our things, and head downtown for the last time. the lower east side is still without power, so i took leave of my stepbrother's shower with titanic-grade drama ("never let go, andrew's dented old bottle of head & shoulders! never let go!"). when i emerged from the bathroom, joe was packing unenthusiastically. it made no sense to leave, he noted. our cats would be just fine without us for another day or two, we have no food and are halfway through our water and batteries, and we'd be returning with difficulty after nightfall to a neighborhood that was already getting sketchy when we left. why?

i told him that i was tired of being a fire monster, and that's true. the stress i didn't register when the storm was shrieking at us on monday night seeped into me just the same, and in unfamiliar surroundings, i've been short-tempered and even more scattered than i usually am. i've picked a fight every night over where we'll have dinner, and i nearly started crying at the drugstore when a turkey-shaped chocolate reminded me of steve. what the fuck?

the more significant truth is that i feel something like survivor's guilt. in our lively hand-me-down neighborhood of warmth and light, of packed restaurants and bars, one isn't asked if one is alright; everyone is alright. i think of the candles i saw guttering in the window at the little mexican restaurant down by where we really live, doors flung open on tuesday night even though they were lighting the stove with matches, and i feel sick. appropriating others' misfortune is even more unforgivable than ignoring it, i would argue, and that's not what i mean to do. one's home is simply one's home, even in the dark.


Daniel and I stood alone in the city. The sea of destruction lapped around our feet. We saw the starfall that broke the night up. The glass lights on iron went out, and the waves grew down into the pavements.

(dylan thomas, from "prologue to an adventure")

10.28.12-10.31.12: on sandy, from nyc {updated throughout the storm, at least in theory}

14:21 new york sports clubs are opening their doors to locals (18 and over with ID) in need of a shower, electricity, or a workout. the southernmost manhattan locations currently in operation are at 41st street.

14:00 the transportation situation is expected to improve this afternoon (as metro north and the long island railroad are restored) and tomorrow (when parts of the subway will come back up, above 34th street, at least). this is good news, but i'm still inexplicably furious at the new york city marathon (still on for this sunday), which i have decided to blame for the uneven distribution of city services.
[new york times sports reporter mary] Pilon said the downside of canceling the marathon not only includes an economic impact for the hundreds of companies involving in putting on the event, but also for the many runners who have trained for months. "There's a lot of emotion tied to this event," she said.
there is indeed; i, for example, think of the nypd escorting athletes instead of directing traffic after dark on the lower east side or figuring out if elderly nycha residents are stranded in their high rises and i feel like starting a bar fight.

11:57 the crane at one57 continues to dangle, and the blocks surrounding it are shut down as far as eighth avenue to the west. a bus is parked diagonally across 57th street to prevent traffic from continuing east.

the one57 crane

10:35 central park east is the new 4/5/6 train; the sidewalks were packed with commuters in business suits and old sneakers. i thought at first that the park's magnificent old trees had fared better than the ones surrounding our apartment complex on grand street, but they've simply been cleared more quickly. chainsawed trunks litter the grounds north of columbus circle.

09:05 "i love you," says joe. "don't walk under any trees." i'm taking the 40 blocks to my midtown office on foot, which is actually quite reasonable; we've walked manhattan top to bottom several times, and i dislike buses under the best of circumstances. today they're free and the only public transportation in town.


22:41 there was, i will concede, a bit of post-storm weepiness this afternoon; call it two parts "will the windows explode?" sleep deprivation, one part leaving the cats alone in our apartment for the next day or two (we migrated north to my dad and stepmother's place on the upper east side, as we aren't expected to regain power for a few more days), and one part gouging my head on a cabinet as the sun set and our kitchen darkened. passing between 38th and 39th street on our way up first avenue felt like crossing into oz from kansas: a sudden riot of lights and commerce, the promise of the grid replacing the horrid possibility of hitting a pedestrian in the gloaming (pedestrians in the dark zone of lower manhattan, please wear reflective gear).

19:09 a gal with a duffel bag watches me hit the button for the 35th floor. "boy, YOU'RE glad the power stayed on up here." "yeah i am," i reply. "we live on the lower east side; this isn't our place." "i'm downtown too," she says. upper east side expat fist bump.

10:48 power remains out, / though matches will light the stove. / showering's the rub.


22:25 wind's still indignant, / but the moon let the tide go. / we've got this, new york.

21:05 unsurprisingly, / i'm alone in fondness for / compulsory night.

20:42 and the power's out. stay safe, team; expect update haiku for a bit.

20:25 the lights are flickering regularly now. it's like a séance. at a municipal airport.

19:54 the east river has climbed over its bank across the street, we're expecting to lose power in the next 15 minutes or so, and the wind is picking up again; alors, it's time for the magic of apartment tent.

apartment tent rides again

19:21 the beige sea foam erupting from jamaica bay is, if anything, even more frightening after dark; abc's on-scene reporter appears to be having a slap-fight with a root beer float. it could be time for me to rethink my leisurely swims at rockaway beach.

19:02 the weather channel is reporting gusts of up to 64 mph in new york city, and i believe it; joe claims he heard a window pop on a building next door, though i think it was just a beleaguered air conditioner. it's loud, is my point.

18:17 as of half an hour ago, the east river is over the sea wall down at the south street seaport near pier 11; battery park is underwater.

17:50 in re eating habits forced upon us by sandy, we're somewhere between 'csa survivalism' (i baked bread and roasted a bunch of beets last night) and 'snack opportunism' (my college roommate texted this morning, concerned that we might not have enough candy on hand; i assured her we made it to cvs last night for screme eggs and sour patch kids.) this is not our first rodeo.

