Permanence & Ephemera
Carousing through the city: Talia Baiocchi, Amanda Kludt, Stephanie Wu, Brian and Jamie Stelter, Carolyn Ryan, Carl and Christine Bernstein, James B. Stewart, Jeffrey Toobin, Elena Kostyuchenko, Bela Shayevich, Matthew Shen Goodman and many, many more…
In the run-up to a holiday, a month can compress into a week. All of November’s working, worrying, and partying seemed to be concentrated in the week before Thanksgiving. It was impossible to attend to everything that seemed appealing or important, so here’s an immoderate, but not exhaustive, selection of the stuff of life as it raced around the city that week.
OUT AND ABOUT
The cocktails were strong, the snacks minimal, and the tattoos permanent at the 10th-anniversary party for Punch — Vox’s drinking culture site, not the defunct British cartoon rag — at Public Records in Gowanus on Monday, November 13. The tattoo artists, who came from a Brooklyn studio called Obsessed, were confident that their designs of cocktail glasses, skewered humanoid olives, and anthropomorphized bottles wouldn’t end up on anybody too drunk to know what they were doing. “There’s a fine line between what’s consensual and not consensual, right? You do have to be very coherent and sober and know what you’re agreeing to. We have the consent forms. We definitely know when to cut it off,” said one. “It’s a judge of character and legibility and speech. It’s fun to get drunk and get a tattoo, I’ve been there. So we’re just having fun with it, but…”
How many of the tattoos had Punch founder and editor-in-chief Talia Baiocchi gotten? “I have gotten zero. This is Chloe [Frechette], our deputy editor, she’s gotten one. Allison [Hamlin], I don’t know where she went, she has one,” Baiocchi said. “We actually cribbed that from Eater. They had a cookbook party, and this tattoo artist was on site, and it felt really fun, so we designed tattoos as part of our ten-year.” Before launching the site in 2013, Baiocchi considered using “antidote.com” as the URL. Does she still own that? “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that whatever credit card that was on is long gone,” she said. “I wasn’t even thinking that this would be ten years old when I launched it.” How bad of a hangover was she expecting? “I actually have to fly to L.A. first thing in the morning, so I’m hoping not too bad,” she said. “For every one drink, one glass of water. That’s my general rule. And just sip slow.”
Eater, Thrillist, Popsugar, and Punch group publisher Amanda Kludt had gotten a tattoo of olives on a skewer at the Eater party but was hanging back this time. “I want to make sure I’m giving space because they only do two of each tattoo,” she said. “I feel like the Punch logo will probably go last because no one wants a logo. But some people might. Diehards might. I might, if it’s the last one and no one else is waiting.” Taste editor-in-chief Matt Rodbard wasn’t up for it. “I’m tattoo-free,” he said, “but I like the spirit of it.” Among the mass of liquor professionals in the crowd were former head bartender of The Beagle, Tom Richter, and spirits educator Ms. Franky Marshall, and from Punch’s sister sites, Vox executive director of operations in the lifestyle division Ellie Krupnick, Eater editor-in-chief Stephanie Wu, and former Eater executive editor Matt Buchanan. Vox Media chairman and CEO Jim Bankoff huddled up on the far side of the room opposite the tattoo station.
“I feel like the amount of dumb tattoos I have makes me want to get more of them,” said Semafor media reporter Max Tani. “I have one tattoo that I don’t like. It’s just kind of mid. It’s a tattoo that I got when I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, so it’s my first tattoo.” Would he consider getting it removed? “No, no. At this point, I’m 31, my body’s not necessarily getting better. So I don’t really care what kind of tattoo I get. I’ll get another bad tattoo, I don’t have any pretense about that.” Was he ready for the disclosures he’d have to write in every Vox story if he were to get the Punch logo tattoo? “Yeah, it’s not gonna be that,” he said.
Adweek media reporter Mark Stenberg and Dirt contributing editor Terry Nguyễn were focused on a different application of ink. Stenberg was reading a big, non-academic book about Vikings and dreaming of a jaunt north (“My dad’s Norwegian and he’s getting in touch with his roots. I feel like if I feed that fire, maybe he’ll take me on vacation to Norway”). Nguyễn was reading Moby Dick and had just visited Atlantic City (“First time, probably last time”). Their concerns weren’t all so lofty. “We’re not gonna get holiday bonuses this year. We’re probably not even going to have a holiday party. We’re going to have a shitty two-to-four in the office and then karaoke afterward, but I’m not even going to be there. We were like, ‘So we’re going to go to karaoke at 4:30?’” said Stenberg. Still, he wasn’t prepared to surrender to austerity. “I want to get a chain, nice, gold, tasteful,” he mused. “You’re like three years behind, but it’s never too late,” Nguyễn noted. “I think I’m behind it in New York, but I’m ahead of the curve in Texas,” Stenberg protested. “You should get a signet pinky ring,” said Nguyễn. Stenberg taxonomized: “I feel like the chain is a gateway drug to the signet.”
