another year in review list

sorry to be THAT person but also i'm not!

I’m back.

WELL, kind of. Sort of. In a shrugging “no one missed this but I feel obligated to update it anyway and also I do love the attention kind of way.”

This is the last newsletter for 2019 (unless I’m struck with some sort of enormous revelation I must must must get out but even still, idk), and it’s not even really a real newsletter, not like the others. My brain is fully fried, a sentiment I have expressed approximately 87 times a day for the past two months.

Instead of being a newsletter-y newsletter, this is going to be a bunch of lists. People love lists this time of year, but they stress me out! (I am not even going to start on the decade-in-review thing because that is too overwhelming and my memory is not that good.) Ranking things? No thank you. But sometimes it’s nice to list things — in no particular order — that I have done or learned or enjoyed, nice to think about the concrete accomplishments and joys of the recent past rather than focus on all the still things I feel are missing and yet to be found in the vague future.

This is that. A little in case you missed it, a little maybe read it again, a little maybe just be curious and click this link. It’s fun. It’s whatever.

okay thanks sorry love you happy honda-days merry crisis bye,
carrie


things i wrote in 2019 that i’m proud of, a few of which i’m lowkey shook i had the privilege to do:

~ I wrote and hosted season 3 of The Opus podcast, all about Jeff Buckley’s Grace. Episode one of three is here.

~ Wrote a lot on my blog and/or this newsletter in the early half of this year, which was terrifying and liberating at the same time. A few favorites: (1) On Jenny Lewis’s On The Line (an album that — from an artist whose work has always been part of my bloodstream — got especially under my skin this year), (2) on climate change and anxiety, and (3) on being one of the youngest in the audience for a Mott the Hoople concert.

~ I wrote and gave a reading of a piece about Buckingham Nicks and youth and mortality that made people in the audience cry lol

~ Talked to Slack Dad Stephen Malkmus about his swerve of an electro album for Flood Magazine.

~ I wrote my first essay for a book (you! love! to! see! it!) on the — very good, actually!! — Liz Phair (2003).

~ Flood let me write about Jessica Lange’s new photography collection (ya, that Jessica Lange) and wax about a disappearing part of America a little.

~ An enormous holy shit moment: I had a wine lunch (and got carded lmaO) with one of my musical and feminist heroes, Kim! Fucking! Gordon, and wrote about her brilliant solo debut for Garage. BONUS: Here’s a big chunk of our transcript that didn’t make it in.

~ I wrote about the patron saint of “difficult” girls everywhere, my queen, Elaine May, for Bright Wall/Dark Room.

~ And I spent the summer reporting — which included ya girl going to the Tonys and making A COLD CALL TO ELAINE MAY (okay so the number was out of service, but still, it was scary!) — this profile of Elaine May, who arguably had the best 2019 of us all, for Glamour. Might fuck around and do something more with the penultimate draft, which had grown to 4K+ words, stay tuned.

~ I talked about Honey Boy with the brilliant director Alma Ha’rel for Flood.

~ Got a Vanity Fair byline writing about grifters, which was tight.

~Flood also let me write about my favorite albums/songs of the year: Norman Fucking Rockwell! and Better Oblivion Community Center, and, again, Jenny.

~ Anddddd, I spent the most wonderful afternoon getting called “honey” a lot by Lee Grant, two-time Oscar winning actor, director, and bad bitch blacklist survivor, for Bright Wall/Dark Room.


20 albums i enjoyed and listened to often in 2019:

On The Line - Jenny Lewis // Norman Fucking Rockwell! - Lana Del Rey // Heard It In A Past Life - Maggie Rogers // Better Oblivion Community Center - “” // The Hours soundtrack - Philip Glass // When I Get Home - Solange // Homecoming - Beyoncé // Rather Ripped - Sonic Youth // Groove Denied - Stephen Malkmus // No Home Record - Kim Gordon // Hello, I’m Doing My Best - Ali Barter // Big Science - Laurie Anderson // Le Tigre - “” // Remind Me Tomorrow - Sharon Van Etten // i,i - Bon Iver // Transportation - Chandra // Titanic Rising - Weyes Blood // Anak Ko - Jay Som // All Mirrors - Angel Olsen // GIRL - Marren Morris // Reward - Cate le Bon

15 movies i watched for the first time and enjoyed in 2019:

Hustlers (2019) // Knives Out (2019) // Gloria Bell (2019) // Marriage Story (2019) // Booksmart (2019) // Little Women* (2019) // Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (2019) // Honey Boy (2019) // Margaret (2011) // Ishtar (1987) // Down and Out in America** (1986) // Frances (1982) // Downtown ‘81 (1981) // Girlfriends (1978) // A New Leaf (1971)

*i am seeing greta gerwig’s little women tonight and preemptively including it because i already know i will love it
**i saw this freshman year of college in a film crit class and since that was 10 years ago, i’m absolutely counting my second viewing of it as the first because hoooooboy it hits harder now.

you should google all of those; i highly recommend.