17:35 our friends in jersey still have power, which is actually kind of shocking; they went without for something like three days last summer. chris christie is now telling the rest of the state to save their own asses tonight. he is the angriest man on television.

16:02 because i am twelve, i spent the first part of governor cuomo's press conference wondering how first girlfriend sandra lee is preparing for the storm. predictably, she tweeted a cocktail recipe (and, to be fair, disaster-preparedness tips).

15:48 reuters backs our neighbor up; it sounds like we could lose power around eight tonight (that is, high tide). "Blackouts could affect streets as far north as 34th Street, in line with the Empire State building, a Con Edison spokesman said, though would likely be limited to those avenues closest to the East and Hudson rivers."

15:31 saxelby, our neighborhood cheesemonger, is keeping us abreast of the culinary situation on the ground via twitter and facebook (a cheese evacuation in red hook relocated their stock to brooklyn soda works three hours ago; pickle day is rescheduled for this sunday, and so on). september wines & spirits, in turn, wishes us well with gene wilder, as one does.

15:15 a neighbor i don't recognize materializes at the front door and tells us con ed is thinking of cutting the power; we should fill our tub with water. we do, and make a huge batch of popcorn for good measure. mostly unrelated, since tub-water is for flushing the toilet: when we lived in our horrible tenement apartment in hell's kitchen, the water in the bathroom was ice-cold and tasted fantastic.

14:50 my friend lisa checks in from washington, dc: "not even 12 hours in and people are already going stir-crazy." the wind through the bridge is now a banshee's moan.

14:01 in brooklyn, in turn, our friend dan files a report: "Streets are empty but barely any rain and only moderate wind. More importantly, it seems that roughly 20% of restaurants are open, but 80% of bars are." here in manhattan, there's still a decent flow of pedestrian traffic on the williamsburg bridge.

13:34 the first round of "is-everybody-okay?" group emails is scrolling into my gmail account. "My bathtub is full of water like they said to do," our friend tony reports from wall street, "but i dont know why. It tastes so bad."

13:21 pcmag.com reports that the new york times, the wall street journal, and the boston globe are all dropping their paywalls for storm coverage, though the globe's site doesn't seem to have caught up with the announcement yet. joe is home, thank goodness; the fdr is already closed uptown, and we're expecting closure down here soon. the times's midtown webcam is similar to the view from the lower east side, for now.

12:40 big hiccups in our internet access (i'm making this update with my iphone); it's going to be a long day. i balloothanized justin bieber, who was hovering around listlessly at eye level, and steve refuses to look at me.

11:51 the citywide reaction to bloomberg's most recent press conference has been resounding: everyone is captivated by his expressive sign-language interpreter.

11:31 governor cuomo announced that the battery park and holland tunnels will close at two. joe is on his way back from work now; the wind is comparatively tame for the moment, but i made him promise he wouldn't take a bridge.

10:18 the gym is once again packed to the gills, which makes sense, i suppose; since we're all indoors, why not? most of us are indoors, that is; i circled our building after my run and met a guy en route to the mailbox with a netflix envelope(?). we clucked at the downed branches and wicked potential projectiles scattered about the back garden.

08:55 @JitneyGuy (in atlantic city): "80 feet of boardwalk floating free at Atlantic and New Hampshire Ave."

08:32 gothamist posted the mta's grand central terminal photos; the halls are empty and gleaming. they're reporting that this is only the second time in history that subway, train, and commuter rail service has been suspended all at once (irene was the first).

07:28 woke up to whitecaps on the east river; fdr heading south is nearly deserted, and the northbound side is full of emergency vehicles. joe is leaving for work soon.


23:01 per an update at nymag.com, the gowanus canal started flooding an hour and a half ago (a senior editor for the new york observer lives in the neighborhood and has been tweeting updates). ew.

20:49 nasdaq reports that all new york city and long island starbucks locations will be closed tomorrow. now everyone really does have to stay home: there's nowhere to pee.

20:18 we've got most of the windows open - we figure we'll have to shut them up soon and want to ventilate the apartment for as long as we can - and the wind has sent steve's mylar justin bieber balloon whirling around the apartment. this does not please him; he's now on our bed in loaf position, his tail wrapped tightly around the balloon's long purple ribbon.

18:16 suspension of critical services continues. from my inbox:
Due to Hurricane Sandy, we will be closing our spas starting Sunday at 3:00pm and continuing all day Monday. We will be monitoring the weather closely to send you updates as the storm develops. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please stay safe during the storm.

Yours truly

The completely bare team
18:06 plenty of water at the grocery store, though our neighbors appear to have stockpiled...diet root beer? storm-related carb loading is in full swing; bread, she is long gone.

fine fare, 6pm sunday

16:35 welcome to hurricane bloggin' II: electric boogaloo (previous episode here). once again, we're going to stay in the apartment; it looks i'll be working from home tomorrow, since the subways are going down as of seven this evening. at present joe is still expected at his office out in queens.


