Sunday Sessions, What I'm Eating

The Thanksgiving Menu I Won’t Be Making

We’re just a little more than a week out from Thanksgiving and this year will be a quiet one for our family. Just a few weeks ago, all 11 of us (including grandma!) gathered in a cabin in West Virginia for a long weekend together. Each family was responsible for one meal during our visit and the result was a pretty happy array of food (not to mention shared responsibility). We had burgers and hot dogs on the first night (turns out grilling in freezing temperatures is kind of thrilling), pancakes for breakfast the next day, sandwiches and pitas for lunch, chili and grilled cheese for dinner, and bagels and fruit the final morning. Everyone was asked to bring their favorite snack, which meant the entire kitchen island became a trove of candy and cookies and chips of every kind.

The cabin ended up being a great idea. We built a fire in the fire pit, made gooey s’mores, played card games, slept in. We watched Hocus Pocus (which…did not scare my niece and nephew), and the kids chased Jack until he finally just hid under the table for the duration.

I wasn’t sure why at the time, but when we first started planning the family weekend in late summer, something told me we really needed to have it before the holidays. Later we would learn that two family members would need surgery in the weeks before Thanksgiving, meaning this year’s holiday will need to be a low-key affair.

So, we’re sticking with the basics this year: turkey and ham, cranberry sauce from the can, mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, deviled eggs, broccoli casserole, and rolls. We’ll probably make David’s famous sweet potato casserole, and spinach balls too. If I have it in me, I’ll make a pie. If not, I live in New York City and will pick one up from Petee’s or Juniors or Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

But if I were adding something new to the table this year, it would probably be any one of the dishes below, which feel just a little risque for Thanksgiving and that makes them perfect.

Happy eating dear ones.

Breakfast

Appetizers

Sides

Desserts

The Next Day

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Sunday Sessions

Wanted: A total reset

One thing I worry about is how little time we spend doing supposedly “New York” activities—the ones you read about in that book that made you think you had to live in New York if you ever wanted to have a life story worth telling. I don’t have a bar. Most of the time, I’m not walking through Central Park wistfully. If New York is the city that never sleeps, I wouldn’t know it—I’m usually in bed by 11.

Last week, though, I broke up my routine. I met up with my friend Tim and we had dinner at Her Name is Han. I went to the Pop-Up Magazine show at Lincoln Center with my pal Justin. And then afterward—when it was nearing 10 PM—I walked to the Upper West Side and got an impromptu late night back massage. This weekend, David and I had free tickets to a city-wide food festival and danced to DJ’ed beats at Pier 97 while drinking beers and eating tacos. It felt good to be out—to see the city at nighttime.

Still on my list: Stand in the long line for Saturday Night Live tickets. Comedy at the Village Underground. Live music at Marie’s Crisis Cafe.

Of course, all of this happened on top of an incredibly busy work week. We launched two new projects: a new podcast about the impeachment proceedings and just a little old podcast about DOLLY PARTON. Even though I don’t create the audio that makes up these projects, my job is to bring them to people like you—future listeners. It’s a pleasure to put myself in your shoes, to imagine when and how you might encounter a Dolly Parton podcast and how exactly I can make you excited about listening.

Of course, all that activity adds up and I’m completely exhausted. My shoulders are tight and knotty. My throat is just sore enough that I think I’m perpetually on the verge of getting sick. And I’ve had a least two surprise stress periods in the past two weeks. It’s not a sustainable pace—something I think about often for both myself and my team.

In a few weeks, I’m taking off a few days to spend with my family in a cabin in a remote part of West Virginia—roughly the midway point between New York and southern Virginia/North Carolina where my family live. I’m looking forward to hitting the reset button.

To Read

There is a trend on Twitter right now to name 6 things that bring you uninhibited pleasure. In this moment, in these times, don’t we need that right now? Clicking on one just sends you down a rabbit hole of individual pleasures that often conclude with you thinking, “Ah yes, I love that too!”.

