02.03.24 [on the J train]

i've had a run of really wonderful reads at the start of this year: turning into a shark, swapping bodies with your spouse, defeating conversion camps, it's all been lovely. speculative fiction makes me itch to write strange things, though not to write fiction—i have tried that a few times and everything about it feels wrong. which is lucky, really, as i then get to enjoy others' stuff with absolutely no skin in the game. on that, though, i had a funky twinge yesterday that is leading me to look into the possibility of writing a nonfiction book? it would not be a collection of essays, nor would it be a memoir; it would have a principal and lots of secondary subjects that are not me, and you would just smell me in the structure and language, or maybe, maybe i would lean a bit into a framework like the one in preparing the ghost, where the author talks about the first photographer of a giant squid and also, semi-related, about his own working out of an ice cream truck in chicago. i will probably spare posterity stories of my slinging health food in orange county, but maybe other glimpses could end up in there? more importantly, the prospective subject spent significant parts of her life close to new york city, so if i decide i really want to dig in on research—a copy of her out-of-print midlife memoir is on its way to me now*—i could make a lot of initial progress without shelling out for plane tickets or making myself vulnerable in, i don't know, residency applications or whatever. i am still not at all sure that writing and especially selling and marketing a book are things i truly want to do, but i know i want to read this memoir to see if i like the idea of spending a lot more time thinking about this woman, and that's something?

the owl pitch i mentioned last month landed, speaking of writing. it landed this past wednesday because my editor missed my email the first time and then had COVID, so the time-sensitive part of the story is spoiled, but i get to spend the rest of the month thinking about owls—for money, and that's the dream, really. yet another bird pitch flew out of me about a week ago, and before that another about a world war two pilot and candy, and if all of them hit, february is going to be a bit of a shit show—but perhaps it's time for me to develop the ability to juggle passion projects instead of packing them in the tissue of better-paid busy work. the ceramic flamingo i ordered after embracing a flamingo in the bahamas last fall was bubble-wrapped just beautifully, and it still arrived on our doorstep with a broken neck.

*ETA as i finally get around to uploading this written-on-the-subway post: it was getting weird that the memoir i mentioned hadn't arrived as of today, so i checked my alibris account and realized i hadn't succeeded in buying it. it's finally en route for realsies! since i'm updating, i can also now report that the other bird pitch also hit and i finally got a weird no about the pilot, like, monday, february 20th. i'm a little shocked at the rejection, as that pitch was really good, but juggling three semi-recreational stories this month would have broken me. i am at peace.

01.06.24 [on the J train]

if eater posts an item about a delicately-braised writer turning up on a platform in queens later today, that's me; i took the clinic-escort volunteer leaders' email about extra-cold-weather layering too seriously and am sous-vide'ing myself in some zippy thing i bought in akureyri last year and snow boots that are bigger than the cat. i am not one of those people, alas, who thinks sweltering one's way to the great mixed-recycling bin would be better than freezing to death.

one of my milder personal nightmares came to life yesterday evening at this off-broadway riff on a mentalist show at which i was singled out for a bit of audience participation. this was my own fault, since the performer was narrowing down his field of targets by telling people to sit down if they weren't left-handed and so on—i could have just done that—but being compelled to lie is also a personal nightmare, so that was off the table. luckily the guy doing the audience work seemed to catch my awkward-collaborator psychic stink and moved on. i told my mom about the show and she sympathized—she once got plucked from the crowd at a penn and teller show in las vegas. my mother is a brutal disappointer of magicians—an occasion on which she did so at a southern california fuddrucker's is canonical in my family—so this fascinated me. are these guys (they are always guys) like cats who know when someone doesn't want them to sit in their lap?

i sent my first passion-project pitches for the new year earlier this week and—you might want to be sitting down for this—they are about birds. it's time to write a weird science piece about birds! the ideal weird piece about birds would be a deep dive on the state of sky burials, as caitlin doughty talked about in from here to eternity (her boss book about death practices around the world and why pretty much all of them are a better deal than what we do here in america); as i recall, it's getting tougher to do them in places like india because the necessary raptors no longer show up (pollution? habitat loss?), whereas here we have carrion birds aplenty but it's illegal. which reminds me: i wrote several pieces for a friend's end-of-life startup (heh) years ago and never bookmarked their eventual URLs; is my relatively mixed-company-friendly explanation of what happens when a body is embalmed still out there somewhere? what about the quaker funeral breakdown? (for what it's worth, i like the sound of quaker funerals: simple, pretty green.)

the bird pieces i pitched are about owls and flamingos, so no human-corpse-eating to report out, probably. if i pitch the owl idea to another outlet i'm considering mentioning that my enthusiasm for them is so consistent that the only smartphone lock screen i've ever had is a grainy old shot of the midtown hooters marquee. a little beside the point, maybe, but it's true, and i eventually landed that piece i wrote about collecting nineteen eighty-four because i emailed a stranger about the time a pigeon threw up in my mouth, so...maybe?



i gave a french couple directions to bryant park.
i went on my mushroom club's pop-up central park walk.
i learned a difference between snail eggs and slug eggs.
i decided to order crispy pickled artichokes instead of pickled crudités.
i shaved my legs in a bubble bath.
i extended my duolingo streak.
i remembered the bottle of kombucha in my tote bag.
i opened a window in the bedroom.