This Recording


IN WHICH 72 ACROSS TURNS INTO A DIFFERENT STORY
March 16, 2009, 8:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

“One More Thing”

by Andrew Zornoza

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Last weekend, Zack Kushner climbed the mountain of life and stood at the top.  His crossword puzzle, “One More Thing,” appeared in the NYT: the Sunday edition.  How did he get there? What follows is an interview with Mr. Kushner. . . .

Really a fun puzzle Zack. Are you a cruciverbalist, constructor or other?

Thanks. I’m going to go with cruciverbalist, but they’re really the same thing. Cruciverbalist just sounds better at parties. According to the definition, anyone who “enjoys crosswords” is a cruciverbalist, but in its normal usage (as if anyone uses the word normally) it means a constructor of crossword puzzles, or more literally, a “crosser of words.”

How does it feel knowing that thousands of people all across the globe are poring over your work?

Odd. To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It was such a long journey to get this puzzle published that having it actually sitting in front of me in the Sunday Magazine is just, well, odd. Also, being in Australia, most of the reactions are coming from far away. I don’t have much chance of seeing someone at the next table working on it. I started constructing with the goal of publishing a Sunday Times crossword, and now I’ve done it. I suppose I’ll have to find a new goal, now. . . .

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Many writers feel the pull of their profession at a young age. Of course, we all start as readers. How did the transformation from solver to creator happen to you?

With love, of course! I’d been solving puzzles for a long time, but the first puzzle I ever constructed was for my then-girlfriend, now-wife. It was an interesting experience sitting on the other side of the desk, but not one I immediately found addictive. My favorite clue/answer was: “The worst kind of souvenir? / EBOLA”. It wasn’t until Wordplay came out in ’06 that I got it into my head to create a puzzle I could sell. It took me a year of hacking around until I really got the basics of cruciverbalism and another year until I put together a puzzle that met the NY Times standards.

Can you give us some idea of your journey to the New York Times?

Outside of the puzzle I just mentioned, my next attempt was pretty ghastly. I tried to do a rebus puzzle using Greek letters. I wasn’t quite clear on all the rules of puzzle making and ended up with something that was unprofessional at best. Too many black squares, bad “fill” (the words in the puzzle that aren’t theme answers), etc. It was only after I finished it that I saw how unacceptable it was and so I shelved it and started again. My next attempt wasn’t as shoddy, a puzzle that included the names of the Rat Pack in the theme answers (i.e. SITS IN A TRANCE). This one I actually sent in, waited a few months, then got the rejection email. In retrospect, my theme answers weren’t quality; while SITS IN A TRANCE makes sense, it’s not really “in the language.” If it’s not a recognizable phrase, it won’t please editors. FALLS IN A TRANCE, for example, would be better, but still not as good as FALLS INTO A TRANCE. Try doing a Google search of all three terms in quotes and you’ll see what I mean. The more hits returned, the more common the phrase, the more “in the language.”

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Sometime around this point, I realized I was an idiot for not using the specialized software available to cruciverbalists. Software that helps you create a grid, keep symmetry, clue, and most importantly, fill. I use Crossword Compiler but there are others. I also joined the cruciverb.com mailing list and started to soak up the knowledge.

Two years after first having a real go, I met with success.  I’ve sold three puzzles so far: one to the LA Times, one to Simon & Schuster for Mega Crosswords 8, and this one to the NY Times. I’m securely in the novice-professional category. All are Sunday puzzles, which means they’re 21×21 instead of the weekday normal 15×15.

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You’ve mentioned your Grandfather as an early influence. He would certainly be proud.

I used to watch him do the Times puzzles in ink, and that always impressed me. It’s hard to imagine how he would have reacted to seeing my puzzle in the Sunday Times. He was a quiet man, not overly affectionate. He probably would have made a few jokes about it, hugged me, and told everyone he met on the street.

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How much of a personal expression is a single puzzle? Can you bend the clues to express more than a simple theme? Or does the puzzle have a mind of its own?

The way that a puzzle shows its personality is in the theme answers/clues and in the words you choose for the fill. For example, I liked the word CARJACK and worked to keep that in the fill. Someone else might have liked the name of an opera star or a baseball player. While the clues you choose do reflect your personality, it’s important to remember that the editor will change a mess of them. In my NY Times puzzle, the editor changed about half my clues including a bunch of theme clues.

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Can you take me through some of these?  How about 23 Across: Rachael Ray activity eliciting oohs and aahs?

I got some grief in the crossword puzzle blogs for this clue, even though it wasn’t one I wrote. My original clue was “Thrilling grilling?” Apparently people aren’t too fond of Rachael Ray, but I’ve no idea who she is. . . .

30 Across: Pantywaist

WUSS just sort of fit the bill in this corner. My original clue was “97-pound weakling.”

45 Across: Spacesuit worry

I liked this one too. Finally one of my original clues! TEAR can mean so many things and cluing a word like that is sometimes dull. You end up choosing between one of 100 standard clues (there’s a database of clues that have been published which you can pull from). In this case, I had a bit of brainstorm and found an original way to clue a standard word.

38 Down: “I don’t get no respect” to Rodney Dangerfield

A fun answer.  A nice Yiddish word to get in the puzzle!

