Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Maybe I'M the Problem

I can't believe I'm having to deal with "Showtime" on the freaking 4 train!

But when the music ends (I haven't been paying attention, my nose deliberately buried in my Kindle), people actually clap. One of the performers daps smiling spectators up and down the car, and dollars are pouring into his hat. 

A suit fishes in his wallet with a rueful grin and fishes out a bill, saying, "Here you go, man."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Comments on the Bukowski Documentary

"I mean, I get the whole self-mythologizing thing, you know? I've told stories about my childhood, and made it look maybe worse or whatever." I'm finishing drying off after our shower.

Katie walks into the bedroom, toweling off, and says, "Maybe so, but I have exactly zero patience, tolerance, whatever, for guys that beat their wives."

Tomaytoe, tomahtoe

"Check out the murderer," Katie says.

I look around the subway car, but nobody immediately presents as "murderer," exactly. Then I see him: black suit, black gloves, shaved head, hard, weathered face, scowl.

"Oh, you mean the assassin," I say.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


My first day back to work since returning from vacation in Arizona, and after days in the most pleasant weather, after the ease of driving everywhere we went, the feeling of walking through the cold morning air to the subway is bracing. I stretch my legs and lengthen my stride, watching my breath billow faintly out into the air and tatter as I walk through it.

We're only a couple days past Christmas, so the streets and stations seem comparatively empty. Still, I'm glad to be surrounded by people everywhere, walking my streets, my pavement underfoot, tasting the air that knows me, even if, despite the cold, it does still smell a little of trash.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Else Are You Gonna Do in Sun City? (part 2)

"Oh, Goddammit!" dad says, cursing the driver sitting out in the middle of the intersection. "He won't turn!"

After we're back in motion, and he's calmed down a bit, he tells the story of the 55 year old man who assaulted the 75 year old man on the streets of their retirement community in an apparent incident of "road rage."

"The best part is, though, the 75 year old stabbed him!" dad says, cackling.

What Else are You Gonna Do in Sun City?

The dry desert air is sweet and mild, and we stand out on my parent's back porch, me, Katie, and my cousin Paul, breathing in the air and picking grapefruits and oranges off the trees and eating them while taking refuge from the occasional insanity that is Christmas Day with a seven-year-old.

A bee has settled on the peels we've left out, and she (aren't all bees that aren't specifically mating with the queen shes?) seems to be drunk, slowly exploring the pitted and pithy terrain of thick grapefruit peels, with tentative, deliberate steps.

The three of us watch, fascinated, wondering if this is "normal" bee behavior.

"I'd hate to think I'd invested all this time in a bee that wasn't normal," says Katie, finally, as the bee begins to lick the oily peel in earnest.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Gnostic Christmas

That part of me that is God celebrates the birth of the Christ child, and I sit in church listening to the minister stumble over his words (he's God, too), watching another child burble in his mother's lap (both God) while the elderly man in the pew behind them coos and pulls funny faces to make the child laugh, God entertaining himself.

Jesus was born, probably in spring, ages ago, to remind us that we are children of God, and, though they try to get us to forget this part, that means that we are Gods, too. But we celebrate at the solstice to bring us all together before the long, cold, bitter winter of the world we chose to live in sinks in its teeth.

I remember, and forget, and remember, and forget, cycling in and out of Godhood, while the planet turns on, forgetting and remembering, from darkness into light (and back again).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I Just Seem Approachable, I Guess

As I wait for someone to help me at the deli counter, the older woman with the slightly "butch" haircut (short, spikey, silvery grey) waiting with me is going to talk to me, I'm sure.

"What kind of swiss cheese are you going to buy," she finally asks. I tell her.

She shakes her head, says, "I don't really touch the stuff, myself, since I'm lactose intolerant, but my son sent me this shopping list."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Which Explains a Lot, Really

After the third poop joke and the fifth actual onscreen murder of a dinosaur by another dinosaur, we're starting to think this movie might be inappropriate for my seven-year-old niece, who is cowering in her mother's lap, eyes covered and fingers in her ears.

It reminds me of that time my parents took six-year-old me to see "The Old Gun," a movie which my parents believed would be a goofy western flick, a la Disney's "Hot Lead and Cold Feet," but which turned out to be a World War II movie, and which opened with Jews being burned alive against a wall with a flamethrower in a Warsaw ghetto.

The manager, upon being informed of my parents mistake, directed us to the only movie he could think of that might be appropriate. 

Which is how I ended up permenantly scarred at the tender age of six by the movie "Wizards" directed by Ralph Bakshi.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Make Believe

"Where is the evil Doctor keeping Cutie Pie?" I ask the Fairy Princess (a.k.a. my niece). The Doctor was originally called Diddagond, and was an evil robot, but when pressed on pronunciation, Fairy Princess declared we could "just call him D," which became The Evil Doctor, somehow.

It turns out that his evil lab, where the Doctor was also holding the magical fairy dog, was the closet. We managed to save them, in spite of the Evil Doctor (also a.k.a. my niece) who pulled out all of the stops, including stripping us of our powers and a freeze ray, when she figured out that we were winding the game down. 

Missed it by That Much

"And the man says, 'That dog never went to Harvard.'"

We all laugh appreciatively at the joke, but one of the guys leans over and says, "What did he say? I missed the zinger."

After I repeat it, he laughs more heartily and says, "You built the story up, but in fact it was a fallacy."

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Panicked

The post office by Grand Central is a giant echoing place, full of voices and the desperation of shipping gifts a week before Christmas.

My gifts don't fit into the boxes they supply, and the line is long, and I can see the hostile boredom on the faces of the clerks. Their job isn't exactly difficult, per se, but it is challenging, and probably a little soul crushing, and I'm pretty sure they don't want to help me, nor why should they.

