paradise island, or: the time i was sexually assaulted by the cfo of the miss universe organization

When I was 18, I went to the Bahamas with my family and my sister’s best friend. We stayed at Atlantis Paradise Island, a resort near Nassau. It was mid-August 2009, and we were surprised to find that the Miss Universe pageant was taking place a few days after our arrival. Mostly, we only glimpsed the contestants while they did PR before the main event—posing with the on-site dolphins, etc.—but the hotel was crawling with Miss Universe’s senior staff. These included Donald Trump, the company’s owner. He would later open the awards ceremony before giving it away to the show’s co-host…Billy Bush. (I’m not kidding; I just found this out, and I’m hella laughin’.)

One of these upper staff members was (and is) the VP of finance and CFO of The Miss Universe Organization. His name was (and is) Larry Parra. He introduced himself after sitting beside me at the sports bar just off the casino late one night, where I sat, bored, with a gin and tonic, waiting for my sisters and our friend to come back from wherever they were. He led by saying that Trump might have been the owner of Miss Universe, but in fact it was he, Larry, who ran everything at the pageant. He immediately started boasting about his position by way of details about the contestants’ bodies as a way of trying to make me feel special and chosen—like, I didn’t look like them, but he was still paying attention to me!

That didn’t work out so well for him initially. I made it clear that I was neither into the idea of Miss Universe nor him—as an incumbent college sophomore, I found both highly gross. I think I literally turned my shoulder and told him to fuck off—that I didn’t want anything to do with a person who would never see me as one.

“I give these girls scholarships! I have a daughter!” he cried. “How could I have a daughter and be a bad guy? It’s about their futures! These girls use their bodies to get a future! I want only the best for them!” In these staid terms, he talked about his daughter, whom he said was about five years older than me, between his gulps about the contestants’ fitness, which was extremely fucking weird. (I hope she is doing amazingly in this world, if she is real.)

I was wasted—and sane—so of course it seemed funny. Like: Is this is what cartoonish rich people are like? Just so, so absent from how anything resembling rationality actually goes? Saying that they have children as an excuse to hit on drunk teenagers whom they know are far from home? It was like he couldn’t hear himself. It was like he wasn’t on a business trip.

It felt like our entire conversation lasted 15 minutes. I guess he anticipated that teenagers are lightweights: He ordered me a drink from the bartender without consulting me, handing it over before I had finished the one before. I wasn’t used to drinking after already having been drinking. I blacked out.

Sometime later, I came to with Larry thrashing around vertically on top of me on a sofa in the hotel room I shared with my sisters. I don’t know how long I was unconscious prior. I do know that when I woke up, I wasn’t really awake—just immobile and Frankenstein-esque, with this 60-something-year-old making fucked, heavy darting movements all over me. I clumsily pushed him off, then kicked him. He yelped, looking shy and caught. The first/only thought I registered was MY FACE IS WET. I tried to sit up, so he left—just out the door, like he thought it was very bad news that I was suddenly conscious. The next morning, I woke up to a magnum of champagne delivered to the room by way of silent apology.

I let him take this picture of me that next afternoon—I’m on the right.


My sister’s friend asked him to photograph us as he passed us in a lobby; she asked me to come with her as she tried to pick up cute dudes, and I wanted to feel a little more normal/eligible/fine/blameless than I had all terrible day. She and my sisters knew what had happened, which still makes me sick to think about. They woke up and laughed after he left—I felt like a mutant for “hooking up” with a sexagenarian dude in terrible strappy sandals and a worse curly mushroom cut. “Hooking up” is what I thought the verb was for what had happened that night, not knowing otherwise, despite how shitty it felt—it was made to be my choice. Do you know what that’s like? When you’re a YOU, and someone insists that you chose a Donald Trump or an, actually, I run the women’s grade-A meatshow behind the scenes NON-TRUMP? Jesus. Larry still looked embarrassed as the flash went off. He and I didn’t say anything besides hello.

