Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1-30-08 "It just keeps getting worse!"

The panic rises higher and higher as the phone calls from numbers I know I don't want to talk to increases. The actions I take seem to make the problems more profound, and more intractable. I talk to Katie and know that I am dreadfully, horribly boring in my anxiety, and feel ashamed of how ineffectual I am being, and yet seem completely unable to stop it.

I once lived in utter squalor, in a run-down, disgusting apartment off-campus, doing drugs and getting poorer and poorer, and even though I'm clean, all I can think right now is, "it's coming for me again, and this time I won't escape."

1-29-08 Trying too Hard

I go to see another, different place in Brooklyn, all part of the campaign to move out of the place I've lived in for almost 10 years and to cut down on my commute, both to Manhattan and to Katie's place. I see a nice place, two bedrooms, uneven floors, typical New York apartment that would cost you 700-800 dollars anywhere else, but here runs you twice that. The pleasant, smiling man who shows me the apartment answers all my questions, rushes off to another appointment, and, after some consideration, I decide to take the place. As soon as I've called him and agreed to meet to put down money the first thought that runs through my mind is "Oh my God, what have I done."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

1-28-08 Scotty in Furs (or Pleather)

The bondage gear given me to wear in the staged reading looks much better than I expected, but it's still not something I'll be wearing to my next business meeting. People remark on how comfortable I seem to be in basically no clothes at all.

"Well, I used to be a swimmer, so I spent a lot of time walking around in a Speedo. Pretty much makes this stuff look tame in comparison."

Monday, January 28, 2008

1-27-08 Unresolved

After seeing my roommate Rick's band I came back and went to bed. All night I dreamed of getting ready for a fight with a guy that humiliated me constantly in grade school. The fact that he probably wouldn't remember doing anything to me, or indeed even recognize me, made no difference. The only problem was that, in my dream, every time I was about to fight him, there was always one more thing I had to do first before confronting him face to face, and even though I felt less and less prepared as time passed, I still had yet to face him by the time the alarm went off and I woke up exhausted to get ready for work.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

1-26-08 Old Testament R & B

I am in a train with a hobo, and he's singing "Lean On Me". A beggar has just come through the train and sung the same song not moments before, but this guy, the one singing now, is the real deal. He's got a hoarse shout deep in his throat, what I've heard the Irish call the "rarrgh" (or something like that), and when he sings, an Old Testament prophet speaks. He stomps, claps and shouts, says it's the "coming of the holy word," and finally ends his testimony with the phrase, "they say justice is blind, but justice ain't blind, it just takes its time."

Friday, January 25, 2008

1-25-08 Gloves

A single glove perched atop what used to be a pay phone kiosk. Another stuffed into a cyclone fence along 41st Street. My ex-wife always used to lose her gloves (sometimes one, often both), and I would dutifully buy another pair whenever she did, but we would always mourn the single glove. I would imagine it wandering the world, and inexplicable pity would well in my breast.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

1-24-08 Yesterday, the Day Job

The office manager of the company I currently temp at came by my desk yesterday and asked me to follow him into an empty meeting room. To his credit, he looked vaugely ashamed of himself as he sheepishly asked me to please avoid using the executive toilet in my area, and instead walk to the receptionist in front and ask her for the key to use the regular washroom on the other side of the building. As no one had mentioned to me that there was an issue with me using it before, I did my best to bite back my defensiveness.

I couldn't hide the slight edge to my voice, though, when he apologized again and I replied, "Yeah, well I'm sure it's kind of tough for you to have to tell somebody where they can and can't go to the bathroom."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

1-23-08 L'esprit de l'escalier and the power of music

A woman on the bus looks askance at me after I accidentally brush her with my backpack to make room in the crowded aisle. I apologize, but I should have said, "Why don't you just go to work and beat up a co-worker for fun like you usually do instead of giving me attitude for trying to be courteous in a crowded city, ya bitch!"

The music on the Weather Channel today was the guitar solo from "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", which not only sorta made my day for some reason, but totally gave the lie to yesterdays post. I listened to my beloved iPod on random, and the good Lord saw fit to give me a slew of awesome tunes all in a row, including the Dambuilders, Mountain Goats, Wu Tang, Brad Paisley (feat. George Jones), Prince, and a bunch of others that also made me ridiculously happy, and helped to (hopefully) put the last nail in the coffin of this mood I've been carrying around like a sack of shit for the past three days or so.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

1-22-08 Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again

A brief gale of depression and ennui derailed me from my goal, but I return, humbled, and requesting your indulgence.

