I am not, in general, someone who keeps a running catalog of her favorites: favorite movie, favorite book, favorite song, favorite color, favorite number, and so on. A couple of decades ago, if pressed, I might have offered The Shawshank Redemption as my favorite movie, because I have a thing for Tim Robbins, and I also have a thing for Morgan Freeman’s voice, and, of course, it’s also a first-rate story. But then I moved to Seattle and rekindled my teenage love for Singles, which you know all about because I mention it near-constantly, and because it’s the only movie I can actually quote lines from. Still, I don’t know that I’d call it my favorite. That’s a strong word, and it scares me a little. There is only one real exception to my hesitation in naming favorites, and that’s the novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon. Since I was sixteen, when I first found it on a store shelf somewhere and brought it home, I’ve called it my favorite book.
I’ve now read it four times, the most recent being last week. I’ve been trying to figure out what I love about it. The writing is fantastic, and the narrator is smart and likable and human, and the subject matter – the summer after college graduation, friendship, sex, queerness, the beginning of adulthood – has always resonated with me. But mostly I think I’ve loved the story for how it makes me feel. Four out of four times now, the last few pages have made my chest feel too small, like my organs might blow right through my ribcage – which, I should clarify, is a positive thing. Also, let’s stop for a minute and talk about the way Michael Chabon writes a love scene, like this one on page 94, because, YES.
“… Are you going to kiss me, Arthur Bechstein?” she said.
“Eventually, I’m sure.”
“Now,” she said.
“You look very beautiful, Phlox,” I said, and with my ridiculous heart beating as though I were that first German laborer, ignorant of engineering and about to remove that first wooden support from that first lacy thousand-ton dome of poured concrete, I made a fractional movement toward her lips with mine; then I drew her slightly into the shadow of a little tree and kissed her; somebody coughed. I heard the scrape of her dress against the thin branches, and the faint noise of her lips, fleshy, wet, tasting of lime and gin. I opened my eyes.
“There,” she said, “that’s over.”
We went at it.
Also, writers, everyone: read this!
In other news, I took the Polaroid photos above and below on a recent evening at home. Summer in Seattle is the best summer. Don’t argue with me.
Speaking of Seattle, I recently contributed a “city guide” to A Cup of Jo, and I’m really happy with the way it came out. If you or anyone you know is headed to Seattle soon, please pass it along. Oh, and here, just for you, are a few tips that didn’t make the published piece:
- For a great dive bar, hit up Montana, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The graffiti is first-rate, the drinks are cheap and good, and if you’re hungry, you can get a torta at Tortas Condesa, the take-out window next door, and bring it inside. Rachel Marshall, one half of the team behind Montana, is also the force behind Rachel’s Ginger Beer, which you can find in all the best restaurants and bars around town.
- For spectacular beer, Holy Mountain! The brewery and taproom are tucked away in a warehouse on Elliott Avenue, and it looks like nothing from the outside. Persevere, and you shall be rewarded.
- For coffee, my favorite everyday/anyday hangout is Analog Coffee, on Summit Avenue in a residential part of Capitol Hill. It’s clean and spare but also inviting, with the day’s newspaper clipped along one wall for your reading pleasure. I always run into friends at Analog. And if I’m in Pioneer Square, I love Elm Coffee Roasters, which is also a beautiful space with beautiful coffee.
Lastly, I spent a recent weekend at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, which is possibly my favorite place on Earth – and ah, there I go, already contradicting the first sentence of this post. Wheeee! While at OSAI, I got to sit in on a class taught by Obama’s inaugural poet and generally wondrous person Richard Blanco. He introduced us to the Adrienne Rich poem “Dedications” (the final section of her long poem “An Atlas of the Difficult World”) and I felt like it was written for me – but also, almost certainly, for you.
