26, full-time barista full-time employee at The Owl Shop, runs “The Dirty Pond” and “Elm City List”
Been in New Haven for: Seven years
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Where she’s at when not at The Owl Shop: 116 Crown — Firehouse 12 — Artspace — Anyplace where there’s something engaging going on.
Her spring drink: Prosecco
Q. So what do you do?
A. I do kind of everything because that’s what my shift requires. I also freelance doing the marketing for The Owl Shop, the e-mails and the Facebook fan page. I freelance for the New Haven Advocate. I’ve been doing that for about two months now. I recently started contributing to CT Indie. I run two blogs, The Dirty Pond, a literary and arts journal providing original content from New Haven-affiliated artists and writers. We also have a curated music playlist by a musician in the music industry with each issue. I also run Elm City List, a fashion and lifestyle blog.
Q. How did you fall in love with New Haven?
A. I drank the water. I’ve lived in Philadelphia. I’ve lived in Boston. I’ve lived in New York. I’ve lived in Toronto. New Haven offers a low cost of living with a really high social capital. It’s really easy to network here and meet a lot of people who are interested in the same things. I really value that about this city. … There is a barter, friendship, kinship aspect to being in New Haven, and being creative here. What I do, subsidizing my creative endeavors by working in the service industry, is not a lot different from what other people do here…It doesn’t consume a lot of your time like an office job. When I went back to school for creative writing, I started working in restaurants again. I remember the amount of personal time that it gives me. As much as I love the work I do at The Owl Shop, when I clock out, I’m pretty much done. It doesn’t follow me home.
Q. What are you drinking right now?
A. I’m drinking Prosecco. It’s my preferred spring beverage. It’s a dry, sparkling Italian white wine. It’s nice and dry on the palate.
Q. Creative writing? When did that happen?
A. 2008-9. I was commuting from New Haven to Bronxville. It took four hours each way to get there. Sarah Lawrence. I left before my degree was completed. I am content with that right now. I’m pursuing more creative stuff [here] than I had when I was in school.
Q. What happened before Sarah Lawrence?
A. I went to undergrad right after high school….Went to University of Toronto and then I came to New Haven. I was volunteering on a political campaign. I did that for about four and five years until I wound up at the Connecticut Coalition here. My mentor encouraged me to go back to school for creative writing.
Q. How do you maintain “The Dirty Pond”?
A. I just bought hosting and a better layout. Initially, we were running off of a free WordPress template. I just pay for it out of my own pocket. Because it matters to me. I just want to put something out there that’s valuable.
Q. Why “The Dirty Pond”?
A. That’s how I referred to the city of New Haven when I was dating. When I was single and needing people, I referred to it as fishing in a dirty pond. It stuck. I thought it was a clever way of referring to New Haven and being self-aware of how small it is. Through doing this, I have constantly met new people. The city has gotten simultaneously smaller and larger.
Q. Why now?
A. I wanted a constructive way to utilize my time when I wasn’t at work. I love writing. I love good writing. I think the New Haven Review is an excellent publication… They are extremely established. They are literary and critical. I wanted to emphasize things that were collaborative and cross-disciplinary — arts, music, and literature — and really provide a platform for original material. I’m a big believer in localism and using the Internet to build social capital in hyper-local settings.
Q. Who takes the pictures for Elm City List?
A. Myself and Mandy, she works as a booker for modeling agencies in New York.
Q. What’s your favorite drink to make?
A. I love bourbon. Bourbon and scotch are like click. And whenever someone orders that for me now, that’s a gateway whiskey. I started with Jameson on the rocks. Next thing you know, I was blackout. It is stereotypically a masculine thing to order. I like that people are surprised that I like it. I really love the burn. I love things that are savory and dry and spicy. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
Q. Tell me about what you’re wearing right now.
A. This bra, my boyfriend found it, and I said well it fits me. The shirt is American Apparel. The jeans are Jack London. The shoes I got on eBay. The jacket on sale at Urban Outfitters. The scarf is vintage. A friend cuts my hair. She cuts it out of her house for me. Every once in a while, I bring her a cookie and a cupcake and a coffee. She’s a professional beautician. You just hang out in her living room and watch soap operas with her.
Q. Have you been writing?
A. I am currently working on a couple of essays. But I am really private about my own work. I have published a couple of short stories on The Dirty Pond. I just try to help facilitate other people collaborating.
Q How do you facilitate collaboration?
A. Pop.eye’s Garage (50 Goffe Street) is a new performance space. They asked me if the Dirty Pond could curate their art for their first show. A lot of people who did it come from a noise music improvisational background. I found a friend of mine doing LED installations—he had work that was ready to show. I put the two of them in touch before I met you today. I showed him the space. He’s going to install there. New Haven’s a very small town so it’s very easy thing to do.
Q. Have Yalies been interacting with Ayour blogs?
A. I’ve gotten a lot of submissions. Ultimately, we’re concerned with the quality of the work that comes in… I’ve shown work from a student at the [Yale] School of Art, Terttu Uibopuu. She’s an M.F.A. candidate in photography. Some of her work was used to accompany a short story and prose.