I turn on the Weather Channel in the morning as I eat breakfast, and the music they play over the highs and lows for cities across the U.S. is soothing and innocuous, like elevator music. It is practically void of emotional or intellectual content, like a government report or the whirring of a ceiling fan.

A fight seems to break out on the platform as I ride the train to work, a scuffling of feet and angry voices, but as the train pulls away, the two men are walking along, smiling, shoulder to shoulder as they walk, talking like New Yorkers often talk, i.e. loudly and aggressively.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

1-19-08 The sweetest bitters

Katie's roommate made a very special liqueur today that tasted like apple cider, without the apples. The recipie was very hush-hush, but after she finished making it, she invited us all into the kitchen for a taste. Did I mention the primary ingredient in the mix was Everclear?

It was smooth going down, but, as one of Katie's roommate's friends said, "I think I know how dragons feel when they're about to burn down a village."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

1-18-08 that which does not kill me or my city

After seeing Cloverfield, we walk through Manhattan, trying to clear our eyes of the visions of terrifying monsters rampaging up and down our city streets, and Katie asks me where we'll meet in case of monster attack. I make a few suggestions, but the upshot is that she eventually wants to live in Manhattan.

I understand, but it seems foolish to me. Where can you go when the strange, hateful monsters of our world finally go mad and send their wrath embodied through the streets, wreaking havoc on our innocent buildings and trees, all of them merely paying for what we started, so long ago?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

1-17-08 Who's laughing now?

I walked from the subway to work today, feeling foolish because of the umbrella I was carrying since I watch The Weather Channel every morning while I eat breakfast, and it told me there would be snow today. The flashes of blue sky between the light scrim of clouds mocked me with every click of the tip of the bumbershoot on the pavement.

This evening it snowed, huge wet flakes that splattered into watery nothingness as they dive bombed the pavement like kamikaze-rebel-angel-snowmen. My umbrella, half-crippled by an errant wind several weeks ago, hung down on one side as I walked through the brief storm, and I was terribly proud of myself for having such foresight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1-16-08 No Rest for the Wicked?

The air in my bedroom is cold, for a change, even after I've finally retired the in-window air-conditioning unit to a space on the floor in the unused room in my apartment. I wake up, shivering, in the early hours before the alarm on my phone shrieks its obvious electronic censure of my dreams, and I pull the comforter up to my shoulders from where I kicked it in the night.

The cat, hearing me wake, mutters a half-yawned meow from the other side of the room. The darkness is grainy from the street light outside, and I am warm and safe in my bed, drifting back to sleep.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

1-15-08 The Sutra of Lowered Expectations

Whenever I find something that I enjoy just for itself, like, say, writing in this blog, I have this pernicious tendency to fuck it all up with my ridiculous sense of self-importance and ambition. Well not this time, buckos. I found myself checking my blog traffic way too much and I've decided I've had enough of my shit. So I may be doing some rather self-sabotaging things in the next couple of weeks, just to pull the rug out from under my monkey-mind, cause he wants everything, and he doesn't care who he has to put in traction to get it, the little bastard.

Monday, January 14, 2008

1-14-08 Tunnel Vision, and, I got an award

Walking the tunnel under 42nd street this morning with the swarming tumult of commuters, I hear a man playing an asian bamboo flute. He is invisible beyond the press of thousands of bodies, each of us bustling along in the hive on the way to our cells. The music is plaintive, longing, begging our souls to awaken, and I pass him, seeing his face, eyes closed and rapturous, until the music stops and starts again, fading into distance.


Mrs. X over at The Young and the Infertile has been kind enough to nominate me for a Thinking Blogger award, and for this I am grateful to her.

1-13-08 Flea Market

In Katie's neighborhood on the weekends, the local elementary school playground is taken over by various vendors selling their wares: minerals and jewelry, old soviet memorabilia, vintage clothes, records, old books (comic and non), the odd fedora. We walk beneath a strangely slate sky in the early afternoon (having slept in half the day from a party the night before that went well into the morning hours), say hello to the puppies we meet, and wander through the market.

I'm standing examining a sliding door armoire that I have no intention of buying, but that smells deliciously of good, aged wood, and the vendor rushes up, asking us if we think the price is too high. I explain that it isn't a price problem, but just that I didn't come to buy, and he retreats, crestfallen, while we walk away, feeling slightly guilty on what must for some reason be a "slow day".

Sunday, January 13, 2008

1-12-08 angels and douchebags

The Q train on the way to Katie's place has stopped in the tunnel just before Canal Street Station because of a sick passenger in the train in front of us, and Katie and I are having to amuse ourselves with the antics of our fellow passengers as they crack under pressure.

