09.04.20

i snuck a photo of a fabulous tagged van as i was scrambling to meet E in a hard-to-reach corner of brooklyn this afternoon, and joe snuck a photo of the moon caught in the williamsburg bridge as i butchered an avocado this evening; balance is satisfying. here they are in my phone, punctuating shots of the cats slinking into the hall to huff the elevator.

i would like to say that i blundered through the navy yard as gracefully as steve and matty intimidated the neighbors' welcome mat, but i've left manhattan just four times since the spring and am no longer accustomed to interiors in which i shouldn't be naked. E and i talked about traveling in the After Times - we met in tasmania in january - and lifted our mouth-drapes at each other re: how very few people would get how our work has changed. it was strange a year ago; now it's unimaginable, from where i'm sitting, though some of our mutual friends continue to happy-talk about meeting in, like, istanbul next year. she's planning to go for an MFA this fall, and i have saurian memories of the essays i pitched before i decided to bank coals and say yes to a season of simple carbs.

i confessed to E that i think i just read a dozen books by women, no breaks for dudes, for the first time since i was a tween. that wasn't especially intentional, but i do notice that my reading list is evolving: prior to this spring i grabbed anything that caught my eye, a not-insubstantial portion of my reads came from my used bookstore volunteer gig, hey, it's all easy and usually cheap. now literary social media is my weekly booster shot; i feel like a baby grad, an ickle neonate in a mortarboard. am i better?

08.31.20

it's ten before midnight and one of my twentysomething neighbors is running laps along the paved path in our garden, arms bent and tucked, gait jittery, which can only mean one thing: he's trying not to turn into a werewolf. i should have stopped him, as i'm sympathetic: the corn moon and his increased power and impulses to prowl and howl are seasonal and beyond his control. (better the lower east side than the moon.)

growing claws is wild, no? first the toe boxes of your shoes constrain you, then you start scissoring your sheets in the middle of the night, and all of a sudden you're shattered in the moonlight, dumb and hungry and awake to the fact that you might need to be an animal for the first time in your life.

one of my dearest friends grabbed me on election day in 2016: we are the people who run into the fire. he was wrong, and we have been so complacent, but i have broken for lycanthropy.

08.24.20

one of my favorite new york cities is the one that scrapes across my scalp when i wander out on our balcony in the dodgy moments of the almost-morning. when we first looked at this apartment i worried that i would sleepwalk out and over the railing, or that our cats would follow a pigeon out past those unforgiving 18 stories; it hasn't been a problem. i also had no concept of what i would feel when i watched a tugboat pushing a barge full of landfill unzip the east river late at night. it is the nissan hour; no one, or almost no one, is out for a reason they'd choose. (while i wish i could wish nissan drivers well, they're scoundrels.) the little cat whips his tail like a flag — at last, we're active at the same time! — and i pick him up and show him a plant he can't eat.

i sort-of volunteered to watch the republican national convention this week and to suggest, and contextualize, moments a friend might watch with her boys, Just To Be Fair. i had a story that ended up taking all day to file, so i've been catching up via twitter, which has been about as useful as one would expect. the story is probably not life-changing, but the people i met to write the story are dead serious; it's taken me three weeks both to corral their permissions and to do them justice.

friends have been sending me links to both jerry seinfeld's response to the idea that new york is dead and bats filmed upside down that look like a goth club, which means that i am lucky to have friends who get me (while jerry seinfeld's new york is not my new york, i appreciate upper-west-side-on-upper-west-side violence, and two LPs from the band scoring that youtube clip were en route to us; i feel seen). i have a week or so before i have to file anything else, so i am going to launch into my backlog of books like an old-timey circus performer swan diving into a teacup. one of my editors notes that her budget for the rest of the year is due soon, and that all thoughts i might have for her between now and january should roll in before thursday. no problem! and: shit's gonna get so weird.

08.20.20

my little sister and her family have a fist-sized turtle named taco, a little creature that came into my brother-in-law's life when he was a boy. he is not the most exciting pet, and they have not-joked since before my nephew was born that they would present him to their children one day as a new addition: "oh hey, theo, look, you have a turtle to take care of now!" taco is famously introverted, but he came out of his hollowed-out log in their guest room in los angeles to perform a clackety dance in the wee hours of the morning when same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015. same, taco, i thought.

her family left their home in santa cruz when they lost power this weekend, and they learned they couldn't go back to it the other night when wildfires emptied the neighborhood. she and her husband and kids are safe, thank goodness, and a neighbor managed to get their cats to a hotel room where he'd corralled pets from all over their area; yesterday afternoon they reunited with my fur-niece and -nephew. but spot-fires have been hopscotching through the area, the neighbor has been going back up the hill to try to prepare his house and douse what he can, and it looks like he and my sister might both lose their houses. she gave him a short list of things to save if he could make it back to their home: rings, baby books, a picture, and taco. i've been fixated on that detail since she texted it to me, the idea of this endless animate paperweight hunched among pine shavings as flames lick the sides of his terrarium. i am not interested in using that twist of fate to explore the contours of another; in fact, i keep thinking about exactly what that situation would feel like, if i was a fist-sized turtle named taco. the air graying out, and the pine blooming.

08.11.20

[i took over sending my and my friends' virtual-relay-race newsletter for the week (we're about a dozen pals pooling our miles to "run" from brooklyn to berkeley to raise money for feeding america).]
Hello from Manhattan, everyone! Lauren here, chiming in on the Lower East Side to report that the 194 miles we logged as a team this week have moved us westward to within 421 miles of our goal; with a bit of athletic tape, self-talk, and gumption, we could be in Berkeley in two weeks! With 86% of the journey behind us, we’re up to $3,483.15 in pledges raised, and I have personally performed (symbolic) Viking funerals for three pairs of no-show socks on the East River. I recently disappeared into an Internet-research vortex of what a Sock Afterlife might entail and, at least according to some theories of puppets and reincarnation posted on an Arabic Facebook page, it’s pretty complicated. My actual socks reached some sort of secret terminus on the wheel of time because upcycling them would have been biological warfare.

Our team cartographer reports that Google Maps has taken us off-road for the week, and that we’re camped out parallel to the 305 between Mt. Tobin and Mt. Moses, just past Battle Mountain, NV.

I have a soft spot — a lymph node, if you will — for Battle Mountain, which the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten named the Armpit of America back in 2001. A year later, the people of Battle Mountain banded together

…to stage the inaugural Festival in the Pit, celebrating with the slogan "Only Inches From Your Heart." Word of the event spread around the country, eventually reaching the marketing department of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Old Spice deodorant brand.

Old Spice, not one to miss a golden opportunity themselves, approached Battle Mountain community leaders early this year about the brand becoming the corporate sponsor for this year's festival, held this past weekend.

Thus were born such unique events as a "deodorant toss," where contestants attempted to heave Old Spice deodorant through a target. Then, there was the "Sweat T-shirt Contest," taking a page out of MTV's spring break wet T-shirt contests except there were no bikini-clad young women, just men and children willing to be drenched with a water hose and to show off their "pits."


Bless.

We’ve pulled up our socks and gathered for a drink at the Owl Club Casino & Restaurant, a foodless bar and hotel when Weingarten visited in 2001 and a place that “would do well even in a big city” per Yelpers now. (“Cold eggs were delivered to everyone who ordered them.” “Clean strange bathrooms in the casino.”) I like the cut of the Owl Club’s jib; some sources say that it has been in operation for a century, while others claim it closed in 1999. Per Special Agent Dale Cooper: Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen.

Thank you for following along! Stay well, and every day, once a day, give yourself a present.