This week, think about some things that give you pleasure and text one or six of them to me. I’ll send you my list in return.

To Hear

Music is usually something that happens in the background for me. It feels odd to say I’m not someone moved by music—which is also not true—it’s more that I don’t seek out new music. When I find a song I like, I can listen to it on repeat for an hour, discovering something new about it with every replay.

This week though, I asked myself to be more open to the music around me and I found myself drawn to several pieces.

To Eat

A Poem

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

— Wendy Cope

I discovered “The Orange” on The Gladdest Hope, maybe my new favorite site for poetry.

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Sunday Sessions

The One in Which I Start Thinking About Thanksgiving

To Read

“Women run our think tanks and our museums, our biggest defense contractors, our most illustrious spy agency, our tech companies, our newsrooms, and our lobbying outfits. To be a woman in Washington, in short, is to bob around at a new high-water mark for our gender—to be surrounded by a crowd of insanely powerful role models, heroes, and superstars.”

What It’s Like to Be a Woman in Washington: 62 Women Explain, Washingtonian

“…cooking is still a highly feminized pursuit; it’s a skill girls are implicitly expected not only to learn, but enjoy doing. To be feminine, we are told, we must be hospitable, nurturing, giving — qualities that are intimately bound up with feeding those around us.”

It’s so much more than cooking, The Week

To Watch

A must watch: a 7-minute video essay on why TikTok offers a credible form of cultural criticism.

I don’t live in Los Angles, but I recently became a subscriber to The Los Angeles Times. Their reporting is taking a more national position these days, and it’s relaunch of the food section has turned into something Jonathan Gold would be proud of. Check out their new YouTube series, Off-Menu.

To Eat

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Sunday Sessions

How Uninteresting We Are

 To Read

“Queer Eye” offers a kind of simulation of wealth redistribution. But every time the Fab Five retreats from the scene, I imagine the freshly-painted homes slowly falling into disrepair, the beards growing shaggy again, the refrigerators emptying.

The New Spiritual Consumerism, New York Times

“A lot of people withdraw from society as an experiment, so I thought I would withdraw and see how enlightening it would be. But I found out that it’s not enlightening. I think that what you’re supposed to do is stay in the midst of life.”

On Line: The Pulse of Agnes Martin, The Paris Review

“Last year David Cronenberg said that cinema “is no longer the cathedral that you go to where you commune with many other people.” Instead it’s turned into a proliferation of individual communions, in which the pressure of each of our daily lives is suspended, our thoughts relax, and we return to a form of pre-apocalyptic calm. In the privacy of our homes, with no expectations, cinema can be as pure as church.”

Cahiers du Post-Cinéma, Longreads

  • Sometimes when I look at photos like this, I just think: This is the future we built with the history they gave us? How uninteresting we are.
  • I can’t explain why I love this so much.
  • This poem is everything you need to hear today.
  • What would the internet smell like, if it had a scent?
  • Here’s what happened to the 47 dogs pulled from Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation 12 years ago.

To Watch

  • Booksmart is a lot of fun I never expected to have.
  • Becca’s rotoscoped freckles mesmerized me in Undone.
  • Ours Poetica is a quiet little YouTube series from the Green brothers and the Poetry Foundation.
  • Unbelievable is tough to watch, but has some incredible performances. If you’ve ever been a victim of sexual assault, please take this as one big trigger warning.
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Sunday Sessions

Mishmash

My birthday was a few weeks ago and I’ve been sitting on writing a This is 35 post, mostly because I was still trying to figure out what 35 will be. I think I’m almost there, but not today.

Looks like I’ll be unexpectedly heading down to DC next week weekend with no absolutely no plans except maybe a morning ride around the tidal basin. If my DC friends find themselves in town next weekend, how about we say hello?

