Annaliese Griffin

Articles by

Annaliese Griffin

Annaliese Griffin is the editor-in-chief of Brooklyn Based. She has written about food, film, television and, of course, Brooklyn for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Daily News and more, and was a professor of blogging at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She tries not to let her obsession with procedural dramas get in the way of her work.

02/12/17 9:41pm

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I’ve decided to start going to Planned Parenthood again. I moved recently and I haven’t found a gynecologist to call my own yet, and while reading about the anti-choice rallies urging the government to “defund” PP last week I realized that I could support it with my body, as a patient. This feels right in so many ways.

I owe my life to Planned Parenthood. Not in the medical sense, but the quality of my life today was made possible by having access to birth control I could afford when I was younger. For many years I didn’t have health insurance and having Planned Parenthood as a resource meant that I knew I could at least get a Pap smear and a basic check-up. As a human female who has spent the past few decades having sex with a variety of human males, there’s just no way that without birth control I could have gone to college, worked approximately 46 different jobs in my twenties, lived in different cities, gone to graduate school, started a business and all the other great stuff I chose to do, footloose and fancy free-like, before I finally had my son at age 38. I recognize what a privilege this is and I also recognize that I’m a way better mom than I would have been at 20, 25, 30 or even 35. Everybody wins, especially me.

The Planned Parenthood in Downtown Brooklyn is very large and very efficient. The waiting room has a distinct resemblance to the DMV. Between the waiting room and your exam you linger in a sort of medical purgatory where you pee in a cup and carry it past a dozen other women doing the same thing in a bathroom with all the charm of a high school locker room. But then you get to your appointment and you are treated like a real live human person worthy of care.

I can’t tell you how rare and important this is, and I probably don’t have to. (more…)

02/05/17 2:58pm

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There’s been a lot of talk about how Democrats have voted in the cabinet confirmation process this week, calling out senators who have voted yes on Trump’s picks. I believe that on this matter reasonable people can disagree; it really is quite rare for nominees to be rejected, but then, these are unusual times and unusual nominees, many of them. Playing politics is, literally, senators’ jobs, and it’s not that surprising that many of them are more interested in confirming the devil they know (Ben Carson) than rolling the dice and getting a new, worse devil as a new nominee. But let’s be clear about one thing: there is no worse nominee for the position of Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos. Let us count the ways:

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about basic education policy matters.

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about special education programs.

It appears that she plagiarized some of the written portions of the questions posted to her by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Her many, many conflicts of interest are not just financial, though those alone should be enough to disqualify her. Her family’s money has been used to do little more than advance extreme right wing agendas and her brother Erik Prince is the founder of Blackwater–yes, the vile mercenary group.

So what are we to do?

The Senate vote is Monday (the calendar indicates it will happen after noon), so there’s not a lot of time left. Still, call, call, call. Now is the time to talk to friends and family who have Republican senators if you do not have one to call your own. Write a script for them and email it with the phone number. Offer to speak for them if they initiate a three-way call to the senator’s office. Make the script personal, talk about a child you know who deserves a real education. Talk about your own excellent public education.

It’s also time to get creative. If you have a child in your life get your best photo of them (ask their parents’ permission first!), and tweet it at every Republican senator with a Twitter account, or post to their Facebook walls. It’s a public way to register your opinion. If you’re not comfortable with a photo, just use a name and say, my daughter Libby, my nephew Frank–to personalize this is the point.

Here are a couple options:

This is my son. He deserves a SecED who believes public education is an American value. All children do. #dumpdevos

All American children deserve to be educated, not monetized. @BetsyDevos #dumpdevos

You get the idea.

Here are a few to start with @SenDanSullivan is from Alaska and the other Republican senator from the state, Lisa Murkowski, has vowed to vote no. @SenJohnMcCain occasionally shows some independence from his party and good sense, and @SenBobCorker from Tennessee has been floated as someone who could be turned.

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Graph:

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Source: Center for American Progress; Every Voice; Federal Election Commission.

