15 things Laura consumed last week
This July, I’m having guest writers contribute their own 15 things lists every Friday. Here’s Avi’s, Mallory’s, Charlie’s. Today’s list is by my friend Laura Bannister. I first encountered Laura four years ago when she submitted a hilarious freelance piece to me about a reality TV star accidentally falling through a trap door. We started texting, then hanging out a lot, then texting more (Laura sends 10+ texts at a time, which I cherish). I’m excited for you to read her 15 things, because her eye is impeccable and there’s no one better with words. She also possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of theme restaurants, evidence of which you may find below.
This is a July special. To access my weekly 15 things lists the rest of the year, become a paying subscriber.
Hi, I’m Laura. I’m a writer, editor, and recent owner of a kitchen herb garden, which I purchased near-exclusively from Trader Joe’s and which is now trapped in an unending cycle of imminent death and resurrection. (DM me if you have tips on keeping oregano alive.)
I’m excited to be taking over this week for Haley—one of my favorite people—as her second-to-last guest contributor for July. I consumed approx 70,000 things this week, but here are some of the best.
Stay Cool, Madonna, a strange little volume I bought at Mast in the East Village. It features scanned ‘80s and ‘90s fan mail addressed to the music icon, none of which she read. This particular stash was fished from trash cans outside the offices of an unnamed company, who “housed these works at the behest of the international Madonna corporation until they were no longer obligated to.” Inside, devotees kiss paper, lipsticked; behead Madonna with scissors; and throw themselves at the altar of fame, asking to be seen. “Here is my picture,” writes one man, Carl, “Do with it as you wish.”
A $17 rum cocktail named “Lucy’s Diamond,” sipped on the rooftop of the zooty new Hard Rock Hotel in Times Square (a stone's throw from M&M world for the M&M heads). I find myself drawn, over and over, to desperate, Disneyfied emblems of America, which present as increasingly absurd/miserable amid the nation’s clamoring free-fall. Things I enjoyed during my debut visit: the supersized guitar strings lining the mirrored entrance stairway; a frothy rainbow skirt, apparently donned by Nicki Minaj and encased behind glass without caption or context; a pair of custom silver “Mistress Rocks” high-heeled boots worn by Lady Gaga after she attended the Grammys *rehearsals* four years ago. Rock on x
“Learning and Not Learning Abortion,” by Laura Kolbe for n+1, on the systemic and deep-rooted absence of abortion education for US medical students. The author is hopeful, which is necessary.
“FIG DECAY V2,” a fragrance experiment by my friend, the writer Trey Taylor. For months, Trey has been working on constructing scents in his apartment. As compositions evolve, he’ll bring me tiny tester bottles. I was handed the latest on a blazing evening this week when I stopped by his place for a drink. Trey told me—possibly while wearing his new impact goggles??—that he layered rotting figs, dates, rose and bergamot to evoke “fruit left in the sun too long.” I’ve been wearing it at home while I work, and when I smell my wrist, the aroma expands outward—warm, boozy, full of promise—like a genie released.
“The Haves and Have Yachts,” by Evan Osnos for The New Yorker, a long, expansive read on superyachts, megayachts, and gigayachts (??) as the “final sanctum of secrecy” for the ultra-rich. Osnos covers the vessels’ murky history and symbolism, current design methods, crew conditions, and the messy politics between owners and their guests. Read it!
“The Vibes is Right,” by Barrington Levy. Ideal for sweltering nighttime subway rides.
The last sliver of “Olivae di Puglia” by Neste Dante, a $10 dollar bar of soap from the touristy Italian megamarket near my apartment. $10, in my opinion, is too much to pay for a too-thin slab of olive oil soap, but this is a worthy exception. Every element is important: the textured wrapping paper with its plump, illustrated olives, the faint olive scent… When I shower with it I feel holier, ascendant, deeply CLEAN.
Claes Oldenburg’s I Am For An Art, a 1961 ur-manifesto by the Swedish-American artist, who died this week aged 93. I often return to 20th C. art manifestos—especially the hellbent, gleeful, tech-fetishized violence of Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism (which, although deranged, contains a conviction in one’s ideas I’m envious of??). I re-read Oldenburg’s I Am For… a few times per year, as an antidote to brain fog. He writes of “slightly rotten funeral flowers,” “abandoned boxes tied like pharaohs,” and “the majestic art of dog turds, rising like cathedrals.” I loved him.
Multiple 90 Day Fiancé reaction videos from Dr. Kirk Honda, a marriage and family therapist based in Seattle. (See channel classics here and here.) The doctor appears to no longer practice, instead churning out a ceaseless stream of reality TV analysis under the moniker “Psychology in Seattle.” I don’t agree with every take, but I do find him a calming presence, and appreciate his insights. I also like it when he calls me a “deserving listener,” which happens every video. (However questionable its cast screening process and production methods, 90 Day Fiancé remains, in my opinion, one of the best reality shows, consistently serving up cross-cultural romance, catfishing, American exceptionalism, visa law, plus gender, economic and cultural powerplay.)
This NYT feature on prison consultants (audio version here), a profession that makes perfect sense within America’s culture of commodified docents. Writer Jack Hitt argues the industry is a natural market outgrowth of the US judicial system, and a means to soften the blow for first-time offenders (mainly monied, white-collar felons) as they prepare for prison. Among other things, consultants—usually formerly incarcerated themselves—help clients craft persuasive pre-sentencing reports, in the hope of minimizing their sentence or securing an ideal prison.
One $5.50 cup of cucumber soup—made with sour, salted cucumbers and boiled potato—from Little Poland on 2nd Avenue. The soup is served hot year-round, but there’s air con inside so that doesn’t matter. Little Poland’s take is buttery, recuperative and even better than their borscht.
Eva Hesse: Expanded Expansion at The Guggenheim and Portia Munsen: Bound Angel at PPOW Gallery. Both exhibitions are essential should you live in NY, especially the Guggenheim show—though it was smaller than I’d hoped. The show revolves around one of Hesse’s final works, finished a year before her death, aged just 34. It hasn’t been on public view for decades due to massive deterioration. Made with panels of rubberized cheesecloth—which once drooped like translucent theater curtains—rigid fiberglass, and polyester resin poles, Expanded Expansion was made to flex and adapt. The trouble was time. Hesse’s materials degraded quickly, becoming brittle and discolored. She knew this might happen: she didn’t care much for forced endurance. And so the restored work, still monumental but very much changed, raises questions. What’s the role of museums in preservation? Should an artist’s intentions supersede our wish to be close to a piece?
A reassuring NYT story on Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion surrendering his title due to zero motivation. (He’s into poker now.) He said: “I simply don’t feel that I have a lot to gain … Although I am sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons and all of that, I don’t have any inclination to play, and I simply will not play the match.” Something about the phrasing—I simply will not—pleased me immensely.
Two secondhand books from Mercer Street Books & Records: Baudrillard’s In The Shadow of the Silent Majorities and The Jimmy Buffett Scrapbook (lol). Here is me last Saturday with the latter, taken by my friend Alisa:
Rec of the week: Are you still here? Is anyone?
Tell me what you’re listening to while working, if so. I’ve got brown noise on loop…
That’s my week! Thank you for indulging me.
All my love,