Do you want to feel old? Look in the mirror. Study your face. Not the lines, although lines you have plenty and you can already see the places where more are soon to show. Not the fatigue under the eyes; that could be from anything, not just from years of living recklessly and without thought for the future, ignoring all sensible decisions as the seconds passed by so silently you never noticed. No, look directly into your eyes. When you stare deeply do you see anything staring back? You do not. You see darkness, a void so black and endless that it stretches into a past before time itself began. Your old dead soul has existed as long as the universe has existed. You are as ancient as anything that has ever walked this earth. You are the living dead, jerking about like some scary articulated dummy that should be stilled forever. Your vacant gaze tells the story of your wizened, corrupted spirit, a spirit that has outpaced chronology itself. Also the Brokeback Mountain movie came out ten years ago, so if you were waiting until the buzz died down to see it in the theatre you might have missed your chance. Also, you’re old.#
★★★ A man on the train, wearing a pocket square in his suit, blotted his brow with a cheap paper towel. Clouds were obstructing some of the sun, but the new crosstown walk to the new office was bleak and gray. In lieu of a center window, there was a sheet of translucent plastic taped up, the bottom loose and flapping. The clouds withdrew their protection. Up by the east corner of the Park, a stream of campers in green t-shirts and white visors was pouring across the street. Freed from his own day camp, the three-year-old decided he was too hot or tired to push his scooter the final block home. The daylight was still long enough to plan to go out after dinner, but short enough that its expiration made a plausible threat for dilly-dallying eaters. Sunbeams flooded the apartment in such quantity it was hard to tell which light fixtures had been turned off. Slicks of algae were growing in the persistent air-conditioner drips at the foot of an apartment building. The playground fountain was still going, but the concrete yard was almost empty. Now and then, another family’s hitting practice crossed over into the boys’ fielding practice, or vice versa—vice versa especially when the three-year-old uncorked a throw. A peachy glow suffused everything; the trees were a rich velvety green; the northeast sky was an hypnotic deep blue.
In her story about the looming earthquake that will obliterate practically all of the cool parts of the Pacific Northwest, Kathryn Schulz quoted Kenneth Murphy, the head of the FEMA division responsible for the region: “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” Alarming! Today, Schulz clarified what Murphy meant by toast, precisely:
What Murphy did not mean is that everyone west of I-5 will be injured or killed; FEMA’s casualty figures, while horrifying, amount to under one-half of one per cent of the population of the region. Nor did he mean that every structure west of the interstate will fail, although there the numbers are grimmer: region-wide, the agency expects to see seriously damaged or destroyed eighty-eight per cent of ports and potable water sources; seventy-seven per cent of fire stations and waste-water treatment plants; two-thirds of all airports, hospitals, railways, and schools; almost half of all highway bridges, police stations, and emergency command centers; plus almost three thousand miles of natural gas pipelines, seven hundred and forty-three electric power facilities, and nearly a million residential buildings.
… So a better analogy than toast is this: the Cascadia earthquake is going to hit the Pacific Northwest like a rock hitting safety glass, shattering the region into thousands of tiny areas, each isolated from one another and all extremely difficult to reach. That’s why Murphy’s plan involves, in his words, “leasing, buying, or stealing any helicopter I can get my hands on.” Helicopters can’t do everything, but they can, at least, get almost anywhere. (FEMA has also made arrangements with the U.S. Navy Third Fleet to conduct a massive sea-lift operation for those stranded on the coast—but, for logistical reasons, it will take the fleet seven days from the time of the quake to arrive.)
Hmm, have you considered moving to Farmington Hills, Michigan?