###

friendly reminder that if you missed any previous emails, you can read the archive here.

okay that's it that's the end thanks see y’all in the screaming ‘20s bye

back at it* again at krispy kreme**

*writing newsletters / **substack

hellO

Dropped the ball on this weekly-not-so-weekly-but-at-least-kinda-regular newsletter thing, BUT in my defense, I was very busy writing things for places that actually pay me (more about that below) and practically brain dead when it came to writing anything else.

Anyway, happy SAD season! Might fuck around and actually buy a light therapy lamp this year because, honestly, it’s only November and this month has been more grey and dreary and unbearably windy (every time a huge gust blows lately, I want to yell “okay, we GET IT, stop showing off!”) than not. Four to five more months of this? I think the fuck not. Please hit me up if you have any recommendations. 

Also, happy Listen To River By Joni Mitchell On Repeat season! I’m so glad Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” brought the classic to the forefront of pop culture discussion to remind us that it’s that time of year again. (Also grateful that it’s responsible for this spectacularly/depressingly/horrifically stupid Cosmopolitan headline’s existence.) You have five more weeks to listen to the world’s saddest unintentional Christmas song as much as you want before your friends, family members, and coworkers are like “um, are you okay?” Go forth.

Anyway. Content is below. A lot of it was obviously started a few weeks ago (see: mention of the first really cold weekend of fall) but I do not care enough to change it because I am TIRED! 

okay thanks sorry love u bye,

carrie


SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
nora ephron invented fall, change my mind

Every year when the air starts to turn crisp and clothing store windows begin to fill with long sleeves and full-length pants in varying shades of rich reds and oranges and browns and baby pumpkins decorate stoops, I swear that this will be the year I buy my Sally Albright Outfit. Every year I fail. Suddenly, it’s November and there are no loose-but-sharp slacks (I love the word “slacks” and how charmingly dated it sounds) hanging in my closet, no quirky printed turtlenecks, and it’s become too cold to stroll through Central Park in nothing heavier than a tweed blazer.

Nora Ephron invented fall, or, at least, invented fall in New York, and I am always spending the season searching the city for her. It’s fitting that the season seemingly belongs to Nora; it’s one of the few times of year New York still feels aspirational. It shows its old bones to you; the egg yolk yellow light glowing from the windows of old brownstone apartments once night starts to come early encourages a nostalgia and longing for another time, yes, but also an acceptance of the now. It is possible to be reconcile your inner Frank Navasky who rails against the ever-corporatization of New York with your inner aspiring Kathleen Kelly who, despite all evidence to the contrary, sees New York as still good. I walk through the Upper West Side and play “Dreams” by the Cranberries with the volume as high as it will go (I often joke that it is illegal not to), my strides purposeful and confident, my body suddenly filled with inexplicable euphoria and hopefulness. Life seems a little more romantic when viewed through Nora Ephron’s lens. For four minutes and 32 seconds, I can forget how much this world, and this city, feels — quite literally — like a burning building. Instead, for four minutes and 32 seconds, New York feels like a movie in which I am the protagonist, and nothing really bad could happen to me there. 

Because nothing truly bad, nothing truly awful happens to a Nora Ephron protagonist. That’s not to say nothing bad happens — things do indeed get rotten. She might have a crisis of confidence over whether or not she’s in love with her best friend, or a stranger who lives across the country, or a rival bookseller — but it’s all survivable. Even the worst of crises, like when Kathleen Kelly’s bookstore — the bookstore that had been her mother’s before her — goes under, come with silver linings. She will be sad for the appropriate amount of time, and then she will become a children’s book author, and the audience will think it’s all for the best, that it was meant to be; there was more in life for Kathleen Kelly than simply running a book shop day in and day out. Nora Ephron’s women are never victims; they are heroines, and we know that our heroine will be alright in the end, know that our brief glimpse into her life will fade out happily, more often than not on a kiss.  

I miss Nora Ephron. I know it’s such a silly thing to say about someone I never even met, much less knew personally, and I know I’ve said this often since her death in 2012, but it’s true and I feel it more acutely as the years go by and the world seems to grow increasingly crueler. As the years pass, I miss Nora Ephron even more, and I find myself craving the safety and warmth that mixes with the occasional bite of her universe. In Nora’s version of the world, the trains run on time and our leaders aren’t corrupt predators and media companies thrive. There are no empty storefronts and the corporate brick and mortar banks are not yet ubiquitous and no one, not one single person, is terrified about climate change.

