In Praise of Getting Back Together with the Dude Who Dumped You

Is the second time around just shoving your hand in a blender?

New York City, March 2, 2015

★★ No sooner had the gray lifted and one’s guard lowered than the blue sky went away and snowflakes fell again. A rainy-day dampness was on the air. An oncoming extra-wide stroller filled all the space between snowbanks. A man walked by wearing bright blue-white low-top canvas sneakers, the toes gravely besmirched with slush-grime. Downtown the sun was coming out but the sidewalks were even slushier. Stray snowflakes still blew down, so bright in the sunshine it seemed as if they ought to have melted. By early afternoon the sky was clear and everything was dripping. The melt had come on so fast that the little islands of surviving snow in the wet bicycle lane hadn’t had a chance to lose their whiteness. In the intense shade and shelter of Jersey Street, the snow looked new-fallen. Back uptown, the sun shone on the red eye of a white pigeon, and on the thin stream of water pouring from a scaffold, landing with a rattle and spray on the top trash bag in a curbside pile.

Smog Thick

Running at 104 minutes, shot like a TED talk and with echoes of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Chai’s film discusses the damaging impact of pollution on health, and she discusses how her own infant daughter had to have an operation straight after birth to remove a benign tumor.

“This is a personal issue between me and the smog,” Chai says in the movie.

The movie has reached more than 200 million views on Chinese websites, not counting Wechat or other social media, which makes for nearly one-third of China’s online population of 649 million.

One thing the internet is still not good at, relative to the effort it expends on all kinds of other things: translation of extremely common human languages. You don’t have to be generous with “Wechat or other social media” to conclude that Under the Dome has been viewed at least partially by an incredible number of people over the last four days, or to conclude that it is a historically significant document. But there doesn’t yet appear to be a full English translation available, and the responsibility of creating one has fallen to a student’s crowdsourcing project.

Spaghetti the Squash

squishOf all the winter squashes, my favorite is the spaghetti squash, because it is a weird mutant that makes no sense. What possible reason could it have to produce a fruit that transforms from rock hard when raw to silky strands when soft? What is the point? Some mysteries are unsolvable. Or, like, maybe this one has been solved and I just can’t be bothered to look up the answer.

In any case, spaghetti squash is a wonderful fruit. It take weeks to go bad, so just look for one that feels heavy—this means a higher sugar content—and doesn’t have any soft spots. It’s hard to mess up buying a spaghetti squash. It is also fantastically healthful; it has few calories, but high levels of fiber, vitamin A and C, and potassium, and it’s extremely high in beta carotene, which is probably good for your skin and eyeballs.

Typically the spaghetti squash is treated as if it were spaghetti, topped with tomato sauce and that kind of thing. This is an okay way to eat it, but because spaghetti squash lacks the starch of pasta, the squash will never really absorb sauce or be coated with sauce in the same way, which can lead to watery dishes. Spaghetti squash is in a category of its own, a crisp-tender mildly sweet filler. According to my cursory searches of Pinterest and food blogs, though, spaghetti squash is often cooked incorrectly. Here is a popular way it is cooked and also a way in which you should never, ever cook it.

Jesus Christ.

Talking With a CPA: Expectations vs. Reality

500 days expectations realityI am currently in the process of working with my CPA on my 2014 taxes. Having had no experience with CPAs prior to last year, I did not know what to expect, and in many ways the process has been about adjusting my (overambitious) expectations. I think I thought my CPA meeting would be an in-depth conversation about every aspect of my business, a combination “tax prep and business health” service, and it turned out to be much more “let’s look at the problem in front of us, which is inputting numbers into your 2014 tax return.”

Here are some examples of my expectations vs. reality:

Expectation: My CPA meeting would take, at minimum, two hours, and we’d discuss both my income and my deductions in detail.

Reality: My CPA meeting took about 15 minutes—”You’re a freelancer with some 1099s and some deductions? We can handle that.”—and the rest of it is me sending additional documentation over email.

Expectation: I’d have to provide proof of every number I brought to the conversation. Some of my clients, for example, don’t send me 1099s because I only wrote one feature for them and it didn’t cross the minimum income threshold. So I showed up at my CPA meeting with a stack of printed-out bank transactions to accompany my 1099s, to prove that I had earned the income I’m claiming.

Reality: My CPA wasn’t too worried about whether or not I had proof to back up the numbers I brought him. He also wasn’t interested in seeing the receipts for the deductions I’m planning to claim. I do have this documentation if anyone might need it in the future, but there’s also a part of me that’s thinking “Wait, I could say anything and it would go on my taxes? I could say that I stayed at a more expensive hotel during that business trip and claim a bigger deduction?”

I mean, obviously I am not going to do that, but I’m very curious if your CPAs also accept your income and deduction statements without asking to see original receipts. Part of me wants to bring in all of the receipts just so someone else can make sure I added them up correctly. I usually run everything twice on my phone’s calculator app, just to make sure the sums match, but, you know, what if I made a mistake somewhere?

A Brief Analysis of the Top Grossing Apps

1. Are you bored?
2. Bored?
3. Bored?
4. Bored?
5. Bored?
6. Bored?
7. Bored?
8. Horny?
9. Bored?
10. Bored?
11. Bored and depressed?
12. Bored?
13. Bored?
14. Bored?
15. Horny?
16. Bored?
17. Bored?
18. Bored?
19. Bored?
20. Bored?
21. Horny?
22. Bored?
23. Bored?
24. Bored (ad free)?

The top news app is ranked 115. QUESTIONS?