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above, the novice-professional Cruciverbalist soaking up the knowledge

Will Shortz has said his favorite crossword clue of all-time is “it might turn into a different story.” The answer being “SPIRALSTAIRCASE.” Your favorite all-time clue?

Well, I certainly haven’t seen all of them, but one I recall is “Pole vault units” / ZLOTYS. I like the fun wordplay there. It’s the same kind of thing I was trying to do with “Ones concealing their aims” / SNIPERS.

You live in Australia. I was told  that Aussie children wear ice-cream containers on their heads to protect themselves from the attacks of magpies. True?

Hah! I haven’t seen that, but I’d believe it. My wife says as a child she used to have to carry an umbrella to protect herself from dive-bombing birds.

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Any taboos in your puzzle making?

Nope. I try to avoid crappy fill, like all cruciverbalists, but constructing a puzzle is very difficult and I’ve always been stuck with one or two words I wish I could have avoided (like REGRAB, ugh).

Last question. Scrabble. Are you formidable?

It’s all relative, I guess. I play a bunch and I’m good, but I’m not competitive and haven’t memorized all those weird words one needs to be a true Scrabble ninja.

I prefer to have fun with it.

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Zack Kushner is a transplanted American in Oz.  When he is not creating puzzles for the enjoyment of thousands, he pilots the helm of xZackly Copywriting.

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KUSHNER’S PLAYLIST

“Smells Like Content” — The Books (mp3)

“New England” — Jonathan Richman(m4a)

“Take me to the Basement” (mp3)

Andrew Zornoza is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the author of the photo-novel “Where I Stay,” (Tarpaulin Sky Press 2009). His stories have been published in Confrontation, Porcupine Literary Arts, Capgun, SleepingFish and elsewhere, with work forthcoming in Gastronomica and H.O.W. His latest story is available here. You can e-mail him at azornoza at gmail.com. He lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

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PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Jennifer Beals’ taste in photography.

The web exposes all.

Inability to comment on anything of substance.

jude-law-crossword-puzzle

John Cage: He said, “I’ve decided to commit suicide.” She said, “I think it’s a good idea. Why don’t you do it?”

Jeff investigates Horace Engdahl and American hegemony

Karen and Tina both wonder what love has to do with it



In Which The Critic Regretfully Excludes Di Fara, El Bulli, The Fat Duck, Pierre Gagnaire And The Shake Shack
January 5, 2009, 10:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Year in Foodstuffs

by Andrew Zornoza

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Ferris Acres Creamery Sweet Cream Ice Cream

Are these girls having fun, or what?

Bethel, Connecticut has long been the home of Dr. Mike’s, one of the great American ice cream shops. The doctor abruptly lost my business last year: just a quick jaunt away, on a straight stretch of Sugar Road, surrounded on either side by fields redolent of cow dung, is the Ferris Acres Farm and Creamery. In a small, unpretentious shack manned by stout armed, affable high school students, ice cream is served in generous portions from March to November.

Don’t let the sprinkles and whipped cream and hordes of little leaguers deceive you. Ferris Acres is currently producing one of the greatest gastronomic delights available on this tiny planet — a simple, exquisitely fresh mixture of cream and sugar: Sweet Cream Ice Cream.

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Known as nata in Portugal and Spain, but produced only as a base flavor in France and America (though if you find Philadelphia-style ice cream you may be close) this ice cream tastes like nothing but pure, sweet, rich, dairy. In the mouth it first gives like tender taffy and then melts like whipped butter. Here the small farm New England dairy cow (a species which is sadly declining) has reached its apotheosis of expression.

The ingredients at the Creamery are impeccable. When you sit at the picnic tables you can watch the cows munch on the grass while you munch on their cream. Cow to mouth distance is obviously minimal.

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Ferris has a whole range of flavors. Chocolate Whooper, Cow Trax, Campfire and Route 302 Chocolate Moo among them. All are excellent and each belongs to a different mood. The Black Raspberry is perfect and so is the Dark Chocolate Espresso. But it is the Sweet Cream that culinary archivists will be storing in their deep freezers for decades.

For a dinner party dessert, heat a cup of sugar in a heavy pan, add a cup of cream and stir constantly until you’ve got a dark caramel. Put two scoops of the Sweet Cream Ice Cream in a martini glass and drizzle with the caramel sauce.

Another bonus: just down the road from Ferris is the Holbrook Farm, where you can still buy unpasteurized (raw) milk.

Birrificio Doppio Malto Xyauyù Riserva Teo Musso 2005

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Below is a photograph of Teo Musso, who I can only begin to describe to you as an affable cross between Mark Cuban and Vincent Gallo. For two years running, Mr. Musso has made a beer so honeyed, so deliciously sweet, so heavy on the tongue that is would be better classified as a port. Only the slightest tingle on the tongue betrays a palimpsest of carbonation.

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About as far from Rome as Joyce was when he wrote Ulysses in Trieste, Teo makes his masterpieces in Piozzo, Italy, at his home-base Birreria-Baladin. Pronounced She-ah-you, Xyauyu is a genre-bending experiment, produced using a combination of brewing techniques and the solera method used in sherries.

