Friday, 29 May 2020

Coffeecore: The Winter Garden


Even you, my little flâneur, need to get out of the city sometimes, no matter how much you love it. Take the 憧れ line to northernmost end, and get off at the last stop. It is neither the country nor the city here,  but a kind of in-between-place where everything is shifting.  The old estate with the winter garden is going to seed on the edges, and there are certain places where the plants get the upper end in the sticky mid-summer, but it not a ruin yet.

You enter through the conservatory, where you can feel the water content in your veins and the ferns touch your legs ever so gently as you walk to the makeshift counter, and order from the small machine the colour of a particular variety of chalcedony. You ask for a doppio, for the doubled arches and the enfilade of doorways that ratatats its way into the heart of the house, where glancingly, you think you see something and then blink and don't. Desire is fickle that way.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

I think I might be right about this

This morning, while eating pickles for breakfast and reading the pretty good New Yorker profile of Phoebe Bridgers, a subtweet came to me. It was like,

It doesn't really make sense because I think I was only talking about Harry Styles and Phoebe Bridgers, and given that Phoebe actually grew up in California I think it's probably fine for her to make an album about it. Maybe I was feeling a little hostile towards her because she said in the profile that she'd avoided Didion due to "mansplaining."

Monday, 11 May 2020

A Brief Selection from the Pandemic Brain Dictionary

The pandemic has mangled my ability to think. My brain’s mostly written off the idea of producing coherent strings of thought. It’s a buzz of half-formed fears and anxieties that can’t figure out how to voice themselves. Occasionally, though, single words will push themselves through the static, like little missives from one part of my brain to another that got shuffled down the wrong path. Here’s a short collection of the those words that I’ve found myself lingering on, either from nuances in their meaning that I’ve probably just imagined, or because they sound fun.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Coffeecore: Exercises In Style


The true flâneur loves encyclopaedias-- for how could this not be so, when they traverse, in short strolls, the city of mind so conveniently and alphabetically?

Consider, for today's fodder, the following entry from Wikipedia on Queaneau's Exercices de Style:

'Exercises in Style' (French: 'Exercices de style'), written by Raymond Queneau, is a collection of 99 retellings of the same story, each in a different style. In each, the narrator gets on the "S" bus (now no. 84), witnesses an altercation between a man (a zazou) with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger, and then sees the same person two hours later at the Gare St-Lazare getting advice on adding a button to his overcoat. The literary variations recall the famous 33rd chapter of the 1512 rhetorical guide by Desiderius Erasmus, 'Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style.'

Today, like Queneau, we will take a bus, but not the number 84 bus, for in the Coffeecore Extended Universe the numbering of buses is a very precise and delicate thing. This bus is the not the S-99 but the X-99, since it crosses universes, and is an express which only stops, naturellement, at coffee shops. The passenger finishes a morning doppio espresso in a travel cup, watches a woman with a beautifully knit sweater, and dismounts at the cafe. Later, the woman in the sweater walks into the cafe and sits at a table.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Jenn's Bean Diaries #6

We murdered the unborn baby can of black beans.
Here's everything I made in one week.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

It’s Not a Trick, It’s an Illusion

In an ordinary week, I might pass the building-wrapped-in-a-sheet-that-looks-like-a-building here in Cambridge once or twice—a diversion in my normal bike commute, a whim to stave off boredom (how quaint!). 

It’s a disguise that does not hold up to much scrutiny. Maybe, perhaps, if you were just barely paying attention—driving past on your way down Main Street toward the Longfellow, headed into Boston—it would pass muster, registering as anonymous urban scenery. But otherwise, it’s a bit like covering a weeping zit with concealer and the hope that no one will notice. The bricks, for all their attempt at three-dimensionality, are shadowless and flat. There is a real light and some shoddy wooden stairs at the front, leading to an entirely fake, impassible door. The whole thing flutters in the breeze. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Healthcare Heaven is Seattle Grace

I’ve become newly preoccupied by certain fantasies, a doable substitute for other people. A vision as I’m pouring water for tea: lying on the beach under white hot sun, a square of chocolate dissolving on my tongue. Crossing Dean onto Classon, a group lifts their arms to their eyes to block the light, then all lift their legs in arabesque. Walking around an empty grocery store, taking my time, piling bundles and bundles of dill into a small purse. These dreams come at random intervals in my full time quarantine job, which is watching all of Grey’s Anatomy.
Grey’s Anatomy, a show that is still on air, is also a daydream: a healthcare fantasia where insurance issues don't exist, or, if they do, they are worthy of a plot point on par with a brain aneurism. As a pandemic continues to expose the (already glaring) cruelty of our healthcare system, the more Grey's Anatomy's medical insurance plot contrivances feel like pure escapism. 

