One of the most obscene things I learned as a barista was how eager people are to be liked. NYU sophomores, the ones with Jansport backpacks in full makeup at 9 a.m., stuttered their orders and shyly complimented me on my nose ring. I semi-patiently listened to innumerable Wikipedia-style monologues about the music I was playing from men in their twenties trying to render their business attire invisible with cultural know-how. I was given zines, mixtape-party fliers, home-recorded chillwave demos.
I said things like “How’s the app going?” and “Welcome to the neighborhood.” I answered questions for new Greenpoint residents—of which there were more each year—about the best place to grab wine and tapas, get a shave and drink a beer at the same time. How myself and my co-workers became to be known as experts in such matters was largely beyond me, particularly since many of us shortly couldn’t afford to live in the neighborhood in which we served. More than anything else, though, I was asked what else I did.
“Oh you know,” the t-shirt designer or gallery assistant with blunt bangs or unpaid Harper’s intern would say on their way into the office. “When you aren’t making coffee.”
This is part of a week-long series celebrating the 45th birthdays of characters from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
Heather never told the Cowboy about the abortion. As he slept, she sat up and listened to the hotel’s air conditioner turn off and on until morning. She knew immediately, but didn’t make an appointment for two months. There’s a dull pain of something like regret but mostly like sadness that resurfaces at night, just before bed, but it’s never enough to keep her awake. It’s just there. A decision. A memory. She should have told him. All she would have done differently is make a phone call, but she never contacted him again after that night. He was weird, though so was she. He didn’t speak much, though neither did she. These little hypocrisies that ended most of her relationships before they began were the same ones that eventually led to her biggest ideas.
Wanting to quit smoking without actually quitting smoking led her to invest in a Chinese company that perfected smokeless nicotine delivery devices called “electronic cigarettes.” In 2006 she decided to cease production of regular Lady Fair cigarettes and go all-electronic. “All the flavor and none of the fuss for the gal who says no.” It was a risky move, especially then, but when it came to business, Heather’s instincts were unmatched. Her customers quickly embraced the change and Lady Fair still remains the #1 e-cig brand in the world. (That includes, of course, their more masculine line: The Cowboy.)
When I moved to New York from Germany, I didn’t have words. I had written for prominent papers in Hamburg, but in New York my German faded quickly and English was slow to take its place. After a few months here I found myself close to aphasic. All I had now was a hasty, unhappy marriage and an apartment in Bushwick that was cheap and hot. Through the window bars I could see glimpses of a trash-filled backyard and an alley cat with kittens. During the day I could hear the termites in the backyard destroying the wooden benches that were built by the old German winemaker who owned the building at the turn of the century. I could see the neighbors in their cemented yard dancing to reggaeton. Voiceless, I listened to unfamiliar sounds. Everything around me was falling apart: my marriage, the benches, my brain, my language. I decided to take in the cat and her kittens.
As my first, desolate New York summer was thrust away by fall, the outdoor music subsided. The sound of the termites was replaced by that of the mice making their winter nests in my walls.
“Neighborhood was bad when Germans lived here,” my old Puerto Rican neighbor Mira told me one day when I was finally able to ask her whether she, too, could hear the mice in the walls and the termites in the benches. Our short conversations were guessing games. Our English was rudimentary.
Put it on toast. Put it on a spoon. Put it on your mouth. Just don’t get it on your computer because sticky keys are not conducive to productivity and rouse visions of sex, which will distract from productivity. Sex is not a food. Sex is exercise for the graveyard shift.
JAM IS ALSO A FOOD
Straight from the jar!!!!!
COFFEE IS A FOOD
It is no longer a food if you let it become cold. It is then a poison.
HARD-BOILED EGG, UNSALTED
If you even have the patience to crack this thing, which you don’t. Call your landlord and nervously cry, “I’m locked out of my house!” When he comes by an hour later, explain that your house is an egg and you need him to help you break in. There. A naked egg. Share the spoils with your landlord: “Are you a freelance landlord?”
A $32-DOLLAR THAI ORDER, YOU SIGNED THE BILL WITH A SHARPIE
The neighborhood Thai delivery man looks at you in your old lacrosse pinny, it’s from 2004.
“Do you still play lacrosse?” he’ll ask you. Here are three options for retort:
1. “Lax? Me? Nah. I just stare at a screen all day wondering when the keys will start typing without my assistance.”
2. “Lax? Me? Nah. I was good back in ’04, but I got a yellow card in one game for yelling obscenities in the locker room. At a computer screen. With no one around. In my sleep.”
