One of the Best Parts of NYC: Theater

I saw two plays last week: “A Strange Loop” and “Fairview.” They are both intense nights at the theater. “Loop” is about an African American artist who moonlights as an usher at The Lion King trying to find his place in the world. It was a glimpse into the gay community in the City, and how harsh and racist it can be. Also the scary moment when you are trying to do something creative and have no idea whether you can bring that work into the world.


Near the end, a patron at the “Lion King” gives Usher advice that can resonate with all of us. “Live your life and tell your own story in exactly the same way: truthfully and without fear.”

“Fairview” is harder to summarize—suffice it to say that it confronts the largely white audience and literally asks that we stand in the shoes of the African American cast. Before the curtain call, I was standing on the stage. For real.

There are a lot of things that can be tough about living in NYC. The heat this weekend is unbearable. It’s expensive. Often exhausting.

And then I go to these shows and I think: wow, thank you. It doesn’t just engage me in a way screens never match. I find those evenings stretch me. And I remember them long after I leave the theater.

Posted on July 21, 2019 .

It's Been a Minute

Wow, Sam Sanders is a really good interviewer.

I think an important part of engaging with someone is being present. Which is harder than it sounds. Particularly when you are simultaneously thinking—would that be a good cut of tape?

As someone pointed out to me once, the ear is shaped like a question mark. Listen before you ask.

Perhaps I should put that on the front page of my journal, as a reminder.

Posted on September 20, 2018 .

Giacometti at the Guggenheim

Last Saturday I saw the Giacometti exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. I like going to lifetime retrospectives in part because it is an opportunity to see how artists evolve.

Early Giacometti was very derivative of the surrealists. And then he created his own very unique way of capturing people. What struck me most was how small details--a smudge on a face, a dab of color on an otherwise grey form--gave such a sense of life to his sculptures.

In a video at the end of the exhibit, he described the painstaking effort of trying to capture what couldn't be captured.

He was never satisfied with his art. But he never stopped working.

Posted on August 18, 2018 .

Heavenly Bodies at the Met


My cousin was in town last week and we traipsed around the city together. It is cool to see New York through a visitor's eyes. He didn't want to leave Washington Square Park. He was so taken with the performers and the fountain and the people milling around.

I did manage to get him to the Met, to see Heavenly Bodies, the costume exhibit:

Who knew Valentino bridal dresses would blend in so well in the medieval hall.

Posted on August 11, 2018 .

Seeing The Damned at the Armory

It was a last minute, spur of the moment decision. But in keeping with my "take advantage of being in this city" pledge, I bought a cheap ticket to The Damned at the Armory. I've been an admirer of the director, Ivo van Hove, since I saw "A View from the Bridge" two and a half years ago.

I'm not going to get into great detail about the plot. Suffice it to say that it is about a German industrial family that implodes during World War II. The production is arguably a movie as much as a play: black-clad camera operators swoop around the stage, broadcasting what they capture on a big screen. There are images from it that I thought would infect my dreams. People are ritually led to coffins that line the left side of the stage, where they are in effect buried alive.

I admire von Hove's ability to distill the essence of a play. It's something I try to do in my own stories. I think, in a way, attending these cultural events prods me to contemplate how I can do that better. It's worth aiming for. Because it is when something is brought to its essence that it breaks through.

Posted on July 20, 2018 .

Returning to New York

I was out of town for a few weeks and just returned to New York earlier this week. It was brutally hot and my apartment felt like an oven. I had a "what am I doing here?" moment. Every denizen of this city tends to be hit with that feeling at some point or another.

But. Then I take stock of all that is here. And it is so much: the energy, the theater scene, the moments of connection on the subway and on the street. When you fall hard for this place it can be hard to imagine being anywhere else.

For the next two weeks, I'm going to catalogue some of the things that make me love this place. Stay tuned.

Posted on July 4, 2018 .


I had time today to read a novel for hours, lounging on a sofa. There was a time, when I was young, when I would spend entire days buried in a book. I miss those days. Grateful I was able to relive a bit of that on this summer afternoon.


Posted on July 1, 2018 .

After a long hiatus...

Some personal news: my dad died earlier this year. He was sick for a long time so in some ways the process happened in slow motion. I am still rummaging through how it all feels. Death does force you to reevaluate. Do we appreciate what we have in this moment? Are we making the most of our gifts? The fact is, there isn't all the time in the world to do all that we dream of. Do it now. Commit now.

My dad was so lucky to have my mom. She nursed him and cared for him for seven long years.

I guess one take away is this: Relationships matter--the last word my father could say was my mother's name.

And even when his speech was slipping away, he could identify a Vermeer from across the room, by its title. The connection to beauty, and to art, was a solace to him even at the end.


Posted on May 30, 2018 .

Reflections at the end of the year

Kate Boo--one of my favorite living writers--says that she sometimes needs to remind herself that what gets her fired up isn't being behind a desk but getting out and reporting. She wrote Behind the Beautiful Forevers, one of the greatest non-fiction books I've read.

As the days get shorter and colder the instinct to stay in can be fierce. But every time I venture out and go to the Bronx or Staten Island to talk with people and walk the streets, it feels like such a gift. I learn so much from the Latina immigrants I follow. 

I have to remember that when a warm office beckons: get back out on the street.


Posted on December 22, 2016 .

On Developing Routines

I just started a fellowship at the Russell Sage Foundation, which I am so grateful for. I've been spending a lot of time reporting in the Bronx on Honduran immigrants. The fellowship gives me the time to reflect on what I've learned and find the narrative in it.

It also, I realize, gives the chance to redevelop routines, in a way that can be hard when you are working on your own. There is something about coming into an office, grabbing a cup of coffee, saying hello to a colleague (and there are amazing ones here), and then sitting down to write. 

I feel hopeful. A productive fall awaits.

Posted on September 12, 2016 .