Hallertau Hamsbrucker, Spalt Selct and East Kent Golding hops, caramalt, water and yeast burble along at primary fermentation for 25 days. Then the beer is strained and allowed to oxidize through the use of a permeable membrane — the brewmaster can remove fluid from the bottom of the barrel and add fresher brew from the top. The gold label Riserva has been left in the tanks the longest, for close to three years, until almost all traces of carbon dioxide have gone. This leads to a beer as still as maple syrup (no head here) and with a zoomy 14% level of alcohol. Each bottle is fittingly fitted with a cork rather than a cap.

Xyauyù Riserva can be found in more adventurous brew pubs and brew shops. Thanks to Julian’s owner/manager/empresario Brian Oakley for procuring the ThisRecording staff an extra bottle. If you’re in Providence, Rhode Island, you may be in luck. The always excellent Julian’s currently has bottles — tell Brian we sent you.

Parador de Mar Menor Arroz de Caldero

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Do you remember the Polly-O’s string cheese commercial?

“Hey, Fred! Gimme a pizza with extra cheese!”
“Extra cheese…”
“…and hold the tomato sauce!”
“Hold the tomato sauce?”
“…and hold the crust!”
“Hold the crust?! Hey, Jimmy… gimme a cheese with nuttin!”

“Nuttin?!”

A Caldero is a paella that has no meat, no seafood, no vegetables. No snails, clams, mussels, peas, onions, peppers or rabbit. No chorizo. It is brown, soupy, the consistency of risotto: but in appearance, not nearly as attractive.

It is just rice. Of course, it’s not that simple. Arroz de Caldero is made with a broth cooked from dawn to dusk in a pot Macbeth’s witches would covet. Whitings, mullets, sea spiders, angler tails, John Dorys and Dorada (Bream) are stirred, crushed, and patiently observed while they simmer in their juices suspended on a tripod over a wood-burning fire. The jovial and skilled Caldero cook can do two things while his guests wait for their meal: A) effortlessly dole out his homemade horchata B) pick out the fish heads at just the right time, cutting out the cheekmeat and balancing it on an outstretched paring knife for nibbling.

The end result of the stewing process is a stock so intense, so rich, so of the meat of the sea that the calasparra rice it rehydrates needs nothing added. Nothing except a dollop of sharp garlicky alioli to cut the flavor for contrast’s sake.

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The best arroz en caldero is made on the sunny Costa Calida of southeastern Spain. A glass bottom boat can be chartered from Santiago de la Ribera or Las Narejes and will take you across the Mar Menor — a small saltwater sea once visited by Moor princes, but now more known for its windsurfing. Call ahead to the Parador in Vivero to see if they are making Caldero. This parador (paradors are government supported hotels located in historic locations) is stunning, with an outdoor bar, a patio that fronts the Mediterranean, and views of the sea. Distant wakeboarders and the jagged edges of the Sierra Minera mountains frame the background. In the foreground, the man below sits in his van smoking a cigarette.

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He already will have 3 stock pots going.

His horchata is in a cooler waiting for you, the cheekmeats still burbling away in the stew.

There is coca-cola at the bar.

Extra Small Sweetwater Oysters Hog Island Oyster Company

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Fifty-six miles from the French Laundry, through sinuous curves and unprocessably gorgeous coastline is the Hog Island Oyster Company. Avoid the outposts at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal and elsewhere — get these pacific bivalves in situ. An oyster needs to be cold, alive, and pulled straight from the sea.

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At Hog Island’s Marshall location, oysters are grown tied to racks of re-bar set in directly in the Tomales Bay . The tides of Tomales bay keep nutrients flowing to the oysters and keep the shells curving into the distinctive crennelations, cupping the sweet meat inside.

At Hog Island you will be given a cafeteria tray, a rubber glove and an oyster knife. Bring a bag of Cape Cod potato chips and a bottle of Sonoma champagne. Don the glove and grasp an oyster, cupped side down. Find the hinge of the oyster and slip in the knife. Twist as you cut the muscle and lift away the top shell. Use the knife to free the still shivering oyster and slurp the whole thing down.

RANHOFER’S PLAYLIST:

“Pork Roll Egg and Cheese” — Ween (mp3)

“New York” — Cat Power (mp3)

“Button” — Shugo Tokumaru (mp3)

“Give me Daughters” — Jonathan Fire*Eater (mp3)

“Ice Cream Man” — Tom Waits (mp3)

Andrew Zornoza is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the author of the photo-novel “Where I Stay,” available from Tarpaulin Sky Press in 2009. His stories have been published in Confrontation, Porcupine, Capgun and elsewhere, with work forthcoming in Gastronomica, H.O.W. and SleepingFish. His latest story is available here. You can e-mail him at azornoza at gmail.com. He lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

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PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Yank Sing Peking Duck Sandwich

Stand up comics we can tolerate.

Becca got knocked up. Oh sorry, Knocked Up.

Indulging oneself.
paco



In Which We Are Caught In The Grip of The City, Madness
July 9, 2008, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Summer Reading

Part Three

by Andrew Zornoza

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I am an architect.

They asked me to build a city. On the ashes of a village.