101 in 1001 {III}: 018 visit the ashmolean [completed 09.18.12]

feuchere's satan
{satan, jean-jacques feuchère, c. 1836}

a unicorn kicking the shit out of a gryphon
{unicorn violence}

sobek the crocodile god
{head of sobek the crocodile god}

guess what this is, win a prize!
{mummy wrapping detail}

emily nussbaum observed in the new yorker a few weeks ago that television networks, like people, have personalities. museums are people, i think; oxford's ashmolean could be my college roommate's casually fantastic mother, cece, who remarked at said roommate's rehearsal dinner last friday that she had spent part of the previous evening playing the hawaiian wedding song on a ukelele she'd built herself and inlaid with flames. elias ashmole, a seventeenth-century maximalist after my own heart, gave the university a magnificent shitload of curiosities and antiquities along with his financial support, and the institution that grew up around that collection is as byzantine as the collection itself. profusion of that kind is a mixed blessing: i spent half an hour pinballing angrily between recast statuary (c'mon, ashmole: your bag of tricks is that deep and you're giving me bootlegs?) and more pottery than i'll ever need to appreciate (sorry, pottery), convincing myself that my guidebook's insistence that guy fawkes's lantern was in room 27 or 29 was some sort of ultra-dry british humor. i then wandered into the egypt hall and spent another half hour lidless as a fish with the best mummy collection i've ever seen. that was the ashmolean's cece moment: respectable gallery, respectable gallery, p.s. let me just ninja in here with my mind-blowing awesome.

it remains a bit pathetic that in six months of living within a stroll of the ashmolean's statuary-and-pottery-and-lantern-and-mummies i managed not a single visit. in my defense, i spent half of those months with joe, and he's diverting (sometimes annoyingly so: when we were out in california for that wedding last weekend, my mother gave him her stanford class ring. my mother!). sloth had a way of working out for me, as it sometimes does; the museum underwent a massive rebuild in 2009, and the egypt hall reopened to great fanfare with its all-new (old) mummy army just last year. the 101 in 1001 list's lesson this time around, perhaps, is that armies of mummies arrive when one is best disposed to confront them. thank goodness, really, for that.


culture blotter {cat power @ hammerstein, 10.23.12}

cat power at hammerstein, 10.23

what we talk about when we talk about cat power (the singer/songwriter chan marshall) depends, even more than most conversations do, on how we got in, on where we're sitting, and on who's beside us. her substance abuse and crippling social anxiety are better known than her music in some circles, and it's widely understood in the indie community that cat power shows can be transcendent, or train wrecks, or both. over at the awl, dave bry wrote that he'd be skipping her show here in new york city after hearing reports that she's revisiting the bad old days:
[I]t worried me to read, in August, in Amanda Petrusich's profile at Pitchfork, that Cat Power was drinking tequila and whiskey. Steve Kandell's piece in Spin was more explicit: she was wasted. It worried me more to learn, late last month, that she'd been hospitalized in Miami for undisclosed medical reasons.

Her concerts have been falling apart again, too. Two weeks ago, the Miami New Times' David Von Bader described a show at Grand Central Miami:

With a golden beam of light shrouding her silhouette, the songstress rallied and got through the song, swaying and itching a bit in what could only be described as a mime's imaginary box, set in the corner of the stage.

On Monday, in Toronto, she was described as seeming "scattered and frail."


I don't think that she is feeling fine. Or, if she is, I don't think that she'll be feeling that way for very much longer. The connection between musical genius and drug and alcohol addiction will not be news to anybody, but this instance is striking me as particularly depressing. Here I am, enjoying one of my favorite artist's new music, celebrating its return to a level of brilliance previously achieved—quite possibly at the expense of that artist's well-being.


Cat Power is playing at Hammerstein Ballroom tonight. Tickets are still available. Maybe it'll be great. I hope it is. Let me know.
when i was in college, i lost my youthful invulnerability all at once. at one moment i was unaware of the sea of faces impossibly far below me, and at the next i was a tightrope walker without her legs. i eventually relearned how to be in public without crumpling - thank god for tolerant professors and a strong support network - but on some nights the anxiety still echoes down there, and the feeling that i could fall forever is one i won't forget. i've wanted to hear cat power's music live for a decade: her version of "satisfaction" is one of the cleverest covers i've ever heard, and her own songs feel like lullabies from a lost moon. i heard the new album when we were in iceland, and it was fucking great. i've also wanted to bear witness to her recovery, as if seeing her in her spotlight could distance me from my own darkness.

it doesn't work that way, of course. i can follow reports that chan underwent a horrible breakup just as she finished her album, or paddle around in her unauthorized biography (an interesting if not unbiased read) and play amateur psychiatrist, but her darkness is as foreign to me as mine would be to her. she halted one song last night, saying that it didn't sound right; we cheered loudly anyway, she and the band began the next song without incident, and we all kept going. "superhero," she said, pointing to a face in the crowd. "superhero," pointing to another. "superhero," pointing at herself. that is my reaction to cat power: i keep going.

my favorite song from sun, a song she didn't halt, is "nothin' but time;" give it a listen, if you have a moment. it's the first track of the mix tape i'm making for my best friend's daughter.


101 in 1001 {III}: 066 acquire a comme des garçons piece [completed 10.14.12]

stripes, a thumb

i was going to knock this list item out with a crazy misshapen green coat i found on ebay last week until a bunch of fools bid it up to like four hundred bucks and i realized i should probably try wild lumpy stuff on in person before committing serious change to it. so hey, here's another of them bloggers wearing stripes. i'm also wearing ballet flats. i feel dirty, but it's a good dirty.

speaking of good dirty, i miss you guys.


electric railway

[Roberto] Bazlen was a great Taoist master. He taught me more than anyone else, without teaching anything. He was rather against writing, he didn't think one should necessarily write. He thought one ought to try to be in some way, without necessarily writing about it. He had a stupendous line, which is published in his posthumous writings—"Once people were born alive and slowly they died. Now one is born dead and slowly has to come to life."

