This is the second installment of Roper’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
11:30 A.M. John Waters interview. He’s in Provincetown for the summer, so we have to talk on the phone. I’m disappointed not to meet him in person, but still excited to talk. Waters is a charmer. I’m instantly enthralled and never want to hang up.
1:00 P.M. My friend Max sent me some images of paintings by Walton Ford, whom we both admire. I think Ford is my favorite contemporary painter. He paints gigantic, detailed watercolors. There’re sort of Audobon, naturalist illustration-inspired, with a dark, anti-colonial, anti-industrialist twist. I spend about fifteen minutes looking at all the Ford paintings I can find online. This is an example of a kind of culture that is not best delivered via computer screen. I long to see some Ford paintings at full size.
4:15 P.M. “Puritan, Inc.,” a review of Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History on TNR’s The Book written by my friend and colleague David Wallace-Wells.
5:00 P.M. Max sent me this video, probably captured by a security camera, of a guy strolling down the street in a track suit and a pair of sunglasses. He does a double-take, and nearly gets hit by a car careening down the sidewalk. He leaps to safety, missing death by inches. I find it so alarming I watch it over and over again. The way the guy looks up, jukes to one side, then leaps expertly out of the way—I cannot believe it.
6:45 P.M. The Kids Are All Right at the Loews Village 7. I liked Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art. I saw it in college. I know little about this one, which is my ideal movie-going scenario. As soon as the movie starts, I’m engaged. This is the best movie I have seen in a theater since Joon-ho Bong’s Mother. Also, Mark Ruffalo is hot.
9:15 P.M. Kickstarter and Rooftop Films teamed up for a film festival. The roof in Park Slope is vast. We slink in during a film and settle in folding chairs. The film shorts are projected on a screen hung on a brick wall. It’s a warm night, but there is a gentle, steady breeze. I watch two shorts and find my eyes drifting back to the horizon, where a herd of clouds makes its way across the plains of the blue-black sky.
8:00 A.M. I start writing as soon I’m awake. It’s a short piece about a single moment that changed my life (I was twelve, and in the backseat of my mom’s car) for a friend’s book proposal—a compilation of personal essays. It’s fun to have an assignment that is so discrete. I write, I think, I edit, I write, I edit, boom. Done.
9:00 A.M. Meet my friend Larry for coffee near my apartment. He takes out his laptop and shows me an awesome video from a recent writing assignment—he drove a car in a demolition derby race in southern California. The best footage is from the Flip camera they mounted outside the windshield looking in at Larry behind the wheel.
10:15 A.M. Early to brunch. I sit drinking a coffee and reading the July issue of Wired.
My friend Jeff arrives. We met because I ran a portfolio of his photos from Haiti in the current issue of the magazine. We had some more of his Haiti photos on the blog last month. Jeff has just returned from a trip to Juarez, where he took photos during the election, as the terrifying, bloody narco-war rages on.
2:00 P.M. At swim practice, underwater, I start writing something in my head. The repetition and physical focus free my mind. (This works with running, too.) I barely notice the flip-turns or the passing of time until I’m on the deck of the pool, exhausted and thirsty.
6:00 P.M. Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival in DUMBO, under the Brooklyn Bridge. I arrive late, which, it turns out, is right on time. J. Period’s live mix tape set begins and he immediately brings Dres from Black Sheep on stage.
We’re all psyched. J. Period brings surprise guests Nice & Smooth to the stage. They perform their hit “Hip Hop Junkies.” The crowd starts bouncing, everyone knows every word of each song. There are a lot of shout-outs to Brooklyn. Pete Rock & CL Smooth are up next. They perform “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” a favorite of mine (and everyone else in this audience), it makes me nostalgic, but it’s impossible to feel anything but positive in this enthusiastic crowd. De La Soul takes the stage and starts their set with “Stakes is High” and then “Saturdays.” My head explodes. De La has been a favorite group since I was twelve.
8:00 A.M. I don’t know what I was dreaming about, but as soon as I open my eyes, I open my laptop and look for clips from What About Bob on YouTube. I find them. I laugh.
9:20 A.M. As I drink coffee, I work on the Times Crossword, give up, and watch The 100 Greatest Movie Insults of All Time.