It’s the first truly cold weekend of fall, the temperatures free-falling from one unseasonable extreme to the other, 70° on Monday, 30° by Saturday. The first cold days of fall always comes as a shock, a brutal slap of freezing air across the face. Residents of the Upper West Side are reacting appropriately: peacoats and topcoats in somber blacks and camels are out in full buttoned-up force; nearly every other woman you pass on the sidewalk sports a tasteful beret. One of them got on the 1 train with me last night at 72nd Street, an unusual bright spot of energy at 11 p.m. in a car full of overtired people packed in tight and grudgingly defrosting together.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the old woman called out, clearing her throat and waiting for a response. People groaned, expecting maybe a performance or perhaps, despite her poise and polished outward appearance, an overlong story about her plight before she’d ask for our spare change. 

“Tomorrow,” she continued, letting the word hang with anticipation in the air for a moment, “Lincoln Center is giving away free tickets to the Jessye Norman memorial at the Metropolitan Opera on Sunday!” A few cheered. Most were silent. She added, not without some spice, “It seems some of you are too young to know.”

She continued on like this, gleefully yelling, in that sort of indiscernibly coastal-with-an-aftertaste-of-vaguely-European accent that only rich, white women of a certain age still have, all the details of the giveaway and her love for the Met through the car of tired people who had lost interest and I couldn’t help but laugh. It felt like a scene in a comedy, maybe not exactly like one Nora would pen, but certainly one I would. I guess that has to be enough for now.


LISTEN
At Weddings - Tomberlin

Look, I know all the ways Spotify is bad and screws over artists and is making music even more scarily corporatized, but all that excessive personal data they’ve probably got stored on me does do the trick in that my Discover Weekly recommends rarely fail to be on point. Recently, it led me to this haunting, pared down acoustic album from last year that I would have missed otherwise. Its cozy fall vibes are like a choose your own adventure: listen to just the lyrics, which often reach into the gut punch territory (“To be a woman is to be in pain” is a killer), or just the stunning guitar work, which is an entire mood and ambience itself, or pair the two together. It’s an album that’s easy to get lost in, to look at the clock and realize you’d been playing it on repeat for the past three hours and not once was it grating — not many albums are capable of that.

READ
Can a Woman Who Is an Artist Ever Just Be an Artist? - Rachel Cusk

Through the stories of two painters, Celia Paul and Cecily Brown, Rachel Cusk paints two starkly different portraits (pun not intended, sorry) about how women thrive in mediums historically dominated by men. It took me awhile to read the first time, and I had to read it at least two more to fully process, and each pass gutted me more than the last. 

WATCH
Honey Boy

It… messed me up, and I say that with love. See below!

THINGS I WROTE OR DID

When it rains it POURS my friends! Here are some reasons why I have been slacking on this part of my writing game, in case you missed anything. (Or want to reread? I don’t know your life.)

Decades Later, the World is Catching Up to Elaine May

Glamour let me spend the summer reporting out this profile of Elaine May, which included going to the Tonys, personally reaching out to (and getting radio silence, of course) Elaine for a comment, and talking to Natasha goddamn Lyonne and Joan Allen (among others) for a solid half hour each about how much we love our fave. Might fuck around and share the full version (which at one edit stage ballooned up to 4K words, oops) with those here who want it sometime.

Jessica Lange’s Highway 61 Explores America the Beautiful, Lonely, and Fading

Flood Magazine let me write about Jessica Lange’s newest book of photography (yes, that Jessica Lange), America, and loneliness. 

Kim Gordon’s Ready to See You Now

I went to lunch with Kim Gordon (!!!) and I got carded when we ordered wine and wanted to crawl out of my skin but then we talked for an hour and a half about New York and LA, the way media mythologizes people, her new (first) solo album, and more. Also might fuck around and share the whole transcript here at some point, because it was — and this is more to toot her horn and not my own — a really great interview that obviously had to be cut down for space. 

Director Alma Har’el on the Therapeutic Nature of Honey Boy

Flood Magazine had me talk to Alma Har’el about trauma and gender equality in film-making and this absolutely stunning narrative feature debut.

Liz Phair the Poptimist
I wrote about Liz Phair’s much-maligned 2003 pop album (which was my — and many other millennials' — entrypoint to her canon) and all the gross, misogynistic ways music bros at the time reacted to it. And, like, okay, this one is one you’ll have to buy a whole book for but, folks, ya girl got an essay in a book! Hello, let’s celebrate that

friendly reminder that if you missed any previous emails, you can read the archive here.

okay that's it that's the end thanks bye

thoughts you have about beauty and aging in the locker room of an UWS gym

hiiiiii everybody!