(roberto calasso to lila azam zanganeh in the paris review, fall 2012)


101 in 1001 {III}: 089 attend lunch beat [completed 09.27.12]

the lunch beat movement (workers of the world, get together at clubs instead of hunching over your desks with bad sandwiches!) began, as so many things do, with a bunch of people dancing in a garage in stockholm:
The founder says she was inspired by the film Fight Club to write a manifesto for Lunch Beat.

“The first rule is if it’s your first time at Lunch Beat, you have to dance,” Jaques says. “The second rule is, if it’s your second time at Lunch Beat, you still have to dance.”

There are other rules. You don’t talk about your job at Lunch Beat. Water must be served as well as a take-away meal. No alcohol or drugs. Lunch Beats can’t be longer than 60 minutes and must happen during “lunch time.”
dry afternoon dance parties from which one has to return to one's job (and the new york one's all the way over in long island city)? they sounded like the opposite of everything i stand for, really, but i try to build a bit of personal growth into my 101 in 1001 lists. it wouldn't kill me to go to long island city, and dance, and smile at people instead of biting them, probably.

iceland was all, 'HELL nei.' at noon on a grey reykjavik thursday, joe and i were on our way down laugavegur en route to breakfast lunch when the earnest oom-oom of a local dj set drifted up the street. LUNCH BEAT 4, said a flyer on the door at hemmi og valdi. done and done.

lunch beat 4, reykjavik (1 of 3)

lunch beat 4, reykjavik (2 of 3)

lunch beat 4, reykjavik (3 of 3)

single gentlemen of reyjkavik and elsewhere, how do you feel about dancing in the afternoon? the lunch beat ratio of ladies to fellows was something like five to one. were i a bachelor, i'd put on a tie and follow the flyers. (joe was wearing a tie, for that is how he vacations.) iceland, you continue to expand my horizons (and that was a very fine remix of "my baby shot me down," dj margeir).



Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

(rainer maria rilke; alternate translation here.)


smuggled firework, reykjavik balcony

as, per the commenting message below, the new and fantastically improved website (version guttersnipe point phlox) is still in the oven, i can't actually converse with you about my travels, dear ones; i can, however, present with great pride a shot of joe on our balcony in reykjavik, brandishing one of the sparklers i smuggled through three countries. the lights floating above joe's elbow are the observation tower at hallgrimskirkja. kidchamp dot net: affection, fireworks, and points of light on foreign shores.


09.14.12: tino sehgal's "these associations," turbine hall, tate modern. eddies of loose-limbed men and women in performance artists' conspicuously plain clothing catch at each other across the hall's concrete. some have snagged on the walls in groups of two or three; others spin away in my wake as i pass. i take the center of the room slowly, let its gravity pull me down. i'll take a few deep breaths and leave. i'll sit to demonstrate that i'm not afraid and i'll leave. "it was when i was four years old, and my mother and i were sitting on her bed," the woman suddenly at my shoulder says. she's scooted across the floor to get next to me and has folded her wrists across her knees. her father was frequently absent from their home, and it made her mother cry; she herself was too young to know how to respond, to address her mother as another person in need. this was in greece. i tell her that my father once asked me if i thought he deserved to be happy - this was in the months after he left my mother, when i was out of college and living in san francisco - and i realized that i was not going to be a child. the lights in the hall go out, one by one, and as i rejoin joe on the stairs i haven't yet decided if i'll tell him what we talked about.


101 in 1001 {III}: 010 see the northern lights [completed 09.13.12]

i was dozing under my coat when joe nudged me awake and nodded to the window at his shoulder. there they were, just as our plane began its arc over nova scotia, green as jealousy and fresh from an ancient god's pen. the northern lights are calligraphy, you see; i've seen them and i know it in my bones.


oxford paint (1 of 4)

a little over a week from now, we'll be back in britain for the first time in a long time. i've been dancing like an overstimulated terrier in anticipation of it; oxford in particular is so dear to me that i think of the intervening years, not the six months and change i lived there or the weeks i've returned, as time spent abroad. the whole trip, planned lauren-style in longhand on the backs of dogeared flyers and magazine programs and collected in a mead folder with a robot on the front, will be wonderful: we're flying out to london, where we'll cheer for my old friend eric as he marries an excellent englishwoman (nicola's in publishing and the reception is at stationers' hall, so they're printing up menus which will look like real newspapers with characteristic headlines - IMMIGRANTS STEALING OUR MOST ELIGIBLE WOMEN! [the daily mail], TRANSATLANTIC MERGER CLOSES [the financial times], and so on), then we're going up to oxford, where we'll stash our stuff in one of the eight-hundred-year-old student rooms at magdalen (which are just across the high street from where we were married) and gallop around town for a week. we'll be back down in london for an afternoon, probably, but we'll spend most of our time visiting beloved sandwiches, reacquainting ourselves with ahmed and pitted tables of note, and disappearing around corners.



the long ships (frans g. bengtsson)*
CHALLENGER: neon angel: a memoir of a runaway (cherie currie with tony o'neill)

bookstore browsers (those still exist where you are, right? bookstores, i mean) could be forgiven for being a little fuzzy on the connection between neon angel, cherie currie's memoir, and floria sigismondi's the runaways (the 2010 biopic starring dakota fanning as cherie and kristen stewart as joan jett). as far as i can tell, neon angel was first published in 1989 as nonfiction for young adults; currie rewrote it (with a different cowriter) in 2002 to "tell the stories [she] couldn't tell in [her] young-adult book" and "bring it up to the present." the updated story was optioned as a film, and...then purchased and published, also in 2010? nuts and bolts aren't currie's strong suit, though she still tells a good story.** let's move on to that.

