Wednesday, June 25, 2008

6-25-08 I happen to prefer pop.

A thick, short black guy in a white t-shirt and a black do-rag bops along the tunnel between the shuttle and the 4/5 train, headphones buried deep in his ears. He raps along with parts of the music playing in his head: “motherfucker! Shit… and I… cut ‘em out…. Ready ta….”

This is us. We bop along locked off in our own little world, regurgitating the tapes we’ve chosen as they play over and over in our heads, barely recognizing each other, barely even aware we’re repeating the words we heard, feeling safe, thinking we’re free.

6-24-08 ack-cent-ewe-ate the positive

A man who works in payroll at my day job, Santiago, has one arm, and he brings me cheese from a relative of his who apparently is involved with the manufacture of cheese, and who has extra. All of these seemingly unrelated facts are true.

He saw me making a cheese sandwich from cheese and bread I had brought to work and he asked me, "you like cheese? I'll bring you cheese," and that was that.

When I explained this situation to Katie she said, "One-armed Santiago who works in payroll brings you blocks of cheese? That's awesome."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

6-23-08 Central Park, hot as balls

A hot day, and Central Park has a green, growing smell that takes me back ten years to the first month I was in New York. Having spent most of my life in the desert, I was amazed at this smell, the moisture in the air, the different quality of life, everything.

Right now, I'm wandering through the park, looking for the area where I'll be rehearsing a Shakespeare Play I'm writing the music for, sweating balls and carrying my guitar around. I finally get tired of looking and sit down on a rock, reading the novel I'm also carrying around like a brick in my back pack, while the mosquitoes feast on my flesh.

Monday, June 23, 2008

6-22-08 Seriously, is it just me?

I'm walking out of the bodega with my laundry over my shoulder as someone is trying to come in. I don't want to accidentally bump into him, and so I say, preemptively, "Pardon me."

Dude turns around and follows me out the store and a few feet down the street before stopping and watching me walk away. I make it about half-way down the block before turning around, and he is on the phone, occasionally looking my way as I continue to my apartment building.

6-21-08 That's Mer-MAN!

Went to the mermaid day parade - my first ever, and maybe the last ever, too. Watched the cars and various freaks walking by in their self-involved finery, until about three-quarters of the way through, we got bored and decided to go on rides.

The Cyclone Rollercoaster is (still) a rattling, rust-bucket death-trap, but the Wonder Wheel may be one of my favorite rides ever. The height, the perspective, the swinging cars that give small, occasional thrills instead of the overstimulation of the Neck-Breaker or whatever the hell that ride was I went on that almost made me throw up (it was the Breakdancer).

6-20-08 Up on the Roof

Katie and I go to a couple of roof-top bars, just to do it, see what they're like. We go on top of the Library Hotel - they organize their rooms by the Dewey Decimal System (this is true) - and it's crowded but nice, expensive drinks, douchey tourists from France, and us.

Then we go to a place on the top of the Roosevelt Hotel (phone number 888-TEDDY-22, which for some reason made me smile) and I recognize the bartender from a bar where my friend Eliel DJ'ed a few months back. She recognizes me, too, and we smile, and Katie comments, "You always want Easter European girls as your bartenders, because they're pretty, and they have a work ethic. They will muddle some mint!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

6-17-08 The Party Boat

The company I work for rents a boat to take the employees out for a night. The food is decent, the company pleasant, the drinks free, and the music a (very small) step above a wedding DJ.

A full moon rises above the city, one of the greatest cities in the world. We pass beneath Brooklyn Bridge and I stand on the top deck, watching it all pass by, the city and the bridge and all of it glittering in the sunset while a huge orange moon slowly lifts into the sky, and I think, "I am so lucky to live here, so lucky to see this all right here and now."

6-16-08 echoes

Still furious and raging over last night's mugging. I tell the story a few more times to family members and whatnot, keeping the embellishments to a minimum.

The cat refuses to take to her new litter, and has taken to peeing under the coffee table. We argue about it, but she's so old I hardly have the heart to be too stern with her.

6-15-08 Well, thank god I got THAT over with

I could see them coming over a block away - three guys, one crosses the street, the other two come on. "Here we go," I think to myself.

Hoods up, they're within striking distance, I try to go around, the one blocks my way, the other saying, "Gimmie your money."

They leave with 20 bucks and a couple of bruises, while I leave exhilerated and furious, but otherwise unharmed (details will be found here when I get around to writing, but suffice to say, I'm fine, and feel that I acquitted myself rather well).

6-14-08 Cyberdyne and Swedish Decor

Katie and I ride our bikes out to Red Hook, looking for a farmer's market we've read about. After a brief incident with another popped tire, we find the farm, but no market.

Across the street from the farm (Red Hook seems like the edge of the world, no tall buildings, just waterfront, then water, and then what feels like next stop Europe) is the new Ikea, its hulking and monstrous bulk disguised in primary blue and yellow paint in much the same way that one would attempt to disguise a rhino by dressing it in a party hat.

