For over a day, participation award-winning Gawker editor Kelly Stout and Jezebel editor and essayist Joanna Rothkopf have amassed countless email exchanges about passion, creativity, and how transmissible rabies is to humans - until yesterday. They were stopped in their typing tracks when the epistolary oatmeal enema between Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer mysteriously appeared in T, the New York Times style magazine. On the eve of another day of ambitious Blogging, the friends and colleagues connect online, to reflect on how the times have changed, and how they have changed over time.
I seem to have lost all of your snaps. They are gone from my phone’s digital archive quickly as they came. But no matter. You came into my life at just the right time, Joanna. Eternity is so lonely, when you think of it, and I have found myself in need of a friend to spend these hot days beside. I lay back in bed last night, wearing only wool socks and a bikini bottom, and flipped to my favorite moment in Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. I don’t really remember what the book is about, but I do have it, and it’s a comfort for it to sit there on my nightstand, a winking reminder of that time you and I stole that package of jelly beans from the Easter display at Barnes & Noble.
Must be off! I melted some cheese on top of bread under the broiler (you must try it) and it set off the smoke detector.
As I write this, I hear the faint tak tak tak of an army of cockroaches scurrying up the steps of my historic Brooklyn brownstone to terrorize me. Currently I’m wearing nothing but an authentic linen pajama set that a pushy man sold me in the New Delhi airport—he said they were the traditional garb for the region’s “hookers” but my traveling companion was certain he meant to say “female poets,” and that his English was not very good. I have to agree. Anyway, the point is I’m feeling vulnerable to attack.
Funny you should bring up the Calvino. (The Calvino! I’m shaking.) I was just meditating on that morning last March—the air was cold and wretched that day, heavy with the stink of e-commerce—and I felt lost in it, until I met you at that café. Oh, you know the one just off the West Side Highway, in the Hudson River, underneath the unidentified organic mass? The one that serves the madeleines? That morning we maintained uninterrupted eye contact for, I don’t know, six hours? It’s the closest I’ve felt to anyone in a long time.
That’s what I’m thinking about now—the comfort of friendship, time’s cruel, unyielding gaze, India’s post-liberalization economy. But I have to leave it there for now; the cat is menstrual and is tearing apart the chaise lounge.
It’s Thursday, garbage day. One of the garbage days, I should say. Every day is a garbage day when the thin film that was the world thickens into a scrim, which I now have wrapped around my face to keep out the morning light. Light! It so reminds me of darkness that I find it easiest to ward of its creep by dressing in its own costume.
On garbage day, a man shuffles through the recycling outside of my own brownstone—how funny that you and I both live in old brownstones, though I don’t find myself laughing, why?—looking for what? Cans I presume, those skeletons of the sugar and booze we allow to slither down our throats to dull the ache that comes unannounced at a summer barbecue. The sun is shining, the grill hot, yet I feel suddenly slipped of my moorings, and cannot say why.
He drags the cans down Bedford in a solemn, commercial dance, to turn them in for nickels at the collection station outside the supermarket. But he is free! I think. Free from having to bring his dog to the vet to get a cyst on her hip drained. (It was $800, Joanna!) For him, the prerequisites of passion are sturdily in place. I think he must have a screenplay in him.
Why do I mention all of this? Because the quotidian comings and goings of the smaller people of the world are what keep me from tearing my hair out as I Blog about how narco-capitalism and its intergenerational threat to artists are endlessly interesting to me. Do you ever wish you had less?
P.S. Should I be using a sunscreen with a higher SPF than 50, or is it all basically the same after 30, as I have read?
I don’t use sunscreen because I find the whole thing to be futile, to be completely honest (when am I not with you?). Like your loving dog’s cyst, our corporeal existence will eventually be popped and our souls drained by a heavenly vet tech into a medical waste bag, destined to be fetched by some poor, aching night shift truck driver and taken to an appropriate facility.
Anyway, I’m not an expert, but I’d assume over 50 SPF is more expensive and in my experience, more expensive means better.
Not sure if I’ve mentioned I’m currently on a spiritual pilgrimage to the southernmost tip of Prospect Park. Thus far, the journey has been grueling on foot, but with every step I feel more connected with my great grandparents, and their parents and so forth, who, of course, lived in the shtetl of Bed Stuy before it was overrun by serious toddlers speaking Mandarin, those who are constantly chased by wearied parents, all in sockless loafers, plugged in constantly to the rhythmic beating of their iPhone’s data-fetching, their children’s hearts.
This afternoon I ate at the most wonderful restaurant called Checkers—if you ever travel so far south you must go. Brad (my long-term boyfriend) joked about the difference in our orders—I opted for just the pickles that once were gingerly placed between the toasted buns of a Checkerburger with cheese; he chose the Steakzilla. I laughed a lot (we are happy).
Ah, I am being told to vacate the foyer of this emergency room. Apparently the WiFi is just for patients.
Your quest sounds magical! There is something about nature that always makes one feel very in nature.
Anyway, here I am writing to you again. I can’t sleep, Joanna. The clock will soon turn from 3:59 to 4pm, a time when I am not accustomed to sleep, so maybe that’s why. I also drank a red eye at 3:20. (Do you know red eyes? They are when a barista puts a shot of espresso in a cup of coffee. Of course you do. You know so much, and at such a young age.)
Your last letter has me thinking about emergencies. Do you know O’Hara’s “Meditations In An Emergency”? I believe there’s an episode of Mad Men named after it.
Extreme levels of wonder.
Ma chère Kelly,
Maintenant je lis Les Liaisons Dangereuses et je me sens plein du—comment dit-on ? Je ne sais quois. Un sentiment... d’envie? Du désir? Et pour quoi? La beauté? La baise? Le chien? Un casse-croûte?
