This is, to the best of my knowledge, a nearly complete and chronological list of real-life interactions I’ve had with Tao Lin over the past year or two. I have left out some brief interactions where we have run into each other at readings, and included every notable interaction that comes to my mind. Some events seem to me like they might be completely out of order, but they also might not be.
Outside Cameo in Williamsburg
The first time I remember meeting Tao Lin I was with Elaine Sun and Marshall Mallicoat outside Cameo in Williamsburg. We needed something to do and Tao was DJing there that night. Elaine and I were under 21, but figured Tao could get us in. He eventually came outside and I called to him. He recognized me and greeted me in an awkward, affectionate way, where his hand touched my shoulder. He was with a very attractive blonde girl with much better social skills than him. He said he would go in then come back out to get us. We waited and decided that he forgot to get us, but we eventually found our way in through some open door. We felt alienated by the loud music and amount of people having fun together. We left to walk along the waterfront, and later, through Twitter, I think Tao apologized for not getting us in.
Muumuu House Reading at St Mark’s Bookshop
Tao invited me to read at this event with him and his friends. It was exciting for me, and I brought my friend Chloe. We arrived outside the bookshop and saw Tao eating salad out of a plastic container with a fork. I don’t remember this part clearly, but it went something like this: Tao extended his hand to me, but he was still holding the salad container, which left me only his forefinger and middle finger to shake. I laughed and Tao walked past me to throw out the container, muttering something about trying to shake my hand.
Outside my old apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Around midnight Tao had tweeted something about desiring a loan around $250, repaying with interest in a couple of weeks. I told Tao that if he came to my apartment I’d go to an ATM and take out the money. He came around three that night, wearing large headphones, and probably earplugs. I met him on the stoop outside. He looked up at the house I was living in and asked how many people lived there. I said five. He asked how many bathrooms there were.
Tattoo Parlor in Brooklyn
I had plans with Elaine and Tao to get tattoos. We found a place called Goose Tattoo with three Yelp reviews. It was near Tao’s apartment when he lived on Humboldt St. We met somewhere near Kellogg’s Diner. Goose Tattoo was a few blocks away, but Tao insisted we take a cab. It’ll be like six dollars, he said. He wore a black jacket that had a slick, black vinyl front. It said “Members Only.” He brought with him a six-pack of peak-brand organic beer. Elaine and I drank most of them at the tattoo parlor, and when Tao asked me to grab him one and there weren’t any left I felt really bad. I got a small tattoo on my arm, Elaine got one of Tao’s drawings (A teletubby holding a smaller teletubby, holding a fish) on the back of her calf. Tao got at least one hamster outlined on his arm, and a whale.
After Tao had paid for the tattoos, as an afterthought, he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote “i am going to die” on it and handed it to the tattoo artist, asking him if he could do one more on his arm.
A party at a loft in TriBeCa
What I remember from this night is being in Tao’s studio apartment in Murray Hill. As soon as I walked in he asked me if I had ever read Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys. He had some kind of freestanding metal shelf that was used solely to store loose packets of tea, of which he had between fifty and a hundred. When we left for the party Tao brought the blanket from his bed, which he wore like a kind of cape, or shawl. In one hand he held his laptop (trying to get wifi as we walked) which was connected to the iPhone that he held in his other hand.
The party seemed to have a lot of high school seniors or college freshmen. I don’t think anyone there knew who Tao was before we got there. We sat in a corner, Tao with his laptop open. He was recording video, I think, with the intention of recording the sound to listen to on his own later on. Someone got mad that he was recording the party and got very self-righteous about it in a political kind of way, like Tao was violating his rights. It eventually diffused, Tao perhaps agreeing to delete the video, without, I think, admitting any wrongdoing.
Le Pain Quotidien
Tao was with Mira, then he left her to go mail packages, and I met Mira at Le Pain downtown, where Tao was supposed to meet us. After about fifteen minutes of talking to Mira at a table, I felt hands grip my neck, like an indecisive chokehold. I turned around and saw Tao grinning at me insanely. Then, almost immediately, he looked disappointed and sad. He said I wasn’t surprised at all.
Bareburger in Murray Hill
After a reading at MoMa, we all wanted to go eat (Tao, Giancarlo DiTrapano, Mira, Tyler, Erik Carter, Stephen Tully Dierks, my then-girlfriend Aly and her friend Katie, maybe Willis, and myself).
I wanted to get soup dumplings but Tao wanted to get bareburger. I said I didn’t care, and he said that I did. I said that Tao just wanted to go to bareburger because it’s right by his apartment. At bareburger Tao ordered an appetizer of chicken tenders and a main course of chicken tenders. For the latter half of the meal he sat eating silently with his iPhone on the table, scrolling through tweets I think. He offered to swap something with my brother, who got a mixed appetizer platter with Erik. Tao took some onion rings from the platter and gave them a piece of bread. Throughout the meal Tao would offer people a chicken tender, holding it up with one hand while he ate a chicken tender with the other. It kept happening. He had so many chicken tenders. He eventually began tossing them at people wordlessly, never breaking concentration on the phone next to his plate.
Madison Square Park
Recently I was having breakfast with Mira in Crown Heights when she texted Tao to see if he wanted to hang out with us later. He had an interview with the Observer that he previously missed due to masturbating. He said after he was finished with the interview he would meet us in Manhattan. We eventually found him at the fountain in Madison Square Park. He had a bright orange tote bag and bright orange coconut-drink bottle in hand. He had to go see his editor, Tim O’Connell, at the Random House offices in midtown, so we all got in a cab. It was hot and there was a lot of traffic. I had just broken up with someone, and I told Mira that I felt very depressed. Tao turned to me and said that he is way more depressed than me. After a few moments I asked Tao what he had been up to that day. Masturbating, he said, and looked around nervously.