How does one build a city? People build cities. Not, a person.

I became unhinged. The books on the floor are not a symptom but a manifestation.

I threw the television out the window.

It does not matter, no one saw it fall.

Continue reading



In Which There Is No Defense Against the Onslaught of Reality
March 5, 2008, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Creator of Worlds

by Andrew Zornoza

Gary Gygax: July 27th 1938-March 4, 2008

Late autumn, the smell of decomposing leaves, water rushing through the creek. Three boys with mud and blood streaked forearms. Down jackets. Glasses left in the mire, recovered in the spring. A basement filled with Harlequin books, a coca-cola radio that is wired to turn on from the light switch at the top of the stairs. Balsa wood planes. Five dollars allowance wadded in a fist. Forbidden Planet. A fire in the woods. Yellow ochre spiral springs of dilapidated sofas and condom wrappers. The library.

24 feet underground. Papers worn thin and soft as cotton, smudged with lead, folded in the back pockets of J.C. Penney jeans. Lamps brought under the covers. Fingers burned. Figures studied, numbers added, multiplied. Boys on bikes, on foot, crawling.

Sewer pipe underneath the road, black creek. Puffs of bianca.

The death of Gary Gygax saddens me beyond repair. And as I get older, the word ‘repair’ is leaving my senses—there is no repair, only replacement, reconfiguration.

Continue reading



In Which Ninety Nine Percent of the Game Is Half-Mental
January 19, 2008, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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A Wedding Guide for Grooms in New York

by Andrew Zornoza

Yogi Berra is one of few baseball players whose fame somehow eclipsed his actual playing ability. He was the ultimate bad ball hitter, threw out quite a few runners despite an average throwing arm, and had a penchant for quotations.

In an abstract sense, Yogi was very similar to Zsa Zsa Gabor. Zsa Zsa managed to sleep with a battalion of rich men, took them for all they were worth once divorce proceedings started, and also had countless interesting things to say about the sport of her choice.

Zsa Zsa on marriage: You never really know a man until you have divorced him.

And: I know nothing about sex because I was always married.

And: Husbands are like fires—they go out when unattended.

Getting married in New York is daunting. Everything is expensive, there are headaches, crowds, subway closures, $6 bottles of water: your ego will undoubtedly be tromped upon.

What follows is some advice for the curious bride, the gentleman looking for sartorial advice and, most importantly, the NYC groom.

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In Which He Cracked A Casa Last Night And Fenced The Swag And Pinched A Swell Of A Spark Fawney, And Had Sent The Yak To Church, And Got Half A Century And A Finniff For The Fawney
December 12, 2007, 12:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Met Stetson and Gave Him an Earful

by Andrew Zornoza

The Musical Illusionist: And Other Tales
Alex Rose

Hotel St. George Press

The world repaginates. . . .

In The Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things, one of Gilbert Sorrentino’s characters describes his writing as “pushing reality so hard that it fell over on its back and became a kind of fantasy.”

It’s an odd roster of books that accomplish this: books such as The Art of Memory by Francis Yates; The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury; The New Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James. The flipside of this list contains works by Borges, Calvino, and Rodrigo Rey Rosawriters who push the imagination far enough so that it becomes a kind of reality.

Alex Rose’s work belongs with this second group. His debut collection, The Musical Illusionist, is a compendium of riddles, mysteries, oddities, and paradoxes. These tiny tales are arranged as exhibits in an imagined “Library of Tangents.

Some examples. . . .

From Topologies: A city, called Waldemar, that reforms itself based upon the paths chosen by its inhabitants.

From Neurographies: Dysanimagnois. A condition in which the afflicted believes certain people are not themselves, but doppelgängers, impostors.

From Horologies: A mathematician who wishes to invent a formula that can solve all paradoxes.

Continue reading



In Which Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett and Richard Gere Are Interchangeable But Why Didn’t Heath Play The Gay Cowboy In This One
November 29, 2007, 3:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

And Man Gave Names To All The Animals

by Andrew Zornoza

I’m Not There

dir. Todd Haynes

135 minutes

It is not clear if they are hobos, farmers, or townsfolk, but it is clear that they are four people down on their luck, and they stare out from the movie screen as grimly as dustbowlers from a Walker Evans’ photograph. In the background, a weathered grey barn yearns for the sky. An American ruin, completing the picture.

And I find it difficult to suppress a yawn. It’s 2007; I live in paved-over Brooklyn. When I hear the word “americana” I think, for no rational or defensible reason, of the photograph of that lone man standing in front of tanks at Tiananmen Square. Except that, in my mind, the tanks are actually rolling down Flatbush Avenue and the man is Chris Rock, stripped to his underwear. Parenthetically, I do not think of Woody Guthrie’s hardscrabble narratives or Osh-Kosh overalls.

Continue reading



In Which A Grandfather Passes And It All Comes Back Just Like Radiohead’s New Album In Rainbows
October 10, 2007, 11:57 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Portrait of the author as a young man.

