Sundry thoughts, observations, and writings.
Ceci n’est pas un blog
Into the great wide open
This week I head to Philadelphia, and then less than two weeks later San Francisco, and then less than week after that DC, and then three days after that North Carolina.
I also just raced towards (and met) a deadline for a very exciting piece, and have another exciting (longer) commission due mid-month. In short: not many words to spare, much less time.
Here are the material and immaterial things occupying the part of my brain that doesn’t store dreams about finding housing in the Bay Area or cravings for cigarettes.
This piece by artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden in Triple Canopy, on honoring and memorializing the lives of three black gay artists who died from AIDS.
Related: Johanna Fateman’s 4Columns observations on Art after Stonewall.
Aldous Harding’s “Fixture Picture”.
Rachel Ingalls’s Binstead’s Safari (I’m about ¼ of the way through).
The way everyone on my train this morning acted quickly and collaboratively to help a woman who fainted because she was on her period and lost too much blood. A woman unscrewed her water bottle and offered it to this stranger, and a man who looked like he listened to a lot of EDM competently sprung to action and cleared her a seat. He asked if she wanted a paramedic and respected her autonomy. Open empathy! At 8:30am!
Searching Depop & Etsy for “gabardine,” “1940s fringe,” “orange plaid,” “mod buckle,” and “pearl snap.”
Sarah Malley’s brave and essential read on bookstore culture, which gave me a sense of post-traumatic dread.
Cauliflower pretzels (yes! cauliflower pretzels! But buy them at a store, not online).
Reserving wrath for: the terrible horoscopes in the PATH station, a novel I read that seems to think I should care about overeducated white men without consciences, overeducated white men without consciences, online shopping’s devastating impact on the planet, non-obligate carnivores and animal abusers (I can’t even link to that horse racing & horse meat piece from Deadspin, Google it if you’re prepared).
I won’t pretend to balance the good vs. the bad, but I will take Agent Dale Cooper’s advice and treat myself once a day, to a piece of pie or a damn fine cup of coffee. This afternoon it’s a cherry Danish and some milky French roast from the canteen.
Last night I went to see Black Belt Eagle Scout & Julia Jacklin at the Bowery Ballroom, my favorite venue in the city. Where Le Poisson Rouge feels try-hard and Brooklyn Steel feels like languishing in the back of an airplane hangar (an experience so obnoxious I left boygenius early. Truly off-brand!), descending into the red-lit, cavernous bar to have your ticket scanned feels pleasantly Lynchian. I like a smidge of evil in my evening jaunts. The upstairs where the stage is loosely reminds me of that scene in Mulholland Drive, where Naomi Watts’s character watches a woman croons like someone who has just surgered their own heart. Or like the newest Twin Peaks season, where someone performs at the Bang Bang Bar while sans-serif credits roll.
At 5:15 I left work and took the 6 to Broadway-Lafayette, and when I came back up onto the street I had to put on sunglasses. Lately I’ve felt like anything I feel is just a product of the whims of the world—I’m buffeted by whatever wind blows and kind of powerless to protest. Day at work sucks? Blue and dejected. See a teenage girl setting a pigeon free by Exchange Place? Euphoric. Like yesterday: sunshine, jean jacket weather, people lounging in the park like we’ve all come out of hibernation. It felt like nothing could’ve stopped my upward trajectory, my winsome mood.
I went to Flamingo’s Vintage Pound (kudos to D for the recommendation) to kill time and peel through the racks. Anytime I thrift I remind myself of one of those monkeys picking fleas off of his friend. It’s a way of spinning order from chaos. I get the same determined expression in my eyes, and maybe this is what tech people talk about when they use the phrase “flow state.” I could spend hours this way, oblivious to changes in temperature or light. Unfortunately for me, my skill is combing through a pile of kimonos or Levi’s, spotting lurex thread on an otherwise beige row of button-ups. I came away with a $15 pair of jeans that fit me perfectly (be your own curvy wife!), a $3.50 gauzy button-up originally meant for Michael but that I kept because I’m a selfish materialistic binch, and a $12 flowered robe without a sash that I’ll wear around the house smoking cigarettes on the porch and letting my mascara run while I sip from a pewter julep cup.
Then I walked until I hit Café Grumpy and sat with the last few pages of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It’s the perfect book to display openly if you’re trying to look Cool in Nolita. The barista was wearing a Laura Palmer t-shirt and we effused about Twin Peaks while my blood sugar crashed and he comped me a peppery cheddar biscuit. We talked about California, and he asked me why I moved, and I reiterated capitalism but then sighed because I miss it so. I’ve been having dreams about finding housing there again. I finished it right before A and A walked through the door and it left me momentarily speechless. I can’t tell if she means that conclusion sarcastically or genuinely, and I can’t help but be colored by her recent endorsement of Bret Easton Ellis, scumbag provocateur. A showed me a headline that reads something like “Bret Easton Ellis Has New Book, No Cares” and we laughed because initially we both read it as “Bret Easton Ellis Has New Book, No One Cares.” Are we really ending a savagely biting novel about the artificiality and coldness of the world with a heartfelt passage about 9/11? Are we? Really?
