07.15.23 [on the J train]

i joined the dubious sorority of generations of salty cooperators before me in writing to our building's management board this week, after treadmill adventure #475 in which the dude next to me in our janky old exercise room–on a work call the whole time!–set his incline to everest and grabbed the front of the machine so that it could haul him up the faux hill. i'd walk a parade in matching outfits with this pet peeve; i'd serve it little portions of my own dinner on one of the wedgwood dessert dishes i've hoarded on thrift store walks, would get a memorial tattoo for it if it was capable of dying. hauls like his are bad for him, bad for the machine, bad for me–a 'mill belt loosened thus will eventually start skipping and propel another user facefirst into the control panel, depriving her of her teeth and like maybe causing brain injury? in much more help-me-help-you terms i explained that in my message and offered some bracing national statistics about treadmill injuries, along with assorted pleasantries about how much we love our digs and the building's amenities. all true! our apartment rules and i'll be beside myself when the waters take it in the end times!

so i had a missed call from the president when i got up the next morning that i returned with a voicemail, and in the afternoon i got an email about how i was right and how's this wording for a sign for the gym? i sent praise and friendly tweaks; "stand by for greatness," said they, and scene.

talking about interactions with one's co-op board is probably up there with describing one's dreams,* but hear me out: ours is historically and notoriously resistant to feedback (our annual meetings are like jerry springer flash-forwards, or they were before i stopped attending them), and that last dare i say playful response shocked the shit out of me. i'm not surprised they responded to my note, it was a very good note, but the kicky denouement illustrated what i have started to think of as the mcconaughey principle, or the efficacy of the invitation to participate in cool. this is probably covered more eloquently in getting to yes, but i haven't read it since high school, so: i benefit regularly if not consistently from asking people in various persuasive episodes to join me in my correct and mutually beneficial thinking. i sort of did this back when i was a research chief and a big part of my job was explaining to writers and editors that they were wrong, but it's oakier now, and super-dry correction isn't my kink these days. it works so often! wild!

this might be a riff too far, but i think there's an echo of this in the way that most strangers are really nice to me. there's lots of privilege wrapped up in that, and sinister/shitty reasons why it's advantageous to treat middle-aged, upper-middle-class white women well, but i also think my particular look (multiple visible tattoos and piercings, frequently-vivid hair, punky brewster fits) kind of inspires people to comment on those things or engage with me in a way that implicates them in harmless whimsy. my elderly neighbors in particular love this kind of thing so, so much, internets. we all get to participate in a teal pixie cut and a checkered skort set! take care of yourself, and each other.

*the other night i had an intricate dream about an old-timey western that was also a soap opera set in the titular town of QUARRELWOOD and i might write some imaginary episode recaps for it.

07.08.23 [on the J train]

i'm still having the sort of seasonal trouble sleeping that doesn't afford me enough clarity to read as i have through every other wee hour of unexpected wakefulness in my life. i appear to be able to shop just fine, though, which isn't that unfortunate–i'm acquiring small-ticket stuff, pretty much–but it's weird. a few weeks ago i acquired a high-concept "sports bra" that addresses breasts like those layered ship's-sail-lookin' patio shades that don't shield much of anything (it would have been perfect for a pride parade, or a memphis group mermaid getup in coney island). earlier this week it was a set of tiny spring-mounted lips for kissing bugs without hurting them; last night / this morning it was a COME BACK SPACEMAN asteroid city tee. i have been thinking about asteroid city a lot since we saw it a few weeks ago–i think it's my favorite wes anderson movie, though one could argue that one's first has to be one's favorite (if one likes wes anderson movies as a general proposition, that is, and i respect that plenty don't) because it's just so surprising and delightful to go where he finds himself. i was going to say "to his dimension," but that could be the one scrawny cup of coffee in me talking. anyway, this one has a gorgeous melancholy-in-isolation that really got under my skin; there are plenty of explicitly sad things there, like tom hanks's characters interactions with his dead daughter's widower, but there are more delicate ones like the way the precocious children look at the sky, or the stop-motion alien looks at humans, or the way the humans look back at him. it felt even more elegiac to me than the french dispatch did, and that was all about my actual world! (i'm not the next william shawn or anything, but you know what i mean.)

one of my assigning editors just got swept up in the latest round of layoffs at her ever-more-merger-happy parent company, and i met her, a fellow media casualty, and one of her other regular freelancers for lunch this week. i'd known she'd be in new york and told her to ping me if she had a moment so i could buy her a drink, but i didn't see her middle-of-the-night text until the next morning, so i barely had time to worry about whether or not my human suit was on straight before i headed up to little spain. it was legitimately lovely to see her and meet the other two; since i don't network and haven't been on a press trip since before the pandemic, it's been a long time since i've interacted with people who've played our particular bullshit game of musical chairs. as someone who's been sitting on her own haunches more or less contentedly for nearly a decade now, i actually felt like i had a bit of zen to offer, though i think all of them would rather find another full-time salaried gig than, say, ping-pong between stressful underpaid highbrow vanity gigs and the bread-and-butter-offered-to-me stuff i've started calling, with an unfortunate case of nominative determinism, "problem sets." i talked way too much and suspect they all think i'm a blowhard, but maybe they had a good time also and i should just be more aggressive in my bedtime melatonin explorations?

