12.29.22 [on the 6 train]

it's warmed back up, and we're headed up to the bronx zoo - by 'we' i mean my local family minus joe, who is a good sport about excursions like these and no fool when given an elegant out - to look at lights, i think? my yen to craft enrichment piñatas for tigers up there was the beginning of my many years as a volunteer at the bird hospital; i tweeted about how my DIY skills were unimpressive to zookeepers and a friend who did wildlife rehab out on long island introduced me to my local bird people. i still haven't been back up there to volunteer since the winter before the pandemic, and i still can't tell you if or when i'll go. i know i miss being in a basement full of pigeons, and i know i don't miss sharing space with indifferent high school interns and, let's be honest, newer staffers who don't know what i already know how to do. i also miss the bad old days before best practices started including drawing a curtain around the waterfowl tank so human oglers don't disturb the birds. it is good and right to do that, and to speak as little as possible when handling patients and to discourage especially friendly ones, and it is fantastic that a big batch of tristate-area teens is learning that pigeons aren't voodoo dolls or garbage. i acknowledge this! i also miss slipping into the songbird flyway and having ben the cardinal swoop down to land on my shoulder and sing the song he only ever sang for me, which wouldn't ever happen again anyway; he's lived at the founder's house for years and years now, and he might not still be alive. i gave my beloved nonprofit bookstore a chance to evolve into something good after some unfortunate changes, and while i'll never be allowed to accidentally molest wildlife again, maybe i should give my relationship with the hospital a chance to heal into something different-but-serviceable. you know, like a pigeon's callused stump after its foot self-amputates. but i am a sentimental old goth and i also enjoy not knowing when i've done something for the last time. my dad and i happened to walk past the hospital earlier this week - it didn't dawn on me until it was about to happen - and i felt like i was driving past an ex-boyfriend's house. there were turtles in the window, but none i recognized or could greet by name.


i am once again not on a train, just enjoying the morning before things happen. i should be showering and hustling out the door to acquire a carrot cake, but absentminded, bedheaded processions past one's christmas tree are the royal icing between christmas and new year's, and i respect that. a couple of weeks ago the tree guy up on houston explained to me how the water additive he threw in with our noble fir was safe for pets because it turns into gelatinous little beads in the stand, which is a wild way of telling someone you've never met a companion animal. the cats bark for wet food, a piledriver whacks out matins on the east river, i'll probably play trombone champ "take on me" as i get ready. there are between two and four spiders living inside the average trombone.


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not of sorrow, but in wonder.

(czeslaw milosz, 1936)

12.27.22 [on the B train]

i was going to start emma straub's newest book last night and couldn't find it, which is mildly concerning, as it's a big-ass hardcover that has been waggling its eyebrows at me from my etagere-nightstand for a week. it is not under the bed, or under a pile of folded laundry, or behind groceries, or shelved. is it possible i didn't buy it after all? my TBR pile is tall, and i am very undisciplined about adding to it and reprioritizing what's in it, so anything is possible - but i don't think this is one of those things i dreamed and am now thinking is a memory. am i one of the snails in the gastropodlighting news that resurfaced on social media this week? also unlikely, given my relationship with salt, but then again there's this end-of-the-year relationship with mucus.

speaking of emma straub, 2022 was the year i really made myself comfortable among fellow commenters on a popular lifestyle blog. (given that the majority of my freelance work has almost always been on that beat, i'm not really sure why this came as such a surprise.) though i don't share the community's interest in meg ryan's film fashion, podcasts, or non-underwire bras, it was a delightful shock to realize i do like, say, elizabeth strout (and ended up reading all of her olive kitteridge and lucy barton books in two big gulps this year; joe and i both liked the olive miniseries). i really like being pointed at rare john derian sales and, uh, have invested in an astronaut linocut and an embroidered velvet bat accordingly. but the real draw is that i can’t deny the fact that they like me. right now, they like me! they aren't shy about saying so, and i've grown to feel that i have a little pod of strangers rooting for me on the internets. i think and hope i'm a bright spot for them as they are for me? sometimes self-care is taking compliments?