The line snakes back and forth between the velvet ropes they've set up for crowd control, and I feel my anxiety rising, threatening to swallow my reason entirely, so I bolt, out the door and back onto Lexington Avenue in the wet, disheveled afternoon sun.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Late Night Wine Talk

"It's like that thing with astrology, you know?" The wine has made me grandiose and prone to pronouncements.

"It's not true, like, the planets beaming down their rays on us or whatever, but since everything is connected and everything, you could say it's sort of 'true,'" I say, making air quotes

"Yeah," Rick says, nodding, as if I'm somehow making sense.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gotta Start Shopping A Little Earlier

We stand in the kitchen, arguing. The conversation has gone south pretty rapidly.

"I'm just reacting like this because I hate it when you wait until the last moment to do stuff," she says.

"I thought I wasn't waiting until the last minute!" I cry.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Being "In the Moment"

The train is crowded, and people are keeping it together remarkably well, but still I envision this woman seated in front of me finally snapping, objecting to the proximity of my junk to her face. In my (now running rampant) imagination, she kicks her leg out, smashing me in the crotch, and we end up fighting, my fellow passengers have to pull her off me, or worse, me off her, blood everywhere.

I stop, breathe, adjust my posture to avoid smacking the woman behind me with my bag. "That is not what's happening, right now," I say, calming myself.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Persistence of Phenomenon

Yesterday's party has left us unsuited for most pursuits, so we take a walk around the neighborhood in the late afternoon dying sun. Upon arriving home, we see not one, but two stacks of pennies, perched prettily on our stoop.

I stare at the stacks,, dumbfounded, pointing, and Katie laughs, saying, "One stack isn't that big a deal, but two? Now you've got something to write about."


As I walk past the Christmas trees, I see a couple huddling close together through the stinging snow, she in a floppy leather hat and trenchcoat, he in a toque and sunglasses (even though the overcast sky leaves little room for glare). Only after I'm past them do I recognize Park Slope's Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard.

I'm momentarily starstruck, even though I don't acknowledge that I've seen them (to do otherwise would be supremely un-New York of me), but my steps do slow. I come to a stop and look around me, and realize that the grocery store I meant to go to was entirely the other direction down Fifth Avenue, and I've walked almost a half-mile the wrong way.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Just Keep Dancing

"Okay, I think it's right at the end here," I say. We pause our trimming of the tree and decorating for Christmas to watch this particular scene in the movie intently.

Sure enough, right at the end, Vera-Ellen trips over Danny Kaye's foot as he's kneeling for her final flourish, but she doesn't even stumble. "Damn," Katie says, "I've watched her feet for years and I've never seen that."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cat Saves the Day

I'm a apretty good touch typist, but the cat is NOT making it easy, by sitting donw directly in front of me and blocking my view of the screen. It's a good thing, too, because seriously, I had literally nothing to write about except this stack of pennies that somebody left on my stoop, and I don;t think I could fill up four sentensce with just that.

I'm gonna leave it just like this, though. You know, for historical purposes

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

He's Got My Back

We meet at the slightly posh wine bar with the indirect lighting and exposed brick and, in a rather ill-advised decision, sit by the window, where the freezing cold can sneak in around the edges of the glass.

I out of habit more than anything else, sit in the corner. Kevin, who's known me since high school, where I pulled this kind of nonsense all the time, laughs at me.

"Yeah, sit in that corner, and if any mob hitmen come up behind you, I'll be sure to warn you," he says.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Among Other Things (But Not Many)

The muzak cheerily burbles a Fifties version of "Let it Snow" while outside, real snow pours down on the old stone church that sits at the head of Wall Street beneath a sky the same color as stone.

My co-worker stares out the towering bank windows at the huge descending flakes, until finally he says, "Lotta history, Wall Street, you know?"

I make a non-committal noise.

"You know:" he says, "money, slavery."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Good Guy Brain

I wake up at precisely 6:54 in the morning after a very relaxed weekend, my mind suddenly racing, remembering the one thing I should have done on Friday at work. 

Though I'm glad that I remembered as I lay in the dark, I'm still surprised that my brain would take this long to remember. But even if I had remembered, what would I have done about it? This way, at least I got to enjoy a couple of days stress free.

Dad Jokes at the Wine Shop

"...with a hint of rubber in the nose," Katie concludes, reading from the description of the wine we're considering taking with us to the party in Astoria later. "Rubber in the nose?"

"Well for me," I say, really winding it up, "that's where the rubber meets the road."

Both she and the clerk packing boxes behind us say, in unison, "Ay-oh!"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Important Day in a Boy's Life

"He's going to have his first lox sandwich today," the father says to the bemused counterman at the bagel shop. "So is there any way he can try a small piece first, to see if he likes it?"

His son stands quietly beside his grey haired father, his curly blond hair a thick nimbus around his head, perched like a heavy sun above his thin boy's build, serious expression on his face, watching all this go down.

After they've negotiated the nibble, the son takes his bite, nodding enthusiastically to himself, saying, "It's good!"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Two Wrongs

The streets outside were wet with that fine, misting rain that didn't seem like that big of a deal, just to look at, but which somehow managed to soak you clear through to the skin.

I crouched on the floor, sorting through the umbrellas by the front door of the restaurant one more time, even though I knew it wasn't there.

"Why don't you just take someone else's, then?" our friend said jokingly, but Katie and I were both already shaking our heads.

I didn't bother to answer, but Katie shrugged and said, "The karma is too much to handle."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rumors of the Real World

A man getting off the train like he's disembarking from a ship, not entirely trusting either his vessel, or the earth, to be where they appear to be.

He carefully holds the pole inside the door with both hands while stepping onto the platform sideways, sliding his feet.

