April 14, 2014
The Kristin Dombek Interview

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Kristin Dombek has written essays for n+1, The Paris Review, and The Painted Bride Quarterly, she writes an advice column for n+1 called “The Help Desk,” and she is currently teaching in the Writing Program at Princeton University. Kristin will be at the “Awaken Ye, Spring” edition of our reading series tomorrow, April 15th, at Over the Eight in Williamsburg, and she agreed to do this interview in order to help us generate hype, clicks, pageviews, “Likes,” and all that stuff.


1. You write an advice column for n+1 called The Help Desk. What kind of advice do you have to offer others who aspire to write advice columns in the future, as a career?

I think a lot of people want to get into this game for the glamour. They think it’s all about having people recognize you, designers sending you dresses, dating lots of other advice columnists and have pictures taken of you dating them, that sort of thing.  What they don’t understand is that to be an advice columnist, you’ve got to really want it.  The attention is nice and all, but it’s not enough to get you through the job. It takes work—hard work.  I think this is why you see a lot of people taking the easy way out and just acting like advice columnists on social media, posting pictures of themselves looking empathetic and wise and posting updates about what they think everyone should think and do, and just generally living as if they are an advice columnist.  They haven’t put the time in, and they don’t want to.  I’ve been an advice columnist for ten months, and I’ve written four columns.  Four.  You’ve got to want it, and if you really empathize with people, it’s going to take a lot of time to figure out the correct answer to their questions.

2. What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?

It’s more important to be organized than empathetic.

3. What is the worst advice that you’ve ever received?

Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.

4. What is the most mediocre advice that you’ve ever received?

Be yourself.

5. We both have PhDs from New York University, yours in English and mine in Comparative Lit. A lot of people advise others not to pursue PhD’s in the Humanities. To me, such advice is cliché, though, especially since most of the people I know who have PhD’s got them ironically, like a “Hello Kitty” lunchbox. Do you agree?

(flips coin) No.[1]

 6.      I frequently have nightmares about “The Love Boat,” a television series from the 70s. If Freud were here, he would remark that “boat” rhymes with “tote”—and thus is indicative of the sexual confusion ensuing from the fact that my mother likes to carry stuff around in a tote bag, and I, recently, have also been carrying a lot of stuff around in tote bags. What kinds of decisions do you think I should make, regarding my family and my mother in particular, because of my frequent nightmares about “The Love Boat”?

Interesting, Patrick. Very interesting. We’ve been seeing a lot of this kind of boat dream lately, and I think you’re absolutely right about the significance of the rhyme. A lot of people miss that. The answer here is very simple, dear: You’re going to need a bigger tote. 



[1]GeorgWilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik

April 3, 2014
ANIMAL FARM, TUESDAY, APRIL 15: “AWAKEN YE, SPRING!” STARRING KRISTIN DOMBEK, ADAM DALVA, A.M. GITTLITZ, m.t. niagara, ED WINSTEAD!

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Join us on Tuesday, April 15 for "Awaken Ye, Spring!" a wholly original concept with which we shall embrace the Earth, yield to the tender Zephyr, drink, and listen to new writing from a cadre of gifted writers including KRISTIN DOMBEK, A.M. GITTLITZ, ADAM DALVA, m.t. niagara, and ED WINSTEAD.
 
ANIMAL FARM is NYC’s destination for the newest and best satirical and/or critical writing in any genre. We embrace at OVER THE EIGHT, 594 Union Ave. in Williamsburg (L to Bedford or G to Metropolitan).
 
The Zephyr sweeps gently across the meadow beginning at 8 and is free.
 
KRISTIN DOMBEK's essays have appeared in n+1, The Paris Review, and The Painted Bride Quarterly.  She writes an advice column for the n+1 website called “The Help Desk.”  She was a 2013 recipient of a Rona Jaffe award, and is currently completing a cultural history of narcissism, after which she will write a memoir about herself.  She teaches in the Princeton Writing Program.
 
A.M. GITTLITZ is a Brooklyn based zinester, freelance journalist, fiction writer, and delivery boy. His work focuses on the topics of counterculture, radical politics, punk rock, and bringing condo-dwellers fried chicken. A contributor to Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HTMLGiant, Vice, and The New Inquiry, he also volunteers at the Spectacle Theater and co-hosts the Death Panel Reading Series at various literary proletarian venues around New York City.
 
