King Dough: "Did you ever want to eat bad pizza in the home goods section of a Target?"

Listen. I end up in all different parts of America that aren't New York all the time, and sometimes I end up eating pretty bad pizza in those places because I forget where I am or I hear a place might be good or I'm with a group of people and they want to eat pizza and who am I to argue? I ate a terrible quattro formaggio in a strip mall in Houston like two years ago after going to the opening of a contemporary Latin American art show at the MFAH with Becca. When we got to the museum I was still all revved up from the drive and then Becca went to a panel and I was wandering around alone and there's a James Turrell tunnel in the basement. (And if you don't know, which probably I wouldn't if I wasn't in love with an art historian, Turrell is the artist Drake ripped off for all the sets of the Hotline Bling video.) And there was no one else in there except for the security guard. I was like, "DUDE would you please take a video of me doing Drake's Little Teapot dance in here?"
And he was all "absolutely not."
So I was all, "c'mon man, my girlfriend is gonna think it's so cute and funny."
But he was like, "if I do it for you, I gotta do it for everyone."
Then I was like, "There's no one else here! No one will know!"
And he looked at me very seriously and said "I'll know."

Anyway, after that we got pizza and it was absolutely awful, but I didn't write about it then because I don't write about all bad pizza I eat. But every so often, there is a pizza parlor that's such a perfect storm of bad food, bad service, bad aesthetics, that I feel like I gotta warn strangers to stay away. And King Dough in Bloomington, Indiana is such a place.


I went to get lunch at King Dough with a friend who I believe wishes to remain anonymous because Bloomington is a small town and he doesn't need to be the recipient of any undue Midwest passive aggression. We were in the middle of running errands and right nearby. I didn't think pizza was a bad idea, it seemed quick at least. And I'd noticed King Dough on a handful of other visits. And besides, I've had some pretty decent pizza, or at least really fun and pleasant experiences, in pizza shops all over the place. But not so with King Dough. I didn't know what I was getting myself into when my Anonymous Compadre and I walked inside, and I certainly wasn't expecting to have my mind blown, but I didn't expect to be punished either.

The decor was a red flag right away but I'm a pretentious urban sophisticate so I just chalked that up to the quaintness of a college town. But like, if you're gonna disrespect that Dan Higgs drawing at least do it well, right? And I'm all for keeping holiday decorations in a place of business to a minimum (I've served six tours in the War on Christmas), but I was in a Target the other day buying shitty winter gloves and an ice scraper for my car because I didn't know where else to get both of those things in a city with no bodegas, and I literally saw almost that exact same display in their like, quirky tchotchke section. Maybe it's an ironic reference? Whatever it is, it's not working.


The menu was suspect for a few reasons. This is very expensive food for Bloomington. I think "Vegan Pile" sounds fucking gross as a name for a food. I find the "Kilmister" befuddling. (1. Capicola and fucking BBQ SAUCE? Why? 2. What is it about this pizza that is supposed to evoke Lemmy?) And as Becca pointed out, what kind of awful person thinks it's okay to cutely name something after the H-Bomb? But like, whatever, I guess. While that H Bomb reference lets on that the owners might be rockabilly (god forbid!) there are worse things in the world, and I was hungry. We ordered a Margherita and a Prosciutto Arugula pie to split, as those seemed like safe and hard to fuck up options. The place wasn't that busy so we figured even if it wasn't great we could eat and get on with our errands.

Little did we know King Dough had other plans in store for us. It took 35 minutes to get our two pizzas. 35 whole entire minutes. Longer than an episode of Seinfeld, shorter than an episode of the L Word, too long for pizza. The place had a wood oven, and feel free to fact check me on this, but I think a properly used wood oven cooks an entire pizza in like two or three minutes, right? So why did it take over half an hour to get two smallish pies in a restaurant that wasn't very busy and where half the people inside were already eating? I'll tell you why, because they don't know what they're doing. 

Our pies finally arrived though, and they did not look too good. Wood fired pizza is supposed to be slightly charred. The char adds a smokiness and depth of flavor to the pie that can't be achieved in a gas oven without burning. When I get a wood or coal oven pizza, I expect it to be a pretty dark in some spots. But like most good things, char is only useful in moderation. This pizza's crust was burnt blacker than the Sharpie mustaches on Ken Nunn's phonebook ads. It was burnt blacker than the cover of Smell The Glove. This crust was burnt so black King Dough might get sued by Anish Kapoor. (Just in case you're thinking I'm smart for knowing who Anish Kapoor is, don't worry. I literally typed "black paint that only one guy is allowed to use" into to find out his name.) And to add insult to injury, this disgusting crust formed the border of a pizza that wasn't even cooked through all the way in the middle!


Look at that! You can straight up see bits of translucent, uncooked dough on the bottom of this floppy mess!

So now that we've established that this pizza takes forever to arrive and is poorly cooked, let's take a moment to talk about how much the ingredients fucking suck. The mozzarella on the Margherita pie tasted like fucking butter. The more I ate it, the worse it got. And it was drowning in a sea of runny, bland sauce. "But what about the dough?" I can hear you thinking. "The dough from which this place derives its name? Surely that part is at least palatable?" Well dear reader, I can't tell you how the dough tasted because it was either burnt to a crisp or nearly raw. I'll tell you this though, the parts of the crust that were edible tasted like they needed salt. When I asked my friend what he thought, he took a bite and chewed in silence for a moment before declaring "well, I've had worse pizza." That might be true for him, but I'm not sure I can say the same.

At the end of the day, the Prosciutto Arugula pie was at least edible. But you could put prosciutto and arugula on a turd and I'd probably like it, so that doesn't really count. It still was cooked poorly. The sauce still sucked. But the Margherita really stands out to me as one of the worst pizzas I've ever eaten in my entire life. And so, it's really an appropriate pizza to close out 2017--the year Prodigy died and Woody Allen didn't (prayer emoji that this awful old shithead finally drops in 2018), and Biff from Back to the Future II became president in real life. The pie at King Dough might not be the pizza humanity wants, but it is the pizza we deserve.

My interview from Cindy Crabb's new MASCULINITIES zine!

Friend and former Radio Harvester guest Cindy Crabb just put out this really cool zine about conceptions of masculinity and she interviewed me for it and I'm really honored to be included and also stoked that it's finally out and I can share it. I think these kinds of conversations are super important and I feel really lucky to have been given the forum to have one publicly.

I haven't read the zine yet. I literally just got it from my mailbox and texted Cindy like, "OMG YR ZINE IS BEAUTIFUL CAN I PUT MY INTERVIEW ON MY BLOG?!!?!!?," but I'm sure the other interviews are great. You should pick up a copy of it if you're interested. Cindy says she'll have it up on her distro website by Monday, so go buy it and other zines she's made and other zines she sells because she's amazing.

Anyway, here's the interview:

Cindy: What was masculinity like growing up?

Colin: I have a really contentious relationship with my masculinity, so I like the idea of this project. I wish there had been more resources like this when I was younger.
I grew up in a fairly affluent suburb of NYC, with a diverse public school. I didn't think about masculinity much when I was very young, but when I was a teenager, it got tied up with my substance abuse history in a really intense way. I started getting fucked up all the time when I was about 15, just smoking weed all day, and then when I was like 19 I started drinking all the time.
A lot of the social and societal discomforts I was medicating by being fucked up was this anxiety I felt around gender, masculinity, my masculinity, how to perform masculinity. I've been off booze for about two and a half years now. When I was 28, I quit drinking.

Cindy: What kind of messages about masculinity were you receiving?

Colin: I didn't play sports growing up, and that wasn't something that was made a priority. I remember my Dad got me a baseball mitt, and I never wanted to use it. And I remember one day telling him, "I'm never going to want to play catch with you." He was basically relieved because he didn’t want to play catch either, so being athletic wasn’t a paradigm that I had to butt up against at home, though I still do have anxiety around playing sports even now based on how unpleasant I found the mandatory, gender-segregated ballgames in school when I was a kid.
            My father drove a cab and didn't take shit, but he was in general pretty low-key.  His father was incredibly unavailable. I think about masculinity a lot in the frame of how it's been passed down through generations, and how the previous generations inform the version of masculinity today that's being put on me.
            Grunge was a huge thing when I was a little kid. I read about Kurt Corbain, read the liner notes for Incesticide where he pretty explicitly calls out bro culture and toxic masculinity in a way that, looking back, was super radical for something so mainstream. It just seems like the dominant culture in the 90’s was a little more gender ambiguous in ways it hadn't been before.  Or maybe it had been like that in the 70's with disco, I don't know.

