Rudy’s Ties to a Terror Sheikh

Three weeks after 9/11, when the roar of fighter jets still haunted the city’s skyline, the emir of gas-rich Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, toured Ground Zero. Although a member of the emir’s own royal family had harbored the man who would later be identified as the mastermind of the attack—a man named Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, often referred to in intelligence circles by his initials, KSM—al-Thani rushed to New York in its aftermath, offering to make a $3 million donation, principally to the families of its victims. Rudy Giuliani, apparently unaware of what the FBI and CIA had long known about Qatari links to Al Qaeda, appeared on CNN with al-Thani that night and vouched for the emir when Larry King asked the mayor: “You are a friend of his, are you not?”

“We had a very good meeting yesterday. Very good,” said Giuliani, adding that he was “very, very grateful” for al-Thani’s generosity. It was no cinch, of course, that Giuliani would take the money: A week later, he famously rejected a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince who advised America that it should “adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause.” (Giuliani continues to congratulate himself for that snub on the campaign trail.) Al-Thani waited a month before expressing essentially the same feelings when he returned to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and stressed how important it was to “distinguish” between the “phenomenon” of 9/11 and “the legitimate struggles” of the Palestinians “to get rid of the yoke of illegitimate occupation and subjugation.” Al-Thani then accused Israel of “state terrorism” against the Palestinians.

But there was another reason to think twice about accepting al-Thani’s generosity that Giuliani had to have been aware of, even as he heaped praise on the emir. Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network based in Qatar (pronounced “Cutter”), had been all but created by al-Thani, who was its largest shareholder. The Bush administration was so upset with the coverage of Osama bin Laden’s pronouncements and the U.S. threats to bomb Afghanistan that Secretary of State Colin Powell met the emir just hours before Giuliani’s on-air endorsement and asked him to tone down the state-subsidized channel’s Islamist footage and rhetoric. The six-foot-eight, 350-pound al-Thani, who was pumping about $30 million a year into Al Jazeera at the time, refused Powell’s request, citing the need for “a free and credible media.” The administration’s burgeoning distaste for what it would later brand “Terror TV” was already so palpable that King — hardly a newsman — asked the emir if he would help “spread the word” that the U.S. was “not targeting the average Afghan citizen.” Al-Thani ignored the question — right before Giuliani rushed in to praise him again.

In retrospect, Giuliani’s embrace of the emir appears peculiar. But it was only a sign of bigger things to come: the launching of a cozy business relationship with terrorist-tolerant Qatar that is inconsistent with the core message of Giuliani’s current presidential campaign, namely that his experience and toughness uniquely equip him to protect America from what he tauntingly calls “Islamic terrorists” — an enemy that he always portrays himself as ready to confront, and the Democrats as ready to accommodate.

The contradictory and stunning reality is that Giuliani Partners, the consulting company that has made Giuliani rich, feasts at the Qatar trough, doing business with the ministry run by the very member of the royal family identified in news and government reports as having concealed KSM—the terrorist mastermind who wired funds from Qatar to his nephew Ramzi Yousef prior to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and who also sold the idea of a plane attack on the towers to Osama bin Laden—on his Qatar farm in the mid-1990s.

This royal family member is Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s minister of Islamic affairs at the time, who was later installed at the interior ministry in January 2001 and reappointed by the emir during a government shake-up earlier this year. Abdallah al-Thani is also said to have welcomed Osama bin Laden on two visits to the farm, a charge repeated as recently as October 10, 2007, in a Congressional Research Service study. Abdallah al-Thani’s interior ministry or the state-owned company it helps oversee, Qatar Petroleum, has worked with Giuliani Security & Safety LLC, a subsidiary of Giuliani Partners, on an undisclosed number of contracts, the value of which neither the government nor the company will release. But there’s little question that a security agreement with Qatar’s government, or with Qatar Petroleum, would put a company like Giuliani’s in direct contact with the ministry run by Abdallah al-Thani: The website of Qatar’s government, and the interior ministry’s press office, as well as numerous press stories, all confirm that the ministry controls a 2,500-member police force, the General Administration of Public Security, and the Mubahathat, or secret police. The ministry’s charge under law is to “create and institute security in this country.” Hassan Sidibe, a public-relations officer for the ministry, says that “a company that does security work, they have to get permission from the interior ministry.”

What’s most shocking is that Abdallah al-Thani has been widely accused of helping to spirit KSM out of Qatar in 1996, just as the FBI was closing in on him. Robert Baer, a former CIA supervisor in the region, contends in a 2003 memoir that the emir himself actually sanctioned tipping KSM. The staff of the 9/11 Commission, meanwhile, noted that the FBI and CIA “were reluctant to seek help from the Qatari government” in the arrest of KSM, “fearing that he might be tipped off.” When Qatar’s emir was finally “asked for his help” in January 1996, Qatari authorities “first reported that KSM was under surveillance,” then “asked for an alternative plan that would conceal their aid to Americans,” and finally “reported that KSM had disappeared.”

Giuliani’s lifelong friend Louis Freeh, the FBI head who talked to Giuliani periodically about terrorist threats during Giuliani’s mayoral years and has endorsed him for president, was so outraged that he wrote a formal letter to Qatar’s foreign minister complaining that he’d received “disturbing information” that KSM “has again escaped the surveillance of your Security Services and that he appears to be aware of FBI interest in him.”

Abdallah al-Thani remains a named defendant in the 9/11 lawsuits that are still proceeding in Manhattan federal court, but his Washington lawyers declined to address the charges that he shielded KSM, insisting only that he never “supported” any “terrorist acts.” Asked if Abdallah al-Thani ever supported any terrorists rather than their acts, his lawyer David Nachman declined to comment further. The Congressional Research Service report summarized the evidence against him: “According to the 9/11 Commission Report and former U.S. government officials, royal family member and current Qatari Interior Minister, Sheikh Abdullah (Abdallah) bin Khalid Al Thani, provided safe harbor and assistance to Al Qaeda leaders during the 1990s,” including KSM. While numerous accounts have named Abdallah as the KSM tipster, the report simply says that “a high ranking member of the Qatari government” is believed to have “alerted” KSM “to the impending raid.”

Freeh’s letter in 1996 highlighted the consequences of this government-orchestrated escape with a prophetic declaration, saying that the “failure to apprehend KSM would allow him and other associates to continue to conduct terrorist operations.” Indeed, had KSM, who was even then focused on the use of hijacked planes as weapons, been captured in 1996, 9/11 might well have never happened.

In other words, as incredible as it might seem, Rudy Giuliani—whose presidential candidacy is steeped in 9/11 iconography—has been doing business with a government agency run by the very man who made the attacks on 9/11 possible.

This startling revelation is not a sudden disclosure from new sources. It has, in fact, been staring us in the face for many months.

The Wall Street Journal reported on November 7 that one Giuliani Partners client the former mayor hadn’t previously disclosed was, in fact, the government of Qatar. Quoting the recently retired Bush envoy to Qatar, Chase Untermeyer, the Journal reported that state-run Qatar Petroleum had signed a contract with Giuliani Security “around 2005” and that the firm (of which Giuliani has a 30 percent equity stake) is offering security advice to a giant natural-gas processing facility called Ras Laffan. While the interior ministry wouldn’t confirm individual contracts, it did tell the Voice that Qatar Petroleum and security “purchasing” are part of its portfolio.

(The Journal story was followed by a similar piece in the Chicago Tribune last week, which revealed that Giuliani’s firm has also represented a complex casino partnership seeking to build a $3.5 billion Singapore resort. The partnership included “the family of a controversial Hong Kong billionaire who has ties to the regime of North Korea’s Kim Jong II and has been linked to international organized crime by the U.S. government.”)

The Journal story, however, didn’t go into detail about the unsavory connections that Giuliani had made in the Middle East. The Journal wrote that it learned about the Qatar contract after reading a speech that Untermeyer gave in 2006, when he said that Giuliani’s firm had “important contracts” in Qatar. In fact, Untermeyer—who returned to Texas when he stepped down as ambassador to join a real-estate firm partnered with the National Bank of Qatar—told the Houston Forum that Giuliani’s “security company” has “several” contracts in Qatar, and that Giuliani himself “comes to Doha [Qatar’s capital] twice a year.” Untermeyer’s wife Diana spoke at the same event about their daughter Elly, who she said “makes friends with all she meets—other kids, generals, sheikhs, and even our famous American visitors like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whom she deems ‘cool.’ ”

While it is true that Giuliani hasn’t disclosed the particulars of his Qatar business, he and others at the firm have been bragging about it for years, presumably on the assumption that mentioning good-paying clients is the best way to generate more of the same. Giuliani told South Africa’s Business Times in June 2006, for example, that he’d “recently helped Qatar” to transform Doha in preparation for the Asian Games, an Olympics- sanctioned, 45-country competition that occurred last December. He was in Johannesburg in part to offer to do the same before South Africa hosts the 2010 World Cup. “They had the same concerns as you,” he said at the Global Leaders Africa summit, “and I helped them pull things together. You can see not only how they pulled together physical things that were necessary, such as stadiums, but how they used the plan to improve their security.”

Richard Bradshaw, a consulting-services manager for an Australian security firm that played a two-and-a-half-year role in planning the Asian Games, says that “the ministry of the interior is essentially the chief ministry in charge of internal security”—for the games and other matters. Bradshaw says that he “heard the name of Giuliani Partners quoted in this town,” but that he knew nothing directly about their Asian Games involvement, adding that “maybe they just dealt with high levels in the government.” But Hassan Sidibe, the interior ministry’s press officer, says that a special organizing committee handled contracts for the Asian Games and that “the minister of interior was part of that committee.”

In addition to specific references to the natural-gas and Asian Games deals, Giuliani Partners has hinted at broader ties to Qatar. A New York Post story in January that was filled with quotes about Giuliani Partners’ clients from Michael Hess, a managing partner at the firm, reported that Giuliani himself “has given advice from Qatar to Spain.” Another Post story in May reported that Giuliani had made lucrative speeches in 30 countries—which he does in addition to his Giuliani Partners business—and named Qatar as one of those locations. A New York Times story in January, also laced with Hess quotes, reported that Pasquale J. D’Amuro, the ex-FBI chief who replaced Bernard Kerik as the head of Giuliani’s security division, “has traveled to meet with executives in Japan, Qatar, and other nations, often focusing on clients who seek the firm out for advice on how to protect against a terrorist attack.” Any of these dealings in Qatar that involved security would necessarily connect the firm with the interior ministry run by Abdallah al-Thani.

Peter Boyer, whose New Yorker profile of Giuliani appeared this August, quoted D’Amuro and Giuliani about the expertise and work of Ali Soufan, an Arabic-speaking Lebanese-American who also left the FBI to become the international director of Giuliani Security. Both D’Amuro and Giuliani said that Soufan, the lead investigator in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, had been spending “most of his time” in a Persian Gulf country that is a Giuliani client. Boyer didn’t identify the country, but another source familiar with Soufan’s assignment has confirmed that Soufan has, until recently, been based in Qatar. “The firm has helped the country with training, and with a revamping of its security infrastructure,” Boyer wrote. “The locale is an ideal listening post for someone whose expertise is unraveling the tangle of international terror.” Soufan was the firm’s point man with the royal family, according to another former FBI operative, even providing security advice for Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, the emir’s favorite of his three wives.

Gulf States Newsletter, a respected news publication in the region, used similar language this October to describe the firm’s business in Qatar. Closing a lengthy piece of boosterism that assessed who was getting security contracts in Qatar, the newsletter cited a sole example “in the field of high-end consultancy,” namely what it called “well-partnered players like Giuliani Associates.” It said the firm had, “through a combination of luck and good positioning, become trusted partners” of the Qatari government. The “key lesson for any security sector incomer,” concluded the newsletter, is that “in Qatar it is necessary but not sufficient to be technically competent. As ever, it may be who you know, not what you know, that wins the day.”

Despite this ample supply of evidence, Sunny Mindel, the firm’s spokeswoman, denied in a November 11 Post story that Giuliani Partners “had any ties to Qatar Petroleum.” Mindel may have meant that the company’s business in Qatar had come to an end, parsing her verbs carefully, or she may have been denying that the contract came directly from the petroleum entity, suggesting that the government itself paid for this security advice. Mindel’s elusive answers are consistent with other efforts by the company to conceal the Qatar deals, even as Giuliani and others have occasionally talked openly about them. These efforts suggest that Giuliani is aware the association could prove disquieting, even without the embarrassing connection to the notorious KSM.