Girl with a pearl necklace

Johannes Vermeer, Woman With a Pearl Necklace, ca. 1662-1665, oil on canvas 

So far the highlight of my week has been jumping rope, just once, really well — two minutes at top speed without once catching myself flat-footed. I had claimed one corner of a deserted outdoor basketball court that in the midday sun looked like over-baked fondant and started jumping rope in a seething rage. Somehow, thrillingly, it worked, and much better than the different soundtracks, surfaces, and times of day I had previously tried in the hope of improvement. I couldn’t even see the plastic-coated red wire as it whipped through the air, just heard it whistling as it passed overhead.

I had spent the prior couple of days frustrated by texts of all sorts, and I had been pushed past frustration into anger that morning when a friend with benefits asked me, in the course of otherwise fun sexting, whether I would like to have lots of men come on my face. I like this friend, and trust him and know his tone and comment were meant in the specific context of our play. Had he asked me a few days earlier, I might have rolled my eyes rather than abruptly telling him that I wasn’t feeling it and going to jump rope in a rage.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Buddy the Ghost

The story of Buddy Holly, part one: How singer and his new ...

I’ve been learning Buddy Holly songs on guitar in quarantine. Learning how to make my Fender twang, which doesn’t really fit the rest of the music equipment in my apartment, the wall of synthesizers and drum machines ready to obliterate the theoretical raves which cannot occur. I keep being invited to “perform” streamed music created live from computer code into VR venues that resemble cyberpunk yachts and recreated Berlin clubs in Minecraft. I do it. They can’t ever see the white guitar sitting next to me.

The fact that Buddy Holly died at age 22 means you can project anything onto him. You can call him a nerd or claim him as a proto-punk or a latent compositional genius who would have ended up making classical music or a country bumpkin that all the city folk wrongly absorbed. I’ve heard all these things. Been frustrated by the shallowness of the portrayals of him. The shitty broadway show. The unsatisfying movie. The annoying song about his death that I won’t even name because we don’t need to hear it again lest we have flashbacks to the cheesy choir teacher being obsessed with it.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

I am bored but it’s my duty to be attentive

Agnes Martin, Buds, ca. 1959, oil on canvas

I knew we lived over the tracks but I didn’t know how over the tracks we were until I crawled out onto the fire escape today, sneakers hanging over the Q train’s cross hatching.

I am reading an uncorrected proof of Lorrie Moore’s short stories, a 700+ page paperback the color of a taxi. It is difficult to read, I mean, it’s hard to hold up in bed at night. It doesn’t support its own weight (these are not the types of comments you can leave in a review but I am telling you anyway it is difficult.) The real book, of course, is a hardcover.

In Moore's story What You Want To Do Fine one character hides from a bee in a phone booth for twenty minutes only to be stung when he comes out. “It wasn’t true what they said about bees. They were not all that busy. They had time. They could wait.” I am suddenly very busy; I have all the time in the world to sting. A train whizzes by beneath my thighs, the steel roof as smooth as a dolphin with motion. Made by Kawasaki, like my uncle’s motorcycle.

I hold onto one bannister to stave off vertigo. (Sometimes I lean against a column underground, but only if I hear someone weaving down the platform.) My legs shake a little. Maybe with fear, maybe because my ass is too bony for the rusted slats of the balcony. Bone on bone. I lean back against the brick wall. It is warm from the sun. I stop vibrating.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Coffeecore: On The City

for r. a. p.


I'm doing it just this once our of respect for the good coffee.

That was always a lie, my little flâneur. Just this once? How many times have you walked the streets of our handsome metropole, on the pretence of a latte? How many times have you traversed the never-insurmountably-wide avenues, on the summer nights pulsing with the afterglow of their own heat? The Coffeecore Extended Universe was always, by nature, an urbanism. It is made that way by your walking it. The city is always and never completely in its cups.

Look out your pleasingly round window. Watch your breath fog up the glass. Watch yourself being alone, frame the image in the mind, and file it away. It is time to go out and see the city your coffee made, and the transient beauty of just this cultivated loneliness.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Routine Maintenance

Done well, a concept album, or series of albums, are a type of art nothing else quite reaches. You can’t just read the lyrics; to get the narrative you have to listen. Concept albums, for me, are the perfect distillation of my desire to watch a story unfold. To introduce characters and a story in the restrained space of songs is a technical feat. A work of literature.

The first time I saw Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties live was at the Dome in Tufnell Park. Less than a year before, I’d seen pop punk band The Wonder Years play the same venue (and they’ve played much bigger). But this time when Dan Campbell came on stage — lead singer of both —it was as the awkward, nervous, fictional Aaron, not as the lead singer of the much-beloved Wonder Years.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

oh fuck, it's [insert date/month/time/whatever] already

A window in my apartment is broken. The one at the foot of my bed, responsible for the harsh rays of 6 a.m. sunlight that lights my sleeping figure on fire, like a slow cooker. Speaking of slow cookers, I was supposed to pick one up for $15 in downtown Brooklyn, but I was lazy and lied to the nice seller that my nonexistent roommate didn't want to buy kitchenware in the midst of the pandemic. Oh yes, my window. It fully closes, but there's a gap on its right side where the stubborn frame refuses to fit its hinge. It's cold in this apartment, then it's hot, and then it's cold again.

