Let’s Play Ball!
Making moves this week: Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, Noah Hurowitz, Kermit Alayon, Joshua Pashman, David Haskell, Tirhakah Love, Choire Sicha, Mark Krotov, Lisa Borst, Jordan Castro, Honor Levy, and many more…
Memorial Day isn’t that far past, but it already feels like late summer. Everyone would rather play softball and just hang out than do actual work, and The Fine Print, at least, keeps forgetting to put on sunblock. This week the stuff of life coursed through Manhattan’s ballparks and parties ranging from Greenpoint to Bed-Stuy to the East Village.
James Yeh — who estimates he’s played with seven different softball teams over the years, including the two teams he helped start, Vice and The Believer, in addition to Harper’s, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker — showed up to The New Yorker versus New York game on Tuesday in James J. Walker Park in the West Village to play for The New Yorker in a vintage New Yorker softball cap. He brought his own batting gloves. “All the gear I have was donated to me,” he said when asked why he had gloves. “Well, actually it was part of the unofficial severance package from Vice. It’s what happens when you lay off the person who takes home all the gear. Plus, I have another game tomorrow. I’m so old, I can’t tough it out anymore. I have to be very deliberate.”
There was overcrowding in The New Yorker dugout, with an abundance of cartoonists and a dozen fact-checkers, by fact-checker and frequent pitcher Nina Mesfin’s count, ready to take the field, and an existential under-crowding in the New York dugout. “I guess they didn’t make The Cut,” joked The New Yorker’s Ismail Ibrahim. He later admitted that he wished the magazine he works for could be more like The Cut. “New York magazine publishes a whole magazine that I think Talk of the Town should look like,” he said. “They publish all those party reporting pieces, and we should write more about parties. It’d be fun.” The New Yorker loaned New York three hands so they could field a complete team: Yeh (making it eight teams he’s now played for), a friend of New Yorker coach and associate editor for Talk of the Town Zach Helfand who went over, more or less, for the duration of the game, and the third hand rotated through other players on The New Yorker team. “I feel really torn,” said New Yorker fact-checker Natalie Meade during her spell playing for New York. “I’m cheering for my friends on both teams.”
Before the game, New Yorker deputy editor Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn played with her small child on the field. “Unfortunately, this child cannot play because there was once a controversy about Brian Lehrer’slarge sons playing High Times,” noted Rolling Stone contributor and El Chapo chronicler Noah Hurowitzfrom the New York dugout. “High Times got really mad because they were too good.” Foley-Mendelssohn seemed unsure whether a softball career was in the cards for her progeny. “Are you a future softball player?” she asked the child. “Your dad would like that. He’s going to teach you to pitch.”
Foley-Mendelssohn left early but handed off a bag of canned cocktails — Palomas and a vodka, brandy, and sake mixed with green tea and mint — to The New Yorker team while New York sipped Coors. As the game got going, it became clear that The New Yorker didn’t always have the firmest grasp on ballgame conventions — “When you say ‘Hey batter, batter,’ is that taunting?” asked fact-checker Shirley Ngozi Nwangwa — but they exhibited an impressive cohesion and supported each other more enthusiastically than any other team The Fine Print saw this week. “You look so cute, you look like such an athlete,” said one team member to another. “Your legs are amazing, no offense, not an HR violation. No HR, no HR.” Even as the game got close and New York racked up runs, they stuck to the spirit of the thing. “We gave it our all, clear eyes, full hearts, and even if we lose, we won’t leave without our dignity,” offered fact-checker Hannah Seidlitz midway through the game.
New York, meanwhile, had a limited roster, but they were all impressive. Alongside journeyman Yeh, New York facilities manager Kermit Alayon was one of the most effective players on the field, even though he played in jeans. He has a gift for hitting balls out of the park, one time nearly braining a bypasser lost in their phone. Alayon praised his teammate, former New York associate editor and current Dow Jones software engineer Brian Feldman, for his speed. “I call him the blur,” he said. Hurowitz, too, is no stranger to homers. “I owe my career in New York media to softball,” he said. “I had just arrived in town, fresh off the bus, and I started playing in Prospect Park with Joe Coscarelli and them, and Kat Ward was like, ‘Hey, we’re hiring interns.’” So he ended up interning at New York, and this is his eighth year playing softball for the magazine.
Rain started to fall, and Nwangwa pulled out a light yellow Rains raincoat, but the players played on. The game came to an abrupt halt, however, precisely at 9 p.m., when field hockey players who had the park permit for the next time slot started walking among players in the outfield putting down cones, leaving New York associate editor Louis Cheslaw waiting at bat as the dispute unfolded across the field. “Hey buddy, if the ball comes to you, catch it, okay?” Hurowitz shouted at one that seemed like a leader. “You gonna cry about it?” Turning to The Fine Print, he explained, “My Boston comes out when I play baseball.”