The best example of how Giuliani’s Qatar ties could prove disastrous for his presidential candidacy occurred a year ago, at the opening of the Asian Games on December 1, 2006, eleven days after Giuliani registered his presidential exploratory committee. Ben Smith, then of the Daily News and now with, obtained a detailed internal memo from the Giuliani campaign in January, and it contained a travel schedule. Smith wrote that “Giuliani spent the first weekend in December in Doha, Qatar, at the Qatari-government sponsored Asian Games, on which he had reportedly worked as a consultant.” Giuliani’s calendar indicates that he arrived in Qatar on December 2 and left on December 3, heading to Las Vegas to address the state’s GOP. The Qatari government spent $2.8 billion to host the games, building a massive sports complex with security very much in mind. “We have 8,000 well-trained security members and the latest technology that were used in the Olympics,” said a security spokesman.

On December 1, the day before Giuliani arrived, the emir’s special guests at the lavish opening, attended by 55,000, were Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and Syrian president Bashar Assad, all of whom are Qatar allies and were pictured sitting together on television. Giuliani’s presence that weekend wasn’t noted in news coverage at the time, even though his firm had apparently provided security advice for an event that included Ahmadinejad, whose country Giuliani has since promised to “set back five years” should it pursue its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad was later assailed by opponents in his own country for watching a female song-and-dance show that was part of the opening extravaganza. The presence of Hamas’s Haniyeh, who attended private meetings with the emir while Giuliani was in Qatar, might also have been embarrassing to Giuliani, since Qatar agreed to pay $22.5 million a month to cover the salaries of 40,000 Palestinian teachers, as well as to create a bank in the territories with a $50 million initial deposit. This break in the boycott against Hamas orchestrated by the U.S. and Israel prompted a stern rebuke from the State Department on December 5.

While Qatar’s emir has allowed the U.S. to locate its central command and other strategic facilities in the country, including the largest pre-positioning base in the region, his government was also the only member of the U.N. Security Council to oppose the July 2006 resolution that called on Iran to suspend all nuclear research and development activities. Indeed, Iran and Qatar share the North Field/South Pars natural-gas deposit off the Qatari coast, the very one that includes the Giuliani-advised Ras Laffan project. Similarly, the emir praised the Hezbollah resistance in Lebanon during the 2006 war with Israel, calling it “the first Arab victory, something we had longed for,” and he visited southern Lebanon after the war, meeting with families and giving away $250 million to rebuild destroyed homes. While Qatar had allowed Israel to open a small trade mission in Doha amid much fanfare in the mid-’90s, it had virtually shut down the office by 2000, and the last of the Israeli envoys left in 2003.

Also, Saddam Hussein’s wife, Sajida Khayrallah Tilfa, lives in Qatar, in defiance of an Interpol arrest warrant and her appearance on the Iraqi government’s 2006 most-wanted list for allegedly providing financial support to Iraqi insurgents, according to an October 2007 report by the Congressional Research Service. Invited with her daughter to Qatar by the deputy prime minister, she has not returned to Iraq despite an extradition demand issued months before Giuliani’s December visit.

Another potentially uncomfortable Giuliani visit to Doha also stayed under the radar. On January 16, 2006, Giuliani visited the Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence and the Aspire Zone, the largest sports dome in the world, built for the Asian Games as well as future international events (including the Olympic Games, which Qatar hopes to host someday). Giuliani praised the academy, which he called “a fantastic achievement,” adding that he was “looking forward to seeing it develop in the coming years.” Aspire’s communications director says that Giuliani “spent more than an hour and a half” touring its facilities, adding that the former mayor “spoke very eloquently.” But even putting his stamp of approval on such apparently benign facilities could come back to bite Giuliani: The academy, a $1.3 billion facility designed to move Qatar into the top ranks of international soccer, has been denounced in unusually blunt terms by Sepp Blatter, the head of world football’s governing body, FIFA. Blatter called Qatar’s “establishment of recruitment networks”—using 6,000 staff members to assess a half-million young footballers in seven African countries and then moving the best to Qatar—”a good example of exploitation.”

The Aspire facilities were part of the Asian Games security preparations that Giuliani told the Business Times his firm had participated in planning, since the dome allowed 10 sports to be staged simultaneously under one roof. But even the notice of Giuliani’s January appearance, which was posted on the website of an English newspaper there, made no mention of his consulting work for the government. The ex-FBI source says that Giuliani’s secretive security work in Qatar—which also includes vulnerability assessments on port facilities in Doha and pipeline security—would necessarily have involved the interior ministry.

A case officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations for nearly 19 years, Robert Baer—who calls Qatar “the center of intrigue in the Gulf”—laid out the KSM escape story in his 2003 book,
Sleeping with the Devil. His source was Hamad bin Jasim bin Hamad al-Thani, a close relative of the emir who was once the finance minister and chief of police. (An exile living in Beirut in 1997 when Baer began a relationship with him, Hamad al-Thani has since been captured by Qatar and is serving a life sentence for attempting to overthrow the emir.) Hamad told Baer that Abdallah al-Thani, whom he described as “a fanatic Wahhabi,” had taken KSM “under his wing” and that the emir had ordered Hamad to help Abdallah. He gave 20 blank Qatari passports to Abdallah, who he said gave them to KSM. “As soon as the FBI showed up in Doha” in 1996, the emir, according to Hamad, ordered Abdallah to move KSM out of his apartment to his beach estate, and eventually out of the country. “Flew the coop. Sayonara,” Hamad concluded.

Baer’s account of how KSM got away is the most far-reaching, implicating the emir himself. Since KSM “moved his family to Qatar at the suggestion” of Abdallah al-Thani, according to the 9/11 Commission, and held a job at the Ministry of Electricity and Water, Baer’s account is hardly implausible. The commission even found that Abdallah ah-Thani “underwrote a 1995 trip KSM took to join the Bosnia jihad.” Bill Gertz, the Washington Times reporter whose ties to the Bush White House are well established, affirmed Baer’s version in his 2002 book, Breakdown. Another CIA agent, Melissa Boyle Mahle, who was assigned to the KSM probe in Qatar in 1995, said that she tried to convince the FBI to do a snatch operation rather than taking the diplomatic approach, concerned about “certain Qatari officials known for their sympathies for Islamic extremists.” Instead, “Muhammad disappeared immediately after the request to the government was made,” making it “obvious to me what had happened.” Louis Freeh’s book says simply: “We believe he was tipped off; but however he got away, it was a slipup with tragic consequences.” Neither Mahle nor Freeh named names.

Counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke so mistrusted the Qataris that he plotted an extraordinary rendition, but the FBI, CIA, and Defense Department said they couldn’t pull it off. Then he asked the ambassador to “obtain the Emir’s approval for a snatch, without the word getting to anyone else.” Despite assurances that “only a few senior officials knew about our plan, KSM learned of it and fled the country ahead of the FBI’s arrest team’s arrival,” Clarke concluded in his book, Against All Enemies. “We were of course outraged at Qatari security and assumed the leak came from within the palace.” Clarke noted that “one report” indicated that KSM had evaporated on a passport supplied by Abdallah al-Thani’s Islamic-affairs ministry. When Clarke was told by the Los Angeles Times in 2003 that Abdallah had been elevated to interior minister, he said: “I’m shocked to hear that. You’re telling me that al-Thani is in charge of security inside Qatar. I hope that’s not true.” Having just left the Bush administration, Clarke added that Abdallah “had great sympathy for bin Laden, great sympathy for terrorist groups, [and] was using his personal money and ministry money to transfer to al Qaeda front groups that were allegedly charities.” The Los Angeles Times quoted “several U.S. officials involved in the hunt” for KSM who fingered Abdallah as “the one who learned of the imminent FBI dragnet and tipped off Muhammad.”

Even earlier than the Los Angeles Times report, ABC News’ Brian Ross reported that Abdallah had warned KSM, citing American intelligence officials, and added that KSM had left Qatar “with a passport provided by that country’s government.” Ross didn’t limit his broadside to Abdallah, saying that “there were others in the Qatari royal family who were sympathetic and provided safe havens for Al Qaeda.” A New York Times story in 2003 said that Abdallah “harbored as many as 100 Arab extremists on his farm.” The story also quoted Freeh as saying that KSM had “over 20 false passports at his disposal” and cited American officials who suspected Abdallah of tipping him off. However, the Times story also quoted a Qatari official who claimed that Abdallah “always provided support for Islamic extremists with the knowledge and acceptance of Qatar’s emir.”

Indeed, the Times reported in another 2003 story that after 9/11, KSM was said by Saudi intelligence officials to have “spent two weeks hiding in Qatar, with the help of prominent patrons.” Abdul Karim al-Thani, a royal family member who did not hold a government post, was also accused in the story of operating a safe house for Abu Massab al-Zarqawi, who later became the face of the early Iraqi insurgency but was depicted then as an Al Qaeda operative moving from Baghdad to Afghanistan. Abdul al-Thani, according to a senior coalition official, provided Qatari passports and a million-dollar bank account to finance the network.

Other connections between Qatar and terrorism have been reported in the press. Newsweek identified an Iraqi living in Doha and working at Abdallah’s Islamic-affairs ministry as being detained by Qatar police because of the ties he had to 9/11 hijackers—yet he was released even though phone records linked him as well to the 1993 bombers and the so-called “Bojinka” plot hatched in Manila to blow up civilian airlines. A Chechen terrorist financier harbored in Qatar was assassinated there by a Russian hit squad in 2004. Yousef Qardawi, a cleric with a talk show on Al Jazeera and ties to the emir, issued a fatwa against Americans the same year. An engineer at Qatar Petroleum carried out a suicide bomb attack at a theater popular with Westerners in early 2005, killing one and wounding 12.

Finally, the long-smoldering question of whether Osama bin Laden played a role in the 1996 bombing of the American barracks at Khobar Towers—funneling 20 tons of C-4 explosives into Saudi Arabia through Qatar—resurfaced in a story based intelligence reports and endorsed by none other than Dick Cheney. In 2003, Steven Hayes of The Weekly Standard wrote a celebrated story based on a 16-page Defense Department intelligence assessment. The thrust of the story was to advance the administration’s thesis about Al Qaeda’s ties to Iraq, but Hayes also found that in a January 1996 visit to Qatar, Osama bin Laden “discussed the successful movement of explosives into Saudi Arabia, and operations targeted against U.S. interests” in Khobar and two other locations, “using clandestine al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia.” The 2007 CRS study says that it is “unclear” if those conversations were “related to the preparations for the June 1996 attack” that killed 19 servicemen, but that the “Qatari individual” who reportedly hosted bin Laden for these discussions was none other than Abdallah al-Thani. Bill Gertz and others have been writing for years that the path to the carnage at Khobar led through Doha.

The Khobar attack closely followed an unsuccessful coup attempt against the emir on February 20, 1996, which Qatar officials, in later criminal prosecutions, formally accused Saudi Arabia of fomenting. Analysts in the region have suggested that any use of Qatar as a launching pad for the Khobar attack so soon after the coup attempt was likely to have been approved at the highest levels of the government. In October 1996, within months of both the KSM escape and the Khobar bombing, Abdallah al-Thani got his first major promotion, elevated by the emir to Minister of State for Interior Affairs, a cabinet position.

All of this evidence of Qatar’s role as a facilitator of terrorism—reaching even to the emir himself—was reported well before Giuliani Partners began its business there “around 2005.” Yet even the New York Times story, filled with quotes from Giuliani’s friend Freeh, didn’t deter him. Nor did the firm’s retention of D’Amuro and Soufan, two ex-FBI counterterrorism experts who certainly knew the terror landscape of Qatar.

Soufan, in fact, was the primary investigator who assembled the case against the terrorists who bombed American embassies in Africa in 1998. And the testimony in that 2001 trial established that the Qatar Charitable Society, a nongovernmental agency that is said to “draw much of its funding from official sources,” helped finance the attack. Daniel Pipes, a foreign-policy adviser to the Giuliani campaign, has branded the Qatar Charitable Society “one of bin Laden’s de facto banks.” Reached at home and asked about his work in Qatar, Soufan declined to comment.

Even the revelations about Khobar Towers didn’t slow Giuliani down, though he’s subsequently made the bombing a central feature in his stump-speech litany of the Clinton administration’s failings. Giuliani also ignored an official State Department report on terrorism for 2003—released in mid-2004, just before his firm began doing business in Qatar—which said that the country’s security services “monitored extremists passively,” and that “members of transnational terrorist groups and state sponsors of terror are present in Qatar.” The report added that Qatar’s government “remains cautious about taking any action that would cause embarrassment or public scrutiny” when nationals from the Gulf countries were involved. (Later reports issued by the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, moderated the department’s Qatar assessment.) Also in 2004, Michael Knights, an analyst at the Washington Institute who works with the Defense Department, wrote that a “Wahhabi clique” tied to extremists “is still in charge [in Qatar], and seeded the security establishment with personnel of their choosing.” But even this strong, specific warning didn’t deter Giuliani Partners’ interest in Qatar.

