Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Tops: 2019

In celebration of the end of 2019, a list of a few work things I did this year that made me especially proud. Enjoy!

Photograph Magazine:

Elle Peréz and the Power of Representation
An introduction to the work of photographer for the magazine's September/October 2019 issue.
- The magazine reached out and asked me to write an introduction to the work of photographer for the magazine's September/October 2019 issue. Perez’s work is so moving I think I stood in front of it at The Whitney for a solid hour.

Journey into the Berkshires' BDSM Haven
La Domaine Esemar is battling stigma surrounding kink in an environment that’s equal parts erotic and luxurious.
- In February 2019, I journeyed to upstate New York for a truly wild 24 hours. You truly haven’t lived until you’ve seen a 70-year-old man get caned in the balls. This one took almost 10 months to get published, but I’m so happy it’s finally here. I did the words and the pictures.

How Roxy Music's Soft-Core Pin-Up Girls Saved the Album Cover
Bryan Ferry's band brought a breath of fresh air to a self-serious genre, and their choices in vinyl art were no different.
- This was my first piece for the site, and it was a celebrity-wrangling experience and a half, but I’m proud of the final outcome.

Conde Nast’s them:
What is Camp?
Kicking off a month of camp-related coverage, this piece details the ins and outs of the famously elusive concept.
- I read academic texts about camp for weeks to work on this. The Chief External Relations Officer for The Costume Institute later reached out to say “Brava!” and invite me to the press preview for the exhibition. There, I got stuck against a column in a crowd and I heard a tiny voice behind me say “Excuse me.” I moved. It was Anna Wintour. She’s much tinier in person than I expected.

Meet the Artist Radically Queering the Field of Costume Design
Over the past few decades, Machine Dazzle has been fighting traditional costume design and aesthetics with a fistful of sequins.
- I’ve loved Machine Dazzle’s work since I first saw Taylor Mac’s 24-Hour workshops at Joe’s Pub and this was truly a dream come true. Machine is a delight and talking to him was an education in artistic practice.

Beloved Drag Artist Subverts Art School Dogma
Brooklyn drag artist Untitled Queen performance on February 17 extracted the earnest out of art.
- Forever an admirer of Brooklyn’s Untitled Queen, I was elated to be able to cover her first full-length art/drag show at The Rosemont bar in Brooklyn.

I also:
Spoke at the International Center for Photography.

Interviewed John Waters and Bob Mackie.

Traveled for work, doing cool stories in Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Fort Lauderdale, and photographing many meats at Smith & Wollensky, a New York steakhouse institution.

Did a Queer Women’s History Month Capsule Column for them, including history pieces about Toto Koopman, bell hooks, Vaginal Davis, and Sylvia Rivera.

Hosted panels at the Brooklyn Book Festival and the Miami Book Fair.

Celebrated five years of the Miss Manhattan Non-Fiction Reading.

Took my first vacation in 4.5 years to Hawaii. 

Completed my year-long photo project, Project 30, and started another! (More on this soon.)

Here's to many more in 2020! And there are a few of my favorite horizontal and vertical images on Instagram. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Burnout // Hawaii

Toward the end of September, I needed a nap. But not just one nap, it seemed, multiple naps per day. I couldn’t sit in front of my computer and work for more than an hour and a half at a time for several days in a row. My sleep was erratic, I definitely wasn’t eating properly, and there were days where I couldn’t will myself to get out of bed at all. I developed fevers periodically that would eventually wane, headaches that wouldn’t go away even with Advil for days on end, and when out attending events I could barely stay awake. Beginning sometime this summer, the smallest occurrences would cause my eyes to well with tears: when I was interviewing the curator of the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, her description of artist Tracey Emin’s “I Can Feel Your Smile,” made for a friend of the artist who, after her husband passed, was feeling guilty for her own moments of happiness; driving up the FDR past the skyline of Long Island City; episodes of Brooklyn Nine Nine. Though it perhaps goes without saying, this was not my usual state. Which, frankly, stressed me out even more. I went to the doctor, hoping something would be revealed in my heart rate, blood tests, my balance, even? I cried in his office, so concerned there was something wrong with me. He tried not to look at me, but commented on my Velvet Underground t-shirt; Lou Reed was one of his favorite artists. The tests all came back clear, and my heart rate was normal. It’s possible you might have a stress disorder, he said. When was your last vacation?

In the moment I had to think, and eventually after some consideration and some math, the answer revealed itself to me: four and a half years. It was the last time AS had been free from work, when I went to visit her and later GD in California. Now AS and I were planning a vacation together for June 2020. How could my body possibly hold out until then given its current state? I would probably collapse, lose my mind, or both. Every trip home, every visit to friends, I brought my computer and I worked almost the whole time. A workaholic from a young age, it had finally begun to affect my health.

One night shortly after, I went to sleep. Or rather, I tried, as was the norm these days. In the midst of my tossing and turning, I had an idea: what if I went to Hawaii in time for my birthday? I had always wanted to go, I had nothing particular lined up for that week yet, and it was a safe place to travel to alone. How much would it cost? A quick Google search in the dark on my phone as I lay in bed revealed a much more affordable price than I had expected. Could this really be possible? Could I do this? “Yes,” my mother said when I got her on the phone the next day. “But you have to promise not to bring your computer.” And I started crying immediately, so relieved to have some sort of reprieve on the horizon. I don’t think I had ever taken a real vacation like that before, let alone by myself. I booked my tickets and my hotel not too long after. It was done: I was going to Hawaii. Something inside of me lightened, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Just a few more weeks.