What no one says outright about sexual assault—until this election, when an entire party has made a point and a joy of saying it triumphantly—is that it’s usually not a big deal to anyone else but you, even if they care about you. This is out of the instruction of authorities—rich people, older people, people who have things that you/they presume you lack. Still, in order to work with your people, you can sometimes feel like you have to act like sexual assault isn’t a big deal when it happens to you, and I behaved the exact same way about the assaults of others when I was younger. Note that my (older) friend is joking about it in the caption, and I’m desperately trying to correct for it, but still following her lead. I bet someone else followed my pursuant one—my little sister was on that trip, too. I hate how casual I’ve been about this.

When I think about people “coming out of the woodwork” to tell what has happened to them, and how that’s “suspect,” given that they hadn’t spoken up before…that isn’t how this works, this “why now?” defense. The answer to “why now?” is because now beckons it. I’ve been reading the news for a whole obsessive election cycle—all day, every day, “Miss Universe”—before it occurred to me just this morning that this is also a part of my life that really happened. I am so far away from it, just as I was when it was happening. This election yoked it up from where it waited, quietly osmosing into the rest of me. Reading the news reminded me of my assault insistently until it was right here.

Some people don’t have the luxury of forgetting—or of letting it seep into their whole without altogether realizing it, as I have (among a similar lot of things, the re-realization of which is a fun side effect of caring about the presidency this year if you are not male, not white, or neither). I respect equally the people who have decided that assault “isn’t a big deal” almost to the point of not knowing it anymore, and the ones who don’t want anyone else to know that it does, in fact, matter to them, and the ones who let everyone know, nationally, heroically. What a risk. Being on vacation, on a plane, doing business, an employee, a teenager, a sister, a daughter, a wife, your own person. What a risk.


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for keep’s sake

Hey, fastballers. What’s your world looking like? My current zone: I’m lamping with my two foster tyke-kittens, both named Lorenzo ’cause they’re identical. Who has the time to suss out who is whom?


Another Renzo-based impossibility, aside from identifying them: getting two of them to pose illustratively in one photo.


What I can identify: One’s frenetic and loyal, and one’s very soft and looks at you with regal evenness no matter what you’re up to. If you want a perfect Renzo or two and are proximal to NYC: Hit me on my private car phone, or send a note to

Today, I’m working on pieces about (a) opioid regulation and addiction treatment, (b) the often-masculine conflation of violence and virtue, plus a proposal for my next book, which is about how disparate economic classes become experiential mysteries to one another. Who says this ol’ party-bod doesn’t know how to rage her hair right on down? “Keep it light,” I always say. Given this general attitude of mine, I bet you are downright shocked that the above portrait of my bedroom is unequipped with one of those “Don’t worry, be happy” fish plaques. “Keep it light…and keep ’em guessing,” quoth this international woman of ebullient mysteré.

Oh! Today, I realized that keep is the warmest word. It came to light that, unaware, I’ve been calling Jesse “Keep” as a pet name for some time. This seems to supersede even “you’re my favorite animal” as a heart-based encomium. Keep’s become someone and what I hope to do with them—a direct object and active verb, all at once.

Borf! ENOUGHA THAT HEART-SLOP. Here’s a Must List/How It’s Going hybrid for you. I once cross-bred irises—starting out with these Blue Oceans from 1939 and introducing stamens from other iris varieties, etc. to them—so I know what I’m doing, what with this mixing of strains.

(How to invent an iris of your own: “It’s important to “emasculate” the pollinated mother plant by pulling off its stamens, otherwise it could self-pollinate, resulting in seeds that are not the intended genetic mix.” Maybe the aforementioned masculinity piece (b) that I’m revising will benefit from this gendered-ass floral acumen, too.)

OK. Here’s what I really like—what I’m so glad of—plus what I’m getting up to.

1. I’m personally delivering Action, my recently published nonfiction TOME, to you on my first book tour, which commences in like two days.


I’ve got felicitous merch in the form of these fucking incredible condoms (!) and I might try to smuggle the Renzos onto the plane(s). The dates:

🌦 7/22, 7 PM, Books, Inc., Berkeley, CA
🍜 7/23, 4 PM, Book Soup, Los Angeles, CA, w/ Crissy Milazzo and Natasha Young
🏸 7/26, 7 PM, Women & Children First, Chicago, IL, w/ Diamond Sharp and Ernest Wilkins
🎟 7/29, 7 PM, Head House Books (@headhousebooks), Philadelphia, PA, w/ special guests

And another date in Toronto, on 8/3 at Type Books. Anne T. Donahue will interview me because I’m pretty lucky. I’ll let you know about the time—keep watch. And please come say hi how are you like your name is Daniel Johnston.

hi how.jpg

2. Unbought and Unbossed, Shirley Chisholm’s autobiography.

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Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to hold a seat in Congress and the first woman ever to run for the Democratic primary. She is a certified don, and one who also wrote perfect, blunt sentences about how to run campaigns and also a life entire. Here are some exemplars, which coincided with a physically but not psychically debilitating surgery on a “massive tumor.” She discovered it just as her campaign to become Congresswoman really alit, but kept right on at her mission:

Soon after the primary, before the operation, a woman rang my doorbell, and when I answered it she pushed an envelope into my hand. “This is the first, Chisholm,” she said. There was $9.69 in the envelope, and I learned that she had collected it from a group of people on welfare at a bingo party. I sat down and cried. After she left, I told Conrad [her husband], “If I ever had any doubts, I don’t now.” My campaign was financed that way, and out of my own pocket.

Shirley Chisholm knew how to go about the world properly: with love translated into pragmatism. If you need a break from the noxious political palaver bearing down on us at current, this book is pretty restorative/galvanizing.

3. “Joanne the Scammer In: Stole Mink.

I made a playlist based on an imagined score for my favorite grifter’s imagined first feature film. It has Frankie Knuckles, Wyldlife (a scuzzy band from my scuzzy home state of New Jersey), Sean-A-Paul, and Kim Jung Mi (a lucid-voiced, Nico-ish 1970s psych singer out of South Korea—how she sounds on “Haenim” is saudade defined, albeit on a different continent, etymologically). Listen at the link above.

4. This interview with The Rumpus is my favorite that I’ve gotten to do yet.

That’s about it, lip kits.

Yours in light and in guessing, and definitely for keeps,


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ACTION is in the world

action cover

I’m happy to say that my first book of nonfiction, Action: A Book About Sex, was published by Grand Central last week. It’s a hybrid of memoir, essays, advice, and practical handbook which includes all kinds of asides, comics by Annie Mok and Esme Blegvad, and an old cheesecake photo of me clad only in 100 McDonald’s dollar-menu burgers. Here’s some of the press for Action so far:

“Spiegel is a literary stylist whose writing betrays an infectious sense of life’s possibilities…It’s a common enough idea that you have to learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else, but that philosophy is rarely articulated with as much practicality and generosity as she pulls off here.”—The Guardian

Action is a sex advice book for a new, progressive generation…Action offers an idea of the next frontier of sexual liberation: Ensuring that all that sex is not only safe and consensual, but good.” —Slate

“We could use resources like this book in the hope of promoting more open, informed sexual futures for everyone…This book sends a valuable message from those just starting out to those who’ve seen it all.”—The Huffington Post

“Spiegel charms with frank, empowering advice on embracing one’s sexuality without apology…This should be required reading for anyone even considering having sex for the first time.”―Publishers Weekly

I feel very lucky. Here are some interviews with Frank151 (I discuss Sun Ra, oysters and capitalism) and FLARE (we get into Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts, masculinity, and Life in Hell), too. Thanks for hanging, and I hope you like the hell out of my book.

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guilt by (de)association

The other night, I was asked to give a Drunk TED Talk about “guilty pleasures,” and so I sat cross-legged on the stage floor and spewed this unlikely American aria about Olive Garden’s “Buy One, Take One” promotion, secondhand happiness, “[activating] relationship-based concepts,” and everyone’s favorite TV family, the Simpsons. Here it is, if you get off on any of those.

