Thursday, December 16, 2010

Good. Better. Best. Bested.



A few people have asked me how I came up with the idea of interviewing playwright Edward Albee for this month's fiction issue of Vice magazine. Basically, Albee wrote one of my favorite plays, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and last year, after falling madly in love with Montauk, I learned he also owns a barn out there, where he runs an artist-and-writer residency program. I applied -- and ultimately, did not get in.  (Yes, I was sad.) When Vice came looking for story ideas, it naturally occurred to me that I would've been just as happy having a conversation with the octogenarian, preferably sitting out by the beach at his Eastern Long Island abode. Of course, as much as we tried to schedule a meeting in Montauk, where he spends much of his summer, we ended up at his loft in Tribeca. I was not disappointed. However, I should note that I felt unusually nervous about this interview -- and I've chatted up many luminaries throughout my career, so I had prepared a very long list of questions. Turns out, I barely looked at them throughout the conversation.

P.S. Albee told me he has nothing to do with the selection process for writers in his residency program, so no hard feelings.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Over it.

This Thursday, Oct 28 at 1 pm, the New York City Council's Committee on Women's Issues is holding a public hearing about street harassment of women and girls. Show your support and attend: near City Hall at 250 Broadway, 14th Floor committee room.

And for future reference, if you're in a situation where a guy is threatening to do physical harm to you, has indeed just shoved you from behind, or groped you et al, and you draw a blank on how to respond - dial 911. After all these years of repeated assaults, I finally did the research. Even if there is no literal fire in his pants or guns or knives or bashing of a woman's head onto a metal sewer grate, etc. involved (yet), you still can call 911. And if the situation is safe enough, take a picture of the douche and post it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Paris, je sorta t'aime

In other news, I have just returned from France, where I had the opportunity to see Rick Owens' Spring-Summer Collection '11 at Paris Fashion Week. Even though I had a seat directly behind his wife Michele Lamy, my photos were not nearly as good as these. Here is an excerpt from the show:



Though I have never truly entertained the idea of spending more than my rent (*I have an apartment in Manhattan) on a single item of clothing, I ended up going to his boutique at the Palais Royal and his section at Le Bon Marche to try on some of his coats. Of course, both times, I left empty handed. Tant pis.

In any case, I used to hate Paris. Now, on my sixth or so visit, I feel differently. Thank you Mr Owens, Mr. fig-avocado-cheese sandwich guy, bowl of buttermilk at Breizh, Bordier beurre aux algues, Velib, Mr. Montparnasse-cemeterie Pepe le Pew, citron yogurt in the glass jar, fans of Oscar Wilde, Christian Constant fat chip, Bibliothèque François Mitterrand and Jochen.

The tree house is up!

My Vice magazine story about tree houses, that is.  Read it here.
It's worth taking a look at, even if you've already seen it, because I posted new photos and edited the ending. In the original version, posted on the Vice site,  there was some confusion in the last paragraph about when I made the call to my neighbor. We talked at 3 a.m., long before I had arrived in the tranquil no-service zone of west Sonoma County. It's also worth it because it's my favorite story I've written in over half-a-decade.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not The Yellow Book.

In the library collections of the Edward Albee Foundation barn. I know exactly which one I would immediately pull out. Watch for my interview with the playwright himself, coming sooner or later to a Vice magazine near you -- once I finish writing the thing, of course.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Speaking of ninjas...



I ended up on the water taxi to Governor's Island this past weekend with a guy in a pseudo-Punisher skull tee and a Vanilla-Ice hairdo and a girl sporting a severe bleached blonde haircut who wouldn't share their four-person bench with me. It was so off-putting --  until a couple hours later, when I saw the duo up on stage opening for MIA at the Hard Fest NYC show: Ninja and Yo-landi Vi$$er of Cape Town's Die Antwoord. They do this sort of techno-based Afrikaans hip-hop that evokes both Alvin and the Chipmunks and Eminem -- and somehow it works. Die Antwoord's performance was so climactic, I left as soon as M IA appeared, caught the first ferry back to Manhattan, and rode my bike through the post-midnight downpour. And now, looking for illustrations, of course, Dave Choe got there first. If I'm not mistaken, those two numbnuts in the background  below, with their shirts hanging around their necks, are his sidekicks, including (L) Harry, director of  Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Listen to the Echoes


I was at a party last night, doing my usual ridiculous thing -- avoiding it, when I picked up a journal and started reading a lengthy interview with Ray Bradbury. (This was to celebrate a book of Ray Bradbury interviews, hosted by The Paris Review.)

