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.