Midnight Snack is a new Lunch Ticket column that’s obsessed with our obsessions — our sugared, caffeinated, late-night journeys of the mind, wherein one tab on our web browser leads to another, and then another. Every Friday at midnight, a new Midnight Snack piece will trace an old fixation spiraling anew, or something familiar suddenly defamiliarized. In the age of access, what do these journeys reveal about our past, our times, and who we are? Lunch Ticket’s newest column will try to answer those questions every first Friday of the month.
My mother always used to tell me that I had an “over-active” imagination, with an emphasis on the over. In hindsight, I don’t think she meant that as a good thing. She used to say that when I was being annoying. Like the time I insisted on bringing a backpack to the supermarket with a wolverine mask from a 1991 costume set that I stole from my older brother and a bathrobe inside.
I’m nine or ten years old, sitting at our dining room table when I put down my fork, look up at my dad, and ask: «Γιατί η καρέκλα λέγεται καρέκλα και όχι τραπέζι;» “Why is a chair called a chair and not a table?” This will not be the first, or last, time I’ll see an adult with an expression of utter befuddlement
When I was young, I learned to hide. Our home was filled with alcoholic chaos. I knew my parents loved me, but I couldn’t trust them because I never knew when there might be another outburst, disappearance, or explosion. There were only so many closets, garages, and attics I could retreat to. I was a child.
I’m trying to convince my friend to watch the film Point Break (1991). She doesn’t believe me that it’s one of the greatest (and sexiest) action movies out there. Our conversation goes something like this:
“Do you like watching hot men stand a little too close to each other when they talk and act like they don’t have a hard-on for each other?”
Mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, whether at my desk, leaning against the kitchen counter, on the couch, or on my bed, makes me feel disconnected. My body is curled up, knees close to my heart, and my shoulders are tense below my ears. My eyes are locked, all background noise essentially muted. All of my attention is focused on the little screen in my hand.
You’re at the Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles, scanning the spines of the memoir section, when you notice a familiar name. But the name isn’t familiar to you as an author. You recognize her name because she’s the former wife of the second richest person in the world. You pinch the book by its spine, pull it out from the shelf, flip it to the back cover, and there she is—Mackenzie Bezos.
It was a Friday night in the second year of the pandemic, and I was up late, drinking beers, watching old reruns of the comedy-drama series M*A*S*H. I pressed play on an episode where Colonel Henry Blake receives an honorable discharge and gets his orders home. He makes a round of heartfelt goodbyes to everyone in the unit, especially his trusty sidekick, Radar, before departing.
My family didn’t get cable until about 1990, right about the time home shopping became a term. In this pre-internet era, the idea of buying stuff off your television was goofy and sort of modern at the same time. Not cool (decidedly not) but a solid step up from an infomercial. (Sorry, Cher.) For me, a teen who suffered from chronic sinus infections and was left home alone on sick days, the constant chatter of QVC was a comfort.
Christmas 2021, and I was alone, doing time in quarantine after a Covid exposure at work. Feeling lonely and a little sorry for myself, I decided to cheer up by popping a frozen pizza in the oven, grabbing a beer, and watching the new limited series Hawkeye on Disney Plus. I knew almost nothing about this character—unlike the rest of America, I’d never seen an Avengers movie –
Mami has been decluttering. It’s time to toss some of it, she said. I still say hello to whatever is left when I visit. On the nineteen-minute drive to my parents’ house, I think of what potted succulent Papi will arrange for me this time. The collection on my balcony is growing. I am rummaging through dusty photos…
It’s around 11:00 pm and five of us are sitting outside in our shared courtyard, taking stock of what weapons we have between us. Helicopters buzz overhead and the local news shows downtown Long Beach literally in flames as protestors run through the streets in rage over the murder of George Floyd. It’s the summer of 2020, and the world-as-we-know-it is actively collapsing around us.
I gazed up to the sky in tears. The breath caught in my throat. The moon was utterly absent, and in the resounding darkness there were so, so many stars. Their shapes are the same as ours. The sand beneath me felt cool as pool water as I pondered my infinitesimality. I took pleasure in rolling the ancient grains between the grooves of my fingers.
