we played "bowl of nouns," as we do every year, when we had family over for post-christmas christmas on saturday night. my dad chose a slip of paper from the bowl, read the word on it, clutched his chest, and slumped to the floor. "dead, dead!" his team shouted, an adjective that doesn't even begin with P, the first letter for that round's words. it turned out that he'd read PROP upside down, which looked for all the world like DEAD in my handwriting, so we gave him the point (i wanted to give him bonus points, really). he and my stepfamily stayed for a second round before retiring to the upper east side, and the seven of us who remained arranged ourselves around the apartment: my sister, brother-in-law, and baby niece in the bedroom, my other sister and brother-in-law on an air mattress in the hall, me and the cat on a busted air mattress in the living room, joe and the other cat on the sofa. the idea of a hotel room to supplement our square footage had been suggested many times, but my sisters and i scorned the idea, as we get just a single night together each year. you guys can get a brotel room if you want. it feels like we spent half our childhood in sleeping bags on the family room floor, in front of the fireplace. why did the houses in our suburban-southern-california development have fireplaces? off-white stucco walls, curved terra cotta roof tiles that'd grind together like teeth when i climbed across them, fireplaces called into service as often as the national guard.

it's been a year of letting things in, of new and exotic arrangements, of trying to do what twelve-year-old me would've done in similar circumstances. the single, humble press trip i took in 2013 begat trips to hawaii, iceland, and turkey; my job wandered off from beneath me, and i became a freelancer; i took on weekly shifts at a wildlife rehab center and a charity bookstore cafe; i started training for a half marathon. my sister had a baby. joe's job mutated into something unrecognizable, and he found a new one.

a shard of anger will turn up in my foot when i hear news of my old magazine, though i left them with the widest smile that would adhere to my face. a decade of my life i gave them! a former freelancer of mine announced to me and the rest of her facebook friends that she'd accepted the new version of my job. Like, i clicked. my sister is designing a monogram for the pro writing site my dearest friend built me; my old mentor is publishing my first piece in the new year, an essay on calling my mother every day for a month. PROP or DEAD? hand me a pillow case and a couch cushion. let's do this.


a mattress, the missus


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

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

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

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

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

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

imaginary reading group discussion questions

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


gallipoli souvenirs

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

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


in sultan ahmed's mosque


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

imaginary reading group discussion questions

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



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

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

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


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

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


graffiti, istanbul

{graffiti in istanbul}

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

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

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

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

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



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


a bit of light from the surface

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


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

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

leaving lani kai, the n

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

chan's dragon inn, the nose

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

jade island, SI, the nose

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

departing staten island with the nose

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

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


sunrise over the east river

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

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

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

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

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

09.17.14: on anthony bourdain (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

to be continued.

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

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

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

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



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

fotomeme: 1

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

fotomeme: 2

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

fotomeme: 3

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

fotomeme: 4

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

fotomeme 5

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

fotomeme: 6

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



grand street

Glorify me!
For me the great are no match.
Upon every achievement
I stamp nihil.

I never want
to read anything.
What are books!

Formerly I believed
books were made like this:
a poet came,
lightly opened his lips,
and the inspired fool burst into song—
if you please!
But it seems,
before they can launch a song,
poets must tramp for days with callused feet,
and the sluggish fish of the imagination
flounders softly in the slush of the heart.
And while, with twittering rhymes, they boil a broth
of loves and nightingales,
the tongueless street merely writhes
for lack of something to shout or say.

(vladimir mayakovsky, from "the cloud in trousers" [max hayward and george reavey trans.])
the "list 10 books that have stayed with you" meme that's been bouncing around facebook for the last year or so made its way to me via my friend sarah just a few days before someone published a statistical analysis of said meme that's been bouncing around the internet this week (harry potter crushed everyone, including jesus, even though the average meme-participant's age was 37, which would have made them about 21 when harry potter and the sorcerer's stone first sank its claws into popular culture). as for me? this site is my list, maybe; it's about more (and less?) than books, but it's certainly about the ones that have stayed with me. either way, i don't know that i'm interested in making a list of 10; i'd have to talk about the goldfinch, which was so sensationally meh that i think and get angry about it least once a week, and i'd probably have to talk about gravity's rainbow, which i still haven't been able to begin in any significant way even though i know i need to complete all of pynchon's novels before declaring once and for all that he can suck it. i do love lists, though, and i like tag. i've been thinking about all of that as i've walked to and from the subway on the way to work this week—i've been thinking about transit and daily routines a lot as well, as joe just started a new job up in the bronx and we're trying to figure out how to get him there and back via some combination of actions that won't drive him nuts—and i think i'd like to tag people and ask them where they go. boil some broth on those tongueless streets, would you? in other words:

take/share 6 photographs of things you see every day. one batch, that is, of 6 photos. the sun coming up over the buildings across the street? excellent. a rusty-but-stately old manhole cover on the sidewalk outside your apartment (above, an everyday sight of mine)? delicious. your own feet in the shower? sure, if you want to take things in that direction.

i tag you 6: baby jo, dave, erin, lisa (east), lisa (west), and sarah.


the flock

Helen warned me that pigeons—were I to emphasize them—could put people off, “ever since Woody Allen called them rats with wings.” (It was a character in “Stardust Memories” who said that.)

But then she started telling me, in tones of awe, why she loves them. “You know they dance. The males dance for the females—every time they see a female they start dancing. There was this male pigeon I will never forget. Well this guy, it was a snowstorm, a really bad snowstorm, and he was down by the Chelsea Pier, and he had no feet, just stumps, but he just started dancing this really wild dance for a female nearby him. It was as if he was saying, ‘Hey baby, come on, we’re all going to die anyway, let’s dance.’ It was just amazing. Pigeons are very stoic, exceptional animals.”

(from "new york too busy to care? center rescues city’s injured birds," epoch times 08.30.14)


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.

*09.16.14: four months, that is (i tracked down a copy of her memoir and just finished it).


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."


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"


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.


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.***


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.'"


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

Defrauding an innkeeper. 4:56 p.m. The caller reported a customer who ran out on a $160 tattoo bill. The caller said he still has the man’s ID.
Keep the peace. 6:56 p.m. The caller said a neighbor is squirting water over the fence.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 12:53 p.m. The caller reported a young man singing and asking for money.
Disturbance – music or party. 6:44 a.m. The caller reported neighbors stomping and banging cupboards very loudly.
Citizen assist. 6:42 p.m. The caller said he lent his black Mini Cooper to a friend two days ago and the friend refuses to return it.
Citizen assist. 3:57 p.m. The caller said he thinks his neighbor was driving toward him in her black minivan and turned at the last second. The caller was also upset about her four kids using chalk on the sidewalk.
Missing child. 5:59 p.m. The caller reported her daughter missing, but later found her on the other side of the soccer field.
Disturbance. 6:27 p.m. A woman caller said her upstairs neighbor is using a device on her thermostat that quacks like a duck.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 5:20 p.m. The caller reported a man sitting on the corner and talking on a phone. The caller didn’t like him in the neighborhood.
Suspicious circumstance. 8:01 a.m. A man with short, spiky hair, wearing a white T-shirt and brown pants, was reportedly watching a woman and her friend. When the woman noticed the man on the bike, he "flipped" her off and rode away in an unknown direction.
Disturbance. 8:14 a.m. A caller said a man in the laundry room threw a sock at his wife after the caller asked him to stop removing his wife’s laundry from the machine. The sock hit his wife in the eye.
Assist outside agency. 11:03 a.m. A caller said a lawn mower was fully engulfed in flames.

*previous installment here.