i broke my own rule of not engaging famous people i encounter in person when i saw julio torres on the subway the other day. he debarked and switched trains at the same place i did, so i had a few minutes to contemplate the back of his head and think about greetings that wouldn't be an imposition. i settled on "we don't know each other, i just wanted to tell you i think you're brilliant and i'm forgetting her name because i'm nervous but your nugget is really elegant." he smiled and thank me and said he'd tell her, and i excused myself and dove into a westbound L train across the platform. it was okay!

it looks like i actually do have a press trip coming up at long last; i was invited to bring a guest (provided i covered their airfare) on a comparatively-small-boat expedition up around eastern canada. i told myself i wouldn't cruise again after the press trip joe and i took years ago–there's just no way to justify that environmental impact, and our personal guide in akureyri when we were in iceland a few months ago told us in no uncertain terms that big ships were smothering his country's ports–but i decided i think there are things for me to report on here, and that if cruising is to continue to happen, it's got to happen at this scale (that is, boats a fraction of the size of ye olde floating megaresorts, with sustainable features and meaningful partnerships with scientists and conservationists). we haven't officially booked yet, but it's in the water.

06.18.22 [on the D train]

in attempting to send my dad father's day salutations i sent him some pull quotes from a piece about the harvard medical school morgue staffer who got caught selling donors' body parts to gothbros and issuing receipts for "braiiiiiins." better than a jerky of the month subscription or an ugly tie, probably? i was reminded of a few years ago, when one of the big outlets i'd been writing for pivoted, somewhat mysteriously but not in an interesting way, from travel to paranormal content. one of their editors asked if i was interested in writing about true crime, which is one of a handful of subjects that just don't grab me at all. ditto ghost hunting, and the combination is lethal–contacting the spirits of murdered prostitutes and the otherwise marginalized, yeah, no. there were some weird weeks in there when we were all making a valiant effort to maintain a viewpoint–maybe we could get some more mileage out of haunted hotels?–but it didn't last long. this sale-of-body-parts stuff is perhaps closer to the kind of corpse-related stuff that does interest me, like how the medical school is going to have to track down all of those families who thought their folks' remains had gone to science. (NB: read the fine print several times when you turn stuff over To Science.)

joe speculates that maya deren, our tiny new cat, has mellowed because she was spayed on tuesday. doctor google is vague on this; she is probably 2-3 years old (per our vet) and has had at least one litter of kittens (per the gal on staten island who fostered her as she weaned them). it's been suggested that once a cat has reached decisive adulthood, spaying or neutering doesn't have much of an effect on their behavior. i have so little experience with female cats of any age that i'm no better than doctor google–but she seems to enjoy our company, even matty's, and i'm glad for that.

05.29.23 [on the J train]

you can't savor this as i can, but know regardless that i am writing on a J train that's occupied exclusively by feminine people and that i'm using a pen anne carson used two weeks ago at the full-moon publishing party and art happening we attended out in brooklyn. i don't usually feel compelled to Dress As Poets Do, but anne c.–who wrote one of the editions that was published and distributed on that night only, with all (if any) remaining copies to be burned that night*–wore a maraschino-red issey-miyake-adjacent sleeveless dress with matching trainers, plus a medal that looked a lot like the one i got for running that 5K through downtown reyjkavik. i would wear that every day! (as it happens, i'm currently wearing a short, sleeveless athleta dress with my monarch-butterfly-covered day of the dead adidas trainers, which might be a weird choice for escorting patients at an abortion clinic, but what should one wear for that? i went with running capris last time and it was also odd. can't turn up shlubby when odds are some shakycam video of you will end up on facebook with anti-choice propaganda captions, now can you.)

we now have a second cat, and i have mostly stopped thinking we have to kill her because she's ruining matty's life. (this is a regular impulse for me, my equivalent of maternal ferocity–when we brought kitten-steve home and he played with chuck's tail in a way i considered aggressive i thought about ending him, too.) she is the first adult cat, the first female cat, the first intact-recent-mama cat we've ever had, and i was more than a little afraid of her. kittens you can manhandle with love, provided that you communicate that they are the ones calling the shots in your interactions, and i feel pretty confident in my understanding of a little dude's agenda, but she! she growl-purred for the first 24 hours or so, which seemed related to matty's presence, but what if she just hated my guts? now she yells at matty sporadically but is portable and gymnastically affectionate with us–such flop-rolls! she was clearly not a street cat, but it seems like her experience is limited–upholstery and treats flummox her. i wish we could skip ahead to the part where she realizes matty wanting to be her pal is a good thing, but i'm doing my best to let them figure things out on their own. be cool, joe says, don't overthink it, which is weird, since he's met me.

