my sisters pulled me aside when i got to our mom's house in sacramento last night. we'd all received an email from our grandmother's nurse while joe and i were flying out from new york.
Katherine's Family,

Please join me in holding your Mother and Grandmother now in your best prayers, meditations and contemplations - she has stopped eating, drinking and talking since last night., the result of high fevers and decreasing appetite since before Christmas. She received the Last Rites an hour ago and is resting comfortably. Your spiritual support at this time is priceless to her, thank you.

If you wish to call in order to say something to her, please call the room phone, XXX-XXX-XXXX anytime.

May you be at peace knowing she is at peace,
i believe lea; grandma kathy is a devout catholic, and if she is lucid she knows she'll soon see her husband (who died when my dad was seven) and her savior.

i wrote her a letter on christmas eve and described our trip to germany: she would have loved the way a lone vocalist poured evensong into the berliner dom. a handful of germans complimented me on my pronunciation, i said; perhaps the family tree's roots are buckling my sidewalk at last. the letter before that touched on my health journalism and her years of nursing. she knows, i tell myself, that i am made, in part, of her. she knows that i know.


the local bakery's last batch of black-and-white cookies is tucked in my luggage with two boxes of fireworks, the christmas tree is watered a final time, and my last assignment of the year is with its editor. i'm headed for the west like one of tolkien's elves, though i would never wear leaf jewelry. this is how the end of the year begins.


the dirty dozen {work and errands in manhattan, december}

01 "i have a cauldron i'm not using anymore, if you want it."
02 "you can buy any kind of fog as long as it's water-based."
03 "that's a lot of teeth. but—why not!"
04 we have elvis wigs that could pass as greaser wigs, but we're all out of black."
05 "is that your fish?"
"yeah, it didn't seem like your aesthetic."
06 "turns out it's a $150 book, not a poster. and it's in french. no, thank you."
07 "how can you tell if a book is a detective thriller?"
08 "louisa bae alcott. i like that even better than swagatha christie."
09 "is this mouse for someone?"
"no, but it'll definitely get eaten, don't worry."
10 "i don't know if i'm relieved that i'm not imagining things crawling on my neck or disappointed that there was something crawling on my neck."
11 "do we still sell those hoodies? i always meant to get one."
"i don't know, but they gave a bunch away for free because rats chewed on them. see my sleeve?"
"my dad wasn't happy when i showed him."
12 "hey, thanks for special-ordering my friend's book so speedily!"
"we have our shit together."


the dirty dozen {12 things in my purse*}

01 sport beans
02 12" rubber garter snake
03 lipstick queen frog prince
04 plastic jaguar
05 two paper oshibori towels
06 skeleton gloves
07 two s-bahn berlin tickets
08 il duomofox
09 gehe balance multi-vitamin+mineral brausetablette
10 too cool for school fresh gore sleeping pack
11 preen knightsbridge floral sunglasses
12 the travelin' domino

*bag? it's a tote bag, but bag sounds like something one takes on a plane.


will it ever feel too late to talk about the end of 2016? i began december with more assignments than i've ever had in a single month, then decided to blog every day and run at least 100 miles; i've been at ye olde charity bookstore and the bird hospital almost every week. that isn't all that much, but these weeks are taffy, stretching out and sagging, is what i mean; tasks, gatherings, weird news keep on coming. i'm still waiting for christmas, somehow. my sister and her husband aren't coming to new york for the first winter in a decade or so, which makes sense, given that they have a five-month-old son (just hospitalized with a nasty respiratory bug, as it happens, along with his dad, who gave up his appendix for the holidays). we'll still see them—we're headed to northern california for new year's and to celebrate my mom's halloween elopement(!)—but it's new and strange and long, the last of 2016. we saw my dad and most of my stepfamily on boxing day. we've got a pint of organic eggnog in the back of the refrigerator. i haven't used my little crock pot for anything, but i don't want to put it away. i tracked a missing gift down the phone lines to ups, the usps, and kansas; "thank you for your spirit," kansas said when i didn't yell. who wants to end the year yelling at a stranger?

carrie fisher starred in it's christmas, carol! (2012), a hallmark channel movie about a heartless publishing executive visited by the ghost of her former boss, eve. only one cautioning spirit; budget cutbacks, &c.
carol: it's christmas eve, and you've come to warn me about if i don't change my ways. oh, what's the name of that story?
eve: miracle on 34th street?
carol: no.
eve: it's a wonderful life?
carol: no.
eve: it's not star wars, is it?
i always hated it's a wonderful life.


the missus and i, geeky tv fans both, started watching doctor who 53 years after the first doctor stepped out of his T.A.R.D.I.S. and approximately one month before all doctors disappeared from netflix's streaming catalog, which means that we've limped along with actual discs all year and that i almost always know when the doctor's going to regenerate or lose a companion, since box sets always feature main-character portraits on their covers and it's incredibly difficult to make sure you've got everything in the proper order in your queue, what with christmas specials, bonus discs, spinoffs, and animated special events (we just got to that one). i try ever so hard to avoid spoilers when preparing to watch shows and movies—i cross my eyes when buying movie tickets, i hide back issues of the new yorker from myself, i pour out the last of my tea without checking out the shapes the dregs have formed—but i always end up knowing when, say, i'm going to have to start preparing myself to let go of david tennant. (what a doctor,* that tennant! it horrifies longtime whovians to learn that i saw him in both jessica jones and broadchurch before i saw him as a time lord, which connoisseurs assured me is Peak Tennant. [i now agree.]) of course, i also know that whatever was going on with billie piper's teeth circa "turn left" resolves itself before her next cameo, and that's a relief.

we accidentally leapt into season five before watching all of the weird 2008-ish spinoffs and semiseries, which means both that i'm trying to work through complicated feelings about matt smith by reminding myself that there are still a few odd unwatched tennant episodes out there, trapped in the postal system like paleozoic insects in amber, and that i'm pretty sure i need to get a T.A.R.D.I.S. suit before we visit sarah and judd in the dominican republic in february. or a dalek suit? if one could but glimpse the multiverses swimwear decisions create.