Former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, with his wife Christine Bernstein, looked at home in Michael’s back room. “My son Jacob writes wonderful things for The New York Times and my son Max is Taylor Swift’s guitar player. Tomorrow Max will be 44, but he’s in South America with Taylor. He’s the head of the band now,” he told The Fine Print. Had the elder Bernstein become enough of a Swiftie to recite any lyrics from memory? “I’m a Swiftie by genealogy,” he said. “She’s remarkable. I used to be a rock critic. I’m a real rock and roll guy. I had lunch today with Jann Wenner,” Bernstein said, referring to the Rolling Stone founder whose era of the magazine Shachtman recently denounced as being characterized by “misogyny and racism” in an entire issue devoted to a thorough renunciation of its failings. “We’ve been friends for 50 years.” Death, Sex & Money podcast host Anna Sale was ready to act when she heard about Bernstein’s sons. “My son’s a Swiftie,” she said. “Now I have to be friends with Carl Bernstein for my seven-year-old.”
Unsurprisingly for a party thrown by TV’s best-known media reporter, the room was filled with current and former residents of the beat. Among them were former Times television reporter Bill Carter, NBC News senior news editor for the weekend An Phung, Daily Beast editor-at-large Lachlan Cartwright, Vanity Fair’s The Hive editor Michael Calderone, Times writer-at-large Jim Rutenberg, CNN Reliable Sourceswriter Oliver Darcy (who’d recently celebrated his anniversary with his wife Elise Shae at One White Street in Tribeca. “We’d never been there before, but we took a chance,” he said. “It was very fancy, so we don’t know how to describe it. It’s cheesy to say, but the bread there was fantastic.” “It had raisins in it,” noted Shae), Associated Press media writer David Bauder, New York Times Presents senior producer Rachel Abrams, Los Angeles Times television reporter Stephen Battaglio (in an elegant turtleneck, emphatically not mock), former Reliable Sources executive producer Jonathan Auerbach, Mediaite founder and Newsnation host Dan Abrams, Mediaite founding editor Colby Hall, writer and TheLi.st founder Rachel Sklar, No One Tells You This memoirist Glynnis MacNicol, Wall Street Journaltelevision and streaming reporter Isabella Simonetti, New York features writer Shawn McCreesh, Vanity Fair reporter Charlotte Klein, Max Tani, and Hollywood Reporter writer Alex Weprin. “There was a time when old media would come to Michael’s and new media would go to Balthazar,” Weprin recalled. “I think lunches generally are — not canceled — but just not a thing,” said former Gawker Media chief operating officer Scott Kidder.
Towering above the media reporters — figuratively, literally, but in a chic scarf either way — was New York Times columnist James B. Stewart. He’d just published a story with fellow attendee and Times media reporter Ben Mullin, about turmoil at CNN. “Half the characters in my story are here,” he told The Fine Print. “I’m happy to see anybody any time.” Was there anything that had made him happy outside of work recently? “The answer is yes, but I don’t know if I should elaborate on that. I do have a life outside of work,” he said. What percentage of his life is he able to claw away from his occupation? “The last few weeks have been like negative-10 percent, but it’s usually a healthy percentage,” he said. “I don’t know if people realize how much work journalism is. Sometimes to get one line in there is an unbelievable amount of work. I get laser vision, I bear down, and, unfortunately, everything else goes by the wayside.”
Also circulating around the room were CNN anchor John Avlon, Vanity Fair special correspondent Molly Jong-Fast, On with Kara Swisher executive producer Nayeema Raza, Condé Nast executive producer for audio Steven Valentino (What’s made him happy recently outside of work? “I’m a single gay man in New York, there are HR considerations”), Every editor-in-chief Kate Lee, New York Times work reporter Emma Goldberg (“I might be the worst softball player in New York. I, one time, broke my nose playing softball. It was in the first minute of a game”), Young and Restless author Mattie Kahn, Atria publisher Libby McGuire, and Atria senior editor Nick Ciani. Former CNN legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin had family matters on his mind. What had made him happy recently? “The fact that my two-year-old granddaughter is healthy and that wasn’t always the case. It was a stormy arrival and now she’s great,” he told The Fine Print. “I thought the nepotism thing was interesting. My two kids are in completely different businesses, so I have nothing to fear on that.” It was too early to tell whether there would be more oaklings in the family of Time senior correspondent Charlotte Alter, the daughter of former Newsweeksenior editor Jonathan Alter, and The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos author Mark Chiusano. They were expecting their second child, Alter said. “You’re actually catching us at the first moment that my bump’s out.”