The lightness of my own carry-on bag as I boarded the plane was not just literal, but metaphorical. I had left a great weight at home. I smiled as the Hawaiian Airlines flight video played, a woman hula dancing on a beach to indicate the exit rows, a woman and child in front of a shave ice truck to show when to put on safety masks. I quickly learned that “mahalo” meant thank you, I read books, I watched movies, neither of which I ever usually let myself do on planes because I felt I should have been working. But this time, there was nothing to work on except myself.

That night, I took myself out to dinner at Zigu, a restaurant not far from my hotel but miraculously not crawling with tourists. I ate soft spicy tofu and amberjack in a crushed peanut sauce I practically licked from the plate. Next to me, a woman from San Diego by way of Honolulu asked me what brought me to town. My birthday, I told her, and not only did she buy me a sake to celebrate, but the waitress later brought over a dish of ice cream with a candle in it. I had forgotten to blow out a candle on my actual birthday two days prior, so it was especially lovely. Two of the guys behind the sushi bar where I was sitting had lived in New York, they said between sizzling pans and grills. They didn’t miss it.

My first day was unnerving. I woke up at 5:30, jetlagged out of my mind, in time to see a magnificent sunrise, a rainbow of pastels, pinks and purples and tangerine hues blended together like cotton candy. I turned to look at my phone for a few minutes and it was gone. When I woke up to sunrises after that, I kept the phone far away from me. Around 7, I went down to the beach and ate breakfast, not quite sure what to do with myself. I read, I laid down, I watched surfers, but around 9 I felt antsy. What should I do now? I went back upstairs to put away my camera and my brain whizzed, confused, anxious. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING? I talked myself down from a ledge. The answer to this question is that you are supposed to be doing whatever you want. What do you want to do right now? I asked myself. At that moment the answer was ‘take a nap.’ So I did. I had no problem figuring out what to do or making decisions after that.

I took myself to lunch in the Kaimuki neighborhood, to the Koko Head Cafe, where I treated myself to a bowl of miso pork belly I can still taste, both sweet and salty, and a bacon-cheddar-kimchi scone to go. I stopped by Da Shop, an independent bookstore, and got a book by a Hawaiian author, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, recommended to me the day before by my Lyft driver from the airport. I visited the University of Hawaii at Manoa after that, where I was greeted by a real live rainbow while Guns ‘N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” played on the radio. A true nerd at my core, I bought a sweatshirt at the campus store before heading over to Waiola Shave Ice. There, my lychee and coconut shave ice with mochi both melts on my tongue and suppresses the heat of the day. I watch the sunset and treat myself to a dinner of spam musubi. At the hotel bar, I order a sweet, dessert-y cocktail and start talking with a Naval officer. He’s covered in tattoos--a wolf on his hand, a galaxy sleeve on his arm, and more that I can’t even count. He’s getting a pig and a chicken tattooed on each foot tomorrow, he tells me: when the Navy brings the animals on board, they keep the pigs and chickens in wooden cages so if anything happens to the boat, they’ll float. He asks what brings me to Hawaii and I tell him. Am I here alone? I am. That’s ballsy, he says. Is it? I say. Maybe I mean, it’s boss, he says. Later he tells me he was one of the sailors charged with retrieving bodies from the USS John McCain incident in Singapore. Surely something like that is ballsy, no? And I wonder, is a woman traveling alone as dangerous as carrying corpses to the shore?

The next day, Hawaiian food for breakfast at Highway Inn--sticky poi, juicy lomi salmon, salty pulled kalua pig--followed by record shopping at Hungry Ear Records, where of course I walk away with a Don Ho album, because how could you be in Honolulu and not do that? Perusal of downtown, still gentrifying with new cocktail bars dark during the day alongside a wave of homeless bodies asleep on the streets. At Tin Can Mailman, Hawaiiana from the 20th century; I get a vintage poster for my mother, a page from a 1947 Esquire pinup calendar for myself. Owning my tourist fantasy, I take myself out to the Royal Hawaiian hotel, a pink cake of a hotel dating back to 1920, for a Mai Tai, as that’s where the drink was invented. Soon, I make the acquaintance of a man who treats me to the drink, as well as a slice of fluffy pink coconut birthday cake and pizza, as well as a lovely couple from Oregon celebrating a new phase of their marriage. We follow each other on Instagram, and I fall into bed slightly toasted, but happy.

In the morning, I hike Diamond Head, a crater with high lookout points once used to protect Hawaii from invaders. The lookout point I will climb that day is 761 feet high. I’m by no means alone when I do it, as the hike receives something like 3,000 visitors per day. But I’ve walked an hour from my hotel, and I’m quite tired and hot when I arrive--’twas not the finest decision I’ve ever made. But I fill up my water bottle, a lovely German woman kindly shares some extra sunscreen with me, and I’m off to climb the crater. After a long swirling but gradual climb and something near 100 stairs, I’m at the top. This magnificent view of Waikiki, turquoise water, boats, a lighthouse, palm trees, coastline, houses, greenery for miles. And I did it myself. It’s a sentiment I’ll turn back to many times throughout my trip.

