trigger happy

Not done talking about my green room!!!

Sometimes I do really feel like I am a Sim, and that my body is being controlled by some acne-faced pre-teen on a game room couch somewhere, and that is why I feel myself walking around to certain places and doing certain things with very little sense of why. (If this is true, I’d like that kid to know about the :rosebud: cheat code, I could use the cash!!!)

Last week I walked to Sephora after work to get a small bottle of this cologne (hot brag that I only really wear scents for men!) that I buy almost every year in the fall/winter. It’s a crime to wear perfume in the summer, when your body heat and sweat just turns it putrid on the subway platform. But when the weather drops below 70, it feels appropriate to smell like something more substantial than deodorant and laundry detergent.

I bought this cologne for the first time in 2015, in that cursed period of time when both Alex G and Beach House were releasing albums (!!???!!). I remember I bought it before going on my first ever Tinder date (which was…exactly four years ago today), an experience I predictably blew way the fuck out of proportion. I ordered this silk shirt for it and remember putting lipstick on while I waited for the G. I was 22 and that was young enough to do things like buy cologne before dates, and believe a person when they say “I’m sad you have to go out of town” as you stumble out of their SoHo apartment at 5 a.m. to catch a train.

I put on some sprays of this fresh bottle on Friday, before what ended up being a too-late night out with friends. When I first put it on, I felt the little tickle of thrill: it smelled comforting and like a promise, like the night was an Easter egg I was about to crack open. I kept pushing my wrist up to my nose to get little hits of the vibe. By the time I was in bed and the sun was coming up, it just smelled like naivete, and like shaky hope that’s falsely sweet like bubble gum and pops just as fast. I kept getting stale whiffs of it in bed and it smelled less musky and more powdery than I remembered, or maybe it’s my body that smells different now.

Two days later, on Sunday afternoon, the cologne had been washed off in the shower and I’d slept enough to be normal again. I got an urge to paint my room and it quickly felt like, if I ignored it, I’d be stuck with white walls forever.

I bought a gallon of paint, moved my furniture around, taped my room, and started actually putting green on my walls around 10:30 p.m. The first time I told my ex-boyfriend that I loved him, we were rinsing paint rollers off in the tub at my old apartment. It was summer and the sun was coming in hard through the little window. We’d spent the whole day painting my tan walls white, the only time I’ve ever painted a bedroom a non-color. He did something funny that I can’t share too many times or, I don’t know, pieces of the memory might come loose and fall off. But I looked at him and said “I love you,” and it was terrifying and good, and then we went to a party with too many boys and ate plain burgers outside.

Sometimes I’ll put on a particular song on purpose, just to see how it makes me feel (usually: sad). Or I’ll scroll back into my own Instagram and look at certain pictures and think, “how do I feel about this?” But other times these certains and particulars tap me on the shoulder like, “yeah bitch, it’s me” and I guess that’s what therapists mean by “triggers.”

Maybe this is how everyone is, likely it’s just how some people are, or perhaps it’s just me that had my brain scrambled so bad by that anomie time in high school, that now I have this problem where I can’t tell how something’s going to make me feel until I do it. The worst times are when I don’t even know I’m doing something until I’m all the way in it, painting my walls green and trying not to cry. Is that…just how things are? Sometimes this feels very chaotic and isolating; other times I’ll admit that it’s fun.

My roommate Natalie came home right after I started painting and she got down into her undies and a tank top with me and helped me paint until the room was mostly done at 1 a.m.. She brought us two glasses of red wine and queued all this ABBA and Electric Light Orchestra, and we make stupid, obvious jokes about how “this is how a porn starts!!!” and otherwise cracked each other up by being absolute tools. I couldn’t have known living with her would feel as nice as it does but I’m glad I tried it to find out.

eels and escalators!!!!


There’s a…crystal store like two blocks from my new office on South 4th Street, and I’ve stopped by twice to buy sage and then wave it around a friend’s apartment and now my own (I had never, before three weeks ago, done this! Seasons change.). I do not feel cleansed; I’m definitely also doing this wrong and should be put in jail. So the mood of this newsletter, what I want you to envision, is: my bedroom is now smokey (my security deposit…), smells like burning dried shrubbery, and my eyes are kinda burning because I refuse to open a window with my AC on. Hold this image in your mind, thanks.

When I was 14 a lot of bad shit started happening in my family. It was hilarious, the amount of bad shit. If you must learn at some point that the capacity for terrible things is actually limitless, this was the first time I had to learn it. Things were so bad that our brains had nothing to shoot back into the shitty abyss except clichés. “It’s all uphill from here;” “God wouldn’t give us anything we couldn’t handle;” “Everything happens for a reason;” and, my fave, “This is definitely rock bottom.”

