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”
Thank you for calling Subaru roadside assistance and empowerment. This call may be monitored for quality assurance.
Before we start, we’d like to ask you a few questions so that we can provide you with better service. If this is a life-threatening emergency, or if you have tickets to a WNBA game that starts in fewer than 30 minutes, please hang up and dial 911.
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—Great. We have located you using your phone’s GPS. Please be aware, wait times may vary depending on your proximity to a Herstory Archive.
Please say or enter the number of cats and/or rescued pit bulls in the car.
—Okay. Would you describe your current state as “in crisis”?
In the flatlands between Mill Basin and Marine Park, just before the avenue arrives at the golf course and Jamaica Bay, you’ll find VERG South, an emergency hospital for pets. Inside is a dog, which isn’t very surprising, this being a place for treating dogs and cats. Only this dog is famous.
The dog came to VERG—that’s Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group—in a roundabout way. First the dog arrived at a vaccine clinic, probably hosted at a PetCo; the story is fuzzy at the beginning. One thing is certain, and terrible: the dog had owners. They brought him to get shots, which they thought might cure him. He was clearly very, very sick. Shots wouldn’t fix him. A veterinarian at the clinic saw the dog that wasn’t so much a dog as it was a bag of bones and knew she needed to step in. So she called Sean Casey, who does animal rescue all over Brooklyn. He came by at the end of the day, saw the pitbull mutt, saw that it was in a bad way, and told the owners they needed to relinquish their dog, that is: give it up. It wasn’t hard to do. He just told them how much medical treatment the dog would need, and how expensive that would be, and how neglectful they had been. Casey took the dog from them and named him Louie.
Louie went from PetCo to Pet Haven, another clinic, where he lived for three days. While he was there, another veterinarian, Dr. Ford, took a picture of Louie and posted it to Facebook under which she wrote something like this is upsetting, people are terrible. Brett Levitzke, the medical director at VERG, saw the post and pictures of the dog and got really upset too. Levitzke has a springer spaniel named Toby and a cat named Broccoli. He got so upset at the pictures of Louie (emaciated, pockmarked, pitiful) he decided to take on the case, the case being Louie. That’s how Louie came to VERG South out near Jamaica Bay.
What you have to worry about with a dog that’s been starving all its life is the the same thing you worry about with a starving human—a problem called refeeding syndrome. The patient’s body cannot process the sudden influx of food, becomes overwhelmed, and the patient dies. So the team at VERG had to be careful about how to go about feeding Louie. This wasn’t a problem on Louie’s end. His teeth were broken (from trying to eat rocks, most likely), he had worms, he wouldn’t drink, and he couldn’t lift his head, much less walk. He was just in rough, rough shape, everyone recalled. But the thing about this dog in particular was that he was so, so trusting. They had no idea what his past life might have been like, what abuse he suffered, but his eyes stayed bright and alert all the way through. You could tell by his eyes he knew what was going on, but he couldn’t move, could barely lift a paw, much less his whole head. He was maybe 10 months, a year old at most.
Hello, hi, and welcome to my Pity Party! Coats can go in the bedroom. Hey there! Please check your positive attitude at the door. Thank you for coming! So good to see—well, no—mainly not-good to see you, all of you, smiling. But still, let’s get this party started! Let’s get this thing in motion! Let’s initiate the nonstop meaningless crying over the Broncos’ defeat.
I’ll be the first to admit: this year so far has not been The Best. It isn’t as bad as last year, and it’s easier than what I expect of next year, but yeah, nope, 2014—what are we, a month or so in?—has been tough. January began with promising resolutions, I thought, to make amends, to fix what was broken, to adjust, to readjust, to use exclamation points not so much, to YOLO sans FOMO, to Zumba.
I wrote down a few affirmations, discovered peace and serenity and my upper-arm obesity, but then I accidentally killed my succulent plant and Justin Bieber isn’t who I thought he was, so I was like, you know what? Screw it.
Turn up the music!
This Valentine’s Day I had big plans, an ambitious night of undoing all that has become habit and routine, confronting my deep deep-seated fears, addressing the dark theater wall of my skull replaying the memories that have grown more painful and distorted with time and shall, like a chorus and cacophony of ghosts, haunt me indefinitely.
I love this song!
Liquid Sky is one of the most visually ambitious films ever made about fashion, heroin, New Wave clubs, UFO saucers, ordering Chinese food and having them put it on your tab, the Empire State Building, androgyny, neon and tin foil. The 1982 cult classic may be the perfect embodiment of camp. Unlike contemporary low-budget cinema, which prizes an aesthetic of apathy, Liquid Sky makes its efforts visible. Judgmental fashion reporters cackle straight into the camera. Catwalk scenes take place in rooms both comically small and accurately sized to real New York spaces. And the slang-heavy dialogue, which the director Slava Tsukerman credits largely to the main actress and co-screenwriter Anne Carlisle, is bold and delightfully stilted:
So I was taught that I should come to New York, become an independent woman. And my prince would come, and he would be an agent, and he would get me a role, and I would make my living waiting on tables. I would wait—till thirty, till forty, till fifty. And I was taught that to be an actress, one should be fashionable, and to be fashionable is to be androgynous. And I am androgynous not less than David Bowie himself. And they call me beautiful, and I kill with my cunt. Isn’t it fashionable? Come on, who’s next?
Tsukerman, who’s now an affable man in his mid-70s, came to New York from the Soviet Union, by way of Israel, seven years before making Liquid Sky. (He is the director of 42 other films, including the documentary Stalin’s Wife and the narrative film Perestroika.) In a way particular to the New York experience, Liquid Sky takes the perspective of both a knowing insider and a hapless observer of New Wave culture. He and his audience are just as deserving of admission to a junkie fashion shoot as Margaret, the “uptight WASP” from Connecticut turned alien host. And that’s what makes Liquid Sky a Gotham classic worth revisiting.
Originally published Aug. 28, 2012.
A month into my relationship with the man that would become my husband, the stock market was crashing. As a writer who rarely had two pennies to rub together, I can’t say that I really cared—I had debt, not investments. It wasn’t until Alex woke up in a bad mood one morning that I realized that he did care. “Do you want to know something depressing?” he said as he got dressed for work. “I just checked my portfolio. I’ve lost 20 percent of my net worth.”
I smiled forlornly and said what I’d heard on the news about things bouncing back. Then I shooed him out the door, got in the shower, and cried for 20 minutes. I had to break up with him. I couldn’t keep up with someone who had a portfolio. I didn’t use phrases like “net worth.” I used phrases like “bill collector,” “Sallie Mae,” and “late fee.” It could never work.
But Alex never saw it that way. We talked about my debt and his nest egg. The outcome of every conversation was that Alex didn’t think it mattered. He wasn’t scared to take on my student loans. He was only eager to share what he felt lucky to have. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the particulars, how the finances would shake down exactly, but I knew I loved him. And that eclipsed any figures on our bank statements. So I married him.
Once you’re married, it’s not easy to keep things separate. Boundaries between “yours” and “mine” begin to blur. Doesn’t it just make more sense to pay off the car now and save on the years of interest? Technically, yes. And doesn’t it make more sense to pay more than you owe on your student loans so you can chip away at the capital? Sure. But as Alex and I stayed up nights talking about these things, with Alex thinking strategically about what made sense and me thinking emotionally about what kind of person I wanted to be, it became more and more clear that marrying someone in a different tax bracket can be…complicated.