October 26, 2016

Sorry, sorry, sorry, I KNOW, but I was on vacation!  And I’m sure there are some things I need to recount from that, but I’m about to hit the hay, so I figured I’d recycle a topic I meant to bring up a while back: dreaming!  I think thinking about dreams is coming back into fashion again; in fact, I was semi-recently interviewed by a writer who is working on a book about the science of dreams.  Does this mean the taboo against telling other people about your dreams will soon end?!  Pity, because my dreams have gotten really boring in the past three years or so.  Maybe this means I’m content?  The horror!

Anyway, I was reminded of the dream thing because I stumbled across an old email exchange with my friend KC, in which we discussed starting a blog or something (?) in which we published people’s dreams.  We even had a pitch and our own email address!  I don’t remember the passwords, but I believe the address was dreamsdreamersdream@gmail.com.  Catchy, no?

Turns out, someone at the New Yorker thought this was ripe for satire.  The opening rejection note:

Dear Mr. Smith,

A dream in which you “do something nasty with a family member”—and particularly a “distant cousin,” which, frankly, we hear about all the time—in no way merits inclusion in our magazine, no matter how arousing you may have found it.

Please see the Frequently Recorded Dreams page on our Web site to determine whether your dream is worthy of submission.


Donald Wembly
Submissions Editor
Dreams Quarterly
American Academy of Dreams

Perhaps even funnier than that, there IS actually an academic publication dedicated to the study of dreams, called Dreaming, published by the International Association for the Study of Dreams.  I would consider becoming a research psychologist just to join the IASD!

Annie Pootoogook

October 13, 2016

Almost a year ago, I interviewed a woman who had spent fourteen years living as an Amish person in an Amish community in Ohio; when she left, she began painting scenes from her time there.  The results were a little unpolished, a little creepy (inexplicably, because the scenes were very bucolic), and yet utterly beguiling.  They reminded me of the work of Annie Pootoogook, a Canadian Inuit artist whose paintings of modern First Nations life (domestic abuse, food shopping, watching Dr. Phil–no accounting for taste) ring similar bells.

Pootoogook drowned tragically last month at the age of forty-seven.  Some salient facts: her mother was an artist, and Pootoogook met with some early career success (a prestigious show at Documenta 12, a hefty grant).  After her death, a Canadian police officer made heinous comments about Inuit peoples (basically, they prefer to drink rather than contribute so why should we investigate her death?) on an online message board.  I hope he was fired.  You can learn more about Pootogook here (among other places).  I considered writing about her for a moment, but then I realized I didn’t have much to say other than “more people should know about her.”


Time to Update Again

October 9, 2016

Do you remember that baby naming book from the eighties and nineties (they released updated editions because it was quite popular) called Beyond Jennifer and Jason? I was obsessed with it when I was a kid; whenever someone we knew was pregnant and they’d whip out that book, I’d get all excited. I don’t know, I just like names! Anyway, a few years ago I nabbed an old copy––I don’t remember how, either from a box of free books on the street or at a yard sale or I stole it from someone––and I kept it around as a kind of funny gag and also if I needed help creating a pseudonym. The other day I idly took it off the shelf and was flipping through it, and then my husband saw it (what the fuck is this?!) and was looking through later, and came across a section called “Wimpy Names.” So already this feeling embarrassingly Dated, because can you imagine an author including that in a name book now?  But it gets better. There’s a subsection of Wimpy Names that reads: “A wimpy name does not necessarily a wimpy boy make…. Maybe these guys become supermacho in reaction to their anemic names, or maybe they would have overdeveloped biceps even if their names were Brawley or Flint. Here, a list of famous tough guys with anything but tough names.” And it goes on to list Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlton Heston, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvester Stallone, and, among others,… Bruce Jenner.

Bar Luce

October 8, 2016

I know it’s kind of obvious but I love the aesthetic of Bar Luce.  I’m going to Milan in a few weeks and maybe I’ll the guts to steal me a little one of these!

The Joys of Dissent

October 5, 2016

Shit, it’s been a while.  Since I last posted, Elena Ferrante’s been unmasked, Kim Kardashian’s been robbed, and Brangelina has been pronounced dead on arrival (little airplane joke there).  When I came to look at the date of my last post just now, I felt so guilty that I decided I simply must put something up now.  But the problem is I don’t have a ton to say.  Well, here’s one thing: everyone knows I’m something of a contrarian, right?  Maybe this was a personality trait that excited me in the past, but in recent years, it’s proven more annoying than anything else.  If only I could get on board the zeitgeist train, I could write anodyne personal essays about ending the stigma (surrounding anything) and not worry that I’m harsh!

I don’t know if that’s going to happen anytime soon, though.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to find a little joy in reading negative reviews of books everyone else in the world adored.  Case in point: a review of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi in the London Review of Books.  WBBA was gushed over by basically every literary critic and human in the United States, but writer Thomas Laqueur was meh on the whole thing.