Cindy: Yeah, it does seem to come and go. Like there was disco and then it got more traditional, and then there was Glam, and then it got more traditional, and then there was Grunge.

Colin: Yeah. Well, I grew my hair out super long when I was really young. I remember being at my Grandparents 50th anniversary or something, at this Eastern European, Jewish schlocky steak-house in the Lower East Side. I must have been 12 or 13, and my hair was down to my nipples, and I thought it was so cool. And then this old-world waiter thought I was a girl, he addressed me with a female pronoun, and I was so STOKED! I was like, "he doesn't know what gender I am, this is so cool.” I thought it was funny, and then I looked at my Dad, and he was bummed. But he wasn’t bummed that the dude had thought I was a lady, he had long hair in the 70s and him and his cousin Luke used to always get mistaken for women hitch-hiking. He seemed disappointed in me that I enjoyed being misgendered and I didn't understand why. My therapist calls this sort of thing micro-aggressions. Or like, I joined NOW when I was 13 or so, and I remember one Thanksgiving my shitty uncle Donny saw a NOW bulletin laying on the table in the hall, addressed to me, and he was like, “What’d you grow a vagina?” He actually said “vagina” because he’s this weird Christian who doesn’t curse. And like, that wasn’t a big deal, and neither was my father’s disapproval at the anniversary, but then these little tiny things end up adding up and making a clear picture for me that there are specific things I’m not supposed to do because I’m a guy.
            I was also really into dressing in drag when I was young. Just before and up until puberty. I remember wearing this slinky dress with these Jackie O glasses to see The Craft in the movie theater and I was like, 13 or so and I was scrawny so my body itself was kind of this neutral, genderless canvas and people would assume the gender based on the accessories, right? That’s why I was so into Judith Butler when I found her in college, talking about gender being a performance, because that’s how it had felt to me. And I remember at the time, the way that I thought about it wasn’t that I was doing any sort of transgressive gender play, what I liked was that I was tricking people. Like, I was undercover as a different person.
            And I stopped doing that around the same time as I started getting really fucked up, which is also the same time that all the micro-aggressions had finally crystallized into a clear picture for me of what behaviors were off limits. Probably also around this time actual violent reprisal for men failing to be masculine enough came into the picture too, though none of it was directed at me. But that was on the table. Kids started getting beat up at school for being faggots, excuse my language. It’s only now, looking back, that I can see the correlation between when I started suppressing all my instincts to be a gender freak and when I started mediating all my lived experience through substances. The other thing is that getting fucked up was like, an easy out if I acted weird. Like, I wasn’t a failure as a man, I was just stoned. I think if the culture had been different in regards to gender, I likely would have become female at some point in my adolescence. I didn't do that, though, because I didn't even see it as an option.

Cindy: Of course.

Colin: My introduction to punk was kind of crazy too. I brought home a NOFX tape a friend of mine had made me, and played it for my dad, and he gave me a copy of the first Dead Kennedys record. And both him and my mom were really into Gang of Four. So things that were rebellious for other people were not even remotely rebellious for me. But then when I was 14, someone gave me the first Bikini Kill record, and both my parents were like "What is this!?" and were freaking out, so I'm like Ok, here's something I can use to rebel. I finally have a thing that's not ok. So a lot of my politics when I was young came from a very cursory understanding of feminist issues. I remember thinking at the time that my life would have been easier if I was a girl. I had the political understanding that navigating the world as a female-bodied person was more difficult in a lot of ways. I didn't think it would be easier like that, but I had this notion that it would make more sense, my life would make more sense, if I were travelling through the world as a girl instead of a boy.
            I don't know if it's a great tragedy that I don't feel that way anymore. Because now, in this life I have, I love my body, I love being a man in the world. I'm fascinated by it, it's intriguing to me, it's interesting and it's fun. I like the clothes, I like being a dude a lot, and I'm very grateful for who I am. 

Cindy: Can you articulate more what do you find intriguing about it?

Colin: Maybe. All of this is going to be intrinsically tied to punk. Growing up punk in the 90's in New York was a pretty wild time for studying masculinity. Like I would go to see Blanks 77 on a Friday night, and see Anti-Product at ABC No Rio on Saturday, and then go see some New York Hardcore band on Sunday. And the way I would act and dress and speak, and even my posture would change, in these different places. It was something I did without thinking, but it was totally different. I felt out of place at the hardcore shows and I LOVED it. Well, I don't know if I loved it actually. Maybe I hated it, but I kept going, so there must have been something that I was into. Sometimes these days I describe my forays into the Sunday afternoon CBGBs Hardcore Matinee as being motivated by wanting to witness the spectacle of male violence, but I think that’s just me trying to seem precocious in retrospect.
Hardcore was so different from the Peace Punk and Street Punk scenes, both of which resonated with me way more because they were explicitly about either fighting injustice or partying, which were two things I liked to do. The NYHC scene was these huge dudes in camo cargo shorts, doing windmills and beating the shit out of each other. But at the same time there was this notion that - this is a thing that we share. This hyper-masculine bond of hardcore shows.
            I understand the response to the masculine aggression at hardcore shows - like "you can't do that. You have to make space for other people too." But at the same time, some people really needed those spaces and people to get that out with and be able to participate in violence with. Looking back on it, going to those shows was really a way to see into a very dark place, but it was also a hopeful place because it was clear that there was something almost therapeutic going on.
            I don't need that kind of catharsis, I never have, but I have known people who really did, and most of them came from much more violent backgrounds than me, and they needed to let it out somewhere in the world, and I think that was a really healthy, important outlet for those people to have. I don't know where the balance is.     
            I guess I'm at a place now in my 30's where I'm like -- do all places need to be inclusive to everybody? You know. I went through a pretty unfortunate folk punk phase in my early 20s and I didn't necessarily bring my hardcore friends to the neck bandana housepunk shows where I was playing a ukelele with my shirt hanging coquettishly off my shoulder. They would feel probably just as uncomfortable and awkward as I felt in their hyper-masculine spaces.

Cindy: I know what you mean. I had friends in the hardcore scene - female friends, and they hated riot-girl for trying to demasculinize it or stop the violence. They were like "these are our spaces. We need this!"

Colin: Right! And I say this as someone who never needed that, and who found it alienating.
            I also remember going to see a Barbara Krueger exhibit at the MOMA with my mother, and there was a print of some dudes fighting, and it said, "You construct intricate rituals in order to touch the skin of other men." And I immediately just imagined replacing that imagine with like, a pile on sing along at a hardcore show. There’s a certain intrinsic homoeroticism to a lot of those super-hetero, hyper-masculine spaces that I find really compelling.
             I think the problem isn't really the degree of violence in those spaces, but rather the degree of censure against those who don't conform. And I think it’s because the participants know they’re participating in something that could easily be construed as homoerotic, and because masculinity is defined largely by what it’s NOT rather than what it IS, they need to violently defend their straightness at all costs. The fact that all these men are shirtless and sweating and touching each other is only okay if they’re all straight, so anyone who punctures a hole in that reality is met with violent reprisal. I think that’s very dangerous and problematic, but I don’t think the consensual, cathartic violence of a hardcore show is bad or wrong at all.
            And you know, I still act differently depending on where I am. Like I went to the junkyard the other day, and the way I talked to those guys, the way I made eye contact, it was very different than how I would be at home or at a punk show.
            I love that in this world, there are all these spaces, and you have to learn the rules and you have to learn to navigate them. I think that's so fascinating and potentially this beautiful thing, where there's all these eclectic, different ways for people to see each other. I don't know. But obviously, there's the same problem, the censure of people who don't conform, which is actually super terrifying.
            I remember in high school I was at band practice and I was like "why don't you wear earplugs," and my bandmate was like "only pussies wear earplugs."  Neither of us were “like that,” but he said it because it seemed like a tough-guy thing to say, and I laughed.
            And I don't want that. That's not positive for anyone.