One particularly dark day, I got some bad news and threw maybe my last tantrum ever. It was a weekend because both parents were home, and it was around the holidays, because before the tantrum, I’d been setting up little glass figurines around a nativity scene in our living room. During the tantrum I shook the little Jesus figure, which didn’t help my cause. My mom sent me to my room.

A few minutes after I went up there she came in, found me sobbing on the foot of my bed, and hugged my snotty hair against her lap. She said, “This is definitely rock bottom,” and like all the other times my mom said it, I believed her. It wasn’t a choice to believe, but an instinct. Before the series of events that dominated most of high school started unfurling, nothing truly awful had ever happened to me. So when she looked at me, also crying, and promised things wouldn’t get worse, I didn’t just trust her; I trusted that the limit to feeling bad must exist and that I had my palms flat against it.

This is a very [insert my age, but it’s older than 25] thing to say, and I’ll feel a little ugh about it later, for sure, but a new limit I’m testing now is the edge of what I know. This has the opposite effect of reaching out to the wall of Bad and finding only air. It’s comforting, so far. I keep trying to describe the feeling of this to friends, and here is the metaphor that makes the most sense so far: It’s like getting swept up in a wave, flailing your arms and legs around, and waiting to feel the squish of the sand so you at least know where down is. A nice thing about getting slightly older is that the sand is easier to find.

Something about this is also disarming; I’m deeply suspicious of the ease with which I can make certain decisions, how there’s not as much that rips me into shreds and derails my life. I’m sure that shit is coming because I’m young enough to still be, basically, in training wheels. But I think (some) stuff is easier because I’ve been flipping around in waves for a while now. I know what the feeling of the sand is like.

The third, galaxy-brain layer to this blog-letter is that I can’t get the image of Spongebob rolling the dice in Eels and Escalators out of my mind!!!!! I keep picturing his little yellow sponge-hands throwing those goddamn dice, thinking he’s got double escalators (good, to be clear), and then watching them flip, comically, over to eels. *Presses fingertips to temples, rubs little circles* I am searching for a nauseatingly tidy, college essay-ish way to tie this all up, but honestly there’s so much sage in my nostrils and maybe also my brain folds, and so I’ll leave you with that. This is an interpretive newsletter. Fuck it!!!!

strange magiiiiiiic

not sure what to believe

There’s a metaphor I keep getting close to but not reaching, which maybe means it’s fake and I’m forcing it. But isn’t there some magnetic-y thing in pinball machines that, if your ball hits it, sends the ball spinning out in an unpredictable way? Probably I’m wrong, but it doesn’t matter, because the intended metaphor is this: I’ve just gone through a breakup and also am less than a month into a new job, and I keep trying to explain to people that I feel like the pinball spinning out in an unpredictable way. Like I’ve just hit a series of those weird magnetic things in the machine and don’t know where or how I’m gonna spin. It is fine and doesn’t feel bad. It’s kind of fun? But this is my way of saying that things are raw and strange and this has put me in a Rare State (again, not bad).

A friend took me with him tonight to this Broadway show that’s all about deception and mind tricks. It’s called “Secret” (go ahead, look it up, I refuse to do so because I don’t want to spoil anything) and it’s basically a one-man show where a guy in a suit plays tricks that stun the audience each time. The first one is a simple mind game, but things escalate and by the end, the whole show either feels like perfectly performed symphony, or is so neatly tied up so that you end up kinda queasy.

The guy drops the word secret a few times throughout the first act, each time mentioning that “this isn’t why the show’s called ‘Secret,’ I’ll get to that later.” The effect of this, I’m guessing, is that you spend the whole time wondering if you’ll spot or correctly guess what the secret could be. Mirrors on his shoes? Actors planted in the audience? A bug in his ear? Actual magic?

I spent all of my life before moving away to college going to church two days a week (Sundays for big service, Wednesdays for some sort of youth group). I bring this up because it means I have been socialized to sit in a group of people, listen to a fantastical lecture (“sermon”), accept it as true, and look for virtue in the message. So as this guy is doing his tricks—most, if not all, of which rely on the participants being honest—I’m thinking: Ok, the Secret is going to be that humans are, by nature, good, and are not easily prone to bad things like lying or deception. That is how his tricks work, and it also finally settles the stupid argument I had (everyone had) with my boyfriend from ages 19-21.

This is a nice takeaway but it hinges on believing that everyone the guy called up on stage was a genuine audience member, rather than an actor planted in the crowd to make everyone feel like they’ve seen a show. I sat there in my dumb seat and considered this for the whole two-and-a-half hour thing. This sunk into my brain folds so thoroughly that, when I went to the restroom during intermission and saw that someone in another stall left their phone on the sink counter, I thought, oh my god, she’s been planted here to further this illusion that people are good, as is being actively demonstrated by the fact that I am not going to steal this phone.

(I would never steal a phone.)

