With links to my feature, profile and investigative writing for American Banker, The New York Times, and the other places I’ve popped up around the Internet. Hyperanalyzing of pop culture will continue here. 

I could easily describe my excellent Italian vacation in terms of the cathedrals visited, cliffs climbed, wine guzzled or carbs consumed, but wouldn’t you rather hear about the horsemeat and the bizarre sexual harassment? From strange foods and scary fruit vendors to Vatican pin-up photos, here are the souvenirs I did not buy in Italy.

For The Billfold: Souvenirs I Did Not Buy in Italy

Don’t live on your own, and preferably do live with someone who will share the cooking responsibilities if your schedule implodes. Don’t live in a small, non-doorman, un-air-conditioned space. Don’t order the dinner kits during a summer heat wave, when you’ll reject all thoughts of boiling, baking and roasting in favor of ice cream dinners.  Don’t hesitate to freeze any meat or fish you won’t cook within a few days, no matter what Pat LaFrieda tells you about how long his chicken will stay fresh unfrozen. And when all else fails and you’ve taken Pat LaFrieda at his word, do live within a short distance of a grocery store that can replace your spoiled organic chicken thighs at 10 o’clock at night.

-I basically failed at a week of cooking free food. My misadventures with dinner-kit services like Blue Apron and Plated, now up at The Billfold.

Free Stuff While Flying

This is what I’ve learned so far from my adventures in elite-traveler waiting rooms: They can be just as crowded and awkwardly-arranged as regular airport waiting areas, but they have more comfortable chairs and free booze. They will try to shame you into not ordering the free booze, by advertising expensive “Fine Wines” on the bar menu and making you ask the harried bartender what the “house red” is. (The bartender will not understand what you mean when you ask for the “un-fine wine.”)

They will provide you with an unlimited supply of mixed nuts and other elegant snack food, but only snack food, as if everyone in the lounge is partaking in a school field trip and someone’s overachieving parents have thoughtfully packed individual bags of mini-carrots and Pepperidge Farm crackers and Lite Ranch dip packets for everyone.

I wrote for The Billfold about my recent adventures in frequent-flier airport lounges:

Things I’ve Gotten for Free at Airport Clubs

"Oh Deer."

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My friend Cinnamon Willis makes some wonderfully twisted dolls, including this one. I interviewed her for The Billfold about her “Melandollys,” using Etsy, and paying galleries to show her art.

The Hustle of a Doll Maker: A Chat with Cinnamon Willis (The Billfold)

Travel diaries

I went long at The Billfold about my trip to Thailand. Featuring coconuts, passive-aggressive lounge singers, “special” fees for foreigners, and the ineffable difficulties of tipping.

How to Spend Two Weeks and $1,400 in Thailand