Presumably, Giuliani’s rationale for doing business there was that Qatar had become an American ally, hosting up to 40,000 troops. The CRS report put the complexity of the relationship well, noting that American concerns about Qatari support for terrorists “have been balanced over time by Qatar’s counterterrorism efforts and its broader, long-term commitment to host and support U.S. military forces.” In a footnote, the CRS report adds that the emir may finally be downplaying Abdallah al-Thani’s influence, even as he reappointed him this year. The U.S. government may have to be satisfied with that suggestion of progress; it does not have limitless military options in the Middle East. (The emir, for his part, once reportedly explained his willingness to host U.S. forces by saying: “The only way we can be sure the Americans will answer our 911 call is if we have the police at our own house.”)

Giuliani Partners, however, has a world of choices, quite literally. Some American companies who do business in Qatar, like Shell and ExxonMobil, have to chase the gas and oil wherever they are. But a consulting company with instant name recognition like Giuliani’s—and which claims to carefully vet its clients—can be both profitable and selective. Moreover, it’s the only American company known to be providing security advice to Qatar; the rest hail from Singapore, Australia, and France. A company headed by a man who has known that he would make this presidential run for years—and with 9/11 as its rationale—could have chosen to make his millions elsewhere. Especially a candidate who divides the world into good guys and bad guys, claims that this war is a “divine” mission, and shuns complexity. For that kind of a candidate, Qatar may become one Giuliani contradiction too many.



Tough As A Mother: Doing It All For Your Kids And Yourself

We did it mamas. We made it another year. An especially hard year at that. This year was a beast at best and you deserve all the luxury and pampering you want for handling it like the incredible person you are.

Here, motherhood icon and juggernaut Madison Bontempo and I share our combined tips and tricks to help moms keep your broods happy, healthy, and relatively out of your hair, as well as product recommendations (with lots of links) that will fill your cup -both literally and metaphorically- and ensure you get time to recharge and reset at the end of a long day.

How An Influencer Balances Work and Family 

Madison Bontempo is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. A mom of four young children – twins Taytum (4) and Oakley (4), Halston (2), Oliver (8 months) –  her world is brimming with life. Not only is she parenting a brood of littles, but she’s also managing the family’s social media as well.

Her account boasts an impressive 1.8 million followers. Her children have over 3.8 million followers combined. In terms of Instagram and YouTube families, the Fisher Family (her married name) – or Fish Fam, as they’re known – are royalty. A powerhouse in the influencer world with big-name partnerships like Fabletics and a recently-announced personal YouTube channel The MadLife (the family’s established YouTube channel The FishFam has 4.36 million subscribers), this woman is unstoppable.

We chatted with Bontempo about how she’s handled having four kids in four years, how she juggles her career, and asked for tips on how to keep kids entertained and ourselves sane. (Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity). 

(Photo by Patty Othon)

VILLAGE VOICE: What is your morning routine?

MADISON BONTEMPO: I feel like I’m a great mom during the day and a questionable mom in the morning. I am not a morning person and neither is my husband. We love staying up late! However, my kids love waking up between 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. If there was a hidden camera it would look like us sleepwalking while making bottles and putting in a DoorDash order for Starbucks (pink drink with cold vanilla foam all day – or crystal light caffeine packets) and all our kids jumping on us while we try to squeeze in an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

My four-year-old twins’ newest “thing” is dressing themselves head to toe right before they come into my room. I can’t tell if this is making my life easier or harder! Sometimes their outfit choice is preschool appropriate and other times … they’ve got on princess dresses, lipstick, eyeshadow and four bow clips on top of a headband. So, I usually have to re-dress them while still making them feel confident that they did a great job!”

Next is breakfast and preschool. Baby Einstein and Cocomelon save us in the mornings while I get the twins out the door. I usually get myself ready in two minutes in the morning. I throw on whatever outfit is easily accessible- for makeup it’s just foundation and mascara, slip on some slides and that’s it. If I need to really get ready for the day it’s usually during the kids’ first naps. I only wash my hair every five to six days so that makes it a lot easier to get ready most days. Ninety percent of what I wear is a workout outfit from Fabletics. If I’m not wearing that, I’m usually in an outfit from an Instagram shop or Revolve.

I tag all the family’s outfits on our Instagram photos [sharing their IG tags here]. My go to trendy lounge sets for the kids are from @kambiakids and @aviatornation. For everyday kids’ clothes, check out @mintedmethodshop, @luibellekids, @plumnyc, @childsplayclothing @ivycityco @khloejeanclothing and @showmeyourmumu. If you need custom dresses for birthdays, princess outfits or anything fancy, use @dolorispetunia. If you don’t want to shop on Instagram: Zara Kids. I love to put my girls in bows. We get ours from: @arbiilabel @littlebowpip and @labellebaby, and Oliver gets his baby boy outfits from @orcaslucille @cashandco, @little_bipsy, @slouchheadwear, @atnoonstore and @childshoodsclothing. While I wear workout clothes most mornings, I don’t usually get a chance to work out. If I do, I use my best friend Katie’s workout app, Thrive by Katie.

What does a normal day look like for you?

We both work from home and our job is to have fun; we have to think of the coolest, most creative, cute things we can do every day. I live for imaginative play, art and exploring! Crafts, painting, drawing, Play-Doh, make-believe, turning our house into a spa, turning our backyard into a magical fairy land, acting out Disneyland rides in our home, putting on plays and pretend dance recitals, makeup and dress up in the princess room I made for them under the stairs, playing in the house or playhouse, riding bikes … My kids are so busy!  All day long. I love kid stuff and kid life. Before I had my own kids, all I wanted to do was be around children. I genuinely enjoy it.

We collaborate with hundreds of cute brands and boutique shops, so I usually have photo shoots planned for week with tons of outfits all lined up. I try and get a photo done every day. We also film two to three YouTube videos a week, as well as TikToks and skits. If we are not at home being busy, we usually end up at a really fun kid’s museum, zoo or park. We have about three brands a week that sponsor us; filming content for them takes up a good amount of time in our day.

What is your evening routine? 

Dinner, baths, prayers and bed. One thing I struggle with is cooking. I do not find the time to make meals, so we love just ordering food for delivery! That’s one thing I really want to get better at. For the kids’ bedtime, we have a star projector that shines stars on the girls’ ceiling and it connects to Bluetooth where we play Disney lullabies; they love it. I also spray lavender essential oils in their room. I want to sleep in their room, the vibes are so relaxing! At night we also read online books on Readeo with family in Utah, my kids are obsessed. It’s like Facetime and virtual books combined – both can see the page flipping at the same time and we all can pick from hundreds of books.

Do you have help?

Wednesdays and Fridays we have a nanny from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and let me just tell you, there’s not a day that goes by that I say “we need a full-time nanny!” We always say we’re going to find one, but we never do because it is really hard for us to find someone we trust. I just cannot get myself to go on a nanny site and do the whole interview thing. My parents, my sister and I are all going to move to the same neighborhood this week, however! So much help is coming our way soon.

What does a house with four young kids look like?

I made sure to create rooms for the kids so that they can have their space in hopes that the rest of my home can try and stay clean. They have their own salon under the stairs, with their own light-up vanities, kid makeup, dress up clothes, accessories and dolls. We never decorated our front room and we loved it because the kids rode their bikes in there, we had pull-out mats so they could tumble around if they wanted, they even used it as their dance room! We eventually wanted to decorate it of course, but it was nice having that room open for them. We turned our dining room into a comfy couch movie room too. We just like fun and comfort over here.

We also keep sippy cups and bowls at their level. We have all the kid snacks in the bottom (reachable) pantry and we have a mini fridge at their level that is stocked with chocolate milk and apple juice. Art supplies, paper and crayons are all in the bottom cupboard in the kitchen for them to access. We are all about our kids being able to get things on their own. That way I can get the things done that I need to and minimize constant pausing for the “mom I need this and mom I need that” demands because I can just say “it’s in the mini fridge, go grab one and I can open it for you.”

What is the most challenging part of motherhood for you? 

Balancing it all! It is so hard. Finding the time to bond with each kid, being successful with work, taking care of myself … when you have four kids ages four and under you have to find joy in the messes and chaos and be ok with plans and schedules getting messed up on the daily.

What is the most rewarding part of motherhood for you? 

Motherhood teaches you to have the best qualities : selflessness, service and sacrifice. I feel strong and confident, like I can do anything, because I am a mom. One of the most rewarding things for me is watching my kids reach new milestones and seeing them enjoy life! I’m sure every mom can relate to this and knows how rewarding it is. There is nothing in the world that compares to the happiness and joy that comes with motherhood.

What are your current business ventures?

On top of our YouTube channel and social media accounts, film production company, acting and Kyler’s country music, we are currently starting our own clothing line, skin care line, and some other really cool companies that we can’t wait to share! I also just launched my very own beauty channel as well.

Madison’s perfect Mother’s Day:

I would love to escape the day before or after and go with my girlfriends to a spa all day and relax. On Mother’s Day I love to be with family, and to hang out with my mom. She taught me everything about being a mom, and because of her I can be a great mom. She’s the best grandma in the world and spends all her time trying to be with her kids and grandkids and that’s what she lives for. I was able to have four kids so close together because my mom is there to help me – I am so grateful to her. I would also love to spend my Mother’s Day remembering all the best moments with my kids.

(Courtesy Methodology)

Madison’s mom hacks:

  • I have a portable potty in my car because somehow all my toddlers always have to use the potty as soon as we get on the freeway. We’ve had tons of accidents! So, the portable potty has changed my life. It has little bags that attach with absorbable pads in it. After they go, you tie it in a knot and throw it out when you get home. It’s the best thing ever!
  • Honestly, a new toy or activity they haven’t seen before entertains them for hours. When I need to get a lot done, having a cupboard full of some new toys or objects is golden.
  • Including the kids in the things I’m doing helps keep them happy and not fighting. For instance, if I go into my bathroom to get ready without the kids, two things happen: they start to fight, or a crazy mess happens. But if I let them put on lipgloss and pretend to curl their hair while I do mine, they are so much happier and they are learning.
  • Quiet time once a day is a huge thing for us. I try to put the two little ones down for naps at the same time, and I put the four-year-olds in quiet time, so they can stay in their room and read or play.
  • I learned a way to communicate with kids in a way that helps them want to obey. Instead of saying ”it’s time for bed” you say “do you want to put jammies on first or brush your teeth first” – it’s a way for them to feel like they are in control. Give them options! It really works for us.
(Courtesy Facial Lounge)

Madison’s wellness and beauty tips:

  • Hair- REF shampoo and conditioner. It’s a ten spray and curl cream, the Croc straightener is the only straightener that works! Paul Mitchell Neuro Unclipped Titanium Curling Wand 1″ Rod and Hair By Chrissy for hair color.
  • Skincare- Facial Lounge products literally changed my life. Their Pore Clarifying Cleanser, Feather Light Miracle Moisturizer, Brightening Exfoliating Pads and all their masks – it’s all incredible. I’ve struggled with acne my whole life and it has been one of the only brands that has cleared up my skin. It’s miracle stuff.
  • Face- I love IT Cosmetics. I use Tarte loose setting powder, Iconic London blush, Patrick Ta creme bronzer /contour, Iconic London illuminator for highlighting, Tarte eyeshadow palette and mascara.
  • Health- I love juices and juice smoothies. I have drinks delivered to my house weekly from Methodology. I love driving over to Nekter. We’ve been doing the greens and reds drink powders – we add a scoop to coconut milk and drink it every morning from Organifi.
Being a mom is messy and marvelous. (Tara Finley)

How a Writer and Stay at Home Mom Makes it Work 

As a working mom and a SAHM of two toddlers, my house could be described as organized chaos. To the outside (and to my colleagues listening to my children’s feral yells on our newsroom Zooms) it may seem out of control, but for my husband and I, we’ve got it dialed in. I’ve amassed a cherished list of all my favorite products that keep us sane (as we can be) and tips to keep kiddos happy and the household running smoothly.

My morning routine:

I get up at 5 a.m. to practice morning meditation and self-care following Zenwise’s guidance. Their gentle instruction helps me take a moment before diving into the grind of the day. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to be taking care of myself in this way until I started doing it. Their ritual includes setting intentions, taking digestive enzymes and vegan Omega-3 (super gentle on the tummy), and meditating. It’s small but it’s something. After, I get some work done until the rest of the family is up. My husband then joins me in taking Goldmine’s Adaptogen Powder, a stress support blend sustainably sourced and made by a company founded by women. After breakfast, we usually have a toddler dance party to get our wiggles out. Right now, we are all about the brilliance of Ylvis.