LMO

08.07.20

CONSUMED: SOME (MORE) HORROR

the rental. i got over the potential squickiness of staying at strangers' homes via airbnb a long time ago, which is helpful, as i've stayed at a shitload of airbnbs (most of which have been pretty good and a few of which have been spectacular: if americans are allowed into europe before the world ends, you should ask me about the rooftop terrace with a view of st. peter's basilica we scored for my 40th birthday, or the milanese jewel box to which we ended up retreating after the 2016 election). i even write about them for a living! well, i wrote about them for a living. anyway, this is dave franco's directorial debut, and the story of four earnest portland types who head to the coast for a weekend of the sort of disastrous interpersonal conflicts that crop up when you don't establish ground rules about drugs and hiking or acknowledge the fact that anyone who shares screen time with sheila vand (the star of a girl walks home alone at night, ana lily amarpour's exquisite iranian vampire western) will fall hopelessly in love with her. the excellent alison brie (franco's offscreen wife, of glow, who is also exquisite) is here too, but she's no match for vand's gravitational pull, and the non-murdery disasters in store for this quartet are pretty clear from the get-go. there is also a dog—dogs are big in horror right now—and if i found myself in this rental i would have absolutely survived, since i would have rejected the idea of breaking the no-dogs rule and jeopardizing my pristine user rating and refused to show up in the first place. these kids aren't so lucky, and nastiness ensues: it's even more harrowing than when i accidentally peed in our milanese host's bidet. like a number of reviewers, i think the rental would have been better without its final act, but you can't always get what you want. oh! dan stevens (of downton abbey, which i despise) is also in this, though he isn't anywhere near as entertaining as he is in eurovision song contest: the story of fire saga, which you should see immediately. i hope i get to sleep in another building someday, even if there's a hidden camera in the shower.

velvet buzzsaw. dan gilroy (nightcrawler) reunites rene russo and jake gyllenhaal and misses a golden opportunity to give the latter another terrible haircut; where nightcrawler satirized prurient local news, velvet buzzsaw goes after the los angeles art scene (and also ropes in john malkovich, toni collette, and daveed diggs; it's a crazy ensemble cast). an outsider artist dies and leaves instructions for his work to be destroyed; no one listens, so the work destroys everyone. i'm reminded a bit of bliss, another art-world slasher we saw at the tribeca film festival last year, but velvet buzzsaw is more fun; i'm no insider, but i've written a bit of curatorial copy in my time ("...meticulous scissorings, in turn, reveal her subjects’ poetic architecture: a gallery wall revealed in a cut is a caesura, not an absence"), and the silliness of the critical word salad here is entertaining. i feel pretty strongly that most if not all movies should probably end with john malkovich drawing with a stick, and i think that would have worked out rather nicely in the rental. did i ever tell you that my conceptual-artist brother-in-law's site-specific work in an old hospital is the reason kendall jenner painted her house baker-miller pink? true story.

08.06.20

CONSUMED: SOME HORROR

les affamés. i meant to write about this one three months ago, and i will spare you the tedium between then and now; this is probably the best zombie movie i've seen in a decade? (that's saying something; it's possible that i watch zombie movies more regularly than i vacuum my apartment.) while i can't offer scene-by-scene praise, as my personal horizon has experienced a titan's lifetime of freaky dawns and gloamings in that interim, i can tell you that this québécois take on the genre gets at the existentialism your humble narrator has been experiencing since the before times in an unexpectedly poetic way. (again, there's volume to consider here.) not especially gory, quietly contemplative, and, shot by shot, easily one of the most beautiful additions to the canon i've seen in a long time (or ever?). we're so intent on what the undead have to say to us about biting that we neglect their ikebana (i am serious about this?), and that is a shame.

the blackcoat's daughter. well of course kiernan shipka eventually snagged the title role in chilling adventures of sabrina after this movie; she's stone-cold perfect for will-she-or-won't-she relationship-with-the-devil roles (i have not seen and will not see her in mad men). that said, wow, i am terrible at picking possession movies; despite KS's best efforts and director oz perkins's stabby pedigree (he's anthony perkins's son), this was both too long and weirdly abrupt. i was raised more or less areligiously (southern california protestants, or the ones i knew, at least, cared more about shell necklaces and second base than they did about accidental salutations to satan), but oh boy did the few catholic-school ghost stories my dad shared over the years scare the shit out of me. i thought this movie would keep me awake, but it just left me with faint distastes for pea soup (again?) and turnpikes. which sucks, as pea soup rules and turnpikes are useful.

girl on the third floor. i really, really want to foist this one on my college roommate, as she has renovated multiple ancient homes in chicago (à la the movie's principal), but she is the mother of two young children, and her waking hours have all kinds of demands that don't involve puzzling out why a vengeful collective of long-dead prostitutes decided to exact their revenge on questionable men via ooze and marbles (MARBLES). girl on the third floor is notable because its lead seems, at least initially, like he's going to be a bruce campbell, evil dead-style antihero; it's also the most fluid-soaked horror movie i've seen in some time, on the order of michel faber's the crimson petal and the white (also a long and decidedly viscous story about prostitution). several writers who reviewed this bad boy for major critical franchises thought it was kind of good, which reminds me of how i've snagged several print credits for articles about house plant maintenance and also managed to kill a potted rosemary bush in 48 hours.

the platform. somewhere between the cook, the thief, his wife & her lover (a movie i watched on video with a date who'd seen it before), delicatessen and, like, cube (or saw?), the platform is a spanish skyscraper hellscape that was apparently one of the most popular netflix titles in the world back in march. this makes sense, sort of: atop a vertical sort-of-prison, chefs prepare a lavish smorgasbord that descends slowly through hundreds of levels of concrete cells. the inhabitants of each cell can eat for the few moments the platform pauses, then it descends to the next level, where the inhabitants beneath them eat their leftovers, if there are leftovers, and so on. it's an unsubtle and exceedingly moist allegory, but it also...kind of works, for at least an hour? i am extra-glad i've never eaten a snail. a dachshund meets a messy end, because capitalism.

train to busan. as far as i'm concerned, bong joon-ho is the master of space re: class in recent years: snowpiercer's lateral logic was inspired, and parasite's morality and verticality was almost perfect. yeon sang-ho's train to busan isn't as explicit or as cartesian as either of those movies, but its geometry is almost as compelling, and the stunt work, choreography, and blocking is absolutely incomparable. i have no preference between george-romero-esque shambling zombies and danny-boyle-ish skittering ones — is that a taste one can have? — but i can say that this is the most balletic zombie movie i have ever seen, and that it has emotional heft. it's absolutely at the action end of the horror spectrum, but it nips at your heels. (no dog fatalities.)

07.22.20

joe came back on monday after a week in oregon, where his father had a 'moderate to serious stroke' while on an RV trip with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew. though he is the evel knievel of the circulatory system (he had emergency open-heart surgery this past fall; i think maybe when the family made him sell his motorcycle a few years ago he just became his own motorcycle), joe the elder has more lives than several cats, and he seems to be recovering well. we are grateful that he was away from home when it happened, as home is rural arizona, medically questionable at the best of times and the tail end of a bosch triptych at the moment. we would like them to trade their RV for a beaver state rental house, but you try herding someone who has more lives than several cats. i was extremely upset about the idea of joe flying west and home—we got news that we had neither coronavirus nor coronavirus antibodies the day he left—but flying to see one's family and giving them advice they will ignore is our generation's love language in 2020. i have made my peace, such as it is, with this.

i spent monday of my week alone pulling my first professional all-nighter, a filthy evening that peaked when i snuck outside for a walk on the promenade at about nine and cratered for the first time a few hours later when i found that one of my huge rubber cockroaches had fallen out of the closet and into the hall and it made obscene gestures at me when i bent to pick it up. i skittered to the kitchen and grabbed a pint glass to capture it, and when i got back it was gone; i then made my peace with lifestyle-writing-induced hallucinations. i found it a few feet away 15 minutes later, caught it, and chucked it off the balcony, which feels ok, given the reports of the creepy AI guy we knew in college whose experiments determined that roaches can handle pressure that's more than 900 times their body weight. also all american cockroaches can fly, though they tend to do so in humid climates? we're well into the miso soup phase of summering in new york, so.