Cindy: How did you make the transformation from self-medicating around issues of masculinity and gender, to the kind of acceptance and celebration of who you are today?

Colin: I think that happened largely via my sobriety, which it took me a few years to even realize was something I wanted. In 2008 a really good friend of mine died. At the funeral, I couldn’t cry. Like, I went and I looked at his body in the casket and I had written him a little note and I slipped it in his shirt pocket and I wanted to cry so bad but I couldn’t. And then someone asked me if I wanted to go get a drink at the bar across the street and I had about 8 drinks in 40 minutes and when I got back inside it was like I had found the key to access my caged up emotions, and I was able to cry and it felt so good! That’s another thing about masculinity, the idea that we can’t be outwardly emotional. There’s just this idea that we’re not emotional, we take care of shit, not having any problems, not letting the little shit get to you. You know what I mean? Some of those things are good things, but taken to these extremes, they’re not.
            People came to the funeral from all over. On trains from Seattle, from places all across the country and across the world, like this huge dirtbag convention. Everybody was shitfaced. I went to a show that night at a bar that he used to work at. They were sad too, the bartenders, so no one had to pay for a single drink. Everyone was WASTED and people were weeping and punching out windows and freaking out, and I had this moment of clarity where I was like “Ok, our friend died from overpartying.” He had struggled with addiction for as long as I had known him. And the collective, community response to that was to just blot it out I guess, but like, this did not feel good.
            People had died in my community before, but there was something about this death that really hit home for a lot of people. For me, prior to this moment, being fucked up and never having a job and not giving a shit and rejecting capitalism and rejection of the shitty fucked up world was all tied up with getting super fucked up and being like “We don’t care about tomorrow we care about right now!” and like “We’re gonna live our lives how we want it, when we want it!” After my friend died, it stopped feeling like a life-affirming thing and just felt like we were all waiting in line to be dead.
            I think at first it had been a healthy outlet, but it turned from like this beautiful thing to this totally nihilistic thing. I never correlated the two till I was reading old journals a few years later, but I took my first ever “sober week” a few days after the funeral. It was actually like 5 days, and I was eating pills the whole time. But I didn’t drink! It was a big deal. I’d toyed with sobriety, I’d stop for a few days, just smoke weed. After the sober week eventually I stopped for 3 months, and then I stopped entirely.
            It wasn’t until I stopped that I even could pinpoint my reasons for wanting to just dull myself all the time. I didn’t have an understanding that I had these deep-seated gender anxieties, and that I had dealt with them by self-medicating. Also like, whatever masculine traits I felt I was not achieving, I knew what I did have was I could get so fucked up and still more or less take care of shit, and at least that was like, a solid, masculine quality. Like, I may look like a wuss, but I WILL outdrink you.
            Towards the end of my drinking I had started this relationship with my current partner, and I just acted really shady to her and a lot of it was centered around how deep in it I was with booze. I had been doing Support New York since waaaaay before I got sober, and all of a sudden I was doing processes for people who had done things that were similar to what I was doing in my own relationship in terms of being manipulative and untrustworthy. I realized this was super problematic, but didn’t do anything about it until my partner brought things to a head in this really intense way that I kind of forced her into via my own inaction, which just compounds the unfairness of the situation. Not only was I the architect of this heinous dynamic, but I was also leaving her responsible for dismantling it.
I think my shitty behavior in that relationship was rooted deeply in my alcoholism for sure, but equally in my masculine identity and socialization. A lot of it was about intentionally not being aware of what my emotions were because I didn’t want to deal with them. Making decisions that would affect my partner without her input, because I was a man and I could figure out what was best. Seeing that behavior in myself, realizing I was capable of it, that really made me want to quit booze forever because I could see how much pain I was putting my partner through and I didn’t want to be that sort of person. And then through the ensuing clarity of my sobriety and really interrogating my own life and motivations I started to piece together this story of myself as a little boy AND a little girl that I had stopped telling at some point.
Also Nevada, have you ever read the book Nevada? By Imogen Binnie? It’s a transwoman road trip novel, more or less. The protagonist, Maria, she leaves out of New York City and goes on a road trip, and meets someone in the midst of a gender crisis in a small town. It’s a great novel, and the gender crisis aspect of it struck a really deep chord in me. When I got it, I was in the process of acknowledging that I had a narrative tension in my own life. That was the beginning of me considering that maybe I have more than a general discomfort with gender in the culture, and in fact have discomfort about my own gender.
Cindy: Where are you at with your gender identity now?

Colin: I’m fine with who I am right now. Maybe someday I’ll be an old lady. For now, I take care of myself better. I eat better, I take vitamins. I take a holistic antidepressant. I feel more at home in my body than I ever have. I don’t know why. I think little stuff. Like I grew my hair long again and got my ear pierced. None of that is essentially “feminine,” like I have a pretty “butch” earring, but I think I’m being a little more playful with my masculinity. I do my hair up funny and wear a headband sometimes and dress and act a little more femme when I want to and don’t really think twice about it. I curtsy a lot.
Also having a writer friendship with Imogen has been really amazing. When her book freaked me out, I wrote her a letter and was like “Your book freaked me out! I’m in this gender crisis now. Don’t feel responsible for it. Actually, thank you. And I’d love to talk some stuff out. And, I think we’re very similar and would be good friends.” And she’s just been really warm and receptive in helping me parse a lot of this stuff. This was also after Laura Jane Grace came out and transitioned, and that opened the door to me thinking “maybe it’s not too late for me.” I think realizing it was a possibility for me at any time was helpful, because prior to that when I would think about transitioning, it always seemed like something that happened to people who were younger than I was. So even in my 20s when I had trans friends and knew it was an option in the world, it still didn’t seem like an option in my life.
            It’s like this, I barely smoke anymore, I smoke like 2 or 3 cigarettes a day, and I can leave the house without them. But there was a time when if I left the house and I didn’t have cigarettes in my pocket, I would start panicking, not because I needed a cigarette right then, but because I needed to have a cigarette there in case I needed one. Just having them there gave me an out. Laura, who is older than me, transitioning in her late 30s, that was like me having a pack of cigarettes in my pocket. I don’t necessarily need one right now, but I know they’re there and that’s comforting.
            And so I’m getting to a point within myself where this is an option for me, and it’s something I can start to do tomorrow if I want to. That just opened up a box that I’d locked myself into, and so then it became a thing where I had room to be like “there’s so much about being male that I like, and that I’m grateful for.”
            I actually do like my masculinity. I don’t want to destroy it. But I like the notion that I can feel like a girl and still maintain my male identity. How do I embody all my female role models, and all the incredibly powerful and rad shit that I respect and appreciate from the women in my life?
            A lot of my anxiety definitely comes from these essentialized notions of gender that I know are problematic. I was thinking about it a few years ago after I had written a letter to you. I was having a freakout and I wrote you about it, and I was thinking about how great punk is, and all these older people I could turn to as a resource, even though you and I didn’t really know each other, and how wonderful our community was, and I was thinking about all the people I had reached out to in various ways, and I realized that when I was having a crisis I either wrote you a letter or called Kimya Dawson, and when I needed advice about creative shit, I called Aaron or wrote to Eric Lyle. And I was like “oh, this is fucked up! I have very gendered roles for who I reached out to.” That helped me start to examine why I develop certain relationships in my life.
Being sober I was thinking about the fact that even when I was wasted and suppressing a lot of my gender stuff, I did do these types of gender play. One of the things I did was I had a pearl necklace, and about once a month I would get in the bath, put the pearl necklace on and I would drink my Ballentine out of a champagne glass and fake shave my legs like an elegant lady in a shaving cream commercial. I would listen to this Brahms tape and pretend I was Imelda Marcos or Cruella Deville, some vicious rich woman. It was a thing I would only do alone. And when I would clean my house, I would dress up like what I thought of as a rockabilly housewife. And when my cats were kittens they had repeatedly tried to nurse on my nipples, so I referred to myself as their mom.
            So when I started reconsidering my own gender, I thought about “what do I consider female?” and all the things were things that were nurturing. Like caring for myself. Whereas things like standing up to jerks on the street, these things were implicitly masculine. That’s something I’m trying to critically examine now, especially considering that most of my lived examples of people standing up to jerks have been women, yet I still somehow gender it as male.
Another person who’s had a big impact on me recently is Kiese Laymon. In his book "How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America," he has this one essay that's been really important to me, both in my personal life, and in the work I do. It's an essay that's a series of letters amongst a group of six black men, (the essay has six separate authors), all talking about masculinity and how it's confined and defined their lives. The first letter is from a straight identified man, Kiese is straight identified. Then the next letter is from a gay man, and then a transman, and then a man talking about being a childhood sexual abuse survivor, and a man who just got out of prison. They're all talking together about their own personal experiences and working on forming positive notions of black masculinity.
When I approached him over the internet after reading it and said, "Hey, your essay totally blew my mind. I been doing transformative justice work for a decade now, and I would really love if you would let us use this essay in our processes. I think it would be a really useful lens to look at masculinity and socialization through." He was basically like, "I have been waiting for someone to ask me that. Thank you so much."
I think what he's doing, this project of his, actively redefining what it is to be a man in this world; part of the point is that there is no universal notion of what being a man means. It's our responsibility as a community, as various communities, to create modern examples of what masculinity can be. The work he's doing in his community is really useful and beneficial to me, and to the larger community of men, in deconstructing masculinity and trying to build a version of it that will be beneficial and nurturing to the world, instead of violent and toxic. He's unapologetic about his being male, but understands the need for a recuperative effort on the part of men to basically everyone else.
            His work, coupled with the notion that I can walk away from it at any time, has a lot to do with my new-found comfort in masculinity and being male because I feel that there's positive work to do, in this body and as this person. Being male no longer feels like a prison. It’s a choice I’m actively affirming, rather than something proscriptive that I’m stuck with. And although the difference between now and before is almost purely ontological, it turns out that was all I needed.

