Eat | Read with Kristen Iskandrian feat. John Dermot Woods
In this space, we’re going to tell you what we’ve been reading and what we’ve been eating, and we’re going to ask other people what they’ve been reading and eating, and we might, from time to time, include a recipe or a meditation or a grocery list. On most days, the only thing I like more than food is books, and on other days, the only thing I like more than books is food. But on all days, I ingest a lot of words and a lot of calories. We at Real Pants are eager to explore the wide and always-changing intersection where we find ourselves ever-hungry, never full.
What I’ve been eating:
I think we can all agree that we’ve all been eating cereal. Cereal with ice cold milk is one of life’s truest and most reliable pleasures. Since it’s John Dermot Woods week here on Real Pants, I thought I’d tell a little story about him and cereal and another thing that happened. I think it was maybe 2007, when we were in graduate school together in the charming burg of Athens. We were there and my husband Brian was there and the beautiful Sabrina Orah Mark was there too. We’d been at a bar and had made the decision, always a sound one, to go to Waffle House before going home. There were maybe two other groups inside besides ours, and we sat down near the counter and everyone looked at the double-sided laminated menu, except for me, because there was only one thing I wanted, which was Raisin Bran with ice cold milk. I know it’s a weird choice after a night of alcohol, but I grew up eating cereal before bed, and its capacity to soothe, like a posset, is folkloric. Everyone ordered their eggs and waffles and smothered hashbrowns, and I ordered my cereal, and I’m pretty sure Woods ridiculed me relentlessly in his Woodsian way. At some point it was just us and another party, across the way, and our waiter came to our table and asked if we’d mind if a woman—that girl there, he gestured—took her clothes off. She and her friends didn’t have money, he said, but she was willing to pay her bill via a striptease. We didn’t know what to say. I think we all thought about offering money, but it quickly became clear that money wasn’t the issue. The issue was that the offer of a striptease had been made, and was about to go down in a Waffle House, and who were we to stop such an historical event in its tracks? Our waiter and another waiter pulled down all the blinds. That part I remember clearly. The girl wore knee-high platform boots and was sort of giddy and the male employees couldn’t believe their luck and the whole thing, heightened by the garish lights and the smell of grease, felt like an episode of a show you used to watch alone because it goaded you into feeling feelings you couldn’t name. We were all complicit, and we were all vulnerable. If I remember correctly, Woods had his back to the action and I don’t think he turned around once, not even to peek. I ate my cereal with ice cold milk. We paid and left, united in this unforeseen way—to paraphrase Auden, “we must love one another and/or die”—that night having done a little of both.
What I’ve been reading:
One of my favorite of Woods’s Atrocities, on pages 132-133, “Extended Sentence,” about a homeless man who was arrested for assault and also for stealing (what else) cereal.
Also I want to talk to Woods about an idea I’ve had for a long time: cerealized fiction, as in, stories written on the back of cereal boxes. Why should I have to stare at a freaky honeybee in a maze or a lazy word search puzzle comprised of maybe 24 letters or a boring sermon about GMOs when I could, you know, read something real.