Sunday Sessions

Sunday Morning in New York

“By comparison with other less hectic days, the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience—if they did they would live elsewhere.” 

– E.B. White, Here is New York

I live across the street from a school and as of 7 AM, there are already soccer players on the green turf, running and panting as they chase the ball. Further up the street, neighbors carry large bags of clothes on their shoulders for their weekly visit to the lavandería. Bags and greasy paper plates and used up liquor bottles and an empty box of condoms line the sidewalks of St. Nicolas park. There is no traffic, so we wander the streets with a kind of urban machismo, rejecting the protection of crosswalks. In the distance, the Empire State Building feels undressed without its signature lights, but soon enough they will twinkle on again.

This is Sunday morning in New York.

To Read

Late fines racked up (a whopping $1.50) as I rushed to finish the nearly 500-page Pachinko this week. It struggles a little near the end, but still remains one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Older women in Japan shoplift in order to go to prison, where they find company and a reprieve from anxiety. It’s time to reconsider how we age.

In a New York minute.

In high school or middle school, there were whispers that a classmate had been sent to W.W. Moore, a juvenile detention facility. I didn’t truly understand what that meant. Now I do.

Lena Waithe is not fucking around.

The problem with living in a world mostly designed by men.

This week I was gifted Here is New York, and it spoke to my very soul and it is why I live where I live.

This Humans of New York interview.

Here’s to more short stories.

I love a good food anthology.

To Eat

My friend Matt is my New York City ambassador. This weekend he introduced me to xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings. I am in love with their meaty broth. Find them at Joe’s Shanghai in midtown.

I feel like at this age I should know how to make crepes, right?

To Listen

David and I have found our new favorite coffee spot. They serve Intelligentsia and sick beats. Thanks, barista Joe, for the sounds.

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Sunday Sessions

So Many Links Edition

We are pushing through the eternal slog of winter and I have finally come to the realization that I’m going to have to buy the snow boots, and the new gloves, and the ear muffs, because I live here now.

New York is so beautiful at Christmas—a time when you don’t mind winter so much—but from January on, the cold just impedes you from going anywhere truly interesting. Standing on a freezing platform waiting for the next train? Dream about Central Park in the spring time. Freezing your ass off during a long walk to your next destination? Imagine the July 4th celebration you plan to have on the roof deck. I hauled out to Brooklyn three times last week, and on each trek, I just built an imaginary itinerary for Bear Mountain, or Trophy Point, or Storm King.

Spring can’t come soon enough, but while we wait we will eat, and read, and plan.

To Read

Women, even women of substance and stature, have been roundly overlooked by history.  Finally, finally, a few of these women get the recognition they so richly deserve. Thanks to my friend Olivia for this great find.

I remember waiting to present to an executive one time and wondering when someone was going to notice I was really just a poor kid from the south. That feeling never really goes away.

Despite being a corporate behemoth, SXSW is still producing some pretty good music.

This story.

Sometimes those winter blues get so deep in my bones that I have to find a way to maintain a glimmer of hope that spring is around the corner. For me, that’s buying out-of-season fruit: strawberries, and blueberries, and ohmygosh raspberries—all of which are from Mexico. Here’s why that might be a problem.

A nurse treated his own heart attack. What did you do today?

Okay, confession: I tried lox for the first time last month. The office hosted a going away party with glorious New York bagels, mounds of cream cheese, and piles and piles of lox. It was magical. So magical, that I refuse to have another lox experience until it can be at the very best in New York. This glorious display of Jewish foods and stories from Tablet magazine reminds me I am in a city built by Jews, and now is the time to eat.

Blame it on the fairytales you hear as a kid, but I always wanted a turret. Our New York apartment could fit inside most of these turrets (although none of them have our windows).

Some thoughts on assimilation food.

When I get a seat on the train, I am a reading powerhouse, so this week I finished My Absolute Darling, which is an emotional wormhole I enjoyed very much. Next up: Pachinko.

To Watch

David was generous enough to watch all of the movies with me this week. We both enjoyed The Florida Project and Call Me By Your Name (which is also a most excellent book). I had mixed feelings about Phantom Thread, but can’t deny it is a beautiful, visually rich film. A Wrinkle in Time was also a joy to behold (especially in a theater full of pre-teens), although you’ll have to look past all the plot holes.