In August of 2014 – which, for those who are counting, was twenty-two entire months ago – I mentioned my friend Natalie’s “famous cucumber dip.” A bunch of you asked for the recipe, so I e-mailed Natalie, and she sent it promptly. The recipe is not fancy. It’s the opposite of fancy. I liked that about it, and I was very excited about the new chapter of my existence that was revealing itself, an existence promising as much famous cucumber dip as I could get myself around. I was going to write about it immediately. But then a few days went by, and then more days after that, and some more after that. By then, it was sometime around New Year’s Day of…Read more
I am feeling profoundly (or, as my fingers tried to put it, “feely profounding”) inarticulate today in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. I keep thinking of my uncle Jerry, the first gay person I ever knew, whose death to AIDS in 1988 spurred me to activism as a young kid with moussed bangs and a Silence=Death sweatshirt, and in whose memory June carries one of her middle names. I wonder what he would say today. I’m grateful, relieved, elated, and beyond, that June will grow up in a world that’s very different from what I knew in 1980s Oklahoma. It also feels like a fitting time to reread John Birdsall’s whip-smart Lucky Peach piece, “America, Your Food…Read more
I have a child who is about to be two years old. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but one thing I do not have a lot of thoughts about is a second birthday party. I could take it or leave it. For one thing, June doesn’t understand birthdays yet, so it doesn’t matter to her either way. Also, I am lazier than I let on. When your kid turns one, a party feels mandatory, because you kept a small human alive for an entire year and you survived it and bells must be energetically rung. Cake must be baked! BEERS MUST BE DRUNK! I am here to report, however, that a second birthday party feels much less…Read more
A couple of weekends ago, we packed up the better part of the restaurant kitchen, crammed it in the back of a pick-up, and drove two and a half hours east to cook an all-day anniversary party for a pair of longtime Delancey regulars. We rented a big house along the Wenatchee River, about ten minutes from the property where the party was held, and we brought as many people as we could fit inside, including a set of 8-month-old twins and one almost-two-year-old June. If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth in the summertime, you will remember how hot it gets. It hit 100 that weekend, and no one had air conditioning. The flies were out and biting. But the…Read more
A month of summer gone already! I don’t want to think about it. I rediscovered my Fuji Instax over the weekend and have been firing off shots like I were made of money. That’s another thing I’ve decided not to think about. I want June to have photo albums from her childhood – proper, three-dimensional albums! With the requisite wonky Polaroids! Like the olden days! Next up: suspenders and a paper route! – so I’m not allowed to fuss over the cost of film or the stupid, stupid, stupid flash that goes off whether I want it or not. Babies: they get your priorities straight. I appreciate that. Though I wouldn’t mind sleeping past 6:30 again someday. It seems like…Read more
It hit 85 degrees in Seattle today, and here in our city of no air conditioning, that counts as a heat wave. I know: talking about the weather is boring, blah blah blah, but on a cloudless day in mid-July, the best one can hope for, I think, is to have nothing but the weather to talk about. I come this evening, however, to talk about sour cherry milkshakes. I promised. Most of us know sour cherries in their cooked form, as the kind of cherry that you bake into a pie. I didn’t know them at all until five summers ago, the summer of 2009, when we were about to open Delancey and I had no idea how to…Read more
It is 12:26 pm on June 23. I’m sitting at my desk in the window, which, if you were considering it, is a bad place to put a desk. What a person needs behind a desk is something sturdy, galvanizing, like a wall. Otherwise you’ll wind up spending your time as I am today: watching the world’s most subtle breeze blow through the branches of the neighbors’ tulip magnolia, wishing I were eating a cheeseburger. I’m slowly emerging from New Book Insanity. I am so relieved, so glad to have this book behind me and out in the world, and also so, so, so tired. Elated! Tired! Dead! (But hey, Spokane: I’m going to be in your town tomorrow night,…Read more
I just sat down, looked at the calendar, and noticed that it’s August 9th. June is eleven months old today. On Monday, Delancey will be four years old, and on Thursday, Essex will be one. Is this what happens when you become a firm-and-fast adult? You’ve done enough stuff and crossed paths with enough people that at some point, each day comes with a birthday or anniversary? I mean, in addition to bills and tax deadlines and increasingly tight hamstrings? In other words: there’s always a new reason to eat cake, isn’t there? Or drink wine? Both? I have a very cold bottle of riesling in the refrigerator. But there is no cake here, and that is because there is no…Read more