Once he's on the ground, he lets go of his anchor, and stands on the bumpy yellow tiles, swaying gently, still feeling the rise and fall of some unseen ocean swimming in his veins. Booze, fatigue, madness, age, something that makes the seeming world of solid forms a phantom, a charade, a rumor, not to be believed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Who Cares What You Think?

Read an article using the word "grups" today and had to look it up, only to learn that it meant something like "gr(own) ups whose interests were indistinguishable from a teenager's."

I recognized the derivation from Star Trek (or at least thought I did - I might have that wrong) but I thought, "That's what's great about being grown up for real: you don't have to care what people think about your interests, leisure activities, clothes, whatever, at least in theory, and you can just do what you want."

As I walk by the exit to the surface in the Union Square subway station, feel the cold air snaking down the stairs, and inhale the instantly recognizable aroma of that incense the Hare Krishnas use.

I could imagine them gathered in the plaza above, shaved heads and top knots, saffron robes, harmoniums and tambourines making a glorious racket, dancing around ecstatically, chanting their repetitious hymns to their blue-skinned, pretty-faced god.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The main character in the current section of the book I'm reading is black, but it takes me about 30 or so pages to figure it out. The basic, casual racism of my brain no longer surprises me, but I still feel slightly disappointed in myself, so I put the book back in my bag and look around the train.

A family of three slumps against one another, asleep, gently bouncing in unconscious rhythm to the ride. The mother holds a fishing pole, while a cooler sits between the legs of the son who sleeps sprawled out like a coma victim, mouth open and entirely unselfconscious, and I imagine them getting up before dawn to stake out their spot on the pier on Coney Island, casting their line far into the gray-green ocean, fishing all day, watching the waves rise and fall, rise and fall, lulled until they can't help but pass out as soon as they get on the subway, exhausted and hypnotized and dreaming of the sea.

Here, You Throw This Away

The short, mustachioed man in the sharp dark suit preaches in the underpass between the subway lines at the Times Square station, his voice echoing off the tiles and down the incredibly long hall, until, in a sudden access of passion, he breaks into what sounds like an improvised song.

Two unfortunates pass a little too close to him and he attempts to hand them one of the dozens of flyers he's clutching.

Both refuse, but that isn't good enough for him, and he chases the woman of the pair up the tunnel, waving a pamphlet at her, shouting, "Take it, take it, take it, take it!"

Finally, after she's retreated down the corridor, he returns to his spot, shaking his head in disbelief, saying, "But it's salvation."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The "Showtime" Curse Follows Me to Paris

The two men walk by on the subway, one carrying an amp, the other, an accordion, and they set up in the vestibule one down from us and begin playing.

It's pretty tame, almost pleasant - light, lilting, with that tiny ache of nostalgia characteristic of the accordion. Once they're done they walk up and down the car, plaintively shaking their clinking cup of change at the tourists riding the train out to the airport. Finished, they walk down, working their way backwards, one car to the next.

That's How I Got Over My Fear of Heghts

At the bottom of the 300 (or so) stairs spiraling up to the dome of Sacre-Coeur high above Paris, we joke with a middle-aged British couple about the arduous climb ahead of us, agreeing that it will most likely be worth it, but that we just have to "take our medicine," and tough it out. The woman of the couple, a raw-boned, horsey woman with a generous, infectious laugh and a motherly air, appears to be game for anything, but the thin-haired, worried-looking man with her doesn't seem quite so sure.

We pass them about two-thirds of the way up the claustrophobic stairs at a breezeway across the open roof which leads to another set of claustrophobic stairs, and the man is clinging to the wall green-faced, while the woman rubs his back murmuring encouraging words. I realize its not the exertion that's getting to him: he's afraid of heights.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bloody Soil

After the consumerist nightmare of the Champs-Élysées, we stand atop the Arc de Triomphe and look out across the foggy city spread out below us in radiating spokes from here. I've spent most of the day imagining the wars and revolutions that have bloodied the streets of Paris, and now I'm looking down from a monument to a biggie. The high relief friezes on the front of the arc show men and boys (and the occasional very angry woman) getting ready to go to war, drawing swords and rushing off to do battle against whatever foe the state has mandated this time.

When we come back down to earth, a coterie of soldiers have taken over the plaza by the monument to the unknown soldier, and summarily we tourists are shooed away to make way for some solemn ceremony or other, of which we will never really be a part.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Life Skills

The Eiffel Tower soars to the sky, lattice and lace and much lighter than anything that enormous has any right to be. Every hour on the hour hundreds of lights as bright as flashbulbs go off across the girders of the frame work making it dazzle like it's giving off sparks.

Down below we watch in awe, until the guys hawking cheap-ass trinkets (plastic Eiffel Towers that change colors, key chains with names like "Kaatie" or "Lazaa).

Fortunately, my time in New York has taught me how to deal with the random street hustler: "No thanks," I say, my voice stern.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Check Your Bags (And Your Privilege)

"Whose is this?" the woman asks the people surrounding the charging station. She then unplugs someone's phone and plugs hers in. 

"That's mine," another woman says, walking up. "And it's not done," she continues and unplugs the first woman's phone, who looks genuinely surprised that someone would question her right to a fully charged phone.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Elusive Glasses Are Somehow My Fault

The dull-eyed girl behind the counter becomes, somehow, even more dull-eyed as she talks on the phone to their storeroom. "But I told you to keep them here," she says sullenly to someone on the other end.

Finally, she hangs up and regards me with near-hostility. "They sent them over to the other store," she says to her boss who hovers anxiously nearby, all the while still looking at me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tales from High School

"And Tim would always ask if we were done with our food, so he could eat the leftovers," Kevin tells my wife. "So finally we just started licking our food so he'd stop asking."

"That was me," I tell him. "It was Tim who started licking stuff, and really, it didn't stop me." 