We just got word that our landlord plans to sell our apartment. While our lease technically runs through July, in New York a new owner can give tenants 60 days notice, which means it is possible we will need to move soon. I can’t really imagine life in New York without our windows looking down on the neighborhood…

 

David’s birthday was the week before last and he, of good heart and kind spirit, spent the day activated in support of Hurricane Dorian. So, this weekend became his birthday weekend instead:We got up early and had breakfast at his favorite coffee shop (Starbucks…which you know pains me) and went on a long bike ride along the waterfront. Then he had his first sailing lesson on the Hudson and afterward we ate oysters together at Chelsea market.

We’ve been together for 11 years—married for 7—and I am so privileged to spend my days with him.

Have a great weekend, y’all.

To Read

“For the first time in human history there are now more people over 65 than under 5—all thanks to a combination of increasing longevity, diminished fertility, and an aging Baby Boom cohort. We’ve watched these trends develop for generations; demographers can chart them decades in advance.

And yet we’re utterly unprepared for the consequences.”

Old age is made up—and this concept is hurting everyone, Technology Review

“When the kids do badly with exams or something, I want them to know that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Life’s that big.” She smiles and gives me a warm, bashful look. “I just want to try to keep them buoyant and happy. And seeing life as—potentially—beautiful,” she says.

Crown Jewel: How Olivia Colman Is Reinventing Superstardom, Vogue

“What you won’t find are listed prices. That’s because the rule at Drexell & Honeybee’s is “everybody eats.” When diners are done with their meal, they put whatever money they can — or not a single cent — in a box by the door.”

The Difference Between Happiness and Joy, Bitter Southerner

To Watch

We finally were in a mood to watch Book Smart this weekend and it was a lot of fun.

A video course of sorts, Endings: The Good, Bad, and Insanely Great, is a masterclass on creating screenplays from the writer of Little Miss Sunshine.

To Eat

The New York Times has a beautiful series on how to make rice of every style and flavor.

Baked figs are so beautiful and jammy—this fig and mascarpone cake looks just fine. And this plum crepe cake is swoon-worthy too.

Most of the “fish” in my house growing up came in the form of fishsticks, so I have every kind of fear of making seafood at home. This pasta with mussels, tomatoes and fried capers might make it worth getting over that fear.

Crispy sesame tofu, ftw. Tofu with peanut ginger sauce, ftw.

This guide on how to make southern biscuits is a must have for anyone who plans to make biscuits and gravy their Sunday staple this winter.

This is either amazing or terrible: Broccoli Cheddar Cobbler

Usually a list of healthy breakfast ideas equals a bunch of green smoothies, but here’s a list of “healthy” breakfast ideas I’d actually like to eat.

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Sunday Sessions

Summer for a Little Longer

If you haven’t heard from me for a few weeks, it’s because I’ve been trying to squeeze in every last bit of summer. There is the big stuff: Camping. Six Flags. My 35th birthday. Our friend’s wedding in California. But there is also the little moments in-between: long walks around SoHo. Ice cream. Late night dinner and wine with friends.

And of course, I still feel the need to add new experiences to my New York-like-a-local list, so on Friday, I sat on the Lincoln Center Plaza with hundreds of other people and watched my first opera, Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West. On Saturday, I grabbed a blanket and a book and read for a few hours on the Great Lawn in Central Park.

I know fall is almost here. Even as I’m typing this, it’s gray and raining and just a little bit cool. But for now there are still peaches and campfires and the bingo players in the park across the street, just for a little longer.

To Read

Longer Reads

I’m juggling a few books right now. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Jia Tolintino’s Trick Mirror. Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman is in Trouble. Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism.

To Watch

Do we agree, that with the exception of The Farewell, this summer was actually a pretty shit movie season? Looks like fall is about to make up for it.

I watched the first two free episodes of On Becoming a God in Central Florida and continue to shout about what an underrated actress Kirsten Dunst remains (have you SEEN her Fargo season yet?)