*in pecking around for that link i discovered DT married georgia moffett—the fifth doctor's daughter in real life—after she played his daughter in the current series. overseas television romances are so much more exciting than hollywood gossip, man. (billie piper was married to laurence fox from inspector lewis! i realize i'm the last person on earth to learn that, but still!)


the dirty dozen {12 george michael recollections}

01 my wham! music from the edge of heaven cassette had a "hot side" and a "cool side." god, how i loved that.
02 the times didn't have an obituary on file for him.
03 he sang queen's "39" as a teenage busker on the london tube; queen later considered him to replace freddie mercury. "there's a certain note in his voice when he did 'somebody to love' that was pure freddie," brian may said.
04 my friend adriana pulled me aside as we walked to our elementary school's outdoor cafeteria. "george michael has a new song," she hissed. "it's called 'i want your S-E-X.'"
05 he chose the lip-syncing supermodels for the david-fincher-directed "freedom '90" video (in which he refused to appear) after seeing the january 1990 cover of british vogue with a group photo by peter lindbergh. "i knew george wanted everybody that was on that cover, and it had to be all the girls," cindy crawford said.
06 when my sister was a toddler, she'd walk around singing "faith": "well i guess it would be nice / if i could touch your body / i know not everybody / has got a body like you."
07 "i have the audience i deserve. or at least i have the audience that represents the kind of people that i like."
08 he called his twitter followers his "lovelies," and himself "the singing greek."
09 in 1985, wham! became the first western band to perform in china. concertgoers were given a cassette with their songs on one side and the opening act (cheng fangyuan)'s versions on the other. some of the lyrics were changed in the chinese covers:
Wake me up before you go go
Compete with the sky to go high, high
Wake me up before you go go
Men fight to be first to reach the peak
Wake me up before you go go
Women are on the same journey and will not fall behind.
10 he performed in bulgaria in 2007 in support of the five nurses jailed in libya.
11 "the time was right to strike home with sixties escapism," he told rolling stone about wham! when he was 23. "sixties presentation, sixties attitude towards the songs. that's what made us big. basically, we made everything look wonderful. wham! was a sixties pop group in the eighties."
12 he spent the '80s shooting down requests to license his songs for commercials. "there was one where 'go-go' was supposed to become 'cocoa.' imagine, 'waking up to some cocoa.'"


Oh it's Christmas so we'll stop
'Cause the wine on our breath puts the love on our tongues
So forget the names
I called you on Christmas Eve
In fact forget the entire year
Don't reflect just pretend and you won't feel scared
You won't feel a thing
'Cause it's all been tucked away
And once you're tucked in bed
You'll hold on to the day for the last few seconds
Your cradled face is protected from the wind
And I'll protect you I promise I will
And the rest of our lives will be just like Christmas
With fewer toys
You're a good girl I'm a good boy
So I thought

(frightened rabbit, from "it's christmas so we'll stop")
[T]ime is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time."

(from martin luther king, jr's sermon at the national cathedral, 03.31.68)
find holiday (and year-round) volunteering referrals from new york cares here.
find a local coat drive here.
read up on the women's march on washington here.


IF OVA IS PERCHING IN THE GARBAGE, a post-it on one of the feeding charts noted, SHE IS FEELING BROODY. BUILD HER A NESTING BOX. yes, one of the bird hospital's chickens—we have at least three or four—is named ova. if you find yourself en route to thebes and the sphinx asks you who gives birth astride a grave, you can say the laying hens at the wild bird fund and she'll throw herself from her high rock and die. or devour herself, maybe. it's christmas eve eve.

tiny tim—we call him timmy, actually—is a robin (illegally) raised and malnourished by a family who brought him to us when his all-blueberry diet caused all the feathers on his head and neck to fall out. the adults said they'd had him for six months and their kid said he'd been with them for nine years; who can say? tame little timmy vultured around the bird fund with the rest of the summer's orphans until everyone else rejoined their flock. we figured he'd look the way he did forever.

i watched a strapping young robin serenade my friend H in the songbird flyway this afternoon. "whose call is that?" i asked. "he made it up, i think," she replied. he swing-low-sweet-charioted away on his branch, pausing every now and again to accept a morsel of food from H. "you know this is timmy, right?" timmy! he tilted his glossy black head and flung a new song at us. it's christmas eve eve.


'Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How nice and soft it sounds! Just as if some one was kissing the window all over outside. I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again."'

(lewis carroll, from through the looking-glass, and what alice found there)
Along with many other members of the Standing Rock community, [tribal chair David] Archambault has steered the encampment in a nonviolent direction. The camp’s direct-action group, Red Warrior, has maintained a discipline and humility that still speaks powerfully to people all over the world. A recently published photo of a person from that night of November 20th, covered in ice and praying, illustrates the deep resolve that comes from a philosophy based on generosity of spirit.

(louise erdich, from "holy rage: lessons from standing rock")
Although a common pain response, whether swearing alters individuals' experience of pain has not been investigated. This study investigated whether swearing affects cold-pressor pain tolerance (the ability to withstand immersing the hand in icy water), pain perception and heart rate. In a repeated measures design, pain outcomes were assessed in participants asked to repeat a swear word versus a neutral word. In addition, sex differences and the roles of pain catastrophising, fear of pain and trait anxiety were explored. Swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing. However, swearing did not increase pain tolerance in males with a tendency to catastrophise. The observed pain-lessening (hypoalgesic) effect may occur because swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception.

(r stephens et al, from swearing as a response to pain, neuroreport, 2009)


i had my first glühwein of the season on a perfect november day in berlin; we'd just toured a spooky east german amusement park with our friend ed and were taking the long way back to the train along the spree when it began to drizzle. the vacation rule, of course, is that one must hole up with a drink when it starts to rain, and lo, there was a riverside cafe. do germans ever put their holiday mugs away? we took a table and argued about politics for an hour while i pretended i was a one-woman christmas market. i'm still thinking of berlin, and of another friend who lived there for a few months while working on her doctorate. she posted on facebook last night:
Listening to the BBC interviewing someone about the Berlin attacks - yesterday's kick in the chest, for me - and the reporter asks some security pundit if the Germans know everything about the however-many-thousand refugees that they are sheltering. And pundit responds (in paraphrase), "of course not, but we also don't know everything about the however-many-million Germans who live in the country, and nor should we _want_ to." Stay sensible, my shaken city.
i adapted a chowhound recipe, as our local grocery store lacked whole cloves and cardamom pods and making a two-bottle batch of glühwein when you only live with one person is intense, even when you're mostly german.

first-day-of-winter glühwein

- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- pinch of ground cardamom
- pinch of ground cloves
- 5/8 c granulated sugar
- 5/8 c water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bottle red wine (i used castillo de fuente)
- 1/4 cup brandy (i used grappa we smuggled on the train from milan to berlin)

zest and juice the citrus and put the zest and juice in a medium saucepan; add the cloves, cardamom, sugar, and water, then bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces by a third. add the red wine and brandy, then bring back to a simmer, remove from heat, serve in mugs, and make merry. i leave the zested citrus in there; it reminds me of fallen leaves in the spree.


several of the volunteers at the bird hospital didn't even know we had a cooper's hawk in the waterfowl room; he was stunned, his legs locked in a shriek, slumped over in his handmade donut of paper and towels like a bird he'd eat under different circumstances (the red-tailed hawk in the next cage, by contrast, burned like a war god if you dared a glance at him). "he's very sweet," R said. "go ahead and try to make him more comfortable in there." i reached in without gloves and lifted the little accipiter, tried to fold his talons in such a way that he could sit with dignity if he couldn't perch. a compromised raptor is a killer that's been magicked into prey, and he rarely recovers from the shock; i felt every second of the terrible privilege of him in my hands.

he died, as i'd known he would; he'd sustained mortal puncture wounds in a fight with another hawk. R had probably known the moment he came in. "the only bird that ever taloned me was a cooper's hawk," she said. "he was hooded, still under anesthesia after surgery, and found me blind."