The third and final season of Love came out on Netflix this week, and although I enjoyed the finale, I feel like I’m losing a quirky friend. Romantic sitcoms, when done correctly, can be a lot of fun, and I felt Love tackled the tough stuff better than Happy Endings, The Mindy Project, and New Girl, ever got close to.

To Eat

It had been a few months since I’d made a pie, so last week I pulled together the ingredients for my crowd-pleasing Chocolate Cheesecake. This week though, I’m thinking ahead to which of these 47 pies I’ll be making next.

Breakfast recipes, you say…

I love the idea of Nowruz (Persian New Year). Not only does it feel more wholesome and focused than our January 1 tradition, it encourages people to celebrate a new year by eating carbs.

All hail kolaches!

The Washington Post has a new food vertical called Voraciously, and reminds me a bit of Bon Appetit‘s new vertical, Basically. Both have given me a fair number of easy weeknight recipes that I can easily make into a dinner for one, like this one for polenta with cherry tomatoes.

And finally…

My best friend will undergo a bilateral mastectomy tomorrow and that is weighing heavy on my mind, especially because I can’t be there.

Even for someone as determined as my friend, preparing for this kind of life-changing surgery takes a wholly different kind of courage. I’m not religious, and I don’t fuck around with trite pink ribbons, but if you find a moment in your day to send good thoughts to my friend, it would be appreciated. 

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Sunday Sessions

Things to Read With Your Morning Coffee

Writing is longing
For a drip of tenderness
For a city less monstrous
For an old amiga’s smile
For a father’s phone call
For booty shakes & sledgehammers
For fury made regal & worn like a crown

Quiara Hudes

This week I finished my podclass. To be honest, I’m still kind of reeling from how much I learned and what I’ll do with that information next. Towards the end, I had reached a kind of delirium—I was spending somewhere between six and 20 hours of my week working on podclass projects in addition to the rest of my life—and commuting about an hour to Brooklyn two nights a week. It was the most glorious kind of haze, where you know eventually this will have all been worth it. And it was.

I listen to a lot of podcasts for my work with The Bello Collective, and I leave the class with a better ear for how stories are told. When I notice a less than perfect audio cut, I wonder what came after. When the music swells, I wonder why they chose to frame that moment. And where I once imagined a story in words, I now also imagine it as sound.

So, this is my final project. It’s about my friend James who is as talented as they come. James and I had an amazing first recording session—deeply personal and funny too—only it didn’t record properly and the tape was tragically unusable. We later recorded a much different second interview where we discussed his show The Outline World Dispatch. I’m of the opinion that interviewing someone you like will result in better sound. I certainly hope that’s the case here.

See you next week.

To Read

If my twenties were about the hustle, maybe my thirties will be about the medium chill.

It was not so long ago that the unit of measurement for home was not a house, but a bed.

Librarians are superheroes.

This is just a reminder: we can’t separate food from politics.

From beginning to end, this story rocked me.

Have we forgotten how to read? I’ve been averaging about a book a week so far this year (that is until the Olympics), and while I keep working my way down the list, there seem to be ever so many more to add.

Podcasting as soft diplomacy.

I think a lot these days about how and where I want to grow old. Sometimes, it’s deep in the mountains, down an old country road, with only the sound of crickets to keep me company. Other times, it’s in the middle of a bustling city, surrounded by art and access and people. Mostly, I think how I wouldn’t mind if a bunch of friends (and a few young people for good measure), built a baugruppe together and lived there.

To Watch

Legends of the Fall is on Netflix. Thank you and goodbye.

To Listen

I’ve really been enjoying a new series from Washington Post and WBUR called Edge of Fame. Check out their conversations with Weird Al and Ava Duverney.

This American Life has done it again.

You know the Roberta Flack song “Killing Me Softly”? Yeah, the woman who wrote it never got any credit (or money) for her work. Hi-Phi Nation talks about the ethics of cover songs.

To Eat

It’s still very much winter, and I’ve been dreaming about polenta.

While I’ve been commuting out to Brooklyn, I’ve been filling my shelves with as much Brooklyn Roasting Company beans as they will hold. If you’re coffee-minded, I highly recommend their collection. Right now my favorite is the Mocha Java.