i'm not on a train! i mean, as far as i know i'm not on a train. for all i know i could be an extraterrestrial's in-flight movie, in which case i had better not be an amazon studios project.* now more than ever, fuck those guys.

chouette (book). i wish i could remember where i first heard of this novel. knowing my interests, i probably just perked up when someone said it was the story of a woman who gave birth to an owl-baby? that both is and isn't literal; the narrator's daughter is and is not an owl (i think some review said she seemed most like an eastern screech-owl, but i read a lot about owls and could be remembering that from something else). the maternal urges and feelings she describes are frequently repulsive to me, and once i realized that and started sitting with my discomfort and thinking about how i tend to other [the verb] people who are really into their children, well. claire oshetsky's dust flap bio notes that chouette "draws on her own experiences of motherhood," and i know that she has a child, but it's, ah, safe to say this isn't autofiction. from here, it's a novel about what it is like to be the birthing parent of an uncommon child, and what it is like to disagree fundamentally and strenuously with one's coparent about how to approach an uncommon child, and reading it made me a more compassionate person. i've read a lot of strange books about mothers this year; i prefer this one to rachel yoder's nightbitch, which i also liked, and claire vaye watkins's i love you but i've chosen darkness, which was wild when it fictionalized watkins's experience as the daughter of an especially notorious member of the manson family and also weirdly annoying in its treatment of polyamorous people? i don't feel the need to sit with my annoyance in the same way i recognized and was ashamed of the way i think about parents; i support polyamorous people and wish them all the ease and happiness in the world, i just find the procedures of their love lives boring. i find the procedures of just about everyone's love lives boring! also "joyfriend" is the silliest word in town. chouette is worth reading.

the harbinger (film). i learned of the brooklyn horror film festival's existence just as it started this year and wish i could have seen more, but oh, am i thrilled i got to see this; it's a dream-logic tragedy about the pandemic in new york (and everywhere, really, but especially about new york; it was shot here in 2021, and it got the atmosphere of being here in 2020 just right with all kinds of little touches that were agonizing and therapeutic at the same time?) and mental illness is one of the best things i saw this year. i don't want to say too much about it, but i will say that it was a great relief to see several of the actors and writer/director andy mitton at the q&a afterward, for secret reasons.

katjes (plant-based gummi candy). the day i realized my childhood german friends didn't actually know what they were talking about when they contended that haribo goldbären were made with vegetarian gelatin (not a thing) wasn't one of the worst days of my life, but it wasn't a good one. katjes doesn't use palm oil, either! i spent a lot of time in grocery store candy aisles, for science, when we were in berlin this fall, and am here to say that their rainbow gummies are, like, several orders of magnitude better than veg-friendly haribo. (aside: haribo doesn't use palm oil, and almost all sugar used in the UK is vegan.) anyway, katjes seems to have scored some big stateside distribution deals, and their stuff turns up at duane reade and walgreens every now and again (and at economy candy). exciting and dangerous!

*i enjoyed sea of tranquility's handling of the simulation hypothesis, though i didn't enjoy it quite enough to include it in this CONSUMED, apparently. i really enjoyed how a slate writer interviewed emily st. john mandel last week per her twitter request so that she could say that she is not married, have it credibly reported, and then update her time-capsule wikipedia page accordingly. as it happens, earlier this year *i* helped someone update their wikipedia page because they needed information related to the dissolution of their marriage corrected! they have not written any science fiction, as far as i know.