ADAM DALVA is a graduate of NYU’s MFA Program, where he was a Veterans Writing Workshop Fellow. He has written a novel, The Zero Date, and his work has been or will be published in The Millions, Bodega, Connu, The Golden Handcuffs Review, and elsewhere. Adam currently works as a French 18th century antique dealer.
 
m.t. niagara is a poet and writer based in chinatown, nyc. in the last year she’s published chapbooks and zines such as 22 sonnets written in the vicinity of Algonquin Provincial Park and Interviews at a Party. she’s working on her first book, an erotic novel set on the oregon trail.
 
ED WINSTEAD is an associate editor at Guernica magazine and an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster. He has an MFA from New York University and his work has appeared in a number of publications, including Guernica, The Rumpus, and The American Reader.
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February 13, 2014
ANIMAL FARM IS LOVE, PART II: FEB. 18 W/ TOBIAS CARROLL, CECILY IDDINGS, FRANK GUAN, ALI BOGGS

Last year around Valentine’s Day, we proclaimed that ANIMAL FARM IS LOVE, so we’re going with that again this year (#TBT!). On Tuesday, February 18, we are very excited to welcome TOBIAS CARROLL, CECILY IDDINGS, FRANK GUAN, and ALI BOGGS.

ANIMAL FARM is NYC’s destination for the newest and best satirical and/or critical writing in any genre.  Our location is OVER THE EIGHT, 594 Union Ave. in Williamsburg (L to Bedford or G to Metropolitan). We start at 8 pm on Tuesday, February 18.

If LOVE, MONEY, POWER, NUTRITION, SEXUAL ATTRACTIVENESS, ATHLETIC ABILITY, INTELLIGENCE, MEMORY, READING COMPREHENSION, and FURY.

TOBIAS CARROLL is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. His fiction and criticism has recently appeared in The Collagist, Joyland, The Collapsar, Necessary Fiction, Underwater New York, The Paris Review Daily, Tin House, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter at @Tobias Carroll line at www.thescowl.org.

CECILY IDDINGS’s first book is Everyone Here (Octopus Books, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Article, Horse Less Review, jubilat, Octopus, Saltgrass, Sixth Finch, Skein, and Spinning Jenny, among other places. She lives and teaches in Brooklyn.

FRANK GUAN is a founding editor of Prelude, a magazine of poetry and criticism affiliated with n+1 whose inaugural issue will arrive later this year. He is currently reviewing the works of Tao Lin for n+1.

ALI BOGGS is getting her MFA in fiction writing from the New School. She has published in The State, a journal based out of Dubai, and in HTMLGIANT. She is currently working on a short story collection about perversion and dysphoria.

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January 17, 2014
THIS SUNDAY, JANUARY 26th! TOM SCOCCA, JULIA FIERRO, RAHAWA HAILE, BRUNO DAVEY!

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What better time than January 26th to smarm it up with all your friends from ANIMAL FARM, NYC’s destination for the newest and best satirical and/or critical writing in any genre. We are honored to host Gawker features editor TOM SCOCCA, Sackett Street Writers founder and novelist JULIA FIERRO, critic and fiction writer RAHAWA HAILE, and poet BRUNO DAVEY for a Malcolm Gladwell-approved evening of the most exciting, incisive, and funny writing that the discursive parameters of the contemporary public sphere can accommodate.
ANIMAL FARM takes place at OVER THE EIGHT, 594 Union Avenue at N. 11th Street in Williamsburg (L to Bedford or G to Metropolitan), and begins at 8 pm on Sunday, January 26th.  Like speech, it is free.
 

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December 20, 2013
THE BEST FILMS OF 2013

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1. Rapture-Palooza (Directed by Paul Middleditch)
In a year chock-a-block with quietly devastating, hilarious end-of-the-world films, the best of the bunch was also the most transcendent: Paul Middleditch’s unforgettable Rapture-Palooza culminates in a statement of secular-humanist ethical, ecumenical near-fact that makes the preceding 90 minutes or so of funny scenes extremely difficult to remember. Anna Kendrick’s performance as a woman who wears a white dress could be accused of smugness, given her character’s nonstop shrugging and eye-rolling, were it not for the way in which both Kendrick’s performance and the screenplay by Chris Matheson beautifully realize the luminous ascent of numerous scenes to staggering, unparalleled quality. The Best Supporting Actor of 2013 is most certainly Craig Robinson, playing the Antichrist in a supporting star turn of such astonishing scope that it mesmerizes.
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2. The East (Directed by Zal Batmanglij)
Directed by Zal Batmanglij, this timeless snapshot of a historical moment distinguished above all by the unforgettable freeganism of a small group of actors playing ecoterrorists, in a luminous ensemble performance, dazzles. Brit Marling’s mesmerizing performance as a spy hired by a private-sector espionage organization (Patricia Clarkson) to infiltrate the group (Alexander Sarsgard, Ellen Page) recalls the early work of both Strindberg and Trachtenberg when, pushing the soil envelope between the transcendent and the representative, it emerges like a flower out of a shattered hourglass. Transcendence achieved; deep historical, quietly devastating cinematic statement made.

