the dirty dozen {twelve things i cherished at our all-night trail-racing extravaganza in kentucky}

what's so goddamn essential to a camping-and-running trip that it's worth shoving into a suitcase and hauling all the way to la guardia, then to an airport hotel, then to a field outside fort knox? well. (as always, none of these links generate anything other than immaterial awesomeness.)

01 tzumi pocketjuice portable chargers. i bought one of these for my first ragnar in the fall and picked up two more before we headed out to kentucky this year, and what a boss call that was on my part. they're cheap ($15-$20), small, and powerful: each one will recharge a smartphone three times.

02 coleman flatwoods II 6-person dome tent. this bad boy packed down to 8.5"x8.5"x24", which was perfect for our larger suitcase (which also fit a sleeping bag, one of our inflatable pads, and a couple of my shrink-wrapped running outfits), and it rang in at under $100, which was a relief after the tents i priced at REI (which were light and sleek but scorchingly expensive). i would by no means attempt to squish six people into a tent of this size (the footprint is 10'x10'), but it housed joe, my sister, me, and our suitcases quite handily. bonus points for the front awning. my friend rachel, an accomplished car camper, suggested we spring for a big tent; as in all things, she was right.

03 nite ize radiant 400 led lantern. i'm still a little traumatized by the spectacular mess i made of our previous lantern by neglecting to take the batteries out after we loaded it up for superstorm irene several years ago; when i pulled it out for superstorm sandy a few years later, they had foamed up like rabid beasts and killed their host. this model was smaller and a bit less expensive than its predecessor, but it was bright, and our main source of light on the communal tarp between our tents. led light isn't always the sexiest light, but when you're digging around for a headlamp and/or a can of cider, it's awfully handy. speaking of sexy lights,

04 eno twilights led string lights. i valued these at our first ragnar because stringing them between our tents kept people from wandering through our campsite en route to the port-o-lets; i also valued them at this one, especially the purple set my friend melissa gave me when we got to kentucky, because they're damn sexy (and they made it easier to find everyone after night runs). i wanted to wrap a string of these around my body.

05 adidas adilette slides. i did not bring a pair of proper recovery sandals last time around—hell, i didn't bring a pair of flip flops last time around—and was forced to stay in my muddy running shoes for several extra hours after the race ended. i told myself that if i could find an only mildly offensive pair for sale in the gear tent, i could have them; reader, i could not. this time i acquired a pair of black-on-grey slides via ebay and was happy as a clam (joe, who requested and got a pair of the adissage slides, was not as comfortable; make sure you're really into that massage-nub footbed before you commit to it). i have only anecdotal evidence that loud, patterned pairs are more effective than the striped ones, but this evidence is compelling.

06 white pumpkin. a cornell horticulturist maintains that a healthy pumpkin picked from a disease-controlled field can last eight to 12 weeks; dottie in charlotte, in turn, told her gardenweb.com forum buddies back in october of '08 that she still had a white pumpkin purchased in '07. the one i acquired and brought to wawayanda lake was still going strong on a melamine plate in our foyer as i packed for kentucky, so i took it along, of course. after the race i kissed it goodbye and left it in the woods beyond the edge of our campsite; if a herd of feral pumpkins begins performing miracles across northern kentucky in a few months' time, you're welcome.

07 the believer, november/december 2007. when the believer and its cover art featuring 18 temporary tattoos (including a small bat with a POWER OF ATTORNEY motto and a portrait of ai weiwei in pigtails) turned up at ye olde charity bookstore, i knew it had to be mine (and my team's). ten-year-old temporary tattoos don't age nearly as gracefully as yearling white pumpkins do, and the gas can (BE MY CO-DEFENDANT) i applied to my neck looked rather like an unfortunate sun incident after a few hours, but it inspired me to apply one of the ragnar tattoos included in our welcome packet, and that was properly lurid. joe made me scrub it off at our airbnb on sunday. "you look like a gang member."

08 kossar's assorted rugelach. (see also: kossar's mini black and white cookies and babka.) kossar's is the oldest operating bialy bakery in the united states (since 1936), and it's been making grand street fatter since 1960. bialys don't travel especially well, but the aforementioned desserts just love the road; i pick them up en route to the airport, as should anyone who visits new york city, really.

