Between a Tweet and a Tumble

  • Thoughts On Writing, Immaturity, and Paralysis

    This is what happens when you’re a fairly unseasoned longform writer handed a vast and consequential topic and an amount of space you’re totally unqualified to command: you collect a number of conversations with extraordinary people and agonize over them for weeks, paralyzed by the fear that you’re betraying your subjects, exploiting their experiences, and making naive, superficial generalizations quilted together by a tenuous thread. As you obsess over each paragraph, deleting, rewriting, and reordering them at least a few dozen times, you’re haunted by premonitions of being skewered on Twitter, and you saddle your friends, your colleagues, and largely anyone within earshot with your emotional baggage. Wearing athleisure is a constant. You kind of look like shit. 

    you forgo telling the stories you set out to tell—the origin stories of a rare section of the art world that is hardly discussed or even mentioned—and lean on well-worn historical anecdotes as a crutch, because the past exists inherently at a safe distance and is therefore less intimidating to criticize. You defer too much power to your editor’s perspective—although he’s a particularly fantastical writer himself, he had no ideas the stories I had been told and were trying to relate to you. 

    You resign to it, you send it off and hope to never think of it again, but the reality is a prolonged state of duck and cover; the publication date is far enough in the future to put it in the back of your mind, but not far enough to free the back of your mind from a mild but nagging, gnawing anxiety.  

    When it’s published, it should come as no surprise. You saw and approved each word change and edit in Google Docs with your blessing. And STILL! STILL! you feel spectacularly deflated at the wasted opportunity. The writer’s cutting room floor is always a graveyard of wry quotes and clever anecdotes that fell for never having found an appropriate foothold in the piece, but this graveyard feels particularly tragic. I wrote this story because I met Mariane Ibrahim during Untitled Miami Beach and she pointed out a very simple truth: there, as in most fairs, she was one of the only, or maybe the only black gallerist there. 

    I sought out other black gallerists, and the list was short. These are things I would have liked you to know about them: why her gallery is called we buy gold and where it is and what it means to have normative space; the sentiments of being african and seeing a continent reduced to anthropological art; one gallerists shift from distancing herself from being referred to as a “black gallerist” and now leaning in to a say she has a black-owned space for artists of color; one of them casually hurled with a racial slur at a European art fair as recently as April. No one’s here to only show black artists, but the normalization of people of color comes naturally, because it is what’s normal to the person in charge. The gallery is a vector of the gallerist, 

    Everyday I asked myself, How do you structure this? I know exactly how in hindsight, but the opportunity has passed. I hope that the story still serves a purpose: that it will plant the seeds of realization in those who have never noticed or considered the whiteness and exclusion of the world that we inhabit. I also realized a few things. 

    This was my 808s and Heartbreaks

  • Thoughts On the Loss of Anthony Bourdain

    I was shocked. Not only because of the sudden and violent nature of his death, but the fact that I was immersed when I woke up yesterday in a near-universal mourning. We rarely spoke of Anthony Bourdain, but it turns out that we had all loved him separately, in private. He had been something to everyone, and often that something was entirely different.

    Did you love Anthony Bourdain because he was the hedonist rockstar travel writer you had always dreamed of being? Did you love him because of his frankness and descriptive prose, his adventurous palate, or his itinerant lifestyle? Or did you love him because he came to your country, long ignored, and elucidated its painful complexities?

    He did that for mine. My favorite episode of “Parts Unknown” was when he went to the Philippines for Christmas and ate Christmas dinner with a Filipina woman and her family. To feed her children, she had traveled alone to America and cleaned houses for 30 years, ultimately returning home to fully grown strangers. Anthony Bourdain came to her with a kind respect and admiration, and read to her a letter from the American man she had raised from infancy. He lauded her for her sacrifices, and closed the episode by saying, "Filipinos give—of themselves, of their time their money, their love—to others."

    It was uncanny, really, how he could look at the phenomena of a largely obscure culture and understand it with a crystalline clarity. There are people in this world, lots of them brown, who are treated as invisible: housekeepers and nannies, kitchen staff, janitors. For Anthony Bourdain to dine with them at the same table was to say, “I see you.” (Also one time, he took a bite of that awful palabok from Jollibee and didn’t even wince.)

    I loved Anthony Bourdain for all the reasons above, which amount to a distinctly humane, low-key activism, predating even his advocacy for women like Asia Argento. Did you notice that at a certain point, his show stopped being about eating? Food shifted from the purpose for his travels into the periphery, a pretense to go to areas of political tumult and social unrest to shine light where there was none: a Haiti devastated by earthquake, a Libya subsumed by ongoing civil war. The meal was simply the stage on which others were invited to speak.

