The Elephant Factory
Don't elephunk with my heart.
  • The woods are lovely, dark and deep

    Central Park at night: not like Central Park in the daylight. Eerier, wilder, ghostlier, haunted by rollerbladers who travel in packs; a chiseled performance artist undressing in front of floodlights, his bare torso floating pale and dismembered in the dark; Stevie Nicks’ soul sister, all flowing hemlines, bright-lipped beatific smile, crown of flowers in her hair, playing Bach’s cello suites under a Minton tile ceiling; and, best of all, fireflies, gleaming green like algae, soft like stars, rising like campfire licks in the gloaming, in a glade of towering elms.

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  • Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”

  • XVI

    by A.E. Housman

    How clear, how lovely bright,
    How beautiful to sight
    Those beams of morning play;
    How heaven laughs out with glee
    Where, like a bird set free,
    Up from the eastern sea
    Soars the delightful day.

    To-day I shall be strong,
    No more shall yield to wrong,
    Shall squander life no more;
    Days lost, I know not how,
    I shall retrieve them now;
    Now I shall keep the vow
    i never kept before.

    Ensanguining the skies
    How heavily it dies
    Into the west away;
    Past touch and sight and sound
    Not further to be found,
    How hopeless under ground
    Falls the remorseful day.

  • Worth Street

    On Worth Street, which serves as a kind of border between Chinatown and the courthouses and government offices of Civic Center (a neighborhood I had never heard of until I looked it up on Google Maps just now), someone has taken the care to plant a small but dear garden in Columbus Park. The killer part: the handwritten tags naming every bush, flowers, and shrub. I was disappointed to find that the dahlias were all done for the season but pleased to meet the black-eyed susans and other, stranger flowers whose names I don’t remember; I had to hurry if I wanted to pick up dinner before class. Dinner was eleven dumplings and a free noodle-making show for $3 from Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle; class, a free lecture on bike maintenance basics taught by a Japanese man in a bucket hat and on a BMX; dessert, a $1 egg tart and the lambent midsummer twilight, my heart floating up, up, away.

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  • Heartbreaker

    On average, San Francisco receives less than an inch of rain during the summer months, which was as good a reason as any to sign up for the marathon. It had been three years since my last visit, an interval of time long enough for friends to have babies - yes, plural - and the rental market to go completely barmy. Evidently twentysomething app-developers now pay $2,000/month to live in the Tenderloin (!!!!!). I landed on Friday in time to catch a typically dreamy sunset, the sky soft and smudgy with pastels, then shuddered in the evening chill and wrapped my cardigan tighter. I twice waited in the Ferry Building Blue Bottle line over the weekend, once before the race expo and then after the race. I ate outside, except when I was carbo-loading at Cotogna, in which case I ate with my back to the spit rotating slowly above the wooded fire. I ran the marathon. It was dark when we started and searingly bright at the finish. I underestimated the hills but I felt strong racing down the final chute. I sang my ex-boyfriend’s infant to sleep, taught a few words of French to his trilingual daughter, bumped a knee against his under the dinner table. I had a sit-down dance party with my friends on the floor of our hotel room. I sat and drank wine and laughed myself sick around the dinner table with my relatives, people who barely know me but for some reason unconditionally love me. And I decided I never, ever want to live here. This city of dry summers and perfect stone fruits, ice cream parlors and wilding Pacific, this city of memories, dreams, and ghosts, sweet laced with bitter. 

  • The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius, is a masterpiece, not to be confused with The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, a fun summer beach read (“It Book” is the better sobriquet, hat tip to Vanity Fair). I saw the painting during its brief sojourn in New York this last winter, on one of the Frick’s Free Fridays. It pretty much charmed my pants off - in person, swaying mesmerically on my feet, first deft brushwork, then soft little bird, the two improbably merging, total trompe l’oeil. By contrast, the novel, with enough heft and literary pedigree to feel substantial (771 pages! “Dickensian”!), doesn’t quite achieve the same successful magic trick of merging art and life, especially that last chapter, which, in its earnestness to tell you what it all means, comes off like a Hail Mary, a fumble. It doesn’t mean anything. But that doesn’t make it any less fun. 

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  • David and Goliath

    Today is the best day of my professional life (so far).

    My coworker: “I can’t believe it. It’s like the eighth day of Hanukkah. It’s a miracle!”

    Me: “In this moment I don’t even care how underpaid I am!”

  • This summer is shaping up to be a season of weddings and beaches or, as the case may be, weddings at beaches. Over the weekend I tagged along as Peter’s guest at a wedding, which happens to be one of my favorite pastimes. (Being a +1 at a wedding full of strangers: all of the fun, none of the expenditures.) The wedding was in Cape Cod and to make things even wedding-in-Cape-Cod-ier, there were mason jars and a personal note of congratulations from the White House and all the groom’s friends were Yale grads, Harvard Medical School graduates, or, in some cases, Yale and Harvard Medical School graduates. Which translated to pink shirts, suspenders, wild and bad dancing (guilty as charged), and an after-after-party at the beach that ended when the other hotel guests complained that the impromptu acapella was too loud. In other words, total nerd prom. (Also, at some point during the post-ceremony, pre-dinner cocktail interval, I became engrossed in conversation with a friend of Peter’s who is something of a polyglot - fluent in eight languages and conversant in more - and whose youthful ambition to be the future Pope was derailed by way of Nietzsche and Hegel.) Much later, on the beach: a guitar, a shooting star, the Big Dipper, pear margarita sloshing in a plastic cup, the sandbar tilting underneath my bare feet, a brassy half-moon dipping behind the curtain of the sea. Good night. 