09 ticla camp hero tarp/blanket. what sort of douchebag pays $50 or more for a stripey hipster tarp/blanket? this kind, though mine was part of the goodie bag from a fancy camping press event at the ace hotel a few years ago (yeah, yeah). ticla (whose "don't camp ugly" slogan moved me, i'll admit it) folded more than a year ago, but its pretty gear is worth stalking on ebay (i'm kind of tempted to pull the trigger on that link myself, truth be told). the tarp in question has been a solid teammate at picnics, the beach, and campsites, and it handles machine washing and drying like a pro. it also makes a great cape, obviously. blue plastic tarps are fine, but the camp hero is, well, you know.

10 REI evrgrn lowboy lantern. like the camp hero, the delightfully squishy evrgrn lowboy (its cover is made of silicone, and i make everyone at my campsite touch it) has gone the way of the giant banana; that said, i love you and i want you to know how important it is to cherish any evrgrn products and/or kawaii lanterns that might cross your path one day. maybe your local REI has a bunch of dead stock, who knows?

11 cidergeist bubbles rosé cider. a beer after a long run is nice. a cider after a long run is poetry.

12 s'well 17-oz insulated stainless steel bottle. who knew my trusty gym-hydration buddy could keep communal coffee hot for 12 hours? sarah kauss (who happens to head the fastest-growing woman-owned company in the country), that's who. triples as an excellent way to spirit pre-mixed aviations into central park for an evening of shakespeare.


the longest, darkest leg of my kentucky relay race started out quite nicely. i received the team bib from my college roommate at around two in the morning, barreled through a grove of red cedars and past an abandoned shack with a NIGHTMARE FOREST banner, and felt my lungs opening up to the blackness in a way they'd refused to do for my early-evening leg on the bluffs above the ohio river. then, around mile two or so, a second dinner: my left toe caught a root and i went down, hard, on my left hand and right knee (diminutive head lamp and nearly-forty-year-old eyes, you're not always a match for technical running in the wee hours). i assured the runner who passed me as i got back up—one of just four i met on the trail—that i was fine, and he said he'd done the same thing a mile back. i shook off my surprise, stuck to a trot for the next mile or so to give my heart a bit of time to quit galloping from the pain, and imagined my beloved owls at the bird hospital. my thoughts contract at that hour in manhattan, and they tighten even more when i'm watching and listening for unexpected company in NIGHTMARE FOREST. this race lacked the otherworldly rain that made the woods in new jersey feel like the upside down, but it condensed me in a way that was incredibly reassuring; there's a moonbather for every sunbather if you know where to look (it's no accident that "tonight, tonight" makes all the ragnar village playlists). i gave the bib to my sister at half past three, limped back to our campsite, and wet-wiped away the dirt and blood i was able to see by lanternlight. our coffee was frozen over in the morning. it was fucking great.


on thursday evening the missus and i will fly out to louisville with suitcases full of tents, sleeping bags, fairy lights, and synthetic clothing. i'm doing another two-day trail relay race in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, and this time i'm the team captain? this means that we are kind of brontë-themed (we call ourselves WUTHERING HURTS, and the shirts my friends melissa, ben, and i dreamed up for us have edward gorey-ish lettering and feature cathy and heathcliff wearing head lamps), that we are all staying together in a riverside airbnb loft after the race, that i'm bringing along temporary tattoos from an old issue of the believer, and that i'm going to try to figure out how to smuggle fireworks, again. i know everyone on this team very well, and i know we'll have a marvelous time (bonfires! sleep deprivation! running in the dark!), but i'm still incandescent with nerves. i dyed my hair lavender last night in an attempt to screw my head on straight and i think it helped. i also bought an iron-on set of bear teeth to award to the runner that reaches BEAST MODE most decisively.


the chuck essay is easily the scariest part of my book-to-be. telling stories about how i try to do right by other creatures is fine, i do that all the time, but in talking about him i'm just pan without his shadow. or am i his shadow? as a little scrap of night in a shelter in san francisco he had a himness i couldn't stop watching. i spent the thirteenish years of our lives together trying to learn what he'd always known, what he extended to me so gracefully and guilelessly.

every day, my heart, and more than ever.


we drove out to the south rim of the grand canyon in my in-laws' beleaguered old grey bmw. i had lobbied for us to take two cars—i like escape hatches—but i was overruled. the radio didn't work, and the seatbelt on the left in the back was busted. my mother-in-law took that seat on the way out to the canyon and tried to take it on the way back: "i can't let you sit in that seat, girl." joe's father has called him boy for as long as i can remember, but this was new. at a pub crawl in flagstaff with his aunts a few days earlier, you're part of the family NOW!