I disagree with the idea that there’s “no such thing as a guilty pleasure.” My brain-arrangement is such that everything I enjoy carries some degree of guilt along with it, so I know that there is such a thing, which I otherwise understand as “all things.” Thankfully, this renders “guilty pleasures,” in my head, a dialectic—all things are, so nothing is. The tension lies, for me, in deciding what I will allow myself to consider “guilty,” and there’s a very simple litmus test to determine where any isolated pleasure will fall: Am I alone when I am doing it?

I am elated when I’m able to mutually enthuse about a given something—anything—with someone—anyone. That’s probably because I spent so much of my life alone, in a family awash with substance-abuse problems—a category of people not known for their skills in open expression—in a meathead New Jersey town where nearly all of my peers adopted an exaggerated fake-O Italian Super Mario accent as a stab at social currency. It’s-a-me, isolation! The internet existed when I was an adolescent, but I didn’t like it or see how I could use it to find people to whom I could relate. The things I liked were appreciated in solitude.

When there’s no one around to co-sign a pleasure for me, I have no sounding board as to whether what I’m doing is well and sublimely fucked, and so the chosen activity becomes, in tandem, both guiltier and more pleasurable—the thought sounds like, If I like it, how could it be right? My guess is that, on some level, I intentionally design it this way. The things I feel most sated by, which is to say most internally conflicted about, are the ones that, as I confessed to a beloved friend once, “I can never tell to anyone, or they’ll think I’m deranged.”

She disagreed, so I bit back my worry and spewed them her way. Upon hearing their sleazy details, my friend comforted me, saying: “These are like the esoteric character-exposition points relayed by a movie heroine that were written to order to make the audience love her more.” Let’s hope she was right, but I highly doubt it.

I still don’t like spending much time on the internet, except in the service of the trained-animal behavior that allows me to exercise the built-in predilection for lonesomeness that I learned in earlier years. Over the past 10 years, when I haven’t been able to sleep—if it’s really dire insomnia—I go online and read fast-food industry publications and promotional menus. Alternatively, I’ll trawl The Simpsons–centric memorabilia forums that went dormant around 2013 in search of personal clues embedded in the past posts of avid collectors. Do you see why I couldn’t conceive of sharing these very non-cinematic biographical blights with someone? I have many memories of slamming my laptop closed when a sleeping partner lying parallel to me stirred, murmuring, “Whuh time is it?” at 4 AM. I was glad of the fact that they probably assumed I was cruising pornography. That was far better than the truth, in my head.

Still, the attitude I have toward these habits is somewhat fetishistic—plus a surrogate means of human connection—so I get how someone might confuse the two. Thinking about the satisfaction I take in two distinctly American tastes—food and The Simpsons—as enjoyed with several layers of remove between the actual articles and the ways I chose to like them, I realize that they confound my idea that I am constructing a distance between what I took pleasure in and the rest of the population’s idea of a good time. 

Let’s start with the whole fast-food deal. I’ll walk you through my typical routine when I’m “indulging” this urge. First, I usually hit up QSR Magazine’s website, my portal to the rest of the bingeing process. QSR stands for “quick-service review.” It’s a trade journal for franchisees and other industry figures in the fast-casual and chain restaurant businesses. Its headlines read, “Dunkin’ Donuts Bring Back White Cheddar Twist,” and, “Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Grills Up Midnight Moonshine Burger.” I click on every one, taking in nearly identical insights from CEOs and executive chefs like the Dunks’ Jeff Miller, who had this to say about the reintroduction of his cheese bread: “The White Cheddar Bagel Twist adds an exciting flavor to our bagel menu, and is another way for fans to enjoy a freshly-baked bagel.” I have never eaten a White Cheddar Bagel Twist, but I’m happy the fans are happy.