Yoni and I spent a lot of time during that tour singing some of the hits of the Backstreet Boys. I didn't know any of the good war poetry back then, in English or Hebrew, and wouldn't have appreciated it if I had. I was the radioman but wouldn't have known, for example, what to make of this radioman's prayer, part of which I translate here from the Hebrew:

Lord of the Universe

Please, increase your transmission strength
here I
can't hear, don't know
if once again you've stuck a metal flower in the antenna's
You're so gentle. Why
are you so soft, why are you always
Can you hear me clearly, over.
Roger, you too sound cut off, you
sound amputated, you

Are in a valley, deployed three-sixty. Hills
and a different Sea of Galilee. Please
apprise me of your transmission strength, with radar
we can't see your face, why
are you not on treads, why
are you not fighting, should we
send you a mechanized patrol, I
am full of faith
that it won't arrive and won't come back...

A new father and student of economics wrote that before he was called up by his reserve unit in the fall of 1973. He died along the Suez Canal; his name was Be'eri Hazak. And then there were the Backstreet Boys and "You are my fire / The one desire." Whether we knew it or not, as Israeli soldiers in the last years of the last century these were the poetic poles of our existence. It was the latter that Yoni and I had been singing. There as something comforting about it, and we weren't looking for insight.

(matti friedman, from pumpkinflowers)


the dirty dozen {twelve movies i saw this year, and haiku discussion}

01 hell or high water. heist pics leave me cold, / but this one's nearly flawless. / is jeff bridges zeus?
02 moonlight. brilliant ensemble, / sensitive storytelling, / perfect denouement.
03 la la land. not all musicals / are terrible, i'll admit. / that one sure is, though.
04 american honey. shia labeouf sells / magazines, has tragic hair, / catches a turtle.
05 the birth of a nation. scandal aside, well, / its female characters were / just plot devices.
06 fantastic beasts and where to find them. how i love creatures! / beautifully imagined, / clumsily scripted.
07 miss peregrine's home for peculiar children. mistress of limbo, / i question you. carnival / battle was BOSS, though.
08 manchester by the sea. casey affleck: eh. / kyle chandler, editing: A. / michelle williams: QUEEN.
09 the handmaiden. really long, REALLY / odd, and more lemonade than / lemonade was, bey.
10 the lobster. my favorite thing / about loving it: i have / it all to myself.
11 the witch. moms, don't see this one. / goats, choose your dates carefully. / bearded dudes, you're good.
12 the neon demon. keanu! wild beasts! / inappropriate snacking! / god, i love horror.


i got an email yesterday afternoon:
NYCRUNS is currently closely monitoring tomorrow's forecast in conjunction with our medical team, but we do not expect to make any decisions regarding weather-related changes to the race until approximately 6:30AM. If any changes are to take place, you will be emailed and our Facebook page will be updated with all the info you'll need to know. Thank you for your patience.
i headed down to paragon sports after my shift at the bird hospital to pick up bibs and shirts. the only tees (ugh, why not tech shirts?) left were super-huge, but we could wait and pick up smaller sizes at the race, we were assured. i got that email about the weather—do you think the race will be called off? "there's almost no chance of that," the bib gal said.

i woke up before my alarm this morning, as one does, with the cat draped over the back of my neck like a travel pillow. the other cat, wedged against joe beneath the covers, legs extended, brushed my chest with a paw every now and again as he kneaded in his sleep. i walked out to the living room, where the tail end of friday night, heavy as a candle snuffer, refused saturday morning. i'd never raced in the snow before. i tore into a new bag of coffee and watched the cats expect the sun over brooklyn.

a few minutes after six, another email:
In partnership with our partners on Roosevelt Island and in the interest of your safety and that of our volunteers and staff, we are cancelling today's event. There will be no bib or shirt pick-up or runner services of any kind today. Please do not come to the event site.
1: um, i guess we're not meeting?
1: i hope you weren't already on the train! (i started coffee, but am going back to bed; glad i didn't pick up those bad shirts)
2: I was in bed thinking about how to stay warm :) I refuse to say 'worrying'
2: Is 'wears shirt from canceled event' not goth?

i reconvened Team Bed, went back to sleep, and ran 10K by myself this afternoon.


tomorrow i'll run my seventh and final race of the year, my third around roosevelt island. why roosevelt island, especially when the route never takes me past the smallpox hospital (the best part)? i like to think that racing there over and over is a good way to track my improvement (though i don't seem to be improving much; i need to pick things up if i'm to be a plausible team captain in april). i tell my friend A, a long-retired UN worker who volunteers with me at ye olde charity bookstore, that i'm guarding his apartment out there. "you picked a good day for it," he said this past week. "with the wind that whistles down along the river, it should feel a good ten to twenty degrees colder than it actually is." i'm fairly sure i forgot to throw away the frumpy, broken-zippered vest i bought for winter training a few years ago, and the loud thermal tights i ordered a month there finally showed up today. in your eye, polar vortex.

i read a few weeks ago that mick jagger runs eight miles a day when he's training for a tour. it never occurred to me to wonder what he's fleeing; i feel certain he's chasing someone.
Mick Jagger once boasted that 'I’d rather be dead than still singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m forty-five.' But now he’s over sixty and still singing 'Satisfaction.' Some people might find this funny, but not me. When he was young, Mick Jagger couldn’t imagine himself at forty-five. When I was young, I was the same. Can I laugh at Mick Jagger? No way. I just happen not to be a young rock singer. Nobody remembers what stupid things I might have said back then, so they’re not about to quote them back at me. That’s the only difference.

(haruki murakami, what i talk about when i talk about running)



interfilm berlin (festival, citywide). we've had the good luck to stumble on several film festivals while on foreign adventures: montreal's festival du nouveau cinéma, the reykjavík international film festival, and, for 2016, berlin's 32nd annual short film festival. we did our damndest to catch the sci-fi program (which was heavy on extraplanetary disasters and draconian population control, as one would expect) and the horror program (held on our final night in town), but cooler heads than mine prevailed; starting a late-night film extravaganza hours before catching a flight to milan and a flight to new york probably wasn't the soundest plan, even if it was the best plan. german audiences don't seem to be as forward as american festival audiences i've known, and the largely questionless q&a sessions after a few of the films were kind of painful (particularly the one where the woman whose empty beer i knocked over as i tried to sneak out to the bathroom turned out to be the writer-director of the short we'd just seen), but the works themselves were marvelous, and the venues (or what i could tell of them from their websites) were gorgeous. we'll be back.

