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I've started looking up Airbnbs or apartment rentals in places I want to travel to whenever I'm feeling restless or tired of my life. It's partly inspirational escapism: I love to romanticize myself eating a crunchy baguette in a Bordeaux villa, or settling into a spacious hideaway near Zion National Park. One day, I'll visit all these places in real life, and flipping through these real estate listings feels pleasantly like I'm holding myself to that promise.
Paradoxically, my Airbnb sprees also remind me that I choose to live where I do right now, and that for the most part I have the privilege of choosing the life I lead every day. This realization is comforting. I am the agent of my own life, and if my present choices cease to serve me one day, I am free to choose something else. Though it feels comically self-serious to say that googling "Oaxaca rental one-bedroom" elicits this much reflection, it always restores my appreciation for this current phase of my life, and makes me excited about how much more is yet to come.
These are the things I've been relying on to feel transported to a new place. Hope you enjoy them.
Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge. “Yong’an is a city in which spirits, beasts and humans mingle, brushing shoulders in the street, falling in love, even having children. No one dies a good death.” In Yan’s fantasy mystery, readers follow a failed zoology student turned novelist on a mission to understand the humanlike creatures that live in her city. Each chapter offers an account of a different “strange beast,” as the narrator hunts down leads in crowded bars, Edenic temples, and wealthy government institutions.
Because of the formulaic storytelling format, I was initially expecting a short story collection. I was wrong. This is a mystery novel that builds suspense, first in cryptic snatches before ballooning into something much greater than the sum of its parts.
"'He Has Changed My Life Completely.' What It's Like Covering Shohei Ohtani" by Sarah Valenzuela. "[Sports reporter Naoyuki] Yanagihara does not live in the U.S.," Valenzuela writes. "His home is in Tokyo, where he lives with his wife and 9-month old baby for half the year, spending the other half living out of hotels in the U.S. ... This is the life of a Japanese sportswriter, one assigned to cover the country’s biggest star playing in Major League Baseball."
“Hawái (Remix)” by Maluma and the Weeknd. I won’t disclose the exact numbers because it’s humiliating, but this was one of my most-listened-to songs of 2020 by a significant margin. I will not be discussing this in any further detail.
Whether Maluma and the Weeknd intended it, “Hawái” is a cutting portrait of masculinity’s ability to distort grief into self-centered bitterness. “I’d rather go half on a baby / ‘Cause at least I know that it’s not temporary,” the Weeknd cries out in a moment of particular lunacy, before pitifully adding, “And at least we’ll share something that’s real.” Later on, Maluma scoffs at his ex’s Hawaii vacation photos with a new boyfriend, but his subdued, melodic voice morphs the cruelty of his words into something more desperate. It’s this kernel of grief that makes “Hawái” so stirring. “Baby, but you’re not happy with him,” Maluma insists. Who is he speaking to? His old lover? Himself? His listeners? It’s unclear who he’s trying to convince the most.
Wow, you read the whole thing! Thanks for that. If you have a favorite corner of the internet that you’d like to share, send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “reSEARCH.” We may feature it in a future newsletter.