Happy fall (lol it was 90º this week) to everyone, but most importantly to the inventor of the season itself, Nora Ephron. If you find yourself on the Upper West Side one crisp day these next few months — particularly if the leaves have begun to change and there are pumpkins sitting alongside bodega flowers that you may or may not happen to buy and you are drinking a piping hot coffee (a normal kind, not pumpkin spice caramel apple pie diabetes explosion with a hint of coffee somewhere in there) — a reminder that you are legally required to play “Dreams” by The Cranberries at least once. I’m so sorry, I don’t make the rules and I don’t usually trust cops but I will have no choice but to snitch in this situation!!!

Anyway! Below are some words about growing old and my fleeting youth, which I am honestly never not thinking about but am absolutely thinking about more thanks to the changing season reminding us all about, uh, death. Cool! Enjoy!!!

okay thanks sorry love u bye,

carrie


SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
thoughts you have about beauty and aging in the locker room of an UWS gym

The Upper West Side gym I go to on weekends’ clientele swings mostly towards the 60+ age demographic. Maybe sprinkle a few middle aged parents in there — the ones squeezing in their one (1) hour of fitness for the week after they’ve dropped their kids in the babysitting room, the ones who, like me, can afford something a few levels above Planet Fitness with group classes and new equipment but definitely aren’t bougie enough for Equinox —  to lower the median age a little, but more often than not, I am wildly out of place. I kind of like it like this. 

In the locker room after class I doddle, taking my time getting dressed, listening in as the older women chitchat among themselves and wondering how long they’ve been friendly and how many life phases and body changes they have seen each other through. They know the names of each other’s husbands (or, quite often, ex-husbands) and they gossip about their shitty grown children and the not-so-great work their mutual friends have had done and their mutual friends’ shitty grown children (Sharon’s son Lincoln hasn’t brought his girlfriend home once in the two years they’ve been dating and at least three women are convinced that it isn’t just because she can’t get time off work) and what movies they’re going to see later that Saturday (many of them loved Green Book and found “Viggo Morten and Mahalo Ali” to be “just charming”, thank you). They call each other sweetheart and beautiful in gratuitous measure: “Hi, sweetheart!” “How are you beautiful?!” they exclaim when another walks in.

I usually keep quiet; once, last year, the one other 20-something in the room piped into a conversation about the recent Women’s March to say that she believed “men and women are very different, actually. I just don’t understand this obsession with gender equality.” I sat in my towel and watched one of them lecture her about the wage gap, gendered violence, global gender poverty, and more for 10 minutes and silently screamed, in awe of such calm yet savage power. 

I always avert my eyes, though I still can’t help but see glimpses of whisper thin sun-spotted skin, skin that sags and hangs limply on even the thinnest and fittest of them, the kind of skin that can be camouflaged behind beautifully tailored clothing that makes them seem every bit the chic and smart women I know them to be but reveals itself in these intimate spaces. It’s hard not to notice it. I think about how much I pick myself apart now, how I exist in a body I have hated with varying degrees of intensity since I was 14, and feel guilty about my comparative youth and wonder how I will feel about it when I’m their age. Maybe I’ll grow tired of feeling badly about the way I look, the way I think many of them have, the way they unabashedly strip naked in the middle of the room, walk around in their underwear and nothing else, stand in the mirror to blow dry their hair while topless, as I huddle shyly in the corner and wrap a towel around me as I peel off my sports bra. Or maybe I’ll just find more things to loathe about it.

I always thought I couldn’t wait to look as old as I often think myself to be on the inside. I often wonder if, once I get to that age where I have lost my muscle mass, I’ll become all skin and bones, reedlike the way I used to be but without as much effort, and have a body that looks as fragile as I sometimes feel. I long for the day to come when I have a mature, wizened air about me, all hollow cheeks and crows feet and a line beveled into my flesh where I furrow my left eyebrow when I’m focusing, a look that definitively states that I have earned my right to be taken seriously. I keep waiting for all the lives I have not yet lived, and perhaps never will, to etch their way across my face. I always thought maybe I’d be beautiful, or something close to it, when I got older. Older women are always more beautiful. Young women are just cute.

At least, that’s how I feel now, a rough approximation of cute — on my best days — but realistically often erring closer to a strange child playing dress up. Anytime I put on lipstick brighter or darker than a virginal pink, I feel like those poor babies you see in viral videos their parents post on Facebook — those which they cannot yet consent to and will perhaps begrudge years from now — the ones scribbling magic marker across their faces before flashing big gummy smiles and exclaiming “I’m big!” This face — all baby fat cheeks and random errant patches of acne and Kewpie doll eyes — is either my biggest asset or greatest liability, depending who you ask; it’s the thing I resent and revel in at the same time. With this face, I can hold onto my inexplicable desire to be seen as a scrappy wunderkind a little longer, past its expiration date, past the time I have to resign myself to being just an ordinary, subpar grownup and not a gifted teen. With this face, I can get away with stupid, perhaps irresponsible, playful shit like buying a skateboard or Razor scooter (both of which spend more time in my hallway than in use) or throw out slang words and phrases in gratuitous measure or go out and get a little too drunk with friends and laugh a little too loudly on the subway home. Sure. With this face, I can delay real adulthood a little longer, but at what cost? For every moment I feel like the smartest and youngest in the room, there are times I feel like I’m just a teenager whose summer internship has ended, whose head adults no longer feel required to pat and smile at and say “good job,” but rather, the kid they’d just like to go home. 

“When I was in my 20s, I refused to go above 14th Street. Now that I’m an old lady, I refuse to go below 42nd Street,” Lynn, one of the locker room ladies once told me as she reflected on what the city was like when she was my age, beginning the kind of story I don’t think I will ever be able to resist greedily gobbling up like candy. Her voice still held onto a lilt of Southern belle charm, a reminder that despite the many years she has been a New Yorker, she didn’t come from here; she was once a something else. Lynn is thin and bony and birdlike, barely making up the same five feet and two inches as me, with a choppy jet black bob she almost certainly dyes that somehow looks freshly blown out and skin that always sports that post-workout glow pretty women get (I am not one of those women; I look like a drowned 12 year old boy after I exercise) even when she’s just walking in. Later, she called me baby faced and told me that would serve me years from now when I am her age, along with her potent, not-so-secret regimen of “lots of water, exercise, no taking the subway, and a good plastic surgeon.”

I watch Lynn and her friends, whose names I don’t all know although their faces have become warmly familiar, each week with delighted curiosity. The world favors the young, this city especially so; you can’t help but be reminded of it every time you see a hunched, grey-haired woman slowly shuffling her folding shopping cart down the street or a crinkley man cautiously ascending the subway stairs one by one. These women seem happy. They seem sure of themselves. They seem, at least, to be doing the best they can, and okay with that.

It’s then that I feel guilty, suddenly acutely aware of the glaring fact of my young age and all the ways it sets me apart from them on a deeper level than just hollow cheeked looks. I’m suddenly cautious of the way my body still bends and twists itself the way it always has, for the most part, which is to say it’s more effortlessly agile than any of theirs. I have the good fortune, at 28, of not quite yet knowing what it’s like to not have this much stamina. Some days I wonder if the reason why I’m tired is because I haven’t slept enough or had enough water or because I worked out too hard, or if it’s just that I’m getting to the point where tired is my baseline. Most of the time, I have a reason. But still, I wonder if aging is one of those things that happens all at once, that one day you wake up and can no longer touch your toes or run a mile without your lungs straining against your ribcage, or if it’s a gradual sort of thing, so incremental over time that you’ve been adapting to each minute change unknowingly, deceived into thinking you’re fine until one day you’re just not. 

I could ask one of them, but I think I should probably just wait and find out for myself, just like everybody else.


LISTEN
Idk? I’ve been listening to mostly The Hours soundtrack this week because it’s truly the best music to write to (thank u Philip Glass) and Norman Fucking Rockwell! (still) so, uh, maybe smash the reply button and give me some recos for a change. 

READ
The Grand Dames of Succession Are Powerful—And All Over 60 - Samantha Leach
Look, I could go on forever about my deep, aggressive, obsessive love for Succession here, but I’ll save you several hours of me waxing about it. Short story: so many things about this show are perfect and stannable, down to the radical depiction of women — older women! (only 3 percent of women on TV last year were over 60; on Succession they’re like 40 percent of the cast) — in power. Cyd Peach hive…. Rise up. Gerri stans? You know there’s something for you here. And I’m sorry but I have no choice but to believe Succession and Broadcast News exist in the same universe and that Holly Hunter’s scary brilliant Rhea Jarrell is really just the wholesome brilliant Jane Craig after she got over the two bozo men whose careers she had been doing on top of her own and became sufficiently jaded enough by the changing media landscape to go full bad media bitch. Thank you for coming to my deranged Ted Talk.

WATCH
Hustlers
Look, if you haven’t already, then I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help you. If you have, this is to say please go see it again. I have already watched this two hour long portrait of mid-2000s female antihero strippers told via a non-pervy female gaze so powerful it makes me feel powerful twice and I will absolutely be seeing it again. Alexa, play “Criminal” by Fiona Apple!!!

friendly reminder that if you missed any previous emails, you can read the archive here.

okay that's it that's the end thanks bye

thoughts you have on trains

hey hi hello

[insert witty banter here]

This is a long one; I'm so sorry. Also, if you received this letter twice since the switchover from tinyletter, I’m sorry! Just delete it!

