Haptodysphoria(noun) an unpleasant sensation felt by some people in response to certain tactile sensations. When you rub velvet the wrong way. Chalk on your fingers. When you accidentally brush against gum on the underside of a table.
Susurrous(adjective) whispering, murmuring. When I was a child my parents had a friend that always liked to lean in and whisper jokes to me, often while chewing on his food, which was usually something like hummus or pesto. I can’t help but think of that whenever I say this word: that chilling feeling of someone uttering soft, disgusting sounds into your ear.
Oubliette(noun) a secret dungeon with access only through a trapdoor in its ceiling. A word that sounds like it could be something cute but is actually the creepiest thing imaginable.
Prosopagnosia(noun) an inability to recognize familiar faces, often referred to as ‘face blindness.’ I kid you not, I think I suffer from this. It can be somewhat frustrating, very awkward.
Elsewhere(adverb) in, at, or to some other place or other places. I like the sound of faraway places but the distance between any of us is most often heartbreaking.
Lake Temescal in Oakland, California: a man-made lake tucked in between two highways (the 24 and 13), encrusted with trees, a beach of rock-sand, sun-facing and you can be so warm and sweater-less until late evening, even in winter
The Pacific Ocean: an obvious one but there is so much nuance to it, how it feels in southern California (warm, soothing, sun-drenched) and the northern part of the same state (bone-cutting cold, echoing with fog horns, slippery)
The water around Point State Park in Pittsburgh: the point of confluence of the Allegheny and Monogahela rivers, where they form the Ohio River, the West End bridge arching yellow in the background
The Laccadive Sea: or Lakshadweep Sea, where I swam fully-clothed, chanting a song to welcome the last of the whales that season, bordering India (including the Lakshadweep islands), the Maldives, and Sri Lanka
Ship Bay: a U-shape of saltwater marsh alongside Orcas Island, Washington, where the pink and violet starfish taunt you from your kayak with their ability to hang on to the sliming rocks
While growing your own mushrooms at home isn’t as difficult as you might think (I’ve had luck with king oysters, shiitakes, and pioppinos), the most delicious species are still the priciest and hardest to cultivate. Temperamental truffles, morels, and chanterelles are largely foraged from the wild, and these fungi fetch a pretty penny at the grocer’s. Even though you might think Utah is too dry for mushrooms, I found a medium-size morel growing behind my shed the morning I was to drive out of state for a friend’s wedding. Rather than letting it go to waste, I brought the mushroom with me and cooked it in a shallow pool of butter on the hot plate of my hotel room coffee machine. As I chomped down on the earthy delicacy I thought, “I do.” And every time I check behind the shed for morels that never appear, I wish I could do it all over again.
Let’s get one thing straight: geese are jerks. One of my earliest childhood memories is being attacked by geese on the banks of a lake in Minnesota, and a woman I once dated became the target of a pursuing honker at an eco-resort in Costa Rica. Bottom line, most animals deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. But not geese. They’re crotchety, cantankerous, and downright mean. If you ask me, they’re asking for it. So go ahead and force-feed a goose until its liver swells with fat. Then pan fry that liver and serve it to me with some fruit compote. I’ll gobble it down and feel vindicated every time.
Food Truck Tacos
After a few years living in Pennsylvania (where a certain chain of Mexican restaurants serves Southern-style corn bread with your meal—what’s up with that?) I moved to Houston, TX and was excited by the city’s food culture. But the Tex-Mex restaurants quickly proved disappointing—a mix of lightly sautéed tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos is not a proper sauce for someone raised on the majesty of New Mexico red and green chile. However, Houston’s taco trucks were a revelation. The mobile taquerias, of which there are dozens, if not hundreds, serve some of the best pastor, fajita, and pollo tacos I’ve ever had. And on handmade tortillas to boot. But the real treats were the “specialty” meats, the bits most people discard or make faces at: tripas (intestines; order them extra crispy), lengua (braised beef tongue that could easily pass for lean pot roast), mollejas (creamy, slippery sweetbreads) and barbacoa (shredded beef cheeks). In the first year alone I insulated my own tripas with a ten-pound spare tire that kept me rolling from truck to truck to truck with a smile plastered on my salsa-scorched lips.
No doubt about it, alcohol is poison. But beer tastes great. What a dilemma. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill American lager. I’m talking about West Coast IPAs where mingling malts and hops produce citrus, mango and pineapple flavors. I’m talking about Belgian gueuzes, a blend of barrel-aged beers soured by natural fermentation that lends a vinegary bite. I’m talking about wild ales whose aromas are reminiscent (in a good way) of trips to the petting zoo. The spectrum of flavors you can coax out of boiled malt, water, and yeast is one of the world’s many wonders. But to indulge in such a delight will rot you from the inside out. I guess it’s a kind of gastronomic karma that if you consume something in excess it will eventually about-face and consume you right back.