To Eat

I’m on a lemon kick right now since it’s about the only way I know how to hold on to the sharpness of summer. And I visited one of my favorite New York spots The Wild Son this week and really have to figure out what it is that makes their farro is the actual best.

A lot of nights of the week you’ll find me eating basic pasta with oil and cheese. Maybe I throw in some pepper to make a quick cacio e pepe. But lemon? That sounds like a fine idea too.

Green goddess bowls seem like a good way to round out summer.

Do I want to make this peanut-pretzel ice cream cake? Yes, yes, I do.

Beautiful and easy salmon. Weeknight dinner of my dreams. Maybe make the coconut rice as suggested in the comments?
Click to the second tweet to get Hrishikesh Hirway’s spicy dark chocolate pistachio cookies.

Have we talked about these Garlicky Peanut Butter Cold Noodles yet?

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Sunday Sessions

Scene

SCENE

EXT. UPPER WEST SIDE – NIGHT

It’s Saturday night and the sidewalks are crowded with people milling between shops—going to a late dinner, joining friends at a bar, rushing the kids home for bedtime. SHE and HE inspect the neon lights of every storefront and restaurant, gauging whether their popularity is a indicator of quality or just availability. With their desire to take in every sight, they could be tourists, but they are indeed locals. They balance cold ice cream cones in one hand. They clasp hands with the other.

SHE
Why do you build me up (build me up) buttercup, baby
HE
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around?
SHE
And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby
When you say you will (say you will)
HE
But I love you still.
I need you!
SHE
I need you!
More than anyone, darlin’
BOTH
You know that I have from the start
So build me up (build me up) buttercup, don’t break my heart!

(END)

To Read

“Technology, in fact, has made us less than oppositional: where beauty is concerned, we have deployed technology not only to meet the demands of the system but to actually expand these demands. The realm of what is possible for women has been exponentially expanding in all beauty-related capacities – think of the extended Kardashian experiments in body modification, or the young models whose plastic surgeons have given them entirely new faces – and remained stagnant in many other ways. We have not “optimized” our wages, our childcare system, our political representation; we still hardly even think of parity as realistic in those arenas, let alone anything approaching perfection. We have maximized our capacity as market assets. That’s all.”

Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman

The Inman 300: They tout it as the world’s first urban thru-hiking trail, linking more than 340 public staircases over some 220 miles in Los Angeles. They found that hiking in the city had many of the same appeals as trekking the backcountry, including physical exertion and elevation gain, wildlife sightings, navigational challenges, even solitude.

Why You Should Thru-Hike Your City

To Watch

Every few months I go down The Nerdwriter rabbit hole on YouTube. I’ve seen all of the Harry Potter movies dozens of times—I often put it on in the background while I’m working—and for reasons I’m not sure I’ve understood myself, I also agree that Prisoner of Azkaban in the best of all the films.

Queer Eye is somewhere up there with the Great British Bake-off in its ability to make you feel good about humans. Looking forward to checking out this Ursula K. Le Guin series on PBS. If you need something totally mindless, Derry Girls (on Netflix) is cute.

To Eat

I thought I’d make French macarons for a co-worker’s birthday. A friend had declared them “so easy.” Rest assured: they were not. I threw away nearly a dozen eggs before realizing I would be buying macarons for my co-worker. In the end, I did finish one complete batch—but not enough to celebrate a birthday properly.

In between waits for my eggs to reach room temperature, I made this classic plum tort again. Delightful with coffee. Delightful as dessert.

Not every one is a hit, but I like seeing what’s happening in Eric Kim’s Table for One series.

A Poem

On a Saturday

When you write something
you want it to live—
you have that obligation, to give it
a start in life.
Virginia Woolf, pockets full of stones,
sinks into the sad river
that surrounds us daily. Everything
about London amazed her, the shapes
and sight, the conversations on a bus.
At the end of her life, she said
London is my patriotism.
I feel that about New York.
Would Frank O’Hara say Virginia Woolf,
get up? No, but images from her novels
stay in my head—the old poet
(Swinburne, I suppose) sits on the lawn
of the country house, mumbling
into the sun. Pleased with the images,
I won’t let the chaos of my life
overwhelm me. There is the City,
and the sun blazes on Central Park
in September. These people on a Sunday
are beautiful, various. And the poor
among them make me think
the experience I knew will be relived again,
so that my sentences will keep hold
of reality, for a while at least.