On QSR, I also learn that Olive Garden’s “Buy One, Take One” promotion is back, so I go to the restaurant chain’s website to find out more. “Gather your family for dinner tonight and tomorrow,” Olive Garden instructs me.  I click a button that prompts me to “Explore Choices,” which I am already doing in a more critical, self-questioning sense about this decision re: how to spend my life on this planet, but I digress. I review the options the families will gather around—fettuccine alfredo, something called sausage-stuffed giant rigatoni—and I feel somehow fuller. I’m imagining the two-day-dinner stretch of others by way of a corporate website, and when I’m here? I’m family, even if I’m alone, or, if not alone, with one hand clasped around the top of my laptop, its muscles tensed and at the ready to clap it closed should a person I love wake up, and the other hand navigating to

A study titled, in part, “Comfort Food Fulfills the Need to Belong,” by Jordan D. Troisi, a psychologist at SUNY Buffalo, asserts that “comfort foods are associated with relationships and alleviate loneliness. A series of experiments [found that] consumption of comfort foods automatically activates relationship-related concepts.” So why am I reading instead of eating? That illustrates another point of connection with my fellow Americans in this otherwise lonely compulsion: As Michael Pollen wrote in his famous 2004 essay, “Our National Eating Disorder,” “Asked what comes to mind upon hearing the phrase “chocolate cake,” Americans were […] apt to say ‘guilt,’ while the French said ‘celebration’ […] Compared with the French, we’re much more likely to choose foods for reasons of health, and yet the French, more apt to choose on the basis of pleasure, are the healthier people.”

We still eat, though, or find a way around eating, as I have, to get close. (I want to note here that I don’t have any pronounced aversion to fast food—this is just what I do, and why I suspect that I do it.) As the Simpson family put it during an episode about rich food, as they danced around their matriarch in a conga line: “You don’t win friends with sal-AD!”

That brings me to my second guilty pleasure. Another substitution is at the heart of my sleuthing through comment threads on Simpsons paraphernalia enthusiast sites as I try to become an ersatz biographer of the people looking for the Blinky Bart doll, the rarest Simpsons collectible on Earth, or complete their World of Springfield sets. I tripped over the Simpsons Collector Sector, my preferred drugstore of choice, one night as I hunted for a Life in Hell T-shirt to showcase my ardor for Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s first comic strip. Immediately, my attention was vacuumed up instead by the emotional candor of the people on this community meant for buying, selling, and trading collectibles.

Here’s a 2012 post by Simpsonssuperfan: 

Recently my family has asked me to sell the entire collection on Ebay due to downsizing their house and me soon to go off to college. I have tried but every time I start going through everything I can’t bring myself to part with it. My biggest fear is to sell it but then regret it as due to it is part of my childhood. Does anyone have advice who have been through a similiar situation?

Kermy812 responds:

I still have quite a basement warehouse from the “everything” days. The past few years, I’ve been so busy with a brother & mom with mental illness, I just can’t seem find time or patience to sort through it all too. (Don’t get me started)

I get the “stink eye” from the wife every once and while to clear out the basement too. Just can’t do it yet. The stuff that I focus on, I keep in the upstairs office, where it is not out of control (like the basement).

Simpsonsuperfan responds with, “Thanks for the advice man I appreciate it.”

These people are looking for others who understand, and, in my hands-off way, I think I do. “Marriage,” I search. “Mother.” I read the posts that these words turn up, then work my way backward through the commenters’ accounts, trying to determine the shape of their lives.

Please note that, in doing this, I am not actually watching The Simpsons, and nor are the targets of my voyeurism: These people found their own emotional Plexiglass through which to watch what was, for very many years—the years in which I grew up—the most popular show in America. The people on the Simpsons Collector Sector don’t seem guilty about the lens through which they’ve chosen to view The Simpsons, but I still feel a strange camaraderie with them: We are trying to make our love for an eminently and widely loved thing presentational.

It feels slightly goofy to approach a show whose lead character’s catchphrase is “D’oh!” from an analytical standpoint, but, on the show, the Simpsons live in Springfield, an American everytown—as you likely know, the name of their city was chosen for reasons of relatability, because every state in the U.S. has a Springfield. Everyone likes this show. I have a pair of knockoff Jeremy Scott denim shorts printed with the face of bart simpson—I call the the friend-makers, because invariably, if I wear them to a club, especially outside of New York, they live up to that name—once, in Venice Beach, they earned me the only catcall I can remember ever enjoying in earnest: “I want to eat your shorts!! EVERYONE likes this show.

