Tao Lin’s Apartment: A Review, by Megan Boyle
Last October Tao Lin, my ex-husband, put up a post on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to sublet his studio apartment in Murray Hill while he visited family in Taiwan. I responded and PayPal-ed him the significantly discounted friend-rate. I would be staying around four weeks. I had visited Tao’s apartment maybe four times prior and had seen photos on Instagram—darkly lit areas, occult-looking décor, some Buddhist imagery, Adderall taped to the ceiling as a form of rehab, and curiously frequent “smoothie disasters.” I was excited to live alone in Manhattan. I was also excited to hopefully gain insight into the private life of a person I’ve admired both up close and at a distance for years—the kind of insight that can only come from sleeping in their bed and looking at their things every day for around four weeks when they’re not there. That sounds kind of creepy. Here is my review of Tao Lin’s apartment.
The Hanging Thing
When I moved in the giant structure formerly hanging above Tao’s bed was gone. I’d previously seen it in person twice, at sort-of parties, at which I felt surprised by how little attention it was getting. People seemed to treat it like any other passive obstruction. I don’t have memories of asking what it was or why it was there. I’m guessing its materials (Christmas lights, tinsel, black and white cobwebby stuff) were bought or stolen by Tao and his friend* Katie DeMoss from NutHouse, which is across the street and calls itself “New York’s Only 24-Hour Hardware Store.” Sometimes in conversational lulls at a party this December my eyes would wander around the room and land on the hanging thing. The ease at which I could allow such an overwhelmingly insane-looking thing to blend into my idea of “normal party surroundings” combined with knowing it was among the only other not-talking things in the room seemed funny. I’m not sure I’m glad it was gone when I arrived.
- Only one out of four light switches work.
- Two out of three bulbs in his main lamp are white. One is red.
- There is one light in the bathroom. It is red but glows pink and affects the color of your pee.
What Cat Food Tastes Like
While preparing dinner at a friend’s apartment a few nights ago, I asked if their cat should eat too. Then someone fed the cat. Then I asked if I should eat cat food too. Then people said “yes” and I did. I think that’s how it happened. I know it started as a joke but then it tasted surprisingly OK. Later at a deli I excitedly selected cans of wet cat food for a taste-test experiment I promised myself I’d do first thing in the morning. After my hangover subsided, I felt more able to seriously consider two futures: the one where I’d never know what wet cat food tasted like, and the one where I would. In both futures I’d eventually end up dead, but the one where I’d eat cat food seemed more exciting. With that said, actually making myself eat the canned reconstituted meat morsels took longer than anticipated. I succumbed to misguidedly productive acts like finding “the perfect eating-cat-food outfit” (pink striped dress: too naive; button-down under a black sweater: too smart; red flannel dress: just right?), photo-testing locations for the best place to eat (a plate on the floor: obvious and kitschy; sitting at a table: unrealistically ordinary; bed: psychotic), and letting “research-based” internet activity devolve into gawking at YouTube videos about cannibalism and falling asleep with a knife under my pillow. OK. Enough explaining, I’m introducing this like I’ve committed a sex crime or something. I ate some cat food. That’s all that happened. Here’s what I thought.
Purina Cat Chow: Naturals Plus Vitamins & Minerals
Packaging: 16-ounce green bag with a Ziploc seal for freshness. Features colorful clip art-like illustrations of vegetables, grains, and a woman resembling Mona Lisa sleepily nurturing a happy, attentive cat on her lap.
Aroma: A little vitamin-y.
Texture: Harder than Captain Crunch, but denser, so it didn’t make those little cuts on the roof of my mouth. Moist enough so there was no fight to combine it with saliva, but crunchy enough to not let me forget I was chewing.
Flavor: I remember saying “it’s like those ‘Chicken in a Biscuit’ crackers” and “it’s ‘umami,’ do you guys know ‘umami,’ that new taste called ‘umami?’” There was a tangy aftertaste. It wasn’t unpleasant at all. Ate a few voluntary handfuls.
Beverage pairing: An affordable sparkling wine. I had been drinking Korbel (Brut, I think) at the time, but a sweeter Prosecco would also fare nicely.
Closing remarks: Could be transformed into larger vessels for humans to spread cheese on.
New Ways to Have Sex
Let half a stick of butter melt in your mouth. This can take a long time. Try to sit still. It will feel less rewarding if you move even slightly. When the butter feels mostly melted, push your tongue against the harder parts. Make them melt against your cheek. Think about how you are dominating the butter with your tongue. The butter has been making you sit motionlessly as it took its sweet time melting, but now the tables have turned. The butter is very bad. It has been very, very bad. Now you are showing it. Show it how to be good. That’s right. Make it melt the right way. Show it how bad it’s been. You’ve known how bad it’s been all along. Spit it out into a bowl. Microwave it until it boils. Good. Now put the butter bowl in the freezer. Teach it a lesson. Look at it, sitting there on the shelf. Look at how good it thinks it is. While you wait for it to re-solidify, write a strongly but vaguely worded letter to the butter manufacturer. Use words like “thick” and “hungry” and “daddy.”