"Repent, Harlequin!" "Yeah, no, I'm good."

Once again, I look to the television for the time, only to remember that there's no clock there. When you give up cable, one of the things they don't tell you is that you may not have enough clocks in your house.

Sure there might be one or two in the kitchen, on the microwave, say, or the stovetop, and everybody in New York carries around a supercomputer in their pocket these days that's linked to a freaking atomic clock somewhere in Nevada or some such nonsense.

But there's something simultaneous frightening, and a little thrilling, about not exactly knowing what time it is, not caring, just letting the hours wash over you, living a slightly more elastic existence unfettered by the tyranny of time.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friendly Wine Makes Friends

My wine tastes bubbly and sweet and shamelessly friendly, and I'm feeling friendly, so I ask the guy behind the bar if he knows anything about Paris. It's sort of my go-to question lately, and I ask it of anybody who seems interesting or seems knowledgeable about food, or wine, or whatever.

He looks at me seriously for a second, and then dashes off to grab something to write with.

"Pookie's four-a-day," Katie sings to herself, smiling, sipping the last of her wine.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No Making Out Tonight

She points at my upper lip. "What's that?"

"It's either a zit gone crazy, or a cold sore," I say, trying not to reach up and touch it. 

I'm almost certain it's a cold sore, though.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Old Before Her Time

Woman with a cane, glasses, down filled puffy coat, bustles onto the train and down next to me on the bench. She continues to bustle as she settles in, fixing her hair, worrying her bag, twisting her headphones into and out of knots, wriggling the entire time, like a kid who has to go to the bathroom.

I try not to be rude on the train, only looking directly at people when I'm pretty sure I won't be observed, but I turn to look at her and I'm surprised - she looks like she's maybe late-twenties. She seems much younger than all that nervous, busy energy would have led me to believe.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fall is Just the Space Between

Rush rush rush rush sound of scuffing through the yellow ginko leaves piled along the sidewalk. Smell of the ginko seeds, stinky feet and cheese and vegetal.

Walk by a guy talking to somebody outside the Middle Eastern restaurant, and he says, "Let me go, man. It's freezing out here."

Monday, November 18, 2013


"It's a maltese-poodle mix," the short bald guy behind the counter says with a thick accent as he bags up my cat food. "But, you know, he doesn't like to eat."

I ask him what he means and he shrugs. "I get him liver, you know, and I cook it up, but if I don't cut it up into little pieces," and pantomimes turning up his nose and pushing a plate away.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Flight of the Hunter

Katie is standing at the apartment door, fresh from the shower, wrapped in a towel, door open, the light from the stairwell of our building streaming in. She's called me into the hall of our apartment with that calm, concerned voice that she uses when it's really important, but she doesn't want anybody to panic.

"Scott, can you help me?" she says. "The cat's run out into the building, so I need you to get the cat, and get me the can of Raid."

Almost Ready to Turn Off Cable

"Congratulations on not watching any TV on cable tonight," Katie says, after we finish watching a documentary on Netflix.

"Well, except for those fights on UFC," I say.

"Yeah, that's true," she says.

A few minutes later, we're watching Saturday Night Live, because Lady Gaga is hosting.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


The meeting takes place in the slightly less formal office, rather than the meeting room.

The staid, pleasant assistant's pants hike up a little, revealing the colorful, daring ankle bracelet she conceals beneath her cuffs.

The pregnant head of HR's hand falls naturally down into her lap, where it seems to curve around her swelling belly of its own volition.

The director of the department smells of cologne, or maybe shampoo, but either way we're sitting close enough that I can smell whichever it is.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cultural Confusion

"So I'm playing Tiny Death Star, and trying to stretch out so I'm like this." Katie bends over at the waist, staring at the ground.

"And when I come up, one of the men in that group of Japanese is staring at me, and he goes like this." She bows, with a concerned look on her face.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul

I realize I'm singing along to the song in my headphones when I catch the two people waiting in front of the apartment building do a double take as I walk by.

I imagine how I sound: that sort of weird, thin, high, quavery voice that people sing in when they're singing and they can't hear their own voice. It's creepy.

I continue down the block, deliberately singing louder, which is more obnoxious, but less creepy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Not Exactly Suited for an Office

I sigh one of those sighs where you sort of puff out your cheeks and blow air out, and my co-worker says, "You okay? You've been sighing and tapping your feet and talking to yourself like crazy over there."

"Oh, hey, I'm sorry," I say, forcing my leg to stop bouncing up and down. "I kinda can't help it sometimes, 'cause of my ADD."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quoth the Guy Who Has to Go to Work Tomorrow

Thanks veterans, both for your service, and for the day I've been given to hang out and do stuff.

With the cat curled up beside me on the couch, I've spent most of my morning editing this story. Later, I'll go out for cat food and a quick walk, then it's back home to practice my French, work on the story some more, read this book about Americans in Paris in the 1800's, and then bake some cookies.

"Working's for suckers," I say to the cat, and she yawns and goes back to sleep.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


At three in the afternoon, the sky is so dark it seems close to dusk. "Flinty," I say to Katie as we're walking down Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, referring to the color of the clouds, the smell of the air, the shade of the light. 

"What?" she says, then, nodding, "Oh." A few icy pinpricks of water hit my lips and cheek.

Maybe He Was Just Trying to Help

I come around the corner of the aisle to find Katie continuing a very serious conversation with the store clerk about paint.

"So you're telling me that this paint doesn't have primer in it?" she asks, even though the can very clearly says "paint & primer" on it.

Maybe it's this, or my rapidly progressing illness, but I am not feeling particularly charitable toward this guy's motives, especially when he continues to insist that there's no primer (in the paint that says the opposite right on the can).

I walk up and tap the can on the label where it says the magic word, and say, "Yeah, this one's fine."