If you don’t like the tactic of using cute kid mugs to shame these Republicans into voting in the interest of public school children, then use their own fundraising against them. Here’s a chart and an article about how much all of these Republicans have accepted over the years from Betsy DeVos and her family. Tweet something like:

.@SenJohnMcCain @BetsyDeVos paid you $50,600, but you work for American children #dumpdevos

Two different campaigns have been started to “buy” senate votes. The GoFundMe started by a Philadelphia teacher to buy Senator Pat Toomey’s vote against DeVos (@SenToomey) has raised almost $70,000 (the money will go to several Philly-area educational resources). A similar campaign in North Carolina has raised $6,000 (this will go to Public School Forum of North Carolina) to buy Senator Richard Burr’s (@SenatorBurr) vote. His last tweet was about the Puppy Bowl. Tweet at both of these senators about all this. Link to the GoFundME campaigns. Get it out there for transparency, if nothing else.

Here’s what your week looks like, and no, it’s not pretty. (more…)

02/02/17 12:12pm

The other morning my husband and I got into a bleary-eyed fight over a minor difference in opinion over a political matter of great importance. I’m being purposefully vague here because I don’t want to send you into the vortex of news-cycle misery we’re all struggling not to lose ourselves to right now. We did not manage to come to any enlightened conclusion about the state of the nation, or the issue we were bickering about, but we did reach one solid agreement–we need to engage with more non-political culture, together.

There’s a unique pleasure in watching a movie or reading a book and then talking about it with someone whose brain you enjoy. It makes us feel more resoundingly alive, and is a crucial reminder that being human is a very special, wonderful occupation. Here are 10 things to watch, read and ponder with someone you’re fond of this month.

tumblr_inline_ogl6z96gc61s6rwtx_50010. Not Even Happiness, Julie Byrne

Brooklyn Based-contributor Regina Mogilevskaya turned me on to Julie Byrne, who released a new album this week and is performing at City Winery Feb. 2-4 (those shows are sold out) and at Baby’s All Right on Feb. 15. I will admit that a certain amount of doubt enters my mind when I hear the words singer-songwriter, but the experience of listening to this lovely album can best be described as similar to the spreading sense of comfort and warmth that fills your whole body when you finally take some Advil and the tension headache you’ve had all day goes away. Put it on repeat for however long it takes. (more…)

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02/02/17 10:18am

February may be the shortest month, but it has a tendency to feel more like the longest page on the calendar. Instead of despairing that your work schedule or bank account won’t allow you to escape somewhere warm to recharge, find some inner sunshine with these three inward retreats, for less than you spend on your morning coffee.

7310557616_1aa99df928_z_0_0Lovingkindness Fridays
If you love the idea of guided meditation, but don’t want to wear yoga pants or feel like you’ve joined a cult, The Interdependence Project may be where you make more space for yourself in New York City. The approach is a secular study of all aspects of Buddhism, mixed with psychology and a deep exploration of meditation as a tool for living better and more fully. In addition to special classes, intensives and series they offer regular weekly sessions like introduction to meditation classes on Sunday afternoons and Metta meditation on Friday evenings, which focuses on exploring the Buddhist concept of “lovingkindness.” Many workshops and classes are also available online, including a series called Transforming White Privilege, if you prefer to dive inward in the privacy of your own home. The suggested donation for most classes is $10-20, and the center is committed to making sure that people of all incomes are welcomed and have access to the community. (more…)

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01/29/17 8:33pm
Protestors flocked to JFK Airport on Saturday to stand with immigrants and refugees. Photo: Kate Hooker

Protestors flocked to JFK Airport on Saturday to stand with immigrants and refugees. Photo: Kate Hooker

First off, apologies for the lapse in sending. This column has been finding itself as we move along into the brave new world of the Trump presidency. Immediately post-election one action a week seemed like the sane way forward. Right now though, trying to distill the chaos into a single story makes me feel crazy, like I’m trying to take the SATs, give a eulogy and play a hand of euchre, all at the same time. There’s so much to know and to do and I don’t want to leave out important information.

So for the foreseeable future, Action Trumps Hate will work like this: every Sunday night, starting tonight, I’ll send out a newsletter that focuses on one topic in depth in the intro, and then provides a calendar of actions and important events, protests and information, one item for every day of the week, below. Think of it as Your Week in Action. This way I can address more of the very many things going on, and also dive deeper into, or make an argument about a particular issue. Good? Good.

For many, the Women’s March was the highlight of January so far, and I found it energizing and uplifting as well. But there was something even better that I got to be part of, especially in light of recent events. I attended my sister’s nursing school pinning ceremony–essentially a graduation–at the City University of New York. It was an evening I will think about and hold close as we move through these perilous times, and not just because I’m proud of my sister.