we steered my redheaded nephew away from the canyon rim as we made our way to a stately old hotel perched just where the transplanted california condors meet the sunset and the oldest of the ancient rocks (vishnu, brahma, and rama, thank you for having us). he is not a death-hamster—he is an aerial hunter like my cats, and we understood each other once i learned to throw things in his direction and present him with small treasures—but he is a young member of my pack and i want him to get taller in the absence of cliffs.


we are on the move again, this time to arizona, where my in-laws have gone unvisited for nearly two years. we keep trying to trick them into visiting us here in new york, but they run a bar by themselves and also i think get a bit itchy when they spend too much time in the city. so we will meet them in flagstaff, in a little airbnb where we will wear pajamas and watch television and no one will have cancer (take that, mother-in-law's cancer!). joe seems deeply invested in driving us to the grand canyon, which gives me pause; i have always suspected it would activate some dormant thanatotic desire in me and i'd become a helpless death-hamster. i have informed him of this.

i decided to wear red and a feisty pin and attend my weekly shift at ye old charity bookstore yesterday, since refraining from work that benefits some of the most vulnerable women in my city seemed like a questionable interpretation of what assorted activists were promoting. i was catcalled in my redness by someone to whom it was insignificant, and while i considered informing the caller of the position i represented i decided it was more expedient to hurry to the store, where about half of the female staff was missing and our manager, a man, wore an elizabeth warren shirt. i had to sneak out after an hour or so to interview a (female) doctor for a story i filed this morning. i made no purchases and ignored joe's request for me to pick up his laundry on the way home, and here we are and the world is like new, by which i mean scuffed in ways most of us tend to ignore.


is it clear that i would have pigeons if i could have pigeons? i would have pigeons if i could have pigeons. (our little cat's interest in the handful of pigeons he's seen on our balcony has made it clear that we cannot have pigeons.) they're dreadfully smart; they have an elegance that i have come to appreciate. they have a smell that i have come to appreciate; that dander is my dander, my people. when one has spent awhile at the bird fund one refers to the patients as people; i didn't notice my transition. i have started feeling important when i break for a sandwich after a couple of hours; i slip across the street in dirty scrubs and feel that i am in the shit. (i am not in the shit.)


Another obsession that alienates some new boyfriends is making jigsaw puzzles. I will sometimes stay up all night doing them, usually when I need to clear my head and get some inspiration about something I am working on. In a brand-new relationship where the man is looking for the screaming idol to hit the heights, this is often not tolerated. I love the big 1,000-to 3,000-piece puzzles that Ravensburger makes, and by the end of a project I will have a finished one. I always pick up a couple at Galeries Lafayette when I am in Paris, and in Piazza San Marco in Venice, or at Times Square in New York.


I would say to those women plumping up their lips and cheeks, Eat more pumpkins. Healthy skin begins from the inside out. The beauty products made from aloe vera—eat them, don't slap them on yourself. We've been eating that in Jamaica since we were kids. Red wine, honey. That keeps you going. Eating the pumpkin. The melon. Don't put all this shit on your face, eat it.


GRACE's dressing rooms shall be equipped with:

Dressing Room 1:

6 Bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne
3 Bottles of French Vintage red wine (e.g. St Emilion, Medoc, Bordeaux)
3 Bottles of French Vintage white wine (e.g. Sancerre, Pouilly Fuisse)
2 Dozen Findeclare or Colchester Oysters on ice (unopened)—(Grace does her own shucking.)
2 Sashimi and Sushi platters for 8 people
6 Fresh lemons
1 Bottle of Tabasco sauce
1 Fresh fruit platter for 8 people
6 Bottles of Coca Cola
12 Bottles of still and sparkling water
12 Bottles of fresh fruit juices
Wine glasses, champagne flutes, tumblers (all glass, no plastic)
Cutlery and sharp knife
1 Oyster knife
1 Make up mirror (no neon strip lighting, only opaque white bulbs)
Fresh towels, clothes hangers, clothes rail
3-4 Bunches of flowers—prefer lilys and orchids
Sofa and arm chairs

(grace jones as told to paul morley, i'll never write my memoirs)


sean spicer and i seem to be active around the same time; i've angry-jogged at at least three of his farcical speeches this winter. or nine of them, maybe, if you account for the fact that my building's exercise room tends to blare fox news, cnn, and msnbc at the same time. such a barrage of captions! we will not watch the president address congress tonight. sometimes i feel like my attention is the only thing i can deny him that he actually values.

the dirty dozen {twelve passages from francine raymond's keeping a few ducks in your garden (2002)}