Anyway! We can skip this whole cute part and just get into it.

okay thanks sorry love u bye,
carrie


SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
thoughts you have on trains in and around new york about the impending (sudden or gradual) end of the world

I like the Fairfield train station late at night, the way standing on the platform under the flickering yellow lights makes you feel like you are one of the last people left on earth. It’s quiet up there to the point that it’s almost a shock. In the summer you’re surrounded by the low hum of cicadas but winter is nothing but flat, dry air, maybe a whirring motor of a car keeping the heat on for whoever it is they’re waiting for, if you’re lucky. The sky in Connecticut is impossibly inky; you can actually see the stars. New York nights rarely look any better than a black t-shirt you’ve worn and washed so many times that the cotton is now fading and thinning and vaguely disappointing; the moon is big and bright no matter where you go, sure, but the only company it keeps here are the moving specs of plane lights as they fly into La Guardia. Alone in the quiet, it’s just me and Carly, sometimes one or two other people but never very many and they all keep their distance anyway, and I think about how I read once that if a nuclear bomb went off in Lower Manhattan, everyone within 100 feet would get instantly reduced to atoms and the fallout would carry for miles but — if the wind was right — this part of Connecticut would be spared and I wonder what it would be like to ride out the apocalypse here.

The sound of my front door closing is enough to jolt me awake at any time but still a recurring nightmare I have is that New York is attacked at 3 a.m. and I sleep through it. Or, worse, I’m awake but unprepared, searching through cabinets for jugs of clean water and batteries that aren’t there, and panicking, unsure how I’m going to get out and where I’m going to go. When I'm awake, I tell Carly we need to make go-bags and an emergency evacuation plan and she rolls her eyes and I scroll through listicles about disaster preparedness until I get overwhelmed and eventually click out and just watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek instead.

Leaving the city is always an exercise in dealing with some kind of a crowd, no matter what time of day you depart — the after work rush hour, early Saturday afternoons, late Sunday mornings. I always like to look at all the different people and wonder what their lives are like, what it is that they’re leaving and what it is that they’re going to on this New Haven bound Metro North line. They all seem to look like they’re escaping something; there’s always some look of relief, whether they’re college kids or businessmen or moms with small children, but maybe that’s just me projecting, because that’s what I always feel like I’m doing. Returning is an entirely different story, the trains always fractionally full, just a spread out smattering of fleshy bodies in seats, more padded maroon benches empty than not, each car one long, toothless mouth. I almost always cry no matter how happy or sad I am because, like a child, I always want to cry when it's time to go home and crying on trains is easy because everyone is facing forward, so no one can see.

*

I went to Rockaway Beach for the first time the other week, spent my Sunday night hanging out with a friend’s other friends. Biz and I took the 4:30 ferry from Wall Street, the late afternoon departure made even later by our own inability to arrive on time for one that left half an hour earlier. Her already-delayed connecting ferry pulled in a moment too late; my exhausted legs were too rubbery and heavy to carry me fast enough as I sprinted from the subway, weaving between tourists, one hand fixed firmly on the top of my head to keep the headband I wore in place as the river-whipped breeze repeatedly tried to dislodge it. 

Biz wanted to see a Grateful Dead cover band at Low Tide Bar with some friends and wanted to sit on the beach one last time before summer ended. I wanted to quietly laugh at the act of going to a Grateful Dead cover band at Low Tide Bar and sit on the beach for the first time since summer started. I kept looking out at the water and thinking out loud that even though it was too cold to get in, I made it, finally. The Labor Day weekend air hung heavy and thick, saturated with ocean water but absent any sticky kind of heat. Sweat beads on the outside of a cold can of Coke. It felt like another world, but upon scanning the horizon, I realized I could still see the clear skyline of Lower Manhattan in the distance, its crooked smile of dark glass skyscrapers looming just over my shoulder.

All those buildings are going to disappear someday, probably in my lifetime. The water is getting higher and the storms are getting worse but the rich keep buying up the most vulnerable real estate anyway. Each new building erected spits in the face of scientific evidence that this is a Bad Idea, but the joke will be on them because one day the rising ocean is gonna spit right back. 

The drinks and food were cheap and good and the band could actually play and it seemed like the group of us were all in on the same joke, all knowingly smiling that none of us were even close to Deadheads but we made the long trip here just the same. I picked at my salad and watched oddball strangers dance with other oddball strangers, their tie-dye ensconced bodies doing some mutually languid shimmy, rolling into and away from each other with no discernible rhythm, and listened as the chatter of Biz and her friends got squashed under the relentless volume of Low Tide’s PA system. I thought: These people know how to be happy. I thought: I bet they’re not scared like me. 

