this is how to start off the day in a classy way

 time & place
**Saturday morning, 11 AM by the Charles River.

the ingredients
-African masai cloths
-3 wine glasses
-10 solo cups
-red wine 
-au bon pain coffee
-tangerine juice
-tuscan pane
-cinnamon rolls, 2 kinds
-baby carrots
-brie cheese
-honey goat cheese
-canteloupe spears
-red grapes
-tomato basil hummus
-milano cookies 
-pita bites
-freshly baked sweet potato biscuits
-homemade cornbread
-a full pecan pie


the picnic

**We rolled out of bed and onto the banks of the Charles river, food in tow. The first few hours of the weekend were spent sprawled on the grass, wining and dining in the sun. Cheap coffee, freshly sliced cold cuts, soft cheese melting under the heat, the creamy hummus slowly forming a crackly crust after our bellies were full and the food lay out untouched, looking like the gawdy plasticine ornamentation of a scene we had arranged. The broken pieces of bread scattered carelessly and the solo cups filled halfway with lukewarm coffee were the tokens of our happy langour.

**It is the desperate hunger of young adulthood that encourages one to eat cheaply (e.g. Milano's, Tropicana) and simultaneously galvanizes our most hedonistic and epicurean urges; the former makes the latter seem all the more wild and indulgent (e.g. prosciutto, bresaola, champagne, wine glasses).



**The household that I lived with while studying in Italy served food that look suspiciously like that of a hospice ward.  On a second thought, it was probably worse. The frozen tuna and corn pizza, the nightly chocolate pudding cups, and the hot dogs would have seemed like the makings of a great farce had they been conjured up in my imagination – they were not. Then one night Leonardo brought home a parchment paper packet of dark red, thinly-sliced meat, and despite my aversion towards meat, my desperate hunger prevailed and I tried a few slices atop a bed of arugula, with grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The bresaola – diaphanous sheets of dry-cured lean beef - was salty and light, without any toughness. When meat is dry-cured, the umami flavors become concentrated as the glutamic acid rises, as in the making of cheese. In this transformation of flavor, the meat takes on new, sweeter aromas (which is why prosciutto is so often paired with melon). Bresaola, to me, is a saving food, and the memory I have of it incited a surprised joy when Jonathan, upon arrival to the picnic, set out a parchment paper packet, similar to the one Leo brought home that night. Bresaola and honey goat cheese on white bread - salty, creamy, chewy, curiously sweet, and slightly tangy. Nothing tasted better that morning.


Drink champagne. 
Make mimosa.
Sip your coffee. 
Lick your fingers.
Shoot the shit.
Lay your head down.

 _MG_2787 _MG_2771

**The sun ducked in and out. Danny couldn't decide whether to keep his shirt on or off.

**Even the decisive relinquishing of our routines can sometimes feel like wrestling a pacifier from a baby's mouth. But life is not a clock that winds itself down into the dark. Under that sun, in that timeless space, I was so content among friends and food, and the clarity of what I value most in life became so tangible, so physical, and so present, that it was easy for a few hours – and so pleasurable – to forget all the urgencies that lay beyond our immediate grasp.


**It is with a huge sigh of relief that we shed our winter coats and slip into our summer skins.


this is as careless as carefree gets

*It was the summer of 2009 and I didn't have a clue about New York City.


*I was naive and enthusiastic, and I wanted to see everything through a camera lens.


*I was braver than I am now, fearless and unworried about people's opinions. I didn't know much about fine dining or the finer things in life; I didn't know anything about what went on in New York nor did I care, yet I was hungrier than I had ever been and have ever been. I was voracious with my camera; I was brazen with strangers. I fed off the purest form of energy that exists in New York City, the energy of a city that is awake and always moving and the thrill of knowing that the possibility of ecstatic discovery lay as equally in getting lost as it did in seeking and finding. I had no conceptions of "cool" or "in." I was not self-conscious enough to revere those things. Instead, I placed art-making on my altar, and the urgency to make a good image swelled in me daily. There was no worry about who I was going to be or where I was going later in life, only the immediacy of the people I was meeting and the things I was doing.



*I was obsessed with cats, little dolls, cavernous spaces, bookstores, and the desolation of Coney Island. I don't know why I liked those thing, but then again, I never questioned why I did or didn't. I spent nights falling asleep in my neighbor's room to Wes Anderson movies. I ate the most disgusting, rubbery carrot raisin cookies from the Union Square Greenmarket and became attached to the way they tasted. I cat-sat for a friend and ended up with flea bites all over my body.

*I'm not sure what happened after that summer, but there hasn't been a moment since when I felt freer and bolder than I did that summer. I didn't carry the same expectations, perceptions, and determinations of myself that I do now. God, those things are heavy. There's a picture of me at the end of that summer, as I was about to move out of my Brooklyn sublet. I'm laughing and totally clueless as to what's going on; if you look closer at the picture, you can see that my fly is completely unzipped, and I'm there, grinning like a fool, completely unaware. That unawareness was not the ignorance of a blissful fool; that unawareness was not giving a damn about things that weren't worth giving a damn about. As close to careless as carefree gets. As candid and unaffected as naivete allowed. Those were some good times.

