Talking Sandwiches and Martis Amis' Undepants in Tottenville Review

June 21, 2010
When my friend, the very funny writer Jason Porter, asked me if I like sandwiches, I had to say yes. Sure, I like them. When he asked me if I like to talk about writing, I had to answer no, not really. He said, “Me, either.” So we agreed to talk about writing for a little while and then get a sandwich. But then we ended up talking mostly about sandwiches. And Martin Amis’s underpants. The result is an interview for the terrific new lit magazine Tottenville Review.

Try a Little Tenderness

March 23, 2009
The zeitgeist has been gorging itself on chicken nuggets these days. And I’m doing my humble part to keep the breaded chunks of flaky white meat under the warming red lights of the cultural buffet. The main character in my book, The Unknown Knowns, has an epiphanic scene with chicken nuggets at an old waterpark in Colorado. So when we were planning a book party, nuggets had to be on the menu. I posted this request on FaceBook and got plenty of nugget suggestions. But I got something more edifying: a rare glimpse inside the arcane world of the stroller set. And a love story.


 “Jeffrey is taking recommendations for frozen chicken nuggets.”  5:25pm


Colby at 5:31pm March 4

we've found that making them from scratch is almost just as easy (as long as you already have all the ingredients - oil, breadcrumbs, chicken, flour and eggs). its's keeping in line with my DIY ethos...otherwise, applegate farms are the way to go.


Lisa at 5:40pm March 4

Pair with some oven baked Ore-Ida Tater tots


Mike at 5:43pm March 4

they are expensive but Bell & Evans are in my opinion the best frozen chicken nugget/tender on the market, hands down . . I like the tenders a little bit, but they're both really good. The downside is that you can't (or aren't supposed to) microwave them, which can be done with Applegate Farms. I know too much about this.


Mike at 5:43pm March 4

meant to say I like the tenders a little bit better


Colby at 5:45pm March 4

here's a bell and evans trick -- defrost them first in the microwave, then cook them in the oven. cuts the time in half! NICE!


Mike at 5:45pm March 4

I've been going with Tyson dinosaurs lately because they're a lot cheaper and I don't love my son enough.


Mike at 5:45pm March 4

Nice nugget strategy Colby! I'm gonna try that.


Jeff J. at 5:45pm March 4

bell & evans make good ones


Mandi at 5:55pm March 4

bell & evans cousin...the experts told me! Although making them from scratch is actually easy I will agree!


Mike at 5:57pm March 4

on a semi-related front, I really like the Applegate Farms chicken apple sausage, and most important, Henry does too.


Colby at 5:59pm March 4

i really like bacon


Mike at 6:02pm March 4

I enjoy baseball


Colby at 6:05pm March 4

I love you.

The Doberman

January 30, 2009
The Doberman The links between vanity and cruelty are not secret. We all know about Chinese foot-binding. And I suspect those places advertising 100 percent human-hair extensions get their stuff from Third World hair farms. But recently I had a rare opportunity to see vanity and cruelty side by side in one elegant and ugly tableau.

One bitter January morning I was on my way to work, dressed in a heavy down coat and fingerless gloves. I was thinking about how fingerless gloves would be perfectly adequate if only I had no fingers, when I almost stepped in a pile of bloody gauze. I would describe my state of mind as perilously psyched. I’d had a large coffee and a Claritin, so it felt like there were several brains inside my head, each one vying for primacy. I’m Jeff! one brain shouted. Are not! shouted another. Neither one of you is Jeff, screamed a third: For I am the brain of Jeff! No, no, said the fourth brain. You’re all wrong! No one is Jeff but me!

It was fun listening to the brains argue, but the sight of blood-soaked gauze made them all fall silent. I didn’t want to stop and stare at the bloody gauze, so I pretended to be window-shopping. The nearest storefront was a knife-sharpening place. Wired to a slab of pegboard were examples of all the blades they were qualified to hone: pinking shears, steak knives, the usual. There was also some sort of Visigoth-style broadsword with two smaller daggers attached to the hilt for (I can only guess) tripling your stab rate. From inside the shop I heard the plaintive whirr of spinning stone on tempered steel.

But I wasn’t really looking in the shop window, I was merely using its semi-reflective surface to check out the bloody gauze. The gauze was not alone. A well-dressed man was holding a Doberman by his studded collar while another man, also well dressed, squatted near the animal’s hindquarters. Despite the subfreezing temperature, the second man had removed his coat and pushed his shirtsleeves up past his elbows. He wrapped a wad of gauze around the Doberman’s tail. He held it there for a few seconds and watched the dog blood bloom through the cloth. The Doberman, meanwhile, wore an expression that puzzled me. He was showing his nubby black gums in a sort of canine sneer, and he appeared to be winking. I saw what he was going for: a kind of sarcastic indignation. It’s natural to mask real shame and pain with irony. You see this in emergency rooms all the time: the “aw shucks” smirk of the man with his big toe in a Ziploc bag. The problem with dog faces is that they don’t have the musculature for irony. When your tongue hangs out most of the time, it’s really hard to seem insincere. This poor Doberman was standing there in a very elegant section of Manhattan while two men bandaged the bloody stump where his tail had been, and he didn’t even have the cheap palliative of irony to get him through.

I was reminded of an incident a few months earlier. My office is in a part of the city dominated by the fur trade. One fall day I rode down in the elevator with a furrier. I’d seen the man before, but we’d never really spoken. The day was unseasonably warm, but he wore a mink hat. He removed it and his bangs were pasted to his forehead with sweat. “Global warming,” he said to me. I said, “Yeah.” This was something everyone was acknowledging at the time, and in some ways climate change had become a fatalistic form of greeting as common as “Is it Friday yet?” But the man wasn’t making chitchat. As the elevator descended, he told me that global warming was terrible. I had to agree. “It’s killing the fur business.” “I hadn’t thought of that,” I said.

As I enjoyed the reflected cruelty of two Manhattanites and their smartly amputated Doberman, I thought about the furrier. I know that in the final seconds, when the world is about to be obliterated, someone, somewhere will be worried about what the apocalypse is going to do to his hair.