On PUNCH: My Feature On The Scarcity Of Wild Agave Mezcal

A taste of the rare agave Tepeztate, in San Balthazar, Oaxaca
A taste of the rare agave Tepeztate, in San Balthazar, Oaxaca

A month and a half ago, I traveled to Oaxaca with Mezcal El Silencio, and stayed to do some independent journalism. Following that trip, I delved into research on the subject of wild agave mezcal, and its endangerment–as well as the measures industry insiders are taking toward sustainability. Check out my feature on PUNCH here. (And that’s Don Goyo, mezcalero for El Jolgorio, holding a sample of the Tepeztate I describe in the story, pictured here, by the way.)


78_522520911756_2891_nThe streets of San Telmo are dirty, littered with evening remnants – cigarette butts, beer bottles, a crumpled pair of red panties – and you step carefully, weaving amogst the landmine of debris, listening to your heels clicking on the cobblestones. You wish you had a Valium, a gun, a trench coat full of fake Rolexes – anything to make you in this moment less mundane and desperately normal than you are. The smell of urine hangs in the air. You walk by a homeless man curled up, snoring on the sidewalk. You see no taxis. You walk.

Earlier you refused to dance, sulking in a corner, sipping wine, because you knew you could not be led – could not pretend to enjoy a strange man’s hand around your waist, pressing into you telling you to step or move your hips, his eyes softening in approval when you cede to his guidance. You watched your friends dancing and smiling and laughing, and silently critiqued them and their bodies and everything they were doing. Marta’s hips have widened at least five inches either way, and Becky has developed adult acne, since college. Jess looks fantastic and her music career has taken off, to all of your surprise, but you reminded yourself as she leaned backward, lifting one leg dramatically as her dance partner supported her with strong arms, that Jess and her husband fight constantly and are both having affairs that the other knows about. Read more

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.”

Announcing Nomadic Sojourns: “We are composed of movement”

Dear readers, I applaud my friend and fellow New School for Social Research alumnus, J.K. Fowler, for creating a very interesting and unique journal, Nomadic Sojourns, which takes the subject of movement as its inspiration and overall theme. The first issue came out in September and contains a memoir about my first foray into ethnographic research in Guyana as a 20-year-old college student, as well as pieces of nonfiction and fiction by writers of every shape and size. There will be readings (at which I suspect I will, at some point, read something from my piece), so stay tuned for those–but in the meantime, please take a look at the journal on McNally Jackson’s website, or walk right into their Prince Street shop and admire it on their shelves. Below is an excerpt from my piece, to tease you into shelling out the very nominal $17.99 for the beautifully-designed and one-of-a-kind journal.

“The next morning, the shaman was expecting me. Again his family joined Milton and me inside the hut. Malcolm performed the washcloth ritual once more, and then instructed me to return after lunch.

The same people were there when I came back. There were also a couple of tiny, scrappy puppies flailing about on the dirt floor, so young that they hadn’t even opened their eyes. Malcolm and Mavis were resting in hammocks, having a post-lunch nap. Malcolm’s daughter, who looked to be about five, appeared with a stick Read more

Assange Granted Asylum By Ecuador

What a crazy, post-colonial world we live in.

From the NY Times:

“The decision adds to sharp strains between Ecuador and Britain. Just before the announcement of asylum in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito, President Rafael Correa said on his Twitter account: ‘No one is going to terrorize us!’ The night before, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said that the British authorities had threatened to force their way into the embassy, to which he responded: ‘We are not a British colony.'”

Occupy Heals Its Wounds

I wasn’t in Liberty Square (a.k.a. Zuccotti Park) the other night when around 73 Occupiers were arrested and many were thrown to the ground or otherwise physically abused by the NYPD–some of whom were “just doing their job” while others, it seems, were really aggressive–but I’ve heard the stories, of a woman having violent seizures while in handcuffs as cops looked on, of people being pushed to the ground, of hair pulling and boots in people’s chests (there’s footage, too).

When I heard what had happened on Saturday night, my first thought was to make sure my friends in Occupy were okay–most of them were, though a few people I know did get arrested–and my second reaction was frustration. Once again, it appeared that the police had become a proxy for the “one percent,” leading Occupiers to aim their protests not toward Wall Street law breakers or their collaborators in Congress, but toward working-class people in uniforms who are under orders.

But perhaps now is not the time for tactical discussion. Now, more than ever, is a time for much-needed healing.

Today, about sixty Occupiers gathered in a community center in the Financial District to begin that process. As people filtered in, they chatted about how they had finally caught up on sleep after being in jail over the weekend. One person said to a friend, “I heard that Michael Moore,” who was at the annual Left Forum meeting this weekend, “finally understood what Occupy Wall Street’s demand is.” His friend looked at him, smiling; he continued, “We want to Occupy Wall Street. That’s it.” Read more