 21330027 21310009


this is wining and dining on easter


*In these past few years, I've come to enjoy dining as a formal ceremony. I'd argue that that's one thing the east coast does better than the west, though America, generally speaking, is rather pitiful in the ceremonial aspects of dining when compared to say, the British (posh afternoon tea; extravagant breakfasts), the Italians (five hour long pranzos), the French, or even the Chinese (huge family dinners, and the mantra is always "go big or go home"). My idea of dining as a formal ceremony is not necessarily fancy or posh but does include multiple courses – or at least multiple servings – with drinks and sweets interspersed, finished with coffee and tea, and most importantly furnished with conversation that feels substantial in the moment but is actually the kind of smorgasbord of illogical and ridiculous topics that one might spew when inebriated. Little to no small talk involved.


*Easter Sunday: my roommate invited me to a family friend's house in Wayland, Massachusetts - about a thirty minute drive out of Harvard Square. It was grey and chilly, but it was nice to get out - out into the woods in fact - and spend a day in someone's home, a feeling I miss when I spend 75% of my time in a dorm with ugly, institutional furniture.


*Upon arrival, we played with the dogs and ate crudites with hummus. There were also Pillsbury pinwheels with ham and cheese. I forgot how delicious Pillsbury crescent rolls are. I'm a picky bread eater, but I certainly do not discriminate against foods-in-cans if they taste good. Pillsbury crescent rolls are one of the few foods that fall into that delicious-food-in-cans categories. After more guests arrived (all new faces to me), we had an Easter Egg hunt for everyone under the age of 28. I was not very ambitious in my hunting and ended up with 2 peanut butter Reese's eggs and four plastic eggs. More talking and loafing around, then brunch was served in the middle of the afternoon. Caesar salad, grits with cheese, ham of course, buttery bread rolls, and fruit salad. We picked at the jelly beans on the table in between, which I ate out of nostalgia more than anything else. Sometimes foods taste better that way. I remember being fifteen and lying in the sun on the shores of Lake Tahoe with a huge ten-pound bag of jelly beans that we had picked up at the Jelly Belly Factory on the way to the lake. We had scored a deal on that bag because they were the "belly flops" - the jelly beans with defects that had been rejected as a result. We picked our way through the bag and at the end only white, flavorless ones were left. Even those aren't as bad as the buttered popcorn and bubblegum flavors though.


*My roommate and I swapped jelly beans. Our flavor preferences don't overlap at all, so sharing works out perfectly. After jelly beans, we were served angel food cakes in the shape of rabbits and tea and coffee in porcelain china, which was delightful because the taste of tea can only be enhanced by the aesthetics of the vessel (I firmly believe this is how tea must be taken with a serious investment in ceremony). Late into the afternoon, we quizzed each other with riddles and logic plays. We overlooked the insignificance of our conversation because the insignificance was so enjoyable, and we lingered around the table picking at jelly beans and chocolates until we knew it was close to dinner time and we would have to return to our respective homes so we could start eating all over again. 



this is the authenticity of absurdity

*Cindy Sherman's work did not resonate with me when I first encountered it four years ago. By "resonate" I mean I did not care for her work the way I care for Mark Steinmetz's photographs or Lieko Shiga's images, images that have been usurped by my consciousness because I believe they are as a part of my life as they are of the photographers who created them. I thought I understood the basic gist of Sherman's work: the theatricality, the drama, the self-consciousness, and the alienation, but looking back, I realize I had merely taken a glance and then looked away.

*On a recent visit to a retrospective on her work at the MOMA, I spent an entire afternoon with four decades of her work. Spending this amount of time just observing and pondering is like taking a swim in an artist's consciousness. It takes this kind of investment for me to actively engage in a mental wrestle with an artist's work, rather than let it be a fleeting sensation or afterthought.

*The MOMA retrospective traces her work from the 1970s to the present and includes 170 photographs, with focus on her key series, including "Untitled Film Stills" (1977-1980), her history portraits (1989-90), and her society portraits (2008). Though her "Untitled Film Stills" are smaller in size, her more recent work is larger-than-life, whose highly saturated and contrasting palette magnifies the grotesque nature of the ideals and types she portrays.

*I want to talk about Sherman's later work, the less famous work that followed "Untitled Film Stills," because upon seeing these works I was able to understand her previous works better. Some of these works are at first glance disgusting and unnatural. There is a historical portrait in which Sherman is dressed up as a busty medieval woman. She wears fake rubbery breasts that hang limply off her chest, a barely visible stream of milk spraying from her nipple. There are portraits of society women dressed in flashy, metallic colors; these are images you wish were caricatures but aren't. Some photographs are sans Sherman in them, messy images of vomit and debris that are suggestive of dark but familiar narratives that elude our day-to-day conversation. We are disgusted at first because these images invade our consciousness even though we often ignore these kinds realities to preserve our own identities. It's easier to evade the absurd tragedies that surround us than to be okay with the dissonance that the absurdities cause. The subversiveness of these images becomes palpable when we realize that this absurdity is a tangible reality.

*The hyperbolic self-costuming and makeup are intentional. That grotesque artifice in plain view is magnetizing and alluring; it turns viewers into voyeurs, with the same affectations of reality TV. On one hand, we sense a difference in the image, an aura that rebels against our sense of cultural propriety. On the other, we recognize this grotesque artifice within ourselves and identify with what we see. This recognition is polarizing: it can be the realization that leads to embrace or the rejection that leads to repression.

*In some ways, the entire exhibit felt like one big hallucination, which is an irony unto itself because the very definition of a hallucination eludes self-awareness. But if the definition of a hallucination is the perception of an absent stimulus, then it very well makes sense that there was part of me that wanted to believe it was a hallucination, even as it was one of the most surprisingly real photography exhibits I've seen in a long time.