11:00 A.M. After brunch I help a friend buy and install an air conditioner. In my car, I turn on the radio and I remember how much more great radio I listened to when I lived in the Rockaways and drove more often. I met a woman last month at the Bay Area NPR affiliate, KQED, who told me cities with bridges have the highest share of public-radio listeners. Makes perfect sense, except in New York City, where so many of us cross the rivers via trains in underground tunnels.
2:30 P.M. World Cup MAYHEM. I can hear the crowd at the Mexican restaurant on my corner cheering as I leave my apartment. The game hasn’t started. I’m rooting for Spain. Eventually I end up with friends at a bar on 14th Street near 7th Avenue. The bar is next door to the Spanish National Club. When Iniesta scores his goal, the crowd in the bar goes insane, everyone is screaming and jumping up and down, chanting. We’re all hugging or kissing strangers, the happy pulse of victory beats through the bar and out into the street. Once the game is over, the party rolls across 14th, blocking traffic, halting a city bus. The collective joy is infectious. I watch a normal-looking dude break into a spontaneous cartwheel down the dotted line in the middle of the street. The cops arrive.
5:45 P.M. On the subway home, I pine for my headphones. I’m rarely without them on the train. I consider what I’d play: the latest from my favorite Cuban hip hop group, Los Aldeanos, or Next Stop… Soweto, a compilation album I love. Maybe “Rescue” by Echo & the Bunnymen, or my all time favorite Duran Duran song, “The Chauffeur,” or the new Big Boi album, or Bat for Lashes, or the Japandriods, or—I am now listening to Lady Gaga leaking from the headphones of the woman next to me.
8:20 P.M. Research for a book project. I’m reading about murder, psychosis, and crime-scene analysis. I’m distracted by coverage of the oil spill. I read (again) about the challenges facing attempts to stop the flow of the oil. I look (again) at photos of this debacle.
9:30 P.M. Alert, alert!—levity reserves low. I watch an episode of Arrested Development from season three thanks to Netflix Watch Instantly and my beloved Roku. I still want another season of this show. Next, I watch part of an episode of The State. Then some Trailer Park Boys, the funniest thing to come out of Canada since The Kids in the Hall. But I notice I’ve lost interest in watching when I realize I’m wandering in and out of the living room and holding a copy of New York magazine.
10:15 A.M. Willa sent me this post about the first documented use of the phrase “rock the mic,” which was not, as previously thought, in “Rappers Delight,” but was rhymed with “like white on rice” by Melle Mel in 1978, at a show in Washington Heights.
9:00 P.M. Adam Kirsch, another critic I admire, on A Short History of the Jews.
9:30 P.M. Lance Armstrong and the Tour in the July issue of Outside. I’m an editor at a literary magazine, but the magazine I’ve subscribed to for the longest period of time is Outside. After the Armstrong piece, I read about cold-water distance swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh, “the Ice Bear.” A-mazing. He swam at the North Pole and lost feelings in his hands and fingers for months, and, get this: “It also produced a previously unknown condition involving a urine icicle.” Now that, my friends, is a pull-quote.
10:25 P.M. My best friend Kristin has sent me this clip from Chapelle’s Show, called “Tupac is Still Alive.” I watch it twice. I die.
11:00 P.M. If I could only look at one website every night before bed: http://ffffound.com/.
11:45 P.M. I’m disturbed that four hundred geese have been gassed to death in Prospect Park in the last few days. I run in the park all the time and I’m used to seeing the geese on the lake. Couldn’t some of them been relocated to an area where they aren’t a risk to planes taking off?
12:00 A.M. It’s hot and humid today. I love these photos from of a fire hydrant street scene from 1953. I also love that I have no idea what the site says about them. Sometimes it’s such a relief to get a break from reading and comprehension. It’s the last day of my culture diary, so I can’t help but reflect a little about the cumulative effect of this aggregation. The diary’s not complete: I’m sure I forgot plenty, or didn’t write it down after I read/looked/listened. Also, there’s some redaction out of my desire to avoid being boring and repetitive. I mean, does anyone really want to know each and every article I read? I don’t get bored very easily, but I do get bored of myself.
Caitlin Roper is the Managing Editor of The Paris Review.