Starlee’s issue of THE THING is a bamboo cutting board designed only for cutting onions, with text that has been seared into its surface. It also includes a locker poster of a crying McNulty from "The Wire" TV series (illustrated by Arthur Jones), and a set of Crying Instructions written by Starlee.
This issue was created in Luke Bartels’ studio, Woodshop, in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Luke was key in planning out this issue from the logistical side of things all the way to the final cuts. THING editors Will and Jonn shaped, cut and oiled the boards along with Luke. The text was etched into the blocks by Alan Vien at Laser Alliance just down the peninsula from SF. The poster layout and design is by MacFadden & Thorpe, and the artwork is by Arthur Jones. Soumeya Bendimerad was our copy editor and, as always, Julian Marin at Arrow Paper worked with us on the box design.
By Starlee Kine
There is a movie called Garden State. Most of you have probably heard of it. If the title doesn’t ring even the faintest of bells, this is because you are an artist unfamiliar with popular culture. This is okay. Do not feel left out. I am going to tell you what it is. One of my favorite ways to spend time with my good friend Arthur, who drew the picture on the other side of this page*, is to curl up on the couch while he describes the plot of movies that he has seen but I have not. I will never forget the night he spent a full hour relaying Todd Solondz’s Palindromes, a movie he hated so intensely, so vividly, that I felt as though I had been there in the theater too, breathlessly hating it alongside him. I know artists sometimes like this movie. This is okay. Not really, but we have to move forward.
Garden State begins with a weak-chinned man named Zack Braff who goes home to New Jersey to deal with his mother’s death. He reconnects with some old friends who have become, of course, gravediggers, because isn’t that what all your high school friends are doing now? He goes to the hospital because he is having headaches and meets a girl named Natalie Portman, who asks him if he has ever heard of a band called The Shins. Later she tells him she has epilepsy and she puts on this helmet that is supposed to be humiliating but is actually pretty cute. Sometimes she breaks into a dance, but it is not related at all to her epilepsy, it is just something she likes to do, dance around town. Towards the end of the movie Zack confides in Natalie his deepest, darkest secret: when he was a little boy he accidentally pushed his mother into a dishwasher, thereby paralyzing her. Zach Braff has never cried over this, but something about sitting in an empty bathtub, the same bathtub that his mom drowned in, allows him to shed a single tear. But before it can roll down in his face and into the chinless point of no return at the bottom, Natalie Portman yells something like, “Wait! We should save it!” Zach Braff tilts back his head, as though it’s one of those wobbly maze puzzles that need to be held steady for the little silver ball to go the right way while Natalie Portman produces a Dixie cup and places it against his cheek, capturing the teardrop inside.
I saw Garden State in the theater with my boyfriend who I was living with at the time. Obviously it is a terrible movie (although still better than Palindromes), but that didn’t stop me from picking a fight over it. “Why can’t we be more like Zach Braff and Natalie Portman?” I blurted out after he asked me, ten minutes into our stone-silent walk home, just what the hell was wrong with me now. “Why don’t we have a pet hamster? Where’s the meaning in our lives?” It was an awful relationship, one neither of us should have ever been in, but it’s often hard to see this until some space and distance have been gained, and I think the same can be said for movies like Garden State. It’s amazing what can pass for profound when you’re feeling vulnerable.
We broke up a few months later. He moved out and I was left alone in our apartment with all of our shared belongings. I would stare at our sofa and wonder why it meant less to me than the memories of him. It was sturdy and true, there was no danger of it leaving me (it was a bit wide, it never would’ve been able to squeeze through the doorframe on its own). If anything, though, these household objects seemed hostile, like they resented having to stay behind. Sitting down at the kitchen table felt like having a stroke—I could see flashes of him every time I blinked. I moved to a new apartment, where I began, little by little, placing any possession that he and I had shared, broken or not, out on the street.
So when it came time to figure out an object for you, dear, trusting subscriber, I knew, first of all, that I wanted it to be something you could really put to use in your home. Even as I type this, a familiar ember of anxiety has begun to glow faintly in my belly. I am afraid you will not take this request seriously, that you will find my object too nice and thus think to yourself, “I like Starlee, but it’s hard to understand what she wants. I think what she is saying is that this belongs on a high shelf where no one will be able to ever touch or hurt it.” That is not what I am saying. What I want, more then anything, is for you to destroy this object…that I have so lovingly made…just for you (and you and you and you).
My object is a cutting board. Inscribed into this board is some text. The more you use the board, the less you will be able to read the text, and, if all goes as planned, the quieter the ghosts of meals past will become. At the risk of sounding too bossy, please break the board in by slicing up an onion. This will really get the old tear ducts working. The use of my board is supposed to be a cathartic experience, and you can’t spell “cathartic” without slicing the “c” right off of “crying.” Think of it like a phone therapy session with all the comforts of home, minus the having to listen to your psychiatrist breathe. And whatever you do, don’t salvage those tears in a Dixie cup. Allow them to seep right into the wood. That’s what it’s there for.
* The drawing on the other side is not of Zach Braff. What are you, crazy? I couldn’t ask Arthur to stare at that face for hours. Besides, who wants to hang Zach Braff’s picture on the back of their locker door ( I presume most of you are in your teens)? Instead, I had Arthur draw McNulty from The Wire, crying guiltily after Kima got shot. His face is much nicer and his tears are a salty mix of justice mixed with booze.