Monday, April 26, 2010


I will not be trying a peanut butter and bacon Shake Shack burger anytime soon, apparently:


For those of you who may not actually spend much time with me, it's a well-known fact that I love burgers. Red meat of all kinds, really. And I think there are few things bacon can't make better. There's a restaurant in NYC that serves bacon tempura (on a salad!), and while most of you are probably feeling your arteries clogging up just reading that phrase, I've been dying to try it since I heard about it. Seriously, if you're interested, let me know, because apparently no one else is.

And while, being from New Jersey, I will defend my diner burgers to the death, I have to say the best burger I've had is Shake Shack. This is obviously not an unusual opinion. It's kind of like saying you like Bright Eyes. Maybe not everyone has heard them, or heard of them, but in recent years, they've become mainsteam, and a huge group of people will judge you for saying they're your favorite band, even if they really like Bright Eyes. But anyway, I don't care. Shake Shack is delicious, and always worth the wait. I also love introducing people to their burgers, so if you've never had Shake Shack, and want to, I will totally come with you.

So anyway, like I said, I love Shake Shack, and think bacon makes almost everything better. So bacon on a Shake Shack burger? Has to be delicious, right? However, I am very, very torn about this new peanut butter and bacon burger they're serving. Obviously I would love bacon on my Shake Shack burger, but peanut butter? I have to say, I've never had bacon and peanut butter together, and I think it sounds like it could be reasonably good. The fats and salt could work well together, and the textures probably do too. But I really don't think I want peanut butter on my burger, let alone with my bacon and burger. Too much, Shake Shack, too much. Or at least that's what I think in theory. I will definitely be trying this sometime in the upcoming months, and I'll let you know how it goes. I just don't have high hopes.

Or maybe everything's just a little bit of a letdown after Double Downs...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Fashion Plea

Dearest Vassar students,

If it is warm enough for you to wear shorts, or a skirt without tights, it it too warm for you to be wearing boots. Give your feet/calves a break! Also, you kind of look like a dumbass.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Golden Finch and the Red Oak Tree

There's a sense that if one if from New Jersey, one must completely and totally be from New Jersey. If someone asks you to describe yourself, the correct answer is not "I'm 21, I'm an English major, etc." The correct answer is "I'm from New Jersey, etc." Pretty much all New Jerseyans I know despised the state until they went to college, where we learned that everyone else hates our state, and thus we must learn to love it. We will defend our right to have someone pump our gas, tell others that only the highways smell bad, and damnit, we will love Jersey Shore, while pointing out that only two of them are actually from New Jersey. We may still hate the other half of the state (fuck you, South Jersey), but it's only because they're the ones who give our state a bad name. This love/hate relationship seems pretty standard for almost all college-aged New Jerseyan friends, at least the ones from Vassar. Learning to love New Jersey, it seems, is a rite of passage, and once we reach it, we won't shut up about it.

This way of thinking is also completely embedded in our music scene. As this NYT article puts it: “Every great song about New Jersey has always been pretty much about getting out of there,” said Mr. Stickles, a native of Glen Rock, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, the day of the album’s release on the XL label. “The Monitor,” a glorious, rambunctious, unsettling album, has a more complicated proposition. Its protagonist starts out escaping to Boston, but comes to realize that hiding is folly: his home state is embedded in him. By the end of the album, he’s headed back, doing the things he hoped he would stop, becoming the person he’s tried to avoid becoming, even though he was that person all along.

People who write about childhoods/life in New Jersey seem to have the sense that they are not just writing a narrative that happens to take place in New Jersey. They are writing about a specific type of life or childhood that can only take place in New Jersey. Is this true? Probably not. If someone had a similar family to mine, was pushed into similar activities, had a somewhat similar personality, I'm sure our lives could be roughly described the same way, even if they grew up in a South Orange-sized town in Nebraska or Wyoming. And being from New Jersey is not necessarily more meaningful than being from anywhere else. New Jersey stands for something in the outside world, but so does New York, or California, or Massachusetts. Or even Maine or Idaho.

It's difficult to separate a location from its meaning, but New Jerseyans seem to have a particularly hard time with this. I know plenty of people who enjoy Ted Leo's music who are not from New Jersey. They understand the tropes of childhood, of growing up, of everything else he writes about. He could easily be writing about their lives, but I know better. I know he's writing about the singular New Jersey experience, and while specific components of that experience can be generalized, as a whole, other people just can't understand it. (Note: this is clearly an exaggeration of how I actually feel).

Or maybe not. Maybe New Jerseyans are all just self-centered tools (because God knows we have a lot of those in our state), who try too hard to own the few things we're proud of when the rest of the country calls us the armpit of America. But I will take my Springsteen, Lauryn Hill and Ted Leo albums, watch Garden State (incidentally about my town in particular, although not a very good movie) and Kevin Smith movies, and use my New Jersey tote bag no matter how far from home I move. Because no matter where I end up, I will never really leave New Jersey, and I will always be proud of that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm usually not much of a sappy person, but I find this unbearably sweet, if maybe a little cliched:
First Kisses

Friday, April 2, 2010

Philip Roth Again

Because he writes too well, and too close to home to not be heard from. The Counterlife in particular takes place mostly in my hometown, while his other books take place in and around Newark, in the era of the Newark Jews; my dad's family that I only know from his sporadic stories. Despite the obvious huge generation gap between me and Philip Roth, the anxieties about secular Judaism, about New Jersey, about what those things mean for one's identity are all, to varying extents, huge parts of my life, and I'm glad someone writes about them as well as he does. After reading American Pastoral, all I wanted to do was write, because if I could write a sentence even a quarter as good as some of the sentences in there I would be happy. I wouldn't necessarily say his books are for everyone; the religion, place, and family influence are obviously a lot of the reason why I like him. But I highly recommend his books to anyone, anyway.

"Henry remembered that after the lecture, during the question period, Nathan had been asked by a student if he wrote 'in quest of immortality.' He could hear Nathan laughing and giving the answer...'If you're from New Jersey,' Nathan had said, 'and you write thirty books and you win the Nobel Prize, and you live to be white-haired and ninety-five, it's highly unlikely but not impossible that after your death they'll decide to name a rest stop for you on the Jersey Turnpike. And so, long as you're gone, you may indeed be remembered, but mostly by small children, in the backs of cars, when they lean forward and tell their parents, 'Stop, please, stop at Zuckerman - I have to make a pee.' For a New Jersey novelist that's as much immortality as it's realistic to hope for.'"