Gigi Hadid Is Pregnant

Gigi Hadid is pregnant and I have gone around (figuratively, via text) and told everyone I know.

The news came at the same time that the group chat was discussing the recent One Direction fan fiction TikToks. It was fortuitous, a moment of good spirits. Texting all of my group chats was like the old days, when I had #content to share and news to spill and too many people to inform. I used to forget who knew what, so I would always preface "I'm not sure if I told you about this?" I guess I still do that, but in a smaller way, my rotation of daily phone calls folding in on themselves.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Maybe next year!

My mother's acquaintances are not keeping it a secret that they believe New York deserves to crumble from a plague—because of the dirty way we live and because we're all in debt and because we think we're better than everyone else even though we're dirty and in debt. Hard to agree, exactly, but I do think we're better than everyone else. 

I would say "just kidding," but I'm not!

I mean, in general. About me, specifically, I am kidding. I would be nothing without New York and I don't believe I am contributing to it in kind. I recently spent an entire day in bed watching Vince Vaughn movies and eating blood oranges my friend Julia mailed me from California the day before she lost her job. I joined a mutual aid Slack group and then asked 100 questions instead of reading the easy-to-find on-boarding documents. I took a free enneagram test that said I act altruistically so that other people will notice and say "you're a good person," but pretty much all I do is rewatch Vanderpump Rules. I'm also reading Dune because a boy asked me to. And who knows how long that will last—it's definitely easier to read a book when you already know who's going to play the main characters in the movie, but it also seems like it's going to be about religion.

The only thing I'm doing with what you could call intent and joy is listening to Meredith Rogers, of PilatesAnytime.Com, which I do almost every day. 

Monday, 27 April 2020

Fixing My Dishwasher, Signifying Nothing

Yesterday I tried to fix my dishwasher and it wasn’t a metaphor. It was just a dishwasher that no longer drained that I decided to fix myself, unable to handle waiting several days for building maintenance while the puddle of rancid water at the bottom of the machine just sat there in the heat wave, signifying absolutely nothing. 

Sunday, 26 April 2020

The Apps Are Alright: ACNH Travel Guide

There's no reason why Animal Crossing: New Horizons had to be so delightful. Nintendo could've half-assed it or even one-quarter-assed it and they would've still printed money. Instead, like the premium console game designers they are, ACNH has a seemingly infinite amount of stuff to collect and build, each with its own lovely animation and backstory.

Likewise, the ACNH Travel Guide iPhone app – currently the first or second best-selling "Reference" app – is a beautifully-crafted thing, free of the usual subscriptions and shady in-app purchases associated with unofficial game guides.

Once, I lived in ignorance, chasing the shadows of worthless yellow butterflies. Now my eyes are open to the true form of this world, a world where the value of bugs is easily summoned and precisely quantified. Thanks to the ACNH Travel Guide, when I see a paper kite flutter across my screen, its real nature is revealed to me: a floating bag of 1000 bells.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Testimony of a Fruit Man

I left my job last week.

I was a deliveryman for the nation’s premier provider of cut fruit bouquets. You know the one. For the last few years, if you were in a specific part of upstate New York, you might have seen me delivering fruit bouquets to people’s homes, workplaces, weddings, schools—at all times of the year, for all kinds of occasions. And of course, recently, that meant delivering fruit bouquets during a pandemic.

If you’re like any of the sensible people I’ve mentioned this to, that might have made you pause. Maybe you’re wondering something like: didn’t New York close all non-essential businesses? How the hell are Consumable Presentations an essential service? You’d be right in asking, if you are. I was wondering the same thing when I was informed that we would, in fact, be staying open, only about twelve hours before the shelter-in-place order went into effect. I still have a hard time digesting it. The things I’d spent years delivering weren’t groceries. They weren’t meals. They were chocolate-covered, overpriced novelties, bought for the recipient’s sake less often than for the customer placing the delivery order, so they could feel content knowing they’d spent enough money to show they care.

But hell, you could eat them. Apparently, that’s essential enough.

Good morning freia

The first time my friend Josh texted me “Good morning freia,” I did not take it well. It was our first day working from home, and days before New York would issue the stay at home order. I was caught off guard by the earnest message, and was sure it was some kind of joke. I still don't quite know why, but he had earnestly sent me what would become the first of our now daily quarantine ritual - texting each other good morning. Josh is one of my best friends and we text all the time, but we’re almost always making jokes, talking shit, and messing around. I don’t think he’s ever sent me such a formal, bland message before.

The first text

Eventually, I set aside my confusion, deciding that this is just one of those weird parts about the new normal, and returned his Good Morning text. Instantly, we were sending each other good morning messages every day, first just texts, but quickly evolving into an increasingly elaborate back and forth of photos, GIFs, and memes. The formerly untouched “Digital Touch” feature became a fast favorite.

Thursday, 23 April 2020