I thought I'd read a little, drink a little, and, then, if the two editors I knew who were helping host the soiree weren't presently freed up, leave, you know, French. But the interview was so charming, I ended up cozying into this long, brown leather couch with some bourbon, immensely enjoying the fact that I was essentially sitting in on a very entertaining, very full conversation with Mr. Fahrenheit 451 -- as opposed to the usual unnerving party staccato.

Several pages into it, a man set his coat down on the chair in front of me. I looked up and smiled politely. As we shook hands, I couldn't help but excitedly ask, "Have you read this interview with Ray Bradbury?" His answer was the best I could've ever hoped for: "I wrote it." His name is Sam Weller, and he spent ten years of his life working on two books about Bradbury: The Bradbury Chronicles and now Listen to the Echoes (with a foreward by the Pixies' Black Francis, no less!).

A highlight:
Q: ...you did receive the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. How important was that for you?

A: It was a fantastic evening. There was a real problem getting back to my hotel room, though. The hotel where they held the ceremony in New York was so huge, it filled me with despair. Since my stroke, I walk very slowly. I saw a sign that night that said: NEXT RESTROOM, TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY MILES. The registration desk was on the eighth floor. You have to wait ten minutes for an elevator just to go up and register! That night some of the women were taking me back to my room and I said, For God's sake, where's the men's room? We couldn't find one. One of the girls said, There's a potted palm over there, why don't you go use it? So I went over. Nobody saw me. At least I don't think so.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rocking Machine for sale

Phillips de Pury and Company is having an art auction, next week June 24 in NYC. They'll be hawking, among other things, Herman Makkink's Rocking Machine (1969). Of course he was Dutch and his last name is Makkink. It's one of the few things I remember from A Clockwork Orange. The auctioneers have tagged it as a "kinetic sculpture." I'm looking to redecorate my apartment this summer, and while it could be an amusing addition to my bohemian/country/Swedish-Japanese dwarf aesthetic, I wouldn't have the cajones to actually go for it. 

Okay, I lied. I remember a lot of things about Clockwork.

I know someone who'd love this, also up for sale:

Monday, June 14, 2010

When it rains in L.A.


It's a rare day in Los Angeles when you can pack in several appointments with an efficiency usually reserved for a city like New York. But back in April, I had to interview two bands (Maroon 5 and Taylor Locke & the Roughs) and an artist (David Choe) on the same day, while editing down a friend's grant application essay before his deadline the next afternoon. Fortunately, the musicians only lived a couple miles from each other, if that, and the artist's studio was a twenty-minute drive downtown.  In between, I managed to meet a friend for lunch at Best Fish Taco in Ensenada on Hillhurst, followed by dessert at Scoops in Wilshire to get some brown bread ice cream. And then ended up having dinner with Dave, his girl and his pal James Jean at The Lazy Ox (my favorite restaurant in L.A. right now, with their genius salads, rice pudding, and fantastically interesting and tasty daily specials. Like crispy pig ears and welks in lemon and butter, if you must know.) As a result, I have three stories in Nylon and Nylon Guys this month, detailing some special moments with M5's Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael, Taylor Locke et al, and Dave, who has a self-titled coffee-table art book available for purchase July 7. Oh yeah, and I spent a good few hours editing my friend's application statement until the wee hours of the night.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our House, In the Middle of the Trees.

Earlier this year, I'd been telling just about everyone I came in contact with how deeply impressed I was by the journalism coming out of Vice magazine and their VBS web TV channel.  My dream of looking back at my career, at oh, 90-years-old and saying, "I'm proud to have always been a journalist" was flagging under the pressures of a bad economy and seemingly shrinking opportunities. And then there was Vice's editor-in-chief interviewing post-civil-war Liberia's General "Butt Naked" -- cannibalizing rapist, committer of war-atrocities-turned born-again Christian -- and wondering if it was okay to eat dinner with killers to the nth power.  My faith in interesting journalism was restored right then and there, and I thought, I really need to start pitching to these guys. Of course, life got in the way, and the notion fell into a frozen ditch somewhere along the potholes of Bowery.  A month later, when the weather warmed up (it helped that I'd gone back to the West Coast) and I was minding my own business, I get an out-of-the-blue missive from their managing editor, asking me for story ideas. And hot damn, just like that, my faith in humanity -- restored, like a post-fire, fifth-floor East Village walk-up. The very first pitch that popped into my my head was something I'd been wanting to write about for three years, after I climbed a 100-story redwood in the San Francisco Bay Area to see a secret tree house. And here it fucking is. Along with my Employee of the Month accolades.

