Dispatch #6: Frivolities
Let's forget our cares for a while
Thanks to everyone for the kind notes about my last missive. I’m doing much better—despite a harrowing journey back from the east coast, which included one cancelled flight, one delayed flight, getting stranded overnight in Miami, and then having to wait until 10 pm the next night to fly home. With three kids! During Covid! At a Miami hotel I demanded that the idiots in the elevator put on their masks before I stepped inside.
Sigh. America, you break my heart.
But now the kids are back in school, Mickey starts preschool in September, and if all holds (a big IF), I’ll return to the writing life in just a couple of weeks. I cannot wait for the silence and the sentences and the puttering alone around my house. The Delta variant, the climate change report, the collapse of Afghanistan, and the California governor recall election are making it hard to sink into any calm or hope these days. But I try.
So this is a quick list of recommendations to make life nicer. I wanted to add some more summer content since I’ve been pretty MIA lately. I am thinking of a longer essay newsletter soonish…if all holds, of course. Thanks for hanging with me.
I’ve been a fan of Laura Veirs for years—her geology-inspired lyrics, her no-frills voice. She even contributed to my book, Mothers Before! This month I fell in love with her latest album, My Echo, which is about the dissolution of her marriage. I could listen to the song “Turquoise Wall” over and over again (watch the video here.) This album is so vulnerable: “The warmth and beauty of your eyes/it crushes me to think/that you could give that love to someone else.” Oof. Loss rendered honestly is the most beautiful thing.
I’ve also been listening to Weezer’s first album a lot. Have you blasted “Say it Ain’t So?” in your car lately? I highly recommend. “LIKE FATHER STEPFATHER….!”
I read three books on my trip to the Carolinas. (And I abandoned one—Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, if you must know!)
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz was such delicious writing industry fun, and I loved that it was a thriller, with a real page-turning suspense. I saw the ending a mile away but didn’t care one bit.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, about a mother and artist who hasn’t made art since her two-year-old son was born, was at first too frustrating for me—I thought: Your husband is a dick! Please oh god sleep train your child, you’ll feel so much better! I felt like an oafish Goodreads reviewer who complains about a character’s personal choices, as if that’s the point of fiction at all. I was too close to the material to sink into its hypothetical universe without judgment. But, then, the novel’s main premise—that the mother is turning into a dog—won me over. I loved the uncanny thrust of it: the detail of the tail piercing through a sort of cyst on her lower back, the hunter instincts in the dead of night. And there was this one late interlude about the mother, aka Nighbitch, and her upbringing—the witchy grandmother, her own mother’s dead ambition, the Appalachian foothills. The writing was beautiful and raw. There’s also an MLM subplot that’s really funny.
Last, stranded in Miami, I read my friend Mark Haskell Smith’s Talking Rude in Athens: Ancient Rivals, the Birth of Comedy, and a Writer’s Journey through Greece. Mark swept me away to modern day Greece as well as Ancient Greece, and I learned all about these forgotten playwrights—one of whom was infamous for eating pussy. It was a delight.
Speaking of delight, now I’m reading Laurie Colwin’s Family Happiness, originally published in 1982. I adore the novel’s slightly elevated narrative style and POV, and the way characters are introduced with confident, declarative descriptions:
“Beate von Waldau was one-half of a set of twins. She and her brother Karlheinz, who was called Klaro for short, looked exactly alike—tall, bright-eyed, hawk-faced, with the same sleek dark beautifully cut short hair. It was hair of the sort you want to pet, like beaver fur, but otherwise the first impression they made was forbidding and standoffish, in the way of modern furniture.”
Isn’t that terrific?
This Thai Crispy Pork with rice and a cucumber salad is easy to make and so flavorful.
Have you recently sliced up a tomato, sprinkled it with Maldon’s sea salt, drizzled it with some olive oil, and eaten it? You should. I like to add a slice of fresh mozzarella if I’ve got it, and some pickled onions. Heavenly.
Here is how I love to eat dandelion greens, courtesy of Gabrielle Hamilton:
-Wide pan over medium heat w/ 1/4 cup olive oil. Place two heads of garlic, sliced in half horizontally, skins on, cut sides down. Sizzle until golden.
-Add 2 lbs dandies, trimmed at stem end. Rinse them first so they have some water clinging to them. Add cold water to pot barely cover and sprinkle some more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
-Cover with parchment paper and lid. Simmer on medium-low heat for 25-35 minutes. Taste. If they’re still too bitter, add some more oil and let them steep in it. Add some more salt.
-I’ve been following this classic Margarita recipe from Esquire. Sometimes I’ll make it with Mezcal if I want that smokey vibe.
-I loved this French red I got from Tabula Rasa. It’s earthy, odd but drinkable, and plummy. Tabula Rasa has a great wine club, if you’re local, and their customer service is truly the best in the land.
-Sightglass coffee’s Banner Dark coffee beans are tasty. I’m a rich bitch and bought them at Whole Foods. No regrets!
-Kaiser’s Well Baby Two-Year-Old Questionnaire asks me if I always give my kids fat free or 1% milk. Hell no! Whole milk or bust. Fat free milk is gross and not good for you or your kids. The end.
Okay, that’s enough frivolities for now. Tell me what you’ve been listening to, reading, eating, and drinking!
PS I sent subscribers all the dirt on my publishing journey. Hint hint. :)