I’m excited to announce that I’m putting out a zine! It’s called The World’s First Perfect Zine and I mentioned starting to work on it on this blog about a year ago but it took more than ten times as long to finish as I thought it would. It comes out November 16th, costs $12, and was printed in a run of 500 copies. The contributors are as follows:
Dylan Baldi is the sole songwriter and recording member in the band Cloud Nothings.
Rostam Batmanglij is a musician and songwriter in the bands Vampire Weekend and Discovery.
Pete Berkman is the lead songwriter in the band Anamanaguchi.
Joe Coscarelli is an assistant editor at New York Magazine’s Daily Intel blog.
Lena Dunham is a filmmaker.
jj is a Swedish pop group.
Tao Lin is a novelist.
Ryan O’Connell is an editor at Thought Catalog.
Maureen O’Connor is a staff writer at Gawker.
Choire Sicha is the editor of The Awl.
Himanshu Suri is a rapper in the band Das Racist.
Bucky Turco is the editor of Animal New York.
Victor Vazquez is a rapper in the band Das Racist.
Mike Vilensky is a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal.
Jenna Wortham is a staff writer at The New York Times.
You can order it online here or via the BUY button on the sidebar of this blog. You can also get it at Strand Bookstore, McNally Jackson Books, or Other Music if you live in New York, starting November 16th, but those places will have only a handful of copies each, so if you wanna definitely get a copy, order it online.
Tumblr is throwing a release party for the zine, with an open bar (god bless them), on November 16th from 7:00 to 9:00 at Other Music in Manhattan. You’re invited to the party! Yes, you. Tell Siri to put it in your calendar. Come lower your inhibitions, schmooze with some contributors, buy a zine, and then walk to the subway and put on your headphones and read it on your way home.
The zine will also have a small, private, password-protected Tumblr of supplemental content (photos, interviews, stories), coming next week, that you can get the password to by ordering the zine online (I’ll email it to you) or finding the answer to this riddle, which is the password:
What is the name of the girlfriend of the director in the only 9-minute official music video (presently unavailable in the United States due to copyright issues) by the band whose original guitarist’s older brother was previously in a band whose two other members went on to form a band whose most recent album’s first single prominently features a sample from a song by a now-defunct band whose percussionist is named John Braddock, nicknamed “Dutch”?
Okay, that’s it, see you later! Hopefully at the party too.
Hey followers. Long time, no talk. While my work isn’t included in this anthology/zine, I helped with its production, and I’d really like if you’d buy it. All the contributors are really great, and if you’re in New York, you should definitely come out to our launch party. It’s gonna be great.
1:45 pm • 24 October 2011 • 1,112 notes
The day Benny scratched the million was the day the computer program won at Jeopardy. We were watching on Grandpa’s old cathode set, the one we just inherited. It shrank to a pinpoint when you shut it off. Ken and the less famous guy pounded the buzzers like rats seeking cocaine, but the computer was plugged into the gameboard. There was no delay between desire and muscle movement.
Alex Trebek signed off, trying not to look intimidated by the future. My dad threw up his hands like the Packers just won the Superbowl. “That’s it,” he said. “You’re becoming a god damned engineer.” He spoke like he had reached his threshold, but actually we had already had this conversation two hours earlier. I had insisted, with the pride of a teenager deluded by possibilities and Bob Dylan records, I would be a writer.
“You ever see a writer pay a gas bill?” my father said.
“If you’re looking for your meal ticket,” I said, “I’m not the right one.” There were three of us: Benny on the tail end, Sharon up front, and me crammed in the middle. Sharon was the one who owned an iPad, and rarely called.
It was okay how we were then, a tense string unplucked. Then Benny barged in with that scratch-to-win of his, and he decided he was gonna be a world class soul artist. We liked to joke that what caused Dad’s heart attack was not his diet of Extra Value Meals, but testing his son’s willingness to pony up when the medical bill came. Benny was stingy at first. He changed his number three times, and nicknamed Mom “Citibank.” But when we had to pick a coffin, he went all-out.
