The Drinking Club Could Use Some Magical Thinking Right About Now

I hope everyone is staying healthy, safe, and well stocked on their wine. I don’t think many of us are far off from throwing in some Baileys to our whipped coffee one morning. The days blur, the stress builds, and you can’t unwind with a peaceful walk along the NYC riverfront because there are TOO MANY PEOPLE OUTSIDE.

As we wait for the next shoe to drop with each news alert, it gets harder to remember the petty grievances we once held, while the memories of happy hours and brunches and movie nights begin to feel like a part of a good dream you just remembered. Now seems like as good as any time to recap what The Drinking Club was up to before it all went to hell in a handbasket (I know this update is months late. I KNOW. The shame is relentless):

  • We read Cherry, and probably got ourselves banned from a posh Midtown wine bar. It might have been for calling the waiter out for his bartender’s crappy pours. It might also have been for leaving six credit cards to split a bill out of spite when said waiter suggested that “Venmo was a thing.” We have no regrets.
  • We read Daisy Jones & The Six, and feasted on grandma pizza and roommate horror stories in DR’s cozy new studio apartment.
  • We read Where The Crawdads Sing, and had very polarizing reactions to it. Some of us also stood on an Amtrak train from Baltimore to get to the gathering, and were probably not the greatest company.

As fate would have it, The Drinking Club gathered about a week before we were told to stay home for the foreseeable future (but not before buying all the yeast we could get our hands on). I had recently ditched MV for another club member, moving into a spacious and sunny bedroom in MM’s apartment. We gathered in my new living room that Friday night, inhaling sea salt chips with our Cabernet Sauvignon and letting loose after a long week. We spent a significant amount of time discussing bodily functions (were we possessed by 12-year-old boys?) and getting LL to dish on all the wedding planning updates (which has now, sadly, been postponed to 2021). It was my turn to select our read, and I chose a book by my favorite author, one that had been sitting on my shelf for nearly two years. The author: Joan Didion. The book: The Year of Magical Thinking, her exploration of death and grief after her husband suddenly died and their daughter became gravely ill. None of that is relevant to today at all.

This was not the cheeriest read, I will admit, especially once you know Quintana, Joan and John’s daughter, dies after the publication of the book. However, those of us that worship at the altar of Joan know that she can make dried paint sound fascinating. What is captivating about her writing is how perfectly she can distill a feeling or experience to the reader. She unravels our most complex actions into their simplest truths, removing any bias to show them as they are. In Magical Thinking, she untangles her grief thread by thread, taking us along as the time from John’s death grows from days to weeks to months. She documents her cool responses in moments of crises, her refusal to accept his death, and her overwhelming sadness as she puts her mourning on hold to care for her daughter. The moment she buys hospital scrubs at UCLA sticks with me still. This scene encapsulates how warped her reality is, and understandably so. Her world, at that moment, is one of trauma. She dissects this and her lowest moments scientifically, but also with compassion. This, combined with her in-depth reporting, gives the reader an unparalleled look at grief on a larger scale, as well as how it infects an individual.

If I’ve learned anything from this book, it’s that we won’t understand how our current crisis has changed us until we are well past it. We will develop quirks that will seem strange to our future selves, but were essential to coping during these quiet days. I’m hopeful Joan will be with us on the other side of this, helping us understand why we did what we did. No one will be able to do it as well as she can.

The Drinking Club is supposed to gather later today, where we’ll hear how DR is accomplishing her very necessary work at a hospital, how DD is managing working from home, and how AM is managing with her relatives in the age of COVID. MM and I will brag about the donuts we made (they were phenomenal). We’ll remind LL how much we’re looking forward to celebrating her wedding in 2021. And we’ll be grateful for each other, our health, and the books that helped us through this time. But mostly we’ll be grateful for the wine.

Until next time,


The Drinking Club Ends the Decade

I know, it’s been a while. You don’t have to tell me. I spent the last 6 weeks staring at my inbox, tormented by unopened newsletters and bookmarks I wanted to share but couldn’t find the desire to jot down. That sounds melodramatic, coming from the least active blog of the least dedicated book club, but that’s what happened. Bookstagrammer, I am not. But I missed writing down the weird and wonderful I found and sharing it with all two of you. In the next year and decade, I’m vowing to keep in touch more, and to be kinder to myself and the rest of us when we just need a minute.

Not only has this December been chockablock (love this word) with best of the year lists, we’ve now had to cope with best of the decade lists. No one wants to remember what was cool in 2011, because then we’d have to remember what we were wearing, and doing. And we can no longer stomach the amount of Four Loko necessary to wipe those memories.

So, to close out the year, here are The Drinking Club’s Top 5 Books of the Decade that We Didn’t Read. We will read them, at some point. Maybe. After combing through these roundups, it occurred to me I must have had my own year of rest and relaxation (also known as the Grey’s Anatomy binge).

