Your favorite new appetizer

I spent the day celebrating the birth of our nation by taking a long walk, stopping for an iced coffee while sweating all over the counter of a local food purveyor, and then organizing every square centimeter of my kitchen, which is thankfully very small (this is the first time I've ever said those three words together about my kitchen).

I found a million things to recycle (old cords and random cables, dead batteries, useless flashlights, empty tape dispensers), and finally tossed the billion recipes I printed from the internet or tore out of magazines over the years. These have been sitting mostly untouched in binders and notebooks, except for the lucky few I reach for again and again, which I then scanned with my phone for future ease of use and portability. I know my weak points. Never, ever print anything.

So this is one of those: the recipe for these cheese mushroom canapés was emailed to me on 9/15/00 by a guy I worked with for a couple of months at a prepress vendor in Madison, WI, called Digital Color. He brought them to a baby shower for our coworker Tami, and they have been the most popular hors d'oeuvre at my house at Christmastime ever since. They are delicious both hot out of the oven and cold out of the refrigerator the morning after, although they never last that long. You absolutely should make them if you are entertaining people you like, or your family. I suppose I could go to the trouble of typing it all out for you, but where's the fun in that? Please enjoy this 17-year-old email instead.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Sadly I have to end this terrific post by admitting that I saved the printout, too. I try to take a hard line when it comes to hoarding objects for purely sentimental reasons, but this is precious to me. Clearly it has seen some things along the way, as have I, and is both battered and better for it (as am I).

Morning NYC

I bought tickets to tour the 9/11 Museum and One World Trade Center this morning, but the museum was such an overwhelming experience that I could only wander around aimlessly afterward. You look at the photographs again and watch the videos and hear the stories and see what's left behind, and then you walk out onto these streets and you can't even imagine. I don't wonder that most New Yorkers stay away: if I had been here that day I would never go back. But all I kept thinking through the whole tour was "be a better person." It was staggering.

It's hard to know how to respond to all the commotion around the memorial itself, though, which is composed of deep cascading pools laid into the footprint of each tower. There are signs up along the perimeter reminding people it's a space for reflection, but the mood there...wasn't that. It was mostly tourists, as expected, and people treated it like another tourist attraction: posing for family photos and selfies, chasing kids around, laughing, and it's surrounded by shopping malls and train stations and a million horns honking, but maybe that's all a piece of what makes it sacred. It's a living place of remembrance dug deep into the bones of the city. 

One window

Three scenes from this morning.

1. At the post office: the federal government employees were not-quite-ready when I arrived at 8:00 a.m., although the USPS website clearly states that opening time is 6:00 a.m. and there was a small queue already forming inside. When the lady behind the bulletproof glass finally stepped up to her desk and rang the buzzer for station 2, the elderly woman with the cane standing at the front of the line took more than three seconds to respond, at which point the elderly man who was fifth or sixth in the line started hollering, "TWO! TWO! TWO!" until she began to move. Nobody commented on this. We all went about our business.

2. After the post office: I stopped at Lenwich for a bacon-egg-&-cheese-on-a-roll and an iced coffee (sugared to the F*@&!!!! degree), which is my standard Saturday summer routine, and then I headed back up Columbus to pick up my laundry (ditto). Approaching 85th St., I heard a commotion coming from further up Columbus, a man cursing to the air at the top of his lungs, which meant someone emotionally or mentally troubled or drunk or maybe just high on life was headed my way. Usually when this happens I cross the street, but instead I turned up 85th, figuring I'd wait until he passed, since people in this state are typically harmless but you never know. I got about an eighth of the way up the block and stopped next to a car, and when I turned back around I watched him pick up a heavy metal trash can from the sidewalk, lift it over his head, dump out the contents, and toss it out into the street. Then he continued down Columbus, still shouting, and I headed back the way I'd come. As I neared the corner, I watched two elderly, gray-haired ladies, strangers crossing from opposite sides of the street, silently stoop down to pick up that trash can and set it back on the sidewalk. They didn't say anything to each other, and we all went about our business.

3. After the laundry: On my way back to my apartment, I passed a man and a small boy wearing helmets and standing next to their scooters on a narrow patch of sidewalk narrowed further by construction on a multi-million-dollar townhouse. At first I thought they were waiting for someone to come out of the house, but as I squeezed by them I heard the man say to the boy, "That's so we can all share the sidewalk."

p.s. I read a blog post yesterday by a recent visitor to New York, who spent a day being a tourist and doing touristy things, and it was a lovely post by someone who appreciates what the city is from the perspective of a tourist, but who seemed baffled that anyone would choose to live here, and it ended with something like "I love Manhattan, but it just isn't for me." This is the kind of statement people make all the time, for no apparent reason and in response to no enticement, about a lot of different places but particularly in reference to New York City, and my reaction, as always, was "Thank god."

Happy weekend, nerds

I love this picture. I love all behind-the-scenes set photos but especially this one. "Just lay there and look morose and sexy while bearded and naked from the waist up," is what I hope the direction was for this particular shot.