01 We seem to be imprinted in the local wild duck population's consciousness as an easy lay.
02 Next, consult your neighbours to see if they'll help with your flock while you're on holiday and are prepared to put up with the odd quack.
03 If you live in a really foxy area it's not worth the heartbreak—or the expense.
04 They seem happy, even in the most appalling conditions, but please give them as much water as possible, they love to wallow—and don't overcrowd.
05 The Domestic Fowl Trust supplies a mail order duck pond and will send out an excellent catalogue (see Directory). You could use a child's paddling pool with rigid sides as an extra temporary pond for big ducklings with a ramp to get in and out, but not an inflatable—they have quite sharp claws.*
06 Only ducks quack, drakes have a basso rasping croak.
07 Don't give them mash, because ducks turn everything into mash.
08 My army also love barley (available in mixed corn), boiled rice, brown bread** soaked in water, pasta, sweetcorn kernels, peanuts, and old cheese.
09 Ducklings grow at a spectacular rate, much faster than chicks and a hen foster mum will be horrified at the early independence and aquatic proclivities of her charges.
10 I have raised abandoned ducklings with success. I'm not sure I should recommend it, but pairs do well. Keep them in a box, warm in an old sweater under an anglepoise lamp.
11 Nowadays sadly, I harden my heart even though there is probably nothing more appealing than a tiny duckling—I'm afraid it's just too time consuming. I always had something down my jumper and found myself turning down social engagements because of my charges.
12 You can catch them in their house at night, but if you need them immediately use an angler's fish-landing net. I've had occasional success with a large bamboo cloche, but have been considered a murderer by the entire flock for at least a fortnight afterwards. Move slowly among your ducks, preferably wearing the same clothes. I've been greeted with complete horror, just because I was wearing a hat—and I thought it suited me.


**my college roommates inform me that i once sat straight up in bed, unseeing, and yelled LET ME TELL YOU, HERKING A BROWN BREAD SANDWICH IS HIGHLY OVERRATED!


winter felt long gone by the time we got home from visiting our friends in the dominican republic saturday night, even though we were both still atremble with norovirus-related chills (valentine's day, you never cease to amaze). no sign of the dirty snow we passed on the way to the airport a week ago, and i walked across the williamsburg bridge yesterday afternoon in a tee shirt. (my rodhäm tee shirt, to be precise.) today i'll be filing a piece, invoicing for january at long last, trying to coax a march schedule out of one of my assigning editors. booking flights to visit joe's parents in arizona, maybe. handing off a half-marathon joe handed off to me. probably everyone feels they aren't doing enough, that the year hasn't actually begun, that maybe sadness all the time is just a thing now.

we watched the oscar-nominated live action shorts last night. if you'd like to feel better about the world, sing (hungary) and timecode (spain) are both helpful. if you need a reminder to stay angry, there's ennemis intérieurs (france).


1: your hair is so dark!
2: i know, i decided to let it go.
1: it looks great!
2: i was going kind of lori petty, you know?
1: orange is the new black lori petty would be no good. tank girl lori petty would be pretty great, though.
2: a league of their own lori petty did it all.


it turned out that michael w. fox's latest "animal doctor" column in the washington post's home and garden section was the perfect thing to read as i drank my coffee before the women's march in DC. readers wrote in about their dogs.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I was very surprised to see your mention in a recent column of fragrant scent spots on dogs.
I have a 5-year-old miniature black-and-tan dachshund, and several years ago, my kids and I discovered a spot on her that we later came to describe as her "sweet spot." It is on her breastbone, and I can only describe it as a very subtle flowery smell, but I can't put a flower name to it.

Dear Dr. Fox:
We rescued a blue brindle greyhound. She smelled like baby powder until the day she passed. There didn't seem to be any particular area on her body from which the smell emanated, but we loved to stick our noses in her soft, silky fur and breathe in her scent. Of course, the noseful of hair was a drawback. Subsequent greyhounds have been scentless.


Dear Dr. Fox:
I currently have a shelter-adopted mutt mother dog, Sunnie, and her son, Danny, who smells like brown sugar. He is now 7, and the smell is a bit fainter, but it is still there, mainly along his neck and also a bit on his chest.
No matter how long we go between baths, he never smells doggy. His mama smells feral. Not doggy—feral. She has a faint musky odor; your nose has to be in her fur to notice it, but it's there. Too long between baths, and she will feel a bit oily. And, yes, they do have popcorn-smelling feet, too. My 12th birthday gift (oh so many decades ago) was Sandy, a basenji, and her stomach smelled like rosewater and her feet like popcorn.


per our cross-country instructions to one another, joe packed my thrifted balenciaga for my grandmother's funeral and i bought him two pairs of extra-soft power rangers boxer shorts.