On the road today I listened to one thing after another, all great:
- Criminal, Ep 35 – Pen & Paper
- Fresh Air, 1/4/16 – Inside the World’s Largest Refugee Camp
- Fresh Air, 1/28/16 – Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard
- Fresh air, 2/8/16 – George Miller on Fury Road
- This is Really Important with Jeffrey Self, Ep 38 – Manson & Jeff Ward
- Radiolab, 2/7/16 – The Cathedral
- The Splendid Table, Ep 597 – The Jemima Code
Sometimes I drag all my mail with me to Hartford, and go to the tiny post office there near Windsor Locks, where there is a grocery store, a liquor store and a hardware store, all in the same shopping plaza–everything a person needs. I happen to be sending a small package of zines to a friend upstate and the first thing I got was a lecture from the postperson about how my packaging was inappropriate. It was a standard manilla envelope. “These are just not tough enough to handle anything,” he said. “Anything?” I wanted to say. The weird part was that I was not at all irritated. I felt a certain kind of vaguely adult power where I just said thank you and listened to his continuing lecture about materials and envelopes and nodded and said thank you appropriately. New lessons in acting your age, by Lee Houck.
We’ve been watching episodes of To Tell the Truth, which airs on Buzzer, a new network that we suddenly got when we stopped getting Game Show Network. One thing that is consistently perplexing to me is why men back in the 50s looked SO OLD even if they were young. These contestants are 35 years old and they look like my grandpa did when he was 80. What’s that about? Kip says “The styling.” He’s right, but also, this makes me think about why I am always perplexed at social reaction to hippies and free love people. But it makes sense when you look back at these episodes. It really did look like these people were coming from another world. We don’t really have anything like that these days. Everyone got kind of boring.
I started the morning at Qathra for a halloumi sandwich and big ass glass of tap water. Because we don’t have lead in ours, right? Right? I sat at the window table in the front and wrote for a bit, watched the meter-person write three tickets, right in a row, boom boom boom. Is there anything better than watching that kind of conversation through a pane of glass, so that you cannot hear the details? The hand gestures, the body language. I mean, sucks to get a ticket, but MAN, awesome to watch those go down. Sorry, folks. You knew you couldn’t park there, RIGHT, so I pretty much ain’t feelin’ ya.
I did a bit of rearranging the living room bookshelf–people keep writing books and I have to figure out how to make room for them. Among the new ones, Alex Chee’s new one, plus the new Franzen, a new novel by Paul Russell, and an older one that I am finally getting around to reading. I have to write to Mr. Russell and see if he will sign these books and send them back to me. Reach out to your authors, people, it works. I take all of it very seriously, too seriously, the bookshelves, I mean. I think of the books as an autobiography, actually. A sort of breathing version of me on the shelves. Maybe it’s a kind of mirror, and I move things often. To reflect the current version of me. I have a short stack of novels by Pete Dexter, who I read a lot of when I first moved to New York. They are fantastic novels, but they don’t say much about who I am now. And since I vowed to not buy any more furniture for books, when I get new ones I have to make sacrifices. I am keeping two of the six, what else can I do?
For dinner we met Ginger & Hafeez at Olea in Ft. Greene. The food there is really fantastic–mediterranean tapas and stew-y, wintery entrees, really fabulous. Here’s a question: If three people are waiting for a table and for their fourth to arrive, and there is a four-top open, should you not seat them because their party is incomplete? Because, you’re going to sit a complete party of three at the same table for four–that’s how restaurant tables work, in even numbers. There’s nothing more irritating and, frankly, stupid than people who say shit like “It’s our policy.” The thing about policy is that you can change it, if you want to. Also, one of the three of you is like 6 months pregnant. So our party was complete about 5 minutes after that, and so we had a wonderful dinner–fried olives, manchego quince ‘pitza’, then I had garlic chicken thighs with artichokes and potatoes–Kip had the lamb stew.
We walked to DeKalb and got a taxi home. On the corner of Cortelyou where the taxi always stops at the light is the Christ Apostolic Church with their big shining LED sign, which tonight said: “This year is our break thru.”
I thawed and steamed the duck tamales, and then to go with it I made a red cabbage salad with a honey, vinegar, cilantro, lime dressing–could have used some cumin, but Kip says cumin tastes to him like “under the fridge.” Which I think it totally hilarious. He doesn’t remember saying this, but I swear it’s true. Would I lie? Then since I didn’t have a kuri or kabocha, I got a half a calabasa from the Mexican market and did a honey chipotle olive oil glaze, then roasted it until soft and glorious, then lime zest just before serving. Then I did a simple guacamole with chips from a bag. It was all delicious. I could have gone for something more green-y, but hey, you do what you can in the middle of February?
So excited for the return of The Prancing Elites Project on Oxygen. The Prancing Elites are a black, gay & gender non-conforming, J-setting dance competition squad based in Mobile, Alabama. They are fabulous and I love watching them, so thank GOD they’ve been given a second season. There is a certain kind of queer person who feels separate from their Southern upbringing and geography, and then instead of, like most of us, moving to New York City, San Francisco, or even New Orleans, decides to STAY THERE and make something wonderful and out and challenging, while at the same time aesthetically beautiful. All the props. Noted, too, that for this second season they all have much nicer clothes.
Also: Formation. Formation. Formation.