Friday, November 8, 2013

I got nothing

I'm watching Anthony Bourdain misunderstand Japanese culture. My head cold has finally come full bloom just in time for the weekend. I should probably be asleep, but I hate wasting time where I don't have to be at work. 

I'll sleep tomorrow.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It Only Takes a Spark

He shoves onto the already packed 4 train with a curse that carries the length of the car. "Fuck you, fuck all a you," he says to no one, everyone, as the people around him protest.

He almost starts a fight with two more people in the time it takes to get us from one station to another, and when the train reaches Grand Central, he seems to be actively glorying in shitting all over everybody's morning.

"Fuck you," he repeats, "I'll kill all a you," and he laughs.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Making My Own Drama

I'm marking up my friend's story, pencil in hand, riding the train, standing, which means that I'm grabbing the bar with the same hand that I'm holding the pencil.

And this is what I'm reduced to right now. There's very little of actual interest in the day, so I'm talking about worrying that I'm gong to accidentally stab this pleasant, albeit rather plain-looking, woman standing just to my right with my very sharp pencil that I happened to find on the subway platform a few days ago.

I mean, I didn't stab her, but still, we went around a pretty sharp corner, causing me to grab the bar frantically to keep from falling over, and, well, let's just say it was kinda touch and go there for a minute.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Starvation Method

"If you gotta change your cat's diet," the clerk at the pet shop says, "and she's all finicky? Just change it."

"A dog'll be all, 'Oh, they changed my food," and just eat it. But a cat won't eat for a few days until he realizes you're serious, and then he'll be like, 'Oh damn, I guess they mean it.'"

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Best Spies Believe Their Cover Story

When I finally shaved my dreadlocks off, in my early twenties, I used to joke with my friends that I wasn't selling out, I was "going undercover." Presumably, the idea was that I would look normal enough to somehow infiltrate the "straight" world, while still being a freak on the inside.

Today, I catch sight of myself in a storefront reflection as I'm walking down the street: dress shoes, wool herringbone pants, white oxford shirt, purple silk tie, vintage tweed winter coat that looks straight up 1962, stylish short hair parted on the right, and I think, God, look at me. Looks like my disguise is complete.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's Up To Me

I unscrew the expanders on the sides of the air conditioner in my friend's window, then the screw holding it to the window frame. Katie and my friend are distracted, so they don't see my hand shake, but tell you what, I am a little nervous.

This heavy piece of equipment is just hanging out in space over the sidewalk below, and once I lift the sash, it could be free to fall, crashing to earth and killing whomever below. 

But that's not going to happen, I tell myself, white knuckle tight gripping the back of it as I say, "Okay, can you lift the window open now?"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I Guess I Don't Either

The cat loves the taste of kava, and licks my hands even after I've washed them, tasting the bitter, dirt-flavored residue until, I suppose, her face goes numb. I don't actually know how kava effects cats, though I suppose that the mechanism is similar, and it makes them feel pretty good.

I remark to Katie how strange it feels when the cat licks my hands in such a persistent fashion.

"I love her little sandpaper kisses," she says, "and I don't care where her mouth has been."

Haunting the Bastard

Due to the various and sometimes truly awful misdeeds of my youth (to which I freely cop), one or two of my ex-girlfriends have blocked me on social media. They're not wrong, probably.

But since they remain in contact with people who have not blocked me, I occasionally observe traces of their existence: seeming non-sequiturs in comment threads that can only be responses to jokes I can't see, or agreements with cogent arguments I'll never read. They move like ghosts through my electronic existence - a shadow sighted out of the corner of my eye, a shiver sliding up my spine as a person who does not wish me well (if they think of me at all) moves somewhere nearby in the vast dark of the internet.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The D Train Is Bat Country

The guy in the Hunter S. Thompson costume twitches by the subway door and squints at the ads above the seats, trying pretty hard to draw attention to himself. "Method costuming," Katie whispers, nodding in his direction.

Trust the short, hairy, older eastern European in the suit and Santa hat to engage Hunter, though. "She knew who you were right away," he says, indicating his leggy, sharp faced and obviously inebriated date, "but it was several minute before I knew who were you."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another Show

Plays let you be in the same room with somebody or -bodies as they play "let's pretend." You can watch them struggle and fail and occasionally levitate, and when they levitate they sometimes access that magic that let's them take the room with them.

But I've been in a fair number of shows myself, and when the cast takes their final bow for the night, I feel a certain sadness, the letdown of setting foot back on earth and coming back to reality, and I can see in their eyes that some of them are already back to themselves, thinking about getting out of makeup, into their street clothes and maybe grabbing a beer before heading home.

"I hope they're nice to each other," I say to Katie as we gather up our coats to leave.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jesus is Magic, But Can He Play Keyboard?

The guy doing magic on the train is the most benign version of showtime I've ever seen. I mean, he's not good or anything, but he's certainly not blaring shitty music at me while I try to read, instead turning a ball into a crystal ball, into a dollar bill, and back, while keeping up a stream of unwitty, but harmless, banter.

But when he starts talking about how "Jesus is the only one who does supernatural magic," I dive for my headphones. My favorite song fades in, and the Jesus magician fades away.

For Example

I play with the tarot app on my phone while I wait for Katie to come home. "Why do I seem to have lost my spark, my passion, for the creative things that used to enthuse me?" I ask, and the cards come up with some ideas: physical comfort, a general inability to commit to any one project for long, a nagging suspicion I'll never be good enough and wanting the instant gratification that short term success brings. Then, Katie comes home, and I lose myself in the enjoyable evening busy-ness of our good life together - baking bread, a rehearsal with some friends, watching TV and chatting.

I wake up in the morning in a mild panic, realizing with disappointment that I forgot to write this blog.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

That's That

Lights already off, fan on, head on pillow when suddenly: "Dammit. I forgot to write  my four a day."