Harvey Shapiro

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Sunday Sessions

Heat Wave

I could complain about the unbearable heat wave we’re all pushing through right now, but I won’t. The thing that scares me most is how frequent and likely these days are going to be moving forward—a new normal. Last month, our air conditioning bill for a 600 sq ft apartment was $146. This is with me leaving only one of our two units on during the week, and turning them up while I’m away (I tried to turn them off completely during the day, but our food was spoiling and our plants were dying).

Yesterday we stayed inside, but were surprised that all of our neighbors seemed to have been turned out of their buildings en masse. Lawn chairs and tents were set up in the park across the street. The fire hydrant caps were broken and water spewed powerfully. They stayed out all day, and only went inside when it started to rain.

Today, we finally ventured outside with a reward in mind. We met up with my friend John—an ice cream expert—to sample the offerings at an ice cream festival on the Upper West Side. John tried no fewer than 5—FIVE—ice creams, while David and I managed two each. Even with cold, flavorful treats, we sweated right through our clothes.

I realize it’s nihilistic, but sometimes I think our eventual extinction seems like a pretty fair price to pay for what we’ve done to the planet in the name of progress. A hot day seems like the least of our eventual worries.

To Read

“DoorDash offers a guaranteed minimum for each job. For my first order, the guarantee was $6.85 and the customer, a woman in Boerum Hill who answered the door in a colorful bathrobe, tipped $3 via the app. But I still received only $6.85.

Here’s how it works: If the woman in the bathrobe had tipped zero, DoorDash would have paid me the whole $6.85. Because she tipped $3, DoorDash kicked in only $3.85. She was saving DoorDash $3, not tipping me.”

My Frantic Life as a Cab-Dodging, Tip-Chasing Food App Deliveryman, New York Times

First, of all, who are all of these trash people not tipping their delivery people? Second, this is not a sustainable system of human labor. I try not to use delivery services like these, and when there is no alternative, I tip well—very well. If something looks too good to be true, it’s probably because it is. Having food, groceries, and whatever else delivered to your door quickly, safely, and cheaply, is definitely too good to be true.

“Cities have effectively traded away their children, swapping capital for kids. College graduates descend into cities, inhale fast-casual meals, emit the fumes of overwork, get washed, and bounce to smaller cities or the suburbs by the time their kids are old enough to spell.

The modern American city is not a microcosm of life but a microslice of it. It’s becoming an Epcot theme park for childless affluence, where the rich can act like kids without having to actually see any.”

The Future of the City Is Childless, Citylab

There is a lot to unpack with this piece. As a currently childless person, it felt like there was a pretty substantial bias here, but what the piece ultimately seeks to map out is that the problem of childless cities is one of equity.

Longer Reads

I’ve been on a streak of abandoning books recently—which isn’t usually my style—but life is too short, eh?

What went into the abandoned pile? My Wife in the Psych Ward (needed a better editor), and A Walk Through Paris (probably a great read for someone more intimately acquainted with the city).

One book I can’t put down is the August selection for the WNYC book club, A Gentleman in Moscow. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how they were going to keep my attention for 462 pages when the protagonist is not allowed to leave the hotel, but then I remembered loving another story set entirely in a hotel and decided to give it a chance.

To Watch

David and I have started a new tradition—or rather, I should say I’ve let David in on an old tradition—which is morning movies at the nearby theater. I love going to the first show of the day, just after my morning coffee and eggs; there tends to be a more diverse audience of ardent movie goers, the tickets are cheaper (a movie ticket in New York currently averages $17 for an evening showing), and I’m less likely to go-to-town on Junior Mints and popcorn.