This afternoon I watched part of the reunion special of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I don’t watch the series, so it was a little bit anthropological experiment–to see how the form is set despite the region/series. We do watch a couple of the other Housewives, I am not a person who pretends to not like TV. Or to only watch “good” TV. It was really interesting to hear them process things that had happened that I didn’t know anything about. Fights that I didn’t have any dogs in. Then I got in a Wikipedia k-hole about Theresa and Joe Giudice and the prisons that he may or may not spend time in, and actually he’s not a citizen and so he might be deported. Then you can get into a spiral of reading about prisons and prison populations and then you can get into looking at prisons on Google Earth and that is a good way to spend three or five hours of a supposed-to-be-snowy afternoon.
My friend Alex Chee read from his newly released and long-awaited novel, The Queen of the Night, at Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO. Sunil Yapa was also on the bill, with his debut novel Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. I met Alex, or something like met–met via email–many years ago after I wrote him a fan letter after finishing his first novel Edinburgh, which everyone should read immediately. And now we have been friends for years. I am so happy that this second novel is finally out in the world, where everyone can enjoy it.
Then I made a leek and cheddar frittata for dinner, and we’re watching an episode of Cook’s Country where they are making tamales. This reminded me of the frozen tamales that I have in the freezer–duck confit in the middles–that Cory and I made back in December together at his house. A Tuesday in February seems like the perfect time to eat them.
This evening we had dinner at Enzo’s on Prospect Park West, which was the third choice after The Double Windsor had no place to sit–we forgot about the Super Bowl playing at bars on TV–and then Brunswick, which seemed closed even though we walked in and stood in the entryway for a moment and no one was there, sitting or working. So Enzo’s it was. Broccoli rabe and sausage pizza, plus chicken with spinach and cheese, and that “side of pasta” which seems like such a holdover from some other time, does anyone do that anymore? Enzo’s does. The pinot grigio was welcome, and they pour heartily.
Then we saw Hail Caesar at the Pavilion, which was super boring, punctuated by small, brief, charming moments of light and joy. I never thought I would say this, but I kept thinking that Woody Allen would have made a better movie of this script, or even Wes Anderson, and absolutely hate Wes Anderson. It’s not THAT terrible, but well maybe it is. It feels like an exercise–it’s not smart enough to be a great movie, and it’s not stylish or exaggerated enough to be memorable. Frances McDormand is the best five minutes in it. Naturally.
Now people are texting me to say that the Halftime Show is lame.
I’ve been in a spiral of live Madonna recordings, unable to excise myself no matter how much I try or make promises or beg and plead. She has hypnotized me, again, and I fully relent to the full spectrum of her powers. All nonsense aside, her live shows are actually fantastic, and they really hold up, if you go back. Erotica from The Girlie Show, Like a Virgin from Confessions, Vogue from Reinvention, Ray of Light from Drowned World, Lucky Star from Ciao Italia. And basically every minute of Blonde Ambition. No one has really done what she has done–sure, here and there, but there really is no precedent. And I am so glad that I am alive when she is having a career.
The market today was. The same things happened, as they do. There was a nice few minutes of conversation with other farmers, about 5:30, Mary and Heather and Holly, and I are standing around talking about how the day went and a customer is buying maple candy–So cold, they are saying, my goodness, what time did you get here? About six thirty this morning, I say. The customer shudders, and we all laugh. The rest of us laugh because we are all thinking the same thing: 40 degrees and sunny is gift, it’s gorgeous out here, perfect almost, why would you want anything else. It was a lovely moment of community–tired, cold, exhausted, maybe fried even, all of use. But there we were, smiling and sharing high fives.
Everyone should be listening to Love + Radio, one of the best podcasts in the world. I made potato leek soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.
The day started with about 3 inches of snow, which was too wet to pile up, and I spent the first thirty minutes of market pushing, not shoveling exactly, the slush out of my square, shoving it mostly between me and Tremblay Apiaries. It came down like that until noon, not accumulating, just making everything terrible. Then it turned, like a switch, and for a few hours it was sunny and almost even a tiny bit warm. I ate dumpling udon (again) at Ennju because why not. It was early enough that I was mostly alone in there, and that was nearly the best part.
Sometimes I wonder if I like being alone so much because I live in a place where a person is pretty much never alone. But I think of all the time I spent, happily, alone as a kid. I had lots of friends, but I had lots of alone time, dissolving deeper into imagination and future-building, world-making, whatever you want to call it.
I love and hate Facebook in equal amounts. But lately I hate it even more than ever because of the constant Bernie vs Hillary posts. I like Bernie’s platform more, but I am not sure that alone he can do much. I wish Hillary didn’t come with as many historically terrible actions, but she is the most qualified person in the history of our nation, and I think she understands how to wield real power in Washington. Also, I firmly, strongly, completely believe that she has been given a much, much higher, arguably impossible to reach standard because of her gender–and I think a lot of the conversations switching back and forth about whether we are sexist if we don’t like her–well, those conversations are all true. But the world has treated her the way it has treated her, and she is still here, despite all of it. Sometimes I think the decision falls, maybe unconsciously, on this single question: Do you believe that a woman in her position made choices that are forgivable because without those choices her position is destroyed and she is unable to make positive change going forward, and do you think a straight white man moving sharply and smartly and brilliantly through politics has any advantage by not having to be apologetic, not ever.
Not that only, actually, about Facebook–more so is the Think Piece of the Day. I am tired of reading diatribes. Even if they are smart and open up conversations that no one seems to be having. Remember the good old days when people wrote shit like “Good morning, I’m having a bagel?”