One guy in particular is leading the pack in the douchebag olympics, a dark-skinned man in a brown hoodie who berates anyone who will listen in a thick Carribean patois. His complaints become increasingly loud and obnoxious, until, when some of his fellow passengers suggest that no one cares what he thinks, and that perhaps he should keep his mouth shut ("shut up, shut up, shut up" one fellow takes to saying over and over), he begins threatening his fellow passengers with violence in words that are barely comprehensible.

When the train finally pulls a little ways into the station, and they allow people to walk through the cars to get off the train at the front, his demeanour completely changes, and he becomes polite, deferential, letting people off ahead of him, and just generally the total opposite of what he'd been for the proceeding hour and a half.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

1-11-08 A New York Moment

A man crossing the street in front of us is cut off in the crosswalk by a cab turning left. He says something to the cabbie (presumably about driving etiquette, though it may have been about his parentage, this being New York and all) and the cabbie begins to curse at him. So now the cab is blocking the whole crosswalk, and the cabbie is arguing with this pedestrian about how he's in the right.

"If you're in such a hurry, keep driving!" I shout, and the cabbie looks startled for a second, as if he's never thought of it, and then drives on.

Friday, January 11, 2008

1-10-08 starry dynamos under glass

Went to the Jack Kerouac On the Road exhibit at the New York Library, where they had the original scroll Jack wrote on (all 120 feet, though only the first 60 were laid out) unrolled down the middle of the exhibit room, like a yellowing center line on blacktop. Pictures and old letters lined the walls: Burroughs, Ginsburg, Corso, all old heroes of mine. I stared at one picture of Burroughs brandishing a knife until I thought he was going to come out of the picture and stab me in the heart.

Ginsburg seemed perfectly happy, pleased, even, under the scrutiny of the camera's gaze, Kerouac was resigned to the academic treatment, only Burroughs still seemed slightly feral, burning eyes and sallow skin radiating heat from 50 years past, saying, "Do your worst, you can't fuck me into submission."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

1-9-08 Lions and Common People

My boss forgot I was using her AMEX card to book some travel for her, and dashed off to a lunch without it, giving me the perfect opportunity to wander through the neighborhood during a (yet again) glorious afternoon to take it to her.

The lionesses in front of the Morgan Library are almost a perfect echo of their counterparts who flank the New York Public Library, but in a minor key. They look completely relaxed lying at the door of this strange buidling that seems more mausoleum than house of learning. Maybe they've already had their fill devouring poor people who've tried to get in and now they rest, tails frozen mid-flick, in the strangely warm January sun.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

1-8-08 open heart surgery

I get out of work and head toward the subway to go home, but something inside, some ache, like a voice that wants to sing, says "Take a walk, man," and so I walk, without plan or direction.

The sun sets, and I reach a set of stairs that lead up to an overpass that looks out across the East River, where I stand watching the fireflies of the skyline of Queens and Brooklyn come to themselves after the long stupor of day. I see down to the cabs sweeping by on the streets below and my chest breaks open, and a burning hand reaches in and touches my heart, and I am suddenly blazing with love for everything I can see: the river, the sky, the cabs, the Chrysler Building shining like a hood ornament, the dirty sidewalks, my foolish hands on the railing, the bus gliding by on its way back to noplace in particular.

Other people can see it, too, I think, and more than one person locks eyes with me and smiles as I walk the busy streets around Grand Central Terminal at rush hour, beaming like a crazy person, glorying in how beautiful, beautiful, beautiful this city, this world, has suddenly become, for no good reason, no reason at all.

1-7-08 Meta-bragging

"I don't want to only talk about beating Halo as my four sentences tonight," I say while carrying old hard drives and computer equipment out to the garbage area behind my apartment building. I have Katie on the hands-free headset, and I'm in a t-shirt and jeans because it's been so warm today.

"Well, could you put it in as a P.S. or something, like, 'I beat Halo, to be continued'?"

"Well, that would have to be part of the four sentences, too," I say, dumping the last of the old software CD's into the garbage and walking back up the steps to go back inside.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

1-6-08 Destroy all Cockroaches

Though my roommates and I do our level best to keep the kitchen mostly clean, the silverware drawer has, despite our efforts, become infested with roaches, probably because we live in New York City, and, well, that's just what happens.

One of my former roommates, Dave, was a complete neat-freak, and insomniac to boot, so I have the sneaking suspicion that he was the one who kept us roach-free. As an example of his dedication to the eradication of vermin, one week he stayed up till dawn three nights in a row in order to catch (and later release out into its natural habitat - the garbage cans behind our building) a single mouse that had moved in with us.