07.04.20

the lower east side has been going Full Gandalf for the past month and a half; i don't know what the big-ass fireworks are called, they were illegal in california when i was a kid and i never worked up the nerve to buy the bunker busters when opportunities presented themselves over the past few years. i love fireworks and my personal sleep is so permanently fractured that i can't wish the pyros ill on my own behalf, but i feel for small animals, small humans, and their new parents, oh god. victoria, i love you.

i reached out to the social worker who introduced me to the families i've been shopping for a week ago and told her i needed to phase myself out; my work load was increasing, i said, and if new york was maybe opening up a bit i needed to let them go. i didn't want them to panic—i told them i could shop for another month while they figured things out—but oh, i have needed to move on from this cycle. i was starting to understand that my families had other help: G would talk about things her daughter had seen at our local grocery store, and i realized that neither G nor F asked me for paper goods, and that F never asked me for meat, though it seemed clear that she and her husband weren't vegetarians. i feel strongly—have i said this before?— that radical generosity is important; i can't and shouldn't know what my families do with what i've been bringing them, or why they need it. i was also falling apart, and those hints that the time and risk i offered weren't as crucial as i thought they were had been making me feel like shit.

i shopped for F and her husband for the last time this past thursday, and her list was smaller than usual. i rang her doorbell when i dropped off her groceries because i wanted to say goodbye, but she didn't answer; i set her bags down next to a couple of boxes of shelf-stable food from the city of new york(?) and went home. she texted me later to offer thanks and say that she's going out for doctors' appointments next week.

G absolutely did ask me for meat, all the time: she's so, so russian, and i bought her herring, chicken, and salmon for months. she gave me her credit card and her CVS keytag ages ago, so i put them both in a card for her when i made my final visit this week. when i rang her doorbell her cat squirted out the door, and i offered to grab her. "oh, no, she won't let you pick her up," G said. "she is waiting for a treat." G's cat's name is lola, and lola absolutely doesn't come back into her apartment without a treat. G and i stood in the hallway as lola was bribed to go home; she sauntered down the hall, just as steve does, and she polished G's ankles.

06.28.20

[Martha] Gellhorn told [John Simpson, the BBC's world-affairs editor] about attending John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration ball. Gellhorn was alone and feeling out of place when she sensed the President and his entourage moving in her direction. “There was Kennedy himself coming towards her with all the hangers-on and the freaks and the creeps,” Simpson said. “And, as he walks up to her, and she said, ‘Oh, fuck. He’s gonna make me Secretary of State.’ ” It wasn’t that. Kennedy had heard that Gellhorn used to live in the White House and might know of a way to sneak out from time to time. “ ‘Darling’—she called him ‘Darling’—‘That’s easy,’ ” Simpson continued, in a broad American accent. Gellhorn told the President about a small gate at the back of the property. “There’s only one guy in charge of it,” she said. “Roosevelt used to just give him money all the time.”

(sam knight, "a memorial for the remarkable martha gellhorn")

06.11.20

i run into M, a retired firefighter who worked as a personal trainer in our building's fitness room in the before times. he used to give me shit about not seeing me in there every day, and i would tell him about the international work trips that took me away from our treadmills and tv news (i pitched my friend the fitness magazine editor-in-chief a piece about angry running a couple of years ago, but i think it seemed too unhealthy, and that was right about when another publisher was acquiring her title, anyway). now he gives me shit about the days we don't run into him on the promenade, and i tell him that most of my workout is up at the track at 10th street. as always, he tells me that he gets terribly bored when he runs in a circle. M and i differ in a number of ways, but that, somehow, is the gulf of note: running in a circle is the 2020 version of afternoons at skateway in the late eighties when i'd get so excited about janet jackson that i'd slam into the carpeted wall on tight turns. the boys-only-on-the-rink songs were no problem, i'd just take my big earrings off and stick them in my pocket. a guy brought an amp to the bleachers this sunday and cranked "let's dance," which faded into "billie jean." i've always loved watching people succumb to sets, but watching runners try to play it cool through a shitload of, like, billy ocean and hall and oates was especially delightful.

two nearly-identical dogs on st. mark's this evening were both named lucy; pro jazz ensembles are playing for tips in tompkins square park. i have gotten over the fact that i forgot "sectional" as i filed yet another piece on living rooms a few weeks ago ("OH GOD JOE WHAT DO YOU CALL A LONG COUCH IN PIECES") and have learned the difference between a sideboard and a credenza; if i don't keep the world up to date on the latest in open-concept living spaces, internets, my god, who will. i thought about instagramming a wax print fabric i bought from a ghanaian woman in st. croix a few months ago and have been working into my huge, ongoing quilting project and worried that i couldn't talk about how a chinese company produced it. i might email the social worker who hooked me up with my neighbors to let her know that i need to stop doing their shopping, maybe, perhaps at the end of the month. i keep thinking of this man's posture.

06.01.20

we had two rounds of banging pots and pans and rattling cow bells at the neighbors and the street tonight, the one between 7:00 and 7:03 and another for either two or 20 minutes just after nine, who can say? joe went to the window when he first heard voices on cherry street come around to the service road in front of our building, and the march began (that was part of the march, right? i mean, they were?) with guys on bikes going north on the southbound lanes of the FDR. by the time i was on the balcony the street was full, no signs, just marchers. no one cheered, cheering is for 7:00 to 7:03.

we took our daily walk up the east river promenade just after when we figured joe's office business was probably done for the day (my office business is always and never done for the day) and headed west into the city around stuyvesant cove, then down first avenue and back east on st. mark's. how stupid am i for actually thinking the same bars that were selling cocktails to go on friday would be on the sidewalk this afternoon? we didn't walk that way because i wanted to buy anything—i don't really know what i wanted, to be honest, i just wanted people—but oh, how stupid. by the time we turned south again every storefront on both sides of every street was boarded up or in the process of being boarded up. there are thick bolts of shame all through the grief i've felt this spring, and they're wider and more tensile now, how dare i mourn the little threads of normalcy we were just starting to follow in this city when so many people who are also in this city experience grief as normalcy.

i'm writing a print piece on insomnia that was originally going to be due a month from today; a month or so ago my editor told me it was bumped to a 2021 issue at the earliest and she would understand if i wanted to pitch it somewhere else in the interim. she asked me last week if i could write it for this year's september issue and send that draft over a week from today, and then this morning she bumped it back to the beginning of july, and a week sooner than that an hour later. i am tempted to draft this feature about stephen king's insomnia and the robin williams / al pacino alaska thriller of the same name as a secret art project for myself, but my editor is a lovely person and who among us couldn't use a few expert takes on insomnia right about now, half a dozen, actually, i am supposed to do six interviews.

05.10.20

the dirty dozen: admonitions from the management

01 As a precaution, anyone who is quarantined in their apartment, please do not go out into the hallway for any reason. Please place your garbage outside your door from 10AM - 12 noon and 1:00PM - 2:30PM and we will dispose of your household trash and recycle items only. No bulk items, please.

02 We know there are people who are contagious within our buildings and we know a small number have tested positive for the coronavirus. We expect all those who have tested positive to remain in their apartments and adhere to the rules set forth by the CDC, NYC & NYS. As a precaution, anyone who is quarantined in their apartment, please do not go out into the hallway for any reason.

03 As with any emergency situation, everyone is involved to some extent and we cannot be in all places at all times. If anyone knows of an elderly shareholder who needs checking, please let us know. If you believe, as a neighbor you can be helpful to someone, while maintaining social distance and appropriate precautions, please try to help. Help can be as simple as, "a question" - "Do you need anything?" If we can help, let us know.

04 People using the laundry room must be there when the wash and dry cycle ends. No one should have to wait because of your lack of time management or caring and no one should have to choose between removing your laundry or returning to their apartment. As a safety measure, cooperators should try to refrain from using the room when half the machines are in use and NEVER use a laundry cart for their dirty laundry.

