An interview about early humiliation with Days of Yore

Alina Simone

Alina Simone is a singer and writer based in New York City. She was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, and came to the U.S. as the daughter of political refugees. She has released three albums: Placelessness (2007), Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware (2008), and Make your Own Danger (2011). Everyone is Crying Out, which is an homage to the music of Siberian punk-folk singer Yanka Dyagileva, received widespread critical acclaim. Simone was named one of the “Top People of 2008” by USA Today’s Pop Candy, and among the “Top 12 Bands to See” at SXSW 2008 by Billboard Magazine.

In June 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published You Must Go and Win, Simone’s collection of essays about Russia, family, and trying to make it in indie rock. Kirkus Review lauded Simone’s “vibrant, taut and humorous” prose, while USA Today noted her “perfect storm of creative talent.” Simone has shared the stage with a slew of notable artists, including Final Fantasy, Loney Dear, and Franz Ferdinand, and numerous distinguished authors, including Sam Lipsyte, Aleksandar Hemon, and Stephen Elliott.

True to her roots, Simone remains self-deprecatingly modest. The Days of Yore met her in a small coffee shop in Brooklyn, where she lives. She was busy working on a new novel.



I love Alina Simone’s book about being Alina Simone, YOU MUST GO AND WIN. It’s a funny, sad, true book of stories about being a Russian-American singer-songwriter on the underside of famous.

The publisher says

In the wickedly bittersweet and hilarious You Must Go and Win, the Ukrainian-born musician Alina Simone traces her bizarre journey through the indie rock world, from disastrous Craigslist auditions with sketchy producers to catching fleas in a Williamsburg sublet. But Simone offers more than down-and-out tales of her time as a struggling musician: she has a rapier wit, slashing and burning her way through the absurdities of life, while offering surprising and poignant insights into the burdens of family expectations and the nature of ambition, the temptations of religion and the lure of a mythical Russian home. Wavering between embracing and fleeing her outsized and nebulous dreams of stardom, Simone confronts her Russian past when she falls in love with the music of Yanka Dyagileva, a Soviet singer who tragically died young; hits the road with her childhood friend who is dead set on becoming an “icon”; and battles male strippers in Siberia. 

It made me laugh and it made me think. I gave it a blurb.

I said, Most collections of personal essays are dull. This one isn’t. Alina Simone uses her life as material to tell stories that are funny, heartwarming, tragic, often all at the same time. Her subjects, whether music, religion, Russia or family are conjured and dissected with warm humour and sharp eyes. Probably it’s a really good thing she never became an international rock star: she wouldn’t have written this if she had.

I loved it so much, I persuaded Alina to make it into an audiobook, with her narrating.

And now I’ve persuaded Audible to let me set Chapter Two of YOU MUST GO AND WIN free into the world. Chapter Two is the one about answering an ad for a girl singer-songwriter on Craigslist.

It’s funny, sharp, well-observed, heartbreaking and true. Listen to it. If you have friends who’d like it, send them to it.

And if you want more (and I suspect you will) go to this Audible link to hear the rest of Alina’s adventures and misadventures. 


Zooey Deschanel Plugs Upcoming Benefit in Charlotte, NC


HelloGiggles got a great email from Degenerate Productions about a benefit show they are doing in support of the Innocence Project. If any of you are in North Carolina this September be sure to go show your support & have an amazing night of fun!

Friday September 23: Benefit for the Innocence Project at The Mill in NoDa. 9:00 pm. 6 local comedians and the band Dollar Signs. $10 cover, ALL OF WHICH goes to Innocence Project. The Mill, across from the Dog Bar, 3306A N. Davidson St, Charlotte NC. 

There is another event on Friday September 30, 9pm, also at The Mill, headlined by indie rocker Alina Simone, in which a dollar from each ticket bought at the door goes to Innocence Project. 

Check out  for more info about the event & future events!

What happens when your weird article goes viral

I wrote a funny essay about why Russians hate ice in their drinks for the New York Times last week. A few hours after the article went up, there were 187 comments so the comments section was shut down. This didn’t stop people from sending me their thoughts about … ice. Except for this classic, antisemitic DIS which had nothing to do with ice sent by a nice man aptly named Brian Petty.

From Brian Petty, (

Subject: Ice

Who are you kidding?  You’re not a Slav.  You’re a Jewess.  Brighton Beach is where your people congregate.


I’m not actually Jewish, but find it pretty amazing that someone would take time out of their apparently not-busy day to explain that I have no right to comment on the country where I was born and that Brighton Beach does not represent the tastes and preferences of, er, Slavs, despite being famous for exactly that.