I plow into lunch at Rainbow Drive-In, so hungry after my hike I forget to taste my food. I promise myself I’ll come back and try it again. I head home and put on my bathing suit, but fall into bed instead. I wake up and actually head down to the beach this time. I see people boarding a catamaran for a sunset cruise and I notice myself thinking, “I wish I could do that.” So instead of wishing, I make myself a reservation for the next day. That night, though, after I watch the sunset, I treat myself to dinner at a place called Town, also in Kaimuki. A magnificent salad of butter lettuce and green goddess dressing and oranges and millet, cloud-like gnocchi in brown butter with roasted sunchokes, a slice of chocolate tart drizzled with olive oil, and their famous lemonade accented with parsley (which at first I wince at the thought of, but the taste was clean and refreshing). I would go back in a heartbeat, but this time I would try not to fall asleep at the table...I head home afterward and fall into bed, instead.

Saturday, a visit to the farmer’s market. I buy a dragonfruit, which is bright fuschia on the inside, that I eat with a spoon sitting on a curb while people mill around me. Later, an iced tea, some grilled shrimp on a stick--the man behind the counter gives me an extra order in exchange for a smile; this is how you know boys in Hawaii think you’re cute, I chuckle to myself. I decimate them, leaving a pile of their shells in my wake. While taking pictures of the nearby cactus garden, my sandal breaks and I head back to the hotel. After a costume change, I seek out another pair of sandals and while my visit to Inter Island Surf Shop, open since 1959 (I vow to only patronize local businesses at all times if I can help it, but especially here because Waikiki is littered with American consumerist nonsense and I did *not* come all the way to Honolulu to go to a Cheesecake Factory or a Forever 21, thank you very much). While my search fails, I make the acquaintance of Barry behind the counter, who has lived in Honolulu since 1963 and has been surfing since he was 13 years old. He talks to me about surfing in the area, how to find the best waves, how to keep my stuff safe on the beach, as well as some history of the store and surfing in Hawaii. It’s still one of my favorite parts of the trip.

I chow down at Rainbow Drive-In again, this time actually tasting the fall-off-the-bone sweet and tangy shoyu chicken with creamy mac salad and white rice; yet again, I can’t eat the whole thing, served on a paper plate inside a white cardboard box, but I desperately want to. I visit a store of some 15,000 vintage Hawaiian shirts, but even after an hour or so, I leave empty handed, and thank goodness; it was so overwhelming after a while, I just wanted to leave. I walked back home the way I came, via the Ala Wai canal, where much of the water from the mountains drains. I head to the beach, and then to my catamaran ride. I stand on the boat in my bathing suit and cotton dress shirt, my hair in a bun, and I let the wind whip past me. I watch this tangerine orb descend into the clouds and I realize how important it is that I did this thing for myself; not just the catamaran ride, but this trip, and by myself. One of the sailors asks me how I ended up here and I tell him. My eyes begin to get weepy again. I can’t believe I went without something like this for so long, where the only objective was to do whatever I wanted, to relax, to see the world around me with fresh eyes and to enjoy myself. People drink Mai Tais and play Prince on the radio and sing along. The sunset fades to black and the moon glistens across the water. The lights of Waikiki first twinkle in the distance and slowly return to view.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


When I moved to New York, I put my wide-leg jeans in the back of my closet, marrying my legs to the skinnies that were de rigeur almost 10 years ago. The wide-legs have gone in and out this last decade, and they’re back again, with everyone’s body pretending it’s 1978 all over again. I’ve periodically felt like someone’s out of date grandmother when I’ve worn them, but not today. They hung over my cowboy boots in this misty weather, paired with the grey cashmere turtleneck sweater I stole from my mother that I’ve now worn two days in a row. When I wore it out with LM she said I “looked like a goddamn cup of cocoa.” I hear that in my head every time I wear it now and I love it.

The rain hung just enough in the air to not warrant an umbrella, though many people walking in front of me today would have argued with me about that as they held their open nylon protectors upward toward the sky. I sweater-jeans-and-cowboy-bootsed my way to the main branch of the New York Public Library today, held captive in the house earlier by a phone interview. I want to go somewhere quiet where I can write, I said to myself, and moved myself past Patience and Fortitude, the library lions, up the marble staircases to the Rose Reading Room. It was silent save for the periodic shuffle of tourists’ arms moving against their puffy vests as they held their phones upward to take pictures of the really quite epic chandeliers and ceiling. I only wish they allowed coffee, or that I was crafty enough and not clumsy enough to figure out a way to bring some without spilling.

At first I am distracted by the fact that Peter Hermann, who plays Charles on TV Land’s Younger and is Mariska Hargitay’s husband, is sitting directly across from me. But, in true New York fashion, I shortly forget about him because I am too focused on myself. Later, there is a young couple--late teens, maybe-- sitting across from me--she is taking stickers out of a millennial pink book that teaches you how to identify various cacti and he is sketching her without looking at her.