05 It is difficult enough to keep the recommended six or more feet of distance from others on sidewalks and in stores. In an elevator it is impossible. If you call for an elevator and there are people already in it, please consider letting the car go without you and wait for the next one. A minute of two of time can save a person from being exposed.

06 Respect must be shown to our maintenance staff as they are working under incredible stress. Remember, they also have families and one of our men was spat on by a cooperator who wasn't happy with a situation. This despicable behavior will not be tolerated.

07 We are having issues with dogs barking in apartments. Obviously, dogs will bark. Shareholders, please find a way to quiet your animal when it barks incessantly. Anyone leaving a barking dog unattended in their apartment will receive a quality of life fine. It is not fair for people to have a dog and then not be present at a time when no one should be going anywhere.

08 The laundry rooms are at capacity. Please be courteous, do not take-up additional machines, return to the rooms promptly and do not leave your laundry in the washers or dryers for others to deal with. Never use a laundry cart for anything other than clean laundry.

09 Noise complaints continue in all forms including loud music, ball playing in hallways and apartments and slamming doors. The doors could be because of the high winds we have had lately. The other reasons are more within your purview.

10 The hallway is not an extension of your apartment. Open doors with children playing from single families or different families represent a risk to everyone. We are continuing to clean and sanitize all hallways and this level of activity defeats our purpose. As hard as it is to keep children occupied and indoors, do so for the well-being of all.

11 The laundry rooms should not be places where people congregate. Yes, there are televisions there, but so are they in your apartments. Please be courteous to new arrivals in the laundry rooms - do your business and return upstairs.

12 We do not have the staff to issue memos under every door at this time.

05.08.20

the clerk at the post office gives H and F's letter back to me; there's no point in stamping it with the meter, since there's no postal service from america to israel. i carry the letter back to their apartment, where a little purple bag hangs on the front door's knob: it's a bottle of DKNY perfume, a gift. they have asked me to knock instead of dematerializing when i drop off their groceries so that they can give me 'the little something' in person, and i thank them profusely. they ask if i'm going home to work, what do i do, and i tell them i'm a writer. "do you write for the times?" just once. "you must live in my father's apartment!" F's family was among the original tenants when our apartments were built in the late '50s; the woman who purchased his father's place from him loved their immigration story so much that she was going to pitch it, per H. not me, i live in the building right across the street, but it is a wonderful story. i congratulated them on their six children, 30 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

the cashiers at trader joe's are always fascinated by what the neighbors request, as am i. H and F have (mostly) pumped the brakes on chocolate-covered macaroons and are now enamored with raw fermented sauerkraut (five large jars in the last two weeks). they also wanted six large onions; "they're really up to something," the cashier noted. "and so are you! what are you making?" minestrone. "what is minestrone?" it's— "is it italian peasant soup?" yeah, pretty much.

05.03.20

i thought for a week or so that i was accumulating soot as i ran errands and walked up to the rubber track ten blocks north of houston, but i appear to be developing...a tan? the speckled filth on my forehead and cheeks is definitely freckles, and joe says the back of my neck has lost its customary translucence. i was decent about getting out of the house in the before times — though i worked out indoors, i made it into the neighborhood at least once a day, and i walked to soho for my weekly bookstore shifts and to and from chinatown to catch the subway up to the bird hospital — but i guess, surprise surprise, taking a daily late-afternoon walk with joe and, now, spending an hour a day up at the track is, despite the mostly-grey-and-rainy weather we've been having, the sort of thing that toasts a gal. i wish i could report that this stirred something in me, but it's just a thing, like the acne i've been getting from my masks and the welts i get under my breasts when i run several days in a row.

i run all the days in a row, now; it's about a mile up to the track, which is just enough time to make respectable progress on my pokémon situation (david bowie, my gyarados, is such a powerful boy) before lurching through a minimum of 13 jogged laps and a lot of strolling. the track surface mimics the spring of my beloved treadmills, i have the lanes more or less to myself when it's windy and/or raining, and the strip of grass between me and the east river promenade teems with fledgling robins and juvenile squirrels (who have yet to learn, a month in, that there's no angle in dashing across the track to forage for food on the astroturf at its center). when i'm facing north i can see the power station that blew during hurricane sandy and denied us electricity for a week; when i loop around south the williamsburg bridge eats the horizon. i couldn't tell you why ferry traffic has been up for the past two months, but i swear that it has, and racing the boats up- and downriver is delightful, even though i always, always lose. on the best days they carry salt air up from the harbor. i am wearing a neon fanny pack without irony. send help.

04.23.20

was the neighborhood guy who masked his mini-pinscher prescient? i hear that two cats have contracted coronavirus, though the news, thank goodness, seems to be that they will recover and that they won't pass their setbacks to their humans.

we persist. i've been seized with a wild urge to chain-smoke, à la every fictional world-wearied beat cop confronted with the eleventh-hour, extra-grisly case that will end up defining her or his career, and have spit on that impulse by reactivating my long-dormant pokémon go account (abandoned in the summer of '16 when i realized that i'd gone three weeks without talking to my mother).* i sure hope that pokémon go isn't a villainous, terrible app; it pings my interests in animal husbandry, hoarding, quantified physical activity, vexing the neighbors' kids, and so much more.**

that's self-care in these parts, then: weekly grocery runs for the neighbors, daily walks with joe, near-constant local-tween-owning. i've been quilting and watching my brilliant friend. getting into fistfights with bus stops is totally normal.


*on my first post-pokémon walk i stumbled upon A LIVE EEL IN THE STREET sine-waving on land like a regular old black snake that couldn't breathe; i did my damndest to catch and return it to its grand street live-seafood tupperware tub and have a new appreciation for that whole slippery-as-an-eel thing. i saw said eel en route to my local bank branch, where i was to explain that someone had accidentally deposited a random $18,000 into my checking account (true story, i was mixed up with another, fancier contractor); when i arrived my hands were eel-slimy and bowery-grimy, so i wiped them on the carpet before i approached the teller. "oh hi," [spreads mysterious goop on the floor] "i have a lot of money that isn't mine."

**on this afternoon's walk, pokémon go taught me that charlie parker lived on avenue b; while tech will unquestionably be one of the deaths of us, i will take that factoid with me to hell.

04.18.20

CONSUMED: A PARTIAL LIST.

black leopard, red wolf (book). the last four fantasy novels i've read have all begun with some variation on "those who appear in this account" lists of dramatis personae. that could seem cute or superfluous, as the maps that frequently accompany them often are (the maps in this book, speaking of, are pretty unnecessary), but without a robust character list black leopard, red wolf would be confusing as hell. in fact, it is confusing as hell even when you can flip back to the beginning to remind yourself that the ipundulu is a vampire lightning bird and that sasabonsam (who drinks blood, except when he doesn't) is the winged brother of asanbosam (who eats flesh), and so on. it is also exhausting, as the very stories-within-stories structure and super-intricate world-building that have inspired comparisons to tolkien's middle earth, george r.r. martin's lands of ice and fire, and, like, hieronymus bosch make it extremely slow going. the comparison to george r.r. martin is an important one, for marlon james is equally fixated on sexual violence; it's been a long time since i've read something even more rape-y than a game of thrones, &c. james uses it to make important points about everything from power and exploitation to trauma and identity, and i can appreciate that, but it's rough going. that said, james blends african mythological and storytelling traditions with magical realism and surrealism to create something both ancient and new. i have absolutely no idea if it would appeal to the majority of fantasy readers, but i know i'm going to head back and read james's a brief history of seven killings, and i'll read the sequel to black leopard, red wolf when he writes it. i'm budgeting a month for it, though.

the invisible man (film). if you're the sort of person who worries that seeing too many trailers for thrillers will ruin them for you, i have bad news and good news about the invisible man. bad: as a reboot of one of universal's classic monster movies (along with dracula, frankenstein, the mummy, and so on, although most of the reboots were scrapped after the mummy tanked), its premise and basic structure aren't much of a secret even if you didn't see a bunch of previews for it on cable television this month (though this version centers the victim, elisabeth moss, rather than her tormentor*). good: even if you have been marinating in those previews, at least two of the scenes in them—including one so striking that it's featured as a still in the majority of the movie reviews i've seen—aren't in the movie at all! put that in your juul and smoke it! the invisible man was written and directed by leigh whannell (who also wrote saw**), a detail that could have squelched my interest in the movie if i'd known it ahead of time. i did not know it ahead of time, however, and i am glad that i carried on with our friday-night plan of overpaying for a home-premiering new movie and watching it from our sofas as though we were at our beloved nitehawk cinema in williamsburg. we had to make our own snacks, which was unfortunate, but we could get up to pee whenever we wanted without missing anything (the invisible man is, oddly, more than two hours long), which was pretty great. anyway, it was entertaining, especially if you get a kick out of bad things happening to tech zillionaires.