12:37 am • 28 February 2011 • 5 notes
Hey friends. I am now writing a blog about fast food with my good friend, Briana Severson of Not This American Life acclaim. Don’t worry, I will still write irreverent fiction that includes fast food and brands on this blog — just consider this second a blog an exercise in creative non-fiction.
The post I’ve linked it about ketchup packet rationing and how it’s JUST NOT FAIR, YOU GUYS.
10:09 am • 22 February 2011
Ray tells Bud Donovan to draw the blinds, unplug the Internet, and break Ray’s cell phone. Easy. Bud Donovan likes when Ray asks easy things. Bud Donovan likes how the glass cracks on Ray’s cell phone, how it sprinkles like confetti, like maybe this is a birthday surprise (it is his birthday) and Ray hasn’t told him yet.
Bud Donovan woke up wanting birthday cake for breakfast. Bud Donovan could smell it in his dreams. In real life Ray and Bud Donovan’s apartment smelled like lady, warm lady, one-night lady; not Maxine.
Ray yells at someone in the kitchen and uses the words that get bleeped on TV. But Ray is not on TV.
It is Bud Donovan’s birthday. Bud Donovan is forty-three years old. It is a Monday but Ray is not at work. The lady left lipstick, and a turd in the toilet. Bud Donovan watched it sit at the bottom of the toilet.
Ray tells Bud Donovan to not let Ray leave no matter what. Ray tells Bud Donovan not to let Ray call anyone no matter what. Ray tells Bud Donovan not to go for help no matter what.
Ray opens the special box. Bud Donovan grins. Now Ray will sing and Bud Donovan will blow out candles.
But there is no shiny-wrapped present in the special box. There is medicine in the special box, piled up on top of each other like an evil person’s gold.
Ray is Bud Donovan’s baby brother. Ray and Bud Donovan shared the same kindergarten class, even though Momma tried very hard to get Bud Donovan into first grade. Ray and Bud Donovan have always shared everything. Ray and Bud Donovan shared bedrooms. Ray and Bud Donovan shared classes. Ray and Bud Donovan shared apartments.
Mrs. Yamagachi the kindergarten teacher asked Ray if it was Ray like sunshine. Ray said it was Ray like the barbeque sauce.
Ray takes one pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill. Then Ray takes another pill.
Men put Momma into the ground and Bud Donovan moved in to Ray and Maxine’s apartment. Ray was married to Maxine two years. Ray and Maxine wanted a baby. Ray said something was stuck.
Maxine agreed to take care of Bud Donovan during the day. Maxine took good care of Bud Donovan.
Then Maxine went and had a baby, just like Ray wanted. But Ray didn’t want a baby anymore, because Ray told her the baby had to leave. Maxine left with the baby.
Ray cried when she left. Bud Donovan cried because his baby brother was crying. Ray punched Bud Donovan, and a few other things, too.
Bud Donovan and Ray live together in Queens, which is New York City. Ray said all of Queens is New York City, but not all of New York City is Queens. Bud Donovan didn’t understand. Ray touched Bud Donovan on the head, the heart, both shoulders. “Three parts, one God.” Ray said. “Five boroughs, one New York.” Ray folded the brim of his Yankees cap so it looked like a duck’s mouth. “All the same shit.”
Ray sits on the kitchen chair for an hour, staring like Momma stared before she stopped staring forever. Then Ray jumps from the chair, goes for the door. Bud Donovan stops him. “Let ‘em burn,” Bud Donovan says. Bud Donovan feels proud for remembering.
Ray says no no no no no. Ray says you bastard. Ray kicks and punches and bites, but Bud Donovan is the big brother and the birthday boy. The big brother is stronger. The birthday boy knows best.
(Photograph by Alyssa Laessig. Thanks to Peyton Harrison for the inspiration.)
9:40 pm • 7 February 2011 • 4 notes
Drunk, Henry and Georgia admired the subway fauna. “That’s Lenora,” he said, indicating the rat on the rails, “and that one is Charles.” Knowing the species would last longer, Georgia wanted to name the cockroaches. Henry drew the line at anything with an exoskeleton.
“What if dinosaurs drew the line at anything that gave live birth?” she said.
“Don’t scare me like that,” he said.