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December 15, 2013
Jayson Iwen’s GNARLY WOUNDS: Excerpt

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The following is a brief excerpt from Jayson Iwen’s new novel Gnarly Wounds. This Tuesday, Dec. 17, Jayson will read more delirious passages from this singular book at Over the Eight, 594 Union Avenue in Williamsburg, along with Heather Rounds, Angela Leroux-Lindsey, Matthew Thompson, and and Andres Dietz-Chavez. More deets on that here.

Out of the changing maples emerges the girl, naked, wet, and trembling as a newborn, a motley of edelweiss, saxifrage, yellow poppy, and transylvanian columbine petals clinging to her. She advances upon the iron gates of the monastery.

“Females aren’t allowed within the sacred enclosure,” a skinny sweaty monk says to her through the bars.

“I’m here for Rana,” she says. “If you don’t want me coming inside, send him out.”

“Neither may a woman’s words enter the enclosure.” “You seem to be hearing me just fine. Tell him Zoia’s here.” The monk squints at her and says, “I can’t hear you.” “Have it your way,” she says, and throws the gates open,

knocking the monk on his skinny sweaty ass. She enters. “How’d you do that,” the monk whines. “It wasn’t locked, you idiot. Now,” she raises her voice and sets

the very air ringing. “Rana! Where are you?” A crowd of monks gathers around her. “Be gone, female,” they

hiss, “Go hence amongst the bitches and heifers and fuck thyself! Be gone from this hallowed earth! Less thy very shadow defile it!”

“Grow up,” she says.

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December 13, 2013
ANIMAL FARM ANNUAL HOLIDAY PARTY, TUESDAY, DEC. 17!

 
Courtesy of EMERGENCY PRESS, ANIMAL FARM is bringing HEATHER ROUNDS and JAYSON IWEN to Brooklyn in order to praise SATURN at our annual HOLIDAY PARTY on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 8 pm!

They will be joined by ADIRONDACK REVIEW and BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS editor ANGELA LEROUX-LINDSEY and men-about-town ANDRES DIETZ-CHAVEZ and MATTHEW THOMPSON for a truly festive, seasonal event involving:

- The fractious, montage-like internal monologue of a female American reporter in Iraqi Kurdistan (ROUNDS); 

  - a man named Meatyard who “pumps iron all day in his unfurnished tenth-floor studio” and erotic jokes about Nicolai Ceausescu (IWEN);

  - “A lover had once told him that when he put his lips on her she vibrated, and Elmyr confirmed that she was, indeed, tuned to a C scale, so he left her for being boring and unoriginal. He preferred something more exotic like F-sharp.” (LEROUX-LINDSEY)

  - “As morale among the front plummeted at seeing the Wolves’ furious Kovno-Wilno-Minsk front winter 1916-1917 attacks and the consequent mangled bodies, troops began to debate whether it truly was undesirable to die by the bullet or the shell.” (DIETZ-CHAVEZ)

  - “These are lessons I learned from my grandfather. These are things I heard from a puppet, whose white tufts of hair matched white open eyes, whose flapping red mouth split a blue sponge ball head. He shook as he spoke from between the drawn curtain, felt arms through the air on thin strips of wire.” (THOMPSON)

ANIMAL FARM is NYC’s destination for the newest and best satirical and/or critical writing in any genre and it takes place at OVER THE EIGHT, 594 Union Avenue in Williamsburg (G to Metropolitan or L to Bedford). Admission is free.

HEATHER ROUNDS’s poetry and short works of fiction have appeared in such places as PANK, The Baltimore Review, and Big Lucks. She’s a co-founder of the roaming curatorial collective, The Rotating History Project, and currently lives in Baltimore. Her new novel, There, is based loosely on her year living as a reporter in Iraqi Kurdistan.