Part One (Rebecca Wiener)

Part Two (John Gruen)

Part Three (Tess Lynch)

Part Four (Jess Grose)

Part Five (Molly Young)

Part Six (Lucas Stangl)

Part Seven

I Do Not Outwardly Share This Affliction

by Andrew Zornoza

My grandfather died in August of 2005. I flew right out there (to Spain) because in that country the body can be interred for no more than two days. I have heard it is the same in Italy.

My grandfather was a Brigadier General in the Spanish Air Force. He looked tremendously like Picasso, though his stare had a little less youth in it.

He was harsh and uncompromising, but all that I gathered from second hand sources. Because my Spanish was primitive we only talked about basketball and, occasionally, about Real Madrid—he was a socio, a vested member of the club. Once he came to visit us in the United States. We went to an art show in Providence that my sister was a part of . . . I don’t think any of the art registered with my grandparents—towering, 20 foot ogres beating the floor with chains; videos of rats decomposing; a tree house with a ceiling made of cymbals, pulleys dangled through the windows that sent the cymbals crashing into one another—and we specifically did not visit my sister’s art, because of the graphic violence in it.

Page 356 of The Art of Modern Rock depicts a piece of hers that was on display that day . . . in resplendent silver, a unicorn has ripped its horn off from its forehead and is smoking it. The horn is stuffed with marijuana and the unicorn is bleeding from its eye. My grandparents and I said nothing to one another as we walked through the gallery. We had a long walk back to the car, parked down by the restaurant.

My grandfather was very old at that point in time and had a habit of stopping when he spoke. My parents and sister continued ahead while he stopped in front of a shop on Thayer Street.

Fuck it, let’s just go to East Side Pockets.

He told me then that his father had run a textile shop on Paseo Castellano in Madrid. Textiles did not provide enough profits, so they moved onto selling women’s undergarments and little accessories: buttons, zippers, ribbons and pockets. He then told me that he used to paint and that he would have like to have become a painter.

My grandfather served in the Spanish Civil War and he killed several people. This was never spoken about, but somehow was impressed upon me when I tried to bring into his apartment a cheap reproduction of Guernica—from the artsellers outside the Prado—and had a brief conversation with the portero outside the building. When my grandfather died, he was dressed in all his military whites.

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in the Prado. . . .

Because I am the eldest grandson, certain things have always been expected from me and before the body was brought into the hearse, I was brought into a little room with my grandmother and father (also the eldest of his generation). I was told to kiss the body, and did so on the forehead.

I am not terribly superstitious, or sensitive, but later, at the funeral, I felt something had been transferred to me, to my lips specifically— there was a smell, I could smell the death of my grandfather and I could not get rid of it. I wiped at my lips in the front seat of the hearse, which had a little mirror on the underside of the passenger seat sun visor.

For the next months, I was plagued by dreams where my grandfather had sent me some notebooks of his military history. These notebooks inspired great dread in my subconscious state, but did little else. Eventually, to relive this agitation, I began to write about these imaginary notebooks. I had written the first page of this story, titled, Soldiers, Dandelions, Accordions, when a package arrived. It was three notebooks sent to me by my uncle. The notebooks were written by military secretaries attached to the various regiments which my Grandfather served with and later commanded. They are coldly written, they often simply catalog the movement of the troops from front to front, from leave and back to the war. But if you read closely enough you can see the shadow shapes of murder, bodies, men left in ditches with their boots taken from them. . . .

Unlike the narrator of Soldiers, Dandelion, Accordions, I never served in the military. And for reasons which I can elucidate, but still do not seem sufficient, this has always left me feeling guilty. When I was a child, I built models of ships and airplanes out of toothpaste tubes and toothpicks.

“Starboy (live)” — The Frogs (mp3)

When I was 22, I worked as a trail boss for work-release inmates at Ashe County Correctional. One of the Forest Rangers working alongside me, he stopped me one day—he told me that my face resembled a helicopter pilot who had picked him up at Au Shau Valley in Vietnam. Later that same day, one of the inmates quizzed me, he thought I had served in the forces at Kuwait. The first day I set foot in San Francisco a homeless man refused to believe I was not a part of his platoon.

Skipping back again through time . . . when I was seventeen, I received a letter from the Spanish Ejercitio with a self addressed and stamped paper—the paper was a form for me to sign. If I wanted to remain a Spanish citizen I would have to serve in that country’s armed forces. I decided to remain in America. Why I feel guilty for never joining the military (either country’s), for causes I don’t believe in (and I have always had a difficult time with any group mentality, to the point where I struggled to go to class in college–and have never gone to a rock concert–for the irrational fear of being lumped in with everyone else, for being part of the herd) is something I cannot fully fathom.

I think it has to do with a sense of purpose . . . having lived an itinerant life, having worked in restaurants, correctional facilities, slingshot factories, inevitably I walk by the Army Reservist office window thinking, ‘This would give me a career and (most strange) this was what I was meant to do…”

“Home I’ll Never Be” — Kerouac/Tom Waits (mp3)

I researched some of my grandfather’s story; I found out that the father of the Spanish author, Pio Baroja, shared our last name. Then I discovered that my family is also related to Luis Ayala and St. Francis Xavier. The coincidences between my imagination, the stories of my relatives, and what I myself had written (originally, before I discovered that there was no military base on Goa, I has set the origin of my father’s notebooks there—it turns out that is where Saint Francis Xavier’s body is located) — well, it is tedious to list all these strange parallels, they are tedious enough in the story!