12.23.22 [on the 5 train]

i'm reading an excellent book about eels (mostly anguilla anguilla, european eels), and last night's chapters burrowed into the mysterious longevity they experience (vs. enjoy) when they are taken from the wild and thus aren't prompted to transition from their third life stage of yellow eelhood, or adolescence, to the fourth and final life stage of silver eelhood, or sexual maturity, which is when they grow reproductive organs, their stomachs dissolve into their bodies, and they return to the sargasso sea to breed and die. there was in particular the story of a small swedish eel that a little boy caught and threw in a well in the 19th century that ended up living in twilight down there for what some claim was like 150 years. stories about this brantevik eel, called åle by humans and commemorated when he died in 2014, are often paired with anguilla anguilla stock photos captioned something like "this is not the eel we're talking about; this eel is alive." the very old eel never got very large, and his eyes got much bigger than yellow eels' eyes usually do. the eel book author presents the deathless nonsleep of åle the well-eel as something like a busted vampire's existence in an anne rice novel or only lovers left alive (a 2013 jim jarmusch movie about vampires starring tilda swinton ostensibly so far up my alley that it might straight-up be my alley that i somehow hated so much it's actually a little disturbing to think about it now). how bummed can an eel be, and how should our appreciation of how bummed an eel can be matter, if it matters at all? in my first 13 years, as a person who was at least in theory willing to eat fish, i am almost positive i never had eel - i've never had most seafood, actually - and i'm glad. in other news, did you know that the sargasso sea is just a seaweed-covered extra-mysterious patch of the atlantic ocean that's been squared off with currents? ("sargasso" comes from the seaweed, a brown algae called sargassum.)

on things that aren't pleasurable for me, we ended up at a matisyahu concert at brooklyn bowl last night. the initial plan as of early this week was to go bowling on the lower east side with friends, said friends discovered the concert at brooklyn bowl and suggested we bowl and see the show, and said friends then got sick and bowed out, leading us to realize beneath a giant dreidel-shaped disco ball that we didn't know as much about spiritual reggae-beatboxing as we probably should have before committing to the evening. it was the worst show i've attended since high school friends peer pressured me into seeing jars of clay at the orange county fair! but i survived, which is more than poor åle can say.

12.22.22 [on the D, 6, and L trains]

i had what i hope is a solid jolt of inspiration for rounding out holiday gifts for my little nephews. i always have a lot to unload when i see them, given that i consistently shit the bed on dispatching packages out to california in a timely-for-birthdays-and-holidays manner and only see them once or twice a year, but i always want to overcompensate for the unreliability and above all to make sure everyone feels i've thought of them as often as i've thought of their sibling. not always intuitive when their interests don't dovetail with mine - like, man is it easy to shop for a friend's kid who shares my feelings about bats. anyway, i am a monster, but i found a bunch of holographic animal portraits in chinatown, and i think T will appreciate the illusion of a wolf leaping into his bedroom. (this is a kid who asked his mother for a door for christmas a few years ago.)

i filed my last piece of the year last night and am on my way up to central park in search of owls. there's a northern saw-whet somewhere (that someone managed to photograph mid-pellet), and a great horned owl, and a barred - who won't dislodge barry (RIP) in my affections but might help me heal, or something. it'd be pretty great if i spotted some mushrooms as well, given how long it's been since i've made a meaningful fungal foray. the mighty patch of wine caps up at stuyvesant park that i picked this summer, DNA sequenced at the president of the mycological society's apartment, and presented at one of the society's weekly identification meetings with an explicit "i am interested in eating these. can any of you think of any reason why i shouldn't?" (A: dogs might have peed on them, but otherwise, no) before sautéeing is long-demolished, thanks to the ongoing climate-change resilience project fucking up our bank of the east river. this is all bill de blasio's fault, is what i'm saying. "he" texted me during primary season to ask for my support and i replied that i would sell my organs on the black market to fund his rivals. he dropped out of the congressional race soon afterward; you're welcome.

speaking of jokes i tell myself, a morning newsletter from the new york times last weekend solicited personal, offbeat year's-best nominations, and i got an email yesterday asking me to confirm my name and location for my submission. will the times shitpost to america's inboxes on my behalf this saturday? we'll see.