“I love my husband,” said NY1 anchor Jamie Stelter in her speech to the crowd. “He is brilliant and amazing and he keeps telling me, ‘Don’t let me write another book.’ We keep writing more books and we keep having all the anxiety of another book.” Her husband piped up, “Eh, it’s worth it.” Nevertheless, now that his spare time won’t be sucked up by the book, what’s he looking forward to? “What’s my funny answer?” Brian Stelter wondered aloud. “I need to binge the last two seasons of Billions. I paid for Paramount+, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it. So that’s my top priority.” Toward the end of the party, it seemed increasingly unlikely that he’d take up a leisure pursuit any time soon. His bag had been packed and stashed under a table, and he was rushing out to a car that would convey him to LaGuardia. “I have an 11:30 p.m. flight to D.C.,” he said. “If I miss it, I miss it.”
That same Wednesday, media types thronged Bob Dylan’s concert at the Kings Theater in Flatbush. Among them were New York Times culture deputy editor David Malitz, Times reporter Marc Tracy, Odd Lotspodcast co-host and executive editor of news for Bloomberg Digital Joe Weisenthal, Streetsblog deputy editor David Meyer, Know Your Enemy podcast co-hosts Sam Adler-Bell and Matthew Sitman, Harper’s contributor Hannah Gold, Origins of Our Time newsletter writer Tim Barker, Tablet staff writer Armin Rosen, and novelists Andrew Martin and Adam Wilson. “The thing I was most impressed by is his piano playing. I saw him six years ago, but clearly, he has really honed in on playing New Orleans-style piano,” said New Republic and Baffler contributor Andrew Marzoni in his second concert review in this column. “I was not expecting the main event to be admiring his musical prowess.” Dylan’s voice was about what you’d expect, noted The Fine Print’s David Klion, adding that Dylan closed his set with a harmonica solo that, unlike his voice, sounded as good as it did in the ’60s.
At the beginning of n+1’s party to celebrate the launch of its 46th issue on Friday, November 17, co-editor and publisher Mark Krotov rushed around to boil water and make tea for former Novaya Gazetainvestigative reporter Elena Kostyuchenko, who was stepping aside from her book tour for her reported collection I Love Russia to watch her translator Bela Shayevich read an original short story. “We just came here for Bela’s reading, we’re so excited she’s going to read,” Kostyuchenko told The Fine Print. The caffeine from the tea was becoming necessary. “I’m extremely exhausted. In Chicago, we decided to take everything,” she said. “I had four events in three days. It was fantastic, it was just a bit too much.” She would be heading back to Europe soon after, looking for a place where she’d be safe from future poisoning attempts. “We’re going to figure out where we’re going to live for a while,” she said.
“Thank you so much for coming on a Friday night, we know you have many options,” Krotov told the crowd, introducing the night’s readings. “We have gotten a lot of nice notes from a lot of people over the past month for our coverage of the horror in Gaza, which we appreciate a lot. We love publishing work that is timely, and that is ambitious and that is important and beautiful in spite of horror.” By the entry, someone deposited a pile of issues of The New York War Crimes, a production of Writers Against the War on Gaza, laid out like an issue of The New York Times, which listed the names of thousands of children massacred by Israel in Gaza. It also listed the names of 30 journalists killed in the conflict under the headline “We killed our colleagues.” Protesters had occupied and spread copies around The New York Times lobby the previous week. The bombardment of Gaza had begun as this issue of n+1 went to press, but many of the night’s readings spoke to activist actions that have informed the mobilization since. The anomalous sound of a crying child briefly broke through during the readings.
n+1 web editor Lisa Borst read from an astonishing story by Grace Glass and Sasha Tycko about the protests against the construction of Cop City in Atlanta. The endlessly creative anarchist engineering by the forest defenders in that story left this reporter feeling hopeful and nostalgic, so we surveyed the crowd about their favorite DIY engineering projects. Borst had a particularly vivid memory. “After my freshman year of college, I worked in a Quaker summer camp in Vermont. Really rich kids, basically all rich proto-lesbians who were like 12. It was really fun. I didn’t go there, it was so expensive. My job for half the summer was to teach outdoor living skills, and the marquee skill that you were supposed to come away with was being able to build a shelter out of sticks that you could sleep and spend the night in. So I got good at building those,” she said. “The kids were supposed to build one and then spend the night in it. We gave them a whistle to blow if something scary happened in the night and this one girl blew her whistle really, really early, as soon as it was dark out. We rushed over to find her and she was like, ‘I got in my shelter and then something ran across my feet.’ And we were like, ‘What was it? How big was it?’ She was like, ‘It was either a chipmunk or a man.’”
