New York City to Maplewood, New Jersey, and Back, August 20, 2017

★★★★ The gamble on opening the window to the muggy night paid off with clean new air by morning. Light passed through the open top and windows of a yellow jeep in traffic. The breeze counterpunched the heat of the sun, holding its own even in disadvantageous open spaces. Only down in the subway were conditions irredeemable. Where the commuter train came up into New Jersey, the waterways through the heavy phragmites were solid glowing green with duckweed. Some triangular facet of a skyscraper on the West Side was catching the sun to call more attention to itself than it deserved. Insects buzzed and birds sang in the calm suburban streets. Grill smoke caught the rays of the lowering sun. An even, cloudless pink tint made its way slowly up from the horizon. From the returning train, the trees made a solid, wavy-topped wall, and then even that detail was lost in the darkness.

The Penny Paper Sex Scandal

In retrospect, assaulting his estranged wife’s alleged lover with a whip probably wasn’t the best way for star actor Edwin Forrest to enhance his image during his difficult and very public divorce. Magazine editor Nathaniel Parker Willis received a vicious thrashing when he had the bad fortune to encounter Edwin on Washington Parade Ground (now Washington Square Park) on June 16, 1850. Edwin threw Willis to the ground, placed his foot on his neck, and began beating him, yelling to bystanders, “Gentlemen, this is the seducer of my wife; do not interfere!” Ultimately, Edwin was in for a far worse pummeling at the hands of public opinion. His attack on Willis gave additional fuel to the newspaper editors who were busy turning this dispute into one of the United States’s first major celebrity scandals.

When Catherine Norton Sinclair married Edwin Forrest in 1837, he was arguably the most prominent actor in the American theatre. He embodied the spirit of the age of Andrew Jackson: his acting style was physically vigorous (to a fault, his critics said) and the characters he played were bold in spirit, evincing more emotional intensity than intellectual depth. In addition to the usual repertoire of Shakespearean characters, he also commissioned American authors to write plays with distinctly American roles for him, such as the title character in Metamora; or, the Last of the Wampanoags. Metamora was a Native American chief who functioned as the archetype of the doomed Native American—a noble savage fated to conveniently fade away before the rise of an Anglo nation. The play, which premiered around the same time as the events that would lead to the Trail of Tears, was a hit.

The support of the rapidly changing American media helped fuel Edwin’s rise. In the 1830s, “penny papers” began replacing cumbersome broadsheets, which had mainly concerned themselves with political and business news aimed at an elite readership. The new, cheaper, and more portable breed of papers served the growing ranks of literate, middle-class readers, publishing stories that emphasized sensation and salaciousness. The most notorious of them was the New York Herald, which vaulted to prominence with its breathless coverage of the sordid details of the murder of prostitute Helen Jewett, and whose editor, James Gordon Bennett, earned a reputation for ruthlessness and unscrupulousness. Edwin’s emergence as the nation’s first celebrity actor made him a sympathetic figure whom Bennett could promote to his readers – for the moment, at least.

Having achieved stardom in his homeland, Edwin set off to conquer Europe. While in London, he met and married Catherine, the intelligent and sophisticated teenage daughter of a family of performers. As Forrest’s biographer Richard Moody notes, their wedding banns were announced in the British papers in between the requisite black bands that solemnly acknowledged the recent death of King William IV, which a more superstitious couple might have taken for a bad omen.

In Retrospect, I Probably Should Not Have Voted for The Grand Wizard for President

When the Grand Wizard first announced his candidacy, I, like most people, thought it was a goof or perhaps an hilarious episode of “Impractical Jokers.” About a month later, though, I happened to catch him performing a minstrel show on “The 700 Club” and I was entranced. Could this be the vessel that delivered unto my income bracket sky-high tax cuts?

I began supporting the Grand Wizard in dozens of tweets, email forwards, and unprompted elevator conversations. As early as that first magical press conference, where he announced a plan to send all Muslims to the moon, I thought “This guy tells it like it is, and I like that.” Critics of my pro-Grand Wizard blog and the nonprofit journal I started, as well as my webseries, “The Wiz,” accused me of attempting to “look beneath the hood,” so to speak, “to understand the engine.” I hoped that was the case. I saw the decline in this country—how soft we’d become toward non-violent drug offenders, for instance—and I thought the Grand Wizard might bring about the real change neither establishment candidate could.

It is now clear that I maybe kinda whiffed it on this one.

I cannot stand by this disgraceful administration any longer, and I urge my fellow Americans to stop defending the Grand Wizard. Far from unifying us, he has actually turned out to be slightly more racist than the acceptable amount.

The Trump Train is the Only Thing More Useless and Crippled Than the MTA

“OK, OK. I voted for Trump. And now I know it was a huge mistake. What do I do?” —Mike America Great Again

We all make mistakes. I once paid money to see “Prometheus” in a movie theater. I willingly joined the Columbia Record and Tape Club. And, famously, I once traded all my baseball cards to my brother for all of his football cards. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we are forced with a terrible decision, in which clearly there are no winners. In the poem by Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” it doesn’t matter which path the speaker takes, for both paths lead straight to Hell. Robert Frost was kind of a creep.

And I can certainly understand that some people did not want Hillary Clinton to become President of the United States. Let us just, frankly, imagine what the last 7 months would have been like if Clinton had been elected with this Congress. We’d already be on our second impeachment trial. Her approval ratings would probably be in the tank, too. Not because of the chaos, the nuclear brinksmanship or the pretty-much-overt racism. But because people didn’t like either of the candidates for President very much. And you’d have this loud-mouth loser Trump guy tweeting at her every day that the election was taken away from him. Maybe it was better that he won the Electoral College and will go on to be one of the worst Presidents we’ve ever had? So that people can no longer fantasize about what an “outsider” Presidency looks like. It looks like someone who shouldn’t be President, that’s what it looks like.

Seen in Montreal

Balako, "Nervous Inn" (Eric Duncan Remix)

Weren’t we just here? Wasn’t it moments ago that we were waking up to a new week, full of dread and barely able to drag ourselves to the starting line? Didn’t we just complain about how exhausted we were and wonder how much more we could take? I guess the good news is I can copy and paste this exact block of text over and over again until it finally all comes down, because we live in a world where it’s always like this now. Here’s some music. Enjoy.

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.]