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  • Some nights

    Cab, night, skyline, NYC, drunk. Probably how I’ll remember what it was like to be young. 

  • The xx

    I’ve been sick and it’s such a drag: on my routine, my philosophy, my energy levels, my spirits. But not every week gets bookended by the brother, or the beach, or expertly battered fish tacos, or eating expertly battered fish tacos with the brother on the beach - on opposite coasts! And it’s not every week that you hear from two ex’s in the span of two days, even if the first is the FaceTime equivalent of the butt-dial, when the second writes to say I probably wanted too much from you, and what I’ve realized is you can’t ask anyone to fix you. What. Do I even say to that.

  • La Jolla Shores, May 2014

    Kind of hard to take a bad photo of the beach.

  • Notes on saudade/mono no aware

    Saudade is a Portuguese and Galician word that has no direct translation in English. It describes an emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return. The word saudade was used in the Cancioneiro da Ajuda (13th century), in the Cancioneiro da Vaticana and by poets of the time of King Denis of Portugal[5] (reigned 1279-1325). 

    Mono no aware
     (物の哀れ?), literally “the pathos of things”, and also translated as “an empathy toward things”, or “a sensitivity to ephemera”, is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence(無常 mujō?), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life. The term was coined in the 18th century by the Edo period Japanese cultural scholar Motoori Norinaga and was originally a concept used in his literary criticism of The Tale of Genji, later applied to other seminalJapanese works including the Man’yōshū. It became central to his philosophy of literature and eventually to Japanese cultural tradition.

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  • Resistance is futile

    This cold, wet, grey, Londonish spring.

    I am slowly transforming into one of those people who works all the time, bemoans the state of her inbox, and looks forward to coming home from the office straightaway on a Friday night: hair up, pajamas on, beer please. In other words, an old person. (Except I have a memory of this life, once. I was not old but twenty-six, newly single, nervous and unsure about who I was, whether I was doing a good job at work, learning to swim, blowing my tax refund on a road bike instead of an impromptu trip to Amsterdam, who I loved. In other words, everything.) Such are the constraints of the clock. Only so many hours in the day, goes the cliché. Only so much area in that circle, “a simple shape of Euclidean geometry.” An unexpectedly musical and bell-like line for an online encyclopedia. That summer in San Francisco spent at a firm, in between acquiring a tattoo and an expensive pair of heels, I truly enjoyed billing my time. The type A wonk in me appreciated the accumulation of data - its revelatory properties, its patterns and potential for improvements. (For example, that summer I learned I was a compulsive handwasher with a small bladder. How else could I explain all the time lost to the bathroom, upwards of an hour on a given day.) I also liked how billing laid bare the trade-offs, the “hard truths.” You can work hard or you can party hard or you can sleep, but you must pick two out of three.

    Still, the spring hasn’t escaped me. Like a true yuppie mutineer I ask for cold sake with my nigiri and refuse on principle to wear my winter coat. The bodegas are stocked with lilacs and peonies, the trees effloresce with blossoms and migrating birds. Some days it is warm enough for bare calves, pale with hibernation and stark in the spotlight. I haven’t as much poetry in me as I used to, when I was twenty-six and found in my uncertainty a space for acrobatics and flight. I compensate by memorizing other people’s words. I’m down to the last three lines of “The Wasteland” and waiting for the right place, someplace other than the A train during rush hour, to learn the lines by heart. Is that overly precious? Probably. But it’s important, at least for me, to carve out of the clock a kind of sacristy for the things that serve no function other than to move me or give me pleasure. 

    Things I will write about one day: unsolicited job offers, writing about holidays long after you’ve had them, what it’s like to read for the first time a Korean-American author, sprinting barefoot through lower Manhattan.

  • ""Tell him yes," she said. "Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no."
    ***
    He was aware that he did not love her. He had married her because he liked her haughtiness, her seriousness, her strength, and also because of some vanity on his part, but as she kissed him for the first time he was sure there would be no obstacle to their inventing true love. They did not speak of it that first night, when they spoke of everything until dawn, nor would they ever speak of it. But in the long run, neither of them had made a mistake."

    GGM (1927-2014)

    I suspect the whole range of love is somewhere in Love in the Time of Cholera. 

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  • Things I should write about when I finally write about things

    Learning how to drive a manual in the empty parking lot of a pueblo blanco

    Projectile vomiting at the foot of the Seville Cathedral

    Fire and stars in Ronda

    What it’s like to be an outlander at the Spizzwinks’ Centennial, what it’s like to be outed as a Harvardian in a ballroom brimming with Yale alums, what it’s like to survive a 3 hour acapella concert 

    Ducking the ex at a scotch-tasting event

    Finishing Moby Dick

    SPRING!