Each name that was called, each student pinned, added a dot to a world map that surely covered at least five continents. In her speech, the valedictorian talked about the concept of the humblebrag, and the fact that there was no word for it in Russian, her native tongue. She thanked CUNY, and the U.S., for giving her so many opportunities as an immigrant. Judging from the number of different languages swirling around that room she was in the majority as a non-native English speaker. The sense of pride, of accomplishment, of forward momentum, transformed a decidedly non-fancy affair–it was held in the CUNY Tech cafeteria in downtown Brooklyn–into something that felt remarkable. The parents and siblings and children and aunts and uncles and spouses and boos there were overflowing with so much happiness and pride. There was a palpable sense of possibility, that the American dream still does exist, and yes, I know how sentimental that sounds, but I was inspired by being there with those graduates; it reminded me of what America can be.

Then, just about a week later, Trump signed an executive order that is government-sanctioned Islamophobia, disguised with the thinnest of veneers, while continuing to insist that we build a wall along the border with Mexico. Before Christmas I wrote a column about supporting refugees and resettlement programs–it’s still a good resource for helping people on the ground in Syria and for supporting resettlement work in the U.S. And of course, keep protesting the wall, keep speaking up for refugees and immigrants and against xenophobia of all kinds. We need to keep the pressure on. Call anyone and everyone, donate to the ACLU. But remember that it’s just the most incendiary action of the moment–there are several slow burners we need to keep an eye on as well.

This week, the thing I want to you to get good and angry about, in a productive way, is Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and his allergy to transparency. There’s a connection here. All those refugees and immigrants who supposedly pose a risk to American citizens? They’ve been vetted more thoroughly than our president. This should make us all incredibly pissed.

(more…)

01/27/17 12:04pm

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I should be upfront and tell you that I was predisposed to fall in love with Paul Auster’s hefty new novel, 4 3 2 1.

Sitting on my desk when the 860-page review copy arrived in the mail was a stack of books that included Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience and Candide, both of which have recently seemed worth a revisit to me, and both of which figure prominently in the novel. Twice in the past I’ve interviewed Auster, who is a kind and engaging sort of writer, rather than a prickly and defensive one, despite his intense, sort of smoldering author’s photos and the intractability for which his work is known. 4 3 2 1 is a love song to New York, which is really the strongest character in the book, other than our quadruplicate protagonist, Archie Ferguson. I recently moved from New York after nearly 15 years, to Brattleboro, a small town in Vermont, which, oddly, also has a cameo in the weighty tome.

Those were my circumstances, which you should understand before you go out and get yourself involved with this book, because I fell for it hard, but for personal reasons, which I suppose is why we fall hard for anything.

All this is about me, the reader, and shouldn’t I get myself out of the way and let the text speak for itself? Remember, this is Paul Auster, a fiction writer who has long grappled with, in ways both playful and portentous, where the author ends and the character begins and how much of the content of the page is determined by the individual act of reading it. It feels fitting to insert myself, and the connections and coincidences, another Auster obsession, that contributed to  my love for this book.

The premise is goes like this: 4 3 2 1 charts the life and education of Archibald Ferguson, born March 3, 1947, in Newark, N.J., one month after Auster himself was born, in the same spot. March mirrors the calendar of February in non-leap years–if February 3, 1947 was a Monday, which it was, March 3 is also a Monday, so it’s an even deeper doubling. From that single child, four distinct narrative arcs develop and the first couple hundred pages move forward at breakneck speed as you struggle to differentiate between the hopes and dreams of four similar, but distinct small boys, and four similar but distinct New Jersey homesteads.

Auster is not gentle with us, and the novel brims with a parent’s anxiety for their child. Ferguson, as he is largely known throughout, though various nicknames and pen names emerge as all four grow older, falls out of trees, gets into car accidents, experiences loss and in fact dies, more than once. (more…)

01/23/17 1:08pm
Colonie serves an expectation-defying bowl of brussels sprouts. Photo: Colonie

Colonie serves an expectation-defying bowl of brussels sprouts. Photo: Colonie

When Colonie opened on Atlantic Avenue in the winter of 2011 it was the most Brooklyn a restaurant could be.