A Pound of Cheese
My grandfather passed away from a heart attack before his 60th birthday. My grandmother had high cholesterol, as does my mother. During my last physical, my doctor said my lipids were a wee bit high and I should keep an eye on them. I took his advice and headed straight to the market, gazing longingly at imported goat- and sheep-milk rounds. If ever I was forced to choose between meat and cheese, I’d give meat free range to take a hike while I sat in the shade of a tree and scooped the insides of a Camembert wheel with a crusty loaf of bread, consoling myself with every unctuous bite.
Family. Whether they are blood relatives or friends they often serve as my inspiration. I have one of the best support systems and I am extremely grateful for them.
The color orange. Weird I know, but I love almost everything orange. It is by far my favorite color and I am usually either wearing clothes that have orange in them, rocking an orange phone case, or drinking orange juice (delicious).
My puppy. I recently got a toy schnauzer puppy whose name is Reese! She has already become my best friend and I do not know what I would do without her. She may be small, but she is as protective as any dog I have ever known.
Breakfast. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you about my love for breakfast food. It does not matter what time of the day it is because it is always a good time for breakfast!
Music. I am positive that Frank Sinatra wrote the soundtrack to my life. The ups, the downs, the love, and the heartbreak; it all makes me the man I am.
My teeth. Why do they feel weird when I drink cold water? Why do they sometimes itch? Teeth shouldn’t itch.
My couch. It’s from the 1980s and I’m pretty sure it’s actually made of asbestos. An identical couch appeared in an episode of True Detective in the home of an old woman who worshipped the devil, which is troubling in a different way.
My eyebrows. They have some kind of horrible eyebrow mange and I really hope no one can see it can you see it?
Hand-addressed letters on nice watermarked paper from places of employment telling me that I am not being hired.
That feeling I get when I suddenly snap back into my body after floating for days in a fugue state, realizing suddenly that I am a woman, that I am getting older, that this (gestures at apartment, at unopened mail, at devil/asbestos sofa, at own teeth) is all real, that this exists, and that this. after all, is what I have to work with.
Emily Blanquera is a high school student from Dublin, Ohio who likes reading, writing, and theatre, and recognizes that she, as a high schooler, hasn’t done anything of much significance.
Simon Alford is sixteen and loves to read and loves Treehouse.
Sight. The faces of your friends as they laugh about something stupid during rest period at the pool, chlorinated water seeping down from their hairlines onto their sunburned cheeks, mouths full of radioactive nacho cheese, sitting cross legged on a ratty beach towel.
Sound. A bike ride, the tires racing down the sidewalk, the machine gun tat-tat-tat-tat of the playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes, landing with a thud after every crack in the sidewalk, the skid of the rubber wheels through a puddle, the broken bell pitifully wheezing with each unexpected jostle, the squeal of rusty brakes.
Smell. Fresh laundry as you walk past a neighbor’s house, the detergent wafting through the open windows to mingle with hot pavement, barbecue, freshly cut grass, and last night’s bonfire. A cacophony in your nostrils.
Taste. Cold water straight from the hose during a game of neighborhood kickball, your thirst raging after 45 minutes, the slightly metallic taste a welcome change from the sweat that coats your face in a salty sheen.
Touch. A bonfire, the heat beating at your shins, the grass itchy underneath your crossed legs, a wind blowing against your shoulders, the weak resilience of a marshmallow pressed between two graham crackers, your hands sticky as you reach to itch a mosquito bite on your ankle.
Summer is upon us, boys and girls. Whether your fancy be pool or river, ocean or the local waterin’ hole, you’re going to need a few things to pass the time not spent in the water. Here are some suggestions from yours truly:
A book, obviously. I suppose any book will do, but I prefer to read noncommittal narratives when I’m poolside. You know the ones: the term “beach read” was invented for them. Books like the Sookie Stackhouse and Vampire Academy series. Another favorite is Christopher Moore’s Island of the Sequined Love Nun. If the title isn’t enough to grab you, here’s a description. If you prefer deep reading in the deep end (sorry), Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins or Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver ought to fit the bill nicely. (Still Life is also wonderfully weird, and you should read that anyway.) Something shorter, you say? Marie Helene Bertino’s short story collection Safe as Houses is beautiful.
A bucket, a shovel, and a flashlight. This does little good for those of you whose water worlds don’t include sand, but it’s a must for those that do. Build a sandcastle. Build three. Have sandcastle wars. Destroy everything. And then when the sun goes down, use the flashlight to hunt for critters to inhabit your bucket (use the shovel for safe transfer from sand to bucket. Some critters have claws, after all).
Lana Del Ray’s Ultraviolence.Summertime is the hottest time, but Lana Del Ray’s new album promises to be so incredibly cool. Start with “West Coast,” and try, I dare you, try not to get the rest. Album drops June 17th.
Sunscreen, sunglasses, and lots of water. Because of course you should. Be smart, people. I wouldn’t begrudge you a big, floppy hat, either.
A camera. Document that shit for posterity. Summer comes but once a year, you know.