A sepia toned 19th century photograph of the brick retail building at 283 Washington Street in downtown Boston, MA.
A sepia toned 19th century photograph of the brick retail building at 283 Washington Street in downtown Boston, MA.

The pretty brick building at 283 Washington Street in Boston is still known as the Old Corner Bookstore. In 1832, William Davis Ticknor and a business partner turned the space into what would become a bustling bookshop as well as the publishing house and hangout spot of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and dozens of other famous authors, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, who called Boston “The Hub of the Solar System.” Abolitionist and editor George William Curtis, enchanted with the bookstore, called it “the hub of the Hub.” Today it is a Chipotle.

In the…


They made a 4th film in this franchise.

A still from the film Fast and Furious in which Vin Diesel reaches for Michelle Rodriguez as the two travel on separate vehicles
A still from the film Fast and Furious in which Vin Diesel reaches for Michelle Rodriguez as the two travel on separate vehicles

Friendship break-ups are rough. Our culture does not prepare us for the idea that a platonic union could dissolve with as much heartbreak, acrimony, and pain as found in the turbulent end of a romance. But all things pass, and eventually there is room for healing, even if you are a shitty cop who becomes a truly terrible FBI agent who definitely should not be assigned to any cases at all, especially those involving the love of your life, a masterful car thief who looks and sounds a lot like Vin Diesel.

I will watch anything made by director Justin…


Art, consent, and snacks

Still of actor Sung Kang portraying Han Lue in “Tokyo Drift”
Still of actor Sung Kang portraying Han Lue in “Tokyo Drift”
Our munchie-devouring king

I did not expect my initial viewing of Tokyo Drift to provoke an internal moral debate, but life and cars sometimes zig when I expect a zag. To paraphrase an old Yiddish proverb: when we plan, God and Vin Diesel laugh.

The third entry in the Fast and Furious franchise is an odd film that seemingly exists outside the high octane world we’ve come to know and love, at least until our greatest living American, Sir Vincent of Dieselshire, appears in a cameo at the end. The best character is a new guy who doesn’t get enough screentime (Han Lue…


The thrilling prequel to Ratatouille

Four characters and their cars from “2 Fast 2 Furious”
Four characters and their cars from “2 Fast 2 Furious”

It is impossible to summarize 2 Fast 2 Furious in any language invented by mortals. What does one say about a 2003 film in which a spicy white international drug lord with a confusing accent puts a rat on a cop’s bare torso, pops a metal bucket over the rat and applies a blowtorch to the container under the theory that the rat will gnaw through said cop’s aforementioned naked abdomen in order to get free of the rising heat?

Nothing.

Truly, one should say nothing. What could even the finest essayist, film critic, or literary mind add to the…


In which I finally watch Point Brake

A still from the 2001 film “The Fast and the Furious” featuring Vin Diesel on the left and Paul Walker on the right, both looking off to the left of the viewer.
A still from the 2001 film “The Fast and the Furious” featuring Vin Diesel on the left and Paul Walker on the right, both looking off to the left of the viewer.

Once upon a time in New Jersey, I went on a date with a friend of Paul Walker, the actor who had costarred in the previous summer’s car soap opera fantasia The Fast and the Furious. Brett (not his real name) was surprised I hadn’t seen the movie, which he claimed “totally sucked.” It would be nearly two decades before I found out how wrong he was.

My first viewing of The Fast and the Furious is where we’re headed in this essay, and we’ll get there, I promise. But first, we need to take some detours. Buckle up or…


A brief romantic ode to the Garden State

The author drinking from a mug that reads “BITCH, PLEASE. I’M FROM JERSEY.”
The author drinking from a mug that reads “BITCH, PLEASE. I’M FROM JERSEY.”

Let me tell you why I’m like this. If you don’t know what I mean, that’s fine — you don’t know me, and I don’t expect you ever will. But I know me, and I know what I’m like, and now you’re going to know, a little bit, kinda. This is a story about a state the size of a postage stamp, wedged between New York, Pennsylvania, whatever’s south of Cape May, and the beautiful goddamn Atlantic Fucking Ocean. This is a story about New Jersey and me, and maybe you, if you’re lucky enough to be from here, too.


And other moments from a blurry life

A woman in a black bra, holding a purple crystal, with a blurry face
A woman in a black bra, holding a purple crystal, with a blurry face

If I could paint just one thing really well, I would choose bare branches against an empty sky. I would like to paint endless images of bare branches against infinite empty skies. But I am not good at painting.

I can sketch a series of interconnected boxes, but the lines are never straight. I am incapable of drawing a perfect circle. I made a sculpture once, of a mother dragon holding a baby dragon, and it was pretty decent, as far as third grade work goes. I never kept up with sculpting. I probably would not be good at it…


Not everyone craves a return to “normal.”

Sunshine through Spanish moss hanging from tree, with more trees in background
Sunshine through Spanish moss hanging from tree, with more trees in background
Photo by Daniel Ruyter via Unsplash

I have often said that a panic attack is the inverse of an orgasm. This usually gets a good laugh, because it incorporates the element of surprise — when I start the sentence, nobody sees orgasm coming (you’re welcome). But it also produces a laugh of recognition in anyone who knows that it’s true. And as our society slowly gets moving again, more people are becoming familiar with one of the least pleasurable involuntary responses imaginable.

Since I was a child, I have spent plenty of time with this particular abrupt form of terror. I have felt pained over the…


The author and her large grey cat, who has green eyes, sitting on a couch with a laptop, which the cat surely does not wish for her to access
The author and her large grey cat, who has green eyes, sitting on a couch with a laptop, which the cat surely does not wish for her to access
My little demon

When I adopted Polly the Demon Queen early in the pandemic, I was not a cat person. I was not an anti-cat person, but dogs were my preference. I thought I’d just foster her for a few days, and then she’d move along and I’d get a new furry temporary roommate. I still lived in Los Angeles, a beautiful and wild city riddled with lost, abandoned, and feral animals and humans.

Year ago, I had a puppy, but I gave her up in the ensuing breakup proceedings with my boyfriend. It was my choice, and it was the best one…


A row of six chairs on a vast green lawn looking out at the ocean under a wide blue sky
A row of six chairs on a vast green lawn looking out at the ocean under a wide blue sky
Ahhhh. Relax.

Relaxation exercises are a kind and simple route to remembering that it is possible to change one’s own mood, even if just for a little while. As someone who has dealt with panic attacks and depression on and off since childhood, I’ve long envisioned my array of favorite relaxation techniques as a toolkit. I’m not an expert, but I did take that kindergarten lesson about sharing to heart, so I’d like to present a few options to you today.

To make my qualifications or lack thereof clear: I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist, yoga teacher, or monk. I’m an author, comedian…

Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS (and other books). Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast. Patreon.com/SaraBenincasa

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