currie had the kind of relationship i wish i'd had with david bowie; she hit her teen years in the san fernando valley in the seventies, and her formative show at the universal ampitheatre in LA, the lucky little thing, was bowie on his diamond dogs tour (mine, in turn, was the cure on the swing tour***). echoes of her musical adolescence seeped into mine via the local FM stations; rodney bingenheimer, he of the storied english disco, was on KROQ as of 1976 and kept at it straight through my radio years. along with the sugar shack, that disco was ground zero for underage glam-rock kids like cherie and her twin sister marie, who'd duck out of the house looking like the wakefield twins and slither into platforms and body glitter in a gas station bathroom (fellow survivors of southern californian gas station bathrooms, i salute you). after one such reverse-molt, they met record producer (and allegedly epic creepster) kim fowley and joan jett; marie wasn't interested in their girl-band pitch, but cherie was all ears, and she was soon a runaway (fowley and joan jett wrote "cherry bomb" at cherie's audition; she'd arrived ready to sing suzi quatro's tragically unsuitable "fever" cover, so they dashed off a new song to give her material). rock and bitchiness—two of my favorite things—ensued.

On Lita Ford: "Every so often she would make bitchy comments about how skinny I was, and it was obvious this was because she was starting to have some weight issues of her own. Weight issues as in she was getting a fat ass. When you live on a diet of cheeseburgers and beer, keeping in shape ain't easy. That's why I'd only eat fish and vegetables—that drove Lita fucking nuts."

On Etiquette: "After [Cheap Trick] finished their set, Kim grabbed me—literally right as I was about to walk onstage—and said, "Someone wants to say hello!" I thought maybe it was my family—Kim had insisted that we couldn't see our families until after the show, though.
  "Oh, yeah?" I said, and turned, only to find myself face-to-face with Rod Stewart.**** What do you say when you are confronted with a bona fide legend in the music industry? I just smiled and said, "Nice to meet you, Rod." It didn't end there. Marie and I ended up snorting coke with him and Ronnie Wood at Rod's mansion following the after-party. Talk about life in the fast lane! Rod was as drunk as a skunk, and actually started crying when I pulled out the coke.
  "Oh my God!" he said, with tears in his eyes. "Nobody EVER gives me blow! I'm always the one expected to have it! You're so kind! Thank you..."

On CBGB: "[T]he audience was a mixture of bums and art-school freaks, a show that landed us an article in People magazine. I remember we played alongside Television (who played very long guitar solos) and Talking Heads (who had a female bass player, and a really weird, pale, and sweaty lead singer). "You girls should stay out of the bathroom," [a roadie] had warned us. "I've been in there, and it ain't pretty."*****

as someone who deals with ladies and stories and lawyers all the time, it fascinates me that currie is able to tell her story as she does. she opens by noting that "all incidents and dialogue are to the best of the author's recollection and knowledge," and that "[s]ome identities were changed to protect the innocent, and in some cases, regrettably, the not so innocent," which...would keep me awake at night, were i her editor. were the seventies so sketchy that one can just whip out sex, drugs, and rock and roll anecdotes with relative impunity? (i'm familiar with the customary answer, but currie's "adult" anecdotes involve rape and kidnapping; i'd love to know which identities were obscured). opportunities for accusations of libel aside, though, what sticks with me about her narrative is the ultra-mundane stuff: she opens with earnest, thoughtful tales of that mind-blowing bowie concert, her parents' separation, and the evolution of her self-confidence. i read keith richards's life in the months between my first and second passes through neon angel, and in all seriousness—particularly for those of us who will never need to master the intricacies of open G tuning—currie's is the more enjoyable book. she's more active in the way she talks about her former bandmates, even as she criticizes them; she takes the time to recreate the events of her life instead of indicating points of interest like a bored tour guide. david mitchell she ain't, but i like cherie currie; i believe she gives a shit.

VICTOR: the long ships; both tales were harrowing (and currie's boasts an amusingly ambivalent foreword by joan jett), but one must write like a viking to best vikings.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 would you be pleased or dismayed to find your "sorry i haven't posted" blog entry on cory arcangel's blog (which consists entirely of them)?
02 when was the last time you were in a bookstore? which one was it?
03 what was the formative show of your teens?
04 what would you do with CBGB's bathroom door?
05 why do you think cherie's sandy west memorial chainsaw sculpture [runaways drummer sandy west died of lung cancer in 2006] was of a mermaid playing guitar instead of a mermaid playing the drums?
06 if you've read keith richards's life, did it improve or lessen your opinion of ol' keef?
07 if you're a fan of groups which are mostly ladies, which is your favorite?

*previous battle here.

**which i have now read twice; i'm so far behind on THUNDERTOME at this point that my poor old memory, never a finely-oiled machine, needs a kick here and there. sad.

***i'd begged my mom to let me see bowie and nine inch nails at the forum the previous fall, but i got nowhere. man was she smug afterward when rumors started circulating about stabbings in the mosh pit.

****i passed rod stewart in a crosswalk on eighth avenue yesterday afternoon. he was eating a granola bar, placid as the buddha.

*****one of my fellow editors here at the ladymag grew up in the city and met her husband at CBGB; when it was gutted and became a john varvatos boutique a few years ago, someone saved the bathroom door and gave it to her.