The writing happens, but barely. A month ago I realized I had not had a proper vacation in four and a half years, and while I am rectifying that situation next week, I am in the unusual, regular situation of having to pluck the words from my brain rather than having them flow freely through my fingers.

There’s another group of tourists when I leave after two hours. I wonder if they’re looking at me the way I used to look at people when I visited the library: Wow, a real live New Yorker! I wish I could be her someday! But I am her now. Some days I am too lucky; other days I try to use the bathroom at the library but don't because I notice a toilet has overflowed, covering everyone’s shoes in water.

I sometimes forget what a daily commute looks like for most people--I’m often one of a few on the downward escalator when everyone else is heading upward. But I’m in midtown now, and everyone goes every direction at once. Getting off at 23rd, I’m desperate for a snack, and find my way to Foragers, an upscale grocery store, and wind up with things that don’t need to be purchased at an upscale grocery store: a banana and a cup of coffee. I spill some coffee on my shoes on the way out because of course I do.

I see Joel Meyerowitz speak at Aperture. A legendary photographer, he tells stories about making portraits in Provincetown, getting into arguments with Richard Avedon and photographing Norman Mailer. His voice is soothing, one you’d believe without question if it told you you could do anything. His hands are long and spindly. I can see bones and veins when he moves them while he speaks, these hands that have printed thousands of photos, held countless cameras, moving seamlessly over their shutters, focusing their lenses, loading their film. People line up to see him, to have him sign their books. He lives in Italy now and I didn’t even think to bring mine. I don’t know what I would say to him anyway, aside from the fact that his parents bought my first baby carriage (they were clients of my dad’s some 30--at least 31, as of this coming Sunday--years ago). A man asks me if I am a photographer and I say yes. He doesn’t feel comfortable calling himself one yet, he says.

On the way home, a man is sitting with his legs up on the subway reading a newspaper and I audibly whisper “asshole” as I walk in the other direction. Transferring to another train, there’s a woman in a grey pashmina and matching beanie with a shiny square diamond on her ring finger. She wears pearl earrings and cropped black pants and tortoiseshell glasses. Her ring looks like one I tried on a few weeks ago. Doyle was having a viewing for a jewelry auction and, always excited to ogle jewels up close, I walked in. Peering in the ring case, I saw this classic small square with a platinum band. “Would you like to try anything on?” a woman with glasses and fluffy, graying brown hair asked me. People don’t normally ask me that question when I’m perusing fine jewelry, instead ignoring me for someone who looks like they have more money (after we part ways, her colleagues do not disappoint). I was so taken aback someone asked that I said yes, I would, and tried the ring on, just to see what it felt like. I’m annoyed by the part of me that wonders this, that makes me a single woman cliche. But it almost fit aside from two small bumpers inside the band--apparently my ring finger is just a bit larger than a size 5. It was from 1920, the woman said, showing me the auction catalog, and estimated between four and six thousand dollars. A steal, I chuckle. When I show my mother a picture later, she says I should have something bigger. I disagree, I don’t want something bigger, but instead of arguing I say “we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it,” offering up the bastardized expression we have come to love.

At home, I’m too tired to use a knife and fork so I rip a chicken breast apart with my fingers. I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s yesterday and I love it there but I hate that there’s one on Delancey Street now next to a Target. I wonder what New York will look like in another nine years.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


The annual glittergasm festivities of Bushwig and the New York Burlesque Festival graced the city last month. I had the joy of being present for both with my camera.


New York Burlesque Festival

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


It’s about 9:30 on a Wednesday night and the last hints of steam are rising up out of the concrete. Fresh from a rain or just the humidity, the concrete glistens. It’s like a send-off to summer, even though technically the “end” of summer was last week, on Labor Day. But somehow, the weather was a trippy 89 degrees today, and I’m not quite sure what that means for the rest of the week or the health of the planet, but I’m trying not to think about it too much. I had the remnants of a salad around 7:30 for what I thought was dinner, but kept dreaming of a sandwich as the clock crept past 9pm.

I walked outside and saw the sidewalk, the street, felt the heat on my face, and walked to my bodega for a turkey and Swiss on whole wheat with honey dijon, though they pile on the honey dijon and even the turkey more than I was expecting. The bench outside is empty, the one that’s always filled with an elderly woman and her dog during the day, and I sit, looking into the space that’s always lit just so brightly no matter what time of day it is. I unwrap my sandwich from its tin foil as a sweaty man in expensive running sneakers and Ivy League tank top strolls past me with a duffel bag, an elderly woman with hair dyed auburn and giant silver wedges on her feet teeters past me. There’s more than one curly-coated dog.

I notice my skin beginning to glisten as I bite my way through this sandwich, sitting with my wallet and phone next to me on this black iron bench. The bread becomes moist with steam from the melted cheese, my hands greasy, drippy with honey dijon. It wasn’t quite the “healthy” sandwich I was expecting, but I could have done worse.

I’m thinking about the last time I wrote here. It’s been a while. In part because there are days when sitting in front of the computer for another moment shuts my brain down, in part because I made plans to occupy my evenings night after night after night, in part because I didn’t make time to just sit down. I notice I get into a writing mood, a reflective one where I have Real Things to Say about Life, as it were, but there were many times this summer where I pushed them away in favor of good company instead of my own.

