It’s Autumn on the east coast. The leaves are orange & falling. They are beautiful & bountiful & the other night I was at a party & I got really drunk & my friend kept handing me leaves & for some godforsaken reason, I kept putting them in my mouth. I munched on each leaf for a few seconds, remembered that I was eating a filthy ashy insect-bitten thing that had met no small number of people’s boot bottoms, & spat it the fuck out. I did this over & over & over again.

[Note: I started writing this about a month ago. The leaves have since been mounded into a paste of Halloween’s past & snow & salt & shit.]

meme of anime woman talking to anime man with autumn trees in the background. caption says I'm so pumped for autumn I'm gonna fill my ass with leaves

I think that last part summarizes my MFA experience as I near the end of my first semester. I am being handed things I don’t know what to do with but can see the aesthetic & spiritual value of. I chew on everything for a little while but ultimately can’t bring myself to digest anything. It’s pretty well understood that people get what they make out of their MFA & oftentimes, one has to parse how they choose to interpret & absorb information that may or may not be beneficial to one’s work — but it’s not even about the learning process.

Writing just isn’t fun anymore.

I’ve sort of developed this reputation as the guy who keeps wanting to drop out. Now, most of that is on me because, well, I keep saying to my cohort (& sometimes faculty) that if they don’t let me leave I’m going to jump off the roof of our six-story library. But I can’t even tell anymore if that’s something I started doing as a bit or if I’m just so cynical that I thought I’d feel better about being here if I already made myself out to be the unspirited miserable guy.

& despite the, well uh, spite that courses through my tiny bitter veins (developed through years of being involved in terrible subculture politics & watching my peers emotionally cannibalize each other), I’m not naturally a miserable person really. I’m a goof. I love things & people & there’s no reason that I shouldn’t be so fucking stoked to be in an environment where I get to be around (& occasionally be actual friends with) weird writers who are doing brilliant work. Y’know like…every week is a goddamn gift. I get to see people transform worlds on the page & use language in ways I’d never imagined. It’s such a fucking privilege.

& that’s the issue. It’s a privilege.

There’s this dude in my program, who (on that same night in which the previously mentioned leaf-eating occurred) I (again drunkenly) really hit it off with. We even swapped the top layers of our Halloween outfits & talked about our parallel love lives. At some point, while shouting our newfound mutual adoration, they said “Y’know, how have we never hung out before? I feel like you just get it because you’re so wild & anti-academic.”

& that broke me. Because…I am anti-academic. Or, I thought I was. Because if that’s still the case, what the fuck am I doing here?

Everything I know about poetry I learned through intellectual piracy, open scholarship, & accidentally falling in love with interesting people. This shit used to happen in a way that somehow was both unintentional & on my terms. But now I sorta kinda belong to an institution (an institution that pays my rent & groceries to write silly poems about cringe Final Fantasy XIV chats & wanting to kill myself).

& this institution is supporting me in a city that it pillages, a city that features a wild wealth disparity across class, gender, & race lines — with good-intentioned people who only know how to seal the band-aid but not the wound. It reminds me so much of my beloved Town of Hempstead, & in many ways, it’s worse here.

I am, in essence, a result of everything that has touched me. I wear Long Island on my hairy silver-cross-dangling & perky-titted chest. I wear my emo bullshit on the ridiculous tattoos I’ve spent an irresponsible amount of money on. I’ve inherited gallons of sisig & chicharrones & beer stored in my belly & ankles. All the video games I’ve played are saved for eternity in my ever-thickening glasses lens. I could go on…

…& I will. I’m a product of Nassau Community College. I’m a product of every fucked up clinic I’ve worked at. I’m a product of every unstable friend group I’ve ever attached myself to out of fear of solitude. I’m a product of every expectation that’s been had of me. None of this is particularly good or bad. But at least I felt like I was working toward something good, at least I was trying, at least I was living my scumbag life in a way I was proud of.

But I’m having trouble finding things to be proud of, to feel like I’m working toward something good. Getting into a graduate program for selfish reasons doesn’t do anything for me because I do not contribute to anyone by writing my silly little poems. Not that I was any great shakes before, but at least I could provide a service.

My mother always says we come from a country whose greatest export is its people. I have lived my entire life in service & not for a cause but to persons — because it’s literally my only instinct. It’s the only way I can see myself deserving of oxygen. It would be nice if I could turn this into a whimsical & punchy narrative about this coming from some generational/cultural/diasporic trauma, but really I’m just kinda damaged lol.

& sure, I could pretend that my mission statement of writing poems for weird little bullied nerdy emo kids might somehow be interpreted as contributing, but I’m not attending this program for them, I’m attending for me.

& to be held by an academic institution, to have it shape my art (the thing I see as the only good expression of myself) & to be in conversation with people playing the social marketing game with their art; it doesn’t feel good man.

& that’s not anyone’s fault. Shit, if you can get paid doing what you love, get it. I think people should have jobs that fulfill them. I think people deserve to be able to be paid for their art. I just can’t relate, like to the point where oftentimes I can’t even logically comprehend or process this desire that is VERY common amongst writers. So I fully understand that I’m the one being weird about it — but I’m too scared to involve writing with my livelihood because it's the only aspect of myself I haven’t commodified.