JAYSON IWEN is the author of three books, A Momentary Jokebook, Six Trips in Two Directions, and his latest, 2013’s Gnarly Wounds. He’s studied and worked in software, security, insurance, construction, ecology, and education in a number of different countries, including the U.S., Cuba, Guatemala, Peru, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon. He lives in Wisconsin, and his a professor at the University of Wisconsin - Superior.

ANGELA LEROUX-LINDSEY is editor of The Adirondack Review and senior editor with Black Lawrence Press. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Metro, phys.org, Kirkus Reviews, A&U Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn.

ANDRES DIETZ-CHAVEZ is an MFA student at the New School who writes stuff because it keeps his hands off of other people.

MATTHEW THOMPSON’s fiction, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in places like Unsaid, Ninth Letter, elimae, Spork, The Collagist, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and Monkeybicycle, among others. He has taught at New York University and is concerned primarily with fiction writing and running long distances.

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November 15, 2013
Brand Personals: D’Artagnan Truffle Butter in the Street

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The next edition of ANIMAL FARM READING SERIES is Tuesday, November 19 at 8 pm at Over the Eight and features Christina FitzpatrickJohannah King-SlutzkyMark Baumer, and Daniel Guzmán. If you appreciate this story about how much D’Artagnan-brand truffle butter means to unnamed narrator, stand up and be counted.

By Patrick W. Gallagher

I afford myself few luxuries in this life, but one of them is certainly D’Artagnan-brand truffle butter. You can add it to anything and the result will be a taste journey. Once, I put my life on the line for the sweet French nectar because the frozen burritos that I had also just purchased would have tasted so miserable without it.

Jon, one of my four roommates at the time, called it a bastardization that I would spread high-end truffle butter on Jeno’s-brand frozen burritos, which cost less than a dollar each and came filled with the same nameless brown paste, no matter what the burrito’s ostensible flavor, and which had no taste besides the petroleum bite of dead fire. Why don’t you can it with the D’Artagnan and just get some better burritos? Jon always said.

And I always screamed, Jon you miserable pile of puke. I have told you repeatedly about the time my mother and I stowed away on a French barge and withered down to the frailty of skeletons while we cowered, terrified that we would be caught, cowering in the dank darkness below decks.  And I have also told you how we grew back to the size of veritable hippopotami after the barge picked up a giant shipment of D’Artagnan in Marseille and we feasted on nothing but truffle butter for weeks while shivering below decks. Excuse me for wanting to relive the experience.

One day I was coming home from the store—having made two trips, to Whole Foods for the D’Artagnan and the bodega down the way from the Social Security Administration for my four burritos—when I ran afoul of football traffic. Jon, my wife Claire, Husk, Wood and I lived in a loft near the football stadium, and, on game days such as today, it was hard to get around the streets for all the foot traffic. 

I was about to cross the street when I heard a voice bellow behind me: “Hey! Get out of my way!” And then two strong hands on my back pushed me down. I collapsed face-first into the pavement of the street; I wriggled onto my back immediately and punched out in all directions to keep from being trampled. The stampede of bodies clomping above me was so dense that only a strip of sunshine shone through its forest of heads and torsos to where I lay down below.

I grabbed onto the thin legs of what I thought was a young boy and wrestled him down, using his weight as leverage to get myself back on my feet. It was not a young boy, but rather an old woman, but no matter: for when I stood I found that the bag with the D’Artagnan had disappeared from my hand.

A number of tailgaters perceived my worried expression, stopped, and asked, “What’s the matter?”

Once about fifteen such good Samaritans had encircled me, I replied, “A small black plastic bag—where?”

I held up the black plastic bag containing the burritos, implying that the bag with the D’Artagnan looked similar but smaller.

A man in a blue T-shirt nodded, swung a fist at a man in a red T-shirt, and swung another fist at him, missing both times.

A young woman wearing an orange rain poncho. A six-foot-tall papier maché Tyrannosaurus rex with red lobster claws. A couple of male gay identical twins eating pieces of pizza off of paper plates wearing T-shirts with pictures of pizza. Santa Claus in a green coat and no beard. A goldenrod triangle.

At last we discovered the bag and I returned home. When I entered the apartment, my wife Claire and my other roommates were doing yoga together on mats in the common room.

