Archive

My Life and Times

15 April 2014

The legal history of divorce custody is the history of the rise and fall and rise again of fathers. When the Protestant Reformation first made divorce possible, children were allocated to their fathers along with the other family property. In the 19th century, as the status of children shifted from property to humanity, two major social and legal forces worked to change the paternal presumption. More…

4 April 2014

I will use his account of what happened next. He saw me sitting alone at the bar in front of a full glass of whiskey, so he came up and asked me how things were, and we talked and even danced some. At the end of the night, when almost everyone had gone, as he was about to get into a cab with his roommate, he saw me come out of the bar, carrying the scanner and a lot of balloons. More…

18 March 2014

Nobody bothered to point out that if Trayvon had attacked his murderer, he would have had the law on his side. How many other times had policemen or others stopped him for nothing? How much fear can we endure before aggression starts to promise relief? Sometimes I envy those whose first instinct is to attack. By hitting back, they take an active role in shaping their lives. More…

17 March 2014

The city is the only metropolis in Idaho, a state conceived of primarily as a growth medium for racist extremists; libertarian nutjobs; the nonironic-hat-wearing degenerates who drive pickups and semis across the flyover imagined cartography of blue-state secessionists; and potatoes. More…

13 March 2014

Hartford is the ugly little truth that stomps around in the brain of the American people, the perfect inversion of Silicon Valley, a place with almost 400 years of history and no future. It is ten years younger than Boston, but nobody takes guided tours of its cobblestone. Technically in the middle of a megalopolis, you can stand in Hartford’s center and feel utterly alone. More…

12 March 2014

Even now, whenever I go there, New Orleans seems to be trying to draw me into some kind of conspiracy of signification. When I lived there, my apartment was on Independence, a one-way street. Two blocks over was Desire, a one-way street going in the opposite direction. It was things like that. More…

6 March 2014

I began to explore my own feelings about revenge and how it can be productive—not to hurt others as payback, but as a tool to hammer at my own rage and feelings of discontent. Revenge, I came to believe, was a process to rectify relationships where I concealed my true self. It was a kind of personal reckoning. More…

4 September 2013

Mr. Sam, as associates call him, has a kind face, gently wrinkled in the right places, like Paul Newman’s on his salad dressings. He wears both a suit and a baseball cap. “I see Sam Walton as a genius,” said Alan, a 29-year-old Sam’s Club associate from Baltimore who boarded his first plane ever to attend the meeting. “And I’m glad he was because now we all have jobs.” More…

10 December 2012

So people in Reading find their own means of exchange and escape, and when the drugs stop working they turn to piercings and tattoos. This is only a temporary measure, because there is only so much skin on the human body, and only so many things that can be pierced. And when all the skin is filled and all the holes have been made they move on to other plans. More…

21 November 2012

To grow up in Omaha is to confront the void. The Void should be capitalized, though, because it is a big deal. Here, the buildings are stout, the streets are wide, and there are twice as many bars as there probably should be for a mid-sized city. In the winter, when the surrounding farmland lies fallow, the only thing in your rearview mirror will be sky—ominous, gray-streaked winter sky with giant clouds hanging low. More…

17 May 2012

My parents moved us into an apartment complex in northwest Fresno called Cobblestone Village. This was the scaffolded edge of the city, only half a mile from where the suburbs disintegrated at the sandy banks of the San Joaquin. The apartments were surrounded by acres of troweled lots. A wide pit had been dug in one with I-beams and rebar sticking out of the dirt. More…

17 May 2012

As I put my shirt back on, it was explained that there used to be more women, “born women,” in our escort service. A lot of clients will want one, and we’ll run out early. Try to “up-sell” them. You can send a boy to a client who wants a girl. “You can?” He shrugged. “Once in a while. I tell ‘em, ‘Hey, a blowjob’s a blowjob.’” “Does that work?” “It has worked.” More…