This environment betrays my sense of self. I don’t want to commodify my writing & I don’t believe in societal hierarchies. But here I am, in the literary world, in the academic world, & I can’t make heads or tails of this shit & I’m too uncomfortable to figure it out.

Like, (& in an elective class outside my department no less), a professor stopped me mid-sentence to “challenge” me to “start talking like an academic.” & like, I get it. She wanted me to speak with the precision & conciseness needed for the seminar environment being cultivated, for the benefit of my peers who were conducting themselves seriously — but an environment with those terms of engagement goes against every fiber of my being. Yet, these are people who are actively researching ways to make sustainable food systems. This is the only time I’m in a classroom where everyone in it is trying to make the world a better place & I can’t speak the language.

So no, I’m not cut out for academia. I don’t belong here. I don’t even particularly like being here. But I’m stubborn & if I can’t help make the world a better place in the confines of a university, I can at least class down this literary joint & get a night-shift job to make a lil more money (stipend ain’t cutting it babe), but more importantly, start to feel like I’m doing something a lil more productive & whole again.

Because, no, I don’t think we should be defined by labor in a capitalist society — but I like feeling like I’m working hard at something. I like feeling like I’m doing something for someone else — even if it’s for a check. I just want to feel okay about how I get my check.

[insert segue music here]

Because buddy let me tell you, I could use some more checks for frank/coney combos & root beer!! What’s a coney??? I’m so fucking glad you asked!! A coney (now officially renamed as the snappy griller, though everyone seems to just call it a coney when they order) is apparently a beloved Syracuse New York tradition. It’s a cased white (color comes from the egg whites & lack of smoking/curing) hotdog-sausage hybrid, with strong pork and veal flavor. (a frank, on the off-chance that some of the 0 people reading this aren’t American, is just a regular red hot dog — though in this instance, specifically one with a nice snappy casing).

So there are a couple of things I need to address here.

First, let’s start with the term “coney.” My Brooklyn-born father raised me to understand that a “Coney Island” hot dog refers to a cased Nathan’s hot dog with chili & onions. I think I broke his heart the second I started putting cheese on it too. But I’ve never heard anyone in the NY Metropolitan area refer to a hot dog as a “coney.” [to the Midwest, I know y’all have your own language for this stuff, but I don’t have it in me to speak on your affairs at the moment.]

Secondly, I need to address the matter of casing. If you don’t know, the casing is the edible shell/skin that some hot dogs are processed in. If you bite into a hot dog & there’s a little snap or pop to it, that means you’re eating a cased dog. Casing is typically made from animal intestine collagen, which might sound gross but I promise it’s fucking delicious.

Casing seals in all the flavor when the hot dog cooks. It also adds a nice crisp texture contrast to the processed meat (if you fry, grill, or roast your dogs — which you should) & because the hot dog is able to keep its form more easily with the casing, the meat inside is typically less mushy & contains less filler.

However, if we are to think of hot dogs as affordable food, casing turns easy sustenance into utter decadence, as it raises the price EXPONENTIALLY. A pound of unskinned hot dogs in the Atlantic Northeast rounds out to about $1-$3 per pound. Their cased cousins can go anywhere from $4-$10.

Now, I refuse to be a snob when it comes to literature, I am even more adamant about not being a snob when it comes to food. I mean shit I just ate a 60¢ can of vienna sausages for breakfast & it was fucking delightful. My mom used to make it for me all the time & it’s one of the few childhood groceries she didn’t pretend to become too good for when our family was able to move into a lower-middle-class suburb (I still love you Bimbo bread, Peter Pan peanut butter, & Borden cheese & boy are you guys holding it down for my pantry now that I have my own place).

So I refuse to speak ill of any hot dog. All hot dogs are delicious & are worthy of love. That said, a good cased hot dog is a transcendent experience & I implore you to try it if you haven’t before.

In the town of Liverpool, just north of Syracuse, there’s a famous hot dog shack called Heid’s. They use the Syracuse sausage brand Hoffman for all their hot dogs (both the red franks & the white coneys) & allegedly Heid’s dogs have an exclusive spice mix in them made only for them. I went with my dear new friend (& sorta similarly reluctant member of my program cohort) Misha in a half-hearted attempt to get him to ditch class with me.

& it’s a damn fucking good hot dog & I know a thing or two about hot dogs. My 6th birthday party was at a Nathan’s. Both the frank & the coney are spiced really well, they’re lightly fried up on the griddle, just before the casing starts to blister but right after getting a nice char. They’re served on these neat thick & fluffy buns that are like a cross between a traditional hot dog bun & a slice of white bread.

I dressed up my frank with ketchup (don’t start with me, I will fight you & I will win), yellow mustard, & sweet relish — & my coney with spicy & yellow mustard, onions, sweet & non-sweet relish. Both were absolutely fucking delectable. They were meaty & juicy, working in concert with the tangy toppings. The bun was great too, I’ve noticed all the breads & doughs up here have a pretty pronounced yeasty flavor, which I like a lot (they can’t figure out how to bake a pizza properly tho, go figure).