Read the whole thing
Jordan Castro asked if I wanted to go on a four-day reading tour with him, Mallory Whitten, Scott McClanahan, Sam Pink, and Mike Bushnell. I said I did. A reading tour is like a music tour but with writers who know each other from the internet instead of musicians who know each other from bands. I asked everyone to live blog the tour so I could compile our accounts into something at the end. Jordan, Mallory, and Scott emailed me their live-blogs (Jordan’s entire live blog, Mallory’s entire live blog, my entire live blog). Here is what we wrote.
Thursday, September 27, 2012: Columbus, Ohio
Feel very confused about why we stopped at loft apartment of Jordan and Mallory’s friend Andy. Wandered around apartment complimenting things until Mallory drove Sam and I to a pizza place where Mike Bushnell was waiting. Returned to Andy’s with Mike. Jordan said one of us had left a door open and Andy’s cat ran away.
Text from Mom: You sound like you are high or drunk or something. Please don’t be stupid.
Smoked three hits of marijuana from a device that looked like a grocery bag, more hits from a bowl passed around table.
Nauseous. Nodding out a bit. Reading doesn’t start until 11 PM. Incredibly tired. Can’t decide whether I should take more Adderall, drink a Red Bull, or take more Adderall and drink a Red Bull.
Jordan just asked if I was liveblogging. Someone fed me more Adderall. Extremely affected by marijuana and Suboxone maybe.
I didn’t understand something.
These walls look 39 years old.
Megan seems more and more deaf as she smokes weed, completely misunderstanding multiple sentences, seems funny.
I just went into the wrong building looking for the reading. The security guy started walking towards me and shouted into his walkie-talkie: “Intruder in the building. Intruder in the building.”
Needed something to be repeated several times before I understood. Standing next to Mallory while Jordan’s band plays. Sam is behind us and looks wet/feverish.
Despite amount of Xanax I ate, felt very nervous about Sam sweating a lot from drugs.
Guy is belligerently playing jazz drums alone in room where Jordan’s band played.
Person in charge of reading said audience was getting impatient. Feel like I can’t stand up.
Friday, September 28, 2012: Columbus, Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky
Woke up to Scott drinking Busch Light sitting at a table with Sam and Mike who were not drinking Busch Light.
Ate 15mg DXM in backseat on the way to Louisville. Jangled pill bottle between Mallory and Jordan and said “Drug refills? Anyone? Xanax?”
What’s happening with Nicolas Cage’s face? Megan Boyle investigates
Boyle’s Brains - Methods of Escaping Eight New Levels of Hell
OUT OF ADDERALL HELL
This new level of Hell involves eating sugary-tasting toilet paper embedded with precious orange dust molecules that are supposed to help your brain work, but more often lead to 40-minute sprees of neurotically editing late replies to emails, with the hope that their impending completions will motivate you to refocus on neurotically editing the document you originally purchased the Adderall to help you write.
Write about being out of Adderall.
WRITING ABOUT BEING OUT OF ADDERALL HELL
This level of Hell is hard to write about because it involves abandoning some kind of self-containment you had about not wanting to write about Adderall. There is something shameful and gimmicky about what you are doing. Now you are writing about writing and drugs. You said you wouldn’t do that. Your boyfriend doesn’t like it when you do that. If you find yourself in these first two new levels of Hell it probably means you lack a drug dealer or a prescription, which probably means you don’t talk to many people, and one of the many people you don’t talk to is a therapist. That is partially true. Your dad is a therapist. Is it OK to ask him for Adderall? Each sentence you write about being out of Adderall prolongs this level of Hell.
Take sexy pictures of your ass in the mirror.
SEXY ASS HELL
The pictures of your ass on your phone look OK, but when uploaded and maximized on your computer look five times worse than your ass on your phone, which means your ass in real life looks at least five times worse than it does on your computer. What were your plans for those pictures, anyway?
Buy a new outfit from that vintage place you’ve been meaning to check out.