What a normal day looks like for me:

A normal day is nonstop. I am constantly trying to find new activities to entertain the kids and make my life easier. I rely on Bala’s triple enzyme activation hydration packets to keep us all hydrated as we bounce from playground to beach, balcony water table to indoor fort. If I find myself stressing out, TerraVita’s Relax CBD Capsules help me out. They’re a mixture of Broad-Spectrum CBD, GABA, Reishi Mushroom and Ashwagandha Root. I love them.

(Tara Finley and family pre-pandemic)

My evening routine:

We usually do a meal kit like Sunbasket a few times a week for the kids, to ensure an easy yet healthy meal for them at the ready. After dinner, dad takes over so they get some one-on-one time and I get a brief break. I take this time to practice more self-care, which is usually in the form of one of my favorite indulgences: Cutwater (the best margaritas in a can, period. Their new peach and strawberry flavors have made my summer the best one yet and it’s not even summer – they’re also now in frozen form, so it’s a hot mom summer for sure), Caliva’s Deli Nickels (these gummies are seriously tasty and the passion fruit flavor makes everything just … wonderful. A must for folding laundry, you’ll have the time of your life, I swear), DELOCE (a new contemporary canned Espresso Martini cocktail that is relaxing without being tiring, I really enjoy cooking while sipping on one of these), Corralejo Tequila and Crystal Head Vodka are also great spirits as well if you want to be in great spirits.

Don’t want to imbibe? I will forever sing the praises of Optimist Botanicals. Optimist Botanicals are artfully distilled botanical spirits that are completely free of alcohol and taste divine. They are SO refreshing poured over ice; my go-to drink for watching the kids splash around. Like a lot of moms, sleep eludes me. I’ve found a few things that help me good a great night’s rest are: Kin Slips‘ Shut Eye strips (a relaxing combination of 5mg CBN and 5mg CBD), Potli Dream Honey (hemp-infused raw honey that promotes deep sleep), Mello’s CBD Sea Salted Caramels (if I find myself up and restless these help take the edge off).

A moment alone with a great blend of soothing tea always does the trick for me as well. Dr. Ackerman’s Blend from family-owned and operated coffee and tea shop Vices and Spices is specially formulated to help cope with anxiety, nausea and sleeplessness. Detoxifying and relaxing, the handmade blend consists of Peppermint, Chamomile, Skullcap and Yarrow, all with their own medicinal properties to help nourish your body and soul. (I am clearly not a doctor, talk to yours before imbibing alcohol or partaking in cannabis products).

My perfect Mother’s Day gift:

I was recently gifted a necklace by the Tough As A Mother Tribe and it has become so special to me. The pieces come in several designs – Mama, Names, Initials. I chose a delicate necklace with my children’s initials and have been wearing it every day since I received it. Made by a mama for mamas, each necklace comes with a gemstone on the clasp to signify your unique journey.

I also love Corkcicle. We rely on their kid’s sippy cups and insulated stemless wine glasses during the summer. What makes them stand out are the colorful patterns on adult cups and the flat mouthpiece on the kid’s cups. It keeps my 1.5-year-old from dreaded straw chewing.

(Courtesy Dr. Ackerman’s Vices and Spices)

My mom hacks:

  • Bring the outdoors inside. Like a lot of city-dwellers, our condo doesn’t have a backyard. When all the playgrounds closed, I decided to bring the outdoors in. We bought an extended Pikler triangle to encourage balance learning, ordered a Fisher Price roller coaster and then drilled a large disc swing to a joist in our living room ceiling. So much fun!
  • Let them get messy. Get yourself messy too. Have some fun!
  • Get the Nugget. Part-furniture, part-toy, it can be anything. It’s great for imaginative play! We have two and it’s the perfect size to make our stairs a giant slide. Even my husband and I can have a go, which is super rad after a Cutwater.
  • Take an easy hike! The fresh air does wonders, and the exploring is great for early childhood development.
  • Hello allergies. If you have a sore throat, Tahi’s 100% Manuka Honey Lozenges would be my recommendation for you and for kids old enough to suck on a lozenge without choking. My 3.5-year-old loves them, and I love how good they are for us.
(Courtesy Miage)

My beauty and wellness tips:

  • Hair- Aura and eSalon have been absolute game changers for me. Even before the pandemic, going to get my hair done just wasn’t really an option. eSalon creates salon-quality hair color made especially for you and delivers it to your door. Aura hair care has a variety of products, but I swear by their shampoo, conditioner and hair masque. After two kids back-to-back, the texture of my tresses is just … all over the place and Aura has assisted me by blending a formula just for me that brings out the natural qualities of my hair.
  • Skincare- Míage. I’m all about Míage. I was seeing it all over Instagram and in the Grammy and unofficial Oscar nominee gift bags so I tried it for myself and I am so, so into it. Míage uses a proprietary La Milpa cactus solution and a regenerative nutrient blend that is capable of awakening and activating the dormant epidermal stem cells that helps bring back vibrancy and luminosity to my natural skin.
  • Pain- I have a bad back. So does my husband. It’s perfect because my youngest is huge and we have three floors. My number one pain reliever is CBD and other cannabinoid blends. I rely on a CBD ayurvedic ointment muscle rub made by The Root of It All – it is truly amazing. I also recommend the vape cartridge Coastal Breeze by Cardiff along with the Vessel Vista vape pen battery – a discreet device that is ultra-safe. Caliva also makes a few lotions that I keep my cabinets well-stocked with, including their clove and frankincense muscle and joint lotion. It has a 2:1 THC to CBD ratio and will really do some work for you after a long day of hunching over a computer.

From the Classifieds to the CFDA Fashion Awards

Way back in the 1980s, Lynn Yaeger started working in the Village Voice’s classified ads department. It wasn’t long before she was publishing insightful (and often biting) articles about street-level fashions and the politics of dressing. Tonight Yaeger is receiving an award from Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Below we’ve included a couple of choice articles and examples of the ways in which Yaeger cast a discerning (and sometimes dissenting) eye over the fashion landscape.

Affordable Antiques & Collectibles

Left But Not Forgotten — Part One
November 8, 1988

Persons evincing even the most cursory interest in the American political scene will find themselves agreeing that this presidential season can be termed the autumn of our collective discontent. It was not always thus. Readers of a certain age can remember the headier polit­ical struggles of yesteryear, when extra-parliamentary parties crowded the tickets, and the talk around town, rather than merely decrying the desultory task of holding one’s nose and flicking a lever for the lesser of two evils, considered the possi­bility of settling disputes at the barricades.

But not our task to survey and critique the mainstream candidates as they go pranc­ing around the country de­ceiving the electorate, obfuscating issues, and engaging in mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing attacks on one another. No, we are here to share with you a world which you may have just about forgotten lately­ — the world of “third party,” “progressive,” “socialistic” politics and its attendant memorabilia and ephemera. We mean something to the left of the despised “L­-word” here — we mean the more than 100 years of working-class organization and struggle, of the fight for equal rights and woman’s suffrage, immortalized in scraps of paper, pamphlets, postcards, buttons, medal­lions, and the occasional doll or bronze bust.

Although there are many people who maintain an in­tellectual interest in the hid­den history of progressive America, a lot of these types confine their collecting to books on the subject, which they then proceed to read. Undoubtedly a solid knowl­edge of the subject matter is imperative in the building of your collection (how else you gonna know to buy a convict number 2253 but­ton? How you gonna be ready to grab a Victoria Woodhull carte de visite?). We are not interested here, however, in bibliophilia, but rather in the physical evi­dence that these social movements actually existed.

There are, given the mass support many of these movements enjoyed, sur­prising few of these items extant. This is easy to ex­plain. Most people interest­ed in overthrowing the gov­ernment were poor. Poor people lived in crowded ten­ements and did not, as a rule, spend their time lov­ingly storing in scrapbooks or attics the precious souve­nirs of their radical youths. (The very same reasons it is so difficult to find a 1910 apron but relatively easy to locate a ball gown apply here.)

Your best bet if you’ve never even seen any of this stuff is to visit a postcard or paper ephemera show, where there is usually some­thing appropriate for sale. Postcards with women’s suf­frage themes (“I want to vote, wife won’t let me” de­picting a man scrubbing and a gamboling baby) or other lefty motifs usually turn up, though prices at these shows may be discouraging. Dealers specializing in paper ephemera are sure to have something — look through stacks of magazines from November 1917 forward for responses to the Bolshevik Revolution, ranging from the nervous to the hysterical but with a few surprisingly optimistic accounts.

Those with sufficient knowledge to seek out a bar­gain should look with both eyes at the displays of but­ton and ephemera at general flea markets. Here it is like­ly that you will know more than the seller and, when locked in battle over a Farmer/Labor pamphlet or William Z. Foster button, you will probably emerge the victor. (We were able to pick up a Robert Emmet “Let no man write my epi­taph” commemorative badge for a song because the 19-year-old dealer thought it was just a funny old piece of junk.)

Of course, the more you know, the easier it gets. You may spend a lifetime chas­ing Knights of Labor, I.W.W., and Lowell strike items without success, but along the way you will surely turn up some fascinating substitutes. Though it’s pos­sible, after years of stalking, to locate a “Votes for Wom­en” bisque statuette or a Eu­gene Debs convict bust, we dare you to bring us, at whatever price, the circa 1875 Automatic Toy Works suffragette clockwork toy, who, when activated, leans forward in her checkered dress and bonnet and bangs her tiny fist on a miniature rostrum to illustrate her point.

(Next column: The Mod­ern era! The War Years! The ’60s! The Panthers! The New Left!) ■

Feminist Collectibles
July 4, 1989

The antiques price guides we read list plenty of souve­nirs of suffrage. They men­tion “Votes for Women” pin-backs, “Mr. Suffer-Yet” cartoon buttons, and Em­meline Pankhurst bronze medals. They tell of 48-card “Votes for Women” games, and suffragette glass candy containers, and geese figu­rines wearing sandwich signs. Maybe we’re always in the wrong place at the wrong time (something we’ve long suspected), but, not unlike notoriously elusive Wobbly (IWW) material, suffrage stuff always re­mains in the rarefied world of the memorabilia price lists, never an arm’s length away from us on a bridge ta­ble at the flea market.

Let’s face it — we are what used to be called “political” people. When we think about old pamphlets, leaf­lets, banners, and the like, we twitter with excitement. We can’t think of a whole lot of things we’d rather spend our money on than the ribbons, pennants, and other assorted insignia from the late 19th and early 20th century women’s movement. We even think we have a fair idea of what we’re look­ing at and for (after all, didn’t we spend years in the academy blathering on about “women’s hidden history”?).

And we truly believe this stuff has got to be out there somewhere! The assiduous collector might begin by hunting through stacks of printed matter at that old standby, the paper ephem­era show, where one can usually come up with a mag­azine or newspaper article at least tangentially related to the subject under discus­sion. (Suffrage, always a hot topic for editorial page writers, is not difficult to find mention of once you famil­iarize yourself with the dates involved.) The travel­ing autograph shows held frequently in midtown hotels are less intimidating than upscale autograph showrooms; and might be able to produce something along the lines of, say, a Vic­toria Woodhull carte de vi­site. (Geraldine Ferraro autographs, for those who believe that these constitute a wise investment, are usu­ally available and fairly cheap.) You might also consider visiting one of the fre­quently held all-postcard shows — bizarre affairs where members of this par­ticular subculture crouch for hours in front of endless rows of boxes flipping and flipping through millions of pieces of cardboard. Ask the dealers if they have any suf­frage items and you just might be surprised with a British “I Want My Vote” meowing kitty card or a multicolored “Stumping for Votes.”

Of course, you could ditch the suffrage angle altogether and come up with a unique one-of-a-kind collection documenting the position of women in history. Here the ingenuity and wit of the cu­rator, rather than the vaga­ries of the market, would hold sway. How about the collection of makeup, start­ing with an 18th century patch box (spend the mon­ey!) through Princess Pat and Mum, right up to Biba (keep looking!) with a little homespun Avon thrown in? Why not a collection of bathing outfits dating from 19th century swimdresses with their stockings and shoes (difficult but not im­possible to find) and ending with a Rudi Gernreich top­less number? The clever connoisseur, by selecting just the right field and then tracking down the most au­thoritative examples, can end up building a collection more exciting, more infor­mative, and more scathing in its critique of women’s roles, than the highest, thickest stack of vintage pa­pers and buttons. ■


From The Archives Living NYC ARCHIVES

Travel ’86: What’s Your Trip?

What’s Your Trip?
May 27, 1986
Survey by Lois Draegin

Poet, actor, musician
The best I’ve ever had were when I took some money up to Grand Central Station, got a train going up the Hudson, and just got off in an arbitrary town and went and stayed at a motel. Alone. For a day. Then I just wan­der around the town a little bit, have a few bucks in my pocket so I can buy a nice book. All the sightseeing spots, like a big puddle in a vacant lot, are revelations to me ’cause I’ve never seen them before and I’m a total stranger and I’m alone. Whenever I’ve gone on a vacation with anyone else where the idea was to go and have fun, get out of the tension and rat race of New York, it’s been utter horror and tedium and viciousness. I hate taking vacations because I’m out of my element. I’m only really on vacation when I’m alone in my apartment.

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New York nightlife czar
I haven’t gone out of Manhattan in years.
The Hamptons? Yeah, okay, but that’s for work, so you can mention that, sure.
I don’t know the last time I took a vacation. I don’t remember. My business is the kind that you just have to do night and day. I can’t travel. Can’t you hear the telephones ringing?

Bahia, Brazil, is my favorite place in my world. It has the cleanest, most beautiful water. The food is incredible, and the people are really beautiful. It’s far enough away from New York.
I go there every year for a month or two — as long as possible. My friend Kenny Scharf has a house there, so I usually stay there half the time, then go to other cities the rest of the time. Most of the time I just swim and lay in the sun; and eat; and paint.
Travel Tips: Learn to speak Portuguese, be­cause no one speaks En­glish. Stay away from sharks. Don’t drink the water. Never trust the taxi drivers.

Actor and playwright, currently starring in his own Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
Ooo, I just had a fabulous vacation. I needed to find a place to go for five days. I told the travel agent I wanted a place that was tropical, where you could lie in the sun, but that had like a triplex movie theater or something you could do at night. He came up with Key West.
So we went there and had a fabulous time. We stayed in a guest house. It was great because you sat by the pool — actually, the beaches are where all the tacky hoi polloi hang out — but the pool is so lovely. And we met all sorts of people: we met a Spanish marquis and a hair dresser from Washington, D.C. At night we went to marvelous restaurants. We saw a horrible production of As Is, which was sort of amusing, and we went to see the singing group Gotham. We toured Hemingway’s house, then we visited the cemetery in Key West, which is real fascinating.
Travel Tip: I use sunscreen 15, so I spent five days in Key West and ended up lighter than when I left. It bleached me. So that’s my travel tip — it’s also a beauty tip.

Rapper extraordinaire (his name says it all: Ladies Love Cool James)
In March I went to Hawaii. We went to Honolulu, then we went to Maui, then back to Honolulu, so it was very cool. I’ve never been to such a tropical place. It was my first vacation that I paid for and went on. I’ve been on vacations before, but only in the States, like down South, the usual. But that was the first time I had went over to a place like that and chilled.
I chose Hawaii because I knew the weather would be nice. I knew the bikinis would be nice, I knew the bikinis would be nice, I knew the bikinis would be nice. They were. It was an incredible experi­ence. Plus the view in Maui — you see the ocean and the mountains and the cliffs.
I was there a whole week, so it was cool. I took one of my friends with me, E Love — he’s in my group. We laid on the beach, got a little darker, and just cooled out. Didn’t touch the Maui Wowie, but I was coolin’. Runnin’ around, havin’ fun, wasting money. Just going to different places, like Pearl Harbor and all up in the mountains, things like that; buying clothes, buying people gifts.
The best thing about Hawaii  was not having to get up early in the morning and just hangin’. Just being able to do what I want.

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Transcategorical choreographer/composer/performer
If I ever go on vacation I try to go to New Mexico. Usually I’ve sung a concert as a way of getting there, then I’ll stay for a while. Just being there is like a vacation, even if I’m working.
I like the expansiveness of  the land­scape, and I like the dry heat very much. I like the kind of danger that sort of terrain has. It’s a very powerful kind of thing, and you do feel that you’re slightly in danger all the time: rattlesnakes, what­ever. You feel a certain power of the landscape, and it’s a very interesting per­spective to have, coming from New York. It does interesting things for my work, too.
One of the things that’s amazing is how the terrain changes very quickly: it goes from mountainous, pine-tree sort of ter­rain to desert within half an hour. So there’s a lot of different kinds of terrain in that space. There are canyons that are beautiful and pine trees, but my favorite is the desert, those dry hills of sagebrush, where you really get that expansive sky and the quiet.

Author (The Wanderers, The Breaks, Ladies Man)
I go to Italy, anywhere, from Sicily to the Italian border in the north. Italy’s main produce is style. It’s a very warm, stylish, artful country. They say France knows how to cook, Italy knows how to eat: it sounds like a cliché, but that’s the nut of it for me. When I’m in Italy, I don’t feel like I’m traveling, I feel like I’m liv­ing. But there is one place in France I would mention, the Périgord region, where all the foie gras comes from. If you go there in season, you pass all these farms where 400-pound geese waddle after your car with these desperate looks in their faces — like “Save me, save me.” Still, I’d go to the shittiest part of Italy before I’d go almost any­where else.

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In the summer I almost always go to the Thousand Islands, which I hate to publicize because more people will come. I’ve been going there since I was 12. We. have a big family, 20 acres, and woods and boats and tennis courts, a big house, guest houses. We were big on water ski­ing, treacherous feats — 12 behind a boat going through a narrow pass type of thing. We also did a lot of exploring by boat, finding islands we didn’t know ex­isted. The river is now polluted. We still swim in it, but when I was 12 we used to dip in a glass and drink.
Now, in my old age, I sit in a former ice house at a typewriter and occasionally look out the window at the ducks and the great blue heron. I do play a little tennis, but I’ve now developed exercise-induced asthma. Five minutes on the court and I’m huffing and puffing. I’m deciding to take up golf — the geriatric delight.
In the winter I concentrate on South America and Mexico. I have family in Argentina; they live on a ranch across from La Perla, which was one of the big­gest concentration camps during the 1970s, so that’s a little, ahem, psychologi­cally tough when you realize you’re en­sconced in the nest of the oligarchy. It’s like being across the highway from Da­chau and having everybody telling you this isn’t happening.
My travels are now political. In Argen­tina I interviewed the mothers of the dis­appeared. Then I went to Uruguay and taped the Tupamaros as they exited from jails after 15 years. Then I went to Bue­nos Aires to a military trial and took notes. My basic aim in this trip was to gather details for a novel I’ve been writ­ing for five years. Then I went to Rio for that facelift I wrote about.
Travel Tips: I never follow it, but never bring any clothes. Never take a charter flight. This is the greatest travel tip I could give anybody: Stay away from plans altogether.

Sui generis… poet/filmmaker
I go to Port Jervis, New York, about twice a month. I have a friend with a nice estate there. He has four dogs and six cats. I adore animals and I take all the dogs for walks three times a day. They sleep with me and everything.
I suppose Port Jervis was thriv­ing up till 1942, or something like that, when all the young men went away to war. Now the city is sort of suspended in time. It has an other­world quality, like a twilight zone. It’s kind of dairy country, with low gentle rolling hills, woods, a great pond, old stone walls. The Delaware River is not far away, and we go rafting on that, which is a terrific pastime. It’s amazingly beautiful and only 75 miles away. In fact, people are finding it out now, and my friend’s getting worried.
Of course, I could spend the rest of my life living six months in Greece and six months in Manhattan. I’m waiting for Brian McNally, who owns Indochine, to buy a restaurant in Greece. He’s promised I could have the apartment over the restaurant. Then I could come down and dance with the local Greeks.

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Fashion designer
The last place I went on vacation was Italy. I took an Italian holiday for 10 days. Shopping. That’s what I did. It was for the act of it: go to Rome, go shopping.
Usually when you travel you’re sup­posed to bring the least amount neces­sary to drag. Well, this was the opposite. I went with the idea of getting dressed and turning it out on the streets of Rome. I had my whole wardrobe there, turned it out, brought hats, suits, coats. It was like theater. So I slept, got up, hung out, called room service, went out for lunch, went shopping. It was one of these mov­ies kind of trips. It was good, especially in Italy — the Italians like all that stuff. They’re very overdone, so they really re­sponded to it.

Writer of short story collections Later the Same Day, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, and The Little Distur­bances of Man; political activist
I never think about vacations. That makes me sound like a workhorse, whereas I’m the exact opposite. I live in Vermont half the time, and New York. Either of those two places is wonderful. If I think of a vacation, I’d like to be in either one of those two places without any other work than my writing.
I haven’t been near an ocean enough in my life. Here I am in New York, right next to an ocean, and I don’t even know it, right? So I’d like to live near an ocean and know that I live there, with full knowledge of where I am. It wouldn’t be a vacation, but it would be living some­where else, which is my idea of a vacation.
And I like to go someplace I haven’t been — wherever that is. Most of the world, I guess. I like everywhere I’ve been — how could you not? But being on my own street is often nice, too. Today the ginkgo leaves are sticking out their pinkies.

Jazz musician-saxophonist and com­poser
I go to the Caribbean, St. Croix, once a year. I like it because it’s hot and the people down there look like me.
Travel Tip: Take some time off.

Choreographer/director of the imagistic hit theater piece, Vienna Lusthaus
Whenever I think, where would I most like to be in this horrible mo­ment, the answer is usually someplace in Italy, gorging my face with pasta.
There’s a wonderful town called Ra­vello. It’s on the Amalfi coast in the mountains, and it’s where Wagner wrote Parsifal. One wants to whisper there, it’s so awesome, so beautiful; you know, lem­on groves, terraced hills, a beautiful little Romanesque town square with an old church. I also adore Venice. It’s like being in a fairy tale: the light, the smell, the gondolas, the whole business.
Travel Tip: I used to be very fearful of going to a major city without a hotel res­ervation, but now I always worm my way into someplace.

Health Healthcare Living NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES The Harpy

How to Live in a Female Body

There’s a moment in every woman’s life when she discovers her body isn’t her own.

At the first uninvited touch, the first catcall, the first time the word “no” is said but not heard, she realizes it was never hers. Or not entirely — not like she thought it was, elbows and knees and thighs moving under her power, the whole many-celled complex of flesh subject solely to her will. To some it will always be property, to be moved and manipulated, admired or denigrated, for their own fleeting pleasure or gain. To move in a female body is to carry yourself through the world as a flicker of will in a machine others consider a tool for public use.

I was fourteen the first time I let something happen to my body. I hovered just inside myself, in the space where I knew what was happening to me had little to do with what I wanted, or what would give me pleasure. I lay back feeling the minutes pass with unsultry slowness, letting the whole thing commence with little involvement. All I wanted was to keep the peace and keep what I thought, back then, was love. The assignations continued for months. He was older; technically, it was illegal; practically, I channeled the dual forces of self-loathing and love, so potent in me then, into the process of making myself disappear for twenty minutes at a time, and letting my body remain on the bed.

I was too young even to be angry at him.

I displaced my anger at him, transferred it to anger at the strict religion I grew up within that quite literally prohibited women’s voices from being heard and from leading prayer; that partitioned us off in holy spaces, that told us our bodies were unclean. I ate on fast days and hid in the bathroom during morning prayers at school. I turned my anger at him into anger at myself. I burned myself with matches. I learned how much pressure one must apply to cut oneself with a safety razor: Breaking the skin is easy; making a thick scar is much harder. The physical piercing of my skin made the wave of pain I felt crest and break; physically anchored somewhere in the world, it could no longer flood my mind.

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The official doctrine of Orthodox Judaism prohibits all contact between members of the opposite sex outside of the covenant of marriage, even a brush of the hand or a tap on the shoulder, because women exist in a perpetual state of menstrual impurity.

In practice, of course, animal urges dart through the thickets of desire; hands touch hands and more than hands. But throughout those early encounters I grew used to what would define so much of my contact with men in the subsequent fourteen years. My body was a vehicle for the fulfillment of male desires. The ghost of my will flickered in the machine, tapped out for whole incidents, returned. Each time there was a little less of me when I came back to my body. To those I wanted to love so much, my breasts and my thighs were more welcome than I would ever be.

I didn’t know to expect any better.

I still wanted to be touched and to be adored, wanted sexual fulfillment, even if I wouldn’t have phrased it that way back then. That thirst returned me again and again to the brackish, putrid pool of bad love.

But it’s one thing to yield to an advance in the name of peace — to go along out of appeasement or even curiosity, or the hope that what happens will give you pleasure, even if it doesn’t. It is another thing entirely to say “No,” and say it loudly, and have it ignored. It removes all plausible deniability, and exposes the bad bargain for what it is.

I don’t remember all the details of the night that first happened to me; it happened to me precisely because I was in a state not to remember all the details. All he wanted, said my classmate who was mostly a stranger, was a kiss. He pulled me onto his lap and I wriggled away, as I stumbled out of my dorm room and he followed, as I took the back stairs and he pinned me against the wall of the staircase, as I turned my head away so forcefully my neck hurt the next day, as I pursed my lips so hard they swelled. The world wheeled drunkenly around me but I knew I had felt the word “no” in my throat; my vocal cords had vibrated, my tongue made the appropriate motions, my mouth opened, the word arced toward him in the air, and it didn’t matter. It is one thing to be thrust against as you lie there so indifferently you try imagine yourself into bodilessness. It is another thing to have your voice taken from you — to have your dominion over your body challenged. I extricated myself from him like a splinter taken from an eye: painfully, painfully.

The man who raped me, years later, had been my lover for months. He was not a stranger. He had doled out pleasure in miserly fashion and I had taken what I could. But I was drunk — not catastrophically; I could walk; I felt safe enough to have gotten drunk, to be a little dazed, a little dreamy — and I realized too late that he had entered me without a condom, the condom I took from my purse and gave to him and asked him to wear; I had agreed to sex but not this sex, not unsafe sex, I had agreed to sex with a man who had made me feel safe and then had waited until I was weak enough to violate. He tried to placate me but I couldn’t be consoled, not by him, at any rate. I went to his roof and cried until the windows of Manhattan were too blurry to see on the horizon, and melded together into a wobbly blush of light. For a decade I had vacated my body when I chose to, letting men use my limbs for their pleasure; but I had allowed it, I had chosen it, I had known what I was in for. This act of theft rendered my body not my own.

Looking back over fourteen years of involvement with men feels like flipping through a catalogue of trysts and violations. A small Rolodex of assaults, each one still searing to remember — groped by strangers on a train and in a backroom and a city park; fingers appearing where they had no permission to be, or where they had been forbidden to be; kisses taken, not given; an array of wheedling and incessant demands reluctantly acceded to and later regretted. Good and bad love are each represented there, but when I am alone at night the bad love thrums up from my memory, reminding me I am less than I was.

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When I hear women talk about the frustrating ways our voices seem to disappear into a void when we speak with men — when our areas of expertise are explained to us; when our work is undermined; when our contributions are dismissed in meetings, our credentials doubted, the very tones of our voices subject to criticism — I think of how much these complaints overlap with the ways our control of our own bodies is denied us. I wonder how many women have said “no” and had it deliberately go unheard, like so many other words we speak. When I talk about what I know — about the history of the Hebrew language, or Russian literature, or the strange depths of the Internet — sometimes I think of asserting control over my body and having it denied me, and wonder if I should speak at all.

The laws of this country so often dictate what happens to women’s bodies. The noose around our freedom to control our wombs is tightening, with the prospect of the nation’s highest court dictating from above that we are vessels for the growth of men’s seed, prevented by law from reversing the processes that happen just under our skins.

The notions that we are vessels for pleasure or for procreation are intertwined, and the overarching message is identical: Your body is not your body. Your body is a means to an end; the ghost inside that is your will doesn’t matter. You can say no; you can scream it; you can shatter your larynx like glass screaming no, and there will be those who out of sheer indifference or avarice for pleasure or unhearing zealotry treat it like silence.

I am twice the age I was when I first learned how to disappear inside my body. I wish I could say I have attained some combination of wisdom and clairvoyance that would allow me to foresee who may be a caring lover, and who will treat the word “no” as an inconvenience or as nothing at all. All I have gained is rage: rage that I can feel blazing in every limb, rage at a world that would rather I be a voiceless sac for fetal growth, a mindless conduit for the pleasure of others. I have taken the mourning I feel for the larger and less frightened self I could have been and forged it into a hot little dagger, one that I would like to plunge into the fat and self-satisfied flank of a world so willing to steal my voice. There are days and weeks when I feel like crumbling into ash. But I have chosen instead to fight, to raise a big and hideous and ungovernable howl for the girl I was and the girls who have yet to be. I don’t want them to ever have to pass through the ghastly syllabus of bad-love lessons etched on my skin; I want to erase it, rewrite it, dictate a will and testament that grants every woman absolute dominion over her own four limbs and every cell in between. I want to live with pen in hand, mouth open, reclaiming my voice at a volume that can shatter stone.


A Handy Guide to Maximizing Your Trader Joe’s Experience

As retail goes down, Trader Joe’s goes up. Selling cheap, innovative, relatively unpolluted foods, the store attracts lengthy lines — and they’ve been a mainstay of mine ever since they opened a TJ’s near me, on 32nd Street between Second and Third avenues. Having been there way more than therapy, let me relate the best ways to behave on the premises, and why:

• Go at 9 a.m. There aren’t as many cashiers, but still, it’s a sane time when you can get in and out pretty quickly. If you do have to go at a peak hour, rest easily knowing that they have thirty cashiers working and things can move pretty fast (if not as fast as at D’Agostino, where there’s no one).

• I can’t tell you what to get since it’s a matter of taste and need, but what the hell: Get toastable blueberry waffles ($1.99); marinated artichokes ($2.69); chicken shu mai ($2.99); farfalle (99 cents); skipjack tuna ($1.49); and whole kernel corn (89 cents). That last item is “naturally sweet and crisp. No sugar added, no preservatives.” But avoid the soups. They’re less than stellar, though they at least provide some contrast with the other merch: A store where every single thing is buyable would be a Twilight Zone nightmare come true and not worth visiting, let alone pretty much living in.

• Look around the produce, where there are delicious and fresh Fuji and Gala apples (49 cents each) and bananas (19 cents each). And on the side you’ll find offbeat desserts you wouldn’t ordinary see unless you scouted the area. I got a $6.99 chocolate cake that’s a wow.

• Make sure to visit the free sample corner and take whatever chorizo or cookie delight they’re offering that day. Don’t be ashamed. This is part of the fun, making it more theme park than supermarket.

• The workers are a kooky and varied bunch, and they radiate a glow that makes it seem like they’re well-treated. Be friendly and they’ll be friendly back. But bear in mind that the eccentric workers are way nicer than the customers. These are largely supermodel-looking CEOs who can’t be bothered with small talk. Don’t waste your time engaging unless you really want to know why the frozen burritos they’re stacking up on are so very special. (Out of sheer narcissism, they might just answer.)

• When you see these entitled customers loading up for the apocalypse — a familiar sight there, where people think a mild drizzle two days from now requires a month’s worth of food — sneak ahead on line. Look away as if you’ve done nothing wrong, and just carry on.

• Grab the impulse items on the way to the counter — they’re really good, not just guilty treats you’re taking out of panic. There are all kinds of inexpensive and interesting chips, chocolates, salsas, sodas, and other yummy things. Perfect for your next movie club.

• Also make a point of looking through the beauty products, an area you might not normally notice. The Vitamin E oil is a mere $3.99, which makes me feel wrinkle-free and beautiful just hearing about it.

• The $2.99 “multi-purpose cleaner” is a green dream come true, which has made the many purposes of my apartment absolutely sparkle.

• Try to avoid looking at the copious wall murals. They are generally of zombie-like people doing bizarre things, like one man holding a child upside down in a disturbingly gleeful manner. But I do love the exit pronouncement: “We Miss You Already!”

• When you’re checking out, keep the banter to a minimum. Just say “Plastic,” gather your shit, pay up, and get out. Time to enjoy the quirky glory and splendor of that great food. On the way home, stop briefly while passing D’Agostino and stick your tongue out.

• Maybe ride in in a wheelchair, but only if you mean it. When I had a bike incident last year, I glamorously wheeled to the front of the line every day, and I have to admit I sort of miss that royal treatment now. I should have kept that damned wheelchair!


City’s ‘Nightlife Mayor’ Faces a Tough Crowd on Her Home Turf

Last September, when New York City established its Office of Nightlife — a new entity meant to serve as an intermediary between club owners, residents, and city agencies — it came at the tail end of roughly a year of lobbying from advocates for struggling DIY spaces. The hope was that the new office, along with a director informally dubbed the “Nightlife Mayor,” would smooth the path for the operation of startup clubs and bars, revitalizing an industry many venue owners felt was perilously tangled in red tape.

Yet since her appointment was announced March 7, new Nightlife Mayor Ariel Palitz has drawn criticism on her home turf in the East Village. A resident of the neighborhood for two decades, she operated the nightclub Sutra Lounge, on First Avenue near 2nd Street, for half of that time — something some community leaders are charging will make her decidedly pro-bar, in a neighborhood famously more alive at night than during the day.

“People are cleaning vomit off their stoops Saturday morning,” says Laura Sewell of the East Village’s North Avenue A Neighborhood Association, which covers the stretch of Avenue A between 14th and 10th streets. “That’s an unfair burden to put on residents.”

Palitz, whose press office declined Voice requests for an interview, has worn many hats during her time in the East Village. From 2004 to 2014, she ran Sutra Lounge, which drew a hefty number of noise complaints, topping all bars in the city for 311 complaints between January 2010 and October 2011. (A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, representing Palitz, said this was largely due to the persistence of one unhappy neighbor.) From 2007  to 2014, she served on the State Liquor Authority subcommittee of Community Board 3, which gives recommendations to the state authority on matters of licensing.

Yet while this experience makes Palitz intimately familiar both with the challenges facing entrepreneurial business owners vying for a shot at success and with the gripes of residents who have had their fill of liquor-slinging outposts, East Village and Lower East Side locals vehemently disagree over whether Palitz has been willing to give both parties equal treatment.

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The Lower East Side and East Village’s reputation as a party hub is now so entrenched in the city’s collective consciousness that it’s difficult to imagine it being any other way — but longtime locals say unchecked hell-raising is a relatively new phenomenon on their blocks. Diem Boyd of the Lower East Side Dwellers Neighborhood Association, which covers the now notoriously booze-soaked cluster of blocks bordered by Houston, Delancey, Allen, and Essex streets that has been dubbed “Hell Square,” says she noticed the chaos start to ramp up between 2003 and 2005 — during that time, the Hotel on Rivington opened between Ludlow and Essex streets, concert venue Fat Baby popped up on the same block, and unfailingly popular drinking destination Pianos opened on Ludlow Street.

By 2006, the subdistrict had earned its ominous moniker. (The first documented use of the term “Hell Square” was reportedly in a post on Eater, though the original article seems to have been taken down.) In the years since, the DL opened at 95 Delancey Street (a bar that has butted heads with neighbors ever since, and last year was raided by police after spawning two violent brawls within two months), rancorous sports bar Hair of the Dog opened at 168 Orchard Street, and the ironically named No Fun (whose owners would sue the Dwellers in 2016 for trying to prevent their liquor license renewal) opened at 161 Ludlow Street. By 2013, the hellish nature of Hell Square was only escalating, and the Lower East Side Dwellers convened to combat the proliferation of liquor licenses they deemed responsible.

Meanwhile, the North Avenue A Neighborhood Association was formed in 2009 as a direct response to an explosion of rowdy nightlife establishments on a once reasonably peaceful stretch of Avenue A. That was the summer, notes association member Dale Goodson, that the block between 12th and 13th streets saw the opening of the notorious Superdive — a bar known for its frat-house atmosphere, keg stands, and champagne nights, for which a dwarf would lop off a champagne cork with a small sword. Upon its closing in the fall of 2010, a breathless obituary in Politico claimed the bar had signified a “tipping point” for the East Village into party central.

“It was the fuse that ignited everything,” confirms Goodson, noting another rowdy bar called Diablo Royale Este started giving neighbors near 10th Street grief in 2010. “Up and down Avenue A, things were starting to really go crazy.”

Locals ever since have lined up at community board meetings to air their grievances about thumping, sleep-disrupting basslines and shouting (and sometimes vomiting) partygoers. And those gripes are backed by statistics. An audit by the State Comptroller’s Office found that the area encompassing the East Village, Lower East Side, and Chinatown in 2015 was the site of more noise complaints stemming from nightlife establishments than anywhere else in the city.

Beyond chipping away at residents’ quality of life, longtime locals complain, the explosion of nightlife has left establishments that don’t serve liquor unable to keep up with climbing rents, driving out daytime attractions and less-moneyed residents alike. The result, at least within pockets of the neighborhood, is more of a boozy Disneyland flush with sloshed tourists than a community.

“The Lower East Side and the East Village have been decimated by this,” says Boyd. “We’ve lost so many mom-and-pop shops, rents have skyrocketed — it’s a transient community in a lot of ways.”

The Dwellers, known for their antagonistic tactics in combating liquor saturation, years ago declared war on Palitz and her Sutra Lounge, calling for her removal from the community board due to the lounge’s “rap sheet” of violations. The group fretted the launch of an office they feared would favor the nightlife industry over beleaguered residents, tweeting last year that a nightlife mayor was “not the answer for communities suffering quality-of-life nightlife blight and crime.”

When they found the appointed nightlife mayor was one of their own, that anxiety only intensified.