[The balloonist John] Wise had made roughly four hundred flights "and had had all manner of thrilling adventures," [the Swedish aeronaut S.A.] Andrée wrote. "He had flown with [balloons] in sunshine, rain, snow, thunder showers and hurricanes. He had been stuck on chimneys, smoke stacks, lightning rods and church spires, and he had been dragged through rivers, lakes, and over garden plots and forests primeval. His balloons had whirled like tops, caught fire, exploded and fallen to the ground like stones. The old man himself, however, had always escaped unhurt and counted his experiences as proof of how safe the art of flying really was.

"In order to convince a few fellow citizens who had been inconsiderate enough to doubt his thesis, Mr. Wise once made an ascent in Philadelphia, and while in mid-air he deliberately exploded his balloon. Then using the remains of the bag as a parachute he landed right in the midst of the doubters. What effect this had on them I do not know, but the old man himself felt better."


Not long after that Andrée fell sick with an intestinal complaint that he believed was caused by drinking ice water, but may have been from his living mostly on cake, candy, and ice cream, according to his journals. Having stayed five months in Philadelphia, he went back to Sweden.

(alec wilkinson, from the ice balloon: s.a. andrée and the heroic age of arctic exploration)


conversations with dr. omnibus {omnibus syllabus edition}

doc: you need to get away from what's in your head.
LMO: what does that mean?
doc: you need to take action.
LMO: i'm not hamlet.
doc: i don't think i ever had to read that.


when our little cat died in front of us a few summers ago, joe and i spent the afternoon dazed and drifting around the city, beaching ourselves at meaningless corners and patches of grass like sea creatures with inner-ear damage. you're married, i thought, when you hold something down together and you kill it. months after that, when our friend judd called to tell us we would be allowed at last to buy our apartment and i cried with relief at my desk, you're married, i thought, when you turn yourselves inside out for your home.

our dear friends lesley and cody were married at a storied old chorizo factory in the village last month. the building's core had been reimagined as an atrium, and light from the glass roof filtered all the way down to where they stood together on the first floor. we gathered with the other guests at the rails of the great staircase-whorls above them, the steps and landings following the walls like the chambers of a nautilus. loving cody, lesley explained to him, was something she couldn't not do; it was breathing. you're married, i thought.

i don't know that my relationship - or any relationship - is especially instructive; each pair is its own species, i think, and things we find toxic are quite nourishing for others (and vice versa, i'm sure). i do know that the thirteen shitty, wondrous, improbable years since joe and i met in a garden in oxford have been the best of my life, and that as i married him - six years ago today - i became myself. that's all.


it's the last of my summer fridays out of the office, and i've done my best to make the most of my freedom: thus far i've made dioramas with the cats, grumbled out four miles on the treadmill, spray painted a wristwatch, and eaten three quarters of a peach. (make that a whole peach.) in the tub just now it occurred to me that it's been a terribly long time since i've presented you with a frustrating game (a la mystery train); here's a new one, inspired by naurnie's talk of "all i want is you" and reality bites,* as well as douglas's bangles tweet.

below is a re-soundtracked film; i've replaced songs from the original playlist with songs which recall them (in lyrics, tone, or both). a few hints: the film does not feature julie andrews, nathan lane, or paul ryan, all of its music is original and performed by its characters, and the songs are listed in the order in which they're performed. (make that two peaches.)

mystery film I

girl, you'll be a woman soon - urge overkill
magic - the cars
tear off your own head (it's a doll revolution) - the bangles
nothing matters when we're dancing - the magnetic fields
with or without you - u2
under my thumb - the rolling stones

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 pray, can you guess the mystery film?
02 is that peter dinklage at the beginning of the "all i want is you" video?
03 reality bites v. singles: which had the better soundtrack?
04 fellow working stiffs, does your workplace observe summer fridays?

*ethan hawke, don't call me.


it was our excellent friend judd's birthday last weekend. he loves prince almost as much as i love candy, so i made him an artist-formerly-known-as piñata (on his 35th birthday, you see, prince announced that he was O(-+> henceforth); i filled it with peanut butter candy, purple-wrapped kisses, and tiny purple glow sticks, as one does.

birthday piñata: it begins

piñata part two

piñata the third

piñata the fourth

piñata 5 (the striped menace)

prince piñata: fin

i won't deny that tactical errors were made: i taped up the piñata's recycled-cardboard endoskeleton with such gusto, for example, that (like keith richards or blitzhund the deathless) it could not be killed by conventional means. judd owns a hacksaw, so i figure he can access his peanut butter and glow sticks if his need for them grows keen. truth be told, i never really thought the piñata would meet its end at the party; maintaining possession of one's bat is a key tenet of bartending, no? i also neglected to source fringed crepe paper or fringe scissors, so i burned a few hours listening to the olympics (grunty!) and making it the old-fashioned way. i also also neglected to consider the possibility of steve developing a crepe fetish. readers, i overcame all of those piñata tribulations; fuck yeah, time-intensive homemade presents.



the real triumph could be that i didn't drop a chunk of sparkler between my toes this time. (photo by george)


multigenerational text messages {sweet tooth edition}

LMO: licorice in a cart otherwise full of vegetables. why did you curse me?
dad: Curse? It is a gift, and if you are around for the end of the wor
dad: ld or anything else comparably important, I guarantee you it will
dad: come in handy -- could even save a civilization or two. Just be s
dad: ure to check back with me when that happens, and I will share a fe
dad: w more secrets with you.


when i was nineteen i wrote a sonnet about this guy i met.

remember your hands
for an unlikely advisor

'I picked you out,' he says, 'from over there -
You're beautiful! You look like me.' Presents
a flower made of napkins. 'Lady fair,
in that much black you must be fucking tense.'