There was the day SJT and I went to Arthur Avenue, ordering thick Italian sandwiches from Mike’s Deli, mine laden with figs; then a cannoli and coffee from Morrone, then another cannoli from Egidio. Signs in the windows as we pass hold bodies of goats and pigs I think are still looking at me, though they’ve been hanging in the window for too long for that to be remotely possible.

There was the day NE and I met up for Filthy Martinis at Cafe Cluny in the West Village, dishing about literature and sex and politics while gobbling up first one homemade vodka with tomato water tinged with olive oil and then another. We bobbled over to Corner Bistro, rolling our eyes at the bros who sadly found the place out after it used to be a hangout for the Beats so many years ago. We console ourselves and validate the shit out of each other while we bite into luscious cheeseburgers and French fries, and later ooey gooey ice cream from Ample Hills up the street in Chelsea.

I ate vegan pizza with LM on the Lower East Side. I drank Diet Cokes in the backyard of a dive bar with JS while he smoked cigarettes whose ends he left in buckets. I watched the 25th annual drag march from Tompkins Square Park during Pride then ate caramelized onion caramels from Confectionery a few doors down. I saw Leikeli47 in the vicious humidity of Prospect Park on a Friday evening and then, too hot to take the subway, I walked down the length of the park listening to Kesha. I went to Long Island Bar with SJT and AR, then to see Julia Easterlin in concert at the teeny tiny music bar The Owl, walking a few blocks down to a Japanese takeout restaurant that served $10 omakase bags 30 minutes before they closed. AR and I shoved poke and miso soup and tuna rolls in our mouths before heading over to a 1960s-ish bar in South Slope called Mama Tried. I took a cab through the New York City blackout that darkened a quarter of the city then watched a drunk Harry Potter play in total darkness save for a few very bright cell phone lights to send EH off to Houston for a surgical residency in Dallas for a year. I watched GD and HanOre present their new books at The Strand. I met HannR’s baby and drank fermented cactus juice. I celebrated nine years in New York.

I went home for 10 days and worked almost the entire time, though I did get to Bloomingdale’s once and I did see brown bunnies with little white cotton tails and mermaids and teapots shaped like flamingos. I drove up the beach road at 10:30pm on a Wednesday, my windows down to invite in the salty, whipping air and no traffic in sight. I flirted with extreme sleep deprivation and burnout. I slept. I woke up.

And now it’s almost fall. Kisses of humidity on the street will make way for warm-hued leaves. I’ll trade my cutoffs for jeans, my sandals for cowboy boots, my pashminas for first jackets then coats.

But first I’ll finish my sandwich. I’ll breathe and stand up, throw out its wax paper and tin foil wrapping, and I’ll go inside and write.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Have Some More

Our bowls of pasta arrived sometime recently, but I don’t remember because time began slowing once our broccoli rabe appetizer, accented with strips of crispy pancetta, arrived at our table.

I am with my friend NE, human glitter, a poet who brims with shine and sparkle and intellect and knows how to appreciate joy and pleasure in big and small bites. We will be having dinner at Fiaschetteria Pistoia, which I will soon learn is a sliver of Tuscan culinary heaven on Christopher Street, where a man with tattoos in the window makes fresh pasta by hand, BY HAND, spinning dough into strips that will eventually become spaghetti, pappardelle, and lord knows what else. Waiting for NE in the tiny hallway next to a kitchen cordoned off by glass, I watch as another man makes slabs of veal in a pan, tossing in generous heaps of olive oil while the cast iron sizzles the meat to a light brown. Small plates of pasta, artichokes, vegetables leave the tiny kitchen window and exit into the room decorated with exposed brick painted white. A Keith Haring poster of Rome and another for Italian ice cream dot the walls. When we sit down at a tiny gray marble table, the words “Fresh Pasta is Never Al Dente Because it Was Never Dried” float above our heads.

We rip slices of bread, offered to us in a tiny brown paper bag, into a olive oil from an equally tiny ramekin. A waiter offers us wine from a selection of empty bottles, each tagged with ‘White’ and ‘Red’ like Alice’s bottles in Wonderland are with ‘Eat Me’ or ‘Drink Me.’ We don’t, instead pouring ourselves water from a repurposed bottle etched with what look like window panes.

NE is talking when the broccoli rabe arrives, its green stalks and florets dipped deliciously in olive oil, but I don’t remember what she says because I slide a chunk of it into my mouth with a sliver of pancetta and my brain stops working, the broccoli falling apart next to the crunch of the pancetta, releasing flowers and spices onto my tongue. She stops mid-sentence, eager to “have what I’m having” as When Harry Met Sally would say, and takes a bite. We look at each other, eyes wide. Wow.

We make our way through the small plate loaded with the shiny green vegetable until there’s just a little bit left.

“Have some more,” NE says.
“You have some more!” I say back, pointing a fork at her.

We both giggle and take each other’s advice. A lone floret rests on the edge of the plate when a waiter tries to remove it, but I make him pause so I can give it to NE. A smile spreads wide across her face.