It was Georgia’s first date after a bad marriage. Henry was an intern at her office. He was too young to tell the difference between twenty and thirty. What he could tell the difference between was when no meant no, and when no meant text me later.
The idea was to drop her off. When they got to her door he told her it would be irresponsible to head home; there was a severe weather warning. She stuck her head out the window to catch the first flakes on her tongue while Henry’s tongue tried to make something more intimate melt.
In her dream she was drinking the last bottle of Pepsi Blue in existence. A man with corn for teeth spiked it with rum. She woke up knowing she had finally conceived.
The snow hurt her eyes next morning. Henry wouldn’t get out of bed. She stole fifty dollars from his wallet, pulled his mittens over her shoes, and made the first prints on the sidewalk toward Duane Reade.
When she came back he was making a snowman in front of her place with bare hands. He introduced her to Raymond, who had a penny-stippled smile. Georgia said hello, and punched the change out of Raymond’s mouth.
(Click through to see Rick Peters’ film work.)
10:33 pm • 1 February 2011 • 6 notes
She was drinking when she met Peter. He was freshly graduated and disheveled, as if the valedictorian had personally torn off his cap and shoved him into the real world.
Withdrawal from Adderall made him timid and charming. He bit at his thumbnail until it bled. Carolyn tore off a hangnail, pressed their fingers together, and declared them blood brothers. When he kissed her later, he asked, “Is this incest?”
No. Carolyn came from Catholics, Eastern Europeans, and the Midwest. Peter came from money, which is none of those things.
At first it was unnoticeable. They shared enough memories of late nineties radio hits and cable kids shows. The hem of his sweater came undone. She tore it off and made a Cat’s cradle; they made it through seven hand-offs. He asked her if she would give him a haircut and she pushed the hair off his forehead, considered his face, and said, “well, well.”
Then she made a flippant comment about Sallie Mae and Peter asked if that was her aunt. She still kissed him when the time came. They went outside for a cigarette and there was a ski lift tag attached to his zipper. Later, Carolyn would Google the make and model of his jacket. It cost twice a trip to the emergency room, uninsured.
Carolyn’s rent was paid by wages and night shifts, and shaking every last quarter out of the couch. Debt? She no longer answered out-of-state numbers.
Carolyn shrank at money the way an abused dog shrinks from a hand, despite craving human touch. There were too many crooked teeth in her mouth, too many meals of rice and onion and pepper and beans, too many used panties sold on eBay to satisfy Con Ed.
She paid for Peter’s drinks and his cab ride with the stubborn pride of the poor. She poured hydrogen peroxide on the hangnail so when her roommates found her crying she could hold up the bubbling wound. She didn’t call him back.
(Click through to see more of Jonathan Mathias’ photography.)
12:00 pm • 30 January 2011 • 7 notes
Reynold had the turnstile leap down like an Olympic gymnast; on a good day, even cops felt like applauding. Today, Karen would only give him a 9.1 on a 10 point scale. The cops waiting at the bottom of the stairs felt the same way. They unfroze and darted after him.
Karen smiled at the station attendant, who watched the chase with dull eyes. The station attendant was fat and pink and not someone that would be cast for reality television. Karen waved. Karen limboed under the turnstile, still waving. The station attendant yelled. He pressed the speaker button once he’d finished swearing.
Reynold had slipped his way into a crowded car. The cops were held back by a wall of sour-faced commuters, daring them to push. Karen fit underneath the canopy of a fat man’s belly. The doors slid shut, and Karen waved at the flustered, frustrated cops through the window. One of them wrestled his grimace into a G-rated smile.
Reynold caught Karen’s hand before a homeless man could rub his exposed penis against her shoulder. They huddled together like a Charles Dickens novel, siblings against the world, except instead of wearing top hats and riding boots the people around them were wearing coats stitched into down-filled rectangles and duck boots, and instead of having dignity, the homeless man was masturbating.
Around Grand Central the crowd loosened. It was too early for tourists. Karen sat in the seat reserved for handicapped people. She wanted someone with crutches to ask her to move, so she could tell them not all handicaps are visible.