“It’s time to confess the obvious: I wasn’t deeply moved by this book.  But it isn’t easy to explain why.  the first thing that comes to mind is that I find the author pompous, and, whether a true or a faux naif, egomaniacally self-conscious in his search for meaning… A larger problem is that Kalanathi isn’t very good at writing.  Having done so little of it, why should he be?  As Julian Barnes wrote in his introduction to Daudet’s memoir, dying doesn’t make someone a better writer, or a worse one for that matter.”

This made a lot of sense to me because of my longstanding aversion to our immediate embrace of suffering narrators (because pain doesn’t make you smarter, necessarily, but it does mean people feel less justified in critiquing you, even when that criticism is deserved, which results in a lot of thoughtless applause).  But it also reminded me of the extended period of time I spent in my mid-twenties working with someone terminally ill (who is now deceased), I was always half-anticipating a big life epiphany, courtesy of the Sick Person, every day, but most of the time it was just the usual drudgery and the Sick Person remained their flawed, human self, right up to the very end.

Funny Graffiti

September 25, 2016

I’ve been meaning to post this photo for a long time.  Inside of a phone booth, on the walk from my house to our synagogue, is written an ad for a prostitute I have no doubt is very popular.  Who is she?  SLIGHTLY SAUCY SARA.  Because for obvious reasons, we like our whores only slightly saucy.


Essays No One Would Publish

September 21, 2016

Again, only tried once, but it was enough of a burn that I didn’t take it further.  But I’m definitely amused at myself upon re-read.  One of our dining companions from then (this was written a few years ago) was worried it would be too snarky about the group––sorry, JW!

Reviews of Restaurants Run by Cults

We’re pleased to present our first episode in “Mouthwashed!,” a series of reviews of cult-run restaurants. This week, the Spiritually Adventurous Eater visits the Yellow Deli in Rutland, Vermont, run by a group known as the Twelve Tribes.

“Would you guys like a table?”
“Yes, for four.”
“That’s so nice!”

As the Spiritually Adventurous Eater, I am accustomed to establishments

with creepily friendly staff members, but the Yellow Deli in Rutland, Vermont, manages to exceed even my expectations. The host, a middle-aged bespectacled man with a ponytail, is so enthusiastic about our arrival I momentarily worry he might throw out his back. But instead he snaps up a couple of menus (“We serve the fruit of the spirit!”) and leads our party of four (future-Jew, Jew, recovering Catholic and atheist) through a maze of woven textiles and repurposed tree branches to our booth, shaded from the low light of the main room by a faux-roof like a hobbit hovel. As you’ll probably have noticed by now, the most bizarre and fascinating thing about this place is the décor. The only way I can think to sum it up is this: if the set designer of Willow had a love child with sixties activist group Another Mother for Peace, it would look like the inside of the Yellow Deli. No wait, another way: if Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre ate a plate of Margaret and Walter Keane paintings and then took a shit in a twee forest, it would look like the inside of the Yellow Deli. Wait, sorry, just one more: if David the Gnome was on acid at a Phil Lesh and Friends concert, his hallucinations would look like the inside of the Yellow Deli.

All this is somewhat unnerving to me, as a person with a natural threshold for kitsch, but I am comforted to see little unfamiliar about the menu. The Yellow Deli––one of eleven in the United States, Canada and Australia––features typical American cafe fare like sandwiches, salads, chili and a small selection of breakfast items. There are a few nods to hippie Vermont in the form of maté blends, “green drink,” and the fact that one sandwich is named the “Deli Rose,” but other than that, an unassuming patron would be hard-pressed to recognize how seriously the proprietors take their peace-and-love ethos. Hard-pressed, that is, unless they were to take a quick jaunt to the bathroom, wherein they could partake of a variety of free “literature” while they waited to use the facilities. The newspapers and pamphlets available outline––however vaguely––the beliefs of the Twelve Tribes, known in some areas as the “Yashuas,” who run the chain of Yellow Delis in addition to a handful of coffee shops, hostels, tanneries and organic food markets throughout the United States and the world. The Twelve Tribes began somewhat organically (no pun intended) in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the early seventies, one of a few individual attempts within the “Jesus Movement” to blend hippie culture with Protestant ideals. The group has a long history in the food industry; its original members gathered at a coffee shop called The Lighthouse, run out of the home of longtime church leaders Gene and Marsha Spriggs, before founding the first Yellow Deli. Though they have recently branched out into real estate development and construction, the Delis have all but financially sustained the Twelve Tribes, who consider all possessions and earnings communal, for almost forty years.

On my walk back to the table, I pass by the counter, and watch as uncharacteristically mean-looking women, dressed in palazzo pants and dowdy Amish-esque tops, slap together cold cuts and bread for sandwiches. Our happy waiter is at our table when I return, ready to take our order, a giant red flower on the end of his pen shaking as he hastens to write down our requests. No beer on tap, of course––Twelve Tribers don’t drink alcohol, and they follow certain Levitical dietary laws, like eschewing pork and shellfish––but you can get a frosty mug of root beer if you’ve a hankering. We order sandwiches and veggie burgers, which a young smiling woman brings over to us within fifteen minutes. The presentation is crunchy-snack-bar––sandwiches in woven baskets, accompanied by the requisite piles of Lays chips and a pickle.