The spot was long and skinny, with exposed brick and rough hewn wood, rustic and elegant at the same time. It was lauded as the neighborhood restaurant that the area had long been wanting. Alex Sorenson, the opening chef, had spent time in the kitchen at Mas (Farmhouse), one of the the earliest, and best, contributors to the city’s farm-to-table fanaticism. Pork belly, foraged mushrooms and Greenmarket root vegetables all found prominent spots on the menu. The restaurant had been partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

It got a star from Sam Sifton in the New York Times, love from the food blogs and quickly became a go-to for anniversary dinners and special occasions.

Six years later, New York is obsessed with fancy pizza and fried chicken and farm-to-table principles have been co-opted by fast casual concerns like Sweet Green and Dig Inn. Does Colonie hold up? (more…)

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01/20/17 9:25am

I think it’s time for a pep talk.

Since the election there’s been a great deal of panic, a never-ending news cycle full of outrage. The holidays may have been a respite for some, a deeper twist of the knife for others, and then Congress, the Affordable Care Act, ethics, the FBI, Russia, and wait, let’s think about Congress again for a minute. It’s been a lot. It’s been too much. But here we are. Part of the franticness of the past months has been, I think, a hope that there would be some last minute play, some Hail Mary or Hollywood ending that would change all this. That if we wailed and gnashed our teeth loudly enough the world would come to its senses. It hasn’t and it won’t.

This is a moment to wake up. This is a moment to be quiet and make decisions.

I hate the idea that this moment in politics, this moment in American life has some sort of silver lining. It is not though, without opportunity. This is a moment to wake up. This is a moment to be quiet and make decisions.

There’s been so much talk of bubbles and talk against bubbles and about how particular bubbles are better than others. If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet sent me an email telling me I’m disgusting or pathetic, then you know which bubble you belong to. I’ve been thinking about our bubble, the coastal elite. The urban. The gentrifiers of America. And while I have joked over the past weeks and months that part of my outrage comes from the fact that I was really counting on Hillary Clinton to keep on keeping on with forward progress without any work on my part, there is a real truth to that. Now I have to engage in democracy. Now I have to pull my weight to shape the society I want to live in, that I want my child to grow up in.

Is that imperative so bad? Isolate it from, well, the tangerine nightmare, and we have arrived at a crucial moment. A place where we stop telling ourselves that buying organic kale at the farmer’s market is the sum of our civic and moral duty. Now is a moment in which we start taking true responsibility for our bodies, and their privilege, whatever that might be on an individual level, moving through this world. I’m not talking about becoming joyless ascetics, (I am drinking a latte right as I write this), but I do feel that many of us have lost a sense of community outside our own circle of friends.

This has to be a time, not just of protest, but of interconnection, of thrift on one hand and generosity on the other. We must be willing to speak, to stand, to sacrifice not just for our own needs and interests, but to understand that we are all stronger when our neighbors have access to health care, our co-workers can send their children to great public schools, and the elderly are not alone.

We need a compassion infusion in our culture, and whenever I find myself lacking this quality, I think about something my mother, who started a restorative justice program in her small town, often says: On most days, most people do the best they can. Implied in this is a social contract that says that it is your job to give others the tools to do better, if you have the resources.

It’s time to take responsibility for the world we live in. There’s no one way to do this, but before I return, next week, to more discrete actions, let me just fill your tool box with some options for ways to move this mission forward. Remember, my friends, we are playing the long game. There is no other way. Listen to Nina Turner’s words and then gather your wishbone, your jawbone and your backbone together. We can do this. Onward!

Assemble your toolkit

Of course, at the top of this list is developing a relationship with a non-profit or advocacy organization that you feel passionate about. Volunteer in a local school, mentor a child, serve on a restorative justice panel, stuff envelopes, get involved in a political campaign. Your help is needed and there’s a new community out there waiting for your talents.

I also have a request: Send me your ACA stories. I want to give them a home where people can come and read a variety of stories about how the ACA has changes lives and what it would mean to lose it. Email me at Annaliese@brooklynbased.com.

Politics:

Swing Left is a website that identifies key House races for 2018, helps you find the one closest to you, and makes it easy to connect with those campaigns. Remember, the entire House is up for re-election and there are some very tough races ahead.