A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on

p.s. I hate to say it, but this is maybe...too buff, Y/N? Yet there's something about Justin Theroux that's indescribably goofy. When I figure out what this is, I will let you know. In the meantime, tip a hat: he's actually really good to dogs.

Watching: The Big Sick

This movie is so delightful! I would call it the best comedy I've seen in years, but I can't remember the last time I saw a really sharp comedy. Maybe "Spy," which was a billion summers ago and not about real people (sorry, spy wannabes, your time is still not now). This one is lifted by a stellar cast and a generous point of view, and Chicago. The main character is also a stand-up comedian who isn't a secret depressive alcoholic rage maniac or the teller of dick jokes, which is always welcome, by me. And it's for grownups! Grownups who like quick wit and smart banter and the bonus genius pairing of Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.

p.s. What I love best about Kumail Nanjiani is how much he loves his wife, his family, and Hugh Grant

The definition of luxury

When I first moved to Illinois and made hardly any money, my definition of luxury was the Embassy Suites in Lombard, which you can see from I-88 on your way from Naperville to Oak Brook or Chicago or wherever. There is nothing fancy at all about this hotel, but it's narrow and tall and it has a high domed green roof and the rooms form a ring around the perimeter of a hollow center lined with windows, which is lit up at night in a way that looks glamorous from the road, at least to me. I remember driving past that hotel year after year and thinking, someday I'll come back to this place from somewhere far away and that's where I'll stay, and I'll finally know what it's like to look out from the inside. That's where I stay now, when I visit, and what you can see is I-88, and a shopping mall, and a Chick-fil-A, and some low-lying office buildings, and the last time I stayed there, in May, I saw a car lit on fire on the side of the road.

The definition of luxury is different for everybody, but lately I've come to define it as small tokens of ease: tools or objects that make life better or more pleasurable in infinite, often unremarkable ways. So my idea of luxury these days is:

  • SPF 50
  • A car with air conditioning
  • Air conditioning
  • A car (no "small" token, but still)
  • Spare rolls of toilet paper in the closet
  • Spare rolls of paper towels in the cupboard
  • Cupboards
  • A spare set of sheets in the closet
  • Closets

Furthest, fairest things

Furthest, fairest things, stars, free of our humbug,
each his own, the longer known the more alone,
wrapt in emphatic fire roaring out to a black flue.
Each spark trills on a tone beyond chronological compass,
yet in a sextant’s bubble present and firm
places a surveyor’s stone or steadies a tiller.
Then is Now. The star you steer by is gone,
its tremulous thread spun in the hurricane
spider floss on my cheek; light from the zenith
spun when the slowworm lay in her lap
fifty years ago.

— Basil Bunting (via Anecdotal Evidence)

Still thinking of Kevin

I'll go to my grave hearing Patti Levin shout "Kevin!" This video title spells it "Kyevan" but I think it's more like "Kh-yev-uhn"—no fewer than three syllables, at least towards the end. 

"Aw, you're on goddamn fire!"

She's so good! I'd almost say they were my favorite couple on the show but I love Nora & Kevin too much to ever make that claim.

Family photo

This was taken right before or right after we tossed my Uncle Gary's ashes into a stream, cupful by cupful, hand by hand. It was a beautiful day. We remembered him well, there in the sunshine, surrounded by trees and flowers and birds and the sound of that water, and it felt like a holy thing, at least in the way I understand such things to be: not trapped in a dark place surrounded by strangers, no solemn hymns, no talk of heaven or higher beings, just a simple passage marked by family with kind words and laughter. That's a good life, I think, and not a bad way to leave it.

It was a normal conversation

One of the New York Times’ favorite hobbies is batting down dumb things Chris Christie says about New York City, usually by pointing out that he’s from New Jersey, but also by highlighting the very specific nature of what it means to actually live in New York City.

Normal conversation here, as most New Yorkers know, consists of a garbled public address message that “downtown local trains are making express stops on the local track; for bypassed stations take the uptown express train making local stops on the express track,” followed by unprintable language, followed by someone yelling, “What time is it?” and his friends yelling “It’s show time!” followed by someone saying, “Are you getting a signal?

It goes on for quite a while, and is full of gold: 

In Highbridge Park in Upper Manhattan, Ira and Karen Simon, who moved to the city four years ago, said a normal New York City conversation was often one struck up with strangers.

“We go out of our way to act as an ambassador of the city,” Ms. Simon, 66, a retired teacher, said. Her husband, a retired principal, added, “And then we demand loyalty from them!

And weird gold, uttered by sages:

Andrew Vladeck, 39, who performs as a singing cowboy under the name Hopalong Andrew, said that a “normal New York City conversation,” if such a thing existed, was an attempt to connect — about “a late train, an odd person, an odd smell” — and was characterized by “speaking clearly and directly.”

“It’s not speaking in innuendo or a vague manner,” Mr. Vladeck said.

Of Mr. Trump’s remarks, Mr. Vladeck said, “That wasn’t a New York conversation,” but “more like an Atlantic City conversation, if you get my drift.

This piece is of course accompanied by a photo of Hopalong Andrew, and you should see it.