Appetites: Hot Hot Hot

Dancing screaming itching squealing fevered

Dear friends,

I was lazy this week, the heavy drapes of summer had me in a mood, and I barely left the house except to keep myself deep in watermelon wedges and lime popsicles. Yesterday I finally managed to eek out a few ounces of mojo, so I hit the streets and made my way down to the canal, where I sat for a few hours just scribbling in my notebook and people-watching. Afterwards, I popped in my headphones and strutted towards the Bastille, grooving in my little bubble to my latest assemblage of sweaty summer jams. It was glorious while it lasted, before the humidity wilted my will and made me fussy and irritable again. I wasn’t back home for five minutes before the sky came crashing down and washed it all away.

Keep it cool, folks.

Hunger: Scents of self

As with most of my passions, I’m as much an enthusiastic consumer of knowledge about a subject as I am a consumer of the goods themselves. Wine, bread, music, literature: I have, as you are well aware, a robust appetite. In an except from her new book, The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration, writer Sarah Everts explores the fascinating history of perfume with a visit to the Osmothèque, an archive of scent not far from the palace of Versailles (and to where a day-trip is imminent!) Go further with this rapturous essay on the ritual of scent from the wonderful Natalie Toren, one of my former writing instructors and fellow scent obsessive. She writes of an ‘atmosphere of scent,’ ‘an environmental transformation’ wherein “…[s]paces became something other than the way they were physically experienced, some place expansive and resonant and inhabited.” When I wear different scents, it’s a way of transforming my self, a way to try on a different identity, to inhabit a different way of being, of shifting my molecules into a new formation, even just for a few hours.

Bonus: This fascinating overview of style and culture at the ubiquitous hipster perfumery, Le Labo. A gripping read, full of spicy opinions.

Thirst: Dancing on my own

I’m still out there, dancing in the streets. “Think about how your body, not just buildings, end in the air, writes New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas. “It’s all about relishing the in between.”

Knowledge: The Matrix

I do my best to keep my finger on the pulse and all, but the fact is, I’m an old. The wedge between me and social media grows ever wider, inversely proportional to the level of fucks I have left to give. I’m sure you can relate. But sometimes a meme will just keep inserting itself in your life and you have no choice but to get to know it. And so I embarked on this useful overview of the Alignment Chart. I’m mostly Chaotic Good, but also sometimes Lawful Evil. In case you were wondering.

Life: The soul of a chef

When Anthony Bourdain passed away three years ago in June, I found myself surprised by how much it affected me. Yes, I’d been a fan, though not an especially ardent one. I suppose I just appreciated his being around. His presence. His voice. There was something about the way he lived his life that felt close–if not precise–to being an example of a life worth living. Unfortunately, for reasons it is unfair to speculate over, the person behind the personality felt otherwise. Even writing this, I feel overcome with unexpected emotion, as I have often in the past few weeks, reading the many reviews and tributes anticipating the release of the bio-documentary about his life in the spotlight, Roadrunner. I found some solace in re-reading, for the millionth time, his legendary debut essay in The New Yorker. In over twenty years, I’ve never once ordered fish on a Monday because of it.

Destruction: Any major dude will tell you

" long as false optimism, self-delusion, conformism, superficiality, and all of their cousins hold sway in society, there will be Steely Dan People. That is to say, forever."

And I, though not immune to the charms of a song or two, will never be one of them.

Insatiable: Chaotic good

I told you awhile ago about how I’d adopted the habit of writing morning pages, a daily routine that is still going very strong. Sometimes it delivers lightning strikes of insight and sometimes it’s just collecting raindrops in a bottomless barrel. Lately, on the advice of a writing coach, I’ve embraced the practice of free-writing. Letting myself be messy has never been in my constitution, but I’ve been working on turning the beat around over these past few months, and it has been liberating.

In the best email I received all week, writer Rachel Jepsen tackles the sneaky self-editing impulse that cripples writers’ ability to trust themselves, to allow themselves to write without fear of judgement. Invoking the Beats’ mantra of ‘First though, best thought’, Jepsen writes:

"The point is, all of creation begins in chaos, because chaos is energy. All life coalesces from chaos, and all life will dissolve into chaos again—it is the resting state of the universe. This doesn’t discount the utility of unity or second drafts or big ideas or concepts. Planets happen and we live there for a while. But chaos as the ultimate creative force can’t be discounted or undervalued. It’s certainly Saturn’s thought when he pleads, “Where is another Chaos? Where?” How can we begin again?

Which is to say: How can we begin?"

So here’s to those shitty first drafts. (Says the person currently laboring through a real steaming pile for her first essay.)

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” 

Jack Kerouac, New York, Fall 1953.