We crave contact. Politics and a pandemic have driven us apart, so we’ve found each other in a new place, a world within a world—The Metaverse. The digital universe is a limitless space, promising contact, a way for us to find each other across multiple digital realms. Some worlds replicate our own. Others are “cartoonish, [and] gummy-colored fantasy.”
One of the joys of writing historical fiction is having an excuse to slide down internet wormholes in the name of “period research.” A go-to source of mine is old catalogs. Me: How much for a Betsy Wetsy in 1937? Does my novel involve a Betsy Wetsy? No. Is it even set in 1937? Not as such.
Ten minutes of digging for the copy line “She’s Rubber and Loves a Bath”?
My love for horror began at six or seven. I’d watch horror movies with my brothers and then crawl into bed with my parents that night and swear it wasn’t because of the movie. And then there were the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. The illustrations unsettled me, stayed with me for years. The blurry but striking images of bones, ghosts, haunted houses…
Gaby left her hometown of Guadalupe y Calvo in Mexico’s northern Chihuahua to become a midwife. I don’t know whether she was more interested in delivering babies or simply staying alive. Perhaps she doesn’t either. She told me her story over lunch in Parral after a birth preparation class she gave at one of Mexico’s few midwife-run clinics.
I am awakened abruptly by the sound of someone opening cabinets in the kitchen. I text my brother to check if it’s him, assuming the resident night-owl might be roaming for food. Instead of a text back, I hear my brother and father frantically search the house for someone they wouldn’t find. Every night after that, I fell asleep with my ears perked, waiting for anything unusual.
You’re alone in your lair, on Netflix, despite the midday hour. You feel guilty but who could blame you during the early summer days of COVID? The sky is painted a brooding dusk, whether that be by rain or annual California fires you can’t tell. See, you’ve been hiding inside, in the dark, lit only by the neon light of your oversized TV
Off the coast of Turkey—at Uluburun—is a shipwreck. It’s a Bronze Age wreck, most likely of Mycenaean origin. You can remember the exact moment you first lost yourself to its mystery and fantasia. There you were in the small, quiet hours of the morning with your sweaty blankets kicked off, neck at a horribly uncompromising angle, and a laptop perched on your chest inches away from your face.
Each night, I fall through time and space online, a plunge that drops me into myself, too, down through my own veins and bones, into the space my DNA curls around. Each night, I fall toward my ancestors. I was scrolling through Instagram several months ago when a post by the brilliant writer Myriam Gurba knocked my hand off my phone.
The wormhole started with Machine Gun Kelly, a big-hearted, rebellious, scandal-magnet. I came to him (two years late) for a throwback-injection of loud, careless 90s pop punk. His 2019 album Tickets to My Downfall (produced by Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker) was a feast of angst and raw, flawed emotionality, the likes of which have been gone from the mainstream since the grunge of the 90s. . .
My parents were anti-television, so the only time my sisters and I had free rein to watch TV was at my grandma’s every Friday afternoon. We still couldn’t watch kids’ stuff like Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, because they showed children being disrespectful. Instead, we watched what my grandma called the oldies but goodies: Green Acres, The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies . . .
I have a running list of favorite memes that live rent-free in my mind. There’s the blinking white guy, the international symbol for disbelief. There’s the beloved Arthur character DW holding the fence, standing in for all of us standing on the outside of some cultural moment. There’s Spongebob Squarepants (who has a meme for every occasion) voicing his need to exit an uncomfortable situation. . .
It’s a Saturday night in 2010 and I’m sandwiched between two fellow “nerds” on an overstuffed couch at a friend’s house. Their mom is making a family sized pan of nachos in the kitchen, while they queue up Doctor Who on the TV. I’m fifteen, bad at math, overexcited by new interests, and louder than I mean to be. . .
It suddenly comes back to you late one night as you struggle with a story about a haunted house. You’re writing in that way where you’re fixated on the next line, but nothing feels right, because deep down you’re expecting that next line to fix everything that’s wrong. You’re in your apartment bedroom, lit by your laptop…