At one point, I had asked my uncle to research the connection between the Zornoza and Baroja families, he told me to travel to the genealogy library run by the mormons in Salt Lake City. . . .

Mental illness runs rampant through the family. In fact I have always felt a slight resentment, a xenophobia directed towards me because I do not outwardly share this affliction. My sister attempted suicide when I was seventeen.

Princeton’s Blair Hall

In 1997 I won a scholarship to go to college in New Jersey. After my first semester at college, I returned home and worked a graveyard shift at the local Mobil station while sleeping on a couch in my parent’s basement. My father was stern, a quality he has completely abandoned in his old age, and I still cannot understand why, but almost immediately into my stay, he had reached the end of his tether with me.

It seems so trivial—I forgot one day to go the muffler shop and get the family car fixed. It occurs to me now that my father had, years before, attempted to open a Meinike with one of the fathers of a schoolmate of mine, and lost all his money in that venture, while the friend’s father walked away cleanly.

the author & his dog pablo at shea stadium

But there was more, my father, his name is Jesus, he had also had several affairs which I was the only one in the family privy to witnessing first hand; also I had always fought with my sister, things between us were still cool years after her botched suicide and this was something he could never forgive me of: she was daddy’s little girl.

Also, when I was seven I pushed my mother off the bed in a fit of rage (because she was doting on my sister) and she fell on a stack of books and broke one rib. These things, and my going to college to become a good citizen of society, yet only working at a gas station and not doing the family chores adequately, these led to us staring at each other, the vein in his head pounding and my father taking my house keys away and kicking me out of the home.

“I’m Not There” — Bob Dylan (mp3)

I went first to my Mormon friend living in New Jersey. And from there I jetted with him in a plane to their annual Mormon picnic near the Teton Mountains. From there I hitchhiked to Dubois, Wyoming where I got a job washing dishes. And from there, years more of hitchhiking, more jobs, drug use, shelters, college . . . all that made up the text of my novel Where I Stay.

It is true that I had a spot at Craters of the Moon National Park to hide certain objects. Almost everything in that story is true, as a matter of fact. But I did leave out certain things. Like that for six months I lived in a van nicknamed Senor Feo parked in the back lot of the factory where I worked.

My problems with Where I Stay are twofold, one of which led me to write the story, the second of which causes it to fail.

Salt Lake City. I went to Salt Lake City quite often. First of all I visited the Mormons every year, sadly enough, I had no where else to go. They fed me. I had a medal I wore around my neck that they gave me, it had the olympic rings on it and said, “best loved hitchhiker.” And occasionally I needed money, companionship with normal people.

Skipping again through time . . . six years later I was making more than six figures working for a company during the dot-com boom. The company is still around. I own stock in it.

Yesterday I made a pot roast stuffed with veal sausage, cranberries, pine nuts—how far this is from shooting heroin up my nose!

Very far from searching ashtrays for the nubs of cigarettes . . . from having no memory of where I was the day before, of having strangers offer me food because I was so skinny (I am quite fat now), of sharing whirlpools with drug addicts. . . .

And that is just one fracture, how did I manage to go to college at all, how did I find a beautiful wife, and it is not an either/or, I shuttled back and forth between these things…

“Drugs Are Good” — NOFX (mp3)

Now my parents are my best friends.

I heard an interview with Townes Van Zandt, the country singer. He has no memory of eleven years of his life. It is not like that for me. For me I have several distinct people I cannot integrate into myself.

This is why I wrote Where I Stay the way I did.

You ain’t gonna git it that way, says the man, tugging at my sleeve and with a stick scraping the inside of one dusty window. It ain’t out there, he says. It ain’t out there, he says, it’s gone. . . .

An old railroad hobo told this to me. The there he referred to, as he gestured out the window in his sloshed way, was the American West. A vastness that existed as a subconscious backwater for the people of both coasts.

Before September 11th, the West was a place of the imagination, and if you set yourself in the middle of it with a muddled mind, with no money, a Beckettian character crawling through Sam Shepard’s cranium . . . not that I set myself there, it wasn’t all under my control, but there was something to the geography, something to reckon with: a void, a future.

But today there are places we cannot go. The vague wonderland of the sublime, of dreams (good and bad) cohabitating a landscape, the American West . . . this is psychologically irrelevant when a more extreme space exists in our consciousness. The Garden of Adonis is in Iraq now, in the prescient Interzone of Billy Burroughs. It is regressive to talk of the American West in the old way of the Beats who came after him: in the way I have done in my book. It is a change that makes me sad. I have written a memorial.

Andrew Zornoza, the noted short story writer and essayist, lives in Carroll Gardens.

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Things we don’t understand plus Gilmore Girls fan fiction. God, I can’t believe Logan and Rory are done forever.

Our anonymous dating correspondent. Our new dating correspondent is our intern Barclay, and he debuts this weekend, so look out for that.

Obsessions with Francis Bacon and Alison Stokke.