Our pasta arrives in two small bowls lined with blue trim. I slide mine toward me, ribbony pappardelle made yellow by the redness of a bolognese-style ragu. I'm careful not to “chow down,” and remember to taste. The silken pasta glides next to the chunky, meaty ragu and slowly my brain begins to stop working again. I have trouble forming sentences. I try not to speak because that means more time I’m not eating. And NE is having the same experience with her Cacio e Pepe, this hand-rolled spaghetti with pecorino and black pepper that’s tangy and creamy at the same time. I taste it and eat it with all manner of impropriety, nibbling the strands of pasta from my fork one by one.

We go back to our own dishes, but NE insists. “Have some more!”

When I hear her say it this time, I realize she is not just saying to keep indulging in Cacio e Pepe. Enjoy, she is saying. Take pleasure! Live! Taste! Be in and of your senses and this moment. The food is so good, she says I start blushing. She wants to marry every man in the restaurant, especially the one who makes the pasta. After a while we stop speaking altogether and just look at each other and shake our heads. We both feel a little drunk, despite having only water to drink. This food euphoria is something new, a buzz not unlike a strong glass of wine. The pleasures of good food shared with a friend extend beyond the stomach. We are tasting joy, and in good company.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Kings and Queens

The Guggenheim curls upward like a bowl of steps, itself a work of art just like its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright intended. Staring up from the lobby, tourists and locals dot the interior as if they were paintings themselves, walking past exhibitions on its sloping floors curated by Jenny Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, and other people I don’t remember. Some kind of pastel peach mural doubtlessly beloved by Instagrammers introduces the show, waiting in the lobby for SJT and I, but we are not here to see it. Instead, we ride this red-lined, round-walled elevator, perfectly integrated, crafted into a seam of the building to the fourth floor, where the Robert Mapplethorpe show is on view.

We wander the halls of the gallery, set aside from the rotunda and noted for its mature content, longtime fans of the artist and his muse, Patti Smith. In my favorite image from the show, the innards of a flower hang erotically near its petals, sloping and curving, covered in the finest hairs. While many images of the show feature explicit content—a man urinating into another man’s mouth, for example—I find this one the most sensual of all, startling in its intimacy and metaphor in the same way Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings are.

I had seen a few of the images in the show before, but this one was new to me. As was what SJT called “the whip picture,” which he mentioned before we arrived at it.

“I don’t know if I know that one,” I said.
“If you don’t know if you’ve seen it, you probably haven’t,” he said. He was right.

In it, Mapplethorpe stands naked, bent over away from the camera but facing it, a whip dangling from his [writer’s note: I do not know how to elegantly phrase this, so might as well just be explicit?] asshole.

While it’s been the center of many controversies since it was first on view so many decades ago, I’m curious about how Mapplethorpe envisioned his own work, made in the age before easily accessible pornography and in a time when queerness was deeply cemented in so many closets. Shot with a medium format camera, which pushes crispness into every corner of its signature square, there are no details left to the imagination. As quiet as they are in soft light and creamy black and white prints, they are also so loud with defiance as he puts into the spotlight people and situations and life forces society had previously condemned, shaking viewers to see beauty in the places they’ve been told not to look.

Sun spools in from a skylight as we walk through, imagining the parts of his life and the lives of so many others traditionally hidden from public view, ones so private he chose to publicize them. In the gift shop, a tote bag bearing his image sells for $75. I think he would be amused.


The Queens Night Market is not as difficult to get to as I thought it would be, merely a long sneeze on the 7 train that’s mercifully running on schedule that weekend. The sun is still warm in the sky when we get there around 6pm. We follow the music once we enter Flushing Meadows, and the coterie of vendors are abuzz with bodies. We’ve been meaning to go for the last two years, always missing it because of the symphony of summer plans that arrive once New York puts away its snow boots and sweaters for good. We resolve to take turns choosing what we want to eat, striving to always try something we can’t easily get in the city or at some other kind of food festival. Bengali-New York-inspired jhal muri—crisp, crunchy rice with cumin/turmeric chickpeas— spam musubi, Filipino palabok—noodles with shrimp bisque, baby shrimp, jammy eggs, and a lemon wedge—Iranian eggplant dip mirza ghamesi, Puerto Rican pasteles with pork stew, fluffy pandan cakes, and Portuguese pastéis de nata, a warm, petite creme brûlée surrounded by a croissant-like pastry that burns my mouth but oozes so much creaminess with crispy, buttery edges that I don’t even care. And all at about $5 each. Twilight sets in as we leave, having consumed the perfect amount of food to sit comfortably on the train and swim in the euphoria of having eaten well in an exciting new place, surrounded by people equally excited to be there, far removed from the assholes who go to Smorgasburg.