Je suis perdue.
C’est Jeudi... jour poubelle.
La baise, you ask? I find myself giving fewer and fewer of them these days. So few that the number approaches zero.
I don’t mean to complain, but I’m suffering from writer’s block. You probably don’t know what that’s like. A girl like you, fluent in so many languages, Blogging with such ferocity of spirit, and with such clean, soft brown hair. (Have you tried no-poo, by the way? If so, do tell with regard to likes/dislikes.)
I had my first Blog published at a young age; I spent some time abroad in my early 20s—do you know this about me? Not many do, and perhaps I’ve failed to mention it, despite the length and intimacy of our friendship—and had the opportunity to Blog from abroad. Like you, Joanna, I found myself positively perdue in the wonder that was abroad. (I actually have some family that are originally from abroad, so I did experience that devil, flirtatious as a lover you cannot have: the enchantment of the familiar in the alien. But when I sat down to write, it was the overwhelming sense of otherness that I returned to again and again in my youthful Blogs.)
It gets harder with age, of course. The glamour of the world is receding, and I realize that the pleasures of home have me hooked. Just yesterday, I made prolonged eye contact with a man vigorously rearranging his privates on the M train as he snacked on those gummies from Trader Joe’s that look like little penguins with distended bellies. It was grotesque and so utterly public, but also raw, and thereby manageable. I looked at him and saw the bluntness of city life and felt, yes, love. Home.
This is all to answer your implied question, why do I Blog? Do you remember how, in the mid-2000s, Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg had an advertising deal with the T-Mobile Sidekick? This was all before I traveled abroad, so I was a different person then, but I remember thinking, when Snoop intoned “everybody needs a Sidekick,” does everyone? Everyone? I didn’t think I did needed a Sidekick. I felt confined by the loneliness of existence, but in a certain light, I could see that that solitude was freeing. It was then that I knew I was a little different.
That’s my silly little answer for why I Blog, anyway. I leave the question of how for another day. Ah, how I love to joke!
Better be going, I hear the clicking of claws on the stovetop, which means the glue traps I set didn’t work. I would love to travel abroad with you, Joanna. Maybe you’ll settle for a night at my brownstone?
P.S. Is rabies a concern in kitchen mice?
On the walk home, over the uneven brick sidewalks of southern Brooklyn, past the mom-and-pop mayonnaise shop, the neighborhood laundromat where I once coerced an elderly Jamaican woman to speak with me at length about her politics until I felt I grasped her perspective and experience in such minute detail that I could have lived it myself, I found myself thinking about the Blogs.
Crossing paths with you this evening while you were having that mindful encounter with that dog, and I was waiting at the Junior’s pick up window for my nightly personal cheesecake, felt beyond fortuitous. Like my personal God had decided once again to meddle in the life of his subject, to take pity on me. To notice that I’ve been in need of inspiration.
You know me better than most, Kelly; how I too have blogged since a young age—younger than I’d like to admit. And probably too many blogs, to be frank. I’ve blogged meaningless blogs, blogs that were cheap and dirty. Blogs because I was pressured. Blogs because I was in college and wanted to show that I could. Blogs to pay the bills. What was missing, and what still is missing—that is, until I saw you—was that sort of carnal lust Nietzsche wrote about in the Birth of Tragedy. Uncontainable lust that springs forth from our primitive bodies, that frees us from our capitalistic, technocratic paradigm. The real blogs. I hope this will stay between us, but I felt that tonight, with you.
For the first time in my adult life, I understood what Nabokov meant when he said, “that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other’s soul and flesh.” (Speaking of which, I have a raging bed bug problem in addition to the roaches. Please let me know if you know any responsible beagles.)
And as you and I attempted such an assimilation, we both yelled, “the blogs, the blogs!”
Now I find myself repeatedly watching the opening scene of Von Trier’s Antichrist to try to recapture that feeling. But I cannot. I am numb. I am content-less.
I will try to rest now, though it might be hard—Brad is playing the Inception soundtrack at full volume.
PS. I had dinner with a neurosurgeon from Columbia Presbyterian and his adorable wife last week at Mar, this fabulous little bistro in the baggage claim area of Laguardia Airport—you really should go there if you have the chance, and order the dinner waffle—and he told me, among other things (we had the most fascinating conversation about the etymology of the word “dickhole”), that anything that can bite can give you rabies. I have the number of a mouse exterminator to give you—his name is Robert, he has a wonderful narrative, he won Poland’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize in plastic arts.
Last night was strange, but wondrous, wasn’t it? When I awoke this morning to your silhouette in my window, wrapped in my wool sweater (too hot for the weather, but no matter) and nothing else, back to me, face looking out to the world, I thought it must have been a dream. But as you turned and murmured, “Want to get breakfast sandwiches?” it was all rushingly real. The dregs of two mugs of Chateau Diana were there on the nightstand, the AC was set to “energy efficient mode,” and the remains of last night’s cheesecake lounged in the sink.
Finally, I thought to myself, after so many emails, so many thoughts tenderly shared, so many ideas for Blogs tossed back and forth across the digital abyss, we finally rose above the Wonder Line. We finally fucked.
Not even fucking can stop the clock—a full day has passed in the course of having our exchange. But fortunately technology has enabled us to live in the past as well as the present. Just this morning, after I received your email, my TimeHop app coughed to life, revealing a few things that I had been relieved were lost forever. Among them, this notification:
April, 2007: Joanna Rothkopf, Kelly Stout would like to add you to her professional network on LinkedIn.
Illustration by Bobby Finger. Photos via New York Times and Shutterstock.