Members of the Dwellers, North Avenue A, and the Orchard Street Block Associations all say that during her time on the community board, Palitz voted overwhelmingly in favor of new liquor license applications and brushed aside residents’ concerns in public meetings. (Community Board 3 declined to comment for this article and was unable to provide Palitz’s voting record.)

“They really couldn’t have made a worse choice, in my opinion,” says Pamela Yeh of the Orchard Street Block Association, which covers a swath of blocks below Delancey Street and between Allen and Clinton streets. “She voted in favor of just about passing every [liquor license] application that came through the SLA committee.”


Those who served on Community Board 3 with Palitz, however, recall a reasoned and evenhanded presence who was always willing to hear both sides. These former colleagues insist the harsh criticism from bar-weary neighborhood groups is unfair, especially considering the newness of the position.

“I am extremely happy that she got appointed — I think she is the perfect person for this job,” enthuses former board chair Anne Johnson, who says Palitz’s experience as a bar owner should allow her to effectively tackle the issues facing the Lower East Side and East Village. “I always found her to be reasonable and willing to listen to all sides and not just blanketly support one side or the other.”

Former community board member Chad Marlow, who has been a staunch supporter of limiting liquor licenses in the community, recalls Palitz as a voice of reason, attempting to bring “uniformity and clarity” to the process of supporting or denying liquor license applicants on the subcommittee. “I think [for] Ariel, her challenge is going to be to try and find a way to promote the interests of the industry while at the same time protecting the interests of the community, and I have no doubt she’s going to labor very hard to strike that balance,” he says.

Essential to that balance, as far as bar owners are concerned, is an understanding of the hurdles faced by incoming entrepreneurs looking to build a sustainable business, particularly in such skeptical and often combative communities as the Lower East Side. Rents for retail space in the neighborhood are so high, a liquor license is often the only way to stay afloat — yet the tenor of the neighborhood has become warily anti-bar, creating a snag for anyone hoping to make a living out of a rented storefront.

Longtime local and nightlife veteran Nick Bodor, owner of beloved First Avenue dive the Library and shuttered rock music staple the Cake Shop on Ludlow Street, says the process of garnering approval from the community board can be laborious. And all the hoops one must jump through to justify the business model in the meantime — negotiating a lease, hiring a lawyer, hiring an architect to draw up renderings, even beginning to build out the space before the promise of a license is secured — can be prohibitively expensive.  

The result, says Bodor, can be a stifling of creativity and a depressing homogeneity in the bar scene.

“Cake Shop couldn’t make it up to twelve years,” says Bodor. “When you have these $25,000-a-month rents, it’s causing people to do lowest common denominator shit like pubs. It’s taking away any kind of interesting vibe–type places.”

Upon securing a lease, those looking to open a bar will often pay exorbitantly high rents for months while wading through the community board process, which often asks that the operator prove its establishment will be a boon to the community. Sometimes, bar operators will try to go around the community board and appeal directly to the SLA — something Bodor is hopeful will no longer be necessary. “All of that should be ironed out [by] the nightlife mayor,” he says. 

And Palitz is the perfect person to do so, says Bodor, recalling her as a sympathetic and reasonable voice on the SLA subcommittee when he was vying for a liquor license for the Cake Shop’s top floor as a means of staying afloat, even as anti-bar sentiment in the neighborhood was mounting.

“She was like a voice of reason during that time period when she was there, and it was really crazy with really long meetings and lots of opposition — she really understood both sides,” he says.

To assuage fears, Commissioner of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, who oversees the Nightlife Office, quickly arranged the first of several planned meetings with Lower East Side groups on March 14. Goodson says Menin “seemed genuinely engaged with resident issues with licensing, the SLA, and oversaturation.” Palitz recently made her first public appearance in Bushwick at the invitation of the NYC Artist Coalition, where she addressed the concerns of local business owners. A representative for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment says town halls will eventually be held in every borough so that Palitz can get a feel for issues affecting each community.

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The bulk of the inherent distrust in Palitz and her office may stem from the fact that Lower East Side residents have long felt neglected by authorities tasked with overseeing the flow of liquor in their streets. Some, including Marlow, have argued that the community board’s SLA subcommittee has a history of passing wishy-washy resolutions that greenlight new liquor licenses in violation of the SLA’s 500-foot rule, which prohibits issuing a new liquor license within 500 feet of three or more other licensed establishments. The results of this are evident on a map of the Lower East Side: The stretch of Ludlow Street between Houston and Stanton Street, which is roughly 500 feet long, contains six full liquor licenses according to SLA data; the full nine blocks of Hell Square contain over fifty full liquor licenses — and that’s not including beer and wine licenses.  

In early 2016, residents railed against a taqueria seeking a full liquor license that was set to replace a beloved Chinese bakery at 162 East Broadway — the spot was within 200 feet of a church (placing it in violation of another SLA regulation) and within 500 feet of a handful of other liquor-serving establishments. The business owners ultimately moved their entrance to skirt the 200-foot rule, and the community board issued a list of stipulations for them to observe. (The spot is now vegan eatery Jajaja.)

The resulting controversy led to a board resolution solidifying its commitment to the 500-foot rule; since then it has been more unwavering in its rejection of violators. (SLA Subcommittee chair Alex Militano has also pointed out that the board is merely advisory, and it is often in the best interest of the community to recommend stipulations rather than push for an outright rejection from the authority.)

In any case, once a new license has been issued, it is notoriously difficult to have it removed — community members have in the past found themselves saddled with bars that seemingly get slapped on the wrist for violations. Hookah bar Mazaar Lounge at 137 Essex Street earned a renewal despite accruing $20,000 worth of liquor law violations and a violent incident in which a drunk patron attacked a police officer. While the SLA has the authority to revoke, cancel, or suspend licenses for such violations, it often opts for less-damaging penalties — in the case of Mazaar, the lounge was hit with a steep fine as part of a plea deal — a tactic Boyd’s group has slammed as overly lenient. An SLA spokesman noted the authority does have a disciplinary process, pointing out that the DL was hit with a $40,000 fine last November, and could ultimately have its liquor license revoked. 

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment said there was no set interagency strategy in place for tackling nightlife issues, but that the office would work with the SLA and other agencies with a hand in nightlife. And in a written statement to the Voice, Palitz herself reaffirmed her commitment to pursuing nightlife parity: “I have tremendous faith that after we conduct a very thorough listening tour of all five boroughs and listen to all stakeholders in nightlife, we will be able to present a very comprehensive and realistic plan that will address the overall concerns of the residents and business owners alike.”


Palitz and her cohorts no doubt have a difficult road ahead of them in her home neighborhood alone if they are to truly balance the interests of business owners grappling for the right to serve booze just to stay afloat, and a rattled community that lives in fear of more drunks pouring into the street below their windows.

But hopes and fears aside, nightlife is an economic and cultural force to be reckoned with — it provides hundreds of thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars, both from New Yorkers and from out-of-towners flocking to the party hubs its residents hate so much. And so, the city’s logic goes, why should it not be maintained like any other part of the city’s economy?

There needs to be a balance between nightlife activity and residents, and this office can help to mediate situations that occur, and also focus on planning and managing nightlife, instead of letting it organically get out of control and then having to police it,” says Andrew Rigie, founder and executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, who now serves on the advisory board of the Office of Nightlife.

“We focus on city planning, and there’s no reason nightlife shouldn’t be part of the planning. It’s vital to our economy and our culture. And after all, we have been called the city that never sleeps.”

The Village Voice is exploring one borough per day for the week of April 2, 2018. For full coverage to date, visit our Neighborhoods Week 2018 page.


Meet the Straphanger Who Talked Back to Those Damn Fiverr Ads

You have seen the ads — oh, God, have you seen them. Ever since the cheap-ass labor provision company Fiverr (“Freelance Services Marketplace for the Lean Entrepreneur”) started plastering New York City subway cars with its “In Doers We Trust” ad campaign early last year, straphangers have been complaining about their Tony Robbins-on-meth taglines: If “Thinking big is still just thinking,” does that mean Fiverr — whose business model is built on having freelancers post tasks they’re willing to do for as little as $5 — wants us all to leap into self-starterdom before we look? Is “Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice” an attempt to compliment hard workers, or a call to work yourself to death? It all felt like, as Jia Tolentino wrote for the New Yorker, being hit each morning with a firehose of jargon “through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic.”

Sometime in the last few days, one subway rider decided to strike back using the oldest of urban protest tools: the magic marker. Over one image of a millennial in a hijab with the slogan “Nothing like a safe, reliable paycheck. To crush your soul,” they wrote, “That’s why ‘Fiverr’ only wants to pay freelancers five dollars per task!” On a neighboring ad reading “Somewhere, someone is planning a meeting about taking immediate action” — meant, presumably, to chide overly comfortable wage earners who refuse to drop everything and start their own Fiverr-staffed animation studio, via comparisons to the People’s Front of Judea — the unnamed penperson scrawled: “In West Virginia, teachers went on strike and won higher pay. Is that immediate enough for ya?”

The Voice managed to track down the mad scribbler, who agreed to speak about their actions on the condition of anonymity. (The MTA tends to get sue-ey over billboard liberation.)

Upon first seeing the ads, the writer said they thought, “This is bullshit.”

“I don’t know which got me more: the lie that everybody who’s got a shitty job can liberate themselves by starting their own company? Or that the name is built into a price structure of five dollars per task” — actually less, once Fiverr’s commission and PayPal fees are taken into account — “so the key to your success is screwing over as many freelancers as possible?”

It took several trips underground before this particular rider found themselves on a Fiverr-bedecked car with Sharpie convenient: “I had the inspiration, I just didn’t have the means of production.” Adding one’s own tags to a subway ad campaign, it turns out, isn’t that difficult, or even particularly risky. “This one guy from Denmark was taking a picture of it,” says the graffitist. “I do this a lot, and I’ve never been busted for it. ‘Don’t do it in front of a uniformed cop’ is about the extent of my caution, and I’ve never had a problem. New Yorkers don’t mind — they either have the subway face on and they’re not reacting, or they love it.”

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Billboard liberation, as the term of art goes, has a long and gloried history, arguably peaking in the 1980s after such modifications as the famous “If this lady was a car she’d run you down” image went the 20th-century version of viral. The practice may have suffered setbacks with the advent of graffiti-proof subway cars and the general chill that fell over public protest under the post–9-11 security state, but it never entirely went away, notes Fiverr’s antagonist.

“I see some pretty cool stuff,” they say. “There were some stickers repurposing the MTA’s ‘a crowded train is not an excuse for harassment’ to be aimed at Trump. Sometimes on ads for the School of Practical Philosophy, which has an anti-gay background, I see people adding just the word ‘cult.’ A little buyer beware, that’s all it takes.”

All of this is important, says our correspondent, not just to tweak ad buyers for their cynical posturing, but to provide regular folks a say in what’s left of the public sphere, even if it’s just scrawling the URL (or a of an article providing a dissenting view. (The Village Voice neither endorses nor condones vandalism, but if you, dear reader, did happen to arrive here via Sharpie-media outreach, hi!) “What is free speech today in a world that’s run by plutocrats’ money?” says the subway scribbler. “I don’t have a lot of money. Do I not have a right to express my views on the subway just because I don’t have venture capitalists pouring money into my pockets like Fiverr does?”

The Fiverr ad modifications are likely still out there somewhere, at least until the next MTA cleaning crew discovers them. But the person behind them has no intention of stopping now: “I look on it as fact-checking.”

Correction: This article initially misstated the details of Fiverr’s business model. Freelancers post their services on Fiverr for vendors to purchase, rather than the other way around.


What Men Don’t Get About Stormy Daniels

On Sunday night at Nowhere Bar, the 60 Minutes watchers were transfixed — not by Stormy Daniels, but by her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who has eyes as blue as glacial ice and a chin that could slice fine cheese. The rugged attorney’s popularity was not necessarily a surprise — Nowhere is an epicenter of gay arts and culture in the East Village — but by the end of the hour Stormy had drummed up plenty of affection of her own, the love partly fueled by her namesake cocktail, a Dark & Stormy–like mix of Jack Daniel’s and ginger beer.

In the subterranean crimson environs of Nowhere — with its advertisements for trans-masculine pool night and RuPaul viewing parties — the biggest frustration was CBS’s spillover of college basketball into the 60 Minutes hour, March Madness infringing on march madness. The room filled slowly between six and seven, with fashionable young men and a few of their female companions, and the general mood was one of eager anticipation. There was to be a dance party afterward, with all DJ proceeds benefiting the Sex Workers Project, which provides legal aid to sex workers and victims of human trafficking. The group Rise and Resist was also taking the opportunity to sell “Impeach” hats. 

“I take seriously the idea that this president thinks the wealthy are above the law,” said Emily, 36. “And also, this is really entertaining.”