Another long sneeze later, we’re back in Manhattan, at a wine bar called Amelie, a grapefruit-forward Cote du Gascogne for SJT and a blissful peach/pear-noted Albarino for myself. My feet burn blissfully with the ache of a day spent walking and standing, legs taking me to see one beautiful New York moment after another.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


I’ve just finished watching Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill, eyes inching close to sleep, when T texts me. He’s visiting from Lancaster, PA and schleps up to my apartment from Brooklyn, arriving at something like 11:30pm because our friend P, who he’s staying with, isn’t out of work until something like 1am. So we catch up and we drink whiskey or bourbon, I forget which and it doesn’t really matter. He got married last year and he likes it, that it’s pretty much the same as living together. He’s happy, and I’m happy he’s happy. P arrives around 1:30 and he has a drink with us. We laugh and bullshit. P says he is starting to act again, and there’s a sparkle in his eyes that wasn’t there a few months ago, a few months ago when he said he didn’t want to act anymore, that he just wanted to teach at a local college. I felt then that he was lying to me and himself. He seems to have realized at that, too. Soon we all finish our drinks and they leave, around 2:30am. They invite me to come out but the heavy weight of my eyelids makes me stay put. I feel like the mother hen, giving the children whiskey then sending them out into the night. If that’s what mother hens do. I’m not quite sure.

A&C are visiting from Maryland and I suggest dinner at Pocha 32, up stairs off a busy street in Koreatown, behind a door covered in stickers and drawings. Inside, it’s covered in green fishnet that’s been decorated with empty wine bottle wrappers. We drink a soju cocktail from a giant, hollowed out watermelon and they tell me about the house they just bought. We eat squid with pork belly and we laugh and they ask me how dating is going and I try not to answer. They look at me, trying not to make the facial expression equivalent of patting me on the head. Later, I take them for dessert at a crowded food court next door. We eat a chocolate chip oreo cookie and another dessert that looks like a potted plant. Toward the end of our desserting, we’re muscled away from our table by a giant group of nerdy teens in navy hoodies. “I think one of them just called me ‘bro,’” A says.

After dinner with them, I meet up with HanOre for margaritas. She tells me about moving in with her boyfriend, about their new apartment, about her new borough, about her new book coming out so soon. She eats nachos and I really shouldn’t because I just had a giant meal but I sneak one or two. I’m lonely, I tell her. How do I feel less of that? She cries a little then we laugh and go to another bar where some sport plays on the televisions. We laugh more. A couple in their forties makes out at the bar behind us. I drink a cider, peeling off the label slowly.

A few weeks later, for Hannah’s birthday, we go out to Quality Eats and eat roast chicken and complain about men. We walk to The Surrey on Madison Avenue for birthday cocktails and dessert. We order molten chocolate cake, which deliciously oozes when we slide our spoons through it, but they also give us a rhubarb vacherin and two glasses of champagne on the house. We cross our legs and lean backward on the black leather barstools and the bartenders call us “miss” and tell Hannah happy birthday. Going to a high-end Upper East Side hotel cocktail bar on a Tuesday night puts a swing in your step and makes you believe anything is possible.

In Woodstock for Stephen’s birthday, the sky is grey and the air smells of clean rain. There’s a babbling stream alongside the road up to our house, and when we arrive and there are yellow flowers outside of it. Inside there’s a curling wooden staircase. We try on wigs and laugh and drink too many bubbly drinks. I get food poisoning and wake up sweating, but a few hours later I’m a little better and buy a vintage dress covered in smiley faces. At dinner I lose at Scrabble even though I have the letters to spell ‘bidet.’ My stomach turns in so much pain I leave the table to cry, but in the morning I wake up and I’m better and I first pick at then dive into what’s left of Stephen’s rainbow birthday cake from the night before.

The following week, I have a tame weekend aside from Saturday night, when I go to a drag show at a private club housed in a townhouse on 14th Street. Before it starts, however, a man downstairs tells me there’s a party on the third floor with food and I crash it, snacking on fish and chips and sliders while drinking a dirty martini. It's a press party so as a journalist I fit in. I talk to a man from TV Guide, a woman who runs a film festival in Milford, PA, and a man in a gold and black suit who’s a former professional wrestler now going to mortuary school and writing a pilot. Tiny cupcakes appear when I am talking to the former wrestler and I eat one. He declines, saying he’s trying to get abs, but then indulges anyway. I am a bad influence, he says, and I laugh.

At the drag show, gorgeous, hilarious people wear all many of neon and wigs and mustaches and nails and glitter glitter glitter and strip or lipsync or both. Later, a wig tycoon and his friend in a black leather jacket whisk me uptown to a small cocktail party on 57th Street. I drink a warmish glass of white wine and nibble on shrimp cocktail. The friend and I disappear to find cigarettes, with laughter and whiskey in between eventual success. Somehow, it becomes 2:30 in the morning and the leather jacket and I go to another gay bar, Townhouse. Drag queens dot the corners of the bar and smile wanly. Soon there is more whiskey and vodka and somehow a bill happens and we leave. It’s around 3:30am when I get home. I untangle myself from my jewelry and slide some peanut butter onto a piece of bread, eat, and fall asleep.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Days and Nights

“I need something to do tonight,” I say to myself. And I scroll through different event listings and even Instagram until I find something, a celebration of the life of Sweetie, a legendary New York drag queen who passed away two years ago from cancer. I had the opportunity to see her perform twice, once when she hosted the New York Burlesque Festival in 2010 at the B.B. King’s in Times Square that has since closed, and the second time at Dollypalooza, a Dolly Parton-themed drag and burlesque show at Le Poisson Rouge. She lip synced Dolly’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” in spangles and a giant blonde wig so powerfully I thought she was singing it herself. At Bedlam on Avenue C, her friends gather together to perform in her honor, then the drag documentary Charmed Life, made in 2006, is aired. During the performances, I sip a dirty martini and talk to a woman who used to work at Lee’s Mardi Gras, the place in the city where drag queens used to get their costumes. A loud blonde woman hands out cheeseballs from a giant plastic container. People laugh and smile and remember. I wanted to learn about an important part of drag history, but I feel like I’m intruding on other people’s memories instead. There’s a line there I didn’t know existed.