*fun fact: a tormentor is also "a fixed curtain or flat on each side of a theater stage that prevents the audience from seeing into the wings." related: teasers. quarantrivia!

**i couldn't sleep the other night and a twitter thread about cary elwes sent me down an internet rabbit hole that involved reading plot summaries of all of the saw movies. it was a dark time.

04.14.20

the dirty dozen {twelve pandemic encounters}

01 a masked guy holding a mini-pinscher wearing its own shot-glass-sized little feed-bag mask
02 a dude scalping hand soap and toilet paper directly in front of our grocery store, which might have stocked both of those things at that point ("hey lady, a dollar a roll!")
03 four four-packs of breakstone's salted butter speared on a wrought-iron fence
04 an angry and barefaced guy who leaned in to cough on and scream at us
05 a canada goose standing one-legged and asleep on the sand just north of south street seaport
06 a crowd of hasidic teens on electric skateboards, skeptical
07 a pile of one-free-per-customer egg-shaped soap trios at trader joe's
08 our neighbor J, god has granted him a good life and he is prepared to let the chips fall where they may
09 innumerable shitstains on citibikes
10 jumpy, poorly-laminated drugstore staffers
11 ATVs popping wheelies on the FDR
12 The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.

04.10.20

it's been an angry week, or an angry second half of the week. i tell myself that i've been unflappable for most of the past couple of months, but the truth is that i'm usually unflappable until i'm abruptly and notably flapped, and it's shitty. i have been fixating on friends and acquaintances who have left new york city to hole up in other places; while i joke about sanctimony as if it's something i don't return to all the time, i am so very sanctimonious. how dare they cart their germs out of town and risk overburdening underequipped regional care centers because staying in new york makes them itchy? i'm the hypocrite out here rocking a month-old n95 (and cotton masks) and making additional trips to the grocery store and pharmacy for compromised neighbors who could in theory be coached through trying to join the order-in sweepstakes with delivery services that appear to pay their employees fairly (stereotypical senior-senior-citizen computer literacy issues aside), but.

i called my mom this afternoon, as it's her birthday, and she told me that her hairdresser, R, had come over to cut my stepdad's hair; he's going to be coming back to cut her hair soon. i told her they and R were being reckless; i noted that if R truly had good protective gear, then it was his responsibility to donate it to his local hospital; i gave fair warning that i was going to narc on her to my sisters and make them call and pressure her, too. then i texted mom and stepdad after the call to say, with love, that if they went through with mom's appointment i would name and shame R online and make sure that he went out of business.

joe said that that was way too much; he noted that i have been in a freaky mental place of late. i suspect that i should limit myself to, like, making cheesy jokes about design for work projects until someone has a plausible idea of what's happening next and my interior landscape is closer to the great plains, would you just look at that unwrinkled grosgrain road.

i wake up half a dozen times a night mumbling apologies for things i did in my dreams. i pinch an earlobe, cross my eyes, and consider the idea that if you aren't yourself in a catastrophe then you didn't really survive, did you.

04.09.20

i woke up at seven this morning and saw that L had just liked one of my instagram posts. i met her when her husband, a guy i've known since we were twelve, was on one of my trail relay teams a few years ago, and i will never forget how tenderly she smoothed sunblock across his scalp and cheeks every few hours (his little brother died of skin cancer in his teens). L had a baby girl a few weeks ago, and i don't know if her doctors allowed anyone into the room for her birth. L works for amazon.

E texted a few days ago to say that while we'd planned another video call for this weekend and she very much wants to be in touch, stress is even worse for her after that kind of contact because she associates it with crisis. she doesn't think she'll always feel like this, maybe in a few months—

our E abroad is vague about his training, but he seems to be a reservist. he was surprised when we said that we wouldn't necessarily fly across the country to our parents if we found out the virus had hospitalized one of them; i explained that there was a strong likelihood that we wouldn't be permitted to see them. E was asked to volunteer for early service and declined; he would want to take care of his parents if they fell ill. later he said he'd read that COVID-19 deaths felt like drowning. he is waiting.

04.05.20

CONSUMED: A PARTIAL LIST.

bored to death (series). it's entirely possible that i would have been immune to bored to death's charms if i'd seen it when it first aired on hbo a decade ago; it's very wes-anderson-meets-michael-chabon brooklyn-precious, and with the exception of kristen wiig, its female cast doesn't get much in the way of open road. because we're seeing it after i saw ted danson through four seasons of the good place—i really loved the good place—and while the good, the bad, and the brooklyn of this city is largely off-limits to us, i find myself getting misty over, like, scenes at veselka and old town.* creator/writer/nude-cameo jonathan ames distills something very specific about book and magazine publishing at the beginning of this decade, and while i didn't actually live in greenpoint or park slope in those years, i spent rather a lot of time there; i'd say he's gotten them right, too. also, why haven't we been to brighton beach? why haven't we gone to spa castle? mistakes were made in The Time Before. also also, i think i might be putting together some sort of ted danson retrospective over here. anyway, bored to death: the stoner-noir rejoinder to sex and the city i didn't know i needed, even though that ubiquitous pop-fictional-character personality quiz told me i was an 80% match with carrie motherfucking bradshaw.

game night (film). i see movies at weird film festivals, on international flights, and at, like, dine-in theaters in brooklyn, so i was ignorant of game night's existence until my cousin dan recommended it in our neverending twitter direct-message thread; he said it was one of the best comedies of the decade and as he is a comedian, i decided to listen to him. readers, it is an extremely enjoyable movie! from where i'm sitting it's superior to knives out (another quirky-mysterious semi-thriller i considered pretty cheesy, as daniel craig did not work at all for me; please don't tell the dine-in theaters that or they might not let us come back), in fact. casting directors, please hire rachel mcadams and jesse plemons (especially jesse plemons) for all the comic things.

temporary (book). i'm tempted to call temporary the best book i've read this year so far, but i've had the good fortune to read several boss books over the past few months; let's say it's top three for sure. the very last emily books title and hilary leichter's first novel (expanded from a short story published in n+1 in 2012), temporary follows an unnamed female narrator ostensibly in search of "the steadiness," or an end to the increasingly-absurd fill-in work she's been doing since she was a little girl (when she was hired to open and close each of the doors in an empty house at fixed intervals). she is a human barnacle, and a pirate, and a sort-of-host for the cremains of a captain of industry; she sounds a bit like a lewis carroll character, a kelly link character, a helen oyeyemi character (link and oyeyemi both praised the book, unsurprisingly). it's bone-dry, poignant, and very, very funny, and i think about it a lot as i run errands for my shut-in neighbors for free, shoulder to shoulder with the gig workers running errands for a different set of shut-ins, for lousy pay. C told me today that she drove up to tompkins square park and bought some pastries at the farmers' market "because it was outside;" she also told me that she sings a short song to daffodils blooming in the park across the street from our apartments each morning. i have mostly lost the ability to judge anyone for anything, though i remain dead certain that the adults biking recreationally on city sidewalks are domestic terrorists.

*neither of which is in brooklyn, ironically.