Mostly, people simply wanted to unburden their extremely detailed preferences regarding ice. Here is a fine example:


Subject: I don’t like ice and I was not influenced by anyone else on this


One early force that got me to avoid ice when I bought sodas or orange juice out as a teenager was that cheap restaurants would often fill the drink up with so much ice you were getting very little actual drink. Here are some other reasons I don’t use ice.

1. Chemical reactions happen at a lower rate at colder temperatures, which means you taste less when the food or drink is colder. Thus, I never put ice in drinks, alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

2. As for cold drinks on hot days, if they’ve been in the fridge, they don’t need ice.

3. I don’t particularly like having these cold, solid hunks of water bouncing around in my drink, or in my mouth.

I guess I just don’t like ice.

A surprisingly interesting interview with a man who has 3 kids

I know this is a controversial perspective in some circles, but I consider kids to be a good thing. And from that standpoint, John Lynch has THREE good things! Two of his good things arrived very recently, in tandem. (Sorry to keep calling your children ‘things,’ by the way, John.) Whenever I see John, no matter how much poop he has scraped away that day, he is always as cheery as a crisp apple, bursting with life and full of projects. For those of us still on the pre-kids, a-cat-is-hard-enough-to-keep-alive, side of the divide, this is an intriguing phenomena. Because kids aren’t what scares us, but rather, their parents. So without further ado, ladies and gentleman, John Lynch presents: Secrets of a Sane Parent.

1. What I like about you and Wendy is that you have not gone off and gotten practical haircuts and reduced every aspect of your lives to things child related. You still do things like build houses, write books and play in rock bands. So what is the secret to having kids and still having a cool life?

I have always considered my current haircut the pinnacle of practicality — I cut it myself with clippers in about 10 minutes: what could be more practical?  But I get your point.  What is the secret?  Neglect your kids so you can appear to be “having it all”!  No, seriously, I think the key (having watched many couples do what they do with varying degrees of success) is simple: support each other.  I know, it sounds stupid and Deepak Chopra-like (though I have no idea what he sounds like), but if you care about what makes your partner happy (because seeing your partner happy makes you happy), you make choices and compromises that allow your partner to be happy.  The crazy thing is that if you do this, unless your partner is a dick, your partner will likely reciprocate. Boom.  Done.  Cool life.  No one gets to do everything they want to do, but no one is left feeling like they’ve given up everything.  It also helps if one half of the partnership has very very small aspirations and doesn’t actually care that
much if they happen or not…

2. What is your average day like and how much sleep do you get?

On average, the boys are still only sleeping about 3 to 4 hours between feedings.  On rare occasions, they will go 5 hours at night — these are gifts.  Feeding, changing and getting them back to sleep takes about 30 minutes for two people, or 45 min to an hour if you are flying solo, since the kids have to cared for sequentially instead of simultaneously.  This means that, in general, our sleep at night is interrupted every 2.5 to 4 hours or so, we do our 30 minutes of work, and then back for another couple or three hours of sleep. Surprisingly, you just kind of adapt to this, though I think it’s been harder for Wendy (oh, and Wendy sometimes has to pump breastmilk after the feeding to keep her supply up, so sometimes she has to stay up another 20-30 minutes after I go back to bed, so that might contribute to things being harder for her…).  So that’s the average night: I usually fall asleep around 11 pm, up anywhere between midnight and 2 am for a feeding, back to sleep for a few hours, up again between 3 am and 6 am, and then possibly back to sleep for a couple hours (unless it’s now 6:30 am, and then sometimes I just stay up…).  I think I’m averaging about 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night.  I’ve never been big on sleep — I think it’s overrated — so this hasn’t been terrible for me.  I am definitely more tired these days, but that’s what coffee is for.  The average day is still being established.  We just hired a nanny who comes for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.  This has been great for allowing us to get work done between 10 am and 4 pm.  Breakfast and dinner are kind of the same: keeping babies happy while trying to feed everyone else is like juggling cats.  It’s different every morning and every night.  Sometimes we can actually sit together and
eat (Sam, Wendy and I), and sometimes it’s just chaos, with one of us feeding a baby while cooking noodles for Sam and the other one changing a diaper and dreaming about running away with the circus (where one would hone one’s cat juggling skills).  On average, everything is taken day by day, minute by minute.  You just react to everything as it comes up.  This is good for me (never good with plans) and horrible for Wendy (a planner to the core).  But we’re doing it because what else are you going to do?

3. Having newborn twins and one non-newborn, but still quite small, child sounds overwhelming. What are the tiny pleasures that help you keep your equilibrium throughout your day? Are there any rituals that keep you afloat in a time of maximum stress and minimum sleep?