19 April 2012

Snakes, trees, devils, and also dams, vineyards, and Martin Bryant, a young man with hair like a Dogtown skater who murdered thirty-five people one day with an AR-15 machine gun. Of all these topics of conversation and others, the one that kept appearing in the most unexpected places was the Museum of Old and New Art, founded last year by a native Tasmanian. More…

22 March 2012

I have trouble talking about books because to me it feels like narcissistic display. I’m reading this great book because I’m so great. Now, that’s not what people really mean when they talk about books, but it makes it difficult for me. “What is a book you wished you had read earlier?” A book I had read earlier in order to do what? More…

3 January 2012

In New York, word was that Brooklyn and Queens were over. The next neighborhood was Wall Street. Friends, acquaintances, and people I’d only read about online were all relocating to a nice park with nice sleeping bags and tents, but they never had time for me, they never wanted to go to the movies or grab a drink, they were Occupied. The cops showed restraint. The cops showed no restraint. More…

2 May 2011

Late last night, the President announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. I saw people speculate about what his announcement would be on Twitter, and then I saw a headline about the announcement on a newspaper website, and then I turned on the TV, where Geraldo Rivera broke the news that Bin Laden had been killed. “Oh, happy day!” he said. “I’m blessed to be able to report this story.” More…

4 April 2011

His abiding obsessions were taxes and weapons. He thought taxes should be cut always and everywhere, except for poor people, and he thought America should build as many weapons as possible. The more weapons we had, in his view, the less likely we were to need them. But he believed that occasionally we might need them to bomb other nations that were trying to get them too. More…

2 February 2011

On a good day, I leave an audition and run errands, wearing a lot of makeup and clothes without stains, in a decent mood. The mood of someone who has done her job. On a bad day, I can’t get back to my house quickly enough: to change clothes, rinse my face and my brain, and set about forgetting the thirty shifty seconds I spent in front of a camera. More…

5 January 2011

This February in Baltimore, a mysterious rash appeared on my arms and chest. I showed it to one of my graduate school classmates, who said: “bedbugs.” I spent the following weeks searching through hundreds of images of bugs and bites and stained sheets (a crushed bedbug leaves behind a bloody mark that resembles felt-tip pen) and shed exoskeletons (they look sort of like peanut skins). More…

30 December 2010

“The Ocean Parkway subway station was repainted. It was always beautiful, but became even more so. The boardwalk began to be renovated because bicyclists were falling through the boards. Real wood was replaced by artificial wood. Many eyewitnesses reported that a rooster was living behind the famous Child’s Restaurant building. Coney Island continued dying.” From one of thirteen lucky reports on life in 2010. More…

3 November 2010

Going fishing is called, in dialect, “fær på sjøen.” It was something boys in Norway did when society couldn’t hold them anymore. I took it for granted I should be allowed to do it too. After a summer fishing cod on F/T Havbryn right out of high school I got my uncle to put in a word for me with the company he worked for off the coast of Alaska. I spoke with them once on the phone and flew to Seattle a few days after the new year. More…

27 September 2010

During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, I worked as a speed typist for the Chinese Ministry of Propaganda. It was my job to type, in English, everything that was said during an endless blur of press conferences where the Middle Kingdom celebrated its logistical triumphs. For the six months leading up to the closing ceremonies, I took my place at the back of cushy hotel ballrooms and chilly glass conference halls. More…

2 June 2010

I labored for months with Dr. Ver Eecke as my guide, trying to follow Hegel’s elusive thought through the darkened Teutonic woods. The pursuit exhausted and challenged me in ways my teacher, a European man, could not understand. As a descendant of real slaves, my interest in the topic was instinctively more than academic—I felt it in my bones. More…

11 October 2009

I lied about my age to get my first job. I guess I figured 12 years old wasn’t a strict cutoff for work as a paperboy, just an indicator, and other, stronger indicators told me I was ready. I doubt the delivery driver I met on a Sunday before dawn to show me the route cared much for such details either. More…