I’ve felt vaguely certain FYE has been in the process of going out of business since I was in middle school and it was called The Wall. Its current inventory is mostly candy, movie memorabilia, Japanese animation-themed backpacks, and accessories for electronic devices I didn’t know existed. Overflowing boxes of bargain DVDs and CDs are arranged with third-world disparateness near the entrance. I know the world is full of struggling musicians, but I’m rarely confronted with so many of them in the same box. Were these albums ever on the normal shelves? Was someone penalized for ordering them? I recently spent about 40 minutes digging through the five-for-a-dollar-box, delighting in the bleakly diverse selection of CDs resting in what would likely become their punchline-y final destination. Then I felt a surge of mournful sympathy towards every musician in the box and paused my digging. Then it was funny again, and I bought the five “best” ones—all of which are currently selling for $0.01 on Amazon.com.
Energia - King África
King África is the stage name of Alan Duffy, an Argentine man of British descent, whose spirit animal is one-half “DJ Khaled at age five,” one-half “one of those giant inflatable wind dancer figures that only exist in used car dealerships and Ibiza.” I wish King África had slightly less money when he recorded this, because I imagine the experience of hearing his booming, joyous voice over a MIDI file would feel like taking a Jell-o shot of Christmas Eve. Most words ending in “r” are followed by África’s signature noise—an exaggerated guttural purr. The noise is really good. Feel like he’s been making the noise since he was a baby, but he still sounds amazed every time it happens.
The single “Salta 2002” is advertised in the album cover’s upper-left corner, directly under a tiny Pringles logo. The chorus of “Salta 2002” translates to “Jump, jump, jump, jump without stopping.” After every chorus, King África repeats something that sounds like “2000, 2000, 2002” eight times in a heavy lisp. “Vitorino” features guest vocals from Los Del Rio, who sing a substantial chunk of their 1996 hit, “Macarena.” The female vocalist from “Macarena” appears on the last track of the album, an English version of “Vitorino.” I hope there was a Los Del Rio/King África tour.
BOYLE’S BRAINS - PEOPLE I MET IN TRUCK DRIVING SCHOOL
This May I passed a trucking school on my bike and enrolled shortly after. For four weeks a small group of men and I watched instructional DVDs and took tests in a classroom Mondays through Thursdays from 5:30 to 10:45. Fridays we’d meet in a relatively empty industrial area under a bridge and take turns practicing pre-trip inspections and air brakes tests on an 18-wheeled truck.
Fifty to 65-year-old administrative assistant who handled my paperwork and told me how the school works. Made self-deprecating comments about not understanding technology and offered me a bottle of water. Asked what size t-shirt I wear and I said “Small.” He looked concerned, said “Are you sure? They shrink in the wash,” then began insisting I take a blue polo shirt instead of a white t-shirt. Another administrative assistant helped us look for the polo shirts in a closet. Jay repeated comments about the shirts shrinking in the wash and the other assistant passively defended the shirts’ integrity. They watched me place a small and medium polo up to my torso. It was quiet for a moment. I looked at the non-Jay assistant, said, “I don’t know, things shrink in the wash,” then looked at Jay and said “I’ll take a medium.” He looked happy.
Class instructor. Moved slowly and looked like he had a permanent twinkle in his eye. Once heard him humming The Addam’s Family theme song as he approached the front of the room with a trucking DVD in his hand. He stood beside the TV, stared into the back of the room, and continued to hum for a few moments after the DVD started playing. I don’t think anyone else was aware of this.
Sat next to me on a foldout chair in the truck yard on my last Friday. I hadn’t seen him before. Advised me to invest in a house that needed fixing up, then stand in a Home Depot parking lot at 6 AM and “wait for the Mexicans to help you.” Told me about a business plan and said, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” The business plan was stupid as hell. Showed me MySpace pictures of the inside of his t-shirt store that went out of business. I said, “It looks… big.” Shortly after that he announced he was Muslim then went into the truck to do his air brakes test. The last thing I heard him say was, “It’s hard for a convicted felon to get a job.”
Skinny 40 to 50-year-old who sat in front of me and frequently said things aloud to no one. Sometimes I’d say things back. One day we were the only people left outside on a cigarette break and somehow ended up having a pause-filled conversation about superheroes, which I thought would end with each successive thing said. Came late to class after cutting in front of a man at a gas station who started hitting him. Wore an AC/DC baseball shirt sometimes.
Who Wrote Ulysses
Ulysses is approximately 270,000 words of content generated by a spambot from the year 6018. Due to a programming error, it was accidentally transmitted to what could best be explained as a “local area network,” but what James Joyce identified as “something rectangular under my bed” in 1919.
That Creepy Thing about David Lynch Movies
Sometimes David Lynch tells actors their character’s sole motivation in a scene is to “Try not to think about me asking you to ‘pull my finger.’”
Sleep Is an Inside Job
I don’t know what makes me want to sleep but I don’t think it’s me.