The people on the Simpsons Collector Sector forum reflect a similar universality: They worry about families, spouses, and childhood, and they celebrate the same, as we all do. My favorite post is by a guy who calls himself Cletus, after the hick Simpsons character with a Southern drawl, who has like a million kids: In 2007, he started a thread called, “I’m Having a Boy! Now With Pics!” and I’d like to show you some of it. 


It’s official, my wife is pregnant with our first child. We just went to our first doctor’s appointment this morning. Her due date is May 8th. They did an ultrasound and it was amazing to see the baby’s heart beating (at only 8 weeks old!)

I couldn’t be more excited! We’ve both been looking forward to this for a very long time, but we decided to put starting a family on hold while we finished school. Now the time has come. So I’ve got a little Simpsons Fan in the making and I just wanted to share it with one of my favorite groups of people!

Tomorrow we are flying out to Salt Lake City to see my wife’s family, and tell her parents in person. I went nuts (as my wife thinks it) and bought a bottle of Dom Perignon (the fancy stuff) to celebrate with my family when we see them next week!

Eight people post thrilled, congratulatory responses. Dathrill writes, “yahooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! kids rule!”

Red the Trucker writes, “Congrats Cletus! Any chance of a Simpsons middle name?” Reading this, I was weirdly touched that he respected the gravity of the situation enough not to suggest a first name.

Cletus again:

Originally my wife didn’t want to know the gender of the baby before-hand and I did. But she heard from a friend at work, that they asked the doctor to write it down and they wrapped it up, then opened it on Christmas morning. My wife liked this idea, so that’s what we did.

We opened the doctor’s note yesterday morning and we’re having a baby boy! He’s going to be named Brian Donald, after our fathers.

GusBanks writes, Congrats on soon-to-be Brian! Mother’s Day is May 11th, so your wife is getting her present early. Get your sleep now while you still can

Ketriana writes, Congratulation! What changes await you, or at least so I have heard.

A few weeks later, Cletus comes back:

We’re coming down to the wire and I won’t have much of a chance to post after a couple of weeks, so I wanted to get in another update. The baby is breech right now, so the doctor has scheduled a c-section for April 28th. That means that in less than a fortnight the baby will be here. The wife and baby are both doing fine and since it’s not an emergency c-section we have little to worry about. I’ll post pictures once he’s here, until then I’m just counting down the last (and frightening) two weeks!

GusBanks again: Hang in there, Cletus. Can’t wait to meet Brian.

Amidst other messages of support, HomerSapien writes, Anybody have any star-shaped pajamas and a pacifier we can send Cletus to make the kid look like Maggie?

Finally, on April 30, 2008, this from Cletus:

Baby Brian arrived on April 28th at 8:11am. He weighed 7 pounds 9 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. Both baby and mother are doing well. We will be bringing him home on Friday! Here are a couple of pics.

In the pictures, which I felt a little too skeevy to post here (go fucking figure, given the rest of this), a smiling woman in a hospital bed gently hugs a red infant to her breast. She isn’t wearing a shirt, but a dotted blanket is drawn up to her shoulders under Brian Donald. There are tubes in her arm, but she is radiant with joy to see this lilguy enter the world, so you don’t see them unless you really look, like I am really looking. The forum exploded with love and support. I think I cried the first time I read it.

My guilty pleasures, about which I’ve never told anyone, save for a handful of people, and which are always expressed alone, are as much about feeling kindred to the world as they are about concealing something from it. They are a way to experience the warmth of provision and love and family, in my fucked, strained way. A way to, as the psychologists at SUNY Buffalo wrote, “alleviate loneliness” and “activate relationship-based concepts.”

I have to revise the idea I initially brought to this topic: Even in my most solitary guilty pleasures, I am trying to find communion. Reading internet fast-food coupons and snooping through long-forgotten birth announcements from Cletus’s brood fulfills a hunger I couldn’t quell by myself. I don’t think I can feel so much guilt about that.

