nonfiction

internment“Neighbors,” at The Los Angeles Review of Books

MY JAPANESE-AMERICAN grandfather’s life’s work was the Chihara Jewelry Company, a small rented storefront in Seattle, Washington. He sold earrings and watches and taught himself how to repair televisions. He was jailed when American went to war with Japan because he was a “community leader.” He was reunited with my grandmother, and their four children, after a year and a half of jail time, in internment camp in Minidoka, Idaho. In his FBI file, I have a copy of a letter written by his neighbor, Fred Bergman. It appears on custom Bergman Luggage stationery, with a drawing of leather valises running down the side…

 

Detective“Kingmakers,” at The Los Angeles Review of Books

…THE GIRL WHO LOOMS UP and out of the T-Mobile logo was the prostitute Hart tried to help, earlier, on the bayou. As Hart gazes into his new phone in a nearby bar, the girl follows him and sees that Hart has bought tampons. She asks him if he has a fun weekend planned. Hart, it’s implied, is buying tampons for his wife and so won’t be able to choose sex this weekend. The tampon is the visible symbol of the binding, monthly contract that Hart has entered into with his wife. The T-Mobile prostitute represents freedom from all that. Hart doesn’t know what to want, so when offered too much freedom, he chooses wrong. He cheats — he loses his beautiful wife.


Notice, again, his wife’s choice of words: “he never really knew what to want.” It’s not that he doesn’t know himself. He wants to keep his wife. A correct choice exists. It’s about the circumstances under which Hart can see what he wants. He needs that contract; when he throws it off, he loses everything…

 

 


Scandals Realizing“What We Talk About When We Talk About Finance, on Scandals & Abstractions and Realizing Capital,”  at The Los Angeles Review of Books

THIS SUMMER, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon speculated that Elizabeth Warren didn’t “fully understand the global banking system.” The internet went wild over whether he was “mansplaining,” which … sure, he was. But while gender bias is part of Dimon’s dismissal of Warren, his accusation lacks a crucial element that’s usually part of mansplaining: the explaining. Dimon never specified Warren’s mistake, nor was he really expected to specify it. He lobbed an accusation of “you don’t get it” and then ducked and covered.

For high-level financiers, this is fairly common. It’s a trick that financial authorities get to play when people from outside of their economic realm challenge them — say, academics from the humanities or women, to take two not unrelated examples.


Avidly at The Los Angeles Review of Books“Saudade Soccer,” Avidly at The Los Angeles Review of Books

WHEN I WAS 27, I sold everything I owned and moved to Rio de Janeiro. I wanted to do some freelance writing and stringing for American papers, and I wanted to train capoeira, the Brazilian martial art and dance form. I knew precisely one person when I arrived. My impulses were suspect, born of a peculiar American obsession with the exotic and a mildly self-destructive need to blow up my life. I quit a good job. I took precisely ten lessons in Portuguese. I gave a bunch of clothes and books away and dragged my thrift store table onto the sidewalk. I remember reading Harry Potter in the airport to distract me from the churning in my stomach. On the plane, I drank a two-inch high bottle of red wine and threw up in the bathroom.


The Los Angeles Review of Books“Being Theon Greyjoy, or Why This Dick In A Box Matters,” The Los Angeles Review of Books

EACH TIME A MAN in power misplaces his penis — Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner — we revisit the conversation about whether it’s possible to separate the personal sex scandal from the politician. Pundits argue that gossip should not win out over coverage of chemical weapons in Syria, but it’s not a zero-sum game. Power and masculinity affect and constitute each other. And no better way to remind ourselves of this truth, in the long dry spell before Season Four of HBO’s Game of Thrones, than by revisiting Theon Greyjoy’s penectomy, which, if nothing else, demonstrates that a man’s relationship to power and politics can’t be severed from his masculinity, even if the man is separated from his penis. Indeed, asking whether Weiner’s “Carlos Danger” alter ego would have played a role in city hall is like asking whether Theon’s behavior with Ros the prostitute bears on his decision to sack Winterfell: Each man’s sense of his own masculinity is part and parcel of the way he handles power…