Panda Bear, "Boys Latin (Andy Stott Remix)"

Andy Stott’s Faith in Strangers may have been the best album of 2014, and Panda Bear’s “Mr. Noah” is one of those songs I have listened to a hundred times and still not figured out enough to get bored of yet, so this meeting of the two on a remix of “Boy’s Latin” from Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is something that I expected to enjoy. What I was not prepared for was just how scary and hopeless it sounds: It’s full of gray, grim menace and a sense that escape is impossible. It is, if we are thinking seasonally, the perfect Song of Winter. And seeing as winter will never end you should probably get used to listening to this for the rest of your life. Enjoy, if such a thing is possible.

“LaCroix is not as exhilarating as taking ecstasy at Joshua Tree, blanketed by a glittering velveteen sky, but, boy, do I get stoked when I’ve remembered to pack one for the movie theater. And now that I’m free of a constant low-grade hangover, I’m left with a lot of time to just walk around, extra alert. I see all of us now. The truth is, for every dork that buys Sriracha-branded knee socks at Urban Outfitters, there’s a mid-30s lady quaffing crates of flavored soda water because that’s her ‘thing.'”
As we age we find our joy in surprising places.#

New York City, March 1, 2015

★★★★ The snow was, at first and for a moment, nothing more than an extra gray on the grayness. On close inspection, it manifested itself against the dark neighboring balcony railing as a very few little flakes moving nowhere particular. Then behind those there was something like a driving mist, innumerable tiny flakes moving sharply northward, and soon not so tiny. By early afternoon the flakes were big and dropping straight down, laying a solid new coat on everything, March arriving fluffy and white. The three-year-old swabbed it up with a mitten, down to bare sidewalk, and had to be quickly stopped from eating what he’d gathered. Then he went sprinting off through the white in his lately hand-me-down boots, with the spider pattern in unlicensed Spider-Man colors. The toe of a hard old snowbank tripped him and he bounced up unfazed. He mountaineered along the ridge of old ice, stooped at a corner to try to make snowballs of the unsticky fluff. The wind was coming east on the cross street and he ran into it, squinting his eyes and sticking his tongue down and out. In the forecourt he went down on all fours to plow a path, and the snow quickly filled it in behind him. “It looks like Luke Skywalker is on the planet Hoth,” he said, mounting the low wall to knock accumulation out of the leaves of the shrubbery. Flakes landed on the smartphone screen and melted and scattered the pixel colors, like tiny costume-jewelry gemstones. As four approached, it was impossible to tell exactly where the curb was on the jaywalk with the seven-year-old across Amsterdam. The older boy was less ostentatious about catching the snowflakes as he went, but catch them he did: They were big enough to taste, he said, but they only tasted like water. There was ice in them now, flicking the exposed skin on the face. Outside the McDonald’s, a small dog on a leash lunged and barked at a snowblower.

A Part of Myself

hairpin_0226I was eighteen and pregnant.

I remember reading only a few weeks before that day that women often know when they are. Which makes sense. I kind of knew, already. A week in, there was a phantom consciousness, a pulling rod of unearthly heaviness, like a tingly sensation at the base of my uterus. My cells were dancing, a flurry of aches, thudding with an immutable dullness full of pain. I felt bloated—more than usual—and there was a gnawing, an impenetrable nagging of fingers, strangling me inside out.

You know how kids are always captivated by things? I was always captivated by children, by motherhood, by that ball of existence lodged inside a woman’s body for nine months. I would always ask my mom how much it hurt when she had me, or what she craved to eat—how long was labor, Mom? I wanted to be ready.

I had not had my period. Overwhelmed by everything, on a whim, or even a dare with myself, I bought a pregnancy test. I was shaking as I put it in my pockets.

I did the test at my best friend’s place. He was half awake when I told him that I thought I might be pregnant. I took the test in his bathroom, laughing at the charade of it all. Suddenly, in his company—I was all bravado, the weak girl playing the part of “I’ve got it all figured out.” I peed into a cup, left the stick in there, and waited for it to turn any other color but pink. I wasn’t a girl who got pregnant. I was smart. I was responsible. I was appropriate. I was going to be a lawyer one day.

I always thought I’d be pregnant when I had a man to look after me. A real man with a job. We’d have a house together. We’d have bookshelves that reached the ceiling, and carpets from Afghanistan, a record player that played smooth jazz as we did the New York Times crossword together, cocooned, inseparable, drinking hot apple cider from a shared mug. I always thought I’d be pregnant when I was happy.

I was drifting off when I saw it. As I dreamt of swing sets a sinking feeling devoured me. A desperate unparalleled fever sickened through the crutches of my identity. I did not want this baby.

I came from a good family.
I came from a good family.
I came from a good family.

You know how when you’re lying awake late at night and you can’t fall asleep no matter how hard you try because you are troubled by the bad choices you’ve made and the terrible things you’ve done and the knowledge that now there’s no way out of the prison you’ve put yourself into and you start to fantasize about how your life would be better if you could somehow go back and do all the things differently from the way you did them when you didn’t know any better but the more you think about it the more you realize that each decision you’ve made was predicated on an earlier, equally poor decision going as far back as you can remember and you start to understand that the only way anything could ever be okay for you and the everyone you’ve hurt—which is everyone you know—is if you were never born at all and so you shut your eyes and imagine a world in which you never existed and you see that it is good and you pull further out in your mind’s eye to view a vast unfathomable galaxy filled with stars and flares and spirals all shining on without you, finally you come to a state of brief but perfect, merciful rest? I don’t know what it looks like in your head but this is pretty much how I picture it.#