In the early weeks, when my body was still adjusting to less sleep, I required calm in the morning.  This came down to two things: coffee and music.  And the music I was listening to was music that I either hadn’t listened to in years (if not decades) or music that I rarely listened to: renaissance choral music (Tomas Luis de Victoria is my favorite, but also Josquin Des Prez, Ockeghem, etc), and quiet jazz piano (Bill Evans, mostly).  I would wake up and my nerves would be frayed, but I’d put on some music and it was like, “ok, I can do this… one minute at a time…”  And the ritual for staying calm in the evening was basically the same, but you just substitute beer for coffee.  Just have to remember: stimulants in the morning, depressants at night.  Don’t get mixed up!

Also, a very consistent stress-reducer has been (don’t laugh!) re-runs of Friends.  Wendy and I used to watch Friends when we first started dating — we actually looked forward to Thursday night date-nights with Friends and Seinfeld, etc.  So Friends has been with us from the beginning (1995) and is like comfort-food.  We have a DVR, so I set it to record every re-run on every channel, so every time Wendy sat down to pump or breastfeed, there would be “new” episodes to watch.  Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Ross and, of course, Rachael… very calming…  They’re like crack.

4. What is one small good thing you can recommend for a parent? It can be anything (including this Michael Jackson video of ‘Dangerous’ live that I have watched fourteen times now).

One small thing?  Hmm…  I like my baby sling.  It looks silly and like I’m inappropriately appropriating other peoples’ culture, but I like how it tightly holds the baby to my chest (unlike other baby carrying apparatuses [aparati?]) and you can feel his warmth.  Also, it puts the baby to sleep almost immediately, no matter how angry the baby was before it was put in the sling. The only downside to the sling is that it can only hold one baby.  I’ve seen youtube videos of mom’s carrying two babies in two slings, but I haven’t attempted this daredevil maneuver yet.  I actually did a post on my blog partly about the sling (with photos):

my answers were longer than I intended.  Sleep-deprivation gives me logorrhea.


You can read more about John’s wacky misadventures on his blog.

Facebook Chats With Random Men: Kurdistan Part 2

[Fakhir Balak]

[Fakhir Balak]
HI my prettty darling

[Fakhir Balak]
هاوڕێیان سەلامی خواتان لێبێت

[Alina Simone]

[Fakhir Balak]
means hi how r u ?

[Alina Simone]
Wow, and here I was thinking it was a procession of schizophrenic ants!

[Fakhir Balak]
wys up?
wts going on?

[Alina Simone]
Sorry. I’m fine. How are you?

[Fakhir Balak]
same my dear.i sent my salutations several times bt there was no answer.i felt sorry for myself.

[Alina Simone]
Wow. I’m sorry to hear that, Fakhir.

[Fakhir Balak]
I was crying till now.
I thought may be you are angry with again

[Alina Simone]
Fakhir, Jesus dear man, pull yourself together!
After all, I’m just a bunch of pixels that you’ve never even met…

[Fakhir Balak]
I love you sooooooo much my pretty darling.forget about it you are alone everything for me.
Dont say that please you are very honoruoble.

[Alina Simone]
Fakhir…we have to talk.
Not only do I live in the United States, but I’m also married. Plus? I don’t know you.

[Fakhir Balak]
what do you mean?

[Alina Simone]
Which of these statements confused you?

[Fakhir Balak]
I dont know
none of them, JUST because I said I love ?
please dont get me wrong, i love everybody in this world.

[Alina Simone]
Oh, well in that case, we’re fine! I didn’t realize I was the target of a globe-encompassing beam of love.

[Fakhir Balak]
I have a very srong and passionate heart,that is a cradle for everybody in this world,
especialy those i know, and you can know me better.

[Alina Simone]

[Fakhir Balak]
so go ahead

[Fakhir Balak]

[Fakhir Balak]
Hi my darling

Facebook Chats With Random Men: Kurdistan Part 1

[Fakhir Balak] 2:57pm

Hi my dear. Why are you silent i dont understand you ?do you hate me or something?
[Alina Simone] 3:00pm

Hi Fakhir. I don’t hate you.
[Fakhir Balak] 3:01pm

so what? why dont answer me ?
[Alina Simone] 3:02pm

I know this might be hard to believe, but sometimes I have Facebook open?
…and simply walk away from the computer.
It makes me feel drunk with freedom.
[Fakhir Balak] 3:03pm

so do you drink?
[Alina Simone] 3:04pm

I like the way your mind works, Fakhir. I do tipple on occasion. And you?
[Fakhir Balak] 3:04pm

i dont drink at all
[Alina Simone] 3:05pm

Interesting! And why is that?
[Fakhir Balak] 3:05pm

i dont know it is prohibited in our religion
[Alina Simone] 3:06pm

I see! So the plan is: don’t drink, go to heaven?
[Fakhir Balak] 3:06pm

yea. i dont realy know if there is a heaven. do you believe in god?