Late that night we all stood shivering, waiting for the shuttle to take us back to New York, beach towels wrapped around shoulders like shawls, sweatered arms folded tight across chests, sweatshirt sleeves pulled over hands that rubbed bare legs poking out of jean shorts, hoping our train apps didn’t deceive us and our clanky old chariot home was arriving in the next two minutes, not 28. We rode in tired silence, everyone leaving one by one as they were brought to their respective connecting stops until it was just me left to ride the line until its near end. 

By then the trains were running local and I knew taking an Uber would be faster, more practical, but I was too tired and too lazy to get off, so I popped in my airpods and I willed myself to stay awake. “The Sound of Someone You Love Who’s Going Away And It Doesn’t Even Matter” by Penguin Cafe Orchestra came on my playlist and I turned my music up a little louder and I thought about how these kinds of summer nights won’t last forever. Earlier that week, I watched the 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg arrive in New York from my office window, docking her sailboat that had just crossed the Atlantic from England, cutting through waters that have lapped hungrily at this city many times and continue to threaten their ability to swiftly swallow it whole. I watched as she stepped out onto an artificial expansion of New York, onto land built upon what was once literal trash. 

*

A couple summers ago, my morning commute derailed, the southbound A going so fast it jumped in the air and my butt flew up out of the seat the way it does going down the highest hill on those big, old wooden rollercoasters, except it wasn’t fun because I heard the words “fire” and “the doors are locked” and I couldn’t smell any funnel cake or kettle corn in the distance, just the putrid, smokey stench of burning rubber. When 30 minutes later, after walking in a single file line from one end of the train to the other to climb out onto the platform, I finally spilled out onto the street all sweaty and squinting in the sunlight, I called an Uber first and my boss second and my parents third because all I could think was “I’m so late for work.” 

So now any time I idle for longer than a minute underground, my legs grow tingly and then finally numb and I become more aware of how irritatingly loud everyone else seems and as my brain starts to think that this is The End, I silently pray please god not today please god at least let me see my friends one more time please god at least let me publish one more thing before I go please god at least let me live until Saturday please god at least let me die wearing something prettier. All real fast, one right after another. And then I feel real bad about it because I don’t even know if I believe in god and even if I did, the only times I pray are times I think I’m gonna die and that’s probably not how you’re supposed to do it, but I wouldn’t know because I never went to church save for the summer I was 11 and my mom sent my sisters and me to vacation bible school and all I took away from it was the cloying melody of “Our God Is An Awesome God” on an endless loop in my brain and an ability to craft sheep out of cardboard and yarn. 

The city has always made me jumpy and yet I’ve always wanted to live here. I continue to stay eight years later, even when it seems like ever-present bad news tries to coax the constant whisper of anxiety into speaking up a little louder. Some days I have to leave my office and walk by the water for a little to catch my breath if I see a helicopter fly too low. I get caught up thinking too much sometimes about how I work on the site of a mass burial, and how crass but unsurprisingly American it is that powerful men in suits decided to build something so big and shiny and ostentatious out of the rubble of a national tragedy, that they expect us all to just go to work every day like it’s No Big Deal, like it’s not a little bit fucked up, save for the one day a year we’re allowed to remember that it is, actually, a Very Big Deal (though they have yet to rule on the fucked up part). 

I go out with a guy I like and we tell each other jokes that aren’t really jokes about the strange times we live in. I tell him I think all the time about how death is around every corner in New York and I laugh nervously and add that I maybe should have kept my eyes closed when Allison Janney gets hit by that bus in Margaret and that I maybe shouldn’t have watched Russian Doll so many times and he suddenly kisses me and I wonder what about any of that sounded romantic.

And I think a lot about how one time a nice lady once told me to say “rama” when I get scared but she never said what it meant, just that it would make me brave, and friends, I say it all the time, even though whispering it only loud enough for my own ears to barely discern makes me feel anything but. Sometimes I think I just like the idea of something more than I like the actual thing. 

*

I either write my texts 
like this
period-free but breaking each thought into
a
brand
new
line,
a
brand
new
bubble,
often with GRATUITOUS capitalization
for emphasis
You know?

Or like they’re one long paragraph, the words building up one after the other in small succession, forming what looks like a maybe bloated but still healthy balloon in my minuscule font until I remember how many friends I have with phones set to the largest font possible, their eyes much older and more tired than mine, and I imagine how much scrolling they’d have to do to get through just one of my dense sentences. And sometimes I just wonder if the world were ending right now, which style would I break the news with, and who would I send it to, and would they text me back.


LISTEN
“Air BnB” - Kim Gordon
I didn’t really intend to stan No Home Record, Kim Gordon’s forthcoming solo debut (it sounds weird calling anything from an artist with a nearly 40-year long career a “debut” but that’s what it is!) in two newsletters before it was even out, but that’s just what seems to have happened!!!