The usual excuses whine their siren song - I'll do it in the morning, nothing really happened today, I'm tired. But I know that this is what I set out to do, so like it or not, this is what I'm doing.

You Might Hurt Somebody

"You know that sort of sarcastic laugh you did when we were arguing earlier?" I say. "Well I know that you learned it from me, but when I heard you do it, I was like, 'Shit, is that how she feels when I do that?'"

"Yeah I did learn that from you," Katie says, "but as soon as I did it I thought, 'Oh man, it's been a good day. You better sheathe that.'"

This Sounds Kinda Perfect

"Okay, here's the plan." She's home from work, I'm lying on the bed watching her change out of her work clothes. "Mexican? And we watch a movie on pay-per-view."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Star-crossed Lovers

"Yo," his girlfriend says, after he holds forth for a few minutes on the virtues of hip-hop and its environs, "Harlem sucks." I'm only sort of sure they're together, but I don't want to turn and look at them, even though I'm pretty certain she's baiting him, and they want people to notice.

"How you gonna say you grew up never knowing who Aerosmith is?" she says later. "Steven Tyler?"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Autumn Scents

Cold wet pavement smell of slate and stone glistening under the streetlights.

Wood burning, smoke rich against the brisk air.

The funk of the basement beneath a deli, sour milk and soil and garbage.

Musty jacket, moth ball chemical and dust and all the falls that have come before, inhaled with every breath.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Far Away

I hit the button on my phone to see it's 3:30 in the morning. The pain in my knee that's awakened me is throbbing, like I've got a stomach ache in the middle of my leg, deep inside the muscle.

I rub it and stretch, at first lying in bed, trying not to disturb Katie, then walking around the room, but to no avail. Finally, I walk over to her side of the room, and grab a few ibuprofen, hoping that will help, but the rattle of the pills tumbling around in the bottle wakes her, and she says, as if from a long way away: "What?"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Magic is Just Spending More Time on Something Than Any Reasonable Person Would

The horn fits in my hands exactly the way it always has, easily, like a good pair of shoes or jeans that you barely notice. 

My mouth, however, is another matter entirely. My lips feel abused, swollen, the way they felt after a clumsy makeout session in high school.

I squawk and squeal, make some passable sounds, keep playing, pushing past my desire to quit, because I know that if I keep doing this, somehow the muscles will eventually build themselves back up, and I'll be playing pretty well in no time.

No Free Lunch

"I really like kava," I tell Katie as we're standing on the subway platform, waiting to go home after an evening out with friends. "It evens me out, and keeps my anxiety down. But I'm worried that it's sort of flattening me, and that's why I'm having trouble connecting with the emotional center of my writing."

A train rattles by on the center track, going downtown, and Katie makes a face at it as she says, "You like the plants, but you don't like what happens afterwards."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Clowns are Nothing to Worry about

We drink on the roof across the street from the venue. Despite the efforts of our new friend Grace, we were unable to get into the show, and so we've retreated back to the roof to people watch and chat.

The instructions for those attending the show said to wear either a costume or formalwear. 

We watch a clown leaving as the show ends chasing a limo down the streets of Bushwick, and Katie and I shout encouragement from the rooftop, laughing.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


The honking klaxon of the ladder truck roars from the firehouse and tears up Union Street. Stymied by the already standstill traffic of a Friday afternoon rush hour, the fire truck blares at the cars, and finally bullies it's way through oncoming traffic to the following intersection, where it leaves us.

After it's passed, I try to cross the street, but I'm caught by the gasp of the woman walking next to me, who saw the impatient driver barreling through the intersection, upset about his lot in life.

I stop, and the car passes a mere foot from me, for which I turn my head to the woman who stopped me from dying, and say, "Good job!"

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is There a (Cat) Ghost In My House?

In the early morning darkness of the front room, the cat crouches on the hardwood floor, staring intently at the space beneath the chair in the corner.

She doesn't move, or even blink, except when she occasionally adjusts her crouch and, in doing so, scoots almost imperceptibly forward.

It's like she's hunting, doing her genetically hardwired stalking thing, but when I look beneath the chair, following the line of her sight and staying very still, all I see are dustbunnies and balls of fur, silent and unmoving.

I lay down to do my daily yoga, leaving her to her strange game, and suddenly feel something brush my foot, like a whiskered face marking me the way cats do, but when I open my eyes, she's several feet away, still crouched, still staring.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Literally Full of It

My brain isn't working the way I like it to. I'm negative, down on myself, thinking maybe I'm used up, that whatever potential existed in me from the days of my youth might be gone.

Also, and this is kind of embarrassing, but, whenever I travel, I really get uncomfortably constipated.

As I'm cleaning up in my bedroom towards the end of the night, after a whole day of this, I feel a rumbling in my guts, and rush to the bathroom to relieve myself, realizing that the two might be related.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

There It Is (I Has the Dumb)

"My quandary is," I say, coming into the kitchen, "what do I write about?"

"For your Four-a-day?" Katie says as she spoons another measure of coffee into the maker for tomorrow morning. "But there's so many things you could write about: the laundry, what we watched on TV, dinner.

This conversation."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Scent of Home

The cabbie has inexplicably decided to take surface roads all the way back from the airport.

At another of the seemingly endless number of stoplights, Katie sighs, and I ask if everything's okay.

When she explains that the stop-and-go ride is making her nauseated, I suggest she roll down the window for a little fresh air.

She does, and the air smells like home, humid and cool and sweet, even on Atlantic Avenue in the middle of Brooklyn.

Social Realism Isn't Easy

They've turned the ruins of this old flour mill into a museum, and the exhibit we're currently admiring informs us that after the mill closed in 1965, it was abandoned, left to vagrants and the homeless, who sheltered from the vicious Minnesota winters within its walls.