With Karen settled, Reynold started his sermon, pacing up and down the subway pews. The grating timbre of his voice worked with steel and plastic the way a contralto’s voice worked with the domed ceiling of an opera house. Karen’s favorite part was when he talked about the whore of Babylon. She could picture the whore’s ruby lips and cashmere jacket, holding her iPad while Karen panhandled at the feet of the seven-headed beast.
Then a man with a fed-up frown stood and punched Reynold. He did it a few more times until blood came out of Reynold’s face. Nobody moved. Relieved expressions unfolded across the car like tulips blooming in the sun.
When everyone moved to the next car, Karen sat next to her brother, who was lying face down. The only thing that moved was his blood. Someone had stepped in his blood with their boot. Burberry was stamped seven times with decreasing vividness in the direction of the door.
As the train crossed into the Bronx, a pair of cops walked on. They were, unrealistically, the same cops that gave chase in Brooklyn. The one that had smiled wasn’t smiling any longer.
(Click through for more photography by Chetan Patel.)
11:44 pm • 26 January 2011 • 3 notes
Stuart was allergic to intimacy the way people are allergic to peanut butter. On nights out, he’d carry an Epipen in his back pocket, in case he made the mistake of holding hands with strange women, or telling them things that scared him.
So I never asked about his parents; I didn’t know his hometown; and on holidays I gave him gifts from the Oriental Trading Company magazine—plastic noise makers and bubble wands. We wondered why 144 was a gross. We started naming the squares of other numbers because it didn’t seem fair. Nine times nine was a henkel. Four times four was a drippel, accent on the “el.”
“What about ten times ten?” he said.
“Stuart Junior,” I said.
He started to wheeze. When he realized the bubbles wands were bridal white, I called 911.
We made love in the dark through Saran Wrap, and when we were done he prepared a bath of ice cubes while I curled in the imprint he left on the bed. Once I watched him through the crack in the door, his naked body laid like a shaman on a bed of nails. He sneezed and scratched and begged me to stop.
After his visits the only thing he left behind was a knot of hair in the drain. It had the tar scent of anti-dandruff shampoo. It was the only thing I’d ever touched of his made from DNA.
11:59 am • 17 January 2011 • 7 notes
“I want a guy that reminds me of my middle school boyfriend,” Tara said.
I listened to her the way you listen to good advice—incompletely. This was 2002, after Y2K and 9/11 and a couple other disasters with abbreviated names. I wasn’t sure what I believed in yet but it wasn’t love.
“Describe him to me,” I said, “without gerunds.”
Last night a man talked me into intimacy and I talked him out of fifty bucks. I took the money to Mark with nine fingers and bought what was either a vintage stamp of John F. Kennedy or a gigantic hit of acid.
If there’s one thing America taught me, it’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, at any cost.
At one in the morning, I drank from a mug I stole from my friend’s apartment. It was in-laid with pictures of her and her boyfriend’s trip to Venice. I drank oolong tea because it tastes like rice. I wanted something insubstantial, without chewing.
Before I met Tara the next day, I looked at the mirror and saw—this is the bad part—myself.
5:01 pm • 15 January 2011 • 4 notes
I ran out of toilet paper and started using my personal library. I finished off Victor Hugo and was moving into “Great Expectations.” My diet was 100% Dollar Menu, and everything got tender. I searched job boards the way astrologers search for a sign, but all my lucky stars were falling, and my planet was in retrograde.
My friend Jerome lived in Detroit. He rented a room in a house that was $500 to own. He came to visit me and bought a fur coat at Macy’s. He was trying to make Visa think his card got stolen.
We talked about the old times, because there was nothing to talk about in the now. When we were kids he won coloring contests monthly. The trick was sharpening the crayons like a knife. The last prize he won was at age nine, for coloring a tie-dye Simba. It was a ten dollar gift card to Toys ‘R’ Us which could only buy a Barbie without a theme. We spent it on sour straws for candy casserole, and trashed his step mom’s microwave.
The best gift card Jerome received lately was to Walgreens. We were stroking the fur coat on our laps when he told me to reach in the pocket. We bought Listerine and caffeinated alcohol, and did things that we wanted to do as kids but were too content to try.
(Click through to see more of Matthew Avignone’s photography.)
9:11 am • 21 December 2010 • 2 notes