Last Night a Necklace Saved My Life

BY | Posted on | FILED UNDER Categories Brooklyn, Diglot, Kermis, Lapidary

I received a package in the mail with a new necklace and an earcuff. I did my sanitizing ritual and I immediately start crushing on my new acquisitions. Annika is talented at her craft and makes unfussy things you can wear with anything. But still, this feels vapid. Why do prettiness at a time like this? Cerebrally, I can justify it perfectly: this sale was donating proceeds to health-care workers and I want to continue to support women-owned small business. But this rationale does not account for the discreet, reckless glee when I catch myself in the mirror.

Monica Salmaso’s duets of classic samba bear two distinct traits: very humble objects for percussion instruments, like a clay bowl or aluminum table, and guests airkissing the opposite edge of the frame at each farewell. This awareness of the confining edge and the need to broadcast human contact, mirrors and models for its audience. We Brazilians are big on kissing our cheeks, and touching each other liberally. A stranger might splay his hand over your shoulder blades in a supermarket aisle, just to scooch by with a heavy basket. Contact is not immediately perceived as a threat. The physical boundary of privacy is just not upheld that way. This gets me wondering how long before a random touch will resume being just a signal, and not a sentence.

Matchboxes serving as an impromptu tambourine is an old trope in samba culture. To me, it’s always shown that people are undaunted by not being able to afford a proper instrument, and let nothing stand in the way of their song, which is commendable. But it’s the air kissing the edge of the frame that moves me to tears, because it serves as evidence of their deep commitment to visible affection, but also the more zeitgeisty awareness of spectatorship, like a benevolent, compound investment in the language of togetherness. She titled the series: “ Ô de casas”—this is what you’d say if spontaneously venturing into your neighbor’s home in the Brazilian countryside to announce your arrival. When John Berger draws a line in the sand between nudity and nakedness, he does so by bringing our attention to the fact that nudity includes the awareness of being seen naked. These musicians bring unintended awareness to their separateness and bridge it in a smack.

Today, I also learned that a vibrant screenwriting professor passed away from Covid-19. She was part of the vulnerable group, yet my contact with her left imprints of anything but vulnerability, she was fierce in her feedback, and warm in her humanity. I went back to my class notes and found this:

“The artist’s conflict is always that he wants to do his work,

but the world doesn’t give a damn”

Milena Jelínek, an expat like me, from the Czech Republic, is gone and I haven’t been able to shake off the thought of what her final hours must’ve felt like. I take solace in the fact that she lived fully present, as far as I can tell. If rituals do little for the departed, I think we will just begin to grapple with how being deprived of mourning rites affects our personal threshold between life and death. This edge goes unwatched.

I mark my ongoing aliveness by getting washed, combed, dressed and now, bejeweled. Some people cling on to organization, others productivity, I stick to being presentable. Presentation is interlocution, and interlocution assumes others. Today, phantasmagorical others. This is my week alone while my kid is with his dad. I have to emulate otherness, and I do. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as earcuffs before I struck a friendship with Annika, and now I do. Coping as pizzicato, stringing along, one pluck at a time.

Club Quarantine is another welcome phenomenon in my feed. D-nice just has the most understated demeanor for a DJ and the nostalgic repertoire appeals to my current sensibility. I watch the little response emojis flurry upscreen on his Instagram live and try to relate to this impulse. I place little faith that the action of clicking one more heart icon will give any communal sentiment. My necklace, on the other hand, is palpable, my assumption of others via feeling presentable in front of the mirror, pays off. I enjoy watching D-nice sway his body and get creative on transitions between tracks. Milena taught me how to pay a lot of attention to character entrances and exits, it’s a dramaturgic workout of sorts.

Before undressing to go to bed, I think of the enduring grip of the performance of femininity as I remove my props.  I tend to get unjustly annoyed when complimented on my looks. I’d much rather get high marks for all the qualities that I cultivate in myself, not whatever it is that I got on the DNA crapshoot.

Merit drapes nicer.


BY | Posted on | FILED UNDER Categories Kermis, Manhattan


While the English word ‘kermis’ is adopted from the Dutch to connote a fair with the purpose of raising money for a charity, the word in its native environment means fair, where fun is had, and the moneys made go to those who run it.

The Dutch are fond of idioms, and ‘kermis’ idioms allude to the uproarious, frivolous, or even sinful, as such or in contrast. Its etymology combines ‘kerk’ and ‘mis’—‘church’ and ‘mass.’ Kermis finds its origin in the festival of the people typically held on the church square. Blend Bruegel and Bosch:

Een kermisgang is een bilslag waard: A trip to the kermis is worth a spanking.

Het is kermis in de hel: It’s kermis in hell—it rains while the sun is out

Zo blij als een kermisvogel: Happy as a kermis bird (customer)—very happy

Elkaar verstaan als twee dieven op een kermis: to understand each other like two thieves at the kermis—to get along extremely well.

Het is daar kermis: It’s kermis over there—there’s quite an uproar brewing over there

Het kan niet altijd kermis zijn: It can’t always be kermis—life cannot always be as you wish

NYC is seen by many as ‘een bonte kermis,’ a colorful affair. For tourists and foreign business people entering this kermis at JFK, there often is the fear of cabbies taking you for a ride. Many Japanese businessmen fell victim to cabbies tampering with their meters, as word on the New York streets had it that a fare from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo easily ran the equivalent of $100. “So, why not JFK-NYC?” was the thinking.

In the nineties, a sting was set up in which surrogate Japanese businessmen would take a cab from the airport to the former Vista Hotel. The Vista doorman would open the yellow door, and upon seeing an Asian man in business attire, he’d ask “Are you here for the Kyoto Fair?” If the cab fare exceeded a certain amount, the answer would be “yes,” and the doorman would instruct the taxi driver to drop off his passenger at the Kyoto Fair, at one of the Hudson piers. Upon arrival, police would apprehend the cabbie. That cabbie had “thuisgekomen van een kouwe kermis”—come home from a cold fair.

Kermis: Definition

BY | Posted on | FILED UNDER Categories Definition, Information, Kermis

Kermis (n.):

  1. Country fair: in former times, an annual country fair held in the Netherlands and northern Germany.
  2. Fundraising festival: a festival or fair held to collect money for charity.

Origin: Late 16th century. < Dutch, "mass on the anniversary of the church's dedication" < kerk “church” + misse “mass” >.

Selected New York City Street Fairs:

06.20.07 – 06.24.07: St. Antonio Abate Society of Castrofilippo
Location: Ditmars Boulevard (between 35th & 38th Street), Astoria, Queens

06.23.07: Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Location: West 10th Street (at the Boardwalk)

08.16.07 – 08.19.07: Borgetto Cultural Association
Location: Steinway Street (between 25th & 28th Avenue), Astoria, Queens

Selected Resources:

NYC Parades + Annual Events:

Central Astoria Local Development Coalition: