Islands and Coasts
Making waves this week: David Bressler, Brittany Mehmedovic, Eddie Rice, Sophie Erickson, Simon van Zuylen-Wood, Liz Boyd, Joe DeLessio, Joshua Hunt, Christopher Hooks, and many more…
There’s just 24 days left of summer, but the back-to-school jitters will be here even sooner. So, it’s now or never to unplug and lap up these lackadaisical days when everybody’s either traveling, just returned from a journey, or preparing to set off. So, to chart the flow of the stuff of life this week, we cast our net a bit wider than usual: from Tokyo to the Azores to (of course) the James J. Walker Park softball field.
On Monday, New York magazine took on The Problem with Jon Stewart on the softball field in James J. Walker Park in the West Village. “We have a long history of playing TV teams, but TV shows don’t always last that long,” said David Bressler, former director of editorial business affairs at New York and a former coach turned player. They defeated their first TV opponents of the season, Desus & Mero, who have since gone off the air. “What’s kind of fun about the TV shows is that they don’t have the legacy, they don’t have the alumni,” Bressler added. “They’re pretty into it. They’re all new. They’ve all just started working together in the last year or two. There are a lot of young producers. But there’s the flip side of that, which is they don’t have the old school — the guys who’ve been playing on the team for 20 years.”
The Problem was in its first season on the field and had only played other TV teams so far. They’d lost to Desus & Mero and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but two weeks ago had gotten a boost from their 9-7 victory against Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Gathering intel on their opponents, they seemed happy to hear that New York was coming off a loss against Vanity Fair. “Good,” said senior talent producer and team coach Brittany Mehmedovic. “They’re going to lose to Jon Stewart too.”
Another fresh talent on the field was 10-year-old Eddie Rice, who accompanied his father, New York contributing editor Andrew Rice. The young Rice changed up some of the rhythms of the game. When Mason Webb, a sculptor turned ringer — “I’m a mercenary,” he explained, “I got brought on to kill out here” — had a painful-looking slide into first base and stood with blood rolling down his shin, New York regular and New York Times culture reporter Joe Coscarelli offered some support. “Use those bangs and bruises as motivation, let’s fucking go!” Coscarelli shouted. “Language,” Eddie warned. “Oh, sorry, Eddie,” Coscarelli said, “I’ll put a dollar in the swear jar.”
Eddie had a definite effect on his father’s game, coaching Andrew on his batting before he had his most impressive hit of the season so far, though the ball was intercepted by Problem writer and shortstop Henrik Blix. “It definitely helped straighten out my swing a little bit, I got a nice opposite field poke, but you can’t do much much if the shortstop makes an athletic play,” Andrew said. “No, dad, that isn’t your fault. Look at how far back he’s playing,” Eddie told him. “That’s just really good coaching,” Andrew said. “Obviously, their analytics department knows where I tend to put the ball in play.” After Eddie took his turn at bat, Andrew noted, “Eddie has more hits in this league than I do.”
Though The Problem had a few veterans, like senior producer and pitcher David Sokoler, who used to play with Last Week Tonight, they were generally modest about their abilities. “We’re all pretty bad, no real standouts,” said Sophie Erickson, lead producer for The Problem’s podcast, of all the TV teams. “I’m Spanish. We don’t play this sport,” sound producer Miguel Carrascal said. “I play soccer. I always played goalie for many, many years, so I can catch things. But my strengths are yelling and applauding loudly.” Their confidence seemed to rally when Sokoler hit the team’s first home run of the season. Line producer Daniel Glantz followed up with another home run, and they eventually had a grand slam. “We haven’t played anywhere else where you can hit the ball out of the park,” said a player with The Problem. Their opponents were duly impressed. “They’re better at softball than their own TV show,” said New York staff writer Simon van Zuylen-Wood.
At the end of the 9th inning, the teams initially agreed that the score was tied 16-16, but there were second thoughts in the New York dugout. “So here’s the thing, I think we actually have 17, but we told them it was 16,” said coach and New York sports writer Joe DeLessio. “What do we do?” Eddie, the eternal enthusiast, pitched in, “Let’s keep playing!” Associate editor Louis Cheslaw appealed to his colleague for her professional opinion: “How does the fact checking department feel about this?” Fact checker Liz Boyd was off the clock, though. “I love it,” she said.
“We’ve got to win this fair and square,” Coscarelli said, “three times over.” So they went into extra innings, but the score stayed tied. “No matter what happens,” said Bressler, who looked over at The Fine Print, “he’s going to write that we had 17, so it’ll be fine.”
“I think technically we won,” said the elder Rice, “but spiritually it was a hard-fought tie.”
“Tie, win,” said Coscarelli, “who gives a shit?”
THE HOME FRONT
When New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and GQ contributor Joshua Hunt put his stuff in storage in June, he’d given up on staying in his Bushwick apartment but hadn’t yet given up on New York City. “My sublease ended in June, and I actually was going to stay even though they were raising the rent a few hundred dollars,” he told The Fine Print from Tokyo early on Thursday morning, but he had trouble showing that his income was 40 times the rent as the landlord required. “That really got me. They were like, ‘You need a cosigner,’ and I’m from a very poor family. There’s no one in my family that could cosign for me. Most of my relatives pay probably less than half of what I pay in rent. So, I kind of panicked for a bit, and then was like, ‘Well, fuck it.’ I lined up some work that I could do in Japan, put my stuff in storage, and figured I’ll go work in Japan for the summer and come back in September, and things will be cooled down, and I’ll be able to find an apartment then.”