04.04.20

"survival is insufficient," a line i've always associated with emily st. john mandel's wonderful station eleven (and a line my first manager at ye olde charity bookshop had tattooed on his arm) first popped up in a star trek: voyager episode; thank you, seven of nine. in other news, does it surprise me that emily st. john mandel kinda looks like canadian, literary imperator furiosa these days? it does not.

i lost my sense of smell abruptly and kind of dramatically yesterday morning, and i did not keep my cool about it. steve puked on our floor, so i swooped in to comfort him, mop up his yodels, and disinfect our terrible parquet with the lemony, aggressively bleachy bottle of disinfectant i bought a couple of weeks ago. couldn't smell any of it, which made me cry a little. i told the neighbors i didn't think i could shop for them in the afternoon after all, but that mysterious anosmia seems to have blossomed into today's generic seasonal allergies. this evening i informed joe in the gentlest possible terms that i couldn't listen to any more lyle lovett, and when he switched the record out for let's dance and stevie ray vaughan's boss guitar galloped in with "modern love" matty dashed into the room, leapt on the coffee table, and farted directly into my san judas tadeo prayer candle. bowie is affecting! my senses registered all of that, for better or for worse, so i now feel much better about going to the grocery store and pharmacy.

03.31.20

in the hours in which i don't sleep i have started thinking about doctor omnibus, the octogenarian navy vet who was my psychiatrist for a decade or so. he was fond of saying that none of the things that mattered to me would feel important when i was eighty; he also said "tell me how you want to feel and we will make you feel that way" rather a lot, because he was a psychiatrist and not a psychologist or a psychotherapist. from where i sit, psychiatrists are master aeronauts: theirs is to stoke lanterns and fling ballast rather than to sit through gastrointestinal soliloquies about my social anxiety. we parted ways a year ago, but that is a story for another time.

he told me when i first met him that he had parented his daughter...eccentrically, and that they were no longer in touch. he told me a few sessions later that his only vacation spot is a dead forest on the oregon coast, and the fact that his happy place is an offshore stick garden of ghost trees has always been one of my favorite things about him.

so: doc om is estranged from his progeny and while it's silly to imagine that one knows anything about one's former caregivers' lives, i feel pretty sure that he's alone somewhere. does he have an apartment near his apartment-office on central park south? is he now on an air mattress next to the DSMs and pirated comics he warned me again and again that i was never to touch?

radical empathy's a helluva drug. i'm still worrying about my janky homemade mask's potential repercussions for the elderly folks receiving groceries from me across the street, but i'm also re-gnawing local calamity hangnails: who's checking on joan didion? this time, the first time: who's checking on doctor omnibus?

in the best of all possible worlds, he realized that he needed to get the fuck out of new york city a month ago. he made a terrible phone call and is now desperate to escape grandchildren he didn't know he had. he's ditched his old-man moccasins and the tide is pushing sand up under his yellow nails. i would check on you at your office number, doctor omnibus, and i know that you would think less of me if i reached you.

03.28.20

it's pissing rain, as the missus would say, but i hollered from the balcony tonight for #ClapBecauseWeCare (and felt like a real fool for getting rid of the vuvuzela i brought home from my sister's wedding years ago). traffic whooshing down the drive along the river made it difficult to hear folks who were more than a building or two away, but it felt good. last night someone cranked "new york, new york" out the window as i was walking home from the store and i cried into my n95 mask.

if i had the mask thing to do over again (we found a three-pack in the bug-out bag my stepfather gifted us for christmas a few years ago; "i want you to live!"), i'd have sent ours to a local hospital. we've known for about a week that coronavirus is in our building, but i worry more for our elderly and immunocompromised neighbors than i do for us; as far as i know, we're youngish, healthyish. we cracked into them, though, and have been wearing them on grocery and pharmacy runs, along with some gloves i bought ages ago when our hands still felt things and we were dicing a lot of habanero peppers. C, a retired teacher two floors down from us who gave me a key to her apartment and occasionally asks me to collect her mail when she travels, asked for farmer cheese, wheat bread that's 70 calories a slice (remember when bread was a thing you could buy?), and three cans of pineapple chunks in juice; i am dying to know if she's making sandwiches down there, but i couldn't bring myself to ask. a friend of mine in ohio says her husband used to pick up food for seniors and once shopped for wonder bread, jalapenos, and head cheese.

i gave my name to a social worker who's arranging deliveries for isolated households and got hooked up with F, whose husband answered the door in a three-piece suit when i came by to pick up their credit card the other day. they are extremely interested in chocolate-covered macaroons from trader joe's,* and the day after my first delivery, F texted to ask if i could pick up the four packs (she wanted 10, but the manager could only promise four) set aside for her. when i brought them up to the door, her husband insisted i take one for myself, and i didn't think quickly enough to say that, oh, i was allergic to coconut or something. "but i know how much you love them," i said, "and the manager said he could only give you four." this was clearly not a detail F had shared with him, and i watched him panic and then double down on his offer. i thanked him profusely and darted back to the door to take one as F began to billow like a storm cloud behind him. i really hope i didn't just end a 48-year marriage by accepting cookies.

G, one building over, asked for lots of singles: one potato, one sweet potato, one piece of salmon "for cooking." what does a good piece of salmon look like? i was reminded of working the sandwich counter at the stanford coffeehouse and trying to figure out which deli meats were which. coworkers were of no help; all of us were vegetarians. i don't know if G lives by herself; there were two names on her door's nameplate, but no one ever updates those, and most of my neighbors are very, very old (my social-worker contact reps our local NORC, or "naturally-occurring retirement community"). i didn't want to give her a potentially-pestilent note from our apartment, so i just wrote "for G from lauren" and drew a bunch of hearts on her shopping bag.

*F mentioned on the phone that she was disappointed that she wouldn't be seeing her children and grandchildren for passover, and i can only conclude that she and her husband have some kind of cool hand luke macaroon plan for weathering the pandemic.

03.27.20

the dirty dozen-ish {excerpts from yelp reviews of times square}

01 Smell the smells - like nothing else I can describe - a mish mash of hot dogs, fries, donuts, smoke, coffee, nuts, traffic smog. I said to my husband 'wow the smell is so, so, so" and he interrupted me and replied "that is the New York smell!"

02 We arrived 6am to be in the front row next to the MTV building. We shook hands with everyone from Carson Daly to Rudy Giuliani, from Jessica Simpson to N'Sync. Across the street at a Planet Hollywood event some months later, we met P Diddy, N'Sync (again), Sly Stallone, Sandra Bullock, and others. My enduring memory is that I was taller than Stallone and he had a river-full of cologne on. Good times.

03 Spiderman will cook you dinner on the right street corner if you find him. It's true! There is a guy in a spider man costume that has a sheesh cart! It's pretty awesome to watch.

04 And who regulates how many Elmo's are permitted to be circulating ? And how can those Nepalese woolen hat places afford their rent on such a huge space ?

05 But watch out for the ones dressed up as characters; ie elmos, Batman's, hulks, and especially the Minnie mouses, THEY ARE RELENTLESS and they will straight bombard you in a mob like demeanor . Karate chop for Minnie Bro.

06 I'm not fond of cats, but the show is great! 

07 There was also a big police presence in every corner around Times Square with automatic weapons out and ready to use. So I felt very safe around Times Square.

08 Times Square and its table were also home to my worst NYC experience, where an angry woman flat out stole my friend's chair for no other reason than to spite us. 

09 I came once when I was 17/18 and got burped on (I say "on" because the lady was really close to me and I felt her burp vibration on my skin) by a beggar.

10 Stay away from the Disney store unless you plan to go in it. 

11 Does anyone even know the words to Auld Lang Syne? My Grandma and Grandpa sure did. 

12 I take away one star because of the FACT that there were con artists on the sidewalk.

13 Don't even get me started on the subliminal messages.

14 Pricey, but what else do you make money for, right?

15 [O]n any given Saturday night you will see hordes of shit faced drunks stumbling around the area looking for either sex or a subway.