Katie stares up at its sprawl and vast, lunatic cheerfulness for a few seconds before saying, in a terrified voice, "on August 4, it becomes self-aware!"

6-13-08 Strangers

Go to see the movie the Strangers and spend most of the film with my hands over my eyes. The ending actually was easier to watch as it just devolved into simple slasher fare.

Back at Katie's house I wander through the rooms with the lights off, daring myself to feel afraid. We play Lego Indiana Jones and let the angst of the film dissolve in cute, square-ish looking pixels.

Friday, June 13, 2008

6-12-08 Why Do You Think I'm Living Here?

Mary greets me as I arrive home with her usual peculiar mix of friendliness and class hostility. "Exterminator ain't come yet. I thought you was powerful, get them to take care of it, but you just like me!"

"Yeah," I say, "don't let this pretty face fool you, they don't listen to me," all the while thinking, "Listen, just 'cause I'm white don't mean shit; I'm still poor!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

6-11-08 It couldn't be more perfect

Riding my bicycle to see Katie, it feels like a burden I've been carrying is lifting from my shoulders. The air is cool, the sun setting as the sky fades to pink, it's my favorite time of day, and riding is one of my favorite things to do - I'm completely happy in an uncomplicated way.

Suddenly there's a sound like a snake has climbed onto my bike, and the front tire goes rapidly flat. A shard of glass, almost 3/8's of an inch long has punctured my front tire in a way that I couldn't have planned if I'd wanted it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

6-10-08 Nature says fuck you, too!

We sweat and strut and suffer on the un-air-conditioned stage through the hottest night so far this year, and in the middle of the show, a storm roars up outside, and the wind is so high it sounds like someone is dumping buckets of shot on the roof of the theater.

Walking the long walk after the show down Classon from the G train (a straight shot down through the brownstones of Ft. Greene to my home, about 12 minutes), the storm seems spent, but suddenly I see that my way ahead is blocked. A tree has split in half, crushing a Volvo beneath it, and the branches and leaves of the severed half completely block the sidewalk, up almost two stories high.

I sidle around tree and flattened Volvo into the street, flirting with death beneath the wheels of the oncoming cars, the drivers of which seem too busy gawking at the (admittedly amazing) sight of a squashed car to notice me, and as I come around the corner, immediately to my left is another, equally ginormous tree, equally split in half, and beneath the top half is another car, equally squashed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

6-9-08 Kill, Chat, Kill

After work, while I'm playing video games, Stephanie stops by to drop off some power tools I let her and the Nosedive boys borrow. She hasn't seen the place since she helped me move in, and she is appropriately impressed with the work I've put in to make it livable.

The cat seems to remember her, and in contrast to the caterwauling that Her Furry-ness has been subjecting me (and the entire apartment building) to this week, she settles down and purrs at us while we sit and chat about our mutual friends.

Eventually she heads out, and I go back to playing Jedi Academy, wasting time killing artificial enemies.

Monday, June 9, 2008

6-8-08 Some days, it's just easy

I'm writing songs for an upcoming show, lyrics by a certain Mr. William Shakespeare, and the music flows easily from me today. Nothing is forced or difficult. My hands end up pleasantly sore, my fingertips aching from pressing the guitar strings. I finish one song, and pleased and delighted with the feeling, walk around the house, laughing to myself and shaking my head.

6-7-08 Playing the Ponies

After a day of drunken equine-centered revelry, Belmont Racetrack stadium looks like what I imagine the Superdome looked like after hurricane Katrina - disastrous, wrecked, filthy with trash and bottles and drunken, pink, sunburned bodies in various stages of undress, only the folks here did it to themselves. The concrete is wet and slick with some unknown substance, and drunken fools slip and fall, their bodies hitting the pavement with an alarming thud, only to stand up again, oblivious to their own pain: "I'm OK!"

The tickets from misplaced bets on Big Brown begin to thicken in the muck into a slurry of paper mush. Meanwhile, the horses run by on the track, swift and magnificent, clean and glorious in their speed, uncaring of the hopes pinned on them, the only truly happy beings in the stadium.

Friday, June 6, 2008

6-6-08 (supplemental)

You know, you can do this too, without all the pesky interweb folks looking in and watching what you do. This lady had some ideas about it, and she says it makes you happier. I'm all for making folks happier, especially myself. And, really, if you're happier, then I'm happier.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

6-5-08 Not Today

The deli where I occasionally buy my morning sandwich (two eggs, cheese, salt and pepper and tabasco on a toasted everything bagel, thanks) is typical for the area: big, tiled, non-descript, an enormous salad bar filled with a variety of foods in quantities that would make a starving third-world-country resident weep.

A medium-height, heavy-set asian woman with a lip ring and a short, spiky haircut occasionally flirts with me from behind the register when I come up to pay. I like the attention and am entirely unattracted to her, so I when I saw her behind the counter, I looked forward to the free ego strokes. Whether she was not paying attention, in a mood, busy with work, or whether I was simply not looking as handsome as I may have in the past, regardless, she didn't even make eye contact as I handed her my card, signed the receipt, grabbed my food and went back upstairs to my cube.

