Getting There is Only Half The Fun If Being There Is Any Fun At All

Image: Ian Sane via Flickr

“I’m traveling a long way home for Thanksgiving. What makes the time go faster?” —Traveling Tim

I try to sleep through whatever traveling I have to do. I don’t have a driver’s license. So it’s no problem for me to be asleep in the front seat of the bus or the dining car of a train. I really got good sleep when I used to ride in the trunks of cars. You get a little sleepy from the car vapors back there anyway. And it’s dark as Hell. That combined with boredom will put me out like a light, of which there is none.

But I can sleep anywhere now, luckily enough. Subway seats. I slept in a hammock in my friend’s basement for a while. That was pretty great, if you can find a hammock to sleep in. It curls around your body like a chrysalis, it’s warm and womb-like. Planes are great to sleep on. You just need a really boring book. Or a really complicated magazine. I suggest Foreign Policy or The Economist. They will make people think you are really smart. But in fact, they are filled with some of the most boring and unreadable nonsense you can ever imagine.

Kalustyan's, The Spice Sanctuary

Image: Jazz Guy via Flickr

New York is a city made up of personal sanctuaries. For a place so vast and varied, it can take years for a transplant to find hers, but when she does, it feels like finding shelter under a heated blanket after ducking inside from the rain. You can always go to your personal sanctuary when the city outside is too much, and it’s often a place that has greater significance than home. Home can be too much, too.

My sanctuaries have changed over the years. I used to find sanctuary in the city’s art museums until I couldn’t stand to see one more Picasso. (So many godforsaken Picassos.) I stopped considering bars sanctuaries when every one of them was inevitably tainted by one bad night there, several bad people, or both. Record stores and bathhouses are common sanctuaries, and H&Ms and train stations never are. A favorite restaurant is a perfect kind of sanctuary, but you’ve got to be careful. When Bereket closed, I briefly considered moving.

Use The Amchur

There is, I think, a certain uniquely American thrill in taking an ingredient which is wholly identified with one cuisine and using it with flavors and techniques not normally associated with that cuisine. I’m not talking about fusion, exactly, or maybe it’s the evolution of fusion: fusion would be, say, putting Korean bulgogi in a taco. That fusion is easily identifiable as the juxtaposition of two cuisines; it is not so much breaking free of traditions as it is combining multiple traditions. The bulgogi is still cooked the way bulgogi usually is, and the tortilla is prepared the way tortillas usually are, and they are smushed together but still remain themselves.

What is more interesting is to see each individual ingredient and technique by itself and to not really be motivated by what is usually done with it. In doing that we can completely escape any trappings of authenticity or tradition for a moment. Lately I have been doing this with amchur (sometimes spelled amchoor), a beige powder made of dried and then pulverized green, unripe mangoes.


Image: Allison Stockman

Several years ago, while working in India, I learned about asafoetida when I contracted a case of chlamydia. In my eyes. I went to sleep on my mat one Friday evening under a mosquito net like usual, noting a slight ache under my lids. I thought it was too much exposure to the intense Uttarakhand high-mountain sun. When I woke up in the morning, my eyes were crusted shut, and a thick yellow goo the color of egg yolks was leaking out of my eyeballs, which were webbed and pink with bloodshot. Convinced it was some kind of river blindness or hemorrhagic fever, I fumbled my way, half blind, to a clinic where I had heard there was an American doctor, trained in Tropical Medicine at Tulane. He would hopefully be able to diagnose and dose me with the right drug before I lost my vision, or needed a complete enucleation to contain whatever demon force seemed to be devouring my eyes.

Normally I wasn’t such an alarmist, but after six months, and several water-borne illnesses, my mind and powers of reason had taken as much of a hit as my wasted body. The doctor took one look at me, did a swab test, and told me it was most likely chlamydia. At the time, I was Mormon, and a virgin. This diagnosis came as a total shock; I had contracted what I thought was my first venereal disease, without ever having sex. I started crying. I really didn’t understand how life could be so unfair to me—the most sexually frustrated unmarried LDS woman I knew. I had followed all the rules! No fingering, no blow jobs, no hand jobs, no going-down shenanigans of any kind. And now this?? He explained that chlamydia was actually an airborne disease, commonly contracted in the dry, dusty hills of the Dehradun District where I was living and working. He wrapped some sheer gauze around my eyes to keep the pus from running down my cheeks and sent me off in tears, with a prescription for the druggist.

Dillweed (As An Insult)

Image: Pixabay

In 1999, on the Straight Dope message board, a user named HeyHomie posed a question under the header “Dill-based insults in the 1970s,” which is a degree of specificity I can appreciate. He asked, “I hear the boys on “That 70’s Show” call each other ‘Dillweed’ and ‘Dillhole.’ I don’t remember hearing those used as insults until “Beavis and Butt-Head.” Is this an anachronism? Or were these indults [sic] used in the 70’s?” Despite the age of the original post, it was still receiving semi-regular replies as late as 2009—many of them reminiscing about high school, and at least one passionately defending of the city of Beloit, Wisconsin. How did an honest, hard-working herb get co-opted by a bunch of dirtbag teenagers? Eighteen years and no definitive answer later, I want to get to the bottom of this for everyone on that message board.