03.20.20

i found some songbird shit on our stump/table on the balcony this afternoon! this is a huge deal: we're up on the eighteenth floor, and we're lucky to see an occasional gull wheeling by on its way across the river, like, once a fortnight. pigeons like to roost and even nest on our neighbors' air conditioning units just a floor or two down, but not ours, never ours.* why they will not let us love them is beyond me. but: a pea-sized clump of healthy songbird shit (nice hue and consistency, buddy)! some little fella made it all the way to our place and took some time for reflection! it was, in all seriousness, thrilling—even when i spaced out and plunked my glass down on top of it, then carried it inside and to our coffee table. passerine traveler, i salute you.

i haven't been up to the bird hospital for—checking my volunteer login calendar—two months, and only twice this year. i was traveling in january and february and scrambling to file articles before and after each of those trips; i then got a tattoo at the end of february and felt i should take a week or two to myself before splashing it with bleach and, you know, songbird shit. i'd get messages from the volunteer coordinator (for the first time since i started working there!) saying that they had so very many interns that, for a couple of weeks, they didn't need any more hands on deck. then the city started taking coronavirus seriously.

as of last week, the word was that two volunteers could share the basement space with staffers at a time, and the hospital was eager for those volunteers (and the interns were long gone). i am not worried about what would/will happen to me, but i am very concerned about my many elderly neighbors, so i was trying to game out a way to commute a hundred blocks uptown without taking public transportation. a citibike halfway, then a couple of miles each way on foot? all of it on foot? i could do that, joe and i have walked the length of the island several times, but i'd have been tired-ish by the time i got to the upper west side, and it's both intensely physical and very delicate work. you can't do injections or tube-feed babies when you're wobbly. then we got a note from our building saying that several of our neighbors have tested positive, and that we should spend as little time as possible in the hallways and elevators. i'm already buying groceries for one of our friends downstairs, and i decided that i couldn't justify being a potential vector. i don't know how new city policies are going to apply to the hospital now that most of new york is shut down. i realize that worrying about baby birds at a time like this probably makes me a monster. it has been so long since i've been able to take care of them.

we are about as comfortable as two people can be in a pandemic: two adults who've been together for donkey's years, two dependents we outweigh quite handily that are satisfied with meat-paste and Warm Objects That Hold Still, one job with benefits that can't disappear and another that is flexible enough to carry on plausibly for now. three of our parents seem to be behaving sensibly, and the other seems at least sort of susceptible to peer pressure from me, my sisters, and my stepsister. i am keenly aware of the privilege dripping from every bit of that.

i still think, every now and again, about the website reviewer who called me trite and insular back in 2001(-2?) when my posts about 9/11 didn't acknowledge world events to her satisfaction. nothing about what i do here has ever been a particularly snappy rejoinder to that; all four of you know that this is something else.

our friend TJ is/was the house DJ for the red sox, the pats, and the bruins, jobs he began to cobble together after years of writing the sox to say "here i am!" in what i imagine was a very frank black voice. in this new world of ours, he's started streaming uncertain times, a radio show he started last week and is now helming from 10-noon(ish) ET so far on weekdays. he has always been very gracious about my distant exhortations to play bowie at fenway, and he played "peace, love and understanding" after we talked about it online a few days ago, and i cried. have we talked about competence porn here? TJ's show is competence porn.

here's a song for les and / here's a song for les and ray.



*neighbors two floors down have gone so far as to hang a plastic owl from their kitchen window to try to keep the pigeons away. i don't know if it's working, but it's an utterly delightful silhouette to see when i look out and down from our kitchen window.

02.27.20

so i was watching an *exquisitely* bad supernatural romance last night, and the hero—a very good actor, and the sort of person you'd really dig in to believe if the lines he was delivering were plausible at all—announced in a super-flat voice that he was madly in love, after, oh, three weeks and for the first time in like 1,500 years with the heroine. "same," she more or less said as one would announce that they'd been tagged in an instagram photo of someone's cocktail. this has probably obvious to everyone but me for a very long time, but i feel like i just understood that fictional characters make super-explicit romantic declarations because writers and directors are either not talented enough or too lazy to show them acting on affection for one another the way actual humans do. so people feel less-than when their own lovers don't show up with TO ME YOU ARE PERFECT signs when actually-actually a move like that is just a big failure of art to imitate life. just me? okay. i'm going to keep watching the show, though.

01.05.20

it occurred to me as i angry-treadmilled to the tv news this afternoon that while i haven't formally attempted a 101 in 1001 ("complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days") list for nearly five years, i've probably managed to take down a bunch of items from my last one anyway—and i totally did! way to go, haphazard me!

original start date: 10 june 2012
original end date: 08 march 2015

items completed: 023
items remaining: 078

...and since then,

additional items completed: 14

[004]: visit pittsburgh [see 09.28.15]
boy howdy do we love the 'burgh: since that first fall trip in 2015, the missus and i have driven back out three more times. while item 014 ("visit mari in atlanta") is now impossible, she and her family are now PA-based, and we've taken down the great race (my all-time favorite 10K, a crowded but delightfully citywide thing) with them three times. ask for "pittsburgh, you're my kind of town" in my best springsteen growl if we see each other in person; it's even better than the songs i invent for the cats.

[026]: go to the opera [completed october 2015]
baby's first opera was tannhäuser at the met, and while an old-school, nearly-four-hour (plus three intermissions, as i recall) take on early wagner might not seem like the most intuitive call, the friend* who facilitated our extremely good seats (he used to represent performers and is tight with the folks who film and simulcast the met's performances in HD) also talked us through the teutonic shenanigans. we went on to see an utterly stunning magic flute at the teatro dell'opera di roma (i cried like a baby and got a moth tattoo a few days later, which was technically coincidental but still), and we've been back to the met with the same opera-ringer pal for pelléas et mélisande (debussy's only opera). i have worn the same thrifted balenciaga tent dress to all three, and, weirdly, have yet to wear the black velvet opera coat i found at a vintage store on our first trip to pittsburgh? guess we have to hit some more operas.

[031]: get my name printed in the new york times [completed 09.01.19]
my first and twitter names turned up as part of patricia lockwood's "live nude dads read the sunday paper" project, but that assembled poem was online-only, and c'mon, it's much more satisfying to have debuted thus. that was a journey: i convinced myself a dozen different times over the course of several months that the piece wouldn't run, despite universally supportive communication from my editor and joe's exhortations to, like, breathe into a paper bag and go to bed already. i have now accepted that it can't be taken away and am working on new pitches! the travel section would seem like the most natural fit, but i can't write for it, as i've taken press trips (which are strictly forbidden for its contributors). i considered a modern love writeup about the series of late-night DMs i got last summer from a guy who turned me down when i asked him to senior prom and wanted me to know a couple of decades later that he was wrong to have done so, but that seemed...fraught. inspired by "my so-karen life,"** i was thinking about rites of passage...which now seems to be on hiatus. that said, i am unfazed (and am also going to get off my ass and aim at the new yorker this year).