"Well, that was disappointing," I thought as I walked back into my building.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

6-4-08 Shaving

I am surprised each morning to find the wide-eyed, slightly moon-y looking fellow in the mirror with the shadow of beard on his face, and he, in his turn, seems perplexed at me finding him here. His questioning eyes watch me warily while I spread white, foamy lather across my chin, until he relaxes into the ritual, and together, we scrape yesterday's growth of hair off my face.

I cannot remember standing beside my father, as the Norman Rockwell-style image might suggest (adorable scamp in wife-beater t-shirt, face covered in shaving cream, peeks from the corner of his eye to see how father, similarly attired, shaves, so passing down the ritual from father to son, ever-thus), while he taught me how to shave. I cannot remember ever doing this, and yet I must have, for here I stand, towel around my waist, stroking my newly shorn chin, thinking of my father, thinking about how we learn to live.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

6-3-08 "Antland, Antland Over All"

Walking up the stairs from the train, the woman in front of me walks deliberately, almost gently, as if she's afraid that she might break her legs if she put down her feet too sternly.

Down in the tunnel a tall, thin, brown-skinned man playing violin watches the crowd hurry past, all of them heads bowed, scurrying through the fluorescent lit, white tiled catacombs. As I pass him, he begins playing "The Ants Go Marching Two-by-Two" and I laugh, looking around to see if anyone else notices. No even looks up, and I lope down the stairs to my transfer, giggling to myself.

Monday, June 2, 2008

6-2-08 Fathers and Sons

On the subway, the father stands, the son sits. Father says something quietly to the son, and son looks at father from under his bangs with that easy contempt that comes with adolescence, shakes his head as if he is sorry that his father, who helped bring him into the world, is such an unbelievable idiot.

Son opens his sausage bagel sandwich (no egg, no cheese, I can see the ordering process – Father: “You just want sausage? No egg? No cheese?” Son: “Daa-hd! Yes! God!”) and proceeds to deliberately separate the halves that are almost, but not quite completely, cut. His hands are small and delicate, and his father quietly watches, visibly restraining himself from reaching down and doing it for him as his son fumbles, drops half, picks it up, begins again.

6-1-08 There, but for the grace of God...

Walking home from the subway after my show opened, a long walk straight down Classon Street from the G Train through Fort Greene, and it’s mostly a pretty nice neighborhood, but I have trouble letting go of my fear (is this group of people walking toward me going to hurt me? will that guy try to mug me? will I have to fight? will I have to run?). A beautiful tortoise-shell cat with a white face and green eyes walks around a tree in my path, and I make my usual “tsk-tsk-tsk” noise to get its attention, expecting it to run off, as strays usually do.

Instead it begins following me, meowing, almost running to keep up, plaintively looking up into my face to beg (something, what?) of me, and I begin to be a little worried about this very friendly cat – I mean, I can’t take it home with me because of my cat, what do I do? – until it stops in front of a door on the street and begins rubbing on the wall beside it, obviously comfortable and at home.

My heart breaks for a little cat that doesn’t know how to open a door when it wants to go inside, but I see the homeless guy on the street and I think, “ah, he probably did something to fuck up his life,” and there’s not really a difference – both are confused, lacking certain skills to be able to help themselves, maybe made a bad decision, went outside once too often and forgot how to get back in.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

5-31-08 Camels of the Heights of Guam

Katie and I stopped by a historic site in Park Slope called the Old Stone House. The informational placard on the outside relates that the house was built in the 1600's on the hills of what is now Park Slope which at the time was called "The Heights of Guam" back when Brooklyn was run by the Dutch and spelled Breuklen.

The humid day wrapped around us with slightly cold clammy hands, and we walked around Park Slope saying "Breuklen" over and over, in faux-Dutch accents.

Katie then stopped into a store a bought a shirt with camels on it, and by the time we got out, a breeze had blown the humidity away.

5-30-08 Jesus Loves Me (but you may still be crazy)

As I'm walking to work through my neighborhood, a black man on a bike with a leopard print cane stops me. "'Scuse me, but why would you want to live here?" He asks.

We talk about some things, my money situation, my girlfriend, where I used to live, and he offers me advice on not getting mugged ("Don't let anybody take advantage of you," he says, and it takes me a minute to recognize what he's talking about), before telling me about how he and his wife go around talking to people about God.

Just then, a white woman with sad, pious, watery eyes rides up on another bike, and she proceeds to rattle off a string of almost unintelligible blessings: "Maythelordorallcreationbleesyouandwatchoveryouandgrantyouallspiritualandmaterialblessingsandmayyoubewashedinthebloodofthelamb. Do you love Jesus?"

"Of course!" I say, and shake both their hands before walking away into a sunny morning full of light.