After Claire rose to greet me, I explained what had happened.

Jon shook his head, sighed, and disappeared into his room.

"Do you remember what I told you when we first met?" Claire asked.

"No," I said.

"OK," she said. "I told you to stop talking about your mother because it would make me jealous. But now, I think that you should talk about her more, and this neurotic obsession of yours with truffle butter goes to show that."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I mean I’m your mother," Claire said. "We’re the same person."

November 7, 2013
The Origin of the Title of the Sonic Youth Album, “Rather Ripped” (2006)

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By Patrick W. Gallagher

The next edition of ANIMAL FARM READING SERIES is Tuesday, November 19 at 8 pm at Over the Eight and features Christina Fitzpatrick, Johannah King-Slutzky, Mark Baumer, and Daniel Guzmán. If you appreciate this story about how Sonic Youth corrupted and destroyed the Dad of an unnamed 12-year-old-girl, stand up and be counted.

My Dad lived in the same condominium building as most of the members of Sonic Youth at none other time than right before the onset of puberty, in me, otherwise the consequences might not have been so wrenching. He inspired the name of their album “Rather Ripped” in ways that will soon become clear—a combined, massive psychosexual disgrace.

"Rather Ripped" was a late Sonic Youth album, recorded at a time when Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, and company could already afford to live in the same building as a dentist like my father. Between recording sessions they took breaks in the workout room of the building—one of many amenities that Sonic Youth and my father enjoyed equally—and that was where our lives intersected, like reeds criss-crossed by a person holding them so that they made the shape of an X.

My father said something like, “Hey,” to Thurston Moore, who stood over Kim Gordon, who lay on her back beneath a bench press. Instead of moving on to the cardio machines as per his original intention, my father went still and held Moore’s gaze just as soon as he responded with his own “Hey.” Moore’s mouth went ajar, his upper lip jumped once as if subject to stress, and then Moore’s eyes darted between my father’s and those of Kim Gordon below. My father froze, overwhelmed by the transition of feelings between neighborly warmth, the real thrill of meeting a famous person, and finally the dread that he had entered a situation from which there were no means of sociable escape. Meanwhile, the metal-on-metal clap of Gordon’s weights striking their machine never wavered from their rhythmic course.

At last, his lower lip still drooping, Thurston Moore nodded; my father, grateful, took the hint and advanced to the elliptical.

My father faced the wall while he worked his hamstrings and thighs but he saw Thurston Moore again in the locker room. My father set his towel down on the bench, breathed deeply, and remarked, “Nice headband, man.”

Thurston Moore wore a gray headband with white diagonal stripes. He put his finger between the headband and his sweaty forehead and said, “Thanks, man.”

They emerged from the locker room talking about sports minutes later, to find Kim Gordon waiting in the hallway between the two changing rooms.

She wore a very light blue top that had no sleeves, so that my father could see how taut were the muscles that rippled up and down between Kim Gordon’s wrists and her shoulders. He had never seen such muscles on the arms of a woman before.

"You look rather … tired," Thurston said.

Kim nodded, her eyes drooping toward the floor.

My father grinned. His mouth opened, let out one single laugh, followed by a gasp, and then he shouted, “I’d say you look … rather ripped!”

My father stretched out his arms horizontally, so that he made the shape of Jesus Christ, for one second. Before he put down his arms, he could see neither Moore’s nor Gordon’s eyes, so that they appeared momentarily to have the depthless gaze of ancient gods.

My father put his arms down to his sides and Thurston looked up. He could see Thurston’s eyes, but they did not make eye contact. Moore looked straight upwards, then he fluttered his eyes into position with Kim’s once hers emerged from their own chrysalis of shadow.

Both Moore and Gordon proceeded to buckle under such gales of laughter as my father had never seen come out of anyone. Their faces flushed bright red, Gordon clutched her knees while Moore pressed his palms into the wall, and my father was sure that he heard at least one of them fart.

"Easy goin’, there, guys," he said, endeavoring to remain jovial, if only in appearance.

Moore and Gordon both nodded, with fingers splayed over their chests taking the deepest breaths that they could. At last they quieted.

"Wow, guys," my father said. "I—"

"I’d say you look rather ripped!" Moore shouted.

They both proceeded to laugh again, twice as hard as before.

Kim Gordon had a hard time breathing, so she said, “I’d … Say … You … Look—”

"Rather ripped!" Moore shouted again.