3. “Lax? Me? Nah. Sports require my leg muscles to not have atrophied. Only three more years until my bedsores heal, though.”
Snatch the delivery bag, shove every edible part of the order into your gob, and enjoy none of it. Whoops, you ate the lime whole. Lax 4 lyfe.
Ordering a croissant is a perilous enterprise. It forces lovers of French pastries between the Scylla of pretension and the frying pan of provincialism. Actually that’s understating the case: The perils are not two, but manifold.
If you attempt the proper French pronunciation, krwa-san, and succeed, you’ll seem snobby. If you trip over the guttural R, as so many non-native speakers do, you’ll seem pseudointellectual.
If you go for the namby-pamby middle ground, kwa-san, replacing the guttural R with a W, you’ll sound terrible… and namby-pamby.
You could avoid these dangers by pronouncing the word in a straightforward American accident: kruh-sant. But then you’ll quite possibly become the victim rather than the perpetrator of snobbery. Recently I requested a kruh-sant and the server raised an eyebrow. “You mean a krwa-san?” he asked.
Having thought long and hard about this thorny problem, I’ve determined that it would be wise if everyone in America agreed to a standard pronunciation. And of the above-mentioned possibilities, it seems to me the best is kruh-sant.
I’ll dispense with the most obvious and weakest objection first, which is that croissant is a French word. Because: So what? Restaurant is a French word, too, but no one drops the final T.
Jane Setter, Professor of Phonetics at the University of Reading and an editor of the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary, suggested another reason why English-speakers might consider themselves justified in saying—or trying to say—krwa-san. Croissants, she told me, feel French. Doughnuts are American; croissants are French, even if they’re on sale at Dunkin’ Donuts.
But that’s not very rational. Croissants have been common in the United States for a long time. In 1981, Sara Lee’s parent company, Consolidated Foods, introduced a line of frozen croissants. By 1984 they were outselling pound cake. You can buy a croissant at any Starbucks. You can order one at Arby’s with a sausage, egg and cheese on top.
Last week, my daughter transformed into a miniature Darth Vader: her breathing was dangerously raspy and uneven. Her eyes drooped. She ran high fevers. We spent whole days on the couch, wrapped in blankets. At night, I became an anxious new mama again, leaning over her while she slept to make sure she was still breathing.
Slowly the fevers subsided, and I started to take breaks away from our couch-cocoon. It was cold outside, the cupboards were full, and we probably wouldn’t leave the house ‘til spring. So, I cooked. One of the best things I made was this chickpea frittata, inspired by a wonderful recipe from Food52. I mean, COME ON: chickpeas in a frittata? What took me so long?! I made some modifications—I like a bigger frittata, I think yogurt helps even out the consistency, and I must say, the sweet potato-chorizo combination is pretty terrific, too.
Thank goodness for all that cooking, because suddenly it’s my turn to be sick. I keep thinking I should want soup, because isn’t that the classic accompaniment for Dayquil and Nyquil and tissues and cold weather? But instead, I’ve been helping myself to another slice of this frittata. It’s spicy and sweet and nutty and colorful, and just filling enough. If you need rescuing anytime soon, I hope a chickpea frittata will be there for you, too.
When I first discovered the existence of Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled album this past December, I dissolved into a fit of grateful, relief-filled screams usually reserved for for grad school admissions letters. That is to say, I reacted like most people did. And when I saw the words, “Feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche,” I screamed again. (Never mind that her name is actually spelled “Adichie.”) By now, you’re likely familiar with the snippet of Adichie’s Ted Talk, “We Should all be Feminists,” that ‘Yonce sampled:
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.’…Feminist: The person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
This quote is far from the most interesting thing Adichie has said. To begin and end your explorations of Chimamanda with Beyoncé, I’d argue, is to miss out on some of the best work that contemporary literature has to offer—especially outside of the tired perspective of the white male American novelist. Adichie is a feminist writer, as her famous TED Talk confirms, but she also takes down cultural and social norms without catering to the expectations of “global” literature, educating readers swiftly and expecting a lot of us, guaranteeing that we come away with a different set of perspectives and opinions than when we first cracked open the spine of her book.
Adichie was born in 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. The child of two Igbo intellectuals, she was raised in the academic environment of Nsukka’s University of Nigeria. At 19, she came to the States to complete her undergraduate degree, a move that would forge her previously overlooked Nigerian, or even African, personal identity. Adichie, who “didn’t consciously identify as African” until her arrival in the U.S., speaks of the embarrassing assumptions her uninformed but well-meaning classmates had about the “country” of Africa and its inhabitants—that everyone had AIDS; that machete-wielding tribal warfare was rampant; that it was up to white people to step in and save the day.