'I'll fix those hands,' he says, 'let's see your wrists -
These muscles, girl! You write too hard.' And he
is pulling verses from my arms. 'A fist
can't make you anything, you wait and see.'

'I know your type,' he says, 'all metaphor,
all misery. You're young, you're strong. Forget
the drama; it'll only make you sore.
Your romance, honey, hasn't happened yet.'

I sag in my chair; he grins as he stands.
'Write something gentle. Remember your hands.'


conversations at the art supply store {II}

LMO: could you help me with some spray paint?
guy: sure! what color do you need?
LMO: black.
guy: that's easy!
guy: so...i got beat up last night.
LMO: god, i'm sorry!
guy: thanks.
LMO: what happened?
guy: this guy freaked out because some other guy drank his soda.
LMO: that's terrible. are you okay?
guy: yeah, i just got hit a couple of times here. [gestures at ribs] i'm pretty sore, though.
LMO: maybe you should get yourself checked out, to make sure your internal organs are okay.
guy: man, internal organs! well, it happened last night, so -
LMO: if you're still hurting in a couple of days, you should go see somebody. is this the black paint?
guy: no, it should be next to the white. here it is!
LMO: seriously, you don't mess around with that stuff.
LMO: and probably you shouldn't hang out with that guy any more.
guy: i'm the type of person that, when i see injustice, i have to speak up about it.
guy: and i think people appreciate that.


[The stories] were all about men, mostly in their late twenties or early thirties, mostly with an aspiration that they'd given up because of a marriage or a dead relative or a fear about not being good enough: the singer-songwriter who performs as a cowboy-clown at children's birthday parties and finds himself doing a gig at the house of his high school girlfriend; the minor-league baseball player forced to decide between new love and an unexpected ascension to the majors. There was a sweetness and earnestness to the stories that Juliet had at first found winning. The men were smart and self-effacing, the details about domestic routines spot-on, the characters' neuroses believable and exaggerated ever so slightly for comic effect. But Juliet also noticed in that third read that the women of the book were all blandly noble and long-suffering, and while the man-child narrator worked through his feelings of inadequacy, making such frequent comment about his failings that you couldn't help but think extremely well of him, to believe him enlightened, his girl stood by, full of spunky good sense and patience, never angry, never granted the luxury to be small or selfish. The clown story, "On the Redemption of Roy Rogers," ended with the narrator, still in grease paint, giving his high school girlfriend a long, tender kiss while her husband and the children at the party are outside taking pony rides (and of course there had already been a comically gloomy contemplation of the pony's being a gelding). "I kissed her," the last line went, "reclaimed her, while outside her husband and the pony walked a slow and never-ending circle, no sunset in sight."


"You want to tell me something about my book, I suppose. Well, enlighten me, Miss New York Press."
"That's Mrs. New York Press," Juliet said. "To you."
"Mrs., then. Enlighten me."
"If they were to make movies out of your stories, John Cusack would play the lead in every one of them."

(holly goddard jones, "the right way to end a story,"* tin house #52)
tin house's summer reading issue also boasts "annie duels the sun," a boss angie wang cover (wang's work frequently features heroic gals; "despite being stalked, bombed, or forced into submission, these young women persevere. if they're not already in escape mode or recovery, they are ready to unleash their power"), and an impressively plausible celebration of cooking with friends, a middlebrow, tv-themed collection of recipes developed on the down-low by jack bishop (who helped launch cook's illustrated and set the tasting protocols for america's test kitchen). i just ordered it as a bonus gift for the wedding we're attending next weekend.

*(that excerpt is not the end of the story.)


101 in 1001 {III}: 022 see at least 6 more of shakespeare's plays for the first time [ongoing]

i have grown weary of the discounts and local happenings which parade through my inbox each morning - the sample sales and i should spend some time apart, i think, and by and large i'm happiest when i'm loafing - but daily candy's weekend-preview email did me a solid last week:
Alan Cumming’s One-Man Macbeth
What: The quirky Scottish actor takes to the stage for a solo rendition of the Shakespeare classic set in a psychiatric ward.
Why: You worked up a sweat chasing Lady Macbeth in Sleep No More. Chill out for this one.
When: Today-July 14.
Where: Rose Theater, Broadway, at 60th St. (212-875-5766). Tickets ($50-$100) at lincolncenterfestival.org.
i did work up a sweat chasing lady macbeth in sleep no more (an immersive, interactive, macbeth-adjacent hipster theatre experience) back in december, and i wondered, therefore, if i could still count macbeth as shakespeare i had yet to see. i've developed a fondness for alan cumming's saucy introductions to masterpiece mystery! programs, and i found an empty seat in the center of the front row for fifty bucks, so i went for it.