I threw open the drawer, can of Raid in my hand, and sprayed down the skittering little critters with deadly nerve gas, all the while thinking to myself, "We'll retreat to the ship and nuke the site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure."

1-5-08 out and about

Hang out at the bar after the show and Katie, Pete and I get clocked by these two hipster douchebags (one wearing a fedora!) who apparently didn't approve of our Williamsburg credentials. Katie offers to beat the shit out of them, but Pete kindly declines her generous offer.

We leave the bar at 12:30 to catch a bus back to Queens (unfortunately, it take you back to Queens, but on the plus side, if you've gotta go to Queens, at least it's direct), and the 12:37 almost roars past the bus stop where we stand huddled in the cold and rain, stopping only when I step directly into the road waving my hands and holding up my metrocard in the universal sign for "stop the fucking bus, I have to go back to Queens."

"What, you think I need a seeing eye dog or something?" says the bus driver as we clamber on board, and I successfully restrain myself from replying "Yes, actually, I think you do."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

1-4-08 Asian Pub rules

Went out with some of Katie's new friends from her tour at a place near Cooper Union called Asian Pub, where the drinks and the food were ridiculously cheap, and the pop music cheesy. We talked about music and gossiped about people they knew that I didn't really know but felt like I knew since I'd heard so much about them over the last two months. As the night progressed and the drinks flowed more freely so did our words, and the conversation ranged over religion and politics to the time I used to be a muslim, and I wondered if these neat new people I met would remember in the morning how well we connected.

Katie and I roared back to Brooklyn on the Q, listening to the theme-song from "Snakes on a Plane" and amusing our fellow passengers with our interpretive dance moves and lip-syncing prowess.

Friday, January 4, 2008

1-3-08 Dream a little dream

A small, older Asian woman with a boyish haircut poking out from under her square hat sits on the the train while I stand, reading over her shoulder. She is very carefully examining a typewritten plot synopsis for a fantasy movie that (judging from the copyright at the bottom of the page) she or a friend of hers has written. The language is awkward and earnest, the punctuation excessive (with lots of extra exclamation points!!!), and there are pages and pages of it, each exhaustively recounting the tale of her heroine's struggle from obscurity to power and love in a land of sorcery, magical creatures, and swordplay.

A strange affection wells in me as I watch her, knowing exactly how she feels: the giddiness she feels as she reads and re-reads the pages she has worked so hard on, her certainty that this, this idea, this story, is important and worthy of attention, the way she lovingly replaces the first page on top and gently places it back into it's folder for the rest of the ride home.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

1-2-08 - On Why I Am Well Suited for an Artistic Life

I have been making my lunch to take to work for several months now, and as I am both lazy and poor, I have stuck with the old impoverished standby, rice and beans. I use Goya canned black beans, along with powdered garlic, bay leaf, basil, rosemary, oregano, balsamic vinegar, Angostura bitters, and a seasoning packet that you can buy from Goya that's kind of like Tony Chachere's spicy, salty seasoning (which I have yet to be able to find in my neighborhood), but not quite.

I make this meal at least once a week, either for dinner or for lunch, and I am sort of in love with it. The seasonings and substantial heartiness of it warm my heart, and every time I put it in the microwave to heat it up at work, I find myself singing a little song: "Rice and beans, rice and beans, rice and beeeaanns".

1-1-08 - A Tiger, A Jacket

An older woman gets on the Q train to Brooklyn. She's wearing red, thick framed glasses with purple tinted lenses, plaid pants, and a fake fur jacket that alternates gray and mustard yellow, like a day-glo tiger stripe. She is tall and self-possessed in that way that only older, outrageously dressed women have, in that she knows every one of us is watching her, and yet she pretends she is alone in the world.

I think of the tiger they just killed in San Francisco (Katrina? is that her name?) and wonder who will wear that tiger's coat.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

12-31-07 - So this is the new year...

Katie says she needs to eat meat, so we stop at a Mexican restaurant/bar in Astoria on the way home from a New Year's party at a friend's. After looking at the menu for a bit she decides on a chicken quesadilla, and we munch on chips and incredibly fresh, very hot salsa while we wait for the soft-spoken man behind the yellow-with-age counter to fill her order.

Towards the back of the bar, away from the street, short, dark men dressed in button down work shirts and jeans dance to accordion music in the red glow from a neon Budweiser sign with women in black skirts and high heels. A large black man by the door pats down every person who walks in (except us, the only white folks in the place), checking for weapons, and as we leave with our order, he gives a friendly "Happy New Year!", but he doesn't smile at all.