[039]: spend the night on a boat [see 08.25.17].
i've now hit the atlantic for CRESLI's three-day great south channel trip three years in a row and am addicted to both cetaceanspotting and turning in with the thrum of an engine under my belly and stars and spray on my back. that trio of trips was pretty bare-bones: i brought a sleeping bag, a plush peep, and a pillowcase, and i dragged my lumpy vinyl cot mattress up to the top deck of our temporarily-mostly-repurposed fishing boat as often as i could (every night but one so far, i think?). i love whale watching, but i also love the formal restrictions of spending extended time on a small vessel in unpredictable conditions; i love pelagic birds, a deck heaving under my flip-flops, brushing my teeth and spitting over the stern. joe has yet to join me on any of those trips, but he flew out as my plus-one for a working trip on a small ocean liner in northern europe last fall: we flew to berlin and spent a few days revisiting falafel and oktoberfest, then took a coach to rostock and swooped out for a week of danish and norwegian port-hopping. the jump from a craft with 60 passengers to one with 900*** is not insignificant, despite the prevalence of NPR enthusiasts on both in these cases: the latter was unquestionably a luxury cruise (with on-board history and astronomy pros, balconies and cashmere blankets for all, shitting-you-not edvard munch originals [on loan from museums] on the walls...you get the idea). i had never been on A Cruise, and i am not sorry i tried one; the peoplewatching was top-hole, and i appreciated the opportunity to snack on destinations we might like to revisit. the sleep quality, ironically, ended up being comparable to what i've experienced on my CRESLI trips, albeit for reasons at the other end of the spectrum: at one point i acquired a wool blanket that pleased me so well that i was too excited to nap.**** we are unlikely to take another cruise, but i would consider recommending one on that particular line to, say, my parents, if they were intent on that particular sort of trip. tl;dr: more (hopefully small and/or eco-friendly) boats in the '20s.

[043]: spend a night in the hudson valley [completed 09.18]
when did we first go to the hudson valley? have we met? what is time? joe reminds me that we drove out to hudson for the afternoon when we spent a long weekend in narrowsburg in the fall of 2015, and that we didn't actually spend the night there until september 2018, when we shared an airbnb with friends for basilica soundscape (a weekend music festival) and were accosted by an extremely friendly tuxedo cat whose tag announced him to be BLACK BAT. we headed back again on a road trip last may and stayed at tiger house, a former hunting lodge that was a b&b at the time (i think it's now closed?). i am exceedingly fond of spotty dog (a bookstore/bar) and BLACK BAT, obviously. we did not solve a murder mystery at tiger house and should probably buy it so we can fix that.

[046]: swim with the coney island polar bear club [see 01.02.16].
it felt a bit like cheating to join the new year's day plunge in 2016, as coney island was positively balmy that morning compared to early januaries past and since, but look: i was pretty goddamn cold anyway (it wasn't the ocean itself, it was the interminable waiting to run into the ocean that killed me; i felt much better afterward, what with the adrenaline and the beer. one member of our foursome, previously unknown to me, is now a semi-regular Political Yelling at Bars Companion of mine; another was already an ice-bath devotee and has since gone to poland and iceland to celebrate wim "the iceman" hof's cold-therapy method. pro tips: bring someone who doesn't want to strip down and jump in the water with you but is willing to watch your clothes and towel and give you someplace to run when you're staggering back like an idiot, and wear thick socks.

[054]: go camping [completed 09.16]
i have yet to attempt a trip that doesn't involve running an all-night trail relay race at the same time, but the running shouldn't invalidate the camping, should it? on that first soggy weekend in new jersey for ragnar trail wawayanda lake, the terrain was so muddy that i'd crash in my diminutive leopard-print tent (you're a goddamn wonder, apartment tent) with my feet through the flap, exposed to the rain. with four ragnars now under my belt, i think i'm ready at last for regular camping, but i'm bringing The Grim Runner (my little angel of death with a custom pink sweatband) anyway.

[058]: visit the new york botanical garden [see 08.09.16]
guessing it won't surprise you that i found my trip to see the corpse flower in 2016 significantly more exciting than a trip to see the holiday train show. what can i say? i like fake corpses and real trains, thanks.

[078]: run a (public) 10K [completed 12.15?]
i've lost count of 10Ks, but i know that at least five have been on flat, scenic, PR-friendly roosevelt island (which should be an easy ride on the F train, but in 2020 even i can admit that there are no more easy rides on the F train; now i usually get there via the tramway and traumatize fellow passengers with my Run Funk, unavoidable in such a small space). i remind my septuagenarian friend and fellow bookstore volunteer A, a former UN official and longtime island resident, that i am both protecting and stalking him via these 10Ks, and he seems pleased.

[087]: visit the new york city tenement museum [completed...i have no idea, i pass it like every day and i think i'm trying to forget the visit to protect myself]
what's nastier than a doll-sized tram over the east river when you've just finished a 10K? the new york city tenement museum between march and october. i love my neighborhood and i love that earnest grad students introduce it to tourists, but i'm tired of sharing the sidewalk with all of them. get out of here, butter.

[090]: beat my new york times sunday crossword time (18 min)
i'm down to 11:35, which is not too shabby! that said, i hadn't read a thing about the american crossword puzzle tournament before registering and booking a hotel room for it and—get this—genuinely thought i could roll up and win. tell my family i loved them.

[096]: go to the hamptons
i think we've aged out of the sharing-a-group-house-for-the-weekend stage of engaging with the hamptons, and that's for the best, as the lunch, shopping, and gas-stationing stops i've made en route to montauk and back have been less than inspirational. montauk i like very much, though i'm conscious of being the sort of summer person who's helped make it too expensive for families to vacation there in recent years, and i'm not prepared to pay several hundred dollars a night for a long weekend in a fashionably-upcycled motel. i have made my peace with this.

[098]: figure out a wall treatment for the kitchen
i bought a bunch of black oil paint pens a few years ago and have been late-night doodling from the floor up ever since. it is immensely satisfying.

[099]: visit three new-to-me states
kinda hazy on this one, but i know kentucky, louisiana, mississippi, missouri, and north carolina are all in there. it's like we have a car now or something!


*kevin has the best ideas: he also organized our Black Tie Bar Crawl a few years ago, when we all dressed up within an inch of our lives and hit la grenouille and the four seasons (RIP). we would have kept crawling, but when we got to the four seasons's bar and asked for glasses of champagne, they just...kept coming, and we hadn't had dinner, so we fled to sakagura for ballast. fun fact: joe and i had dinner at the four seasons (dressed less formally, as it happens) after getting legally hitched (prior to our proper oxford wedding) in 2006.

**i enjoyed "my so-karen life" so much that i went to follow the writer, sarah miller, on twitter—and discovered that she's been following me for some time, which made me feel like a million bucks. a solid reminder that i should be following liberally.

***a 900-person cruise ship is considered a small cruise ship: the largest liners in the world accommodate more than 6,000 passengers.

****full disclosure: i bought that blanket for the cats (who appreciate it as much as i do and are much better at napping).

01.02.20

when i was a kid, fellow southern californians were obsessed with The Big One—it was not only inevitable, it was immediately imminent—and i remember kicking some nerf product across our semi-bricked patio in the late eighties, thinking well, this is how the world ends, and picturing the chasm. it came again when bush the first declared war on iraq and i expected my fellow kids to walk out of school in protest (no one walked out of school). i return rather a lot to the morning my college roommate's mother called to alert her and me to what had happened in new york city, two weeks after i started writing here, almost two decades ago. san francisco was convinced it was the next target (after the world trade center and the pentagon, one strikes the golden gate bridge, of course). roommate and i drove from russian hill down to market and passed a cafe because it was the only storefront that had opened its grate: "WE STILL HAVE EGGS," a maitre'd called to no one as a newscast blared behind him, "EGGS!"

[msnbc is running ads for erection pills and annuities]

my dad and i walked around the central park reservoir a couple of times this afternoon; we talked about cognitive dissonance, how we don't think we've become more centrist over the years, and how a lot of the people i encounter on social media are probably too young to have vivid memories of bush v. gore. he offered that he thinks my stepsister, once focused on a single issue, is now woke. ("woke" is new in our conversations; he refers to "the twitters." in return, i introduced shit the bed.)

maudlin and anxious, i insisted on a few extra awkward hugs before joe went to sleep tonight. i then settled back into our expansive couch.

01.01.20

2020: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

i zapped some of the vegetable dumplings i had the foresight to bring home on new year's eve.
i thought about running six miles and ran four miles.
i ran, emptied, and loaded the dishwasher a couple of times.
i entered a crossword puzzle tournament and booked a hotel for the weekend (hotel gal: "you kick butt in that tournament!").
i ate some of the blood orange bread pudding we made and flambéd last night.
i trimmed our little cat's claws.