Ninety-Eight Years of Fallen Women

The history of confessional magazines.

New York City, August 17, 2017

★★★★ Clouds slowed the onset of daylight, but once the sun got clear it was dazzling to stand out in. The breezes were impeccable, though. The five-year-old ran down the sidewalk on the shady side of the avenue, kicking up his heels. Cool shadows were everywhere in the afternoon, and the breeze strengthened till it was muttering in the ears.

Final Destination

On the corner of Williamsburg’s 10th and Wythe, camera flashes strike the Delta Dating Wall, a chipper summer marketing campaign courtesy of strange bedfellows Delta and Tinder. Citing industry research that suggests world travelers are more likely to receive right swipes, Delta and Tinder have jointly sponsored a two-wall mural featuring nine scenes from Delta destinations around the world. The companies’ stated hope is that people will refurbish their Tinder profiles with photos taken in front of said scenes, appear well-traveled, then find themselves swimming in right swipes. 

I made my first pilgrimage to the Delta Dating Wall in June for its inaugural event. Professional photographers had been hired to take photos of people as they posed in front of painted backgrounds depicting Paris, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Pisa, London, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Moscow, and Zurich. Each vista was an anodyne idyll of its city’s most recognizable feature: the Eiffel Tower, Chichen Itzá, a crimson telephone booth. All but two were eerily bereft of other humans. The lawn across from the Eiffel Tower looked antiseptic without a single picnic; in the Amsterdam scene, a windmill was left to chaperone a field of tulips. In the two scenes that did contain people—Los Angeles (Randy’s Donuts) and Pisa (The Leaning Tower)—their bodies had been shrunken and blurred. Perhaps this feature was meant to allow the single person, in both senses of the phrase, to enjoy the spotlight without competition. But the emptiness made these traditionally animated locales look ghastly. The girl who was now smirking in front of the Leaning Tower, pretending to prop it up, seemed like a poltergeist.

Trump Tower, Manhattan

Illustration: Forsyth Harmon

The tower is surrounded by garbage trucks. This is a fact. The metaphors, in being so cheap and egregiousness, are effectively dead at this point. Because for all the unconscionable things we could—and do—hate that man in his fucking gold-plated tower for, this lesser crime is among them: that, in being awful beyond compare, he’s essentially killed off metaphor and simile. Garbage, for example, is an epithet too good for him. You can make compost out of garbage, you can pick through it and recycle things. I can’t see anything redeemable here.

Jared Kushner Takes His Daughter To The Park

[JARED, IVANKA and their children are vacationing. They left Washington after the neo-Nazi rally in Virginia. The New York Times reported that the family traveled to Croatia but later corrected that they were in fact in Vermont. They were always in Vermont. Escaping to Croatia this week would’ve been obscene, even for JARED and IVANKA.  

JARED and his DAUGHTER are at a playground up the dirt road from the bed and breakfast where they’re staying. He is pushing her on a swing. She is asking questions, because she is a smart and curious child.]

KUSHNER DAUGHTER: Why are we in Vermont, Dad?

[JARED does not respond.]

KUSHNER DAUGHTER: Is it because Grandpa and Steve Bannon are still friends?

[JARED does not respond.]

KUSHNER DAUGHTER: Why did Mom say he’s never going anywhere because he delivered the W?

[JARED does not respond.]

KUSHNER DAUGHTER: And then you said the voters delivered the W.

[JARED does not respond.]

KUSHNER DAUGHTER: It’s not like the letter W though, right?

[JARED does not respond.]

Speak German, Motherfuckers

Here’s a funny rant in the Tagesspiegel by the charmingly crotchety Berliner Dominik Drutschmann, about an unnamed restaurant in the Neukölln district of Berlin where exactly zero members of the four waitstaff speak German. After rolling his cranky ass into the well-reviewed spot for his week’s sole moment of peace, he expects the standard official German server greeting: an angry, wordless glare, followed by Na, und?

He is instead assaulted by the “worst greeting of all time, in any language.” It is Hello, how are you? In English. “This here is the gentrification game, played in full, bonus levels and all,” he laments, after learning that not only does the restaurant not employ any German speakers, but it also has no written menu.

Is he, Drutschmann wonders, a “total reactionary” for wanting to have at least the option to order food in the native language of the city in which he was born?

Anyone who’s spent any time in Neukölln since about 2000 will not be surprised. This district was, until about the turn of the millennium, a sleepy, tourist-free enclave of working-class Germans and immigrants (including a sizeable Turkish and Arab population). But cheap rents (criminal to New York, London and San Francisco) have turned it into ExpatVania, population ninety billion under-the-table tour guides, podcasters, conceptual artists, and composers of “screenplays.”

Aufgang, "Sonar" (Spitzer rmx)


I know you feel like things can’t get any worse than they did this week, but just remember that you felt the same way last week and look what happened. I have no words of wisdom or comfort with which you might better confront this reality. All there is now is music. Enjoy, for however briefly you are able.

Seen and Heard

New York City, August 16, 2017

★★★★ A woman in a bikini didn’t wait for the morning sun to reach the couches or lounges on her building’s roofdeck, but sat up in a straight chair on the side walkway where the rays were already shining. The light was clear and the air had dried. Thin clouds showed up to mitigate the sun at its height. People discussed the Greenmarket produce in German. The Hare Krishnas were setting up where the pamphleteer for the messianic Jews had been earlier. Something sounded like a disturbance but it was only a vendor hollering “Cold water one dollar” through the crowd at a crosswalk. People came up out of the subway shading their eyes. The late warm breeze stirred up the blood.

You Are Where You Eat

To chronicle every way in which Donald Trump sucks eggs as compared to Barack Obama is not productive; it’s mostly just enraging. His inferiority is felt at home and abroad, in workplaces, in prisons and in schools and in courts and in churches and in dining rooms and in kitchens. His disdain for fine and interesting dining is part of his overall disinterest in the world beyond his shiny but empty gold-and-marble mind. Every meal Obama ate out made America great again. Every meal Trump eats anywhere gives the Statue of Liberty indigestion. He hasn’t just let Obama’s cultural momentum slow down. He’s slammed on the brakes, thrown it in reverse and squealed to the sunset in retrograde.

There’s no chance in hell Trump will be dining at Estela, folks.

On The Men Who Use Lydia Davis To Ruin Women

There are certain things we may know, already, about the men who recommend women read Infinite Jest, or suggest Žižek’s work — have you heard of him? — in earnest. A couple summers ago, I was at a bookstore in Boston when I saw a sign affixed to one of the fiction shelves: “Please Ask at the Desk for Works by Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.” I decided this must be a trap for that kind of man. I figured if someone ever did go to the desk, an alarm would sound, or a secret door might open up in the floor. Poof!

But what about the man who buys a woman The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis? I would like to know something about him.

It turns out there are at least a handful of men, just walking around the world, for whom this is the case. I met one of them a few years ago, when I started seeing a guy named Ben in the context of a summer fling that was mostly about books. Many authors had been involved, but the one who got top billing was Lydia Davis. He bought The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis as a gift for my birthday that summer, when we came across the book at our local Barnes and Noble. After things fizzled out (as these things often do), it was the only surviving relic of the whole romantic encounter, and therefore became a symbol. Of what, I didn’t know. Whenever I walked into a bookstore it was, inevitably, the first book that jumped out at me, mostly thanks to its bright coral-and-white coloring. For a while there, it was pretty crummy. But after enough time passed, it became just another book to me — one I loved! — though I still attached it to this person and our time together, and the fizzling out.