The Newsletter Thingy
The Sybarite Newsletter: Issue Six
We can do hard things
This newsletter is going to be short, because last week I suddenly flew across the country for a funeral. I don’t need to tell my fellow Sybarites that airports and modern-day flying are the opposite of Sybaritic. Airports are too loud, too gross, too crowded, too rushed, and don’t get me started on flying coach.
I was still recovering over the weekend, when I usually leisurely draft these newsletters, and now I’m rushing to write it before I head off to my “real” job. I’ve decided I’m going to forgive myself for the half-assed job I’m about to do, and I hope you can too. Sometimes life smacks you in the face with a two-by-four, and you still gotta do all the things you always do, even if you’re seeing stars.
Lately I’ve been obsessing over the little (or big) beautiful things that come from mundane things. In Los Angeles, little plants always grow in the cracks in the sidewalk, but lately I’ve noticed fig trees growing out of the cracks in cement walls. Okay, it was only one fig tree out of one cement wall, but it was still mind-blowing: Someone built a wall where a fig tree once was, the wall eventually cracked, and the fig tree was like, “here’s my chance” and it started growing out of the wall. I’ll take a photo of it for all y’all next time Fish and I pass by.
Why am I telling you this? Because the above photo is so incredibly beautiful (it’s more than that, but what’s the right word?), but it’s from a engineering project. And engineering projects are utilitarian and not obviously beautiful, at least at first. If you’ve been following the Sybarite Newsletter from its inception, you may have noticed that each image is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Open Access Program. This this morning I found this image, which is described as:
An engineer graduated from West Point, Lieutenant George Wheeler wanted to find inland passage for troops from Idaho and Utah southward to Arizona. In 1871 he was commissioned with the fourth U.S. Survey to map the topography of that region in view of strategic transit and future settlement. To his original corps of scientists Wheeler added the son of a prominent Boston family, to publicize the expedition in the Eastern press, and Timothy O’Sullivan, to provide a visual record.
Some visual record, huh? This photo gives me the feels, which awkwardly brings me to my seemingly never-ending plea for submissions to Sybarite. I’m pretty sure I’ve scared some people off, either by providing 19948283842838 notes on their draft submissions, or sending them extremely long emails about how their pieces could be re-worked. Turns out some people don’t like that. But good writing is hard. Good writing requires us to be open to hard conversations. Good writing is like an engineering project — lots of moving parts, lots of heavy lifting.
The writers who have published in Sybarite subjected themselves to this editing process, and I actually think they might have liked it? If you think you might like it, and want to write about something real, something elemental, something tangible but also give the reader the feels, send a draft link to firstname.lastname@example.org, and your Medium handle.
Speaking of doing hard things, Robert Isenberg has a new story in Sybarite about shaving with a straight razor, which is part memoir and part how-to, but in the best way, a sneaky way. (Full disclosure: Robert never gets edited because his writing is perfection, always.)
Finally, I did a hard thing myself. I redesigned Sybarite’s home page. A millenial took pity on me and walked me through how to do it over a Zoom call, and even though I hyperventilated through the whole process, I did it. Now I can even do it without his help. Give a (wo)man a fish and you feed her for a day, spend a day on Zoom with her and you turn her into a formatting machine. I think that’s the quote.
Check it out. It’s still a work in progress but the nice thing is that you can see the direction in which I want Sybarite to go. (I’ll graph that sentence later). The current sections are now: Lifestyle & Beauty, How Hot + How Long (the section for the simplest of recipies), On Food (for more complicated food writing), Cities & Travel (but make it emo), and Advice for Sybarites (but never self-help, at least in a listicle kinda way).
It was hard to do, for me at least. Shaving with a straight razor is hard too, but apparently worth it. Sybarites can also do hard things; we aren’t always lounging around eating bon-bons.
Until next week,