“That’s how you can tell someone’s poor.” My babysitter pointed slyly at the neck of the boy sitting ahead of us in the bleachers. We were at a basketball game at her high school, a small public school in a small Virginia town where pretty much everyone was just one shade of poor or another.
I don’t know why she’d taken me to the game, but I felt important and nervous, the only kid there who wasn’t with his parents. I was paying careful attention to everything, afraid I’d do something to give away the fact that I was a 5th grader and not a sophomore, young enough to believe that people couldn’t tell the difference. I wasn’t sure where I fit in. I stared at the boy’s neck, unsure what I should be seeing.
“They cut their own hair. They don’t get that peach fuzz on the backs of their necks.“ It was light and soft, like the hair on a never-shaved cheek.
When I cut my hair now, I shave my nape blind. I cut myself about half the time.
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Just inside the gate of a garage in Greenpoint, a wiry man with gray hair and a deep-set scowl sits on an upturned bucket. He spits on the ground as I approach. “I’m not fucking sheep!” he yells, shaking his head and glancing at the man sitting across the door from him. “Do I look like a ewe to me?”
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The ecstasy of shuffle serving up “Moby Dick” live just in time for that last interval…. #mywhitewhale #ledzeppelinforever #speedwork #whyirun #strava #marathontraining @wellnessintheschools
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You may learn to sleep through sirens and the screams of neighbors and the crash of garbage cans being thrown to the curb, but a bird will wake you up even when there is no tree to be seen. #newyorkcity #birdsong #iloveny #wakeup #wildernesswhereyoufindit
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From somewhere up the bike lane I could hear a man bellowing, his voice funneled my way by construction walls and buildings as he came rolling up the street. “Fuck you! I hate it! I hate the fucking motorcycles and the loud fucking cars and the fucking bass amplifiers fuck you you fuck I fucking hate you all!” He was in front of me now, pedaling a commuter bike at a frantic cadence, his face mostly obscured by the shade of his helmet and his sunglasses but still clearly twisted with rage as he yelled at the Honda cruising along next to him, a Civic with tinted windows and a pair of chome exhausts the size of beach pails. The car was purring, windows down, its driver grinning like a toadfish who’s swallowed a hook.
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James Wright, “Breakfast”
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May you all feel the way about the person you love that I feel about this one, a dumb breathless love that smothers cynicism and fills you with wonder, a love that’s undiminished over this first 17ish years of marriage. Happy anniversary, Nif. Thank you for marrying me.
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The best parts of our work with Wellness in the Schools are the Cafe Days we do at our partner school, PS 84 in Williamsburg. On these days, we come in and cook a special dish featuring a vegetable that the school’s resident WITS chef, Carly Gould, has been teaching kids to understand. In the past we’ve served roasted carrots with yogurt & coriander, lima beans with pickled onions and sambal olek, and fennel-apple salad. You’d be surprised how many elementary school kids were into those slightly exotic (for 2nd graders) dishes.
This week the featured vegetable was potatoes, and we went for something a little closer to home–and dearer to our hearts: hash. We served 400 kids cheese & arugula hash at lunch and it was by far the most popular dish we’ve done–kids came back for 3rds and 4ths, they asked for the recipe, they told us they wanted to make it at home for their parents. Seeing the kids get excited about it made cooking it all the more fun. The arugula we snuck inside gave some kids pause, at first, but once they’d eaten it almost all came back for more, spicy greens be damned.
Maybe my favorite moment over the day was listening to one kid trying to persuade another to try it:
“you had McDonald’s hash browns?”
“These are like those, but waaaay better, because they’re FRESH.”
Thinking about Sweet Briar College on my Brooklyn run this morning. Amherst, Virginia, where I spent the better part of my childhood, was just down the road from Sweet Briar. The college was where I learned to play soccer, where I took piano lessons, where I saw Jesus Christ Superstar & the Preservation Hall Jazz Band & my first chamber music concert.
Sweet Briar was the reason our tiny Episcopal church had beautiful music. I learned about the value of a local dairy from Sweet Briar, because the college dairy provided our yogurt and milk. I learned my first lesson about oligarchy from Sweet Briar, because George Steinbrenner’s daughter was a student there in those days. I learned how to jimmy a vending machine in the Sweet Briar laundry room. The memories I have of that place are too numerous to count, I’m sure, and I’m willing to bet I’m the saddest man in Brooklyn over the news of their closing.
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Go ahead! Pre-order our book!
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