On Wednesday, the identity of the Zodiac Killer was finally revealed: It was Louis Myers, only 17 when he began the killings, who confessed from his deathbed back in 2001. In 2012, the identity of the Zodiac Killer was finally revealed: It was George Russell Tucker, a pseudonym for a then-recently-diseased 91-year-old former real estate salesman from Fairfield, California. In 2009, the identity of the Zodiac Killer was finally revealed: It was Guy Ward Hendrickson, a carpenter who brought his 7-year-old along for the ride during the killings.
It’s worth pointing out that last year, Dick Van Dyke also confessed.
Every cycle through the calendar brings with it a new media-corroborated claim that the Zodiac Killer case has been solved, and every claim is false. Critical of them all is Tom Voigt,
Anyone holding Bitcoins—or pretty much any cryptocurrency, really—has taken a substantial hit in the last few months, with the exchange rate of dollars to Bitcoins dropping from a high of around $1200 last November to around $550 today. But it’s possible that those whose Bitcoins were parked at the long-troubled Mt. Gox exchange have suffered a near-wipeout, or even a total one, in what may have been the catastrophic theft of some 744,000 Bitcoin from that exchange.
Mt. Gox was the first big Bitcoin exchange; as such it attracted the most attention, the most traffic, and the most trouble. It was hacked repeatedly because, at one time, it was simply where all the Bitcoins were. Most knowledgeable Bitcoin enthusiasts took off for more modern, more reliable exchanges long ago.
Details began to emerge Monday night in a leaked document (“Crisis Strategy Draft”) of at least partial authenticity obtained by blogger Two-Bit Idiot. The document explained that Mt. Gox had been subject to years of uncaught theft. (A Hacker News post later claimed to have restored the redacted slide from the leaked document that detailed the full Mt. Gox financials.)
Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles, who is apparently holed up at home in Tokyo with his cat, has since verified in an IRC chat that the document is “more or less” legitimate, though it was not prepared internally by his embattled firm. He says that he is still trying to save the company: “‘Giving up’ is not part of how I usually do things.”
Were we once a nation of tinkerers that split the atom, created the phonograph, and gave Kevin Costner’s career three distinctly different eras? We were.
And yet, despite all the transistors, pneumatic tires, Roombas, and swivel chairs, the elites apparently have no room in their heart for the Waffle Taco, the most obvious object of derision in Taco Bell’s newly announced breakfast line-up.
“Gross,” they cried, in their truncated communiques. Breakfast, they libeled, would now be served by “a fast food chain heretofore known primarily for serving shredded cheese, refried beans, wilted lettuce, and horse meat in various combinations of tortilla containers.” Taco Bell breakfast “could conceivably ruin America” they warned. “If you eat breakfast at Taco Bell,” one friend said, “we can’t be friends.”
This, people, is typical East Coast job-killing poppycock. Opponents of Taco Bell’s First Meal™, which will go national next month, may be free to dwell in their delusion (or in the pocket of Big McMuffin), but their objections are as alarmist as they as are anti-choice.
Darlene was a pretty, blond 19-year-old with a 10-month-old baby girl whom she wheeled into my office in a ragged umbrella stroller. Darlene, the baby, and the baby’s father, Keith, had been living with Keith’s parents in a row house in northeast Philly. Keith and Darlene apparently argued a lot, and one day, during a fight about Darlene’s wanting Keith to watch the baby so she could go out with her girlfriends, Keith put his hands around Darlene’s neck and tried to choke her. Darlene had filed in court for and received a protection order to keep Keith away from her and the baby. Keith, in response, had turned around and filed for custody of the baby, alleging that Darlene was a drug addict.
At this time I was about five years out of law school and working for a nonprofit legal center. Darlene’s was one of my first custody cases. Like Darlene, I had a 10-month-old daughter. I worked three days a week and stayed home with my baby and four-year-old the rest of the time. I was still immersed in that mothering cocoon that descended upon me after the birth of each of my daughters, venturing out to do battle in a world of conflict and aggression that was my legal life and retreating back into the sweet, cozy routine of trips to story hour at the library and long afternoons of play groups and coffee with my friends and their babies.
Darlene’s case really got to me. Her baby became my baby in my mind as I transitioned between my two worlds. I felt pure outrage that this abusive young thug was trying to take a precious little baby away from her mother—my client!—and incredible fear that it could happen on my watch. I felt sick as a mother and terrified as a professional, and I wasn’t sure which was which.
Previously: “I think we can do the whole show in emoji”