Eventually, a careless campfire burned out of control, gutting the old building, and leaving the banks of the Mississippi in these parts bereft of industry. The rise and fall of the flour industry reflects in microcosm the rise and fall of of many industries in America, and this museum makes the wise choice of showing those changes through the eyes of the people who worked here.

"I want to write one of those historical novels, like those bricks that Michner wrote, about the flour industry, but I'm afraid I'd fuck it up," I tell Katie 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Two Men, One Skirt, and One Pair of Underwear

The man in the kilt waits with me outside the bathroom at the wedding venue, and my question about his tartan spins out into a discussion of the etemology of family names in old Ireland.

When the bathroom's current occupant finally vacates, I make to go in, but the man in the kilt asks if he might, too. 

It's kind of crowded, and there's no real separating barrier between the urinal and the toilet, but of course I say yes - as the saying goes, when you've gotta go....

So the man who sticks his head into the bathroom a few seconds later is a little surprised to see two men peeing, chatting about Welsh place names and the terrible state of the Isles since 1066.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


As the wheels touch down on the wet tarmac, the plane shudders, and the plastic doors to the overhead compartments rattle deafeningly the length of the compartment.

No one seems alarmed, however, and the flight attendant's voice is calm, friendly, and mildly sedated sounding as she recites, "On behalf of USAirways, we'd like to welcome you to Minneapolis, where the local time is eleven... thirty nine."

As she continues her spiel, the mid-fifties aged man in the row in front of us remarks on the loudness of the landing to no one in particular.

The good looking, crew-cutted young guy next to him turns and says, "Yeah, but it's quieter than any landing in one of the army planes."

Friday, October 11, 2013

What They Really Think

I can hear them talking in the copy room, talking about me.

"... and I had eyeliner clumped all over my face, and he was like, 'Um, you might want to check a mirror,' but totally nice about it!"

The other one chimes in, "He's just so nice."

When one of them walks by a few moments later, I keep my head down and pretend to be engrossed in the document I'm editing, so as to avoid eye contact.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In Spite of Myself

I've all but determined I'm not going to go to the bookstore to talk to them about booking a reading. It's not that I'm lazy, just terminally insecure, worried they'll see right through me, recognize I'm not a real author.

Yet, my feet continue to walk, almost without any volition on my part, and before I know it, I'm at the door. 

"Well, since I'm already here," I think, stepping inside amidst the smell of books to speak to the man behind the counter.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sponsored by Nobody

She says, "He's, like, eleven? But fancy eleven, like he's got, like, an iPad and stuff, so I don't know what to get him for his birthday."

I don't even look up from my typing. "Get him a gift card at the iTunes Store, so he can buy apps."

Monday, October 7, 2013


"Scott," she says, a box of Lean Cuisine in her hand, "how many tablespoons is 550 milligrams of sodium?"

"Well, really you're talking about two different types of measurements," I explain. "Milligrams is for weight," I continue, "while tablespoons and teaspoons are more about volume."

Finally, I conclude with, "Listen, a gram is about the same weight as a raisin."

Good Even at 1.5D

Watching the movie "Gravity" on the IMAX screen in 3D is an almost overwhelming experience. The sound, the sheer scale of the visuals, stuns the audience into silence.

About fifteen minutes into the movie, my eye itches, and when I rub it, I inadvertently push my contact out of place, leaving my vision half-blurred.

Rather than get up, mess up everybody's experience as I sidle out the row to the bathroom to fix my eyeball, miss part of the movie, I fight down the panic of knowing there's a tiny piece of plastic shoved up deep under my eyelid, and sit there and watch; and it's still an amazing film.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Glimpse of Darkness

We sit on the bench on the platform waiting for the train to take us to Queens. Across the tracks on the opposite platform, a woman sits, staring off into space.

She looks young, clear skin, dressed in a long skirt that doesn't fit poorly, hair clean, nothing unusual.

As I watch, she reaches up and strikes herself in the head repeatedly, then pushes her fist to her forehead with a pained expression, then punches herself again.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Good Job!

I mention unfriending someone on Facebook because of their take on the Sinead O'Connor/Miley Cyrus back and forth nonsense which will likely be forgotten before I even finish writing this post.

Katie doesn't even blink. "Everybody's doing their jobs," she says, getting out dishes for dinner. "She's acting like a little spoiled brat, and that's her job, everybody is all outraged, and that's their job; everybody is doing exactly what they're supposed to do."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rock Star

I read on Facebook that he's dead, and though I'm not sure I believe it, part of me is unsurprised.

I remember standing in front of the stage watching him play, watching the beautiful women dance to his music, thinking that this was the only thing I'd ever wanted. I was nineteen, ready to change into something else, and realized in that moment that that necessarily involved disappointing all the people who thought they knew who and what I was.

So I set out to destroy myself, and luckily I did not entirely succeed.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Invisible Subways

The details, the lifeblood of a writer, have begun to blur together. I'm on the train, again, and a woman gets on, her bag presses into my back; or: I stare out the window at the wall of the tunnel smearing by; or: the sun blinks through the repeating trestles of the Manhattan bridge, blinding me.

I realize that the trains have begun to overlap in my head, and distinguishing between them has become beside the point. Every train ride I describe is the one train ride, repeated, variations on a theme, like different recordings of the same piece of music recorded over and over until the waves of sound, the rising and falling of an unintelligible melody, are all that can be heard.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Do I Remember What I Saw? Or the Words I Used to Describe It?

I'm standing at the sink, washing dishes. Beside me, ignored, the window opens onto the backyards of a block's worth of buildings - backyards filled with trees still green with summer and climbing ivy and peacefulness.