Digression aside, “Air BnB” is the latest single from Kimmy G. and, man, it’s a bop. It’s got all the makings of a classic Kim Gordon track: a minimal, but prominent, hooky bassline and squalling guitars that punk up an upbeat, poppy (but still very left-of-center) melody with a gigantic chorus. Its lyrics skewer the artifice of capitalism, the stale, inauthentic ways people decorate Air BnBs in an effort to exude a false sense of hominess or display their “taste.” Joan Didion had a habit of characterizing (and judging) people by the objects they owned or the clothes they wore; in verse, Gordon often does the same. 

The DIY video is as weird and wry as the song: “This video was going to be shot in an Air BnB. There wasn’t any money to make it,” white text on a black screen reads before continuing to simply display copy from the video treatment instead. It’s a sly smile, a wink and an eye roll — a reminder that Kim Gordon is funnier than we give her credit for, and has been in on the joke of the overly serious persona of Kim Gordon since its inception. More, it’s a poking joke about the state of the music industry writ large; if punk icon Kim Gordon doesn't even have the budget to make the art she wants (which, from the treatment, sounds, uh, pretty cheap to begin with), how much hope is there for the rest of us? 

READ
The Gospel According to Marianne Williamson - Taffy Brodesser-Akner
In the hands of a lesser writer, an in-depth look at the self-help author’s unlikely presidential campaign would read too condescending and mean, or too laughing at her expense, or too drippy and sympathetic. Taffy Brodesser-Akner, one of my favorite profile journalists out there, however, is no average writer. In her hands, this profile is a delicious mix of firm probing and smirking quips, all wrapped up in kindness and compassion. She’s able to call out Williamson’s obvious weaknesses to blind followers while simultaneously saying “well, she’s not all bad” to detractors. The result is a fascinating read that paints a whole, nuanced portrait of Williamson that left me thinking for days.

In Conversation: Liz Phair on being misunderstood, working with Ryan Adams, and the dawn of Girlville - Rob Tannenbaum
HOOBOY this is… a treat. Come for the way Liz Phair rips this journalist (and all journalists) for singling out her scrapped work with Ryan Adams as the big point of interest in her entire forthcoming memoir, stay for her thoughts on how Exile in Guyville has been both her buoy and her ball and chain. 

If you like it, you might want to read…..the essay I wrote in reconsideration of her 2003 self-titled album and its gross, music bro-orchestrated criticism in the forthcoming book Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation of Power Pop. (They put me in a book with Michael Chabon and Heather Havrilesky brb I’m screaming.)

WATCH
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
On July 28, 2018, I tweeted

I know there’s a lot of shit going on and like we may all die in an impending nuclear apocalypse and all but I just want to say
Feel like we don’t talk about Linda Ronstadt enough.

My mind! It amazes me sometimes! One year later and we’ve been blessed with this superb look at Ronstadt’s life and career that has everybody talking. Did I find it a tad bit vanilla, more concerned with painting a beautiful PR-friendly (and subject-approved) portrait of Rondstadt than a whole one? Yeah. But did I also spend three-fourths of it beaming, amazed that she did so much more than I was even aware of, in awe of her raw talent, and whispering “she’s so FUCKING cool!” multiple times (the other one fourth spent just silently sobbing because we never deserved her and the ravages of age and disease are so heartbreakingly sad)? Also yeah. 

THINGS I WROTE OR DID
If you somehow haven’t seen me self-promote the shit out of this on my various social media platforms… I wrote about my qween Elaine May — and the trope of “difficult girls,” her place among them as their patron saint, and the ways her work addresses (or fails to) these complicated women — for the digital film journal Bright Wall/Dark Room’s September issue all about May. I’m very proud of this one; please take a look if you haven’t already!

Elaine May Made Movies About Men, But Difficult Female Protagonists Dominate Her Stage

friendly reminder that if you missed any previous emails, you can read the archive here.
if you want to listen to the music i reference, you can listen to the bed crumbs playlist here.

okay that's it that's the end thanks bye

just another millennial with a newsletter

Moving this thing over from tinyletter, where it had been moved to from tumblr (where, to be honest, it continues to live concurrently). The changing media landscape! We love to see it!

Anyway. Like the title states, Bed Crumbs is just another newsletter in your inbox from another millennial in media watching the few remaining websites pivot themselves into oblivion, already practically working for free so why not work for free… but for myself. So. This is the place I write one-offs, shout about movies/music/books I have recently consumed and enjoyed, and just *gestures vaguely* shitpost.

This newsletter is still, like its tinyletter predecessor, free. But, like, I’m always down for tips to go towards, I don’t know, a (self-medicating) glass of wine? Or maybe share with your friends because I love an audience. I don’t know. The world is going to be a charred apocalyptic hellscape in like ~12 years so really what does it matter!!!

okay thanks sorry love u bye,

carrie courogen
carriecourogen.com

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