michelberger hotel (hotel, friedrichshain). the michelberger did not let us check in at 7 am, or 8 am, or any of the other hours before 3 pm, which hurt, given that our train from leipzig deposited us at the station just after dawn. that said, we were motivated to burn an hour and a half or so walking along the remains of the berlin wall, which was just across the river, and i was awake for hotel breakfast (which was staggeringly good; here's to you, german hipster breakfast) for the first time in years. my sister and brother-in-law raved about the michelberger after staying there a few years ago as part of a eurotrip for a small-town polish wedding at which people woke up the next day with sausages tucked into their clothes (we need to befriend art-school people who seem like they might get married), and they were right; it was cheap as hell (something like 90 euros a night), the room was large (i feared i'd mangle myself on the ladder up to the spacious sleeping loft, but it wasn't nearly as dangerous as it looked), we were right across the (very wide) street from the warschauer straße s-bahn station (a girl on the train-style commuter with binoculars could have watched me apply ultraprecise german salve to my bowie-tribute tattoo each morning when we threw open the drapes), and we were within walking distance of kreuzberg's greatest hits. they made their own schnapps and canned their own coconut water. they played the big lebowski in the hall at all hours of the day and night (to be fair, half of berlin did that). they let us sneak rosé and a bottle opener upstairs when we were too tired to mingle in the hotel bar. stay at the michelberger, especially if you were thinking of an airbnb instead (most short-term airbnbs in berlin are now super-illegal, thanks to last may's zweckentfremdungsverbot).

monkey bar (bar, tiergarten). can one really say one has been to berlin if one hasn't been to a tiki bar overlooking the zoo? don't answer that. we ventured up to monkey bar to investigate monkey 47, a black-forest-produced gin based on a recipe scribbled down decades and decades ago by a homesick brit who named his hooch after his favorite primate. parts of that story are likely apocryphal, but the cocktail piece in which i mentioned the booze and the bar were very real, so we queued at an elevator bank for like half an hour and were carried into the sky to sip tiki drinks and rub elbows with tiergarten's prettiest (and some tourists). the mango maniac slushy, a seasonal special, was one of the best tropical drinks i've had in the last couple of years. if you can manage to make it to monkey bar's terrace in time to watch the sun set over the elephant enclosure at the zoo, you'll probably feel like a master of the universe.

neues ufer (bar, schöneberg). "do you follow american football at all?" robert, the impossibly young fellow behind the bar at david bowie's old local, asked. "i was asked to go play for the ducks of oregon, or for alabama." (he decided to join the german military instead, and will be leaving the bar in a few months.) if you catch them in repose, the folks at neues ufer don't listen to all that much david bowie; they hear hours and hours of him when tourists come through after visiting his apartment down the block, and his face has been on every wall since his death in january. i believe we listened to michelle branch as we chatted with regulars about donald trump and i shifted on my seat and tried not to harass my new tattoo. i think robert would have gone to oregon rather than to alabama, but it sounds like he ended up in the right place anyway. a stately woman with a perfect rooster wished us well as we folded ourselves back into the rain: "have a nice life!"

*part I is here.


shelving books in the fantasy/sci-fi/horror and crime/thrillers sections of ye olde charity bookstore the other day, i ended up buzzing around a customer like a gnat. i have a short fuse when it comes to book-browsers: if they have the nerve to wear a bulky backpack, or block a narrow corridor while tapping away at their smartphone, or wander about in search of a place to stash a book they clearly picked up in another part of the store, i wish them ill (o misanthropic volunteer!). this customer, a meandering browser, leaped when she realized i was lurking behind her with a stack of spy novels to put away, and she excused herself; i assumed she was as unhappy with me as i was with her. she excused herself again a moment later when i returned with another stack of books, but no, she was looking for a recommendation: "i haven't read a book in something like five years. what's the one thing you'd tell me to read?"

well, um. our inventory is donation-based, so while i would tell everyone who hasn't read a book in something like five years to read infinite jest,* we only get a copy in once every few months (and, okay, i can sort of acknowledge that it's not for everyone, though i would argue that there's a joke in it for everyone, at least). "the last books i read and really liked were dan brown, if that gives you an idea of what i'm into." i have not read any dan brown. so, um, big fantastic conspiracies with a lot of moving parts? you're sort of here between fantasy and sci-fi—literally, she was standing between the two sections—do you want a straight-up thriller, or are you interested in something witchier? "i could do witchy," she said.

i scanned the bottom of a bookcase and saw (thank you, tana french!) a pristine copy of in the woods. have you read any tana french? no, she'd never heard of tana french; i explained how each of her dublin-ish crime thrillers had a different main character, plucked from the supporting cast of the previous book. they all exist in the same universe, though. i mean, it's a normal universe, not a witchy one. her portraits are really intimate. she looked unconvinced. i saw a fat little mass-market copy of jonathan strange & mr norrell. maybe she was up for some magic? this one takes kind of a while to get into, but it's wonderful. it's about these 19th-century magicians, and... her eyes went a bit dull. no 19th-century magicians. how are you on vampire apocalypses? (i'd spotted justin cronin's the passage.**) this guy is usually very highbrow, but his little daughter asked him to write a story about a girl who saves the world, and so— nothin'. i scanned desperately for some raymond chandler, but a few frazzled agatha christies were consoling each other up in the otherwise-empty early Cs; no luck. so there are some things to think about, anyway. if i were you, i'd get the tana french. she thanked me profusely and wandered around the store for another half hour or so; she then bought something on her way out, but i couldn't see what it was and forgot to ask my friend at the register what she'd purchased. god, i hope it wasn't paula hawkins.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 why do people wear huge backpacks in crowded places?
02 what one fantasy/sci-fi/horror or crime/thriller novel would you hand to someone who hadn't read a book for the last five years?
03 have you seen the jonathan strange & mr norrell bbc series? how is it?
04 if you're a susanna clarke fan, have you also read the ladies of grace adieu, her collection of short stories? what did you think?

*when my manager at borders (summer job between junior and senior year of college, i salute you) asked me to write a long book recommendation for something he'd order by the dozen, i inflicted infinite jest on him (and mission viejo); i wish i could say i regret it, but here we are.

**i have serious issues with cronin's trilogy, but i'm a big enough person to acknowledge that a lot of people thought it was a lot of fun.


over the last few weeks, i've spent a surprising amount of time fixated on chapecoense, the cinderella-story brazilian soccer team (in 2009, they were playing in the fourth-tier league) whose wildly improbable rise to the finals of the copa sudamericana—the second most prestigious club football competition in south america—was cut short when the team's plane crashed in colombia en route to their game in medellín, killing the coaching staff and 19 of the team's 22 players. i hadn't even heard of them until news began to spread about the community's response: atlético national, the other team that was to play in the finals, asked conmebol, the organization in charge of the tournament, to declare chapecoense the champions. clubs requested that chapecoense be exempt from relegation (when the lowest-ranking teams in a series are downgraded to a lower series) for three years, and offered to loan them players. (“It is a minimum gesture of solidarity that is at our disposal at the moment, but endowed with the sincere objective of reconstruction of this institution and the Brazilian football that was lost today. #ForçaChape”). danilo, the 25-year-old goalkeeper who was one of the team's three initial survivors (and died a few moments after speaking to his wife from the hospital), was named brazil's player of the year today; his mother accepted the award.