[Alina Simone] 3:09pm

This chat has really zoomed from the mundane to the philosophical!
In my more whimsical moments, I definitely believe in God.
But I only find myself praying when I really need a parking spot or for the train to come.
Maybe I believe in a God of Transportation?

[Fakhir Balak] 3:10pm

ohhhhh my GOD we should pray 5 times a day, are you christian?

[Alina Simone] 3:12pm

If I prayed 5 times a day, I’d have a TON of parking spaces! It’s worth thinking about, for sure. I am kind of sort of Christian. But only in the lamest possible way.

[Fakhir Balak] 3:13pm

ok. what is your job my dear
[Alina Simone] 3:14pm

Right now my job is to have a finger available whenever my baby feels like sucking on it. But also? I am a writer. In fact, I have this column called Facebook Chats With Random Men.
[Fakhir Balak] 3:15pm

arent you a singer ?

[Alina Simone] 3:15pm

Oh right! And I am also a singer. Thanks for reminding me.

Behind the Scenes at a Graveyard: A Macabre Break Room and More…

This past Memorial Day weekend, I donned an outfit of scratchy, oversized linen designed to maximize unattractiveness, and tunelessly hollered “Shenandoah”, “Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” at the top of my lungs, on a dark hillock surrounded by the dead. 

So you are obviously thinking to yourself, What the fuck goes on at the Green-Wood Cemetery? Where do the staff eat? Where do the security guards go to decompress? I am BURNING TO KNOW! Well, I am here to relieve your anxious burden. Sit back and enjoy.


The Civil War re-enactors had already set up their little favela by the time I was hurrying across the cemetery grounds. Here you see their camp set against the backdrop of Green-Wood’s historic gates.

Once inside the Green-Wood offices, I paused at the employee break room, which indeed looks like an Edward Gorey illustration and comes complete with creepy little boy from The Shining.

In order to effectively battle the undead, security guards need to stay in shape, yo. Luckily, Green-Wood supplies a special work-out room for guards to hone their zombie slaying skills in their off-hours. Here we find Marge, our choral director, sporting a gigantic civil-war era hoop-skirt and going over her lyric sheets in the secret-graveyard-work-out-room.

They hustle us outside and line us up near the main entrance. I was too busy running the underground railroad to be photographed in my scratchy outfit for this event. All apologies.

Next, we are loaded into a cattle car van to be driven to Battle Hill where we will serenade onlookers (read: Channel 7 News) with ‘Johnny Comes Marching Home.’

We holler Johnny Comes Marching Home to the point of hoarseness more times than I care to remember, and are loaded back into the van. But soon it becomes clear that we are going in circles and the van driver has no idea where to deposit us. We miss our second appearance. Fear sets in.

Darkness falls in the van, and one of our number lights an ancient LED candlestick.

Through the open doors of our cattle car van, we could see the luminaries on the graves of the Civil War dead flickering in the grainy, pixelated gloom.

Finally, we wound out our way back to the main entrance. We were dropped off behind the chapel, where the ghostly heads of Civil War veterans were being projected on the back wall, for the night’s grand finale.

Then, with a memorable night behind me, and a camera full of snaps, I bid adieu to John the Cemetery Guard and set off for 5th Avenue, where I had arranged to meet Voldemort for pizza at Luigi’s. 


I was lucky enough to have my portrait taken by Noah for Alarm Magazine.

Name Noah KalinaFirst post October 2007Location Brooklyn
Photographer Noah Kalina’s work has appeared in New York magazine, Interview, and Esquire and has been exhibited internationally at museums and galleries around the world. He’s best known for Everyday, a self-portrait project started in January 2000. The film, consisting of thousands of photos of himself taken over a period of six years, is in the permanent collection of the Austin Museum of Art,  inspired a Simpsons parody, and led to an iPhone app.
Also check out…
Pitchrs & Poets An exploration of baseball, culture, and baseball culture.
The Daily Things A Dutch illustrator creates a collage from photos found in each day’s De Volkskrant newspaper.
Hanzo Hanzo is a dog. He’s cute. He goes on adventures.

I was lucky enough to have my portrait taken by Noah for Alarm Magazine.


Name Noah Kalina
First post October 2007
Location Brooklyn

Photographer Noah Kalina’s work has appeared in New York magazine, Interview, and Esquire and has been exhibited internationally at museums and galleries around the world. He’s best known for Everyday, a self-portrait project started in January 2000. The film, consisting of thousands of photos of himself taken over a period of six years, is in the permanent collection of the Austin Museum of Art, inspired a Simpsons parody, and led to an iPhone app.

Also check out…

Pitchrs & Poets
An exploration of baseball, culture, and baseball culture.

The Daily Things
A Dutch illustrator creates a collage from photos found in each day’s De Volkskrant newspaper.

Hanzo is a dog. He’s cute. He goes on adventures.