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the best, part i

(1) New song:

It’s Mitski! Of course it’s Mitski. She’s the truth and the future. The title of her forthcoming record, Puberty 2, is Lil Wayne meets sheer being-that-jerk-lovely-asshole-who-can’t-help-being-brashly-perfect-and-gross-and-gorgeous, in that Jenny Zhangish way. And when the guitar hailstorm precipitates all over this song a minute and a half in, or something, I believe it even more.

(2) Brand of lip plumper:

Too Faced Lip Injection. It makes every cigarette a menthol, too.

(3) Token of affection to bring to a party (especially if you don’t know the host):

Eleven donuts, minus the one that you ate prior and replaced with a fifth of tequila nestled in its sheer paper. Donut array should be: (2) jelly, powdered and sugar, (2) frosted with sprinkles, any variety, even though these suck; it’s just that they read “donut” so insistently (2) glazed cake—acceptable flavors include blueberry, sour cream, and strawberry, but one should be chocolate (2) glazed normal-ass, (1) toasted coconut, (1) maple, (1) cruller, and (1) whatever you want, as replaced by tequila. Congratulations: You are now the closest friend in the world to every person at that party who got to eat at least a half of the exact donut they wanted, plus, you get to figure out whom you like based on their choices (sour cream, we will more than likely make out later). This is especially true if you arrive at 11:30 or after, when people have already been doing whatever they’re doing that would cause them to extra-bug over a donut.

(4) Token of affection to bring to an at-home hang:

A dozen bagels—each with a fresh deli flower (pref. alstroemeria) stuck through the holeif you’re insane/doggedly sentimental about New York (same thing; I am)—and flavored cream cheese. SAVORY cream cheese, you monsters. Cinnamon sugar is for French toast, or at least a french toast donut. And if you tell me you fuck with, like, a “french toast” bagel, I exhort you to please back away from me, apologizing as you do it. I will never replant a flower outta its plastic wrap in the likes of that abomination.

(5) Bygone late-20th-century magazines:


The Beastie Boys had a magazine, did you know? Lingua Franca was an academia-focused tabloid where all the elder statespeople who make magazines worth reading now got their starts, did you know? Did you know there was a magazine that ran in 1973, and 1973 alone, for teenage groupies hellbent on boinking Marc Bolan? There was! It was called Star, and each feature gleamed with the promise of Puberty 2 running totally amok and slicked with plumping lip gloss.

Yours in floral donuts and fucking T. Rex,



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in list, we must

HEY, YOU. Welcome to the latest edition of the Must List, wherein I chronicle the aspects of the world that pluck me outta bed in the morning. Here is the best shit of right now.


1. The bassline of the Beverly Hills Teens theme song

Yo, do you know about Beverly Hills Teens? The smash cartoon bildungsroman that followed a group of rich-ass California teenagers around their country club? You remember. The one that aired from 1987 right up through…1987. (September to December. YouTube any episode and see for yourself why—maybe “Diet, Please,” where the fillies are competing for a beauty contest. Notable quotable: “Gag me with a lobster fork.”)

I FUCKING LOVE THIS SHOW. The characters have names like “Larke” and a proto–cell phone thing—“the Gossip Hotline”—that buzzes harshly, like a panic alarm at a nuclear plant, whenever some new social scandal emerges. More mellifluous than that: The stupendous theme song. This week, I have seriously not wanted to do anything but jam to the tune of these BevHillzTeenz. Come on and make your dreams come true. It’s so horrible. I’m so in love.

2. “Twist My Fingaz,” YG

Actually: There is a second song on my end-of-July playlist. In terms of real West Coast music made for humans instead of a group of profligate animations: This single goes and goes and goes and GOES.

This track reads even more “California” to me than the above theme—who knew that were possible?

3. Back rubs

I’m an elderly boy now. I can tell because yesterday, fed up full to bursting with the world entire, I dipped into one of those “$10 for 10 minutes” outlets where a person punches you in the spine for a little portion of your life. I had never had a massage before! It turns out my vertebrae adore pummeling.

I didn’t know whether to take off my clothes?