Radio Update // Art Shit

Me and Sue hanging out with the owner of Casanova Pizzeria


Radio Harvester continues to shine as a guiding light on the internet for the losers and shlubs of NYC or anywhere really to reach the path of inner acceptance. This month's broadcast has us talking to

Sue Jeiven

who is a total badass, an incredibly talented tattoo artist and one of my longstanding Older Punk Rolemodels. We talked about how she got into tattooing, the correlation between pizza and punk, what it's like dealing with terminal cancer, and much more.

You can listen here:

Sue has asked that I emphasize that this tattoo is NOT her work.

But if you wanna be a mensch will you please subscribe in iTunes and give it a 5 star review that uses at least one yiddish word?




My number one homegirl

Caroline Paquita

 has a show opening tomorrow night at Booklyn and it's gonna be SIIIIIICK. Seriously. Hella pubic wigs, self-cunnilingus wooden puppets, weird tits with lights on the ends of them, total freak shit. To quote the gallery, who doesn't sound like a dickhead when they talk about art:

GARDEN OF THE WOMANIMAL explores a recurring theme throughout the recent years of Caroline’s work, depicted in a wide variety of media, a cult of “womanimals” half-women/half-wild animals are illustrated in landscapes of playful sexual scenarios, mystical adventures, and explorations of nature and the body. The womanimals’ corrupt playfulness and exuberance are contrasted by the meticulously clean line work of Paquita’s drawings and paintings. Newer works are surrounded by thirteen years of imagery demonstrating the evolution towards this theme and its stylized representation.

For real, just go to this shit. I'm sure there will be some food or something that you can eat and you probably just sit around playing Street Fighter all day and could deal with having your horizons broadened by an amazing weirdo.



Opening reception + Book Launch, Saturday April 12, 2014, 7 - 10pm

April 12 - June 8th, 2014


1. I been basically a sober dog for like over two years now, which is generally awesome. In that time I have developed a weird affinity for horror movies that I never had before, I think mostly because the physical sensation of being scared is kind of like getting fucked up in a super PG way. ANYWAY, I have been through the dregs of the Netflix and Hulu Plus horror sections, obviously a lot of that shit sucks and is full of superfluous violence, sexualized violence towards women, hella patriarchy buttressing, gender role reinforcement, yadda yadda yah. As Chief Keef so eloquently said, "that's that shit I don't like." But like gangsta rap, I have a really complicated relationship with horror films that is in many ways made possible by my privilege as a straight cis-dude and blah blah blah, you know what I mean, right?

POINT IS: I have watched like, two movies in the past two weeks where the killer was some unhinged man dressed like a woman and I think that shit is SO WHACK and played out. First I watched "IN DREAMS" where Robert Downey Jr plays a murderous transwoman who just wants to be masculinized by having a heterosexual nuclear family so he kidnaps a woman and child to make them let him be the dad and it's all because his dad left and so he had no male role model as a child. Puh-lease. It was directed by Neil Jordan who I realize now directed the Crying Game so obviously FUCK HIM and he is added to the list of people I'm gonna fight after I get my weight up. Current list: Tucker Max, Hoodie Allen, Neil Jordan.

Far more upsetting than that, though, was watching Insidious 2 last night and look, the first one was good until they went into the SHADOW WORLD or whatever and then the villain turned out to be some bullshit TOM WAITS character, but it was good enough that I was stoked when the second one came on netflix and there was at least only regular amounts of patriarchy reinforcement rather than like, brutal overwhelming amounts. AND THEN in the sequel you learn that the killer is some dude who puts on a black wedding dress and makeup and murders women because his dad left and he didn't have a male role model. REALLY?! Thanks Insidious Chapter 2 for ruining yourself for me by trotting out the same tired ass gender tropes. COVER SOME NEW GROUND.

Like, I would be SO STOKED to see a horror movie that had a trans character in it that wasn't totally pathologized. I don't know, whatever. Fuck everything.

CBGB the movie: "I was there, man"

I wrote this a few days ago. A friend of mine who edits some important music website hired me to write about the CBGB movie premiere, but illness, personal tragedy, and technical difficulties prevented it from being published by it's intended recipient. So here it is now in case YOU want to read it. 

When I showed up at the theatrical premiere of the CBGB’s movie I had already seen the whole thing on youtube a week prior. I sung it’s praises to like, basically everyone, and I think at least six people watched it because of me. The universe punished me for lying about this movie being good by forcing me into a situation where I would have to watch it for a second time, in a place where I couldn’t smoke cigarettes or eat an ice cream sundae or tweet the whole time.

I had never been to a movie premiere before, except working craft services a couple times when I cooked for a catering company, so this was very exciting to me! As a kid I was on Steampipe Alley once, but that is probably the most glamorous thing I’ve ever done prior to tonight.

I’m not a movie critic and I don’t know anything about film. I watch a lot of crappy horror movies, without much of a critical eye, and sometimes I watch a TV show or something. I think I’m qualified to review this movie though! Here are my credentials:
  1. A few years ago I ate and reviewed every slice of pizza in Manhattan so I know how to review stuff.
  2. I snuck into CBGBs through the back door after getting kicked out of there for bringing in booze probably like 800 times when I was a teenager. When we were sixteen my best friend smashed the toilet in the men’s room with a sledgehammer. When we were seventeen my other friend took a shit on that same toilet! Or on whatever toilet they replaced it with. You know what I meant. I think he was the only person to ever shit on that toilet in the 40 years that CBGBs was open. It was like a five minute dump and during that time about a dozen people stopped watching whatever band was playing (the Queers, maybe?) to form an audience while my dude dropped one. Also: my high school band played our CBs Audition Night with an as-yet-unsigned Puddle of Mudd! Also also I went to like 9000 hardcore matinees on Sunday afternoons even though I’m a tiny wimp and all the dudes that went to those shows looked like Action Bronson dressed like the Bushwackers.
  3. I’m really punk still even though I’m 30.
So yeah, my friend offered to send me to write a review. I’m sure plenty of more qualified people will be reviewing the film, so this will mostly be a review of the movie premiere. I hope that’s okay with you!