my relationship with sports is complicated. i played soccer for about ten years and was a referee for a bit; everyone played in southern california in the '90s. the u.s. world cup team's permanent training site was a ten-minute drive from our house, and my high school coach was married to marcelo balboa (which she never let us forget). i wasn't especially good, though, and i hated the fact that my parents would drop everything for my sisters' far-flung tournaments but couldn't seem to be bothered to come to my (cough) debate conferences. (my sisters were also both sorority girls, but that's a story for another time.) despite the fact that i was clumsy and deeply slow, though, soccer was weirdly empowering; i still remember the time i almost broke a guy's leg in a scrimmage with something like pride. my first serious boyfriend decided i was the one for him after watching me play. i lost my shit along with everyone else when brandi chastain whipped her jersey off at the '99 world cup, and i found my third or fourth wind in the last mile of my first half marathon when someone beside me started chanting "i believe that we will win." (sorry, team, but it's tim howard's now.) i can take or leave pro sports, but soccer chokes me up—complicated songs that grown men sing like hymns at the top of their lungs, the gentlemanly coaches in suits, the little boys and girls who escort the players to the field. people go to war over the beautiful game, they throw each other over bridges, they award titles to a foundering team. it's not for me to say whether a basketball, baseball, or american football league would do something like that for colleagues in similar circumstances, but it heartens me that neto, the surviving player who woke from a coma just yesterday and asked who won the finals, will learn that he is a champion.


when i was in elementary school, i forbade my mother to pack sandwiches in my lunch. what was wrong with me?

flawless vegetarian sandwich, i: the scuttlebutt (saltie, williamsburg). hard-boiled egg + feta + black olives + capers + pickles + pimenton aioli. a few years ago, joe was in the neighborhood to help open a new firehouse and snagged a scuttlebutt on the way back to his desk in long island city; when he finally got to eat his lunch, he said, "i had to take a moment." (this food-related awe has since been titled "the cheese pause," after a heart-stopping snack we had on a rooftop in madrid.) we got several scuttlebutts a few months later when my sister and brother-in-law were in town, and one of them seems to have made my sister violently ill; we spent a tense night watching behind the candelabra on our pushed-together sofas, jo getting up every fifteen minutes or so to vomit with gusto and our other sister remarking every now and then on steve. "he's just so good-looking." there's no stopping the scuttlebutt, is my point. we love it still.

flawless vegetarian sandwich, ii: ippudo vegetable buns (ippudo, east village). steamed bun + deep-fried eggplant and eringi mushrooms + spicy sauce + kewpie mayo + iceberg lettuce. do steamed buns count as sandwiches? i say they do, and i feel so strongly about them that "hirata bun" is a term of endearment for my husband and my cats. an ippudo run has followed so many of my half-marathons and 10Ks at this point that i associate climbing stairs and feeling my hamstrings twinge with pillowy, crunchy, spicy little street sandwiches. one of these days i'm going to skip ramen entirely and order three pairs of them as my whole dinner, and i won't be sorry.

flawless vegetarian sandwich, iii: the broccoli classic (no. 7 sub at the ace hotel, midtown west). whole-grain italian hero + roasted broccoli + lychee muchim + feta + fried shallots + mayo. when i stumbled back into our apartment after that overnight relay trail race i camped in new jersey to run, wild-haired, wobbly-kneed and stinking of bonfire, joe asked me what i wanted to eat. A SANDWICH, i said, I NEED A BIG SANDWICH. he called up no. 7's menu on some delivery website and read the options aloud to me; i figured the roasted broccoli was something special, given how improbable it sounded as a sandwich's star, and demanded one. filthy-camping-related hunger is the best sauce, of course, but holy shit was that a good sandwich. the broccoli is crunchy, the brine in the lychee munchin forms a bratty, sour clique with the feta, and the mayonnaise mellows everyone out at the end; i want to learn to make this sandwich myself, but i would have to run twice as hard as i do now if i hoped to continue to fit into my pants. could be worth it.

out-of-town flawless vegetarian sandwich: the cleopatra (gourmands neighborhood pub, austin). this bad boy i can and do re-create on a regular basis, pants be damned; we spent like three days in austin on our road trip last summer and i ate this sandwich at least twice. it's an elegant demonstration of the principle that almost any salad will shine if you stick it between a couple of pieces of quality bread. like so:

toasted seven-grain bread +
mayonnaise +
granulated garlic +
fresh ground pepper +
sea salt +
sliced black olives +
julienned roasted poblanos* +
chopped artichoke hearts** +
bean sprouts +
sliced monterey jack +
sliced avocado +
mandolined persian cucumber +
sea salt +
fresh ground pepper +
granulated garlic +
mayonnaise +
toasted seven-grain bread

it sounds like a pain in the ass, friends, but it will change you.

*(rub with oil, place on a baking sheet, and roast at 425 for 45 minutes, until blackened on all sides; cover until cool, then remove skin and seeds)

**(we like artihearts, available near the fresh mushrooms and herbs at nyc-area whole foods)



berliner dom (cathedral, mitte). climb to the top of the dome for a 360-degree bird's-eye view of the city; pause on the way up to take a seat and listen to early-evening choral selections; be sure to get down to the crypt for some outstanding sarcophagi. the dom is the best thing on museum island, and there are a lot of excellent things on museum island (which is a UNESCO world heritage site).

the bird express (restaurant, mitte). you will need cheese fries after climbing all the way to the top of berliner dom; get them a few blocks away at the bird express (a barbecue joint helmed by an expat from staten island and his angelic german shepherd, charlie, who sits patiently underneath a wall-mounted painting of a german shepherd [no relation]). ask for all of the fixings, including three kinds of house-made hot sauces; use them liberally, then congratulate yourself for conjuring english-kebab-van-style chips and cheese in germany.

chapel (bar, friedrichshain). we just learned that odd, the delightful norwegian bartender who made impeccable drink after impeccable drink and performed magic tricks with barware for us after i remarked on how he'd name-checked tommy's on his menu, will be returning to oslo in the new year; that said, the bar he leaves behind is a wonderful one. i sincerely hope he's training his replacement.

dunmore cave (bar, kreuzberg). upon learning that we'd be in germany for a week, our friend edwin—a member of joe's darts team at our local when we lived in hell's kitchen—announced that he would meet us there to play darts. he actually did (dive bar friendships, i salute you), and after a dirndlful dinner at hofbräu münchen in alexanderplatz, we set off in search of a darts bar (odd told us a few nights earlier that they were plentiful and everywhere). boards are everywhere, or are at least easy to find, but most of them are electronic, alas. the glorious exception to that rule, on landwehr canal, is dunmore cave, a well-established, mostly-locals scottish bar with two boards in their own room. we got some gentle heckling from the germans beside us ("ah, phil taylor!"). it was just what we wanted.

eiszeit kino (cinema, kreuzberg). i have felt strongly about movie theaters in foreign countries since we saw snakes on a plane at a quiet theater in belfast on our honeymoon. berlin happened to be hosting a short film festival (more on that in part II) while we were in town, and the sci-fi program was showing at a local indie theater not too far from our hotel. we talked american-youth movies with the young french photographer behind the bar (we recommended heaven knows what, she and joe were both shocked that i had never seen kids, we all liked american honey), she disparaged instagram, and we took a couple of complicated german beers into our space movies. eiszeit kino (lineups chalked on the wall, homemade cake at concessions, international indie programming) feels like sunshine's german cousin, and i loved it.

