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5/14/19: potpourri

I don’t think it’s bragging to say I know my way around a Michael’s and though there are sections of the store I rarely/never visit (framing/cake decorating), I am aware of their existence, which is why while I’ve never explored the “floral” area of my local Michael’s, I was fairly confident I’d be able to figure out where they kept the dried herbs/flowers. Instead, I spent 45 minutes wandering around in a Michael’s fugue state—at one point I had not one but two glue guns in my arms, one low temperature and one high temperature, and if you’re wondering what I needed two glue guns for, one high temperature and one low, I couldn’t think of a reason either so eventually I put them back—and while there were some 17 varieties of moss for sale, there was absolutely zero in terms of dried herbs/flowers. I asked two different employees, neither of whom appeared to have heard the word potpourri before, and forget about adding, “You know, for a sachet?”

I got myself some consolation yarn and th…

5/10/19: broken/unbroken

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“A lot of times we try to dismiss our smarts and pretend that being smart isn’t cool.” The principal was younger than I expected, maybe early forties, and he was tall and handsome in that bearded, craggy way. He seemed especially solid, the bags under his eyes and his hulking shoulders showing both the weight of the world he carried and the strength he brought to that task.
He stood at the front of the room where 55 or so of the ~70 students who could have been there sprawled in rows of chairs. “Don’t do that,” he said, looking hard at each student in turn. “Don’t do that to you.” 
At least that’s what I wanted him to say, but he didn’t. It was a Friday, toward the end of the day at the end of a week near the end of the school year, and instead he said something about how being smart IS cool, which even I know is lame, and as he went on I looked around at the fourteen- and fifteen-year-old high school freshmen in the audience and I could see he was losing them.
Subtle shifts of posture, …

5/3/19: tis the season

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It dawned on me a couple of years ago that “passionate” might a nice way of saying “crazy,” or at least maybe I get described as “passionate” often enough that I have begun to suspect there is a hidden implication. I can’t help it—or, I could, but I don’t want to—there are just certain topics that get my rpms up.
One of those topics is, of course, motorcycling. I pity the fool who, following social norms, politely inquires of me whether I’ve been out on the bike lately, because I will immediately heave my own manners out the window and launch into a monologue that can sometimes only be ended by the other person standing up and leaving and once I didn’t even let THAT stop me because there are some words that are just so delightful to feel in my mouth I will whisper them to myself as I go about my daily chores: gasoline, tires, throttle, gear, lean, engine, my brain in a call and response, let’s go let’s go let’s go.
Anyhoodle, thanks for asking, it is indeed motorcycle season here, F…

5/1/19: the ties that bind

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Though I am sure it is but a shadow of its former glory, there is still a garment district in NYC and, unsurprisingly, it’s one of my favorite places to visit. There are a bunch of specialty shops, like the ones that only sell beads or trade exclusively in trimmings; there are wholesale-only storefronts that deter every-woman entrance with big “No Retail Sales” signs, though no one can stop you from gawking into the windows from the sidewalk—the spirit of Bob Mackie is alive and well on 38th Street, fear not. There are the stores that have staked out their little corner of the industry, including—and I kid you not—Spandex House, Spandex World, and Stretch House. There are the hidden stores, the ones that don’t have outside signage or they do but it’s subtle, like a dentist’s, and they’re just hanging around up there, two, three, six stories above the street, hundreds of thousands of square feet of absolutely everything you might need to make absolutely anything, all crammed into a fe…

4/22/19: repurpose

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“What happens to a piece of paper when you throw it away?”
Gloriana doesn’t hesitate: “You shouldn’t do that. You should turn it over and write on the back of it.”

“Um,” I manage in response, “right.” I cast about, feebly, “But what about when you’ve written all over it and then you throw it away—what happens to it then?”
Gloriana regards me for a minute, then sighs. “People shouldn’t be wasting things.”
I can’t argue with her, of course, not least because she is seven (and correct), but I am growing increasingly certain I will not be able to explain to her what decompose means if she won’t let me throw something out. Otherwise all I have to draw on are dead bodies and I didn’t even think about trees or leaves or organic nature stuff until three days later and wow there’s nothing like a super-literal seven-year-old to throw me off my game. We muddle our way through this definition and then to my horror I realize our next challenge is to write out—in one sentence—how plastic is made.
Go…

3/28/19: the war season

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Written for BtheB and first posted here.  “It was the war season.” Topaz,* a sweet, giggly high school senior, all glasses and braces and dimples, had turned her computer screen to me and while I knew her assignment was to write a piece of fiction about a character who had gone, or was going, through a change in their life, I was NOT expecting she would kick off her story like this. But with just these five words, she had my complete and total attention and all I wanted to do was read more. I recently spent a day with Topaz and other 12th graders at the International Community High School in the Bronx. Four sections of English classes had read Pride, by Ibi Zoboi, which is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, now set in modern-day, rapidly gentrifying Bushwick, Brooklyn. The book is a delight whether you’re a fan of Jane Austen or not, and the ease with which Austen’s themes—of relationships and conflicts between class, family, love, death, religions, cultures, and more—translate to a mod…

4/12/19: in praise of the bodega

I was talking with a friend the other night about how there’s always that moment when you’re away from New York and you’re standing on a street corner and you can’t figure out what’s wrong but something isn’t right and then it hits you: you’re looking around, you’ve been subconsciously looking around for hours, and there’s no goddamn bodega.
I’ll preface this by saying I’m a New York City asshole and I know it, and I know you know it, too. However, perhaps bear with me for a moment while I try to explain—the bodega is an essential tool for survival here and perhaps by unpacking that a little I can create a little sympathy for every NYC asshole who gets anywhere else, looks around, and says, maybe a little desperately, “Where’s the bodega?”
The bodega is the lifeblood of this city, we are helplessly dependent on the bodega, and we have been trained to follow and obey bodega law. Isolated from our bodegas, we are adrift and thus even more obnoxious, terrified by not knowing how we mi…