A Year of Favorites: Margaret Eby


It was T.S. Eliot or maybe those dudes in Rent who brought up the idea of how you measure a year, and the question remains an open one. Sure, sure, measured out with coffee spoons, sure, sure, sunsets and laughter and strife, but the truth is that what you remember from a year isn’t the connective tissue of every day life. It’s those things that stick in your brain. It’s when you look at a photo of yourself a couple years later, you think, “Oh right, that was the time that I dressed mostly like a stagehand” or “I sure was into hiking back then I guess?”

What will my future self judge me for? All kinds of things, probably. But here is my year in favorites and obsessions, cultural and culinary and otherwise.


Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours

A few years ago, back when I was working a job in which I wrote a great deal about the whereabouts and social media habits of the Kardashians, I started listening to Fleetwood Mac. I’m not sure what took me so long, but all of a sudden they were basically what was getting me through the day. Sometimes I fall into days where I just listen to the same thing over and over, until it’s just this constant running soundtrack beneath everything. I dug up articles on the making of the album and pored over the band drama, all those break-ups and bad trips and hard recording sessions. I remember asking a colleague of mine, a political reporter, “What can I listen to besides Rumours?” and getting a sort of puzzled stare. “I don’t know, Metallica?” Which is true.

Anyway, in January I was going through a break-up which wasn’t one of those sob-in-public-cut-off-your-hair break-ups, but the quiet sort, where everything is just sad at the edges. And I fell back into a Rumours pit. Finally, on one of those freezing winter New York Saturdays when everyone seems determined to have fun to spite the weather or something, two of my friends rented me a booth at the back of Sing-Sing on Avenue A. We sang through all of Rumours, and it helped. We also sang some Metallica.


Tiki bars

In June, I visited California, a place where you can buy 15 avocados for a dollar, and also where you can run across a memorial to James Dean at random seemingly at anytime. In New York, 15 avocados would probably wipe out my retirement savings. I’m not sure how much I’m exaggerating. But another thing that California has in abundance, or at least Los Angeles, is tiki bars. Not the Disney tourist number, though you can visit the Tiki-Tiki-Tiki room if you so desire, but the kind encrusted in many layers of tchotchkes and grime. (Tchotchkes and grime is also the name of my new electroclash band.) At one particular joint we visited, a cramped hut where the menu came with pretty much no indication of what was going into the drinks except liquor, I ordered a “Ray’s Mistake” and watched as the other patrons seem to unlike secret levels of tiki. After one drink request, the bartender wound up a small mechanical bull that walked down the counter. God, I love gimmicks.

When I returned to the east coast I sought out more tiki—the glasswear, the orgeat syrup, the many, many kinds of rum. I saw how long it would take, by car, bicycle, and on foot, to travel from my apartment in Brooklyn to the Sip-n-Dip lounge in Great Falls, Montana, which features a live mermaid show and a drink that is somehow neon, frozen and on fire, the trifecta of kitsch. (33 hours, 212 hours, and 712 hours respectively, according to Google maps,) I thought about this a lot when reading Fates and Furies, featuring a character who worked at a mermaid show, and also Gold Fame Citrus, one of my favorite books of the year. The promise of the west is a lie, but it’s a pretty lie. So, too, is the promise of tiki.


Western wear

Because I had a book come out this September, and because I had no really clear idea how best to cope with that admixture of anticipation and nerves, my solution was to try to have Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors design a dress for the occasion. There’s no way you can seem bumbling if you’re wearing a gold lame suit, right? At least, so the logic I had constructed went. This fell through, which is probably for the best, since it likely would have bankrupted me faster than several dozen avocados. But in its place I decided to really double-down on my wardrobe investment in Western wear. Swing skirts, cowboy boots, pearl snap button-downs, and one dress with white and blue fringe all over the front. You have to be the Dolly Parton you wish to see in the world, right? I suspect it is the fringe that will be the thing in pictures I will look back on and contemplate. Why the fringe? Someone will ask. And I guess I’ll shrug and say something like, Well, that was my year of fringe. Thanks, 2015.

Margaret Eby is the author of South Toward Home. She lives in Brooklyn. 

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