Billie Jean and Me

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Billie Jean and Me
by Jesse Ludington

I don’t remember the name of the bar in Paris, or what time it was, although it had to be late. I remember that it was a Thursday. I remember that the air felt cool on my face when I walked outside. Ashley was inside the bar, getting to know her Tinder date, Carl, an almost impossibly tall and lanky Swedish boy with shoulder-length blond hair, so textbook Ashley’s type I found it hard to believe she hadn’t created him in a lab. Kayla was inside too, nursing what she’d described to me as the worst piña colada of her life. My unfinished jack and coke sat somewhere along the bar—it had been too strong, and overpriced.

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Lessons from a New York City Nail Guru

Nails

Lessons from a New York City Nail Guru
by Libby Leonard

Getting my nails done was not something that ever occurred to me. As a tomboy for a majority of my teens and early twenties, one that elicited such comments as “I don’t really look at you like a girl” from guys who didn’t know how to treat women whom they actually viewed as “girls,” it seemed like a frivolous expense. 

Several years later, I was wandering like a zombie through the Upper West Side in frigid February temperatures. I had just gone through a breakup, and didn’t want to go home after work, but didn’t know where else I wanted to go either, until I found myself checking my phone in front of a nail salon. When I looked up, five nail technicians with empty chairs were looking at me smiling. One waved me in. 

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Transableism, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Me

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I. A choice to be disabled?

One of the main characters in Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 novel Everything Is Illuminated is a blind chauffeur otherwise known as Grandfather. Grandfather claims to be blind and has a “Seeing Eye bitch,” as Alex, the tour guide with a talent for choosing the wrong word, refers to their dog. Yet Grandfather is also the driver for Heritage Touring, the family outfit that has promised to help the protagonist, named Jonathan Safran Foer, find the shtetl his grandfather fled during the Holocaust. Grandfather spends most of the book driving Alex, who is also his grandson, and Jonathan around Ukraine in this pursuit. 

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A Boundless Longing: Betwixt 

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As an African Australian it’s unsurprising that being between worlds is a recurring theme in my stories. 

Recently the Sydney Review of Books published my essay “Inhabitation—Genni and I”, where I embrace my once unsayable duality. The text unwraps or layers my journey that is a discovery, “an integral acceptance of the sum of self”.   

This theme of hybridity is present in my novel Claiming T-Mo by Meerkat Press, a speculative novel that’s hard to classify in a single genre, with its elements of science fiction, fantasy and magical realism. 

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Playing Checkers in Brooklyn: Hope and Resilience in Betty Smith’s Wartime Fiction

Betty Smith Tomorrow Will Be Better cover image

Loving Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because the Nolan family was Irish? That was a reason I could talk about—because, when I was a girl, being Irish was no longer a shameful thing. But poverty was shameful, and there I was, growing up in a single-parent household dependent on Mother’s Allowance payments. So when I talked about reading the book, I talked about the more acceptable parts of the story, but it was the Nolan family’s struggle to make ends meet—coupled with the related family tensions and the father’s frequent absences—that secured this novel as a true favourite.

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In Defense of Despair

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In Defense of Despair: A Reaction to J.David’s “In Defense of Joy”
by Alex DiFrancesco

This morning, I am watching the sun rise over Lake Erie after a horrific month in a horrific year for the entire world. It’s been particularly bad for me, encompassing a bad health scare, a serious drug relapse, several suicide attempts, and reactionary behavior that lost me some friends. Serendipitously, Brain Pickings has a thoughtful and carefully curated selection of Albert Camus’ thoughts on suicide. Camus rejected suicide, but he did not do it without carefully considering it himself. In fact, he based all his subsequent philosophies on this as the basic question. For me, it is a question that has no firm and lasting answer. Often, my actions and my behavior have pointed to despair and the ending of my own life. Fortunately, which Camus believes is a basic function of life and the human body, I have rejected this over and over. I have made a decision to keep living, though the torment of the notion of suicide as a sane reaction to an insane world has never been something I’ve eluded for long. I originally read Camus far too young, and far too wrapped up in my own despair to not focus on the darkness he insisted was important to look in the eye. I was marked as chronically depressed in mental hospitals through my 20s because I would say things like, “If one doesn’t think deeply about death, every day, how do you find your approach to life?” But that was and wasn’t his point. It is also not my point that this darkness is, will ever be, or should be continual or cultivated. This is a mistake I still make, and I am well-aware of, when not in its throes. But I do defend this darkness as inevitability and something that great understanding, compassion, empathy, and intellect can be derived from. Just as I am finding great joy in the Lake Erie sunrise, I can find deep introspection of this broken Midwestern city night’s dark and desperate hours; just as some are predicated towards, to borrow a phrase on absurdity from Camus, “a donkey eating roses,” some of us are donkeys feasting on garbage. Both, it seems, could lead, if unchecked, to a spiritual and intellectual death. Neither is the right way, or sustainable. 

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Bowl-a-Rama

Bowling

Bowl-a-Rama
by Andrew Farkas

What, bowling? Come on. Bowling? It ain’t a sport. That’s what you tell yourself. I mean, look around. You’ve got your concession stand with the wall menu still uses those plastic letters you’ve gotta stick in the slats, about a quarter of them missing. No matter. Place serves up combos of rapidly congealing grease, salt, and sugar. That sound like an athlete’s diet? There’s a bar. A bar! Fully stocked with beers your dad drinks. American Yellows. Can use those to chase the Old Grand Dad, Old Crow, Old Fitzgerald. Unlike in the wide world of sports, “old …” well, around here that’s a compliment. And it actually means “ancient.” Look at the, are we still going with athletes? Okay. For now. But look at ‘em. On their, sure, why not? field of play. Which is hideous casino carpet leading to scuffed to hell linoleum tile and then a bank of benches and chairs made of that ‘70s two-tone orange & lighter orange plastic (easier to hose off when you slop your coagulated, I guess, food on it, when you spill your whiskey and ginger ale on it), all pointed toward the TVs that automatically keep score for you (wouldn’t want you to strain yourself now), that show you little cartoons based on how the most recent competitor (seriously? wow, just wow) how the most recent competitor rolled, everything surrounded by the loudest, most headache-inducing Day-Glo decorations, usually balls and pins, sometimes swooshes and stars. And now see the contenders, the bowlers. I’m not saying everyone has to look the same. I’m just saying Olympians they ain’t, that is those folks out there on the lanes …

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Punk Rock, Poetry & the Myth of Masculinity 

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Punk Rock, Poetry & the Myth of Masculinity
by Keith Kopka

From the moment I stole my mother’s copy of Paul Simon’s Graceland, I have rarely gone a day without music. I started my first punk band when I was 14, and I never looked back. Much of my life has been defined not only by the ethos of punk rock, but also by playing it. The same is true of poetry. I read at least one poem every day and have for the last 20 years. It’s been that way since the girl I had a crush on in middle school let me borrow her copy of Howl. I’ve been writing poems since high school, and all of my formal educational focus has been directed towards poetry and poetics.  

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