Memoir: “No Such Thing as a Free Gift” on being an anthropologist in Cuba

Richel's house from aboveAfter a long editing process, my memoir of an 11-day trip to Cuba in 2008 has appeared in Construction magazine.

It’s about a search for some vision of “authenticity,” and the concept of reciprocity.

You can read it here. It’s long–grab a coffee.

“Upset by the division I saw at the café, and determined to find something that resembled my vision of authentic Cuban life, I patrolled the narrow streets of Habana Vieja. A meeting of Communist Party officials, a whorehouse, a cigar factory—anything! Just give me something besides a manufactured experience! But—though I did stumble on a harem—Habana Vieja offered only art galleries, museums, and bars, all for foreigners.”


Notes on a Hurricane: New York Feels Like a Small Place

Manhattan is being ravaged by Hurricane Sandy: buildings collapsing on 14th Street, cranes falling apart in Midtown, explosions in the Village and lights out up to 34th Street.

Over in Bed-Stuy we’ve still got power so we’re following everything on Twitter.

So far, there have been two iconic images:

One is Jane’s Carousel, in DUMBO, which is going underwater, shot by the Gothamist team, which I’m guessing is holed up in their office in DUMBO (way to stick it out for the sake of journalism, guys! They should get an award!). This waterfront is where I went running every day last summer . . . will it still be there, post-storm?

And the other is Manhattan, sans lumiere, up to 34th Street. When I saw the picture, I looked at the name of the photographer and realized that it’s a guy I went to high school with who is now a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek! In the end, all this social media makes the hurricane a very communal event, and ultimately New York City feels like a small place.

Announcing the Launch of Green Rabbits

We are a collaborative group who initiate and support food-based projects, as well as offer consulting and research-and-development services. We work at the intersection between food, agriculture, and society and make it relevant to dimensions such as health and well-being, creative entrepreneurship, government policy, natural ecologies, and green building.To learn more about our work please visit our Green Rabbits website, the digital home for our collaborative sitopian projects. Our Projects page features our portfolio of past and ongoing endeavors. Our Blog will be updated on a regular basis with news related to sitopian topics, as well as a monthly debate on a timely and relevant matter, which we hope you will participate in by reading and commenting. On the site, we also explain our methodology and offer details about what services Green Rabbits can provide.To join our online community and participate in our discussion about building stronger relationships between food and place, we invite you to sign-up for updates from our blog on our homepage, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook. Please also share the our website with your friends and colleagues who may be interested in what we do. Read more

My essay: “What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Girls'”

a.k.a. “what I learned from Lena Dunham and a few dates with a rich Manhattan lawyer.”

a.k.a. (the real title) “Girls of the Millennials.”

My essay in Construction Magazine:

“My dates with the lawyer got me thinking about my situation, and why I’m putting myself through years of scraping by to be, ultimately, a writer—someone who will most likely never earn as much as a lawyer. At first, going out with him and hearing about his high-end lifestyle made me self-conscious about our class differences. But then I remembered something I often think whenever Read more

Thought Catalog: How The Sharing Economy Creates Abundance

My latest dispatch from the sharing economy:

“On Thursday night at the Brooklyn Swappers meet-up, Rotindo’s garlic powder is dusted atop a salad of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, which sits on a table alongside black bean burgers with a tofu cilantro mayo, various kinds of kimchi, soba noodles, quinoa salad, sausage with ‘straw-BQ’ sauce, yogurt-dill-pea salad, and much, much more. We might be in a dire recession, but at this food swap in Greenpoint, there is only abundance.”


The Awl: Women Writing About Real Shit (take note, The Atlantic)

I love this

“My parents had the same struggles, maybe worse, as twenty-somethings starting a family and a business in the ’80s, facing a recession and a bleaker economy in the mining towns of northern Minnesota. What is new is the myth of the educated middle class as automatic recipients of middle class incomes. What’s new is the assumption that college is some great equalizer (was it ever?), that  family-of-origin, economic backgrounds, and old-fashioned connections are just extras. These seem to be the same general assumptions that sweep all young, urban, PBR-sipping kids like me into sitcom caricatures of “poor people,” or, with the right zip code and cocktail preferences, aspiring Carrie Bradshaws or Hannah Horvaths.”

and this

“Wool cheerleader skirt from Opening Ceremony, more than $100.  Because a wool cheerleader skirt is a totally appropriate thing for an adult to own.  ”Simple Basics for Winter: A Wool Cheerleader Skirt,” Lucky magazine does not ever say. I blame this one on going shopping with rich enablers, lovely but irresponsible people who also encouraged me, during the same shopping trip, to purchase a 3.1 Philip Lim cashmere sweater-blouse that was adorable and genuinely luxurious and which I left hanging in an inadequately defended closet, the result being that it was consumed almost 100% by moths.  The moths refused to eat this skirt. We can only assume that they held it in contempt.”

and this

“As the children age (and multiply), the moms are burdened by the responsibility—to work, hold onto their homes, watch over their kids’ social and academic lives. The boredom turns to terror. You can almost clock the moment it begins, past preschool but before kindergarten. The childbearing is over, the breastfeeding in the past, the sling donated to Housing Works. It’s the moment when a mom dresses as a Harajuku girl for Halloween, or there’s a full bar at a four-year-old’s birthday party, or two ladies step out of book group to smoke on the stoop. It’s blowjob gestures at cocktail parties followed by a-little-too hysterical laughter. It’s the mother who says, “Mommy needs an Advil because she stayed up too late last night.” It’s fortieth birthday parties at karaoke bars.”

The Economist: Houston going green

Texas sprawl

Houston, which was named America’s most polluted city in 1999, is working to remedy their environmental maladies. It’s happening at the level of policy–they have overhauled their building energy codes, for example–but it is also seen in individuals’ behaviors and preferences. Houston is also America’s fastest-growing city; it grew by more than 1.2 million people between 2000 and 2010.

The Economist reports: “In 2008 59% [of Houston residents surveyed] said they would prefer a big house with a big garden, even if that meant they had to use their car to go everywhere. Just 36% preferred a smaller house within walking distance of shops and workplaces. By 2012, preferences were running the other way: 51% liked the idea of a smaller house in a more interesting district, and only 47% said they wanted the lavish McMansion.”