Whatever. I’m into it. If, like me, you (a) are prone to kvetching re: feeling mad Sisyphean, even though you have litero nothing to complain about, and/or (b) recently texted your sororal group chat that you “seriously want a breast reduct-o” because of persistent back pain, go get socked in the back some. You will like it, or at least not be texting diatribes about your life/tits to your siblings for a hot 10.

4. The southern flannel moth, aka the Mrat’s identical twin

Mritter has a body double and I’m never going to stop making fun of her about it.

5. My First Time

I am very stoked for this forthcoming video series. In it, experiences with first books are recounted by writers like Donald Antrim, Sheila Heti (“I remember thinking, I just have to work harder than any other writer in the world“—yes, and if I didn’t feel this way, I’d quit), Akhil Sharma, and Ben Lerner (I loved 10:04; shove it). So far, only the trailer and a few excerpts have been released, but even just those little bitsa flotsam are making me feel way okay.

6. Too Faced Lip Injection


By and large, lip plumpers are temporary bullshit that taste like smoking a Newport without the tobacco part. To these, I say, “FERGIT IT.” The ringing/stinging exception is this injurious and beautiful gloss, which burns as though you smoothed fiberglass over your chomper (in a nice way?) as it expands it exponentially.  It’s so horrible. I’m so in love.

7. Lisa Hanawalt


I have long adored this person‘s work for Lucky Peach (this strip, where she goes all spirals-for-eyes at a Las Vegas buffet, is my favorite of those), so clearly I was like YEA DOYE MY DUDE uh sorry I meant to say thank you but got excited, is all when the proprietor of the best comic/zine store in my neighborhood suggested that I might like her new-ish book, MY DIRTY DUMB EYES. And doye, did I ever! Cop it if you like lewd animals/are, yourself, one. (Oh, and on that note: If you like that show Bojack Horseman, Hanawalt designs that.)

8. The Rufous hummingbird

In terms of my Instagram consumption, the two categories I follow above any others are similar in tone: Sneaker-enthusiast and bird-watching accounts, with sparse exception, are both captioned all like, “[STERN RED EXCLAMATION EMOJI!] AUTHENTIC PICTURES ONLY. NO REPOSTS. TAG US FOR A FOLLOW BACK. [STERN RED EXCLAMATION EMOJI!]” Do not fuck around with, like, Sole Supremacy or BirdExtremeFeatures if you are tryna get them to redistribute photos of some spurious sparrows/SBs that you actually have no business with. The avian/sneakerhead social internet: “ACCEPT NO FAKES [AN EMOJI THAT LETS YOU KNOW THEY ARE IN NO WAY PLAYING AROUND ABOUT FINCHES/FOAMPOSITES!]”

Given the gravity of all that cartoon punctuation, I knew my love was AUTHENTIC when I happened upon this species of hummingbird, of which I had never heard:

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WHAT THE HELL IS THIS WONDROUS LITTLE GUY? I got me over to the Audubon Society’s website for more intel, because, like the above Instagram captions, Audubon has its own sort of stylistic rapture inherent to its language. You can just hear the organization’s bird-os caring SO MUCH as you read their rapt characterizations of each species. Here are the first two lines of their description of Rufous, aka this bird:

Although it is one of the smaller members in a family of midgets, this species is notably pugnacious. The male Rufous, glowing like new copper penny [sic], often defends a patch of flowers in a mountain meadow, vigorously chasing away all intruders (including larger birds).

WHAT AN UNDERDOG. Mountain meadows are worth scrapping for, though, if anything is; I knew I liked Rufous for a reason outside its “glowing like new copper penny,” although the photo above is of a female, whose cranial plumage is…let me try and Audubon this…verdant like freshly-mint dollar bills.



All right. That’s everything I like right now. Have a good summer-remainder, and remember: Come on and make your dreams come true! It’s fun for me and you! In Beverly Hills!


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taking a broadway bite out of the large apple

Some recent New York times:

1) Jesse and I made some lists—click to enlarge.

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2) Gabby and I went on a bus tour.

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