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Sunday Sessions

Thanksgiving in February Edition

Today I’m going to a Thanksgiving-themed Valentine’s Day lunch party. I emailed the host to make sure I had understood the concept correctly—Thanksgiving dinner? In February? Instead of Valentine’s Day? Yes, she replied, that was the tradition.

Go ahead and mentally insert a heart-eye emoji here, friends.

My contribution will be Derby Pie, a hallowed Allen family recipe. The pie, of course, turned out fine, now let’s see if it survives an hour long subway ride to Brooklyn…

Read

When sex education fails to teach teens to think critically about sex, they will find other source material.

I have been on a reading tear lately and ten more books just arrived from the library. Looks like these will have to wait until March.

Poetry responds to Trump’s America.

I’m coming to terms with the mythologies of New York—sorting through them to find the truth.

Even Jimmy Buffett is not Jimmy Buffett.

These are the words men use to undermine women in the workplace.

Since I arrived, I haven’t stopped thinking about the role I will play in the inevitable gentrification of my neighborhood.

I didn’t even realize I was so hungry for this academic treatise on Wonder Woman.

Reading 100 Years of Solitude as a Southern manifesto.

Is podcasting the new soft diplomacy?

Watch

I love the bawdiness of David Chang, so I’m here for his new food show.

There are only two people in the world who have made me question my stance on wanting kids. Surprisingly, David Letterman is one of them. Hearing him wax poetic about fatherhood in his recent conversation with George Clooney made my ovaries hurt…just a little.

I put on Breakfast at Tiffany’s the other night and suddenly learned I had never actually seen how it ends. I thought it ended with her running away and Fred/Paul going upstairs to find an empty apartment. She will not be contained by the men in her life! Turns out, it doesn’t end like that at all.

I think I liked my ending better.

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Sunday Sessions

Sunday Sessions

Smile mural by jeremybrooks

Image: Jeremy Brooks

I went to the dentist recently and she said my back teeth had started to develop tiny fractures, most likely caused by grinding my teeth at night. What I wanted to tell her was that she could add to that all the days I had bit my tongue at something on the news or at the office that had left me incensed.

Those days are mostly behind me now, but the effects are permanent (I should plan on wearing a nightguard for the rest of my natural days, how sexy). It reminded me how important it is to be intentional—to order our lives in ways that bring joy, or at least balance—lest the effects, often greater than a nightguard, be permanent.

Wishing you better balance this week.

Read

I’ve gotten such pleasure out of the stories curated by Longreads–this one is no exception.

Keep an eye on Trump, but keep our focus on the bigger picture.

Janet Yellen: BAMF.

Clean labels are “more about catering to a culture’s fears and biases than the genuine pursuit of better-for-you food.”

As good an obit as I’ve ever read.

Dashboard Confessional is back.

Glen Weldon on why we fall down the podcast rabbit hole.

This is a fcked up way to do business.

Did you know most doctors will not even talk about a hysterectomy until you’re 35? As someone who has suffered through debilitating periods, fibroids, and even a tumor, I call bullshit.

If appliances designed for the male ego are what it takes for parity in the kitchen, I guess I’m in.

That time Mr. Rogers appeared in Esquire.

If you do this, you are a bad person.

Listen

I’ve fallen a little in love with The Paris Review podcast.

The Bedtime with Babish podcast has been helping me with said teeth grinding and insomnia.

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Sunday Sessions

Sunday Sessions

It’s rainy here, so I’m looking forward to a day of reading and letter writing interrupted only by bouts of laundry.

Read

Look: side hustles are sometimes necessary, but finding ways to cultivate interests that are just for you—that’s where the joy begins.

“This child has two parents. Please alternate calls. It’s his father’s turn.” The incredible perseverance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

My friend Sameer had no idea what he was doing when he posted this story about panettone. What followed was an hours long rabbit hole of panettone recipes and videos.

A meditation on cities.

After this video was over, I wanted to stand on my chair and clap.

“There is almost no building other than a library where everyone is free to sit down without need for money or an explanation. It’s comforting to be among other people without obligation.”

In Britain, the average sandwich takes 3.5 minutes to consume. In the US, I’d bet it’s less.