Finally my father took an inching step toward the elevator. They followed him and shouted, “Rather ripped!” one after the other.

My father pushed the button at the elevator.

"I’d say you look rather ripped!" Moore shouted.

Once they entered the elevator, Kim relaxed, recovered her breath, and, in an everyday, business-casual tone of voice, asked my father, “Do you know something?”

… whereupon Thurston shouted, all in a single breath, “i’dsayyoulookratherripped!”

After the elevator doors closed behind my father he heard them ejaculating variations on “I’d say you look rather ripped,” “You look rather ripped,” and “rather ripped” all the way up the building.

Over the next days life changed for my father. When he stood in front of the elevator on his floor one morning, he said “g’morning” to the man standing before the door next to him—the same thing he said to the same man (a lawyer?) every day—but the man did not answer, not even by returning his gaze, instead his face just shook as he studied the carpet in apparently deep concentration. 

But as they both left the elevator in the lobby, he turned to my father and shouted, “I’d say you look rather ripped!” and then ran the rest of the way out of the building to the sidewalk.

My father returned to the gym that night, surprised to see that Sonic Youth were not there. But as he pumped away on the elliptical machine, earbuds squirting “Daydream Nation” into his brain, he turned around to face the room every once in a while, convinced that he had heard the muffled but unmistakable words “rather ripped” coming from somewhere behind him.

He found no one, but the feeling that he had heard real sounds persisted—and not only then, but also in the lobby, the sidewalk outside of the building, and in the Starbucks around the corner. He never caught the culprits, but still it saturated his daily routine: in line for the Venti garbanzo-chocolate latte that he purchased every morning, it seemed to him like people were staring at him, both the customers and the employees, as though he were soaking wet from head to toe, so wet that his clothes vacuum-sealed to his breasts, nipples, and the extremities if his crotch.

Finally he called me when I was staying at my mother’s house and told me he had amazing news: that he had been invited to a barbecue by Sonic Youth.

"You’re going to want to get to know this band," my father said. "You’ll thank me when you get to high school."

The barbecue was held on a patio to the rear of their building. It was a sunny day amplified by the glass of the tall building, the water of the East River beyond the patio, and the white concrete of the patio itself—I had to put my hands before my eyes when we stepped outside, as everything within sight reflected the sun, even the sunglasses of the preternaturally tall, thin man who approached us as my Dad gestured in his direction with the six pack that he had in his hand.

“Hey,” Dad said.

“I’d say you look rather ripped!” Thurston Moore shouted.

There had been ambient talk burbling in the vast glare, but it stopped when Moore uttered these words and soon a dozen people ran up to us—the features of their faces obscured by the light so that they looked, to me at my tender age, like a crowd of phantoms.

“I’d say you look rather ripped!” someone else shouted.

“Haha, yeah,” my Dad said.

I could not see if his face had gone red, but I knew from the quiet in my Dad’s voice that he was not comfortable.

Everyone was shouting it now while he continued to gesture with his six pack, pointing it again and again at Moore, and then at other men in the crowd, in an apparently vain effort to trade material tribute for humanity.

“I’d say you look rather ripped!”

“Ripped!”

“I’d say you look rather ripped!”

“Rather ripped!  Rather ripped!”

Musicians all, they understood the notion of a crescendo, and arrived at one when all twelve of them joined in chanting RA-THER RIPPED! RA-THER RIPPED! with sportsmanlike bravado and the loudness of ten times their number for a full minute until they dispersed, having exhausted themselves.

Once they were gone, my Dad found a picnic table, covered in a red-and-white checkered tablecloth, set his six pack down on it, and took out one of the beers.  

As he opened it, his eyes far out on the river or beyond, mine trained on the redness in the tablecloth, finding it vivid to an almost tactile extent, a force from which I had to struggle to free myself, like the grip of an unwelcome stranger.

“Dad, can we go?” I asked. I resorted to tugging on his sleeve—the alien feeling made me yearn for somewhere soft, dark, and familiar.

“Well, how come, darlin’?” Dad asked. “We just got here!”

“Please, Dad?  I really don’t feel good.”

“Oh, well, OK,” he said. “I should tell Thurston and Kim goodbye.”

He looked toward the barbecue, where Kim Gordon stood wearing a white apron over her red bikini, her sinewy muscles gleaming like chrome in the radiance of the day.

“No, Dad,” I said.  “Can we just go?  Please?  I feel really weird.”