He’d moved to New York in the spring of 2021 after spending almost a decade living abroad. “I’d only really lived in New York for a year for graduate school at Columbia. I’d never had the fully adult New York experience, and I also thought, cynically, this is a good time in my career to be in New York,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll have all these meetings with editors.’ Meanwhile, I never did a single story about New York while I was living there. All my stories had me traveling to New Mexico or Paris or Japan or Alaska. And I don’t think I had a single in-person meeting with any editor that I actually worked with. All the editors that I worked with, we just talked on the phone or by Zoom. I had many more lunches with my agent, which is probably why he’s not my agent anymore.”
Hunt spent time hanging out with media friends like Eater enterprise editor Matt Buchanan, Rolling Stonecorrespondent Jack Crosbie, Jewish Currents contributing editor Sid Mahanta (“who ends up in your pages quite a bit,” Hunt noted), and a fellow Alaskan, Bloomberg reporter Josh Saul, but he stayed away from larger media gatherings. “I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of the media social scene,” he said. He felt like struggling to stay in New York could be analogous to the sorts of situations he’d gotten himself into earlier in his life when he’d bitten off more than he could chew, which he described in his guest essay in The New York Times opinion section. “Coming from a non-traditional background for a journalist, it’s tough to get rid of the chip on your shoulder. And in thinking that people have assumptions about you because of your background, you end up making a lot of assumptions about other people. That can make social interactions weird. It’s also weird just to go to some party with a bunch of people that you know from Twitter.”
Skepticism wasn’t the only thing that kept him away from media parties. “I did actually want to give the media social scene a chance, but ended up avoiding it partly because I managed not to catch [Covid] until earlier this year, and wanted to keep it that way,” he said. “I RSVP’d to [New York Times Magazine contributing writer] Jamie Lauren Keiles’s birthday party, for example, when my buddy Matt Buchanan suggested it. But I opted not to go in the end because I had a reporting trip coming up and was terrified of catching Covid and being forced to cancel the trip.”
Hunt only decided not to move back to the city a few weeks ago. “A friend of mine invited me to take over her lease for a place in Chelsea, and the rent was $2,500. I was thinking about it and then I noticed she didn’t have a single good thing to say about the apartment. She kept talking about what a shithole it was, and how the neighborhood’s not great. And I just was like, ‘What the fuck am I doing? The fuck is wrong with me?’” he said. “One criterion for success in journalism is a real insane level of ambition that’s not compatible with anything that might be considered normal or good. And I think the whole ‘making a go of it in New York’ thing goes a little bit hand in hand with that. During these times of remote work, when there’s not really any reason for me to be in New York, I still was telling myself like, ‘Oh, no, I’ll make it work.’”
So, in September, he’ll move to Portland, Oregon. “Why would I want to work hard and spend every fucking cent I have to live in a place where the amount of work that I have to do to afford to live there just makes me miserable?” he said. “Why not live in this other city where I already lived for a long time, where I have lots of friends? I always have a good time when I visit, my rent would be half what it is in New York, the flights to East Asia, where I travel very frequently, are much shorter, the flight back home to Alaska is much shorter. And on top of that, again, all my work requires me to go travel somewhere other than New York, it seems.”
He’s looking forward to riding his custom road bike up to Mount Hood, spending time with old friends who don’t work in media, and introducing a Jindo dog he and an ex-girlfriend rescued several years ago in Korea to America.
A couple of months ago, as bad news like the Dobbs decision and the Uvalde shooting compounded, Texas Monthly senior editor Christopher Hooks began searching for an escape. “I started compulsively researching the most remote place I could easily go on vacation and the Azores was up there,” he told The Fine Print. So on June 29, he jetted off to the Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the North Atlantic for eleven days of hiking and motorcycling. “It feels like the rest of Europe and the world is collapsing right now, with high temperatures and drought and everything. And everything on the Azores seemed untouched and pristine in a way that was really, really nice,” he said. “I sort of don’t want people to know about it, because it seemed like it was pretty untouched, in a way that I hope stays true, but it was by a wide margin the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.”
Over his eleven-day stay, he luxuriated in a rare solitude. “There’s a spot on Flores island, which is one of the more remote islands, where there’s maybe a dozen waterfalls coming down a cliff that’s several hundred feet high, in front of a mountain lake in the middle of the jungle. Because there’s so many waterfalls, there are, it seems frequently, rainbows across the lake. I went right after a rainstorm. There was nobody there. And it was pretty amazing,” he recalled. “It is a great place to be alone, which is kind of what I wanted out of this trip,” he said. In that space, he had time to reconsider the shape of his life back home. “It helped me decide to quit my job, which I think I’ve needed to do for a while, and go back to freelancing,” he said.
He’ll be on staff at Texas Monthly until September 2, and though he doesn’t necessarily expect to return to the Azores as a reporter, he’s looking to keep the feeling he found there going. “It does mean more freedom and more variety,” he said. “I got in touch with that a little bit while I was over there.”
➾ 6 p.m. Translator and Edie Sedgwick’s sister Alice Sedgwick Wohl will discuss her new book As It Turns Out: Thinking About Edie and Andy with New York contributing editor Lisa Miller at the Rizzoli Bookstore in Midtown.
➾ 6:30 p.m. Relative newcomers The Drift will take on ferocious non-league media softball old-timers Vanity Fair on Central Park’s North Meadow softball fields.
➾ 5:30 p.m. The Paris Review will play DC Comics at a location still to be determined (by The Fine Print, at least). We expect advisory editor Dan Piepenbring to yell at the pitcher about all of his favorite Marvel characters.
Have a moment? Let us know!