This weekend we saw The Farewell. About 25 minutes in, I was openly weeping (i.e. sobbing), and the rest of the film didn’t let up either. I left the theater with makeup streaked tear stains. Run to see this movie.

Grantchester is back and they’re replacing the lovely James Norton (no surprise, that star was on the rise after Happy Valley) with a new “hot priest.” And frankly I was offended: You can’t just replace a well-loved character of 4 seasons with a new hot version with just ONE episode as a transition. But reader: They did. And I am as shallow as they guessed, because while hot priest will never be as good as James Norton, he is still infinitely watchable.

Haven’t watched Happy Valley, you say? Go rectify that immediately.

To Eat

Last weekend I visited Tail Up Goat, with my friend Jenna, for the first time in awhile. They have a Michelin star now, but that hasn’t seemed to change them much. For summertime, they have an entire wine list dedicated to Riesling, a wine that, frankly, I had always found to be over-sweet. I decided to trust in the very knowledgeable bartender and ended up with the 2010 “Würtzberg” from Weingut Würtzberg in Saar, Germany, a bright, tart, almost cider-like experience. I can’t wait to go back soon.

When I’m not getting my fill of peaches, berries, and plums, a riff on this spicy peanut noodle dish has been a good summertime fix. I used this sauce, but then added baked tofu, steamed broccoli, and edamame to the dish. The prep takes a little time (baking the tofu, steaming the broccoli), but once those are done, this dish whips up quickly and was something I ate all week long.

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Sunday Sessions

Come to the woods, for here is rest.

Summertime is my glory and I am doing everything possible to spend all of these moments outside. Bike rides. Long walks. Trips to the public pool. A half day at the New York Botanical Garden. Give me the heat wave and humidity—they don’t touch me.

Last weekend, we visited my brother- and sister- in-law and decided to rent a speedboat. We spent hours on a Pennsylvania lake, tossing each other around the water on an inflatable tube attached to the back. I squealed like a kid, and I can’t remember the last time since I felt such a giddy rush of fun.

We have declared this our summer of camping, which isn’t quite as easy as it sounds without a car. Earlier this spring we joined those same siblings for a frigid camping adventure in Bar Harbor, Maine, and more recently, we setup shop at a campsite in the Catskills based on its proximity to an Instagram-worthy diner. We have plans to sleep under the stars at least a few more times this summer, which makes me a little homesick for my Blue Ridge mountains.

To make camping an easier and more spontaneous activity, we’ve managed to box up most of our gear into one plastic tub, and it is cross-checked before each trip with an easy-to-use spreadsheet. On our return, we assess what we used and what we wished we’d had, and adjust the pack accordingly. On our last trip, we went from arrival to full-setup of our campsite (including a roaring fire!) in about 20 minutes.

Here’s hoping you’re sitting around a campfire soon.

To Read

A profile on the fascinating artwork of Olafur Eliasson.

More than 50 years after her death, Sylvia Plath’s uncensored letters have been released. Turns out she was quite a cinephile.

Women are here to crash your pool party.

Some vignettes.

Hemingway always seemed like a fucker, but at least we now learn he was capable of remorse.

The Washington Post has suggested a book for every age—from 1 to 100.

The World Health Organization has designated urban noise a serious environmental stressor and public health risk. A new app is helping urbanites find the quiet.

Hillbillies need no elegy.

To Watch

I was waiting for a few books to come in at the library and thought putting on old episodes of Dawson’s Creek in the background would be a fun way to relive my adolescence. Uh. I got addicted to the drama and am now on season 4 of the Joey, Pacey, Dawson triangle. Beware.

Looking forward to checking out Shoplifters on Hulu this week. And despite the fact that the acting has not aged particularly well, I found Maurice to be a gem (RIP Kanopy).