By the time I left I felt cloudy and weird (my friend just texted to say he feels “fucked up,” and yeah same). Nothing felt (feels?!) “real” to me anymore. I scrolled back through texts on my phone and imagined they were never sent, or worse, that I’d dreamt up fake scenarios to text about. I started to have a less-fun realization during act two, which is that it doesn’t ultimately matter whether it’s real or not, because the actual show is trying to figure out whether you are a person who can believe in either thing. Do you believe that the show is real, and if so, what does that mean? Or do you believe that the show is fake, that it’s just another performance with actors, and what does that mean? Which sort of person would you rather be? The gullible kind or the cynical kind? Would this be more resolved if you kept going back to the show, taking on debt via ticket purchases just to see if repeated viewing provide clarity either way?

I don’t want to Google this fucking thing because I ultimately do not want clues either way. My friend focused his theory that it’s all real on the fact that, if the show were fake and the participants were actors, maintaining that illusion to the point that people keep buying tickets would require a lot of secret-keeping from a lot of people. I centered my theory it was fake on how neatly it was all tied up at the end, how it had maybe gone one trick too far, so that you’d ultimately have to be an idiot to believe it.

I can’t tell which sort of person I’d rather be (a believer in magic or a believer in people’s capacity to keep secrets for the joy of others). There are likely multiple other thought options you can have that just don’t occur to me. I watched (and noticed other people watching) the participants from on stage as they walked out of the theater and out onto 48th Street. Should I have followed them to see where they went? Would that reveal anything? What would I feel now if I had an answer? I can’t believe people pay for this shit.

Something Nice 1: leisure, jerry seinfeld... twee???

Four-day weekends should be mandatory

Full disclosure is I forgot my laptop at work yesterday, so I wrote this first newsletter on my fire escape, watching the sunset with a belly full of pasta. That, plus the brain massage of the four-day weekend has me extremely blissed out. Imagine my brain wearing a caftan, sipping a drink in a lounge chair. That’s the vibe, let’s get into it!!!!

Something nice I saw:

Jerry Seinfeld throws the first pitch at Citi Field

Once, when depressed and in Houston, I watched the entirety of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The arc of feelings I think is normal to have about that show is: abject/entertained hatred —> disgust re: Jerry’s wealth —> small chuckles —> disgust re: Jerry’s racism/sexism —> resignation to completing the series —> uproarious laughter.

This has nothing to do with the following facts: It is the 30th anniversary of Seinfeld (airing?? being conceived?? whatever!!), Jerry Seinfeld loves the Mets, and in a confluence created by those facts, he threw the first pitch at the Mets-Phillies opener on Friday. And the whole game was Seinfeld-themed.

Imagine it. You’re sitting with your buds at a Mets game on a bonus weekend day, way up in the nosebleeds, and after each half-inning, the Seinfeld bass line blares through Citi Field’s speakers. BA-DA-DA-DA-DUM-BOOM-BA-DO-BUM-BUM. It’s night out so the big lights become obvious somewhere around the 4th inning; it feels like you’re in a giant stage in the middle of nowhere, compared to the regular lighting outside the field. The effect is the convincing sensation that you are inside of a sitcom.

The free giveaway was a Jerry Seinfeld bobblehead, by the way. AND he threw a strike.

Something nice I learned:

The reason they launch rockets from Florida (of all places!!) is, because of the way the earth curves and rotates, a failed launch falls into the ocean.

I read this in a Lauren Groff essay from Oxford American’s 100th issue, but then I verified it with some Googling (I trust her but still). I love Lauren Groff’s writing so much because it’s very good (“masterful!” as I would/will say when around Literary People) and because it is fascinating, as someone from Texas (a strange, very big, not-of-a-region state) to read about Florida (another such state).

Also, she writes shit like this:

If I say nobody knows Florida, I mean that there is no single Florida to know. It’s all ambiguous, all so strange. And this place near Cape Canaveral seems the strangest to me, as it helped to give rise to so many of the sophisticated things that I love about modern humanity: cochlear implants, memory foam, cell phones, CAT scans, LED lights, invisible braces, even the laptop on which I will type the final draft of this essay. Yet such fertile ground for modern invention could not possibly look any more humble, all sand dunes with spiky vegetation and teeming masses of wildlife and some scraggly-looking buildings. This place holds its contradiction within itself. 

Something nice I read:

“June,” a poem by Alex Dimitrov

Rarely have I felt more charmed
than on Ninth Street, watching a woman
stop in the middle of the sidewalk
to pull up her hair like it’s
an emergency—and it is.