One reporter requested anonymity to recount the tale of their favorite DIY project. “After working at CNN, I got a $1,600 bonus because of the ratings that had come in because of Trump. Me and my coworker were like, what do we do with our immoral $1,600? We designed a sticker that said ‘Donald Trump has a tiny penis,’ and we put it all over Atlanta. We still have 10,000 left. I still have two rolls at my house,” they said. “If you see ‘Trump has a tiny penis,’ it’s there because I gave them to someone.” Others enthusiastically attached their names to their favorites, among them FSG associate editor Milo Walls (“I built a cob bench as a child”), Columbia Journalism Review contributor Will Tavlin (“I made dioramas, but nothing that required engineering”), Paris Review reader and softball player Owen Park (“I put up some shelves last week. I bartered with this guy at an antique store for this spare wood I found in the basement, so I got two shelves for $10. My roommate found these things that you affix them to on the street. It was a $10 shelf operation. I borrowed a neighbor’s drill”), and Poetry Project newsletter social columnist Grayson Scott(“Tunnels”).
Issue 46 contributor Joshua Craze had been driven to construction by his stomach. “You know Cochinita Pibil? These Mexican dishes where you take a piece of meat and you wrap it in banana leaves? I was living in the south of France, and I dug a smoke pit out of the clay and set up this bizarre interweaved grill thing and then slowly, for two years, smoked lamb in this smoke pit,” he said. “It was totally improvised. It was a grill that I’d made into a suspension bridge with pieces of wire wrapped to the sides.” Baffler editor-in-chief Matthew Shen Goodman compared notes with Craze on a similar project. “I’ve dug a luau thing before,” he said. “It’s the same thing, you dig it, and then you cover it. It was just my dumb ass with a shovel. So two dudes who smoke meat underground.”
Jeff Sisson, principal engineer for storytelling and publishing at The New York Times, might have been the only professional engineer in the crowd. Counted among the non-professional engineers were Baffler fiction editor J.W. McCormack in a floral tie, New York Times Magazine contributing writer Rozina Ali, Peter Thiel–connected Harper’s New Books columnist Dan Piepenbring, Intercept associate editor Schuyler Mitchell, Mother Jones reporters Ali Breland and Noah Lanard, New York Times opinion staffers Rollin Hu, Parker Richards, and Isaac Scher, New York Review of Books online editor Max Nelson, Nation associate literary editor Kevin Lozano, Cleveland Review of Books publisher and high school tennis coach Billy Lennon, Jewish Currents contributing editor Dylan Saba, This Is Europe author Ben Judah, Daily Beast culture reporter Helen Holmes, Paris Review business manager Spencer Quong, and Hammer & Hope editor Jen Parker. A bill fell out of Curbed staff writer Adriane Quinlan’s pocket. Her husband, Andrew Marzoni, picked it up and pocketed it. “That’s my anarchist engineering,” he said, “expropriating from my wife.”
Monday, December 4
➾ 7 p.m. Stranger’s Guide will present a night of travel storytelling featuring contributors Courtney Desiree Morris, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, and Cassim Shepard at McNally Jackson Seaport.
Tuesday, December 5
➾ 6 p.m. The Deadline Club will host its holiday party at the Salmagundi Club in Greenwich Village.
➾ 7 p.m. Atlantic and Washington Post contributor Amy Schiller will discuss her new book The Price of Humanity with Brooklyn College professor Corey Robin at P&T Knitwear on the Lower East Side.
➾ 7 p.m. New York Times culture reporter Alexis Soloski will discuss her debut novel Here in the Darkwith New Yorker staff writer Rachel Syme.
Thursday, December 7
➾ 7 p.m. The Cleveland Review of Books will celebrate its second print issue with a party at Franklin Park in Crown Heights.
Saturday, December 9
➾ 3 p.m. Still Alive will celebrate its first and second issues with a party at Threes Brewing in Gowanus.
Wednesday, December 13
➾ 6 p.m. The New York Association of Black Journalists will host its holiday party at Printers Alley in Midtown.
➾ 6 p.m. Esquire and GQ contributor Mitch Moxley and Bloomberg Businessweek and New Yorkcontributor David Gauvey Herbert will host a holiday party to celebrate the second season of their performance series The Night Editor in Nolita.
➾ 7 p.m. Riverhead Books will host a holiday fundraising party for the Committee to Protect Journalists at Littlefield in Gowanus.
Thursday, December 14
➾ 6 p.m. Lux, Jewish Currents, This Machine Kills, Time to Say Goodbye, and Hammer & Hope will host a holiday edition of their biweekly happy hour at the Francis Kite Club in Alphabet City. Fancy dress is encouraged.
Saturday, December 16
➾ 7 p.m. Mediabistro founder and managing director of Supernode Ventures Laurel Touby and former Inc. acting editor-in-chief Jon Fine will host a holiday bash at their sprawling loft near Union Square.
Tuesday, December 19
➾ 6 p.m. Odd Lots podcast co-host and executive editor of news for Bloomberg Digital Joe Weisenthal will perform with his country music band Light Sweet Crude at the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side.