Her friend Mike, 39, in a purple tee and salt-and-pepper stubble, sipping on a Stormy Daniels, added: “To oppose Trump, you just have to have no shame at all.”

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When Anderson Cooper came on, to the familiar tick-tick-tick of the venerable news show’s theme, there was a purr of appreciation. Cooper seemed far less comfortable facing a self-possessed porn star in an ill-fitting button-down shirt than he does standing handsomely in disaster zones — I felt a twinge of regret that the great Lesley Stahl hadn’t been summoned to this task — but Stormy managed a few great lines, despite him.

Describing her brief courtship with the Donald, Daniels said she was unimpressed by his legendary self-regard. “Like, I was, ‘Does, just, you know, talking about yourself normally work?’ ” Stormy said she told Trump, during their getting-to-know-you dinner. “I don’t think anyone’s ever spoken to him like that, especially, you know, a young woman who looked like me.”

At that, the bar erupted into cheers, and her narrative of spanking Trump with a magazine bearing his own face was greeted with similar enthusiasm. It seemed clear that Stormy was putting a new face to sex work for America: a spiky, thoughtful, unabashed one, demanding to be the subject, not the object, of her narrative. A thrum of pained recognition played over the faces of the few women in the crowd when Daniels described her initial encounter with Trump:

“I realized exactly what I’d gotten myself into. And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ And I just felt like maybe, it was sort of, I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone’s room alone, and I just heard the voice in my head, ‘Well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.’ ”

It was all very 2018: very Cat Person, very’s Aziz Ansari exposé, very of the moment, one in which so many women have come to terms with the sexual encounters they have had in which their own enthusiasm never surfaced, because it was never required. And this was a sex worker speaking — a figure to whom subjectivity and desire is rarely attributed in American culture, and this, in and of itself, seemed like a quietly radical moment.

When Daniels revealed that, in 2011, a thug had threatened her as she toted her new baby to a workout class — explicitly citing Trump’s name — an uncharacteristic hush fell over the raucous, queer crowd.

As in Stormy’s striptease act, which I wrote about for this publication, little about her initial sexual encounter with Trump was left to the imagination — but what was omitted was the crucial element: Did she have documentation? She was coy about it in the interview, to groans from the gathered barflies, even as her wit, and her genuine grievance with the powerful men she had challenged, came vividly to the surface.

But overall, Cooper seemed more bent on challenging Daniels’s credibility than Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s, despite the undoubted seediness and general strangeness of the latter’s actions. The infamous $130,000 payment was discussed at length, as was the oddity of Cohen’s personal provision of the funds. A helpful campaign-finance expert explained, with a straight face, that it was not standard practice for attorneys to pay six figures in hush money on behalf of their clients, let alone, as the White House’s story goes, without any coordination between attorney and client. The serious underpinning of the Stormy Daniels affair, the segment’s framing seemed to indicate, was about potential campaign-finance violations; the sex itself, the subsequent silencing, was ancillary.

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Frustrating as this was, I floated, for a time, on a vodka-and-pineapple-juice sea, into the joyous, dancing crowd — and then out again into the frigid New York night. I stopped by Papaya Dog to have a snack sanctioned by Stormy, who had suggested “tacos and mini corn dogs” as viewing-night refreshments. (I had to make do with a regular-sized corn dog, as tiny ones weren’t readily available.)

It was only when I got home, and started reading the takes male pundits had put forth blithely into the world, that I started wanting to stab someone in the eye with a sharpened pigeon femur.

The requisite reaction for the self-identified enlightened individual, it seemed, was ennui. Oh, a woman is being sued in federal court for $20 million by a sitting president for speaking about an affair he claims never happened? Ho-hum. La-di-da.

To be clear, I’m not particularly *interested* in any aspects of the Stormy Daniels story,” tweeted Matt Yglesias of Vox, as if prurience were an indulgence of the unintelligent. The story, he continued, is about “serious violations of campaign finance law!”

“Everybody who’s interested in the Stormy Daniels story is interested in it for the sex/gossip,” opined Nate Silver, who would presumably prefer we all focused on statehouse gerrymandering in Idaho.

“Buzz kill warning….just read entire 60 minutes transcript. Kinda non-plussed by it all. Feel like there are no surprises, nothing new here. Think I will watch basketball,” wrote Michael Smerconish, right-leaning radio commentator on SiriusXM.

After reading tweet after tweet, I began to feel I was levitating out of my body, borne up on an electric surge of pure feminist rage. What had they watched? What had they seen? Were they really incapable of imagining a world in which not everyone had read Stormy Daniels’s 2011 In Touch interview (or, more likely, a summary of it in the Washington Post)? In a year ushered in by the Harvey Weinstein revelations, had they learned nothing about the abusive, coercive power of the NDA? Were they really “meh” about a sixty-year-old man comparing a twenty-seven-year-old female sex partner to his own daughter — a claim echoed by another sex worker–turned-mistress on CNN last week? Were they really so blasé about a president’s emissaries issuing mobster threats to babies?

If these pundits were to be heeded, the cult of unshockability — the pose of permanent, dry unsurprise — had reached such a parodic nadir that one was not permitted to react with feeling to a smart, witty woman risking bankruptcy to speak out about being physically threatened and legally intimidated by a president and his cronies. That would be gauche.

At the end of the day, this scandal — like so many Trump scandals — is about the abuse of power. A man who was an intimate of Roy Cohn and who dealt extensively in concrete in the 1980s might be expected to have a more-than-glancing familiarity with mob intimidation tactics; that he might have used them on a woman he’d had sex with is still shocking. That he is suing her in federal court (again, to suppress an affair he claims never happened) is abusive in another way entirely. A rich man’s resources are his power; a woman’s words are hers, and as Nowhere’s event description put it, “Stormy Daniels is outmaneuvering what’s-his-name at every turn.”


The Harpy is a new column in which Talia Lavin examines the interplay between politics and pop culture in America.


Notes on Leaving Facebook

The first thing I know I won’t miss about Facebook are the “Memories.” It’s entirely typical of Facebook to assimilate a universal human capacity into its brand by means of a simple capital letter. The feature is simple enough: It ports algorithmically determined “memorable” moments onto your feed — grinning photos, particularly well-received bon mots — and implores you to share them, thus regurgitating what you’ve already fed into its sleek blue maw. In my case, as a recent divorcée after nearly a decade of partnership, the cheap rush Memories are meant to offer has lately been a torment instead. Remember (photo of the two of us at New Year’s, fireworks sizzling into life in the black air) when you were married? Remember (photo of the two of us cleaning a park in north Manhattan, with shovels and big grins in the long grass) when your life was full of love? Things are different now, and for so many reasons I no longer want to offer my life, free of charge, to the site. Leaving Facebook is a bit like leaving New York — while not yet a classic essay genre, it’s really about leaving a version of who you were.

I’m not the only one to make this decision over the past week; for longtime observers of cybersecurity, it must be bemusing to watch masses of people seemingly awaken all at once to the scale of the mining and sale of their data. No doubt for many, the tipping point was the revelation of Cambridge Analytica’s shady machinations — helmed by the comically evil-sounding “Dr. Aleksandr Spectre,” a second-rate Bond villain by both name and profession. But for me, at least, the decision to leave Facebook came after years of attrition, the slow accumulation of frustration. For ages I had willingly handed my joy and my sorrow, my debit card information and my family tree, my work and endless photos of my face, to a company that was selling it piece by piece all along.

Facebook makes it remarkably difficult to remove your page, a fact that might confound the thousands that took to Twitter to voice their desire to #deleteFacebook. A plethora of guides to what ought to be a simple maneuver have cropped up in recent days. The easiest option is to “deactivate” one’s account — leaving it suspended in digital amber until the next login, all its data retained by the company. When you choose to deactivate, the site displays photos of what it’s calculated are your closest friends: “Are you sure? Your friends will miss you.” To fully delete one’s account is far harder. It is almost impossible to do so through simple clicks (in fact, it is not even possible to achieve through your account settings). Just above the deactivation option, however, is the “Legacy” button, wherein you can ask Facebook to delete your page after you die. When Facebook adopted the Timeline in 2011, it allowed users to retroactively plug in events that occurred in their lives before Mark Zuckerberg arrived on the scene: The first option is birth, accompanied by a large, faceless silhouette of an infant. First you’re born, then you post, and then you die. Only then can you leave.

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My first status update was on September 9, 2006. I had just turned sixteen. Back then, each status was prefaced by “[Your name here] is” — before the status update evolved into a chaotic blank space for electoral musings and propaganda. On September 9, 2006, I was “electrified: deified: undenied.” I don’t know why, although my whole body was one electric charge that year: it was the first time I ever saw a penis, the first time I ever really, truly wanted to kill myself. My first kiss was still new. I adopted Facebook fairly early in the lifetime of the site for the same reason one starts frequenting a local café or takes up a hobby: My friends were there. Defenders of Facebook like to say that joining it is a choice, that the Terms of Service are readily available and transparent about the ways the company can help itself to your data. But this doesn’t consider the age of many adopters of the site. At the time, I might have been able to understand the terms of service, but I was not inclined to caution. The whole earth was ripe for me to bite; I wanted to fling myself into love and let it burn me alive. Sharing myself with a site was, if I saw it as a risk, one so mild I didn’t even think about it.

It’s ironic now to think that I entrusted Mark Zuckerberg with that degree of passion, and the language I used to convey it. The man has an almost stunning, rigid anti-charisma, like a wax doll cursed into life. In many ways, his public persona mirrors the way Facebook handles human sentiments: His smile seems like a simulacrum of a smile, just as Facebook traffics in slick but slightly unsettling approximations of, say, friendship, or celebration. In an age in which crisis communications have a lightning-fast turnaround, in no small part thanks to Facebook’s speedy delivery of information, it took him five days after the news broke to address the unwashed, profiled masses. In his post regarding the Cambridge Analytica crisis — which was, incidentally, nearly impossible to access unless you are an active user of Facebook — he neglected to use the words regret or apology or sorry. Instead, he blithely revealed the massive scale of the breach, both of data and of trust.

Per Zuckerberg’s own words, Facebook enabled apps to access vast quantities of social data about its users in 2007; the Spectre data theft, which would later be exploited by Cambridge Analytica, occurred in 2013; and in 2014, Facebook initiated restrictions on what data third-party apps could access. The post further announced an audit of precisely what information these apps had retained since — eleven years after the company had created the problem; four years after it attempted to solve it. (My archive informs me that I used to play a match-three game called “Farm Heroes Saga” — “Switch and match the collectable Cropsies in this farmtastic adventure!” — and I wonder how much data it harvested from me, as I was busy harvesting tiny digital onions with humanoid faces.) “I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission,” Zuckerberg concluded. According to Facebook’s investor FAQ page, that mission is “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Facebook’s mission, in other words, is to get people to use Facebook, to remain in its close quarters, to give, and give, and give to these careless stewards of our tender hearts. It’s good at this mission; that’s why its market cap is still $463 billion, despite a brief dip last week.

Before you leave Facebook, the company gives you the option to download your archive — the sum total of all that you have posted, your messages and photos. In just over a decade, I accumulated 586.6 megabytes of curated life: enough for an hour of high-definition video, or an education, various youthful travels, a marriage, its shattering, and the slow, grim process of repair. I clicked through the photos: me during my first month at Harvard; in Yalta while it was still in Ukrainian hands; in Amsterdam, stoned and woozy on a canal boat; being proposed to, grinning wide as a cracked geode; nervous and bridal in the big white dress like a cruise ship; adopting a tortoise named Percy Shelly, et al.… What you give to Facebook is an accumulation of any number of tiny decisions, handing over the bright, irreplicable shards of your life in exchange for fleeting hits of dopamine. 

Let me not exaggerate my sacrifice: I post on Twitter to an astonishing and frankly irresponsible degree. But I deleted Facebook (and Instagram) with a twinge: I can no longer casually browse photos of my old friend Gahl’s two adorable daughters in Tel Aviv, or correspond with fellow writers for a women’s comedy outlet; I have excised passive consumption of the lives of people I know but don’t speak to daily, and I know myself too well to assume I will seek active knowledge of their whereabouts. In essence what is lost is not true connection but a sense of connectedness — the idea that we are all proximal in that sterile antechamber to life, that we could touch lives briefly if we so desired, even if we never, ever do. What won’t change, even if hordes flee, even if more depredations are revealed, is Facebook’s impact on the way we use language: so many words, flipped over like stones, have attained new meanings — timeline, status, like, memories, friendship, share, feed, heart. While I’m not one to quibble with the lexical laws of common usage, I would rather a heart be a muscle filled with the stuff of life; I would rather feed my companions steaming garlic bread and borscht on winter nights than watch from a distance as their lives scroll by.


The Harpy is a new column in which Talia Lavin examines the interplay between politics and pop culture in America.