“OK, sweetheart,” he said.  He set his beer down on the table and escorted me back inside the building.

I was on his couch watching TV that night, folded up inside a blanket that for me was as old as the world, when my first period came.

* * *

“You are gonna love this, Bud,” Dad said.

Dad drove alone in the front, like a chauffeur, while I sat to his rear with Bud, my first boyfriend.

With my braces, crippling fear of public speaking, and black freckles, I was still very awkward at that age and it was all that I could do to get a boyfriend to tell Bud that my Dad knew Sonic Youth and had been invited to their record-release party. Dad had not told me about it—I happened to discover the invitation on his kitchen counter, and immediately set to clamoring about how I knew a boy named Bud who wore Sonic Youth T-shirts rather frequently and had a very quiet, stoic way about him, he also wore sunglasses indoors. All of my friends had had boyfriends but me and I was not going to let this chance to finally get myself some clout pass me by.

It should say something about what a trooper my Dad really was that he suffered me my entreaty at all, let alone actually drove me and Bud to the Sonic Youth party like a chauffeur.  What I didn’t know at the time was that the “rather ripped” phenomenon had continued to dog him—his car and the front window of his dental practice had both been spraypainted with the words “RATHER RIPPED” by an indie rock band out of Portland that wanted to pay homage to their heroes Sonic Youth, or so the police would have it. He heard his own dental hygienists volleying the words “rather ripped” behind his back and his patients asked him if he really was the “rather ripped” guy or what—at which point they would tell him that they were switching to a different dentist. At one point a man in a ski mask hurled a brick through the front window of the practice, shattering it, and the note tied to the brick with a rubber band said “I’d say you look rather ripped”.

That time, when he called the police, all they told my Dad was “I’d say you look rather ripped” before hanging up on him. 

It was as though Sonic Youth had invalidated my Dad’s claims to the rights of citizenship, casting him out into the same unprotected legal void as animals or even inanimate objects.

My father encountered disturbances in his sleep at this time furthermore. When he would dream, more often than not he would see Kim Gordon posing in such myriad and dexterous ways that he felt with a shudder of fear that it was his body, and not Gordon’s, that was turning inside out. As I learned much later, this was the part of the problem that bothered him most of all: the eerie, utterly irrational, but real sense on Dad’s part that Kim and Thurston knew that he was having these dreams and that the dreams manifested a perversity that actually warranted my Dad’s social ostracism. Determined to avoid running into Sonic Youth at all costs, for fear of what psychic injury he might do to Kim Gordon with the ugly lasciviousness of his gaze, Dad actually purchased a membership at a nearby gym rather than continue going to the one in his own building.

Knowing all of this now, looking back, what amazes me the most is that my Dad willingly surrendered the keys to his car to the man in the leather jacket outside of the hotel who claimed to be doing valet parking.  Dad showed an amount of aplomb unusual even for him when he let the keys drop into the man’s outstretched palm, knowing full well, as he almost certainly must have, that he would never see his car again.

When we entered the ballroom we saw a huge poster with red letters on a black background: it said “RATHER RIPPED,” the title of the album. Dad swallowed when he saw it and I gripped Bud’s hand tight.

Suddenly I realized that I did not know if Bud knew about “rather ripped”—and found myself nervous to see what Bud would do, now that he was about to find out for sure. I marveled at myself, disgusted, as I found myself wondering if Dad was really going to cost me my one chance at a boyfriend.

It was the first time in my life that I had truly grappled with the meaning of loyalty.

And what was more they hardly gave me a second to do it before they started. At the heart of the room stood a 30 foot-tall papier maché effigy of my dad wearing what appeared to be farmer’s overalls, a vacant grin on his giant face—no one noticed us when we entered because everyone else in the ballroom was busy pounding the effigy with baseball bats while chanting RA-THER RIPPED! RA-THER RIPPED at throat-shredding volume.

There was a crack; everyone cheered when hundreds of CDs poured out of a big hole in the effigy, which I now realized was a piñata.

“Look!”

A young man wearing sunglasses and a white T-shirt pointed his finger straight at us.

My Dad swallowed and closed his eyes.

Bud took off his sunglasses and looked at me, confused, his mouth opening in time to his growing fear.

“Rather ripped!”

“I’d say you look rather ripped!”

“You look rather ripped!”

“I’d say you look rather ripped!”

“Rather ripped!”