A & A and I had delicious dinner at The Butcher’s Daughter. I ate the “crab” “cakes” (quinoa), which were lovely; A had the spicy kale salad and A had the cauliflower pizza. All was vegetarian and sub-$20, and we drank three carafes of water stuffed with mint leaves. We walked to the Ballroom and I had two non-alcoholic beers which cost $9 apiece, and this could only have been more quintessentially New York if they’d been carried onto the bar by rats in Yankees caps.
The show was great. Black Belt Eagle Scout sounded much thrashier live, more grungy and immediate. I liked that as much as I like the interiority of their songs. The lead singer was incredibly charming, and then Julia Jacklin came on, and she was charming too. She talked about coming to New York from Australia once in the winter before and wondering how anyone could live in such a cold place. Her hotel room had been wallpapered with inspirational phrases and trivial facts about the city. I have felt the same thing before; a suspicion that this place was entirely uninhabitable. But then the sun comes out, and everything thaws, even my own reservations. Like Mulholland Drive in reverse.
I can’t open a browser these days without seeing that Atlantic piece about millennials who drink less. I haven’t read it; I don’t really want to read it. You can here. But lord if I don’t depend on alcohol as the World’s Largest Crutch. Lord if I don’t feel an acidic white wine hit my throat at the end of a long day and feel like Jesus loosening the stone off his own tomb, striding out of death not like Veronica in Heathers but like this lady. I hear that in blogging, you’re allowed to use telescoping metaphors. In a way, this is an Easter story.
But unlike Jesus, whose brain seemed to process the world’s horrors with aplomb, mine encounters pretty much any stimuli and freaks. My mom’s in town so we can go to a cat convention in Asbury Park this weekend, and at dinner last night, I described to her how 95% of the time, I down a half bottle of picpoul and wind up relaxed and pajamaed by 10pm, and then 5% of the time, I keep going until 2, plowing through the bottle plus whatever else I find, and wind up crying on the floor, talking about how I want to die. Glamorous? Absolutely not. Charming? Absolutely not. Normal? Jury’s out, but I’m going to say no.
I vacillate between self-criticism and forgiveness. Every time I’ve been admitted to a hospital for mental health, my blood alcohol’s been more than 0. Then again, some of the best days of my life were in cities or on beaches, nursing a painkiller or a gose before setting off on foot to something marvelous. “I recognize that mentally ill people use it to self-medicate,” I said, and Mom replied, “Everyone uses it to self-medicate.” TRUE! Alcohol is just another yardstick I can use to map my life, like albums or favorite garments. The Rumours years, the summer I only wore the jeans with the star on the butt, my first winter in New York surviving on tequila and soda. To excise it feels no less extreme than abstaining from, say, cheese; but cheese doesn’t make me want to kill myself. Capitalism often does. Horrible people on trains often do. My own self-criticism and the accomplishments I can’t quite reach often do. But I can’t quit those, and I can quit booze, so here we are.
This means I’m creeping ever closer to either XstraightXedgeX or spinsterdom, both of which might suit me with a few adjustments. We’re talking no meat, no cigarettes, no drankin’, plenty of Metal Mondays spin classes and cats. Lots and lots of cats. At least for the foreseeable future, which I am terrified as ever to look into, but sober enough to stare down from an upright position.
Here’s a playlist I made recently, if you like the 70s, 80s, and their modern derivatives.
last night a dj saved my life
He wasn’t a DJ, per se. He was my therapist, per se. And as we discussed the limitations of capitalism and power, a certain theme emerged: so much of the work I want to create just doesn’t get made, because clicks and audience and editorial vision don’t align. Perhaps the things I want to cover aren’t the things people want to read, or, equally as likely, aren’t the things editors think people want to read. Or perhaps, because the landscape is constantly changing, there isn’t a venue that exists where I can discuss disco, cats, leftist politics, the geography of the American West, and Moon Pies at the same time. So: y’all’s loss, legacy magazines! Y’all’s gain, weird internet!
This is a space where I plan on dropping whatever the market rejects (and the market rejects a lot. Freelancing is like throwing a handful of darts across a football field and hoping one hits the board). It’s also a space where I might obnoxiously quote dead Russian poets, or update you on my fidelity to my vitamin delivery service. I have considered doing a weekly round-up of “things I’d like to write about, if someone took my pitch,” and then we can see if, like my travelogue of Martinique, the New York Times publishes the exact thing for which I received no reply a month later (still salty).
Another recurring theme is my thrall to established structures and processes. I pulled out the word “functional fixedness” and felt incredibly proud of once acing AP Psychology (the thrill of a 4! Inimitable, especially when it saves you a college credit!). I am functionally fixed—highly resistant to moving outside the existing systems that validate and commission creative work. So what if I wrested that “control” into my “own” “hands”, in the form of a demonetized website engineered entirely by someone who needs a YouTube tutorial to do anything on Squarespace? I don’t know, seems powerful.
I’m currently accepting sponsorships from iced green tea distributors, insulin manufacturers, and vintage clothiers. If you have something free to give me, I will almost certainly take it. I will photograph your product with my iPhone 4S in dim office lighting and tweet it to my following of writers, bots, and cute animal accounts.
How do you finish a blog post? Like this, I guess.