There was a moment in the final debate where Hillary Clinton was speaking about abortion not as a political act, but as an intensely personal and difficult decision. In that moment I felt truly represented and in that moment I realized how rare that is. To finally shatter that glass ceiling we need a wave of women to enter politics and change the game. Ignite is an organization that supports the political ambitions of young women, and works to get more women into positions of power.

Stay informed: The echo chamber of the post-truth era is crazy making. Factba.se is a site that has assembled a public record of Donald J. Trump’s statements, campaign speeches on video, public document, policy statements, and archived them so that you can go to tape when you’re trying to understand his track record or past statements on an issue.

The House and the Senate propose, reject and approve mountains of legislation while they are in session and it’s very difficult to keep track of, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the process. Gov Track  and Countable are both online tools that help you stay on top of what our legislators are up to on any given week, and to track the various bills and other pieces of legislation they may be championing or gutting. They’re more granular than the media, but less confounding than official government websites.

Online inspiration: Writer Amy Siskund has been keeping a record of things, large and small, that have changed since Trump was elected, as a way of resisting normalization of his presidency. Read hers, start your own, share her lists. The Facebook group Task a Day to Defend Democracy does just what it sounds like, offering up ways to stay engaged on a daily basis. Wall-of-Us is another email subscription that offers four actions a week to engage, connect and resist.

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01/17/17 12:47pm
Shepard.Equal-Humanity-GreaterThanFear

We The People is a Kickstarter campaign that aims to cover Washington D.C. in powerful images, like this one, for the inauguration. Image: Shepard Fairey

I’m going to give it to you straight–this Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 Donald Trump will be inaugurated as our 45th President. It’s going to happen. There doesn’t seem to be an ethical conflict too deep or a tweet too far–even insulting a Civil Rights hero on MLK weekend–to stop this juggernaut.

We need to find some productive ways to cope.

You probably don’t have Friday off from work, but it’s not like anyone is going to be getting much of anything done, either. We’re not saying hide your head in the sand, we’re saying make Inauguration Day a time to reflect on how you want to spend the next four year.

Got to the Whitney, and pay what you wish: “On January 20, the Whitney will be open on a pay-what-you-wish basis all day to affirm our commitment to open dialogue, civic engagement, and the diversity of American art and culture,” says the Whitney’s website. There are a variety of special tours and events for the day, listed here, including a program called My America, that leads participants through an exploration of their portrait collection. The museum is open until 10pm, so there’s time to consider the role art will play in the sure-to-be-strange years to come, even after the work day is done.


(more…)

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01/12/17 2:55pm

When I started #actiontrumpshate, it was in reaction to the tsunami of information and calls to action I was seeing on social media. I felt overwhelmed and I wanted to help readers winnow down mass outrage into real action. My strategy has always been to pick one topic, event or group for the week, and present in-depth analysis of why focusing on that one item is important, along with an action or a set of actions, as well as background information and a reading list.

I have to admit, this week has defeated me.

There’s no one thing to say without sounding like I’m ignoring so many others. I’ve referred to action in the post-Trump world as feeling like a game of whack-a-mole before (you’re welcome for the video, btw), but in the context of helping readers avoid that sensation. This week it’s inescapable. Barack Obama addressed the nation for the last time as President. The Senate voted last night at 1:30am to approve a budget that is the first step to dismantling the ACA. Corey Booker stood against the confirmation of fellow senator, Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, but then he (and 12 other Democrats) voted against a Bernie Sanders bill that would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs. Trump’s nominees for top posts in the government have failed to fully participate in the standard vetting process for government service, like lazy teenagers who refuse to write a college application essay because they know that their parents will just write a big check to the family alma mater instead, but the confirmation process is moving forward nonetheless. Trump gave his first press conference since July (compared to President Obama’s 18 between election in 2008 and inauguration, and Bush’s 11), during which he mostly smirked at America. Then there’s dossier about his ties to Russia, which is certainly a real thing that exists, but we don’t know how much of it is true.

It’s like episode 7 of Twin Peaks, when the mill burns, Cooper gets shot, Catherine and Shelly almost get murdered, Doctor Jacoby has a heart attack and Leland kills Jacques Renault, only real and not fun to watch at all.

There’s no one thing I can tell you to do in light of this deluge. So I’ll give you some choices, how about that? (more…)