The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory
228pp. Akashic Books.
I never used to understand that thing old people do, visiting the haunts of their youth; but now I'm not that young anymore, and here I am, looking for the places I remember knowing and sometimes finding the places I'd forgotten I knew. I used to go to Left Bank Books when I was a teenager to buy My Evil Twin Sister, the zine Stacy Wakefield made with her sister Amber; they were always driving around and having adventures and sleeping in ditches and being tough girls out in the world, doing things that were interesting, and My Evil Twin Sister was about the most exciting thing I could get my hands on when I was fourteen, this zine made by girls who were real people only a few years older than me. And there was Stacy Wakefield's book on the shelf at Left Bank Books when I wandered in as a grownup a couple of days ago so obviously I bought it.
I took it to my favorite old Seattle bar, still clinging to life despite the ravages Amazon.com has wrought upon a city I've loved since forever, and I was going to hide in a corner and read it but the bartender was someone I knew a million years and five or six lifetimes ago, and we stood there staring at each other for a long time, and it seemed rude to go sit in the corner and read after that, so I took the last seat at the bar, next to an apocalyptically drunk man who kept trying to buy everyone tequila shots at six pm, and I caught up in awkward little patches with the bartender, like "So! what have you been DOING for the last ten years!" is a thing I actually said, I don't know, there's a reason I am a writer and not a diplomat. "Are you FAMOUS?" the drunk man screamed at me. "Why does everyone from New York LOOK FAMOUS?" I made a polite noncommittal noise and busied myself with my phone, a very famous and very occupied person sending critically famous text messages to other famous New Yorkers, see how busy I am, certainly too busy for chatting. "Why did you PAY FOR THAT BEER when I would have BOUGHT IT FOR YOU FOR FREE?" screamed the drunk man.
Later that night I walked back to where I was staying and the whole street was full of drunk white twenty-year-olds in flip-flops, shrieking in packs and smoking pot in the streets, like they were at some outdoor fraternity party and not in a neighborhood that has been queer for over fifty years, the neighborhood where Mia Zapata used to work and Home Alive was organized, the neighborhood where I spent one very dark and sad and lonely year in a dirty one-room apartment that's still there and still dirty, like a malevolent black hole at a the literal dead end of a street orbited by new condos and new concept furniture stores and new money and new young white people in sports clothing and bad sunglasses drinking identical beers in identical restaurants with CRAFT COCKTAILS embossed on the glass doors in identical fonts. I don't mean to lose my way in nostalgia; it is hard to separate the Seattle I once longed to live in from a city that never existed at all. But the Seattle that is Seattle now is like a messageboard reading YOU WILL NEVER BE HOME HERE and I don't know, sometimes it's hard to let go of things you love. Fuck you, Amazon.com.
I never did get to read Sunshine Crust Baking Factory at the bar but I read it later in the car on the way to my parents' and I liked it, it's about a scrappy girl squatter in 1990s New York trying to live her dream, and it opens with a scene of her standing outside a squat waiting hopefully for admission, and I remembered the time I read Off The Map (Crimethinc!!! I know!!!! I was young!!!!) and then bicycled across Europe, and found a great big squat outside Basel when I was at my absolute loneliest, and waited patiently outside with my bicycle for some anarchists to come out and see how cool I was biking all over by myself. The anarchists would embrace me as Hib and Kika were constantly embraced in their luminous travels from squat to squat, and give me tea and a meal of salvaged grains and vegetables, and we would talk about noble goals and resist capitalism and maybe I would move into the squat too, there was nothing then I wanted to go back to the US for, I was pretty excited to begin my new glamorous European anarchist squatter life. Only nobody came outside and then it started to rain and I went and slept in my tent and didn't talk to another human being for several weeks because everyone in Europe thought I was homeless or just insane, which is another story about the way you can tell your past as a story, but the truth is usually harder to hold than the story you make it into.
I bought this book in the Barnes and Noble of my two-horse hometown because I felt like checking out of my brain for awhile. I spent a long time lurking suspiciously and I think the lady working thought I was shoplifting but actually I was reshelving the books of my enemies behind the books of my friends. My own book was there too and I moved it from Romance to Adventure. And then I stood and looked at it and wondered if I should be having a Moment, finding my book in the Barnes and Noble of my youth, a store I used to walk to--two miles each way! I'm not making an Old Person joke, it really was two miles--before I could drive, every weekend, hoping that someday, like, a Poet or some sort of Artistic Personage would show up and liberate me from the horrors of my peers, which never happened, and so in the end I had to liberate myself. I guess I could've had a Moment about that too, but mostly I just felt glad I don't have to live in my hometown anymore. Anyway this book is SO silly I'm not going to tell you what it is, only that it was PURPORTEDLY about a lady scientist but it REALLY DIDN'T HAVE MUCH SCIENCE and mostly it was a lot of Improbable Coincidences and Star-Crossing Overcome By Just How Much These Two Straight People Have The Hots For Each Other and disastrously silly dialogue and I think there were spies in it maybe, I already can't remember. Also the lady scientist has violet eyes and a giant rack and dudes keep falling all over her but she's like Oh That Dude Doesn't Really Like Me! Because Science! until you want to fling the book at a wall and scream DISBELIEF IS UNSUSPENDED!!! UN! SUSPENDED! I read the whole thing in a day and my brain totally shut down and it was great.
I've never read any Joyce Carol Oates, can you believe that? The topless stick and poke scene in Foxfire had a profound impact on my adolescent development but I didn't even know that movie was based on a Joyce Carol Oates book until years later when I re-watched it to confirm the effects of the topless stick and poke scene. And then there was that whole thing with Joyce Carol Oates and Twitter and, I don't know, I don't need for great artists to be great people or anything, I can forgive quite a lot, but it does seem like anyone who says shit that stupid on Twitter is probably bad at writing, so I decided never to bother. But then I found this one at the thrift store for three dollars and it's 700 pages long and supposedly about vampires and we all know I'm a sucker for vampires, do you see what I did there. I'm on p. 153 and so far there is only one person who MIGHT be a vampire but might instead just be sordid, so I am feeling rather cheated, but maybe there are quite a lot of vampires later on to make up for the dearth of vampires in the early section. But really to be honest next to nothing has happened so far and I might just leave it at the airport for someone else to find. [ETA: Now I'm on p. 267 and very LITTLE has happened and there STILL AREN'T ANY VAMPIRES]
On Being Hated
Goddamn, Trisha Low. The best most brutal thing about family and chosen family and what happens when your chosen family fails you totally that you will read this or any other week I can think of. I'm going back to New York now and it is going to be quite hot, and I'm not very happy about it, but there's always fall to hope for. I'm sorry I never write on this blog anymore! The last time I had a day off was in January and this time I had some days off in a ROW and I meant to write all sorts of things but actually what happened was if I sat down for more than five minutes I fell asleep. I miss you too, though. I did eat some oysters and hiked on the beach with Le R. Père and went to a dinner party with dogs and babies and real china, just like a grownup, and I didn't even drink all the whiskey and get sad. Baby steps. xoxox sarah