They ran straight for us, their faces twisted with rage, baseball bats in hand.

I screamed, “Stop! Please!” but they were so loud that I couldn’t even hear myself.

I saw Bud’s lips moving: “What is this? Why are they doing this?” he tried to say.

The crowd cheered when they had us completely encircled. There was no way for us to escape in any direction without traversing a gauntlet at least ten baseball bat-wielding bodies deep. 

Thurston Moore shouted, “Strip!”

Kim Gordon nodded and winked at my Dad.

The crowd chanted in unison: “STRIP! STRIP! STRIP!

Dad removed his jacket and set it down on the floor.

The chanting grew louder.

Bud let go of my hand and ran in front of Dad. 

“No!” he said.

Dad stared forward as he silently unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.

Bud wacked Dad on the arms to get his attention.

“You can’t let them make you do this! You can’t!”

When Dad remained unresponsive, Bud turned and addressed the crowd, his small, soft face turning red and sweaty just to make himself heard.

“Stop!” he yelled.  “STOP!

Bud shuddered with fear when two hands grabbed his shoulders and turned him around 180 degrees—Dad, crouching down on his knees, a weary but knowing look about him.

“Son, let me give you some advice,” Dad said into Bud’s ear. “People like this will squash you like a bug. They will. Did you see that big thing over there?”

He pointed to the giant piñata of him, now lying on its side with a huge hole in the stomach.

“That’s supposed to be me, wearing those overalls. I’m just a farmer to them. That’s all I am.”

With that, Dad returned to his feet and resumed unbuttoning his shirt.

“Rather ripped!”

“You look rather ripped!”

I grabbed Bud’s hand and ran for the exit, dragging him behind me while betting that this crowd of indie rockers would not train their baseball bats on a pair of young children. 

Either I was right, or Dad had created enough of a diversion that they couldn’t even see us as we forced our way past them.

* * *

I walked home to Mom’s house from school the following day in a spritely mood—I had dumped Bud at lunch and honestly believed that purging him would make the memory of what Sonic Youth had done to Dad and what he, in turn, had done for them equally absent. But I was disappointed when Mom announced, in lieu of hello, that Dad had decided to leave the city and set up a dental practice in Alaska, which was one of the nation’s fastest-growing markets for root canals.

I learned the truth only years later, of course, after my father finally passed away from hepatitis. He had joined Sonic Youth as a member of their touring company, a full-time clown to amuse the band and hype up their audiences. It made me glad to see just how complicit he had always been in their efforts to degrade him, by which I mean how much he had actually enjoyed it, because part of me had always blamed myself for it, as though it were my emergence into adulthood that had ejected him from the human race.  

I never watched any of the YouTube videos of my father, but it liberated me to know that they existed.

November 7, 2013
ANIMAL FARM 11/19: CHRISTINA FITZPATRICK, MARK BAUMER, DANIEL GUZMÁN, JOHANNAH KING-SLUTZKY


ANIMAL FARM dreads the onset of the holidays just as much as you do; it means remembering … things.

Join us on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19 with CHRISTINA FITZPATRICK, MARK BAUMER, DANIEL GUZMÁN, and JOHANNAH KING-SLUTZKY at OVER THE EIGHT. We start at 8. 

ANIMAL FARM is like visiting with family but without … him.

CHRISTINA FITZPATRICK is the author of the novel What’s the Girl Worth? and the short story collection Where We Lived. Her work has also appeared in Rattle, The Sun Magazine, and The Hairpin — Ladies First. She is the recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

MARK BAUMER lives in Providence, Rhode Island where he sits in his room all day and makes social media links advertising special low-rate discount clicks. In 2012 he wrote fifty books. He’s on twitter (@markbaumer). His first website was: everydayyeah.com.

DANIEL GUZMÁN is a writer of surreal fiction, essays, and film reviews. His work has appeared in the New York Press, Cinespect, the L Magazine’s Literary Upstart Reading Series, and Rio Grande Review. He has performed at such venues as The Slipper Room, Cornelia Street Café, and the Bowery Poetry Club. He is the producer and host of the Lost & Found Show, a reading series in the Lower East Side.

JOHANNAH KING-SLUTZKY is a freelance journalist raised in NYC and schooled in Chicago. Among other places, her work has been published in Vice, The Awl, and Nerve. She’s interested in exploring desire through poetry and good television, which you can read about on her personal blog, The Carrier Pigeon.

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