bearing in mind that it's nearly impossible to stage shakespeare i can't enjoy in some way (congratulations again, perpetrators of a midsummer night's dream on the north shore of lake tahoe in the summer of 1999), this was some shakespeare, team. i know macbeth nearly as well as i know hamlet, so the fact that the play had been trimmed down to an hour and forty five minutes and nearly all surviving characters and lines fell to one underclothed, androgynous scotsman wasn't problematic for me. in fact, the very element that seemed to bother reviewers - that is, that cumming never develops the momentum of macbeth's traditionally terrible, carnivorous majesty at the end of the play - pleased me. i need king lear to be full-throated and tragic, which is why derek jacobi's infantilized version so disappointed me last year; he can't squeal and coo! macbeth, on the other hand, is a piñata just waiting to be smacked. as staged by the national theatre of scotland, he's one of a dozen characters to erupt from AC, who is escorted to the stage (a cavernous, filthy-tiled psychiatric ward with a few rickety beds at one end, an iron staircase at the other, and a large, clinical viewing window high on the rear wall) by a silent man and woman in hospital uniforms. he's gently stripped of his suit, swabbed for evidence (there are three deep scratches on his chest, and there's something beneath his fingernails), given a white tee and trousers, and abandoned as he pronounces the first line of the play, a witch's line - "when shall we three meet again?" it segues beautifully to his first scene as the witches; his face is tripled in screens at the top of the stage, and his body contorts bestially (a la his x-men 2 character, nightcrawler). otherness suits him, and his scenes as the witches and as lady macbeth were some of my favorites. his turn as both macbeths in act I, scene V (lady m's "cowboy up" speech) should be ridiculous - who can plausibly seduce himself? - but the flipflop physicality totally works, and the scene is impressive rather than gimmicky. when cumming does settle in as macbeth, particularly in several long, wordless scenes in which he's both failing to turn into the thundering thane his wife urged him to be and going to pieces as a psychiatric patient (there's a particularly chilling sequence in which the same screens that showed cumming as the three witches appear to be showing a live feed of him alone and asleep on one of the hospital beds - until a dark, furtive figure materializes at his shoulder, visible on the monitors and nowhere on the stage) - he's riveting, whoever he is. contemporary staging and phrasing aren't usually my thing, but when they work, they work.

yeah, yeah, but who is he? "[this staging] might be some people's first time ever seeing shakespeare and this play, so we don't want to mess around," said co-director john tiffany (whose broadway version of once just picked up eight tonys, if you're into that sort of thing). "what we've done is try to honor the story by setting it in a context that an audience has a different way in." like a first-time sleep no more participant, a neophyte here would wander and even stumble a bit - but here, he or she would be sure to meet macbeth.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if you've seen sleep no more, do you consider it a staging of macbeth?
02 if you've seen cory arcangel's clouds, have you seen super mario brothers?
03 you've been asked to introduce a masterpiece mystery! show. what shall you wear? shall you affect an accent?
04 i bought a nonrefundable ticket for last sunday's show before realizing sunday was joe's birthday. am i the worst wife ever?
05 i need you to stage some one-man shakespeare. which play do you choose? why?


On his first free day since he was born Samuel sat with a loose girl in a locked bathroom over a teashop, the dirty curtains were drawn, and his hand lay on her thighs. He did not feel any emotion at all. O God, he thought, make me feel something, make me feel as I ought to, here is something happening and I'm cool and dull as a man in a bus. Make me remember all the stories. I caught her in my arms, my heart beat against hers, her body was trembling, her mouth opened like a flower. The lotus of Osiris was opening in the sun.
"Listen to the old birds," she said, and he saw that the hot water was running over the rim of the washbasin.
I must be impotent, he thought.
"Why did he cut his throat like that, Polly? Was it love? I think if I was crossed in love I'd drink brandy and whisky and creme de menthe and that stuff that's made with eggs."
"It wasn't love with Mr. Shaw. I don't know why he did it. Mrs. Bentley said there was blood everywhere, everywhere, and all over the clock. He left a little note in the letter rack and all it said was that he'd been meaning to do it ever since October. Look, the water'll drip right through into the kitchen."
He turned it off. The birds stopped singing.
"Perhaps it was love, really. Perhaps he loved you, Polly, but he wouldn't say so. From a distance."
"Go on, he had a limp," she said. "Old Dot and Carry. How old are you?"
"No, you're not."
"Well, nearly."
"No, you're not."

(dylan thomas, from adventures in the skin trade)
the dylan thomas collection i found at mast books a few months ago - with a photo of a man with his little finger lodged in a bottle of bass on the cover, and a child's blue ball-point scribbles on the last few pages - could be the first thing i've read in a decade that makes me want to be a novelist. not any novelist, mind you, but the novelist to finish that novel (thomas stopped writing it after four chapters).
This unique fragment, half fictional though it is, carries the unmistakable stamp of [DT's] personality. It is real now because it was once real to him, and because it holds the key to a certain attitude to the world and to a situation which was peculiarly his own. This attitude, which may be defined as a rooted opposition to material progress, he continued to hold long after he had abandoned work on the novel. Its anarchic fantasy appealed to him, and it is one more example of the poet's indifference to reputation, of his refusal to follow the advance guard of his fame.

(vernon watkins, in his introduction to adventures in the skin trade)
sam never gets free of the bottle, not even when the wicked polly convinces him to remove all of his clothes, get into someone else's cold, dirty bath, and drink a full glass of eau de cologne ("'Christ!' he said in a clear, ordinary voice. 'Christ!'"). it's a damn shame.


joe and his new iphone are a cavalier and his horse: they gallop through battle as one and then find the best pizza nearby, or something. i, on the other hand, have downloaded but a single app and have managed to coat my device with a thin film of absinthe-scented beeswax (one must wash one's hands after applying lip balm and prior to setting one's alarm clock, it seems). that said, i will grudgingly admit that it's now super-easy to take photos of garbage (and i dearly love taking photos of garbage). i will give you that and only that, robot overlords.

grand street (4 of 4)

grand street (3 of 4)

grand street (1 of 4)

grand street (2 of 4)