There was a momentary surge of solidarity between the competing teams. “This is the part where the magazines join forces against the common enemy,” said New Yorker catcher and copy editor Dan Stahl. In the end, they stood down and agreed to call it a draw, though, to some, it seemed New York had been up by two.
Yeh faced off against The Paris Review on behalf of The Drift the next day in The Drift’s first-ever game. The Paris Review had something to prove after their 27-1 loss to Vanity Fair. “We were not a match for a group that showed up in cleats,” wrote web editor and coach Sophie Haigney in an email to the team after that first game. While The Drift held a practice over the weekend, scrimmaging and running drills, The Paris Review stuck to a more laid-back tack. They showed up at Chelsea Park without cleats on Wednesday. “We prefer a more gentlemanly approach to the game,” said Paris Review advisory editor David Wallace. “We hold to decorum at all times.” Cigs and Modelos from the two teams’ communal cooler dotted The Driftdugout, but they quickly ran up a healthy lead, reaching 6-0 in the second inning.
What The Paris Review lacked in runs, they made up for in experience. “I’d say my heyday was under [Philip] Gourevitch. I played under Stein. I will neither confirm nor deny rumors that I played under [George] Plimpton, but I was just an intern then,” said pitcher, a fixture of New York media softball reporting, and Norman Rush interviewer Joshua Pashman. “George took it very seriously. He was really into that gentlemanly air, but you could see in his face if anyone had an error. There was definitely recruiting of people who are good at softball. They always recruited from the same seven schools or whatever, but if there were two people and one was the editor of The Advocate, and one just wrote something for The Advocate, but the person who wrote something also played intramural softball, she was totally gonna get the job.”
But it’s been a minute since Plimpton and his ilk were in charge. In the early innings, Paris Review assistant editor Olivia Kan-Sperling danced barefoot in the outfield on synthetic turf that looked like it was made of fiberglass. “I felt that I should participate, but I don’t think I’m being very helpful. I don’t think I can bat because I have carpal tunnel syndrome and it’s been really acting up today,” she said. “The longer I’m here the more I feel strongly resistant to this jock culture that I thought I had escaped forever. I don’t really understand why this is happening. The Paris Review is a real jock publication historically, from what I understand. Now I feel like really we’re participating in a whole culture that I disagree with in literature. This is not good. This must be stopped. Who are all these manly jocks?”
The game ended with a competitive 11-3 in The Drift’s favor, and the players took off for Billymark’s for a round of Elenas, a concoction made of a Miller High Life with a shot of Campari poured in — “the official drink of Team Drift,” associate editor and team organizer Krithika Varagur noted, precociously.
New York Media Softball League Standings
|The Wall Street Journal||2||2|
|New York Public Radio||0||2|
|Euromoney Insititutional Investor||0||4|
|The New Yorker||0||0||1|
|The New York Review of Books||0||0||0|
|The Paris Review||0||2||0|
OUT AND ABOUT
On Wednesday evening, New York editor-in-chief David Haskell and Tirhakah Love, the lead of the magazine’s new daily Dinner Party newsletter, hosted a dinner party at Dept of Culture in Bed-Stuy, which was within bikeable distance for many attendees but a bit of schlep for editor-at-large Choire Sicha who resides in Westchester. Joining them at the small Nigerian restaurant’s communal table were New Yorknewsletters director Kaitlin Jessing-Butz, editor-at-large Carl Swanson, diner-at-large Tammie Teclemariam, features writer and party reporter Brock Colyar, and the former co-host of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast Aminatou Sow, who mentioned that she’s part of a group chat that roasts media reporters, but felt duty-bound to not share its contents. The meal started with pepper soup with red snapper, but the standout course was the wara ati abe, a dish made from a cheese that chef Ayo Balogun told the diners is tough to get outside the southern region of Nigeria where it’s made since the locals love eating it so much there’s none left to export. He worked around that constraint with the help of a dairy farmer in Connecticut who could supply him with the right kind of raw milk to make it locally.
On Thursday evening, n+1 hosted a garage sale at its new office in Greenpoint, their first public event in the space since their move from Dumbo. On sale were books, back issues, n+1 branded umbrellas, an old printer, landline phones, a VR headset, a box of wires, and a lot of rugs. “We got some couch donations and then some rug donations, but it turned out we didn’t like them, so now we’re trying to get rid of them,” said co-editor and publisher Mark Krotov. Web editor Lisa Borst led the charge in disposing of the rugs. “I think to be a scrappy magazine and to have bougie rugs just doesn’t line up,” she said. “If any donors are reading The Fine Print, f/k/a Off the Record, I think a nice kilim flat weave would be great.” By 6:30 p.m., about 35 people had filled the space, and several rugs were sold soon after.