It takes me an hour each way to get to and from my podcast class, so I’m catching up on a lot of reading. I just finished Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, and it was as good a book as I’ve ever read about class systems and feminism. I’ve had mixed feelings about The Hate U Give, Uncommon Type, and Little Fires Everywhere. What’s on your shelf this year?

Listen

The New York Times sat down with Tonya Harding.

Watch

The End of the F***ing World was a delight.

Eat

This recipe for Brussels sprouts—found in the comments of an Instagram post—were maybe the best I’ve ever had.

I grew up on Bisquick pancakes, but in our tiny kitchen, who has room for extra boxes? Turns out homemade pancake batter is better anyway.

David has invested in an Instapot and thus began “Instapot Fridays” in the Lusk-Allen house. Send us your best recipes (bonus points if they’re veg-friendly).

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What I'm Doing

Good Tape

The week we moved to New York, I found out I had been invited to participate in a podcast development program sponsored by the City of New York. There were hundreds of applicants for just 20 slots, so I felt rather humbled to be included.

By the end of the class, I should (in theory) be able to put together a basic audio story that I have conceived, recorded, edited, and otherwise produced on my own. The work is fast-paced—just two weeks in and I’ve completed my first assignment and am in the middle of editing and recording the second.

The class has stretched me in the best possible ways. The thing I always knew I was good at—using words to tell stories—has much higher stakes in this format. For one thing, I have to get someone else to say the words I want to use, then as I twist and shape the words in editing, I have to ask myself if I’m remaining true to their intentions when they said them. When I hear a story now, I just hear the compounded parts of the effort: The music sweeping in at just the right time. The decision to cut here instead of there. The minute instances when I can hear a rough edit. The entrance of the narrator to move the story along.

Growing up, I wanted desperately to be a journalist—Diane Sawyer. Barbara Walters. Connie Chung. Christiane Amanpour.—and yet I remember the slow realization during freshman year of college that it would not be my path in life. After all, unpaid internships presented an impossible hurdle to a poor kid from the south.

There were a lot of reasons I might not have succeeded as a journalist anyway. Again, as a woman from the south, I was taught to be deferential—to move and shift in such a way as to never be a burden to anyone; politeness to the point of non-existence. Combined with my deep reverence for the craft, I struggled with insecurities about “doing it right,” of putting anyone out with my questions, of bothering people who so clearly didn’t want to be bothered. These are not, I suspect, fears that Christiane Amanpour takes into her interviews with world leaders.

A few months ago, I had a chance to interview people I respect and admire. People who make audio for a living, and very good, smart audio at that. I mapped out my questions so that I would not stumble over myself. I learned how to use my phone to record their answers so there were would be no missteps of lost audio. Even with all of my preparation, I can hear the fear in my voice standing next to them. I cannot be indifferent. I cannot ignore their power in the world, or their power over me. It’s a reflex to enthusiastically celebrate things I love.

And so now I am here again, nudged to reach out to the world and ask it questions. It is a delightfully terrifying challenge. The first week we were tasked with creating an “audio postcard,” a snippet of a scene. On my way home from class, I pulled out my recorder and captured the sounds of the 1 train—the bing/bong of the closing door, the static-filled voice over the loudspeaker—and then, the voice of a busker.

At first, I just record him from the other side of the train, and then as he’s about to get off, I ask him if he’ll stay on another minute so I can ask him questions, and he does. He sings his song again for me, closer to my recorder this time. And then the next stop comes and he hops off.

I go home and I listen to what I captured. The sound is not very good, but his laugh is magical. I edit and tweak and walk away a hundred times before I finally say, this has to be done now.

This week the assignment is more challenging. We’re to go out on the street (any street) and ask questions, and from that build a story. My introversion is being tested. And at 33, I no longer look like the “student” I’m proposing to be when I ask someone for a moment of their time.

I encounter language barriers with my neighbors—real or created—and so I ask Google to help me translate.

“Hola, ¿puedo hacerte una pregunta?”

“¿Quién está ganando?”

“¿Qué te gusta de nuestro vecindario?”

They mostly giggle at me, which, incidentally, makes for good tape too.

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Sunday Sessions

Sunday Sessions: Live from New York

We’re not exactly snowed in, but the streets are still in such an unpleasant state that it kind of feels like I have cabin fever. Here’s what I’ve been catching up on this week.