no owls - no owls that wanted to reveal themselves to me, anyway. in making my way up to the pinetum i wandered into belvedere castle, where a docent who happened to be a birdwatcher told me the barred owl was in the ramble for a few weeks before the great horned owl came and bullied it from its branch (and eventually decamped as well). i defaulted to meandering around the park in the rain as the light drained out of the clouds, which was as goddamn delightful as it was a decade ago when i would slip out of my midtown office on my lunch break to wallk out my feelings. no mushrooms, either, but i wasn't looking very hard. maybe a couple of ancient dryad's saddles 20 feet up a tree trunk? i could have pulled out my binoculars to be sure - yeah, i brought my fancy binoculars - but i am fundamentally a lazy person. i left the park via bethesda mall and a guy in the terrace arcade was playing "can't help falling in love" on his erhu in the gloaming. way to break my heart again (again), new york city.

12.17.22 [on the J train]

i remember my [abortion clinic escort] shift just before christmas last year as the coldest by far, and i have thus wildly overdressed in a sweater from the reykjavik red cross and some insulated stirrup pants(!) i bought for a press trip in the french alps long ago when the earth was flat. i had actually intended to ski on that trip, and after i mentioned as i got fitted for my equipment that i hadn't been on a slope since adolescence, someone showed up at my room with a supplemental insurance card. fair play, club med; fair play.

so i think what's happening is that i'm going to try blogging in a notebook whenever i ride the subway, a nod to the early days of writing out my posts on the back stairs when we lived in san francisco. less angrily, i hope, or angered for different reasons. we went out to bushwick last night for a son little show and when i met joe at a restaurant beforehand - a place styled to look like its owners' parents' turkish supper club in midcentury wisconsin, as i recall - he said i had a 'scattered and off' vibe (which he eventually attributed to the blogging). so that's something we can expect going forward, maybe. the show itself was at what i would call an archetypally bushwickian venue - hairy light-threaded star clusters hanging around the big old disco ball (joe called them neurons, i called them vogons), a big sign prohibiting body shaming, permanent illuminated signs for the EXIT, the COURTYARD/SMOKING, and FOOD TRUCK. the person who searched my bag noted faux-neutrally that i had a lot of earplugs. "you never know when you might grow another ear," i said. the bathroom attendant had a QR code in case you wanted to venmo him. son little himself was sleepily charismatic, and delighted when the crowd added in "whoa-whoa-whoa"s for the "blue magic" singalong. no one had done that before, he said, but it made sense that new york originated it, he reasoned.

i still haven't convinced my editor to take me up on the iceland travel piece i mentioned back in october, but i did sell and write her the iceland story i nearly reported for her colleagues on the print side more than a year ago, and i suspect it's going to do well. the many icelanders i interviewed have thus far been pleased with my diligence and accuracy, and that is all i really care about, though i certainly wouldn't sneeze at being the magazine's de facto iceland correspondent. one of the translators i pinged who was particularly generous with her expertise has been really warm as a general proposition, and i think maybe we'll be friends? (she seems to spend half the year in iceland and the other half in brooklyn.) that's especially buoying at the moment, for i seem to have lost friends this year.

in the course of an argument joe and i had in the spring, he told me that one of the old pals we'd visited in the dominican republic a few months prior had suggested to him that perhaps i had "the kind of syndrome that makes people rant in the street." i immediately texted said pal and told him how hurt i was that he'd made that suggestion. well i seemed not myself, said he. i explained that there had been a global pandemic, and that i was newly sober, traveling with a partner who was in serious distress, and unexpectedly writing my first piece for an outlet i badly wanted to impress while on vacation, and i guess i'd thought he would see me in the context of all those things, and extend me the empathy i've tried to have for everyone else as we navigate our respective challenges. i was also mortified, because i had worked so hard to be a good guest when we were out there; i couldn't believe i was being pathologized. i tried to explain that there had long been plenty of mental health professionals attending to me and that maybe calling me the manic street preacher of the lower east side was not thoughtful or kind, but he didn't seem very interested in listening to me. when i texted a few months later to say that i care about them and hoped we could figure something out, he and his wife said they want to meet me in person to talk about it; given how pear-shaped things seem to have gone the last time we saw each other, i don't want that. so i am mourning them. i thought they saw me.