I was really excited because I’ve never been a proper journalist and Claire even got me “Red Carpet Approved” and I didn’t know what that meant but it sounded absolutely enchanting. Turns out what it meant was that I got to the thing like hoooooouuuuuuurs early and then I stood around on a wood platform with a bunch of photographers. I learned two important things on that platform:
  1. Photographers are mostly horrible men who say awful things about women so casually like it’s no big deal.
  2. Duff McKagan is really hot still and kind of looks like David Bowie. 
I spent my time tweeting CBGB’s Movie Red Carpet Fanfic, but after a while that got hella boring and I was cold and I was smoking too much so I wandered inside and read a book in the bathroom for a while. I’m currently reading A Fine And Private Place by Peter S. Beagle and it’s wonderful so far!

Eventually it seemed like the movie might be starting soon and so I made my way into the farthest possible theater and took the seat in the furthest back corner and kept reading my book. It was like an hour before the 8:30 screening time and there were maybe six people in the theater. They seemed teenage but at some point I started thinking everyone under 23 was a teenager, so who knows. Eventually some more people showed up and they were all women and they were all different ages and they all seemed to know each other! They were yelling and screaming about some actress from the movie called Stana Katic who they are all superfans of and they were taking videos and trading pictures and calling each other by their twitter and tumblr handles. It was so cool and earnest and way better than rich middle aged white dudes wearing CBGBs Forever tshirts under blazers and like, fake Rolling Stones LES rock’n’rollers doing studied pouts and wearing stupid paisley scarves.

At one point these two The Strokes type douches walked in and kind of paused at the door to survey the crowd. Everyone in the room was being super loud and rambunctious and they were so excited to be at a movie premiere for a movie that their celebrity idol was in. Like, one lady exclaimed, hyperventilating, “I DON’T EVEN CARE THAT SHE’S IN VIP AND I’M ALL THE WAY UP HERE! JUST KNOWING THAT I’M IN THE SAME BUILDING AS HER BREATHING THE SAME AIR AS HER I MEAN… UGH!...” and she trailed off in excitement and everyone in the room just shook their heads knowingly all, “yeah, us too.” And these two dudes just could not hide their revulsion. It was palpable from across the room. I get it because being a superfan of a celebrity is really vulnerable and uncool and that’s scary to dickheads and they can only respond by sneering at it. But I’d definitely rather be in a room full of Stana Stans than at fucking Max Fish or that other one.  Lit Lounge. I had to google “LES Hipster Bars 2001” to remember the name of Lit Lounge. FYI, there are soooo many yelp lists called “LES Hipster Bars” apparently. Weird world.

ANYWAY, the point, I guess is that the Stana Katic fans were way cool and fun and really eager to talk and enjoy themselves and weren’t putting on airs or pretending. (In fact if you look closely at the top left corner of this video you can see the moment where a really kind woman who was next to me took the time to explain the entire Stana Superfan Subculture.) And those two fake Strokes are imposters and they’re miserable and their friends only pretend to like them but actually hate them and besides that’s not even how cool people dress anymore so they were either Secretly Old or they Just Moved Here. Open invitation to those two dipshits to hop in a fucking time machine and stay there.

Then the movie started and I watched it again and look, it’s not that bad, okay? All these dorks are gonna get so mad but like WHAT. EVER. Who expected the CBGBs movie to be good? Is this what you want to spend your time worrying about? There was some stuff I really liked about it.
  1. Hilly Kristal was a saint and he deserves to have a movie about what a saint he is, even if it’s a corny failure of a movie.
  2. Lou Reed looks like Moose Mason dressed as Slim Shady dressed as an undercover cop trying to sneak into a punk show.
  3. You can totally tell it was filmed on a NYC set in some other town (Savannah, GA, apparently) and not actual New York and it’s a fun game to spot the different signifiers like the shape of the awnings or the type of streetlights.
  4. I like the idea of having John Holstrom illustrate bits of it even if the director totally blew it and made them look stupid.
  5. Corny failed punk movies are always fun for punks to watch and be like, “UUUUH-UUUUUUH” with their hand over their mouth.
  6. I don’t know who any of the actors were, basically, but they all looked kind of like other actors from some angles. Like, there was a sort of Jared Leto and a kinda James Franco and a maybe Willem Defoe and I think Legs McNeill was played by the actual singer from the All-American Rejects.
There was also stuff that totally sucked:
  1. So much of the plot is just straight up told to you by characters instead of shown via action and that gets hella boring. Like there are these bikers that hang out in the bar, and then one day the Lead Biker is like, “Hilly I think we’re going to leave this place because we scare your customers and it looks like something big is on the cusp of happening here and we wouldn’t want to stand in the way of your dreams and inevitable success” and it made me think that the director or writer or whoever thinks I’m stupid and doesn’t think I can figure stuff out.
  2. Why couldn’t we have any NYHC cameos? You couldn’t get Freddie Madball to be the loan shark? C’mon. 
  3. There are at least two moments where they show footage of a modern subway and there was no point in them being there and it really bugged me. It’s okay if you can’t afford to make a fake subway car, but these new ones have little LED displays on the sides and this is supposed to be the 70s! I don’t know why that one dumb thing out of the millions of dumb things bugged me so much, but it really bothered me a lot.
All that said, I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie the first time, alone in my underwear, when I could like, clip my nails and fill fanzine orders or whatever while I was watching it, but the second time it seemed unbearably long and totally boring.

In conclusion: Go see this movie if you are a Stana Katic superfan or if you like stuff that sucks.

Thoughts about internalized white racism with a passing mention of pizza.

Sophomore year of high school I was two years advanced in math, so my class was comprised of like, one other sophomore, a handful of juniors, and then mostly seniors. In New York at the time they had these standardized tests called Regents Exams, that you had to pass in order to graduate with a Regents Diploma. I don't know if this was true, but the pervasive atmosphere was that if you didn’t get a Regents Diploma you might as well not graduate, the other diploma was thought to be essentially worthless.

There was this older Puerto Rican girl who sat behind me who I didn’t know that well but we had smoked weed a couple times together at lunch. She knew I was really good at math and just straight up asked me if she could cheat off me on the Regents because she wanted to get that Regents diploma. I couldn’t see a single, substantial issue with letting that happen, so I did it. She cheated off me and she passed her regents and she was really happy and I felt good I had helped her graduate.

In return, she invited me to her birthday party. That weekend, me and my best friend Juan showed up at her mom’s apartment not knowing what to expect. We walked in and there were her and these two guys we had seen around school but didn’t know, a couple pizza boxes, and so much weed smoke. Me and Juan were definitely PUNKS, and these guys were like, rap dudes or whatever. Is there a succinct noun for that? Like, they wore white, ribbed, tank top undershirts and baggy Mecca jeans and had cornrows and those beaded Puerto Rican flag necklaces that everyone used to wear back then. I knew black kids, Mexican kids, white kids, Jewish kids, Indian kids, but I didn’t really know any Puerto Rican kids, or know much about Puerto Rican culture beyond Big Pun yelling “BORICUA” and that the US was bombing Vieques for Airforce drills thanks to a Crudos interview in MRR.

Anyway, these two dudes were definitely the sort of blustery, hyper-masculine teenage boys with stringy muscles who strut around and make noise at school and act hella tough. I did that too when I was on St Marks place or in a pack of teen drinkers outside No Rio, but in school I was meek and passive where they were loud and confident. My masculinity was constantly embattled whereas their’s seemed self-assured and confident. I went to a big high school, but I remembered both of these dudes from seeing them around the hallways because they were cool looking guys who, though they dressed differently from me, nailed whatever aesthetic they were going for so perfectly that it was almost impossible for a fashion conscious person like myself not to notice. But the point of all this, honestly, is just that they were basically just two pretty normal teenage boys.