gute falafel (restaurant, kreuzberg). naming your restaurant "gute falafel" is like naming your bar band "happy hour," and while i have an intense sensory memory of the world-altering wrap i ordered three times in my six days in berlin and can picture the storefront's location, i cannot use the internet to send you there. it's sort of across a half-plaza from angry fried chicken ("so so angry!")? it's kind of near oranienstraße? that wrap's pickled veggies and mysterious sauces (there was a slight mango situation, and a note of...mayonnaise?) are the most effective falafel-support team i've ever met. i pine for you, team gute.


i wasn't planning on getting a tattoo on our trip abroad this year; i'm running out of space for them, as i prefer to get them along my spine and i don't seem to be getting any taller, and berlin didn't feel exotic enough (ha). i then learned, via one of the david-bowie-in-berlin books i bought a month before we left, that bowie's old building in schöneberg (in which he lived from 1976-1978) boasts not one but two tattoo studios; well, hell. maybe it was time for a GIANT ARTY BARN OWL across the top of my back?

my foreign-tattoo m.o. is pretty complicated: i tend to reach out to the artist or studio i have in mind long before we leave new york, and we become penpals over the course of a few months. i drop by to say hello and chat when we first get into town, a few days before my appointment, and then get whatever lagoon-soaking or intense bathing i'd planned out of the way; then it's tattoo time. this was going to be different, as i hadn't yet settled on a specific design and we were about to leave; the black-metal guys at Studio 1 a) sounded like they weren't interested in any work but their own, which is completely understandable but probably wasn't going to work for me, given time constraints, b) were only in the building by appointment, c) had portfolios with a lot of burning nordic churches in them, which was more than a little intense, and d) seemed like they were into some less-than-egalitarian erotic art featuring ladies? one of Studio 1's artists was in new york the week before we went to berlin and i could have looked him up, but he didn't seem like the guy for me. i didn't even know Studio 2 existed, in turn, until i saw a line on Studio 1's webpage about how people should not go there. its website was pretty generic, but i've learned that plenty of lovely people have a hard time getting their digital shit together (cough). the more i read of bowie's adventures in berlin with iggy pop, brian eno, and tony visconti, the more convinced i became that i needed to embrace their spirit of collaboration and improvisation. some friends of mine got black star tattoos after bowie's death back in january, and the simplicity of that appealed to me. i could fit it below my lowest tattoo, the gothic cross i got in california right after turning 18; it was simple enough to hand over to a stranger on the spot. i decided that we'd stop in at Studio 2 after paying our respects at the apartment, and if i got a good feeling about it, well.

Studio 2 was easy to find, as it was 10 feet away from the candles and silk flowers at bowie's door. a genial french bulldog snarfled up to us, and his person apologized for him from down the hall. sprechen sie englisch? "a bit," he said, and i pulled the rumpled little image out from the bottom of my wallet.


missing from yesterday's indispensable things list because it seems that it might not exist:* the mountain-print hooded onesie i purchased for something like twelve dollars at american eagle's soho store a few holiday seasons ago. i spent most of said holiday season trying to convince my husband, sister, and brother-in-law that they all needed onesies to match mine; i managed to precipitate the purchase of one more, but all three of them have agreed in the intervening years that i was/am always right.

it is much cheaper to fly from new york to milan than it is to fly from new york to berlin, for milan is a stopover between here and dubai; emirates will take us there and back for around $500 if we time our travel carefully, and so we do. berlin was where we wanted to spend a week this fall, however, which necessitated a train trip through the alps from italy to germany. it had been so very long since i solved a murder on an overnight train ride! (i had never been on an overnight train ride.) i booked our tickets after languorous electronic waltzes with trenitalia (for the gorgeous daytime journey from milan to zurich) and deutsche bahn (for the sleeper car from zurich to berlin), then had settled in for a really protracted search for the perfect elegant-crime-fighting-between-zurich-and-berlin-in-the-dead-of-night pajamas—i'd fired up a pinterest board and everything—when i realized that i already had what i needed.** alors, i wore my mountain-print onesie to tuck into stinky italian cheese with a knife i nicked at milano centrale, to sing along with "purple rain" in our cabin's dim blue light, to smoke on the platform at midnight in some little german village. i think agatha christie would have approved.

*i mean, it exists—i'm wearing it as i write this—but the internet says otherwise, which is both mildly disturbing and kind of comforting; machines should forget things, too.

**also i don't wear silk, which takes a lot of the fun out of looking for exotic sleepwear.


the dirty dozen {twelve indispensable things}

(nb: i have no financial interest in anything on this list, and none of these links are monetized. consider this comparing notes on consumption.)

01 nuun nutrient-enhanced drink tabs. my friend dave dissolved one of his nuun tablets in a glass of water for me the night before we ran the lake placid half marathon, and we definitely heard a bear when we were sitting out on the porch, so i'm pretty sure the vita-drinks saved us. nuun was free at the relay race we ran a week or two later in new jersey, and i consumed it like it was my job; while other teams saw bears, all of my legs were uneventful. nuun: is tasty and good for you, probably repels bears.*

02 lush lord of misrule shower cream. i buy a couple of big bottles of this stuff each halloween and hoard it for bubble baths all year long. turns water witch-green, smells like glamorous evil (anise and peppercorns, with a hint of vanilla and a soupçon of ironic patchouli).

03 baggu duck bag. i have carried one of these in leopard print every day** for the past six months. it fits everything (and has a little interior pocket for metrocards and plastic animals). speaking of,

04 schleich animal figurines. lee's (RIP), the wonderful art shop next door to my first magazine-lady office, kept me out of trouble when i was waiting for copy, supplied me with materials for eight jillion projects, produced our wedding invitations, and had a fantastic children's section full of marvelously detailed little german animals, which is why i've been carrying creatures around for the last decade and change. schleich has a horse club (and a horse advent calendar). they make six different elephant figurines. they are the shit.

05 burt's bees red dahlia tinted lip balm. i can apply it all day and not look like a maniac if i use way too much, and it works whether my hair is red, pink, or malfoy-blonde. smells good, too.

06 burt's bees pink grapefruit facial cleansing towelettes. you can bring them in carry-on luggage, and they're great for swiping bleach and dye away from your skin. not sure how this became about my hair, or about burt's bees (but on the latter, at least, they have solid sustainability goals, they source responsibly, and they don't test their products on animals; i appreciate all of that).

07 the new york times daily crossword app. my crossword subscription is not cheap; i suspect, in fact, that i pay more for it than we do for our digital subscription to the paper. that said, it keeps track of solve times far more accurately than our microwave did and plays a delightfully old-farty piano riff when one finishes a puzzle.