They’ve been getting acculturated to the new building for some time. “We have some podcasts for neighbors. I think they make podcasts about fanfiction and adulting seems to be the vibe, but they’re very nice and they’re always lending us screwdrivers,” said Borst. “There’s also a kids therapy center. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., there’s always adorable maladjusted toddlers in the hallway running around. They’re so cute. Once, one of them sort of wandered in. And then there’s a photography studio that sometimes has casting calls for models. So occasionally, there’ll be leggy willowy women in the hallway, too. It’s quite a scene.” The office itself didn’t feel complete until the shelves with the back issues went up — back issues, after all, make a magazine office. Coolers of beer and pizza from Paulie Gee’s don’t hurt either. “We went to the beer distributor and we were feeling strongly that we needed to get this big thing of Coors, and then our colleagues were making fun of us for getting Coors. So now I have to drink Coors,” said Krotov. The objections came on political grounds. “I guess they destroyed Golden, Colorado,” he said and took a sip.
For Krotov, the garage sale felt like it presaged a new era. “My daughter is four, and I just read an article today that finally the vaccines are coming, possibly as soon as next week, for the kids, so that’s a big milestone,” he said. “We’re gonna rage.” However, he’s not sure that that much will change. He and his daughter have been going to the movies pretty regularly anyway. “Film Forum is very consistent with their kids stuff on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it’s Buster Keaton and sometimes it’s Miyazaki, and that is a good gamit to run,” he said. He’s mostly avoided exposing her to too many mainstream contemporary kids films. “The Disney thing, she’s going to somehow experience either directly or through osmosis,” he said. “I’m not contributing to that.”
The other thing he’s looking forward to is a return to full-scale n+1 parties. “We’re hoping to finally have a real party in the near future,” he said. “That has not happened since the pandemic.”
Later on Thursday evening, former New York Tyrant editor Jordan Castro launched his novel The Novelist at Theatre 80 St Marks in the East Village. The novel’s dispersal wasn’t the only thing on Castro’s horizon. “I’m starting a press soon,” he told The Fine Print in the lobby before the event. “We’ve got books by Dean Kissick, Honor Levy, Michael Clune, Scott McClanahan, the crew.” Though there’ll be some overlap with the old Tyrant list, it won’t be exactly the same. “We’re going to keep some of the good stuff and expand in new directions,” he said. In the meantime, he’s planning to celebrate the release of his book by going upstate to attend a dairy festival. “We’re gonna chill out with our dogs and relax,” he said. “I have a doberman cattle dog mix and a shih tzu. The little one’s actually kind of the boss.”
The proceedings were emceed by Wet Brain podcast hosts Walter Pearce and Levy, who broadcast the whole thing from a camera strapped to her head, and featured readings and music from Kissick, artist and filmmaker Amalia Ulman, Zoom warbler and novelist Tao Lin, and the anonymous writer of @writers_life_tips. “When will the charade end?” he asked the crowd. “I’m tired of confronting New York Times journalists in the streets, begging for scraps. All the stuff you’ve written about Dimes Square and I haven’t seen my name once. I invented this entire scene! It’s my baby. Imagine for a second being a father. Now, imagine your baby is pried out of your hands by journalists who are just looking to make a quick buck off of it.”
The crowd they attracted exceeded the theater’s capacity limits. “We’ve been told there’s way too many people in this room because Jordan hasn’t been reading his emails properly, so this is highly illegal,” Kissick announced at one point. “Maybe like 30 of you need to leave.” In attendance were Fuccboi novelist Sean Thor Conroe, Our Struggle co-host Drew Ohringer, and The Paris Review’s Kan-Sperling. Was this more her scene than softball? “This isn’t my job,” she said, “this is just for fun.”
Sunday: At 4 p.m., in Black Spring Books’ garden in Williamsburg, New York Times Magazine contributing writer and Pulitzer-winner Matthieu Aikins will be reading along with novelist John Wray, The Offing essay editor Hawa Allan, memoirist Nicole Treska, and writer Robb Todd, with music by The Arturo Bandinis.
Monday: At 6 p.m., MSNBC anchor Katy Tur will have a party for her new memoir Rough Draft with MSNBC president Rashida Jones at Pebble Bar in Midtown. At 8 p.m., also in Midtown, novelist Lindsay Lerman will launch her latest book, What Are You at Russian Samovar.
Wednesday: At 7 p.m. at Caveat on the Lower East Side, Penta magazine senior editor Mitch Moxley will host a staged reading of his Anthony Bourdain-inspired play Last Room.
Thursday: At 7 p.m. on the rooftop of the Public Hotel on the Lower East Side, The Drift will hold its issue seven launch party. Also at 7 p.m., at McNally Jackson Seaport, Atlantic staff writer Kaitlyn Tiffany will be launching her study of fangirl culture, Everything I Need I Get From You, with a panel discussion featuring Vulture writer Rebecca Alter, Daily Beast entertainment editor Allegra Frank, Vulture deputy news editor Zoë Haylock, and Atlantic newsletter team editor Kate Lindsay. And at 7:30 p.m., n+1 co-founder Keith Gessen will be talking about his new book Raising Raffi at the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene with New York Times opinion writer Jessica Grose.
Friday: At 5:30 p.m. New York Focus will host a picnic in Prospect Park.