    Anthony Bourdain rose to fame for his forthright dissemination of truths, and throughout his career he continued to pursue them. With a vivid eloquence and deep sense of justice, he brought a poignant humanity to popular culture, one we had never imagined would end. This is why we mourn. You were a legend, Anthony. You always will be.

  • Thoughts From the Wake of Everything Awful

    I recently interviewed a graphic designer who made a concerted effort to devote 30 minutes a day to her computer screen for no audience but herself, free from the kind of constraints posed by a client in the workplace. She said that it opened her creative impulses, and through this visual stream of consciousness, she could finally home in on her artistic voice. I thought that the same results might be possibe for writing. Also, that is definitely what New York Magazine is paying Andrew Sullivan to do. 

    I am starting the timer. 

    2017 has been an awful beast. In 2016 we were depressed by the deaths of our heroes; in 2017 we see their fall from grace. It turns out that while we worshipped them, they were depraved, grotesque beings the whole time. Before the Louis CK allegations, I remember very clearly having a nightmare a few weeks ago where a man was masturbating in front of me. I screamed. "That's harassment, you know!" Cut to some older unknown woman in my dream telling me, "It's not like he touched you."

    For those who still don't understand:

    The penis is a strange, strange organ. It has the ability to become a weapon. You don't have to touch me to terrify me and spark my impulse to flee; an erection is an inherently terrifying gesture because of its implications of violence. If I didn't invite this rush of blood, then I don't want it anywhere in my vicinity. 

    The movie industry has been roiled. The art publishing industry has been roiled. And then the Times went after my former boss, a man I think everyone has known for years for his belittling, bullying style of management. I have to be honest; while I stand by the women who have felt harassed by him I wouldn't call it sexual harassment. Pain is relative. To reduce my feelings to the simplest terms, I ask: If you can feel attacked when someone is not attacking you, can you also feel sexually harassed when a person is not sexually harassing you? I describe thte situation more as a man with little charisma or efficacy who was given too much power. Too inexplicably often, power is handed to those with no ability to wield it. I read a Facebook post from a woman and a writer I admire who was quoted in the article of his downfall. To paraphrase, she said that it wasn't about sex, but about power and intimidation, and the problem is gendered because of the gendered imbalance of power. And that for too long, women have been pressed downwards and forced to suppress these feelings, but there's momentum now. The voice inside we've been suprressing is finally free to shout STOP NO WE'RE NOT DOING THIS ANYMORE because finally there's a plurality of voices. Up until now we never considered the possibility of being heard. 

    Two minutes left on the timer. I've prematurely run out of things to say. 

  • Thoughts From the '90s

    Remember when Buffy sleeping with Angel for the first time immediately turned him into a demon? Was that TV's first fuckboy? 

  • Thoughts From an Indulgently Uneventful Saturday Night at Home

    Has it ever felt like writing was its own type of performance piece? It's an exercise in cadence and the exact placement of dramatic pauses. The projection of oneself as a character, eliciting empathy, and silently establishing tone. It's a footwork. It's a muscle. It requires practice and mentorship. It can be evaluated as well or poorly executed. Sadly it doesn't burn any calories. 

    Currently working on an essay on The Joy of Missing Out. 

  • Thoughts From Coachella

    1. A slow Kendrick song will make grown straight men wrap their arms around each other. I saw it with my own eyes.

    2. The music industry is so super-collaborative now. Every other song was a different surprise guest. 

    Sidenote: While I was waiting for that surprise Rihanna cameo that never happened in the Kendrick set, I wondered to myself which of them was more famous right now, and then why it happened so much faster for him, and then why he was allowed to be himself so much earlier on in his career. Hmmm. 

    3. Adult carnival. 

    4. "Does it feel kind of... gentle in here to you?"

    No one at Coachella is fucked up! Seriously, no one is fucked up. We realized this when we were safely coralled into the drink zone each with one of two choices of beer. I was also like wow why is the ground so dry? Because no one is drunkenly pissing everywhere. Why is no one lying flat on the ground trying to center themselves? Becasuse the EDM kids don't show up to this. A really perfect festival for people who, like me, "don't really party like that anymore." 

    5. The crowd moves in waves. Seriously, if you let two people pass in front of you, they'll be followed by 100 other people they don't know. You can jump in and ride the wave too, or you can get wiped out. I was swept out of DJ Khaled as quickly as I was swept in. 

  • Howdy

    I gotta lotta thoughts, not all of which anyone would want to pay me for. This seems like a reasonable place to put them. I guess we could call it a "blog."