08 sturgill simpson, a sailor's guide to earth. our friends lesley and cody's son was born this summer; we made them a shepherd's pie, per their request, and i've been trying to figure out what else i want to bring over. i realized a few weeks ago that i need to bring them this record (framed as a sailor's letter home to his wife and son; simpson's own son was born two summers ago). joe and i have been sturgill simpson fans—pretty rabid, in joe's case—for a few years now, and after watching him blow the roof off of kings theatre in brooklyn this october, i'm getting there as well. if you don't know him yet, ease yourself in with his cover of when in rome's "the promise;" if you're prepared to take a flyer on some alt-alt-country, do.

09 minicyn sterling silver faceted stud earrings. these studs have spent more time in the field than any other fripperies i've owned, and given how long i had a barbell in my face and a ring in my navel, that's saying something. handmade, ethically-sourced, ultra-simple jewelry: i guess paris can get a thing or two right after all.

10 we are handsome sports bras. i acquired a t-back betta-print bra via a flash sale a few months ago and have ordered two more in the interim; they are so fierce, so no-nonsense, so unlikely to go to pieces in the laundry (looking at you and your weird pads, under armour). fitness gear can be stylish or functional or inexpensive, but it is so rarely all three; we are handsome (on sale), i salute you. (i'd happily pay full price for their stuff at this point, to be honest, particularly in the big-cat prints.)

11 s'well stainless steel bottles. the bottles' mouths are large enough to clean without drama and the finish, at least on my 'teakwood' version, is durable enough that i regularly ignore the no-dishwasher instructions (shh); the company supports UNICEF and american forests, and the 17-oz size is perfect for throwing in a backpack.

12 barkthins dark chocolate pretzel with sea salt snacking chocolate. "snacking chocolate" is a clunky term, but it actually makes sense in this case; i keep a single-serving pouch of this stuff at the bottom of most of my bags for when i forget to eat and discover that i want to, say, tear my fellow volunteers limb from limb. i consider fair trade, non-GMO chocolate superior to the candy bars i used to buy from the vending machine at my office (those "snickers really satisfies" commercials did a number on my subconscious back in the day, apparently).

*that said, i'd like to see bears.

**unless i'm wearing a leopard-print shirt; i'm not a monster.


my friend melissa invited me to something called church of the infinite you, held in the basement beneath union hall (a park slope bar with bocce courts and a fireplace), this past sunday. she'd heard about it from john hodgman. "nondenominational," the tag line read, "...only motivational." "we invite you to SAVE YOURSELF." i was reminded of an oxford house party i attended with a couple of friends that turned out to be some sort of cult recruitment meeting; it took us nearly an hour to leave once we figured out what was going on, as their plan to ensnare us involved hiding our shoes. this was more of an uplifting variety show about the importance of self-care, helmed by jean grae, a hip hop artist, writer, actress, and ferociously charismatic person. she told a story about going to puerto rico and shopping and cooking dinner for an old woman in a bikini who was probably dead; she led a surprisingly effective guided meditation (i have an extremely low tolerance for guided meditations, which tend to make me feel like the little prince) accompanied by a guy playing radiohead's "everything in its right place" on the keyboard. after talking about reports that a muslim woman was attacked on the subway (and that no one helped her), she chatted with the most athletic member of her choir about her women and trans kickboxing class, how it had gone from like six people before the election to about 35 now, and how you should hit people in the eyes, kidneys, and crotch with your elbows and knees, not your fists. it sounded like someone in the row behind us was crying pretty hard. and let the church say FUCK YEAH, she bade us. melissa and i agreed that we'd come back for the next session in two weeks, and that we'd try to find a krav maga class together.


fantastic movie theaters and where to find them {in new york city}

the venue: nitehawk cinema, williamsburg
the perk: everything. nitehawk is our favorite theater, and we've been there at least once a month for the past few years. a few doors down on metropolitan, skinny dennis serves up free hot peanuts, honky tonk, and spiked frozen coffee; it's the perfect place to meet before a movie. nitehawk's house popcorn (made with citric salt and truffle butter) is delectable, its pre-show content is clever, its drinks are reasonably priced, and its indie programming is consistently on point. you can't reserve seats and need to line up at least 45 minutes before your program starts if you want to be sure you won't be in the front row, but since you can bring a drink in line and the house opens for seating and orders 30 minutes before showtime, that's not really a problem.

the venue: alamo drafthouse, downtown brooklyn
the perk: assigned seats and decent table service. the location is new and alamo's servers are still getting their feet under them, so they aren't especially quick about picking up food and drink orders and keeping them straight, but i imagine that'll change. house of wax, the lobby bar, is alamo's version of philly's mütter museum, which is both cool and kind of unnerving. its layout is a little tricky, but that too might change in a few months (i hope). like nitehawk's, alamo's pre-show content is fun.

the venue: metrograph, lower east side
the perk: sex appeal. this is the kind of place you bring a first date to see a newly-restored version of, like, voyage dans la lune. the snack stand sells scorchingly-expensive but charming refreshments (think cold-pressed juice, artisanal sodas, turn-of-the-century candy, and champagne gumdrops), and the bookstore and restaurant upstairs (modeled after an old-hollywood commissary for studio employees) from the theaters are both gorgeous. metrograph's tickets guarantee specific seats, like alamo's, but their film offerings are quirkier (we saw little sister, a melancholy comedy about an ex-goth nun with a killer soundtrack).

the venue: ipic, fulton market
the perk: seriously decadent seats. a premium plus ticket is no bargain—with a mysterious "VIP fee," each one rings in at $28—but for that price you get a leather recliner with a pillow and a blanket, as well as tableside service and unlimited popcorn. a cozy pod of two chaise lounges, in turn, is $16 per person, but you have to pack your concessions in from the lobby like a commoner. we went for premium plus on our first visit, but i think i'd swap over to a pod if we go back; ipic's servers don't quite have their game together, and ours kept sneaking up behind our lounges and bugging us when we didn't need him (fine at a restaurant, annoying when you're trying to watch a movie). he also called me "my love," which would be awkward coming from my date, even.

the venue: sunshine cinema, lower east side
the perk: humble excellence. though it's part of a 56-theater group, sunshine feels like a one-off in the best way: the 1898 building is beautiful, the munchies are local and quirky, the films are consistently high- and middlebrow arthouse (in my mostly-civilian opinion, sunshine's screens are significantly larger than those at other nyc theaters with similar lineups). i rubbed shoulders with many of the staffers when i volunteered at the lower east side film festival at sunshine this spring, and they were universally delightful. a ticket stub knocks down the price of one of the eighty jillion craft beers at fools gold next door on houston, at least until the theater is shuttered and turned into condominiums (which neighborhood blogs have been howling about every other month for the last few years). get there before it is.