Photo by Stephen Kruso
For all the eye-rolling we do when we consider how children of a certain class are spoiled these days—kept at bay from the hazards of life in ways we never were, even when our own upbringings were considerably more cushioned than those of the generations before us—it’s probably not a terrible thing to do to take a step back and examine where this exasperation comes from: Are we envious? Angry at ourselves for wishing we were handled so delicately during our own youth? More importantly, we need to remember that however easy it is on these kids right now their future mostly involves running from fires. So if they get treated to a $150 spa day for their dolly is that really the worst thing in the world? At least it’ll be a pleasant memory for them when they’re hiding in the hole and trying to keep silent while the killer robot drones swarm overhead.
“So you go into your pod room, lock the door if you’re a weird paranoid person, get naked, take a quick shower (in the same room as the pod—shampoo, conditioner and body wash provided), and step into the approximately foot or so of water and pull the pod down over yourself and lay down on top of the water on your back. Then you press a button and the lights slowly go off as a cheesy female sci-fi voice welcomes you to the pod… Then it gets very dark, and you become, briefly, extremely self-aware: you are naked on the second floor of a building above a bar in the middle of a weekday, in complete darkness, floating weightlessly. If you’re me, you wonder if there are protocols in place in the event of a terrorist attack (or as I tamed it down when I spoke with David and Gina later, ‘a blackout’). Like, will they leave me in the pod? Will they bang on the door?”
—New York has a new sensory deprivation tank for all your sensory deprivation needs, and it’s conveniently located in Brooklyn for the people who probably need it most. If you’d prefer to have your senses deprived in Manhattan, as God intended, that option still exists.#
Crudités—raw vegetables for dipping—are, I think, a good example of the typical American meal’s grudging inclusion of vegetables. “Well, we have all the food we actually want to eat, but it feels like we should have some vegetables. How about some, I don’t know…celery. With ranch dressing to make it tolerable.” There’s nothing exactly wrong with celery dipped in ranch dressing—actually, it’s pretty good—but the usual array of carrots, celery, maybe some broccoli, and cherry tomatoes, pre-sliced and brought home from the grocery store in its own sectioned plastic container, has some serious room to grow.
Because, really, there’s nothing about crudités that would stop them from being delicious and impressive, especially now, in the peak of summer produce (“peak peach,” I call it), when crisp summer fruits and vegetables are so good that sometimes you just want to eat them raw, or prepared as simply as possible.
Many, many cultures have their own variations on the vegetable platter; some, especially in northern climes like Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, lean heavily on pickled vegetables. In the Middle East, especially Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, and Syria, the mezze platter is an intensely laborious, complex collection of mini-dishes, from salads and stuffed vegetables to breads, cheeses, and dips.
But because American cuisine is so indebted to western European cuisine, especially that of France and Italy, our conception of the vegetable platter tends to be very French, and come with a French name: Crudités. There are basically no recipes for crudités in any classic French or Franco-American cookbook; neither Escoffier nor Julia Child saw fit to write down instructions for serving raw vegetables, though Julia was known to serve it. I do see fit, though. In this way I am better than Escoffier.
“Seagulls left a young man with a black eye when they swooped down and attacked him for his bacon sandwich…. The latest attack in Cornwall comes just days after a four year old boy James Bryce was left bleeding in St Ives after a gull tried to pinch his sausage roll, and left him terrified of birds. He nearly lost a finger after it was bitten while on holiday with his family…. There has also been a string of attacks on animals in the county which have left a pet Yorkshire Terrier in Newquay and a tortoise in Liskeard dead.”
—Maybe they could pit the birds against the badgers.#
“Carly Rae Jepsen doesn’t write love songs; she writes about what lives before and lingers after love, what pulses beneath it, the swarming galaxies of desire which do not originate from the longed-for body any more than the rays of the sun emanate from our open eyes.”
It’s nice to be surprised, so it is an absolute pleasure to find an accurate appraisal of late period Led Zeppelin from the people Pitchfork and a completely credible assessment of Max Beerbohm’s genius from Adam Gopnik. Do bear in mind that my effusion for both of these pieces is based on the fact that they tend to agree almost completely with my own estimate on the subjects, but don’t let that stop you from investigating further because they are so totally worthwhile. Related: I am super-old.#