Anyway, we smoked a ton of weed, ate all the pizzas, which were slightly undercooked and doughy, but had a delicately flavored sauce and the perfect amount of cheese—objectively flawed but ideal for a "blunt to the dome" kinda night. There was a little stilted awkwardness when we first got there because we were practical strangers walking in on three best friends, but that eased off as we all got so blazed and soon everyone was having a good time.

They were watching Dirty Dancing when we walked in. I expected these two, tough masculine (non-white!) guys to be making fun of it a lot more than they did. In fact, one of the dudes (I’m sorry I don’t remember any of these people’s names, but this was like, fifteen years ago and I have smoked a lot more weed since then) mouthed almost every line. I don’t think it’s crazy to find it novel that a hyper-masculine guy has memorized all of Dirty Dancing, but I also don’t think I would’ve been as shocked had this been one of the affluent Italian boys who drove Escalades their dads bought them and pretended to be gang bangers.

Because for me, even though my best best friend was Mexican, my “crew,” while majority white, was incredibly diverse (thank you New York), I still saw many people of color as two-dimensional archetypes, rather than fully fleshed out human beings. They were characters from New York Undercover or from a Mobb Deep track or a fucking Ralph Ellison novel, even, but they were not people. The fact that this tough, masculine dude knew all the lines from Dirty Dancing, even shed a few tears at the end, is certainly notable, don’t get me wrong. The shock of walking into this rugged, kinda thugged-out girl’s birthday party and seeing just three friends hanging out, eating pizza and watching a movie might be legit too. (What was I expecting, though, the Gin and Juice video?) But in my retelling of this night—which WAS a cute night where people from different backgrounds had fun and smoked weed and ate pizza and watched Dirty Dancing—I found myself emphasizing that these PUERTO RICAN GUYS were watching DIRTY DANCING and one of them EVEN MEMORIZED SOME LINES?! And I found myself telling it mostly to other white people, white people who had much more homogenously white upbringings than I did. And it was this thing that I did and it sucked.

Like, why did it gotta be crazy to me that a Puerto Rican guy could like a really good movie? I guess because I saw Dirty Dancing as a "white people thing." But then like, when my punk friends who weren't white liked "white people stuff" I wasn't shocked because they were punks and also because I saw them as fully-formed, complicated people who had a plethora of interests that might seem out of the ordinary to some small-minded square, but not to me. And like, the fact that I was way into rap music and like, reading Black Feminists didn't seem suspect or weird because like, I am a fucking extraordinarily sensitive and intelligent individual and I'm just trying to make sense of the world, right? BUT THESE TWO PUERTO RICAN DUDES LIKE DIRTY DANCING?!!? 

And as the years went on and I'd find myself telling this story, the narrative began to change, as narratives often do. Suddenly these kids were Latin Kings. They were drug dealers. They were stick up kids. And here I am bumbling white punk, gaining access to their sensitive side or whatever. And like, I knew actual gang members in high school, which made it easier for me to fill in realistic details. I was friends with some folks who were in that world. But the thing is, I didn’t actually know if these two guys were in a gang. They just "looked like they could be," whatever that means. (We know what that means.) And it made the story better, right? So why not exaggerate. Hyperbole never killed anyone.

Except that kind of hyperbole just did kill someone. You get what I’m saying?

I’m saying the kind of logic that makes it seem like benign hyperbole to change these two normal teenage boys into gang members in a story that I’ve told in order to improve the dramatic tension or whatever is actually the same pernicious misconception that allowed an adult man to turn a teenager buying a bag of skittles into a menacing bad guy who needed to get dealt with. It allowed six adult women to let that adult man walk free. I made the same fundamentally racist logical leap as those people, the consequences just weren't as bad when I did it.

And I like to think that I’m one of the good white people! It feels good to think that. But check this out, this is next bit is important: I am still racist. And other white folks, y’all are still racist too. And creating this “us” and “them” mentality where “us” is non-racist regular white people who don’t judge anyone based on skin color (although maybe we are pragmatic about certain issues, or maybe we do a certain voice when we imitate certain brown people to other white people, or maybe we change normal teenagers into gang members when we tell a story) and “them” is the racists, (who are like, people who live elsewhere or maybe your shitty libertarian Uncle, but it’s never you or anyone you’re actually close to)… creating that mentality helps to further entrench your racism, it helps to obfuscate your own racism so that you never have to deal with it. AND THAT IS FUCKED UP, OTHER WHITE PEOPLE! Cut it out!

So instead of doing that, try just dealing with it! Be critical of why you think certain stuff, why you find certain things funny, why you draw certain conclusions. Accept the criticism of other people in your life without getting defensive. If the goal is to not be racist anymore, actually work on that goal instead of just pretending that the racist shit you do or think or feel is okay. It isn’t that hard.

Also realize that no matter how completely you wipe out racism within yourself, you are still complicit in a white supremacist culture and unless you are working actively to dismantle and destroy it you're still part of the problem. ;)

7. Must Yearn

My dad's best friend Eddie died last week. He fell off his bicycle and hit his head. It happened out of nowhere. He was pretty much my dad's last old friend. Tonse, his best friend from High School, whose real name was Anthony, died in 2009. His kid brother, my uncle Scott, died in 2006. My dad's only 60. He should still have a lot of living friends and I am really sad for him that the people he loves keep dying so young.

For years anytime he does something sweet or especially funny, he'll jokingly chide my sister or me, "make sure that goes in the eulogy." It's dark comedy, and it's definitely funny in a very New York way. Let's defang the things we're scared of by embracing them and laughing at them. But with all the death that seems to be hovering around him, something's different. I can't tell if the joke has become more urgent or less funny. Maybe both.

I had last seen Eddie at the shiva call for my Grandfather this summer. I didn't talk to him much, but I was happy to see him smiling and looking well, and I was touched that he had come out to see my father, having assumed they had lost touch, just because hadn't seen Eddie in years. Chalk it up to the myopic selfishness of youth, I guess. But at Eddie's memorial service, my sister reminded me that Eddie and my dad used to talk on the phone for hours when we were teenagers. And they used to IM together! Think about that, my dad IMing with someone. I guess I just didn't understand until recently that sometimes you reach a point in your life where you prioritize stuff besides hanging out. It makes the hanging out better because it's a more precious commodity.

At the memorial my dad gave this beautiful speech. We joke sometimes, in my family, that if we were back in the old Jewish Europe of Shalom Aleichem, he could've eked out a meager living as an itinerant eulogist. The guy is not the most eloquent in his day to day. Not that he's especially inarticulate, but he's known to make up or misuse words with some frequency. But put him in front of a casket, and this motherfucker can SPEAK.

During his eulogy for Eddie, who he had met in college, he rattled off this stream of consciousness list of things his friend had introduced him to.

...drinking beer, Dylan Thomas, the White Horse Tavern, riding a bicycle, running, The New Yorker, The history of New York, the love of THINGS, Tacos, Taj Mahal, Sonny Rollins..

I paraphrased that. I don't remember exactly what he said. But listening to it I couldn't stop thinking about my friend Jamie Ewing. It would've been hard not to, anyway. I was wearing his old shoes to the funeral.

Today is the four year anniversary of Jamie’s death. He died the night Barack Obama was elected, and I’m still mad at him for it. The nerve of that kid. And in the four years since we lost Jamie, I've lost a handful of other friends and acquaintances. Flipping through my box of 7"es is like walking through a graveyard where only people I know are buried. To my friends and my friends' friends: PLEASE stop dying.

The week before Jamie died, I had been listening to his old band's record Stray Dog Town almost every night as I closed the diner. Every night I would close up the place and think about calling him to let him know how much I loved that fucking record, how brilliant I thought he was, see if he wanted to get a beer. And every night that week I went to the bar and started drinking a decided to call Jamie tomorrow. And every tomorrow was the same.

And I regret that, obviously. But instead of fixating on what a dipshit I am or whatever, I make up for it. Every year, just after midnight on November 5th, I call or text a few people I care about who I know may also be feeling that same sense of loss. I do it just as much for myself as I do it for them, maybe moreso.