is that brutal? what if anything do you owe someone who tells you they think you're something you're not and keeps insisting on it when you disagree and offer a bunch of evidence to the contrary? i don't intend for subway bloggin' to focus on mental health, which i don't enjoy discussing all that much, ironically, but i did just spend two hours getting properly preached out on a street corner, so i feel like i came by it honestly. this morning it wasn't all that cold, but the antis packed up on the early side, and i'm now officially done human-shielding for the year, praise hekate. take care of yourselves, and each other.

12.16.22ii [on the F and L trains]

[a thing i'm trying. is carrying a journal on the subway the new longhand blogging? we'll see.]

i haven't seen footprints on the ceiling of a subway car in years, so i guess showtime and/or demonic possession is out of vogue. i haven't started wearing a mask again yet. do i really believe i'm not endangering anyone or have i lived long enough to become the villain? i was sure of the latter when i heard pixies' "gigantic" while returning a lamé-detailed blouse at the fifth avenue j.crew a week ago.

i read an excellent poem this morning (molly brodak's "in the morning, before anything bad happens") that i found both moving and inaccurate. brodak wrote of birds on the wing that couldn't believe their luck, but in all my years of wildlife rehab support at the bird hospital i never saw the birds we released (or any birds) look fortunate in the air. they looked focused. birds i've seen look like they can't believe their luck when they're swimming, even if they're sinking because they aren't yet waterproof.

when i dream of flying i don't feel fortunate, either. i feel like concentration is just barely keeping me aloft.

delibird, the seasonal pokemon, started spawning in the city this week. it took me a long time to realize its name referenced gifting and not bodegas; if i catch a shiny one i'll name it bodegavian anyway.


joe forwarded me an article about the aquarium explosion in berlin this morning. we stayed at the hotel it flooded back in 2019, and had ill-advised cocktails under that dire cylinder, just before getting on a ship. do you think 1,500 fish in the road look the way you'd imagine they would? it's something you'd never forget. i wouldn't compare anything that happened to me to that much death in a very public way but in my heart i think of coming here to talk about what the last while has felt like and i think the fish are in the road, the fish are in the road. i can't imagine not coming here, but i don't always know what i'm ready to haul into the air.

we got really terrible news about steve this week; after some fairly extensive diagnostics, our vet thinks he has some kind of cancer in his large intestine and a rectal mass, probably a tumor, that she couldn't remove without a lot of risk and difficulty. he's lost a lot of weight and is essentially incontinent, but is also essentially himself, or at least what i understand his self to be, and so we did not take his doctor up on her offer to have the euthanasia discussion with us on tuesday. trying to decide how to show up most responsibly for a little nonverbal animal i both love dearly and don't want to anthropomorphize is my personal hell, as you probably know, and it is a hard time. i gave steve my toothbrush the other night, just let him purr and chew at the minty-ass bristles and god knows what fluoride does to a senior cat with likely terminal cancer. i turn my sweatshirts inside out before i put them in the hamper where he sleeps, both because i know they're going to end up smeared with blood and shit and because he loves the smell of deodorant, he loves all human smells, he's such a little roommate.

have i talked about how not drinking feels like not having any skin? i'm glad i stopped, it was indeed subtly and occasionally not so subtly desaturating my life, but oh how the fish are in the road. i've done so much work this year and am fiercely proud of what i'm finally getting to tackle in my professional writing, but i don't think i had any real idea of just how raw i would feel. or any idea at all, really. i wouldn't have told you i was partially numb, quite the opposite. i'm also fiercely proud of finally talking to a proper therapist, and finally talking to another proper therapist with joe; poor old doctor omnibus is a psychiatrist who wouldn't be expected to field my feelings even if he wasn't an old boot. though it is nice to be able to multitask, i miss being able to sleep.