To Eat

It’s been more than a decade since Starbucks was part of my coffee habit. These days I use the French press at home with rotating beans, or make my way to local coffee shops around the city to enjoy a (mostly) black cup of coffee or iced espresso. But sometimes you find yourself in a Starbucks, and when you do, you know better than to order the over-roasted bitter coffee. Instead, splurge on their new skinny iced mocha cloud macchiato. It is, of course, terrible for you, and it does contain, weirdly enough, egg whites, but it is a dreamy concoction of not-really-coffee only made possible by the fast food of the coffee world.

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21st Century Woman

Vignettes

I am convinced there is a psychopath in my neighborhood. About once a week, I stumble on the body of a bird or mouse, in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the same building.

This is not a bird that has flown into a window, or rat that has eaten poison, these are bodies left there, usually smashed.

And when it’s not a full bird, it’s the wings of a bird, its bony protrusions exposed.


I’ve started wearing earplugs on the train.

One of first things I noticed when I moved to New York was the almost unbearable cacophony of the subways. Prolonged exposure seemed impossible, and forget headphones—to hear anything over the sound of squeals and the stops and the breaks meant listening at full volume.

So, the earplugs.

Overtime, I’ve come to appreciate and even depend on the earplugs. If I happen to have a book or magazine to read, I find myself more deeply invested in the story when my earplugs are in. And overall, it decreases my interest in being on my phone—the rare chance to turn down both the physical and emotional noise. Kids are fascinated by them and often point them out to their parents.

Sometimes I miss the anonymous chatter of my fellow passengers, but mostly I don’t.


The other day I had my earplugs in and had zoned out in such a way as to have achieved a sort of commuter zen—not oblivious enough to miss your stop, but impervious to the usual indignities of the ride.

With a sort of semi-consciousness, I realized a woman, a panhandler begging for change, had gotten on my car. This is not unusual, especially during the morning commute, and I admit, a little callously, to often reviewing their appeals for rhetorical effect.

But today the earplugs were in and I could not hear her tale, so I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing.

A moment later, I began to feel the people on either side of me twitch. I opened my eyes to see them covering their noses, their faces green.

And that’s when it hit me—the potent smell of urine.

I looked toward the woman making her way down the train car. The seat of her pants were stained and wet—today’s situation was not a recent or first phenomenon.

The smell was overwhelming. I started to gag and tried to push against the reflex, which felt somehow disrespectful. I watched others trying to do the same—to discreetly cover their nose and their mouth. Others had fewer concerns about propriety and opened the door to the next train car to seek out fresher air.

But most of us just sat still, collectively begging for the next train station to appear so we could have options.

And then the train came to a stop. Held between stations. They would let us know when we had been given the signal to proceed.

And then the desire for propriety ended. Gag reflexes do not have manners.

People pushed to get away from the woman, who was still on the car, asking for spare change. And they breathed into shirts or hands or scarves—anything to filter the smell.

It seemed we were on the verge of panic when the train lurched forward again and people paused to decide whether they could hold out for the station.

Never has a train pulled in more slowly to its destination.

And how funny we must have looked spewing from the car, gasping for air.

I looked down the platform to see the woman moving to the next car, counting her change.


Walking down the streets on July 4th. Every 10-15 steps there is another family with another grill. Chairs. Bottles. Kids with sidewalk chalk. A worn set of dominoes. Uno cards.

And a boombox.

Every 10-15 steps, a new song. Always in Spanish. A strange, urban orchestra both at odds and completely in sync.


We go up to the roof hoping to catch the fireworks—the big ones, down by the Brooklyn Bridge. But even from our vantage point, on top of a building, on top of a hill, the fireworks sit too low, too close to the waterfront over 8 miles away.

Before we can turn away, other fireworks begin to spring up all around us. Over there in Inwood. And across the Hudson in Jersey too. And at 125th. And now two streets over at 134th. And is that Central Park?

There are so close they feel like stars are falling on us.

Pink and gold and green and blue.

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