“Oh yes, table ‘iron,’ this is yours,” she says. “Where are you guys from?”

“Brooklyn,” I respond.

“We have a farmer’s market there, in Brooklyn. We sell green drink.” She seems to think that I might know it, but I explain to her that Brooklyn is quite large, and there are many, many farmer’s markets there.

“But I’ll look out for you guys… ?” I offer, and at this she seems calmed. Only after she’s gone do I realize there are tomatoes on my sandwich even though the menu had said there weren’t, but when I meekly get the host’s attention and he answers, “With all my heart?” I decide to just dump the slabs on my boyfriend’s plate. One member of our party insists his sandwich is “succulent,” though mine has much more in common with a packaged lunch you’d buy at an airport terminal than a prime rib. When I order banana bread for dessert and realize it’s almost certainly microwaved, I realize the crux of my disappointment: I had expected these happy little cult members were waking up early to bake bread––recipe calls for a dash of cardamom, a handful of walnuts and a pinch of love––but in fact, most of their fare tastes like it comes right off the shelf at the nearby Shaw’s. A follow-up call to the Twelve Tribes’s toll-free hotline confirms that while they do cook with goods from their farm when possible, more often than not, they buy commercial. All in all, I feel duped, just as I had when, at eight or nine, I realized that in fact David Bowie was not, in fact, king of the goblins.

Our check comes out. It’s yellow, of course, and embellished with little smiley faces and a big thought bubble emblazoned with the words, “We are here for you!” But the fruit of the spirit? Ain’t that tasty.



Décor:                         8 out of 10
Cuisine                       4 out of 10

Service:                       6 out of 10
Proselytizing:             2 out of 10 (they didn’t try nearly hared enough to win us over, in my view)

Future columns will be the same form, reviewing the following:

The Merry Wives Café, in Hildale, Utah

The Scientology Celebrity Centre Sunday brunch, in Los Angeles, California

Golden Era in San Francisco, California

Der Dutchman Café in Holmes County, Ohio

Celebrity Week

September 20, 2016

I guess it’s celebrity week over here at Itinerant Daughter, which means today I’ll re-publish a poem written by a ten or eleven-year-old Monica Lewinsky.  I first heard of the poem “I Am Pizza” while reading an old New York Magazine article about Robert Bingham, editor of now-defunct journal Open City and publishing wunderkind who died of a heroin overdose.  Good piece, good poem, good pizza.

I Am A Pizza

I am a pizza
I can be a delicious lunch, dinner
or breakfast, if you’re weird.
I have a great deal of toppings on me
I am a round and flat piece of dough
with lots of toppings.
I make your mouth water.
I’m very good to eat, but I’m
I am a mouth’s best friend.
I make you say, “Yum, Yum”.
I am a pizza.

Rob Lowe’s Exploits

September 19, 2016

Husband and I caught a few minutes of Rob Lowe’s roast on Comedy Central recently (I have never been more uncomfortable than I was seeing Anne Coulter’s zombie-face reactions to various jokes about her) and I recalled a few years ago, when I worked for a very famous actor named [redacted], who regaled me and the fellow assistants with various stories about Rob Lowe’s insane romantic past.  At the time, I Googled him, and found on his Wikipedia page a harrowing story about his relationship with Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert, and we (the other assistants and [redacted]) all gasped at it.  Then, post-roast, during which they made endless fun of Lowe’s Lothario (to put it gently) past, I went to look at the Wikipedia again, and the anecdote wasn’t there!  It wasn’t that it was so fascinating, but just that it clearly had been edited out by someone’s PR lackey that annoyed me.  Anyway, I tracked it down on Reddit, so you’re welcome:

“Lowe, a little-known actor at the time, and Little House on the Prairie actress Melissa Gilbert briefly met at age 14 in 1978 in the halls of CBS Television Studios.  In 1981, when both were 17, Gilbert spotted Lowe stopped at the red light next to her car and the two began dating.  During the filming of The Hotel New Hampshire (1984), Lowe began an affair with Nastassja Kinski.  According to Gilbert, she caught Lowe in Kinski’s hotel room and then slept with Lowe’s then-best friend, John Cusack, out of revenge.  Lowe broke up with Gilbert in 1986 when he began dating Princess Stephanie of Monaco, but when the relationship with the Princess ended, Gilbert and Lowe reunited. The two quickly got engaged and were to be married in the summer of 1987.  But when Gilbert informed Lowe she was pregnant, he broke up with her for good.  Gilbert claims she miscarried several days later.”

This isn’t the half of his sordid back story, this one still on Wikipedia: In 1988, Lowe was involved in a sex scandal over a videotape of him having sex with a 16-year-old girl he met in a nightclub. They were videotaped the night before the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. As the age of consent is 16 in Georgia, both were of legal age to engage in sexual activity, although not to be recorded. At the time, Lowe was campaigning for Michael Dukakis.

Someone get this guy a Lifetime biopic!

Tolstoy’s Kitten!

September 8, 2016

This is a kitten at Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s country estate.

PS Yasnaya Polyana has an Instagram feed!