How Dollar General Became Rural America’s Store of Choice, Wall Street Journal

Analyzing Race and Gender Bias Amid All the News That’s Fit to Print, New York Times

Being a Doctor is Hard. It’s Harder for Women., New York Time

The Reading Life with Parul Sehgal, Book Critic at The New York Times, SSense

Federal Employees Consider What It Would Take for Them to Walk Out the Door, New York Magazine

It’s Really Hard to Come Up with 5 Decent Men…Even in Fiction, Electric Literature

Keila Pulinario Thought Prison Was Tough. Then She Had To Find A Job., Buzzfeed

A Scientific Explanation for How Layers Form in Lattes, New York Times

The Reckoning, New York Times

Algorithms are bad—really bad—for journalism, Poynter

Mario Batali and the Appetites of Men, New Yorker

A Hillbilly Syllabus, Chitucky

Generation Screwed, Highline

Immersive, Powerful Journalism from 2017, Josh Sterns

Deliverance from 27,000 feet, New York Times

A History of Women Who Burned to Death in Flammable Dresses, Racked

The Story Behind the Music of The Muppet Christmas Carol, Vulture

Business Schools Now Teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. Protests and Trump, New York Times

A Friendly Guide to How the Body Decomposes, Buzzfeed

The angry, witty, adventurous life of Jay Caspian Kang, Columbia Journalism Review

I Have a Message for You, New York Times

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21st Century Woman

A Change of Address

 

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – Tom Wolfe

On Christmas Day, David and I packed up a U-Haul and moved to New York.

There was little public fanfare around the decision or the act, partially because timing, and partially because I felt a little numb.

I had lived in Washington, DC for almost a decade and my geography had in many ways shaped my identity. As I walked along familiar streets in our neighborhood and indulged in “last times” at favorite spots, I still couldn’t fully imagine extracting myself from this place.

Yet, like it had for many people, the year had taken its toll on me. The fraught political climate had made me tense and angry. I was emotionally bankrupt from working at a job I despised. My best friend was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

Remember that scene in Neverending Story? Yeah, my year had been like that—dark as hell.

And so, we called it. We packed up our things, hugged our landlords/surrogate parents goodbye, and headed north.

Now, I find myself rediscovering what it means to be a local again.

We found an incredible apartment in Harlem; one entire side is made up of sunny windows that look down on a park. We marvel at the quantity of bodegas around us. We hunt for new coffeeshops. We sign up for library cards. We ponder how long it will take us to learn enough Spanish so that we can speak with our neighbors, or maybe not speak, but to at least listen, which seems like the more New Yorker thing to do anyway.

On New Years Eve, we stood on a frigid roof deck watching fireworks blossom around the Empire State Building some 5 miles away, and we fell a little in love.

I don’t ask the city to be a magical balm, but even in this season of intense cold, I feel a little bit of the numbness melting away. And for now, that will do.

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What I'm Reading

The Year That Was

Here we are—almost at the end of a rather terrible year. I suspect we will be processing all of this for a long time, but let us hope we are now nearer the end than the beginning. Let us also hope that the pendulum swings hard in a new direction, that we use this momentum, this anger, this unrest, to build something better.

Like I’ve said before, chaos can create great art, and despite everything else, a lot of great art was made this year, friends. Enjoy a look back.

Year-in-Review

2017 Book Concierge, NPR

NPR’s Book Concierge is now an annual tradition. Maybe you read a few of these that stuck with you? Or perhaps you will spend the next 12-months catching up?

100 Outstanding Pieces of Audio, Bello Collective

I’m so proud of this list. It’s a lot of work, but we found some great shows that deserve your attention. Enjoy.

The Lives They Lived, New York Times

The incredible legacies of some lesser known names remind us there there is much more we can do.

Best of 2017, Longreads

May we all strive to read more than headlines and tweets in the year ahead. 

Best Movies of the Year, Vanity Fair

Let us be transported.

The Year in Graphics, Washington Post

This year has revealed to me how little I know and understand about our systems. Everyone benefits from these explainers.

The 100 Best Movies Streaming on Netflix, New York Times

A reminder that good things do exist.

The Most Read Stories of 2017, New York Times

The news we could not escape.

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