Dill is a trickster. When its fine leaves are gathered and bound by a rubber band into a bushy frond, damp from overhead produce spray, it’s sometimes mistaken for its cousin, fennel. Ask someone to describe the taste of dill and most resort to comparing it to something else—a pickle. But that’s no more accurate than saying ketchup tastes like tomatoes. It’s the pickle tastes like dill, all herbaceous and mellow and savory. So how did dillweed, a flavor that enhances the taste of everything from borscht to salmon, and whose delicate leaves beautify otherwise dull-looking dishes, end up as the go-to insult in any situation where it’s socially unacceptable to call someone a dickhead?

Yuppie Vs. Hipster

Poppy Ackroyd, "Trains"

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.

The State of Shane Smith's Disunion

After today’s all-hands “state of the union” meeting, many editorial staffers emerged furious from what they thought was going to be some sort of cathartic elephant acknowledgment. Brandy Zadrozny reported on the anger and frustration in the Daily Beast:

“When the fuck are they going to address sexual harassment? We are all waiting for it, are we not?” one senior-level employee stood and said during the all-hands, according to two sources in the room. The audience erupted in applause.

The whole propagandizing/self-aggrandizing tone of the meeting, which included a documentary-style video about Vice’s cherry-picked pros and cons, was very clearly an unsatisfactory showing for anyone looking for answers or any reassurance whatsoever. The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, took a slightly different tack, naming the star-studded cast of the recently enlisted advisory committee (Roberta Kaplan, Alyssa Mastromonaco, [cones hands for amplification] GLORIA STEINEM, Tina Tchen, Maya Harris, Susan Tohyama, and Ariel Wengroff), taking care to note, “Sources inside Vice say that the efforts laid out in the staff meeting were in the works prior to the Daily Beast article’s publication.” Ok then!

But it sounds like senior management at least received some part of the signal that the editorial staff was not pleased, because Shane Smith sent out this company-wide email at 8:23 p.m.:


My apologies for the Friday evening note, but I wanted to address some of the feedback we have been getting on today’s State of the Union. While we attempted to cover a wide range of issues impacting the company, I’m sorry that we missed the mark, especially when it came to clearly addressing issues around sexual harassment at VICE.

I’d like to make it abundantly clear here and now: the behavior outlined in the recent Daily Beast article is unacceptable, and the fact that anything like this could happen at VICE is my and my senior management’s responsibility.

VICE does not tolerate sexual harassment, abusive behavior, assault or retaliation, and just as we have in connection with the allegations in the Daily Beast, we will investigate and discipline inappropriate behavior of any kind. We will continue to investigate all allegations brought to the company’s attention, enlisting outside independent counsel when necessary.

We’ve built this company by hiring the best and most talented voices of a generation. It’s my job to make sure that everyone who walks through the door is treated respectfully and has a chance to thrive without intimidation or harassment.

Following the State of the Union, I spoke with the heads of editorial to express that going forward we are committed to working lockstep with all of you to improve VICE’s workplace culture. This includes enacting everything that we outlined today, continuing to communicate with you about these issues in the coming days, and discussing how we can best solve them.

Yes, we can change the world, but first we have to start at home.

Thank you for your time and your patience.


New York City, November 16, 2017

★★ The lower, grayer bits of cloud were lively to look at from a position slumped helplessly in the armchair. The radar said the rain was gone in time for school. The street sweeper drove by with an extra-wet noise and whisked up whitewater from a puddle. Under the gray a sudden flood of light came from the east. The half-day of school was not enough time for the dampness to be off the sidewalk. By morning’s end the sun seemed to have won its pushing match with the clouds, but then a rush of gray came on, and with it a sharpened chill. Unexpected rain came, and then more full sun. Up and down the length of Fifth Avenue at least four different things were happening in the sky.

Jared Kushner Fills Grant's Tomb

Image: momentcaptured1 via Flickr

It’s nighttime in New York. JARED and IVANKA have schlepped to Riverside Park to hide in Grant’s Tomb the documents that prove JARED colluded with a foreign adversary. IVANKA is not being as nasty as she could be considering her husband bought a snow shovel when she sent him to the hardware store to get something to dig with. There is a park bench nearby and out of the corner of her eye IVANKA can see an insane person pecking away on a keyboard. The light from his laptop reveals it is STEVE BANNON, and he is playing Mahjong. There’s also someone lurking in the darkness. He’s taking notes with a number 2 pencil, wise enough to know any screen would emit enough ambient light to give him away. It’s ROBERT MUELLER. 

JARED [exhaustedly]: Couldn’t we have found, like, a kid from the neighborhood to do this?

IVANKA [powerfully]: A Columbia student?

JARED [wiping sweat from his face]: From a neighborhood?

STEVE BANNON [back cracking as he stands up]: That’s a fucking snow shovel, Jamie. We changed the climate so we wouldn’t need those anymore.