30 December 2008

I’ve been to a lot of panel discussions. I know what they’re like. When one hears the phrase panel discussion, one likes to think it’s a discussion that goes somewhere—like Plato’s Symposium. This is not always the case. Panels frequently fail to adhere to the template of dialectical inquiry. Attending a panel discussion is often about schmoozing, bringing your business card, double-dipping cauliflower. More…

25 November 2008

PEYMANN: 
So who’s that ME:
 The Vice Chancellor
a Nazi PEYMANN:
 And him over there ME:
 The Defense Minister
a Nazi PEYMANN: 
And him ME:
 The Foreign Minister
an old Nazi PEYMANN: 
And him over there ME:
 The head of the General Accounting Office
an old Nazi PEYMANN: 
And him over there ME:
 The head of the General Accounting Office
an old Nazi More…

Originally published in Issue 7: Correction

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30 January 2008

In 1997 I was twenty years old and had never traveled anywhere where Spanish was not the official language. For reasons that are opaque to me now, I decided to visit China that summer. Most of the trip is unrecoverable at this point, two months full of strange interactions without the benefit of a common language, wherein I tried to interpret inscrutable gestures and failed consistently. More…

30 January 2008

En 1997 yo tenía veinte años y jamás había viajado a algún lugar donde el español no fuese la lengua oficial. Por razones que no me vienen a la mente, decidí visitar China el verano de aquel año. Ahora me es difícil recordar la mayor parte del viaje, dos meses plagados de extrañas interacciones sin el beneficio de un idioma común: yo intentaba interpretar signos inescrutables y fallaba consistentemente. More…

23 January 2008

I could have studied in college without Adderall, just like I did in high school—I just couldn’t have studied with such ecstasy. Theoretical texts, in particular, were transformed into exercises as conquerable as a Tuesday crossword. I could work out with a Xeroxed packet of Spivak perched on the elliptical machine in front of me, reading and burning calories at the same time. More…

25 November 2007

Where I live I try to read. I have time, and there’s a library here, so I go and I look at the books on the shelves. Many of them I’ve heard of and many of them I would want to read, but I don’t seem to have much interest. I’ve read books before, and I’m usually glad when I do, so I start browsing the shelves. Do I want to entertain myself or do I want to improve myself? More…

17 October 2007

Unlike the pinball machines of my youth, in arcades, where one was required to insert coins to make them work, here at home in Kreuzberg, as an adult, I can simply stick my hand inside the machine and set it for as many credits as I like. I pump it up to 20 credits at a go. More…

16 April 2007

One day in Czechoslovakia, not long after I was born, during the gray decade that was the ’70s, my 6-year-old brother came home from school and shared what he’d learned: “Lenin was a kind person. He liked children.” More…

7 May 2006

There were always plenty of reasons I could cite for not trying the SLAA. Besides the absurd acronymic affinity with Patty Hearst’s kidnappers, I resented the philosophical sleight of hand that the modern notion of addiction carries: you get assigned the identity of an addict, the emotional equivalent of a criminal record. More…

2 September 2005

Here are some places I thought I’d prefer to work: the art department, where they wore jeans and spent a lot of time messing around with the paper cutter, and even marketing, maybe—Clare once spent a whole day shredding plush bunny rabbits with a letter opener for strategic placement on David Letterman’s desk. But the bathroom, that was my favorite. More…

7 May 2005

Today I received my first letter here in LA, from the local court, a citation to the court, bail $114, 6 months in prison or $1000 fine if I don’t appear or pay … to pay one has to use a credit card or a check, which I don’t have. I have two months time to bail myself out, I can’t believe it, I am furious. I don’t feel guilty, I was mistaken, yes, but not guilty. More…

10 February 2005

Ten minutes later, he was still sitting in the restaurant booth, scratching his head: Just tell me one more time how this Freud character says a gun is like a man’s penis. I told him one more time, and they took off the cuffs and let me go. The girl behind the counter said, See you in court, freak. More…