I should mention the rest of The Club was not polled for their recommendations. It’s entirely possible AM and DD have read these (and reread these), being the best of the bunch. We’ll catch up in 2020 with everyone for their input, and let you know what we’ve been up to (including the wine bar we’re no longer allowed into).

Without further ado, and in no particular order–the list:

5. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

I started these, but had to pause after Book 2 when I started to feel like the doll thrown down the sewer drain. Ferrante’s writing is visceral and infectious. I plan to return to Naples and Lena’s story, but this time in smaller doses.

4. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

I received this for Christmas the year it was published and was ecstatic. I’ve picked it up several times over the years…to put it in a moving box. Now it laughs from its perch on the bookshelf, knowing I will have moved again before I read it.

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This one also sits on my bookshelf, a couple of shelves below James. It doesn’t mock openly; it stares cooly from a corner spot. It knows how unworthy I am of it.

2. There, There by Tommy Orange

I will put my name on the NYPL waitlist tomorrow, and receive my digital rental in 8 months. I’ll read 60 pages in two weeks, and then wait another 7 months to finish it.

1. All the Drinking Club books

While I joined The Club late, even I haven’t read all the books selected over the years. I should probably start here.


Stay gold,


The Club Texts When We Get Home

No one says goodbye anymore. At least, not women. No one is saying see you soon, catch ya later. No more so longs, farewells, or auf wiedersehen adieus. Instead, as they’re rounding the corner or taking the stairs down to the River Styx (more commonly known as the C train), they’re shouting “text me when you get home.” Because we live in a world where a woman’s safety is not a guarantee. Our send-offs have become pleas, because we know the danger in a quiet subway car, or a poorly lit street. We don’t want it to be the final goodbye.

You know another way to avoid the final goodbye? Instead of saying it, you hunt down canned wine and dollar slices. That gives you another hour and a half, at least.

Our last Drinking Club gathering ended over rose cans and garlic knots while MM, MV, and I enlightened DR and MM’s coworker with our stories of growing up in the place that spawned Teresa Giudice. The work friend said he felt right at home, having spent his childhood watching telenovelas. But unlike our latest read, our slice of suburbia was not terrorized by a phantom who stole entire communities’ peace of mind. And not one of us is as masterful a storyteller as the late Michelle McNamara. Her notes could win a Pulitzer.

If you paid attention in 6th grade English, those context clues should be telling you that our last read was I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. The thoughtfully and obsessively researched book is the result of McNamara’s fixation with the Golden State Killer, the serial rapist and murderer that stalked California in the 1970s and 1980s.


The flap copy calls this book an “atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history;” that couldn’t be more accurate. McNamara transports the reader to the subdivisions of Northern and Southern California, where unexplained footprints beneath bedroom windows and noises along the fence lines foreshadowed horrific violations. We get to observe the police bullpens and crime labs where gruff detectives and everyone’s favorite hunky criminalist (where my murderinos at) became consumed by the mystery of the man who committed 50 sexual assaults and 10 murders before vanishing.

McNamara does all of this with an unwavering sense of humanity, sharing only enough information to make your hair stand on edge, but never feel exploitative towards the victims. She exposes the dark corners of her own past that led her to her obsession with the East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker, allowing you a glimpse of a mind that, in order to understand the darkness, plunges headfirst into it. McNamara passed away before completing the book, before the world knew who the Golden State Killer was. Her colleagues and family finished for her, impressively maintaining her voice while piecing together her notes and published work to create the final chapters.

McNamara’s writing, more than anything, captures the fear and despair that sent these families and communities spiraling. How do you fight the feeling that your worst nightmare is patiently waiting for you to close your eyes, that there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from striking again? How, as someone sworn to protect the community, do you live knowing you couldn’t do anything to stop him, let alone identify him? How do you also confront McNamara’s untimely passing, that your life could end in an instant?

You make plans. You YOLO. You live by the inspirational quotes on the tchotchkes your elderly aunt gets from the Hallmark store. You dance like no one’s watching, in the rain. Because the stark cold reality is that there is nothing we can do to prevent the monsters from coming after us. This makes us control freaks oh so comfortable. There’s no shortage of Type As in the Drinking Club. You should see the things some of us can do with a spreadsheet.

So what are we planning for? For starters, we’re prepping for the copious amounts of hurricanes and Sazeracs we’ll be drinking at LL’s nuptials next spring. The AirBNB hunt has commenced. DR is journeying to Southeast Asia and is currently accepting applications for a road trip through the Pacific Northwest (The Drinking Club Takes Portland, anyone?) MV is looking across the pond for fall adventures with her SO, while MM is planning some major career moves that make us all so proud. If the others decided to show up, I can brag about them too (what that subtle enough?)

What I’m walking away with after this book is to live fully and unapologetically. The only way to combat the shadows is to live in them, bringing the monsters into the light. So stay til last call. And text me when you get home.