Ever faithfully yours.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

28 E. 20th Street

From the master bedroom of Teddy Roosevelt's childhood home in the Flatiron district, and conceivably, where Teddy Roosevelt was conceived.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Seedy behavior, as usual

In the fall of 2008, I moved back to Berkeley, CA, where my plan was to write things I wanted to write -- leaving deadlines aside while doing all those things you can't usually do because you've got some editor sitting on your head for a 2,500 word piece on the dangers of anti-depressants. But kicking workaholism after a decade in New York City for me was as futile as promising to only eat half of a carne asada super burrito and save the rest for later. So I filled out my days by volunteering at the John Muir Elementary School, working with Farmer Jasper (Eiler) and Chef Carrie (Orth) in the gardening and cooking program.  I originally intended to spend a few hours a week at the school, but as soon as I entered the magical, amphitheater-structured garden hidden in the courtyard of John Muir, it became closer to a few hours a day. While the kids got to learn where food comes from, the basic science behind gardening, from weather patterns to nitrogen in the soil, and how to prepare simple, yet interesting recipes, etc. -- I do believe I benefited equally as their average kindergarten- to fifth-grade-level student.  (p.s. Caitlin Flanagan, you can SUCK IT. More on her Atlantic Monthly piece later.) And now, it comes full circle. A few weeks ago I was assigned two pieces on gardening for iVillage.com, which not only prompted me to interview the Berkeley Unified School District's Edible Schoolyard mentor/adviser Wendy Johnson, but also a staff gardener at the High Line park and the curator of the Central Park Conservatory Garden. It also instigated my new East Village roof top garden experiment.

Read about growing an edible garden here, with photos here.
Or creating a cutting garden here , with a slideshow here.

And while we're at it, I have another story in this month's Men's Health (April 2010), a nutrition piece on cooking with oil.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

She'd Be California

Landed in Southern California yesterday to sunny, clear and 82F degrees. The forecast looks perfect, and the surf this morning was clean and chest to head high. Nice to be home.











New York, my love, you're not lookin' so bad yourself.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

She & Him


Just heard that my profile on Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, collectively known as the musical duo She & Him, is out in the current issue of Nylon.  I interviewed them about their new album, Volume 2, when I was in California a couple months ago. I tried to pull some dirt out, but all I got were pink-nosed bunny rabbits and buttercream-frosted vegan cupcakes. They got that laid-back native Californian thing down like City Bakery has with hot cocoa and cubic marshmallows. It was a surprisingly difficult story to write. Haven't picked up any copies yet, but here are some preview photos my editor had sent me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Start with skepticism" - H. Zinn

It was a miserable November day last fall -- an unnerving mess of rain, wind, and cold. I don't know whose bright idea it was to walk down to Soho and look for jeans -- probably mine, and yes, I am embarrassed to admit it. Coming upon a line outside Cooper-Union's Great Hall, RG and I spontaneously decided to wait in it so that we could join the audience for a special event that day,  "The People Speak Live." Matt Damon was headlining to promote a History Channel documentary with his old Cambridge neighbor, Howard Zinn. Despite the inclement weather, our deliberation was brief: Shopping or intellectual self-improvement..."Howard Zinn is, like, major," I think I said.


Looking withered at 87,  Zinn maintained a very charming vibrancy and sharpness of mind, commenting on audience questions such as the reality of Obama's presidency vs. his campaign hype with,  "What comes through clearly is that we cannot depend ... on [political leaders] to remedy the injustices. It's people's movements that push and prod the leaders of our government."

RIP, Howard. We couldn't help but fall in love with you, not just a little, but a lot. Now go and check out A People's History of the United States.