I am typing this post from the back office at Delancey, where I’m holed up, working on a deadline, while Brandon and Co. prepare a five-course meal for forty-five in celebration of a gorgeous new book. Deadline: I will destroy you. In more ways than one. But I had to take a break to pop into this space, and to send up a cheer – if you can, in fact, hear me from back here behind the Essex walk-in – that it has been nine years today since this site was born. Nine! I was a delinquent graduate student then, giddy to be creating a space to write about things other than Michel Foucault and discourse analysis and anything described…Read more
I’ve started this post four different times now, on five different days. I’m already tired of it, and I still haven’t figured out how to start. Does that ever happen to you? Do you do what I do and take a “break” to raid the walk-in at Delancey for chocolate chip cookie dough? Do you tell yourself, What harm could it really do if I listened to Freedom ’90 again? Do you ever wonder if you’ve missed your chance to be a dancer in a Janet Jackson video? Shall we start this thing already? First, I want to tell you that I was elated by your response to Delancey. Totally elated. Ecstatic. Even slightly stoned. I’m still coming down from it. Thank you so very, very…Read more
So, I turned 33 a couple of days ago. And Brandon, who was but a pup of 23 when I met him, turned 30 a few days before that. Thirty! The staff at Delancey wrote BRANDON TURNS OLD TODAY on the chalkboard and spelled out OLD BOSS in alphabet magnets on the ice machine. He told me that he hasn’t thought much about being in his thirties, but I think he secretly likes the idea. I’m on the fence sometimes, but mostly, I do too. In any case, thank you for your patience. In my absence from this space, there was a return flight from Ohio, writing, more writing, payroll, a birthday cake, a big project for a friend, and…Read more
Labor Day sneaked up on us. We fell asleep last night with the windows open, and this morning, there was a chill in the house. I know I’m not supposed to say it, but I think something is changing. When I think about this summer, these are the pictures I want to think about. They’re what this summer felt like. I’ve taken a lot of ferry rides. I’ve eaten a lot of melon. I’ve eaten a lot of strawberries. I’ve eaten fried chicken and lemon icebox cake and zucchini. I’ve been eaten by a lot of mosquitos. I’m ready. Happy Labor Day.Read more
I can’t believe we haven’t talked about berry cobbler yet. August 27, and we haven’t talked about berry cobbler. I’ve got to fix that. For a long time, I didn’t get terribly excited about cobbler. I think you’re either a cobbler person or a crisp person, the same way that you’re either a cake person or a pie person. My mother is a crisp person, and that’s what I grew up eating. I can be swayed by crumbles as well, mostly because they’re often indistinguishable from crisps, and also because crumble is such a nice word for a dessert. It sounds exactly like it tastes. (On a side note: did you know that French speakers pronounce it crum-bell? It’s awesome.…Read more
Summer is not messing around. Not only did it arrive right on time, on July 5, but the thermometer hit 94°F only three short days later. I know 94°F sounds like nothing to those of you melting along the Eastern Seaboard, or in Berlin, but when you consider the fact that my city spent the 4th of July in wool sweaters and knit tights and rain gear, it’s hot. I celebrated by making iced coffee. And iced tea! I sat on the couch, not moving, and broke a sweat! It’s been spectacular. Where I grew up, in Oklahoma, summer shut us inside. Unless you were submerged up to the neck in a swimming pool, it was too hot and humid…Read more
They say that in Seattle, summer doesn’t start until July 5, and they are not joking. Look at this! Look at it! And then compare it to the past month! I like the 4th of July, but HURRY UP, JULY 5TH. (I should note that, in my exuberance, I accidentally mistyped the above as “HOORAY UP, JULY 5TH,” which I can only assume is the compound of “hooray” and “giddyup” and is also, coincidentally, an accurate expression of how I feel.) In celebration of the fact that summer is coming tomorrow, I pulled out some photographs from the past couple of summers. I’m setting the mood. There was an evening last July when we ate chips and salsa and floated…Read more
It’s very peaceful at Delancey right now. I’m going to try to remember what this feels like. Wait. Is the art in this photo crooked, or is it just me? Maybe my eyes are crooked. Anything is possible. Delancey opens tonight at five. There’s no signage outside the building yet, but that’ll be fixed soon. It’s at the top of our to-do list. In the meantime, for those of you in the Seattle area, maybe this map will help you find us? Our address is 1415 NW 70th Street. (It might be helpful, too, to know that we’re one block north of Ballard High School, directly across the street from a bar called Tarasco, and right next to Honore Bakery.)…Read more
I meant to post this last Friday. You can see how well I did with that. I also meant to take a picture of some pizza, since that’s what this whole business is about, but that didn’t work out either. The cook we hired to help Brandon with the pizzas didn’t show up for his first official day of work – the day before our first pre-opening dinner – which has left only Brandon and me in the kitchen. That means that I do my work at my station, run over to his station to help top and finish pizzas, and then run back to my station again. This has not left much time for photography – or breathing, or…Read more