My friend Katie read one of Alex Dimitrov’s poems (another about, or effectually about, summer in New York City) to me and Brendan when we visited her this May in Charlottesville, where she just finished her MFA. She read it to us on the big wood porch of this house she was watching for a couple of retired professors (!!) who are traveling somewhere in Europe or something (!!!!). It was all more idyllic than it probably sounds. I can’t do the look of it justice, so let me describe it to you in the little images/feelings I get about it in my memory: sun hitting the front porch in the evening; light coming through all these windows made from thick, wavy glass; the smell of old books/paper; sound of wind chimes in complete absence of wind chimes, just that kind of vibe about the house.

Anyway, I was trying to find that poem to read to Lauren on Friday evening after we’d all gone to the Whitney and then relocated to a nearby roof bar with almost no people on it. (Me problem: Have one great/beautiful experience, desperately try to recreate that same thing for people I love so they can have it, too. Rarely works.) So the scene is: we’re four-ish sips into our respective bitter red drinks (her: Negroni, me: Aperol spritz, obviously) and the sun is just starting to go down across the Hudson. And I’m Googling “alex dimitrov poem summer” on my phone and find “June.” It’s not the right one but it’s also good, I think, so Lauren let me read it out loud to her.

We talked about the lines we liked most (mine is the one above) and about how twee is uncomfortable because sometimes it really does feel good. (On this subject, I’m always asking people if they read Alexandra Molotkow’s piece about Twee in the Hairpin. In my mind it was this big feature, upon re-reading it, it’s simply a good blog post.) I like this line a lot, and not just because I recently moved to Alphabet City and am still in a state about the concept of living on a street that’s E-number. Sometimes the ponytail really is an emergency.

Something nice I screenshot:

My mom saw that I am doing this newsletter and texted me the above on Saturday. It’s an obvious choice to place here! And that’s the kicker.

If you’re here lurking without subscribing, that is ok by me. But also, please subscribe!

I spy something nice

A newsletter that will do the only thing I like online: share nice things.

She tells the story like this:

I was little (too little to remember, so the story version I have is the one that’s been told to me) and we were on a walk around our suburban neighborhood. She was pushing me in the stroller and we were playing “I spy.” If you were ever a kid you know how this game works. She’d say, “I spy something blue,” and I’d babble guesses: the pool, that mailbox, the sky, until I got it right. And then we’d switch and I’d spy something of a certain quality, and she’d guess back.

On one of my turns, I said, “I spy something nice.” (Do you feel where this is going? You’re probably right.) She guessed a list of things: a nearby house with a groomed yard, a dog walking on the other side of the road, the clouds, a particularly good tree, but couldn’t get it right. She gave up and asked me what the nice thing was and I looked up from my seat and said, “you, mommy!”

This is the earliest known example of me being a total cornball and absolute sap. My mom can’t tell the story without tearing up (I am slowly becoming this way, which would make me upset if it didn’t feel so good to be brought to tears by nice things). She tells it often but selectively; only to people she knows will enjoy it. The danger of sharing and pointing out nice things is that it’s a little bit vulnerable. If someone doesn’t like the thing with the fervor you want them to, the niceness of that thing may go down a notch. What feels worse than putting genuine excitement into the world, only for the world to respond with a fart noise, or worse, apathy? Maybe this is why it’s an online thing to preface sincerity with an EARNEST TWEET WARNING!!! or "a “sorry for the earnest tweet but.” Apologizing for feeling nice about something lessens the possibility that someone else will make you feel stupid for it, or, at the very least, preempts feeling dumb anyway.

I hate this!!! It’s been, hmm, at least a decade since I played a game of “I spy,” but I still love to point out nice things. I think mosts people probably do. Growing up, trying to be cool, and being on the internet a lot has distilled my urge to excitedly share things I like without qualifiers or irony, but I am taking measures to correct this. I think a lot about the joy I got from the salad days of Instagram, when my feed looked more like the pages of a high school yearbook than a magazine spread. Scrolling down the timeline was like a public game of “I spy” where every clue was “something nice.” I liked that so much.

I can’t change the internet, though, so here we are.

I don’t have much to add to newsletter culture (except maybe daily essays about Bobby Hill, a truly perfect TV character), but what I would like to do is share nice things. I’ll send this thing out once a week on Tuesdays—a nice day, in my opinion, to see something good. Here’s what each newsletter will include:

  • Something nice I saw (a photo)

  • Something nice I read (maybe a whole book, or an article, or a short story, or just one sentence or something)

  • Something nice I screenshot (a text from a friend or my mom, an occasional meme)

  • Something nice I learned (in the course of reporting a story or from just talking to people!!!!)

Sometimes the nice things will be presented without commentary, sometimes I’ll have lots of commentary. Maybe I’ll occasionally ask friends to write the newsletter for me, so you can see their nice things. But mostly you should expect for Something Nice to be wholesome, pure, and to make you feel good (just like Bobby Hill!!!).

If that sounds nice to you, please subscribe! If not, that’s OK. You don’t have to play this game of “I Spy,” no one’s making you.

In the mean time, tell your friends!

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