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

Suspicious person/circumstances. 7:18 a.m. The caller said he saw two people possibly create a false ID while sitting at a table inside McDonald’s.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 2:55 p.m. The caller reported a 13-year-old boy in front of 7-Eleven who asked the caller for $2.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:05 a.m. The caller reported a man who was cleaning mailboxes in the neighborhood and is now sitting against someone’s garage door.
Disturbance. 6:30 p.m. The caller reported a drunken man making customers uncomfortable by throwing money at them, sitting at different tables, and telling them he’s sponsored by Vans.
Disturbance. 6:25 p.m. The caller reported hearing a loud obscene radio show from a neighbor’s house.
Disturbance. 10:43 p.m. The caller reported an argument with a friend.
Disturbance. 3:06 a.m. The caller said one of her sons hit the other son in the face.
Disturbance. 1:06 p.m. The caller said she had been cleaning all night and her husband was not helping her and then her daughters trashed the house.
Welfare check. 9:47 a.m. The caller asked for a check on her daughter who was sending suspicious text messages that don’t make sense.
Suspicious person in a vehicle. 2:53 a.m. The caller reported two people on motorcycles looking into mailboxes on the street.
Missing juvenile. 9:20 a.m. The caller reported 17-year-old son who didn’t return home after a family discussion.

*previous installment here.


at robina town centre in queensland, a christmas tree made of pelicans.

at the australian reptile park in sydney,
George, a common wombat, was found at just four months old after his mother was hit by a car in Scone, in the Hunter Region of New South Wales.

"A passer-by stopped and pouch-checked* his mum and George was in there," [keeper] Renee Gomez [said].
george's home is the only zoo in australia with a spider and snake venom-milking program, by the by.

from animals australia (a group working to end factory farming and cruelty to animals), plush creatures and symbolic adoption certificates. surely a few can make it to the states in time to meet my nephews and niece for the holidays (the chook, the chook!). if plush creatures aren't your thing, they also sell cruelty-free chocolate and macadamia nuts.

*from the wombat protection society of australia's accident & emergency wombat first aid page: "Wombat joeys can live for many days in their mother’s pouches after the female is killed. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with a wombat it is unlikely that the adult will survive but it is very likely that the joey will." the page features detailed instructions on everything from what to do if you see a wombat at the edge of the road to how to alert the proper authorities to and/or provide care for injured wombats and orphaned joeys.


i have half of a set of scrubs. i have a scrub? i have scrub pants; i found them on the giveaway table when i worked at ye olde ladymag, where i imagine the photo department abandoned them after a shoot for a health story. they floated around in our closet until i started volunteering at the bird hospital; i showed up in street clothes for exactly one shift, was shat and puked upon with gusto, and remembered them. sort-of-hoarding is the best! i wear them with old crew tees from the tribeca film festival, a pairing so automatic at this point that i'm always surprised when people want to talk movies with me in the underground treatment room. i also tend to forget that my scrubs aren't volunteer-colored (staffers and rehabbers wear navy, while most volunteers wear shared sets of lime green scrubs or their own clothes; my pants are royal blue, neither here nor there) and jump each time newbies introduce themselves and ask me for tasks. A, a staffer i've now known for a few years, asked me if i needed another volunteer's help as i tube-fed pigeons yesterday afternoon. no, i said, i was cool with doing it on my own, but thank you. would i be okay with help, though? she wanted to give the new guy a job. sure, i said, he could weigh my pigeons. i will admit i made it through the BIDs and SIDs faster with his help.

an hour or two later, i held a fat little red hen as A unwrapped her for a bandage change. she wriggled as we poked at her bumble foot; "hold her like a baby," A instructed. "she'll calm down, sort of like sharks do."* i had to think about that for a minute; ah yes, in the crook of my arm, on her back. "i think i've held more chickens than babies," i said.

scrubs are the best, is my point, though i would never wear them anywhere other than at the bird hospital, nor would i turn them inside out and wear them a second time before washing them, even though they have a butt pocket on the inside, too; i know where those scrubs have been. when i arrived for yesterday's shift in a marinière and jeans, a vet and a staffer were installing shelves in the bathroom (which doubles as the changing room). i ended up turning away from columbus avenue and ducking into my tribeca tee under the picture window of our second storefront, still under construction, and wriggling into my scrubs on the floor when foot traffic on the sidewalk thinned for a moment (i tried not to meet anyone's eyes). it was worth it. i love those pants.

*my friend phil just finished a two-year stint working with sharks in the bahamas; one of his fellow dive pros was so good at inducing tonic immobility that he could balance sharks' snouts on his own face.


vegetarian soup, i: giada de laurentiis's winter minestrone. [use 1 tbsp butter instead of pancetta and vegetable broth in place of beef broth; add a rough-chopped italian field roast sausage in the last 10 minutes or so.] this is one of our favorite cold-weather bowls; the flavor builds beautifully via the rosemary sprigs and parmesan rind (any hard cheese rind will do, i've found), and using a pile of chard always makes me feel like a responsible adult. reheats like a charm, pairs well with a crusty loaf of bread.

vegetarian soup, ii: ina garten's roast potato leek soup. [use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock.] the barefoot contessa gives no fucks; i think i actually gained weight while preparing this soup, to say nothing of eating it, and both she and i knew it. she had a chef's table at the hearst cafeteria when i worked in the building, and she turned up for it in what was more or less a very fancy pair of black velvet pajamas. i did not deglaze my baking pan on the stove after roasting the potatoes and leeks, as i'd used a foil liner (rookie) and didn't want to make an even bigger mess. the flavor was still deep and luxurious; the glug of white wine and pile of parmesan you whisk in right before serving perfect it. i'd serve this as a non-holiday holiday meal - say, stealth-fancy dinner for incoming guests three days before christmas.

vegetarian soup, iii: red lentil dal with coconut milk and kale. [use vegetable stock or broth in place of chicken stock or broth.] this soup's lively debut convinced joe and me that we had a new favorite dish; the second iteration was so overpoweringly onion-y that even i ended up abandoning it. know, then, that if you can keep an eye on your alliums, a gorgeous, bright dinner can be yours. we doubled the red chiles like the fire-eaters we are, and joe wasn't interested in the reserved spiced onion mixture as a topping; i, in turn, think it adds a lovely textural note. serve with, say, a light-bodied asian beer (like singha or kingfisher).

non-vegetarian money: britain's new five-pound note, made with tallow. it's not going over well.


december will be a month of odd feats, i think. i have a dozen assignments due by the 21st; i'm running my last 10K of the year on the 17th; i'm going to run at least a hundred miles by new year's eve. i'd like to read another dozen books or so, and to have a complete first draft of one of the essays for my book proposal. i'm hoping to see the floor of the closet at some point.

condé nast announced today that it will shutter self's print edition. self's fact checking team was, is known for its rigor; as a magazine research chief, i looked to their guidelines the first time my managing editor asked me to draw up instructions for contributing writers. good night, ladies.

a high school acquaintance and i snarked at each other on a mutual friend's facebook wall yesterday morning and afternoon. we were talking about trump's flag-burning tweet, in theory, but at some point he noted that he'll "no longer read or accept the NYT as a valid source until they admit they helped CLINTON cheat and terminate those who proofed stories with her campaign." o facts; o, sources. my december assignments are all for websites associated with television networks, and they are as apolitical as assignments can be; social media and ye olde book proposal get all of my spiky feelings about journalism and truth for the rest of the year.