*ragnar decided not to burn the extra books and instead had his translator take them, as burning books in this particular america felt fraught to him. relatable!

05.13.23 [on the J train]

the digital ads on this train are explaining how to prepare cherry blossom cookies, which feels like something one would definitely go home and do after a rudimentary subway tutorial. i had a magisterial run of mixed berry crumbles on winter weekends this year and have a solid dessert in my back pocket if we have anyone over for dinner ever again, which is not impossible. we flew home from iceland on may first, which is our newyorkaversary (observed) and maybe even the actual day we flew to new york from san francisco in 2003–my blog posts then aren't explicit about our arrival, though it would be unlikely that the seat-back TVs on the plane from california were covering bush's flight-jackety MISSION ACCOMPLISHED appearance on that aircraft carrier in such detail if it had happened the day before? i wasn't quite the bottomless news pit then that i am now, so i lack tasting notes.

i spoke to my therapist for the first time yesterday since our icelanding, and i think my anecdotes–of landing after a redeye and spontaneously deciding to run the national first-day-of-summer 5k that same morning, stalking the one antiquarian bookseller in reykjavik and then bonding with him, after securing two new-to-me editions of nineteen eighty-four in icelandic, over the fact that both of us needed to start writing poetry again, &c–might have disappointed her a bit. she's a wonderful person and i have no doubt that she wants me to be well, but maybe the fact that my sobriety is starting to feel a bit old hat and i'm not feeling gaslit by erstwhile old friends means we can redirect our respective resources a bit? i'm not interested in being the gal who gives up a practice that is working because it is working, but i do think we've plateaued in terms of those initial tribulations and might need to move on to something else. i'm reminded of the time i got locked out of our san francisco apartment and asked the locksmith, after he'd sheared through the deadbolt joe had so carefully installed on the back door, if he'd show me how to pick the lock on our front door. i am ready to break new houses! (ask me about lock picking with a two-liter soda bottle sometime, it's pretty boss.)

03.18.23 [on the F train]

after a year and a half of these crack-of-dawn journeys i can affirm that no one is on the subway at this hour for a good reason. it's not like buses in san francisco, where the 7 AM'ers were like actively casting spells to pry open the gates of hell and accelerate the end of the world, but the collective ugh up in here is palpable. i do these abortion clinic escort shifts once a month and was considering going again next weekend so i'd feel okay about skipping april, when my schedule is tricksier than usual because we'll be in iceland for two weeks, but back-to-back daybreak shenanigans would be too much for me. i do appreciate the community i feel on mornings like this one, as we wait to hear what that trump appointee out in amarillo will rule about mailing mifepristone, and everyone is grateful to have like-minded, action-oriented company, but my seasoning as a human shield wears thin with overuse, and the catharsis of confrontation just gets corrosive in big doses.

on horse pills, we saw our, i don't know, sixth play of the year on thursday. it was love, set in a temporary housing center in england, and it was wonderful. in another month or so it will probably start feeling like too much to have two or three artsy nights out per week, but for now it's excellent. all of the new york city, right in the kisser, go ahead! tonight we're headed up to the philharmonic, and i will disco nap hard enough this afternoon that i definitely won't fall asleep in the middle of the program. it helps that i crammed in a tár viewing right before the oscars last week; cate blanchett is MSG for me when i don't have a taste for something on my own, though even her formidable work in i'm not there couldn't make me care about bob dylan. in a year in which michelle yeoh didn't win everything, CB would have won another oscar; instead she just floated around in a cocoon of louis vuitton ecosilk like the gracious technolympian she is. i doubt she was bothered.

both the editor and the freelancer who fact checked my draft have written to say how much they love my robot cat essay, which has been a real relief; i didn't want to make a big deal about how much it means to me, but as i've said, i'm trying to break their hearts. that feedback is nipping at me to plot out another weird passion project, but i'm not very good at premeditating those–certain kinds of writing are like throwing up. afterward you're usually able to piece together what happened to get you to that point and you're grateful to be on the other side, but it's generally an unhealthy thing to get into on purpose.

on intimate fluids, i gave blood for the first time in ages yesterday, and my iron levels were totally unremarkable. at last, i am iron woman! is it sobriety-related? did the random daily multivitamins some PR person mailed me work better than all the others i've tried? did the blood bank get so desperate that they relaxed their guidelines for this along with everything else (the cooling-off period for donations after tattoos is now just three months–or no months, if you get tattooed in new jersey)? i won't look a gift needle in the mouth, but i will start donating platelets as often as i can. getting to read for two hours while watching my blood cycle through a machine, then drinking cranberry juice and feeling smugly helpful without actually having to interact with anyone? delectable. if they brought back those little bags of cheez-its for the are-you-going-to-faint-or-what tables it would be perfect.