G and I have breakfast at Russ and Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side. She’s in town for a few days for work and I’ve caught her just before her flight. We eat sandwiches on tiny bagels and talk about broken hearts, drinking coffee with almond milk. “How do you even meet people?” she asks me. I don’t know, I say.

The next night, Mag and I go see an artist’s new short film. She’s the only live actor in a film full of male mannequins and the scenes where she lets them dominate the frame and the conversation are hard to watch. Afterward, we sip tamarind margaritas and eat guacamole in a Soho bar filled with people just getting off work. I wonder what that experience is like, “just getting off work.” Having co-workers. Happy hour. Riding the train home slightly buzzed at 8:30 pm. Mag and I part ways as the cold March wind that I wish would just turn into summer heat shoves me along Grand Street, past the artist’s salon where I met the first man I loved and to the street corner where I once saw Fran Lebowitz walk past me in her signature navy blazer and jeans, glimpsing at me nonplussed. My jacket is not warm enough, and I tuck the lapels around my face. It’s my mother’s from the 70s, a nutmeg color. In her 30 years of owning it before I commandeered it she managed to keep the lining in tact and the pockets unfucked with. Just 10 years in my hands and it’s just holding on, the shiny, topaz-colored lining clinging to its seams for dear life. I hold it closer just the same.

It’s a Saturday, so I make sure I don’t work this time. I want to do something cultural, so I take myself to the Museum of the Moving Image and I wander around reading everything the way I would if I wasn’t there with anyone else, taking my own sweet time at every movie poster and ticket stub I want to. I take extra-long pauses at the busts of Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams’s faces used to create makeup for Little Big Man and Mrs. Doubtfire respectively. In the Jim Henson exhibition, I visit with Kermit and Big Bird, who both, delightfully, look just as I expected them to. My child heart waves hello to them behind plexiglass, is so happy to see them, to know that even something so simple as a puppet can still bring joy to my heart decades after I saw it for the first time. There’s a hilarious video of Kermit asking some cows if they’ve heard of Los Angeles. I walk a length of Steinway Street and explore Astoria, stopping for a banana and cheese empanada, sweet in its crispy baked shell, at Mama’s Empanadas, then all the way down to Duzan for a plate of chicken shawarma and hummus. My legs carry me back to the train, back home, where I sit for a few minutes before I meet AR in Williamsburg at a funky pan-Asian diner called Snacky. We share sake and dumplings and two rice bowls--two because I ate half of his after saying I wasn’t hungry and then we shared another one. Afterward, we go and drink bourbon and I play wingman for him at one of our favorite bars, Rocka Rolla, where there are Kiss album covers at the entrance and 70s-style beer signs everywhere else. We are both successful.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...For Two Years!

So we’re a little late on this, but here we are, at two years. It’s been a joy meeting and spending time with such wonderful humans. I’m excited to continue the project moving forward, but I’m not quite sure what shape it will take next. So much changes in a few months, a few years, and I think projects need to change, too, to morph into their next evolution. Maybe more stops around my beloved city, which I haven’t been exploring about and writing about as much as I would have liked. Maybe more visits with people who make this city, or their cities, great. And maybe more pets ;) I want to keep it going, but I want to breathe, too. I want to remember why I moved to New York as much as I want to document it. Often, for me, the two coincide. But sometimes just living in your adopted space, not working, just seeing, allows for you to reconnect with it and with yourself.

This past weekend, for the first time in a very long time, I was able to traverse the city for an entire day with my friend Andrew. Eggs and tea and French toast in Hell’s Kitchen; jaunts through Chelsea’s galleries and probably far too much time amongst the zines at Printed Matter; following first the pangs in our stomachs to dim sum in Nolita, then our brains to McNally Jackson in SoHo, then our stomachs again to Caffe Roma for Italian cheesecake and ricotta pastries and more tea. That was the life I wanted to have living here, the life I wanted to write about and share. I don’t want to lose sight of that, so perhaps I’ll incorporate it into my work here somehow along with my documentation of New York’s loveliest inhabitants, furry and not.

What would you like to see more of? What makes you excited to open this TinyLetter every week? Where should I go that I haven’t been? Who should I meet that I haven’t met? Living here almost nine years, there’s so much of New York I have yet to explore, so many people I don’t know. I want to keep seeing, keep experiencing. I welcome your suggestions.

Something I have learned over the years is that everyone is busy. Nobody has time for anything. But we make time for the things that are important to us, the people who are important to us. Bestowing on a person or a place the small slivers of time that we have is the greatest gift. I hope to continue sharing these slivers that have been offered to me with you, to pass on the joy that comes with being allowed into someone’s life or someplace’s existence even for a few hours. I appreciate your continued readership, and look forward to the next phase of this project. In the meantime, here are some previously unseen images from the last six months. I hope you enjoy.

All my love,
Miss M

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