This is how I ended up texting with Aaron until 1:30 in the morning last night. Among other things, I told him that most of my motivation to Do Stuff is to assuage this lingering sense of guilt I feel for still being alive. After Jamie died I pretty much lost it for a little while, and I think I've almost finished picking up the pieces and reassembling myself.

But everything I've done since I woke up the morning of November 5th, 2008, way earlier than I was accustomed, to a phone call from Kevin Morby, crying at the hospital, has been informed by Jamie's life and Jamie's death.

I always felt slightly competitive with Jamie, though I don't know if he felt it too. It was amicable! But every time he would seek me out to make sure I got a copy of some awesome new record he had put out, or show me a drawing he had made, in my head I'd be saying, "so you think you're better than me, huh?" And it would drive me to try and finally get a zine out, or to try and push whatever shitty band I was in to record or play a show or write a new song.

And now, that he's gone, everything I do is to try and measure up to how much awesome shit I think he would've been doing by now. It's so that if he were to drop into the diner to give me a tape or show up at my house with a 7", I'd have something cool to give him in return.

So thanks for that, Jimbo. I still miss you every day.

Pizza talk from my kid sister.

I am in Miami partying with my awesome girlfriend's awesome family and didn't have anything prepared to post today, but then my sister sent me this email, so she'll be the guest contributor this week and then next week it'll be back to me, in New York, maybe talking about pizza but likely just complaining about something I saw on cable that made me hate men. Anyway, here is my sister:
So I was starving when I got off work today, really in the mood for pizza, and you have to remember that I work at the end of the world all the way in West Chelsea and there is literally nothing to eat near me. In fact I eat the same disappointing salad for lunch EVERY DAY.

Anyway, the other day I wanted to order a meatball parm for lunch and I was looking at menu pages and I said to my colleague, "what about 10th Avenue Pizza*? That any good?" and he was like, "absolutely not, that place is gross. Terrible. Really, really bad" and grant you, he's an Irishman and I don't necessarily trust his taste in food or pizza, but the man and I talk about food all day long and he has a real no-bullshit attitude toward it.

So anyway, I walk by this place on 9th ave on my way to the L everyday and it looks OKAY--I like the neon sign a lot--but as with all other food in this area, I don't have very high expectations.

So I go in and I order a slice and a small fountain soda because I'm a sucker for fountain soda. And I plan on drinking my soda by the time the pizza comes out because it's really tiny and that way I can walk with my pizza because I'm a busy damn woman and who has the time to stop smell the roses let alone eat a slice of pizza???

Anyway, I'm rambling, but really it's important because the pizza came out earlier than I expected. I figured it wasn't very hot, and I dressed it up in red pepper and oregano and I was ready to just eat my hunger away and not really take a moment to enjoy it because it's not gonna be good... but it kind looked good.  First bite in, I was like, "hot damn, that is one good slice." And then I thought, "what does brother think?" so I went to Slice Harvester and start looking for the review on my iPhone, and really you should have an app for that** because until I realized I could search "slice harvester stella's pizza" on the Internet I was really frustrated.

So anyway, I get to the review and lo and behold it says "Stella's Pizza: This place ain't bad"! And so I stood there, in Stella's pizza, savoring my supremely decent slice and sipping down my tiny fountain cola and read the whole review.***

It was spot on.  More spot on than I could even articulate at that moment. My slice was cooked perfectly and when I folded it had that nice crack down its spine! It was an above average, average slice... Does that even make sense? It was almost great.

But your post got me thinking. Because truth be told, before I read your opinion I was ready to sing Stella's Pizza's praises, jump on the counter and thank the pizza guys for crafting such a great slice just for my enjoyment. But really, the slice was just good, above average but nothing to go out of my way for. But because my expectations were in the toilet, and because I was so absolutely hungry I was ready to rate that slice a 10 and call it a day. So really,  I'm not sure what I'm getting at. I guess just that overall there seems to be two schools of pizza: the absolutely terrible (which I'll absolutely eat in a pinch and which seems to be the majority of the pizza here in our fine city) or the fantastically decent--which almost elevates itself to fantastic due to its rarity and my lack of mental preparation. I guess my question is this: does a truly perfect slice even exist in the five boroughs? Or is it only a myth? It must exist, right? Because how else do we know all the pizza that isn't it? There must be something that sets the standard...****

Oh brother, this has substantially occupied my train ride back to Brooklyn. I hope you have a great time in Miami and give Sampa my love--I called him today, I now have an alarm set to call him every Wednesday at 3. Do you think he'll catch on?*****
*She did not hyperlink that thing in her email, but I hyperlinked it here because I can.

**Does anyone want to help me make an iPhone app? Seriously, send me an email. Let's do it.

***The notion of my kid sister being in a pizza parlor, reading a review I wrote of that same pizza parlor, seems like a slight (and technologically advanced) variant on a common theme in mealtime conversation in my family, which is: talking about food from different restaurants that serves the same food as the restaurant we are at. For instance, we had weekly Sunday dinners growing up with my Aunt Sheryl and Uncle Barry at a Chinese Place called Szechuan Empire and we would spend the bulk of the conversation talking about other Chinese food. In this instance, instead of talking about a restaurant we are not at while eating food at a different place, my sister was talking about the restaurant she WAS at, but with someone that wasn't even there with her. Does this make sense to anyone but me (and undoubtedly her)?

****This is the eternal question. I recently revisited the pizza shop on Broadway in Brooklyn around the corner from the Bent Haus (House?) that I have this one really fond memory of eating this perfect slice at. It was Halloween, two-thousand-something and I was wearing this Hulk Hogan costume where the body was for a child and I cut it up and re-assembled it over a pair of long johns and then made this blonde mustache by painting a mustache yellow and gluing it to my face with rubber cement, which meant I was basically huffing paint all night, which was not as insane as the night Sweet Tooth dipped that fake mustache in ether and let me wear it for a while, but it was totally dumb and awesome and I was so young and invincible walking around under the J Train dressed like Hulk Hogan. If I remember right, Kever was dressed like Osama Bin Laden and me and him had this fake wrestling duel where I was defending America. I think Crybaby McArthur played.

Anyway, walking there I was so excited to go to this house show and hang out with all these awesome new punk kids I had met who were all so cool and many of whom were at least moderately friendly and I was just wearing long johns and this stupid polyester children's costume and it was October back when the seasons were how they used to be, so it was COLD. And I walked by this pizza shop and turned around and got a slice from the window. I was slurping down a Ballantine tall can while I ate it and I just remember loving it so much and feeling like life was so full of endless possibilities and that the slice of pizza was just so good and perfect and fuck! Pizza!

Since then at least one of my friends from that night is dead and a lot of the rest of them have drifted out of my life, (or more honestly I've drifted out of their's), and while I feel more like myself than I ever have, more mentally and physically healthy than I ever was when I was slamming a million King Cobra's on my stoop every night, and while I even feel like there is more potential for me to accomplish totally awesome and tangible Specific Actual Goals, I do not have that same boundless, swelling sense of marvel and appreciation for the world that I did back when my eyes were big with wonder at every new sight and sensation, and frankly, I think I have a slightly harsher palate, because the pizza at that place on Broadway where I ate the other day, and where I had that perfect slice, it just wasn't very good. Same pizza man as back then, too.

And the thing is, I have a feeling it was never very good. But that slice in my memory is still perfect and that slice in that moment was still perfect! It was an 8 slice out of 8 slice slice, even though it's actually a 4 slice out of 8 slice slice. You feel me here? I'm talking about what Larry Screamin' Jesus said to me when I was in the park with Kevin Morby two years ago and he was walking around hollering and I waved hi and he came over giddy as a child and said, "Hey Colin! I don't know if you realize this, but every moment we have is a moment that's already passed us by. They're so quick and fleeting we can't even hold them and that might make you feel lost but it's actually beautiful. You and I just had millions of moments together, Colin. Millions of moments in a span of seconds." And he walked off and started berating some guy for sun-bathing.

I guess what I'm saying is that things change from moment to moment and people change and pizza changes, and we probably won't know our perfect slice until we're almost done eating it.

