with Danniel Schoonebeek
The last thing that made you smile
Benjamin Booker has a new record out called Witness. Emily Skillings’s debut book of poems, Fort Not, comes out this Fall from the Song Cave. Phil Jackson got fired from the New York Knicks and Paul George got traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the same week.
Dr. Joseph Popp—the Harvard-educated man who is often credited with creating ransomware in the era before the advent of the world wide web, and who was later detained and arrested for scribbling Doctor Popp has been poisoned on a stranger’s suitcase in an Amsterdam airport and deemed unfit for trial by the judge who heard his case—is also the founder of a butterfly and bird sanctuary that I frequented in the town where I grew up as a kid, a secret I just found out today.
The last thing you wrote
“Before I left Brooklyn I was suspicious when Jay told me that unemployment was the best year of his life. I’ve committed petit larceny with Jay more times than I can remember, we’ve stolen books together, we’ve stolen keys and shopping carts full of alcohol, we’ve stolen food and snuck into shows and snuck out of windows. Gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat. These lyrics from ‘One Jump Ahead,’ the lead-off song from 1992’s Aladdin, are tattooed across Jay’s thighs. And when you break the law that many times with a person, you start to trust them with your freedom, especially when they’re the only person who can tell you how to keep from getting pinched.
‘Never file a claim from your computer,’ Jay said, ‘that’s the holy writ. Always use the phone.’ The New York State Department of Labor caught him by clocking his IP address when he filed for weekly unemployment from Canada, where he was vacationing at the time using money he’d saved expressly through filing for unemployment. They fined him, took away his benefits, a man with a chalky voice scolded him on the phone.
Wednesday meant it was the day I needed to claim unemployment benefits via telephone, using the 607 New York State area coded associated with my cell, because this meant my number would show up as NYS on their caller ID, as opposed to an IP address clocked somewhere around the foothills of Alabama, and this also meant the Department of Labor couldn’t track my location, and nobody sitting inside a cramped government office would have to mark an X next to my name, note the date on which I fled town, and send it up to the chain to their superior for processing.”
Your favourite city
I’d have a hard time saying I have one. I do love that first month whenever I move to a new city, even my least favorite ones, when I find myself adrift in unfamiliar territory. I don’t know where to buy green onions or coffee, I don’t know anyone’s name or how long the traffic lights take or when the mail gets delivered. I’ll open up the map on my phone and drag my finger around looking for a swimming hole or a watering hole or a slight patch of green. Inevitably I end up discovering a plant nursery or a gallery or an abandoned fishing village when I turn the wrong corner or strap on the running shoes and take off in some direction I haven’t tried before. That feeling in itself I might call a favorite city.
What you’d place in a time capsule
When I was in grade school my teachers gathered together all the students in my class, about 70 of us in total, and told us we were going to each place a single item into a time capsule that would be buried far, far beneath the earth and dug back up in 20 years when we were all coming back home for our first high school reunion. Into the time capsule went locks of horse hair, lucky teeth, basketball cards, disposable cameras, newspaper clippings, dog tags, smelling salts, candy necklaces, bouncy balls, magic markers, cake recipes, letters to future selves, you name it. I contributed a drawing of myself sliding down a fireman’s pole on my way to rescue a family from a burning building because at the time I wanted to be a fireman. The school in question received a large zoning grant a few years later and bulldozed the land into which the time capsule had been buried, the high school reunion never happened, and we never heard a word about the capsule again.