In Which Our Japanese Forbears Undulate Themselves Into the Friscalating Dusklight
October 6, 2007, 11:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

by Andrew Zornoza

In Praise of Shadows, 1933
Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Leetes Island Books

—But I know as well as anyone that these are the empty dreams of a novelist, and that having come this far we cannot turn back. . . .

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, builds himself a house. Here, he gathers his thoughts on the toilet:

As I have said there are certain prerequisites: a degree of dimness, absolute cleanliness, and quiet so complete one can hear the hum of a mosquito, I love to listen from such a toilet to the sound of softly falling rain, especially if it is a toilet of the Kanto region, with its long, narrow windows at floor level; there one can listen with such a sense of intimacy to the raindrops falling from the eaves and the trees, seeping into the earth as they wash over the base of a stone lantern and freshen the moss about the stepping stones. And the toilet is the perfect place to listen to the chirping of insects or the song of birds, to view the moon, or to enjoy those poignant moments that mark the change of seasons. Here, I suspect, is where haiku poets over the ages have come by a great many of their ideas.

Continue reading



In Which It Is Now Regressive To Speak Of This In A Way Knowing That I Will Be Drawn to You
February 9, 2007, 6:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Blondes week is over. Non-fiction week begins!

I Do Not Outwardly Share This Affliction

by Andrew Zornoza

My grandfather died in August of 2005. I flew right out there (to Spain) because in that country the body can be interred for no more than two days. I have heard it is the same in Italy.

My grandfather was a Brigadier General in the Spanish Air Force. He looked tremendously like Picasso, though his stare had a little less youth in it.

He was harsh and uncompromising, but all that I gathered from second hand sources. Because my Spanish was primitive we only talked about basketball and, occasionally, about Real Madrid—he was a socio, a vested member of the club. Once he came to visit us in the United States. We went to an art show in Providence that my sister was a part of . . . I don’t think any of the art registered with my grandparents—towering, 20 foot ogres beating the floor with chains; videos of rats decomposing; a tree house with a ceiling made of cymbals, pulleys dangled through the windows that sent the cymbals
crashing into one another—and we specifically did not visit my sister’s art, because of the graphic violence in it.

Page 356 of The Art of Modern Rock depicts a piece of hers that was on display that day . . . in resplendent silver, a unicorn has ripped its horn off from its forehead and is smoking it. The horn is stuffed with marijuana and the unicorn is bleeding from its eye. My grandparents and I said nothing to one another as we walked through the gallery. We had a long walk back to the car, parked down by the restaurant.

My grandfather was very old at that point in time and had a habit of stopping when he spoke. My parents and sister continued ahead while he stopped in front of a shop on Thayer Street. He told me then that his father had run a textile shop on Paseo Castellano in Madrid. Textiles did not provide enough profits, so they moved onto selling
women’s undergarments and little accessories, buttons, zippers, ribbons and pockets. He then told me that he used to paint and that he would have like to have become a painter.

My grandfather served in the Spanish Civil War and he killed several people. This was never spoken outright, but somehow was impressed upon me when I tried to bring back a cheap reproduction of Guernica from the artsellers outside the Prado—and had a brief conversation with the portero outside their apartment. When my grandfather died, he was dressed in all his military whites.

Because I am the eldest grandson, certain things have always been expected from me and before the body was brought into the hearse, I was brought into a little room with my grandmother and father (also the eldest of his generation). I was told to kiss the body, and did so on the forehead.

I am not terribly superstitious, or sensitive, but, later, at the funeral I felt something had been transferred to me, to my lips specifically— there was a smell, I could smell the death of my grandfather and I could not get rid of it, I wiped at my lips in the front seat of the hearse, which had a little mirror on the underside of the passenger seat sun visor. For the next months, I was plagued by dreams where my Grandfather had sent me some notebooks of his military history. These notebooks inspired great dread in my subconscious state, but did little else. Eventually, to try to relive this agitation, I began to write about these imaginary notebooks. I had written page one of Soldiers, Dandelions, Accordions, when a
package arrived. It was three notebooks (not seven) sent to me by my uncle. I was actually sitting at my desk editing the first page when I opened these for the first time. The interruptive page two in my story, that is the first page I turned to.

The notebooks were written by military secretaries attached to the various regiments and eventually the battalion of which my Grandfather served with, and later commanded. They are coldly written, they often simply catalog the movement of the troops from front to front, from leave and back to the war. If you read closely enough….

Unlike the narrator of Soldiers, Dandelion, Accordions, I never served in the military. And for reasons which I can elucidate, but still do not seem sufficient, this has always left me feeling guilty. When I was a child, I built models of ships and airplanes out of toothpaste tubes and toothpicks.

When I was 22 I worked as a trail boss for work-release inmates at Ashe County Correctional. One of the Forest Rangers there, at the park, stopped me one day—he told me that my face resembled a helicopter pilot who had picked him up at Au Shau Valley in Vietnam. Later that same day, one of the inmates quizzed me, he thought I had served in the forces at Kuwait. A year later, the first day I set foot in San Francisco a homeless man refused to believe I was not a
part of his platoon.

