My Life and Times

Distance Must Be Maintained

Distance Must Be Maintained

We walk to escape the trauma of the pandemic, only to relive it all over again by walking.

We’re told this is temporary, a momentary suspension of normality, and in our hearts we sentimentalists all want to believe the streets will soon be filled once more with stoop dawdlers, grandmas pushing shopping carts, vested business bros with their phones on speaker, fleets of annoying schoolkids, boys and girls out on the prowl, the stench of weed and the cries of desire. (On second thought, let’s consign the business bros to the past.) But we all know the dream of a quick recovery is delusional, that our altered reality will last a year, maybe two.

And Then the Brenner Was Closed

18:15 is a stress peak because that’s when La Repubblica publishes the compiled numbers of the day

The day anxiety really kicked in for me was Monday, March 9. I started to feel that my Korean colleague was right. It is a thing you sense, like an animal. Numbers and research are important, but they never convey the urgency that physical human bodies produce upon each other when they interact in uncertainty. When you try to stay casual while your interlocutor is just dead scared. When slips of tongue and gauche gestures trigger second thoughts or mild paranoia.

My Lanyarded Brethren

My Lanyarded Brethren

Report from AWP 2020

AWP 2020, sparsely attended compared to the usually robust turnout in years’ past, was spread out on a soft teal green carpet that looked a little like grass. Rows of bright white tables, some empty, others covered in books and candy and tote bags, formed aisle after aisle. Planted in the middle of the broad avenues, where guests wandered, dazed or determined, were old-timey benches presumably for guests to sit and read under the fluorescent lights.

Tips for the Depressed

Tips for the Depressed

The stupidest, most exasperating piece of advice commonly offered to suffering people is also the truest and most comforting

As we all know, unless you can afford a medical concierge and the most expensive insurance and facilities, the for-profit, private-insurance-based health care system in the United States is somewhere between a headache and a nightmare. Inpatient mental health care is no exception. The quality of life is ultimately defined by your insurance company’s concern to avoid liability.

Remainder

Remainder

I have done this before, I will do this again

This morning the surgeon saws off her arm. No one stops him. No one comes to kiss her head. Perhaps she makes a joke of it before she falls asleep—but, of course she does—and they all laugh. Secretly, in her hospital bed, knees folded up, bleach-white sheets, palming a small mirror, she puts on a dab of lipstick before they wheel her in. That’s what she jokes about. All dolled up to go to the operating theater, darling! Don’t cut off the wrong one!

Open House

Welcome to New York; Now go home

How can I talk about the new people and their superpower of invasion? I’m forever grappling with this question, reducing, stereotyping, and then struggling not to be reductive. What I keep coming back to is their apparent belief that their way of living belongs everywhere, that it should trickle down the ladder of power and fill every lower space, scouring and purifying as it goes.

An American Education

An American Education

No fiction could be more false, or more dangerous

My ears rang. My rage evaporated and in its place there arose an ugly combination of hope and fear. My body lifted itself from the chair. The world sharpened, as if I were wearing new glasses. I took a step, then another, taking care to avoid the eyes of the other foreigners. My legs moved. I advanced. What would I be willing to do for a green card? For citizenship? In that moment, I realized, I was ready to do a great deal of betraying.

My Instagram

We all die immediately of a Brazilian butt lift

Instagram people did not seem mean or clever. They were earnest and sincere. They drank green smoothies and went on hikes, sought personal bests, good health, peace of mind, and oneness with the universe. They believed every day was a beautiful day to be alive. Leaving Twitter for Instagram was like moving to Los Angeles, only cheaper.

The Custom of the Capitol

The Custom of the Capitol

This is what democracy looks like?

The buildings are enormous, the bridges are like Rome’s. I was told that DC was modeled after the gardens at Versailles. But unlike the European cities it emulates, there are no layers of history here—just that horrible orangey beige stone. I went to see a touring band play, and the lead singer said, “I forgot where we are.” To have history, you can’t simply have monuments; you also need a population to prop them up. Here, that natural accumulation is stunted, the city’s grandiosity hollow.

Bright Leaf

Bright Leaf

It was very odd. I felt that I was in a sensory-deprivation tank. Part of that was being in a nicotine-deprivation tank, but there was more to it. My day had no shape. None of my activities made any sense, because my life had become unstructured, as if it were one long, run-on sentence. I had no excuse for getting away from people, and I realized that much of my delight in smoking had to do with the ready escape it provided. Boring dinner party? Endless-seeming movie? Argument with the sweetheart? Cigarettes solved these problems.