Occupation Writer, Musician, Photographer
Current Residence Williamsburg, Brooklyn
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY BE?
I know this question is supposed to be hypothetical but I’m writing a memoir for Abrams Books and I feel like I have to answer with the actual title. My memoir is called “To Be Honest.”
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ONE PERSON TO SHOW YOU “THEIR NEW YORK CITY,” WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I’d like to follow around Ellen Von Unwerth.
WHO OR WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU RECENTLY?
I feel a particular admiration for artists who dare to reveal their truest thoughts and feelings, who feel free enough to tell their stories. Lately, I’ve been really inspired by Edgar Oliver, Joyce Maynard, and Okay Kaya.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE NYC RESTAURANTS? WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE?
I choose restaurants and bars for their atmosphere, which, I guess, is like choosing a movie based on the attractiveness of its stars (something I also sometimes do). The Waverly Inn and Little Branch are my favorite rooms. For a very different aesthetic that I find equally beautiful, I love Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR ART FIX IN NYC? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ARTIST?
I have a special love for The Society Of Illustrators.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNDER-THE-RADAR MUST-DO RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NYC VISITORS?
The late-night jazz jam at Mona’s in the East Village on Tuesday nights is wild. I recently saw a brilliant comedy night on the Lower East Side, Hot Box Comedy. And Pasquale Grasso, my favorite jazz guitar player, performs somewhere almost every night.
WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO THESE DAYS? WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIANS?
I mostly listen to old music but I’ve recently seen astounding shows by Moses Sumney, Shilpa Ray, Joanna Sternberg, Aerial East, Alex Toth, and Rodrigo Amarante. I try to see these people perform whenever possible.
WHAT ALBUM OR SONG WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR PERSONAL SOUNDTRACK TO NYC?
Being Cool by Kimya Dawson comes to mind first. It’s about how New York’s fantasies of glamour and coolness can help you define those words for yourself. Moving by Jeffrey Lewis is another one, covers the way New York twists your sense of romance and sentimentality by making sure many of your most meaningful experiences happen in temporary crummy apartments. If I had to choose a full album, I’d pick Regina Spektor’s early demos which I listened to a lot in my first few years here. A lot of the best ones like 8th Floor Window, The Wallet, and Cut Off My Hair mention specific New York locations and experiences.
WHEN YOU THINK OF NYC, ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR EMOTIONS OR MEMORIES THAT IMMEDIATELY COME TO MIND?
New York will always be the first place that really accepted or appreciated me. My life before was pretty unpleasant, so I moved here 16 years ago without much hope. My second night in town, I went to The Sidewalk Café open mike and discovered a dozen of my favorite musicians; I know I sound nuts saying this, but this open mike felt like being backstage at Woodstock. These musicians were, by far, the most brilliant, charismatic, and charming people I’d ever encountered. I couldn’t imagine that they’d have any interest in me, but they became my friends. One became my girlfriend, my first great romance, for the next seven years. Whenever someone asks me about my hopes and dreams or what I want to accomplish in my life, I say all I ever wanted was friends like these people and a romance like that one. My dream was to be surrounded by beautiful stories and music. So, technically all my dreams came true my first year in New York. I’ve just been coasting ever since.