When I was seventeen, I received a letter from the Spanish Ejercitio with a self addressed and stamped paper—the paper was a form for me to sign. If I wanted to remain a Spanish citizen I would have to serve in that country’s armed forces. I decided to remain in America. Why I feel guilty for never joining the military (either country’s), for causes I don’t believe in—and I have always abhorred any group mentality, to the point where
I struggled to go to class in college, for the fear of being lumped in with everyone else, for being part of some herd—is something I cannot fully fathom. But, I think it has to do with a sense of purpose…having lived an itinerant life, having worked in restaurants, correctional facilities, slingshot factories, inevitably I walk by the Reservist office window thinking, ‘This would give me a career, this would be an adventure, (and most strange) this was what I was meant to do….

I researched some of my Grandfather’s story; I found out that Pio Baroja’s father shared our last name. The coincidences between my imagination, the stories of my relatives, and what I myself had written (originally, before I discovered that there was no military base on Goa, I has set the origin of my father’s notebooks there—the location of Saint Francis Xavier’s body) well, it is tedious to list all these strange parallels, they are tedious enough in the story! I had asked my uncle to research the connection between the Zornoza and Baroja families, he told me to travel to the genealogy library run by the mormons in Salt Lake City: I had put that library in the story prior to that conversation.

Mental illness runs rampant through the family. In fact I have always felt a slight resentment, a xenophobia directed towards me because I do not outwardly share this affliction. My sister attempted suicide when I was seventeen.

In 1997 I won a merit scholarship to go to college in New Jersey. After my first semester at college, I returned home and worked a graveyard shift at the local Mobil station while sleeping on a couch in my parent’s basement. My father was stern, a quality he has completely abandoned in his old age, and I still cannot understand why, but almost immediately into my stay, he had reached the end of his tether with me.

It seems so trivial—I forgot one day to go the muffler shop and get the family car fixed. It occurs to me now that my father had, years before, attempted to open a Meinike with one of the fathers of a schoolmate of mine, and lost all his money in that venture, while the friend’s father walked away cleanly—the other father’s name was Mr. Porter. But there was more,
my father, his name is Jesus, he had also had several affairs which I was the only one in the family privy to witnessing first hand; also I had always fought with my sister, things between us were still cool years after her botched suicide and this was something he could never forgive me of and she was daddy’s little girl; also when I was seven I pushed my mother off the bed in a fit of rage (because she was doting on my sister) and she fell on a stack of books and broke one rib. These
things, and my going to college, to become a good citizen of society, yet only working at a gas station and not doing the family chores adequately, these led to us staring at each other, the vein in his head pounding and my father taking my house keys away and kicking me out of the home.

I went first to my Mormon friend living in New Jersey. And from there I jetted with him in a plane to their annual Mormon picnic near the Teton Mountains. From there I hitchhiked to Dubois, Wyoming where I got a job washing dishes. And from there four years of more hitchhiking, more jobs, drug use, shelters, colllege…all that made up the text of Where I Stay.

It is true that I had a spot at Craters of the Moon National Park to hide certain objects. Most everything in that story is true, as a matter of fact. But I did leave out certain things. Like that for two years I lived in a van I nicknamed Senor Feo in the
back parking lot of the factory where I worked. And my problems with that story are twofold, one of which led me to write the story, the second of which causes it to fail.

Salt Lake City. I went to Salt Lake City quite often. First of all I visited the Mormons every year, sadly enough, I had no where else to go. They fed me. I had a medal I wore around my neck that they gave me, it had the olympic rings on it and said, “best loved hitchhiker.” And occasionally I needed money, companionship with normal people.

Yesterday I made a pot roast stuffed with veal sausage—how far this is from shooting heroin!  How far from searching ashtrays for the nubs of cigarettes… having no memory of where I was the day before…. And these are just simple fractures I see in retrospect: how did I manage to go to college at all, how did I find a beautiful wife.  It is not an either or, I shuttled back and forth between geographies….

Now my parents are my best friends.

I heard an interview with Townes Van Zant, the country singer. He has no memory of eleven years of his life. It is not like that for me. For me I have several distinct people I cannot integrate into myself.

This is why I wrote Where I Stay the way I did.

The American West was a subconscious backwater.

You ain’t gonna git it that way, says the man, tugging at my sleeve and with a stick scraping the inside of one dusty window. It ain’t out there, he says. It ain’t out there, he says, it’s gone…

Before September 11th the American West was a place of the imagination, and if you set yourself in the middle of it with a
muddled mind, with no money, a Beckettian character crawling through Sam Shepard’s cranium…not that I set myself there, but there was something regardless, something to reckon with, a void, a future—but today there are places we cannot go. The vague and deadly wonderland has been replaced by a concrete one. The Garden of Adonis is in Iraq
now, in the Interzone, it is regressive to talk of the American West in the old way of the Beats, in the way I have done in my book.  I thought I was writing an elegy, I wrote a eulogy.

Andrew Zornoza, the noted short story writer and essayist, lives in Carroll Gardens, NY.

R.I.P. Anna Nicole Smith and Meredith Grey and Gertrude Stein.

“Clear Day” — Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions (of my longtime favorite sleep songs)

“Futures” — Zero 7 (website)

“Already There” — The Verve

“The Odder Couple” — Nicholas Freilich

“Have You Forgotten” — Red House Painters




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