 


TROP Magazine“Reading Katy Perry,” TROP Magazine

[Read this piece in The California Prose Directory 2014 from Outpost 19]

AT THE DINNER TABLE, my four-year-old girl sings out: “There’s a stranger in my bed! There’s a pounding in my head! Last Friday night!” And I am so busted.
“Oh, we don’t listen to that song anymore…” I say, sheepishly. My husband is not convinced.
My daughter adores Katy Perry, she of the blue eyes, porcelain skin, and titillating hits like “You’re So Gay.” Serious rock criticism, such as it is, tends to take female pop stars less than seriously. Art that is strongly identified with people like me and my daughter gets dismissed, aggressively. If we are the ones expressing enthusiasm, whether as young girls screaming at a concert or as feminine readers of Jonathan Franzen, then the art itself must be trivial. This bothers me. So this is me, reading Katy Perry, for my daughter…

 

 

 


The Echoes history blog at Bloomberg.com  “Dutch Dollhouse Mania,” The Echoes blog at Bloomberg.com

AFTER THE U.S. HOUSING CRASH BEGAN in 2007, the media often made comparisons with the Dutch tulip mania of 1637, one of the first and most dramatic speculative bubbles in the Western world.

A different Dutch craze of that era — for lavish dollhouses, displayed by and for adults — also holds a powerful lesson. In both financial and emotional terms, these grownup toys were the real precursor to our recent obsession with house and home.

In the Dutch Golden Age, a new and powerful merchant class emerged with the birth of speculative capitalism. Between 1608 and the 1660s, the Netherlands became the richest nation the Western world had ever seen…

 

 


Avidly.org“The Princess Phase,” Avidly.org

SOMEHOW, AT THE RESTAURANT, my daughter pitches face-first off the toilet with her tights down around her ankles. She scrapes her chin and busts open her little lip. In her Cinderella dress, she is a shocked and wailing ball of glittering blue tulle and silver sparkles. I gather her up and try to dab at her lip with a wet paper towel. Even through her sobs, she is a little bit proud that she’s bleeding. She doesn’t want me to wipe away the blood. Just her tears.

The maitre’d, far from giving me grief for carrying a sobbing child back into her dining room, asks if there’s anything she can do. Would I like some ice? This is Disneyland, after all. They know how to treat a crying princess.

My four year-old is squarely inside the Princess Phase…

 

 


n+1

 

“I’m From I’m From Rolling Stone,” n+1

ONE OF MY WEIRDEST MOMENTS at the MTV offices in Santa Monica, California, came when I overheard two people trying to resolve a question about “lay” and “lie.”

Because I was in the midst of helping to cast the reality TV show I’m from Rolling Stone, because I was waist-deep in application essays from people who couldn’t tell “night” from “nite,” I ran to the rescue. I was here to help! The man and woman sat at a cluster of computers in the large back area known as “the bay,” their screens facing out toward the ring of office doors all around them. I had walked by this island of terminals on arrival and assumed it was temporary, a floating setup. Everything on the first floor of the MTV offices looked a little bit temporary…

 

 

 


The Boston Phoenix“Total Kombat,” The Boston Phoenix

FRANK BLACK’S MOTHER is standing with the palm of her hand pressed to her chin, her fingers covering her mouth as if to keep herself from crying out. “This is like high school,” she says, shaking her head, “like when he played sports in high school.”

Inside a hangar-like garage in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, her son is about to compete before a crowd of 700 people, including about 70 of Frank’s friends, co-workers, and gym buddies, as well as his mom and his wife, Tracy.

This is not high-school football, or even boxing. Black is the 12th fight on the card in a sport called vale tudo, a Portuguese phrase meaning, unfortunately for Frank’s mom, “anything goes…”