& what do I wash my dogs down with? A root beer! That’s right, I’m finally doing the thing this blog was meant to do 7 months & 2 posts in. I’m declaring a food pairing:


Any root beer will do. I think this one was & A&W. I would suggest from a fountain with ice, so it can get a little watered down for maximum drinkability because hot dogs can get salty y’know?

The flavor profile of a hot dog can become incredibly balanced as is with the right toppings. The porky, beefy, & salty forefront with notes of garlic & spices can be nicely enhanced & contrasted with your typical mustards, relishes, ketchups (again I’ll fucking fight you), & onions. Consider that with how quickly one can actually enjoy a meal of hot dogs (however many that is to you)& the pairing criteria becomes simplified. I don’t need a palette cleanser; I just need something good to wash it down with.

This is where root beer becomes the ideal soda fountain option, because the salty smokey residue from all the gulped glizzies (sorry) & the sweet vinegary bitey notes from the majority of available condiments, don’t necessarily get washed down well from the other usual suspects.

Cola is already out. Pure, almost creamy sugar is gonna do nothing to counteract the flavors lingering in your mouth & it’ll just add another layer to wash down. Lemon-lime & orange are slightly better options, revitalizing a tongue weighed down by chopped onion & relish, but will likely be helpless against any ghosts of mustard while also enhancing any ketchup tasted. Not to mention these fruity sodas will linger in the mouth, & wouldn’t mesh well with any of the lingering hot dog notes. Dr. sodas — somehow cloying, caramel, & fruity all at once — would replicate to have all of these problems combined. & diet sodas are completely out of the question (which is sad, because that’s actually my go-to) because those motherfuckers are SALTY. This isn’t food & soda pairings on the condition you also have a glass of water with it, this is food & soda PAIRings.

& so that leaves us with root beer. Like cola it has a nice creamy finish that is pleasing to a salty mouth & can co-exist with those flavors, should they stick around. Unlike cola, it isn’t nearly as cloying & with its earthy, herby, & borderline minty tones — it’ll cut through some of the richness & salt to breathe some new life into your mouth while not completely clashing with the sharper flavors of the condiments.

Root beer isn’t a common go-to soda choice, but just like a snappy-cased hot dog, it’s a nice simple treat. When days feel weird & long & unsatisfactory & you’ve got an extra 10 dollars in your pocket. Get yourself a root beer & some good hot dogs. Sit on a dirty counter, bring a friend or make a new one. Laugh, talk about silly shit, & remind yourself that life is good. Things don’t always have to be so complicated.

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Other stuff!!!

Whew, if you read all that. More power to you. Thanks for entering my void. I hope it didn’t rob too much of your energy on this fine Sunday & maybe you got some enjoyment out of it.

I love this blog. In a world of deadlines & workshops, it’s my little weirdo corner of the internet where I can let loose. I’m gonna keep this going for sure. But I also wanted to share a new passion project, which like this blog will also be a way to express myself uninhibitedly. I’m a poet at heart, though, so I love a little constraint to my expression.

& nothing says constraints like the rules systems & world building of TABLETOP ROLE PLAYING GAMES. I’m putting it out into the universe. I’m designing my own TTRPG. It’ll be a totally free PDF zine using some already established systems. The basic gist is: suburban fantasy demon (& maybe ghost) hunting in a fictional mall. I’m aiming to tie the spells with music & give players a lot of customizable options with their character’s theme & abilities.

No idea when it’s coming out. I’m still working out all the details, finer points, & math but I’m really fuckin hyped. Here’s a cover concept mock-up rife with copyright infringement (but not of independent artists so its cool).

COVER ART READING: THAT TIME THE WORLD WAS SAVED BY MIXTAPES & MALLRATS in a jagged edgy font with black & white comic book art of two teenagers in a music store. their eyes have crossed out ink effects. one is listening to music, holding a dagger. the other is crossing her arms, & wearing a witch hat.

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late playlist for autumn

Burned Bridges ~ Looming
Disconnect ~ Basement
Call From You ~ Anxious
RIVER ~ Age Factory
You've Made Us Conscious ~ The Audition
Indiana ~ Meg & Dia
Swear ~ Tigers Jaw
Siempre Sabrás Llegar a Casa ~ Camiches
Straight North ~ Koyo
Return to Life ~ Praise
Bad Habit ~ Steve Lacy
Stream ~ audrú
Until I Walk Through the Flames ~ Pay for Pain
Everyone Left Me for Boston ~ Riley Stallings
蒼き日々 ~ plenty

early playlist for longing

Eighteen ~ Joyce Manor
Where Needles and Lovers Collide ~ If I Die First
Left for Dead ~ American Nightmare
Plays Pretty for Baby ~ Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer
Tame ~ Joyce Manor
Burden You ~ Pity Sex
Like Seed ~ Adventures
Length Away ~ Lemuria
What Would You Do ~ Tigers Jaw
Hysteric - Acoustic Version ~ Yeah Yeah Yeahs