Q. How often do you come out?
A. We started as a monthly We switched to bimonthly. We decided to publish less often but more awesome.
Q. Can you tell what people are going to order when you’re barista-ing?
A. I definitely play that game, I will confess. Judging people by their drink orders. Prosecco is me being a lightweight. I’ve said stuff like rocks are for wieners. Distilling scotch and bourbon is a very specific process. Anything beyond one or two cubes is not worth it.
Q. Biggest mistake undergrads make when drinking?
A. Popov. Bud Light. These are all big mistakes. I understand that you guys are dealing with an economy issue. Honestly, if you buy a barrel proof bourbon, you’re treating yourself, you’ll also be able to pace yourself and be a better behaved drunk.
Q. Did you go to bartending school?
A. I didn’t go to bartending school. I grew up in the restaurant industry. I bartended at my parents’ restaurant. I’m pretty knowledgeable about drinks and drink-making. You cannot beat actual experience behind there. And drinking.
Q. I’m a college student on a budget. I have $10. What drinks can I get at The Owl Shop?
A. If you want to get a really nice cocktail for not a lot of money, I would order yourself a Makers Mark old fashioned on the rocks ($8). It will be a great way to get acquainted with a bourbon because it’s in a cocktail. It will leave you enough money to appropriately compensate your bartender.
Q. Tell me about your writing for New Haven Advocate.
A. I started writing for them about two months ago. My first submission to them was about the February Artspace underground. I am credited incorrectly as Alexis Shangzi. Since then, I have covered various cultural events and I’ve also covered decriminalization of marijuana here…What I cover for them varies and I’m still trying to figure out what my strong suit is. They interviewed me for the Dirty Pond and at the end of the interview, the editor asked me if I was interested in writing for them.
Q. How do you get people to visit www.thedirtypond.com?
A. Some of the very things that have been increasing traffic is cross links with other better trafficked sites. For instance, the New Haven Review was exceptionally supportive of us. Connecticut Indie we get a lot of referrals from. Also Facebook. People contribute and they put it in their feed. We get a ton of traffic from that. On a monthly basis, we average about 1,600 visitors. We’d like to raise that. But we’re pleased we have that.
Q. Tell me about that.
A. We have two really fantastic visual contributions. The first being Perry Obee. He is a locally focused printmaker and painter. We also have art coming in from David Larsen, a series of linoleum block prints. They are portraits. He is doing a postdoc at the Whitney Humanities Center. He’s a phenomenally talented. He’s previously contributed to us as a poet.
Q. Tell me more about the redesign.
A. We’re still on the WordPress platform. We’ve gotten a paid-for theme. We’ve bought our domain. We’ve bought additional storage space to host our media. I had someone design our logo for us. I bought fonts for it.
Q. Who designed the logo?
A. A guy named Ross Menze. He is a local musician who plays in two bands locally. Iron hand. He’s also curating the playlist for this issue.
Q. How do you decide who to photograph for Elm City List?
A. Our goal is to photograph people in their primary context. We ask people to dress as they normally would, but to sort of wear gear they’ve bought locally. We think that there are a lot of fantastic resources here. Almost everything I’m wearing right now I got in New Haven.
Q. What are some things we’re missing out on?
A. Bob plays in a wonderful band called Fake Babies. He throws parties two blocks past New Haven Hospital. There is a wonderful warehouse. There is Popeye’s Garage. I don’t see a lot of Yale undergrads at Artspace. There’s a lot more going on in New Haven beyond Broadway and College street. Many things to explore.
Q. How do I find out what’s going on?
A. One way to start is to go to the Web sites for venues and bookers and galleries in New Haven. Became a fan of Café 9, Manic Productions, Connecticut Indie. Become friends with the New Haven Advocate. These are all ways to find out new things that are happening in New Haven. Social media is the way they connect. From there, they can learn about other smaller things.
Q. One of your best stories at Owl Shop?
A. I am prominently indebted to a customer there. He bummed cigarettes off of me. I was out. He bought me a pack in exchange for lifetime bumming privileges.
Q. The best part about working at Owl Shop?
A. I love my customers, even though I don’t show it sometimes. I love working in a place with a wonderful history. Arthur Miller was a regular there. We get letters from Supreme Court Justices saying how much they love our tobacco blend. Joe Lentine has been working here for 45 years. I love smoking on the job. I can’t smoke in the house but I can smoke on the job. Furthermore, we have absolutely the best coffee in town.
Q. What’s next in New Haven?
A. I actually find because of the constraints the current economy has imposed on young people, we are seeing less mobility. Fewer people can afford to move to places like New York or Los Angeles. People are gravitating to cities where the cost of living is low. Cities like New Haven or Philadelphia or Baltimore. They’re becoming real creative hubs. Because you don’t have to work 60, 70 hours per week to get by or live in subhuman conditions, which I absolutely did in New York. People are congregating in smaller areas. This is a great time to be in a place in New Haven.
Q. Last thoughts?
A. I am really not unique in subsidizing creative endeavors through working in the service industry here. Nine times out of ten your barista runs a record label. That’s not an unusual thing. I definitely appreciate the attention.