mandarin votive

in recent news of things i've set on fire, i can report that erin's* instant citrus votive project works and is amazing; i can now work my way through the huge bottle of canola oil i once bought to make a red velvet cake or something, and i have an ongoing excuse to buy handfuls of the satsumas and mandarins everyone else ignores in the office cafeteria. my one addendum to her instructions would be the observation that i probably should have extinguished the flame when the oil first ran out and the wick started to sizzle; instead i let the peel catch on fire (o pungent conclusion!). a capital trick, this.

*not to be confused with erin of the marvelous wildlife rehabilitation. quite nice to have multiple helpful erins about, i must say.


i spent the last afternoon of the year in central park with my father and my youngest sister. the polar vortex had yet to drape itself across the city, but the creeping post-solstice cold dragged its nails up my back anyway. we spoke of endings and beginnings, of professional decisions and unprofessional joys; i would publish in 2014, i said, because i figured it was what i was supposed to say, and publishing is such a fine thing.

my thoughts are all of beasts, is the problem. i began the new year on fire to volunteer at the bronx zoo; in collecting photos for ye olde birthday cakes for animals project i've tumbled through umpteen images of animal enrichment, and i thought i'd be just the gal to make ungulate-shaped piñatas for tigers. predictably enough, the zoo is less interested in enthusiastic amateur papier-mâché artists than it is in potential docents, and i was at a dead end until erin told me about her work with wild animals on long island. a group in the city needed help as well, she said. i could train to be a wildlife rehabilitator, maybe.

wildlife, internets! not mewling kittens begging to be smuggled into my apartment, but a fierce little robin that screeches like a boar, somersaulting red bats, and pigeons, dozens of pigeons in a tiny underground treatment space nursing bite wounds and necrotic toes and frost-abraded wings until CAGE REST is scratched from their charts and they can whirl back into the air. each sunday i spend with them erodes some of the staggering powerlessness i felt when i tried to make myself useful at animal control two years ago; they're happiest when you let them go. i think 2014 is their year.


ask kidchamp, round V {vegan feet, fire-eating, and men in dresses; previous installment here}

are there vegan shoes (dress shoes in particular) that don't feel like your feet are steaming in their own personal sauna?

A: if you ever become interested in womenswear (see below), i strongly recommend stella mccartney; she's been turning out some of the most user-friendly (in terms of both comfort and one's ability to roll into a high-stakes fashion situation) vegan accessories in town for years, and they turn up on ebay in good shape at reasonable prices. in the interim, keep your eyes peeled for olsenhaus, a brand that patrols the non-PVC (PVC is environmentally brutal and uncompromising re: perspiration, as you probably know) shadowlands between ultra-haute vegan stuff and, like, hemp slip-ons. for men, i like the time travelers, which are a handsome coated cotton. for myself, i have and love a pair of sandals from a few seasons ago, and i'm eyeing the babylon ballet flats, which are made of microfiber derived from recycled television screens and have soles made of recycled rubber and sawdust. (olsenhaus shoes are often steeply discounted online.) give the novacas men's collection a look, as well; the vegan internets have long spoken highly of their boots in re: foot angst.

what was a time you responded inappropriately to a serious question?

A: at some point late in the magical year i worked in public relations, my coworkers and i gathered around a conference-room table to eat chopped salads and exchange seasonal pleasantries and mildly-revealing personal information. someone asked everyone else to describe what they would be doing with their lives if they hadn't gone into PR, and i said that i quite liked the idea of being a pyrotechnician. we all studied our salads.

have you ever thrown your cats a party? top five ever mag freebies? most and least pricey fashiony purchases of all time?

A: i have never thrown my cats a party, though i have probably thrown a party with the secondary or tertiary goal of debuting a cat. a coworker of mine recently lost a dog and threw a party for her surviving dog because she didn't want him to feel alone, which broke my heart and doubled my respect for her.

my top five ever magazine-editor freebies are a complicated vacuum, a mysterious black wool sample dress that was never produced for the market, a massive iittala aalto vase, a bottle of decennial's bois bourbon eau de toilette, and a bottle of 18-year-old highland park (honorable mention goes to 5,321 scented candles, 763 blankets, and a bunch of workout gear that makes me look like an eastern european ice dancer).

