Talkin’ JEWELS: Erie Basin’s Russell Whitmore

Erie Basin is a small antique store in Red Hook, Brooklyn (with an online shop, too), and I recently emailed proprietor Russell Whitmore to see if he’d be game to answer a few questions over email AND send me his entire stock for free, which he did, and did not. Edith Zimmerman: I love Erie Basin! Not just the jewelry but also the way you use Tumblr and Instagram and the general tone you maintain throughout. Plus the store itself, which is so cool and welcoming. Just: GREAT! It’s so great.

Russell Whitmore: Thanks, that’s nice to hear. When I opened back in 2006, I wanted to make antiques more approachable, and also more relevant. I think lots of people, especially in my generation, didn’t realize how cool, and surprisingly modern, old stuff could be. Even though a lot of contemporary designers were borrowing from vintage designs, back in 2006 words like Victorian and Deco suggested stuffiness. And venues for antique jewelry in New York were mostly very high end, so I wanted to do something more accessible.

Do you have a favorite piece that’s for sale right now?

I really like this Russian aquamarine necklace. It’s a favorite period of design, around the turn of the century, when things looked both ancient and futuristic at once. 

Talking to Anne Helen Petersen About Leaving Academia for Buzzfeed

Did I hear this headline correctly? 

YES: I’m leaving academia. And second: I’m leaving it for BuzzFeed—more specifically, to be a full-time features writer at BuzzFeed.

[8 minutes of screaming redacted] Well, I am chock full of emotions but this talk is resolutely not going to be about how much the Hairpin is going to miss you, so let me first ask: how are you feeling right now, and how long has this been in the works?

I am feeling totally excited and totally terrified. I’ve known for some time that my work, and the sort of audience I love writing for, is not a very good fit for academia, but I thought that I could wedge/force/hipcheck my way into a position that would reconcile the type of work that I wanted to do with the teaching that I love. But as a friend of mine said amidst her time on the market, “academia is drunk”—not belligerent or irresponsible so much single-sightedly focused on things that may or may not ultimately matter.

In other words, no one wanted to hire me! I want to be super explicit about that because I think people will assume that because of all the writing I do, both on and off the internet, that I somehow had some cornucopia of choices and was like “show me the money.” OH MAN I WISH. I get so much satisfaction from teaching, but there was no way to keep doing so—and continue the writing I find fulfilling—and make a sustainable salary. BuzzFeed gives me the platform and support to do the type of writing (and reach the type of audiences) that I love, but can also provide me with a living wage.

Romy White and Michele Weinberger Are 45

This is part of a week-long series celebrating the 45th birthdays of characters from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

After a year of steadily increasing sales at Romy & Michele, Romy and Michele paid Sandy back. Their store was such a success that he suggested they open another location, but the two thought a second store would affect their ability to provide personalized service to their customers. One store was enough, they thought. One store was good.

In 2000 they moved out of their apartment in Venice and found two adjacent units in West Hollywood. It took some time for them to adjust to being neighbors and not roommates, but eventually they were happy in their new homes. Romy’s decor was mostly shades of red. Michele’s was mostly shades of turquoise. Apart from the colors, their furniture and overall decor was almost identical. To this day they say it wasn’t planned. “We have the same taste!”

The Freelancers’ Cookbook

HONEY IS A FOOD

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.

George Is the One With the Glasses: My Seinfeld Capitulation

My roommates and I make up a foursome, which means we can do the “which TV show character are you?” thing a lot. We are not dissimilar, but we are each able to easily slide into a certain type, especially when relative to each other: the nerd, the snob, the diva, the baby; the talent, the management, the executive, and the help; the brains, the looks, the muscle, and the wildcard. (We are all the useless chick.)

We’ve hammered ourselves into almost every popular main cast: Sex and the City, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, GIRLS. The only rule is to dutifully accept whatever roles we are cast; we vote democratically, so even if you contend that you are a Lucy, or, at least you could be if you could only find the right hair curlers, but everyone else thinks you are an Ethel, you have to accept your fate. After a while, it’s tempting to stretch your persona to fit the wider margins of an inflated, dramatized “you”: a Liz Lemon “blerg” here, a Linda Belcher “awwwwlright!” there. Once the game becomes commonplace, as it has in our home, it’s easier to validate your actions, too: if you’re in the midst of an emotional, passive-aggressive, on-and-off relationship with a man, you can excuse yourself for not setting up a book pitch with his ex-wife or causing his current one to break her tooth.

Interview With My Mom, Who Never Had a Single Moms Club

I rarely have visceral reactions to movie previews, let alone previews for Tyler Perry movies that I am never, ever going to see, but I gaped through a two-minute trailer for The Single Moms Club. Gathered on a broad porch, drinking rosé and sharing laughs, are five single moms, none exhibiting a single dark eye-circle or a frenzied need to get somewhere they’ve forgotten. They look like they smell nice and eat well. They’re laughing. They’re talking about men, ho ho, how can we lock them down?

My mother, who divorced my father in England in 1995 when I was eight and my brother was nine, and moved us across the ocean to America, never looked like those women. She did her best to hide it, but she was often harried and panicked, shuttling us from school to activities while pursuing her master’s degree, then her doctorate, all with a lower middle-class income and mounting debt. She moved us to a new country with little to nothing and continued to support us through years of fighting, ungratefulness, and trial. When I was home last week, she and I reclined on my bed and talked about her experience as a single mother operating under precarious and challenging circumstances.

When you were living in England and you wanted to get a divorce, did you have apprehension because you knew you were going to have to raise us by yourself?

Yeah, just like anybody would. Previously, before things started to go badly in our marriage, I wasn’t worrying about things like money and security and your future. It wasn’t a concern of mine until I knew I was going to be on my own.

Again, the situation is unique because once I decided I wanted to get a divorce, I knew that I wanted to go back to America. So that was the driving impetus. I didn’t want to stay in England, and your dad wanted me to stay there. At one point I even suggested that we go back together, and he didn’t want to do that.

Romy And Michele Are 45. So Is Heather Mooney.

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.)

The All-Healing Chickpea-Chorizo Frittata

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.

Adventures With Gym Man

Story by Jane Hu, illustrations by Hallie Bateman.

Based on very true events.

Villa Tunari

A man in hiking boots was setting up a tent in the courtyard of the hostel when I came back. Hola, I said. Are you sleeping here?

He was. The hostel owner told him that there weren’t open rooms, so he asked to camp. Where are you from? He asked. He was from Colombia and finishing his trip through Bolivia on his motorcycle. Was he handsome? I couldn’t tell in the dim light.

I had been lonely in Cochabamba, a city that reminded me of California, with wide streets and shiny malls. Earlier I stood waiting for the traffic light to change, and someone had thrown an orange at me. It hit my upper arm, a blunt pain and the scent of citrus. I heard laughter as the car drove away. Maybe they hadn’t liked my hat. Another time I got on a bus to get to the central plaza, but instead the bus was headed for el campo, the countryside. When I realized, I was too embarrassed to ask the driver to stop, on a desolate street that couldn’t have been anyone’s destination.

The hostel had a lovely garden, with white metal swings and pink flowers. One morning I did yoga barefoot on the grass. But there were no other travelers here, and I was eager for my luck to change.

Word Search

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.

“We Must Do Better”: In Praise of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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.