*****Sampa is what we call my Grandpa Sam. He doesn't know how to use the internet so he will never find out that my sister has a weekly alarm to call him unless one of you tells him, so if that happens I'ma bust someone's ass for snitching, aight?

******This is really how she signs her emails to me, I am not even trying to protect her identity.

Still not talking about pizza!

Who cares? I was never really talking about pizza in the first place, that was just how I tricked all of you into caring what I had to say about other stuff, like Wyclef and making music. Today I want to address all the straight men in the audience. To my other readers, read this over and see if it's worth passing on to a straight man in your life. I am not trying to exclude any of you, but I think we need to have a collective "Dude, seriously."

Recently my father and I went to go see his father and take him to a doctor's appointment, take him out out to lunch, get him some groceries, etc. (Status report: the old man is doing just fine.) We went to Whole Foods to buy him some cheese blintzes and ruggelah, and in the car driving over to his house, my dad said, "if I was a single guy I would go to Whole Foods to meet women."
"And why is that?"
"Didn't you notice," he said, "the place was full of single women. Well, maybe not single women, but it was full of women. Some of them had to be single." I hadn't noticed.
"Okay, so, how would you go about meeting these single women, or determining if they're single?" I was only half involved in the conversation because I was reading a NY Times article on my phone.
He shrugged. "I dunno... I would bump carts by accidentally or something." As you can tell, it's been a long time since my dad's been single.
"Don't you think they'd see right through that?" I asked.
"Sure, but if they were interested they'd see through it and know that I was interested and if not they would go about their day and I would go about mine and nothing would really be that different."
 "You don't think or care that they might be annoyed by the intrusion?"
"What are you supposed to do, never talk to a stranger because they might be annoyed by the intrusion? I am intruded upon 500 times a day, it happens. We live in a world with other people. Sometimes we have to interact with them."
And so on.

I don't recall exactly how it happened, but somehow we got onto the subject of winking. More specifically whether or not it is inappropriate for a man who is shopping at Whole Foods to wink at a woman he has never met who is shopping at Whole Foods. I posited that yes, it is categorically inappropriate. My father was outraged. "So you're saying that winking at a woman is an aggressive, inappropriate act? You're over-reacting. You're so concerned about fighting sexism that you see it in places where it isn't even there. Winking is benign and if you put it on the same category as saying 'hey baby, nice gams' and whistling like a Looney Tunes wolf, it diminishes the seriousness of those acts by comparing them to something relatively innocuous."
"Look," I began, at this point my phone was away and I was totally paying attention, "I just don't think it's innocuous. Everything has a context, and your hypothetical wink at Whole Foods falls squarely into a continuum of shitty behavior perpetrated by men towards women from the time they reach puberty. It may not be the same thing but it is all interrelated."
"That's ridiculous and you're inventing context that isn't there. A wink is just a wink."
"I just disagree with you there. And I might as well tell you now, you're never going to convince me. I don't think you are a bad person or have any malicious intent, and I appreciate that this conversation is all hypothetical and we're not discussing the fact that you DID wink at a woman in Whole Foods because I don't think you would do that. But the fact of the matter is, I have had conversations with many of the women in my life about being winked at and I know how they feel about it, so no matter how compelling an argument you craft in defense of men's Right to Wink, I am not going to be swayed because it is just conjecture by a man and is meaningless compared to the shared experience and testimony of the countless women I have talked to about this." I should note that I've been paraphrasing this whole time and I most assuredly was NOT that articulate in real life. Luckily, I'm the one recounting the discussion.
"That is crazy." He was shaking his head. "So you're saying that men aren't allowed to have opinions?"
"Of course not! I'm just saying that in this instance we're discussing something that affects women more than men and I'm going to side with the opinion of the people that are affected over someone on the outside conjecturing. Look, I know this isn't an issue because you don't actually go around winking at ladies, but have you ever had a discussion with any women in your life about how they feel when men wink at them?"
He shook his head no. I dialed my mom on speakerphone.

Ring ring ring ring ring "Hello?"
"Hey Ma, I got a a hypothetical situation for you. You're in a Whole Foods shopping for groceries..."
"What am I doing in a Whole Foods, I hate Whole Foods!"
"Ma, come on, lemme finish. You're in a Whole Foods shopping for groceries and you're walking down an aisle and a guy you've never seen before is walking the other way down the aisle and as you pass by he winks at you. How does that make you feel?"
"I would shout 'FUCK YOU!' at the guy" she said, without missing a beat. "I would yell, 'WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE WINKING AT?'"
I looked over and my dad was chuckling. I asked my mom, "Why?"
And she said, "Because a wink is too intimate a gesture to share with a stranger and the implications of a stranger winking at me in a Whole Foods are totally pervy. You wink at your friends. You wink when you're sharing a confidence, when you're both in on a secret. It's just not appropriate to wink at a stranger."

I texted my kid sister the same question. I said, "if you are in a Whole Foods and a man you don't know winks at you, how does that make you feel?"
"Gross," she wrote back almost immediately, followed a few moments later by, "and disgusting."
I showed the texts to my dad and he said, "well I guess I have to reconsider."

The point of all this is not that my dad is some skeezy jerkoff. He's a really nice and respectful guy and I think I got a lot of pretty awesome traits from him. But he is a Male Dude who was raised in America and he had a Male Dude for a father and his brother was a Male Dude and all his friends growing up were other Male Dudes and they were predominantly, maybe almost entirely Straight Male Dudes and they weren't scumbags or anything any more or any less than all Male Dudes in the world are trained to be scumbags from like, the second they hit puberty, a process which is possibly equally (but definitely differently) traumatic to being sexually objectified from the moment one hits puberty, although we'll never really know conclusively since part of that training is to cut ourselves off from our emotions and NEVER EVER EVER NEVER NERVER admit that anything could possibly be traumatizing to us.

The night before going to visit my grandfather I spent the night at my folks' house and I was sitting around eating defrosted pizza and watching cable on their TV at like, 2am, and I saw this show on MTV called "Guy Code" or something which was like, all these shitty comedians talking about why it is imperative that men fuck all the women. Here are some real quotes. I wish I could attribute them to the actual dudes that said them and then we could all get together and crush their nuts with a big piece of wood like Charlotte Gainsbourg does to Willem Defoe in Anti-Christ. (For all the defensive babies out there, I am joking around and I don't actually advocate crushing men's nutsacks because they say idiot shit.) This is on the subject of having friendships with women:
"The only time I'll keep a girl as a friend is if she has a lot of hot friends for me to hook up with."
"You're giving her all the things she's used to giving sex to get, so what the fuck is she gonna fuck you for?"
This is fucked, right? This is on MTV, which is like, the channel that is supposed to be for teenagers. I don't think MTV is actually teaching kids anything substantial or is to blame for shitty Dude Behavior, but I do think that it is certainly reflective of where we are at as a culture, and if nothing else, serves to reinforce shithead belief systems that are learned and taught everywhere else in the culture.

But the point is this: it is really easy for those of us who identify as Male Dudes to sit around and conjecture all day long about what it's like to be a lady and what behavior is appropriate and what behavior isn't but the only way to really figure that out is to just talk to women we know. And that part is easy, but here is the hard part: listen to what they have to say non-judgmentally and internalize it and think about it. Ask your moms and sisters how they feel. Ask your girlfriends or friends, because despite what "the Guy Code" says, I'm am pretty sure most straight dudes still have at least one female friend. And then do some research on your own. The internet is huge! Read a few things on Shakesville or Tiger Beatdown. And when you feel attacked or defensive, instead of getting your back up, take a step back and thinking about what it is you are feeling attacked by? What is it you are defending? Is winking at ladies an integral part of your personality, a kernel of truth at the very core of your being, that you could never give up? Is it your right to continue to be unaware of the weight of the patriarchy on the women in your life and the ways that you are complicit? Just be thoughtful and be open-minded. These are hard things to do, and the ladies in your life may not want to hold your hand all the time, but if you are actually a caring person and you actually want to know, you can educate yourself and these things and people will be willing to talk to you.

And now I have to go because I'm going to be late for work.