my least pricey fashiony purchase of all time is probably a pair of gold spike earrings i found online for $3 a few years ago; my priciest, in turn, is the navy blue wool chloé coat i bought at a consignment store two weeks ago. it makes me feel like a tolstoy heroine and cost far less than it might have, but i still needed lisa to sherpa me through the decision via text. (lisa, i salute you.)

or are these to be general? ie, how do i make coffee that isn't terrible?, what is the training for fire-eating?, etc

A: i like all questions. as a former surly coffee pro (i miss you sometimes, facial piercing), i am of the belief that if one is unable or unwilling to purchase a straight-up coffeehouse-caliber espresso machine—the elephantine, horrifically expensive kind that would kill you if it fell on you—one should skip amateur espresso drinks and focus on a kick-ass cup of pressed coffee. per the folks at roasting plant, our local devastatingly-high-quality coffee place, a french press maximizes the contact between your beans and your hot water. simple, no? they are also not a pain in the ass to clean, which makes them far more attractive to me than more intricate coffee gadgets. if you insist on making complicated stuff like mochas, mix your chocolate and your milk together before you steam them, as my first coffee-boss taught me.

the training for fire-eating is amateur fire-eating, of course. you'll need sambuca (romana is fairly easy to find), a champagne flute, and a book of matches. pour a shot of sambuca into the flute, swirl it around to kick up some fumes, and light the surface with a match; douse the flame immediately by putting your hand flat across the top of the flute (the vacuum you create will make the flute stick). have an assistant stand by with a book of matches, pour the sambuca into your mouth, tilt your head back, and have said assistant light it with a match; let the resultant flame frighten your friends and neighbors for a second, then close your mouth to put it out, wait a second to be sure, and swallow. (you can do the lighting yourself, but i wouldn't recommend that unless you're especially experienced, especially foolhardy, or both.) my point is that eating fire is extinguishing fire, really (the first rule of fire-eating is, predictably, never, ever breathe in, which is why the flaming sambuca is good practice; the second is don't eat fire when it's windy). the main two extinguishes are closing your mouth around the fire to deprive it of oxygen and blowing quickly outward with a puff (preferable if your torch is too hot to touch with your mouth). the third is that you should be very careful when making a torch, of course; DIY at your own risk (torch components can be found among fire equipment from a juggling store; personally i am quite taken with the wicked fire fans, which are, alas, inedible). the internet will try to tell you that fire-eating necessitates a tiny top hat, but that's between you and your supervising deity of choice, i think.

Late Entry: Contra past comments, has any sex-related art ever... ahem... seduced you into a notable state of appreciation?

A: i'm both a little unclear on what you're asking and fairly sure the answer would be no regardless? that said, i still remember where i was when i saw brad pitt's all-minidress rolling stone feature circa fight club, and sweet christ. for legends-of-the-fall-brad-pitt fans it was dylan going electric; for me it was, well, dylan going electric.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 after unsuccessfully haggling with the (kind of mean) consignment store folks for my coat, i took it home and discovered a pair of fur-trimmed gloves that had been wrapped with it by mistake. what should i have done with them?
02 do you think my coworker's dog felt better?
03 where and when did you have the best cup of coffee of your life?
04 have you ever eaten fire? would you?
05 what do you think of brad pitt in a dress?


moonrise over the bay

A long time ago—so long ago he had forgotten the author's name—he read some memorable lines in a story about a man who is trying to translate another story, by a much more famous author. In these lines—which, my neighbor said, he still remembers to this day—the translator says that a sentence is born into this world neither good nor bad, and that to establish its character is a question of the subtlest possible adjustments, a process of intuition to which exaggeration and force are fatal. Those lines concerned the art of writing, but looking around himself in early middle-age my neighbor began to see that they applied just as much to the art of living.

(rachel cusk, from "outline: part 1," the paris review winter 2013)

If you exist for a long enough time on the Internet, you’ll lead lots of different lives there. You’ll become known first for one thing, and then, if you’re lucky, another. Creative life on the Internet is long, and made up of a bunch of bright intense bursts. Eyeballs all turn your way at once, and then they turn away. This all may add up to a certain kind of fame, but I think a better way of looking at it is that you just become part of the Internet’s furniture. People sit on you, people lie down on you and cry, people let their dogs put muddy paws all over you, people forget you in favor of another couch, people discover you again.

Don’t ask me to push this furniture metaphor too far or things…will get…insane.

(patricia lockwood, from lauren o'neal's interview at therumpus.net)