A sudden, unheard movement of the wind catches my eye (can it be fall so soon?), and yellowed leaves spiral up the window to flutter down, spinning to the ground three stories below.

I think to myself, watching the leaves, "Spiraling, yellow, flutter, dishes, window, backyards, green, fall."

Monday, September 30, 2013

True Story

The two women manage to get on the train and push their way past the boisterous crowd of kids blocking the entrance to the much less full center of the car.

One of them purses her lips in annoyance, and says, "They don't know to move in?"

"Whatever," says the other woman, "they white."

Then they go back to discussing the English classes they teach, and their apparently quite difficult students.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Mean, We Can't Just Leave Them for the Eagles

A beautiful day, clouds moving fast across the sky, the sun dappling between the leaves, and meanwhile, this kid is having a meltdown, right there on the sidewalk.

He drags on his father's arm, trying to stop his forward momentum, and succeeding, until finally he's sitting in the middle of the pavement, crying giant crocodile tears.

"What's the procedure, when our kids do something like that?" I ask, hypothetically.

"If there's no hurry?" Katie replies.

Cat People vs. Dog People

We're walking through Javitt Center at "Meet the Breeds," a yearly opportunity put on by the American Kennel Club to play with puppies and kitties of almost every conceivable type.

The dogs have generously bestowed their slobber and fur upon us, leaving us vibrating with happiness and goodwill, so we decide to check out the cat portion of the event.

Static glamour shot-style photos of angry looking cats and their sour handlers line the booths, and almost all of the cats sulk in their cages.

As we pass one more of these dour exhibits, Katie says, "Walking into the cat section feels like attending the funeral of a stranger."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

That's Not What I Asked

The 5k run (really a brisk walk for us) through an electric light wonderland has ended, and we're enjoying some granola bars and the sweet lassitude of the righteously weary.

When my co-worker walks up, I try to engage her in small talk. "Did you have fun?" I ask.

She makes a face, says, "I don't really like techno."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's Her Story?

The presentation at the expo is in full swing when she walks in and sits down: medium height, looks to be close to the far end of her late-thirties. Following close behind her are three boys, oldest to youngest, tallest to shortest, all of them with the blank, placid look of the terminally bored youngster.

They are all dressed in their Sunday best, which for this family (because they must be related, even though none of them looks like the other) means wrinkled buttondown shirts and ties, while the youngest also sports a rakish fedora and long hair that spills out from beneath it and girlishly curls around his collar.

The mother wears a sleeveless dress, and when she claps politely at the appropriate points in the (very Christian - "hallelujahs!" and "praise gods!" and the whole deal) speeches, a tattoo of what might be a dragon peeps demurely out from under the strap on her right shoulder, speaking to a wilder past; wilder, at least, than a conference room in some midtown hotel in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

All Us Babies

The baby on her lap is remarkably well behaved, given how crowded the train is.  She's a little fussy, but I'm not sure I would do any better if I was only a foot and a half tall.

I look around the car, all of us look tired, weighed down by our day, packed in tight. I'm surprised we're not all breaking down, weeping, all the time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Snapshots of Prospect Park

I still can't do yoga after I aggravated my old injury during our trapeze shenanigans, so I ride my bike around the park.

A woman in sunglasses, a baseball cap pulled low on her forehead with her ponytail dangling out the back, runs like a storm trooper in the opposite direction to traffic (we call these people "salmon").

Groups of young Jewish boys walking around the park ask me if I'm Jewish as I streak by on my bike, pedaling like crazy.

The men playing dice in the small box they have set up off the main road have a floating craps game going, I suspect.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Winter is a Hill

I fly down the hill, the gears on my bike making that deeply satisfying, speedy sound. The park breathes deep all around me, all the best smells of fall.

Somebody's barbecuing, somebody else is smoking pot, the trees are all exhaling into the cool fall air.

I push my pedals to make my machine go, anticipating the heavy hill to come.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nice While it Lasted

The sun is almost set as I walk back from the drug store, and the low light caresses the high steeple of the church in gold, turning the edifice into a stack of honeyed bricks.

I can feel in the cooling autumn air an older Brooklyn, one that's closer to New England than the mid-Atlantic states. I've walked streets like this, in Massachusetts, in Maine, old streets that remember other voices that spoke differently, with a slower tempo than New York's crazy rhythm.

Just for a moment, I'm there, and I breathe deep before a honking horn from a gypsy cab brings me back.

All Because I Wanted to Watch Dudes Beat Up On Other Dudes

Lashona, the fourth person I've talked to in my long, long phone call with Time Warner Cable, is proving herself to be a reasonable human being.

"I gotta do some actual math here," she says. "Because you are really paying too much just to be having basic cable."

As she carries the two and picks through packages, I say, "It sounds like you're booking travel arrangements for us where we fly out of Newark and back into LaGuardia or something."

Friday, September 20, 2013

How Can I Hate You if You Insist on Not Being Hateful

"Man, do I hate showtime," I say, surprising none of my readers, as I move away from the center of the car to avoid getting kicked in the head by the two-man crew that has arrived in our car.

"You're not the only one," says the blonde woman, deadpan. 

"Eh, I guess it's not that bad," I reply.

But instead of the usual bad hip-hop or techno, they hit play, and Bruno Mars's "Treasure" bumps out of the speaker, and I can't help boogeying along.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This Beyoncé movie I'm sort of half watching with Katie has all kinds of people working overtime and then some to realize and translate Beyoncé's visions into reality. Some of these folks are going without sleep for days, overcoming incredible discomfort and challenges to do what they love.

Later, I ask Katie about what she's done that was so important to her that she stayed up all night, and after she tells me (her first semester in college as a textiles major) she asks me the same question.

"You know, I was thinking about that, and mostly, it was meditation, fasting, and drugs," I say.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


"Legs up!" yells the teacher, and I pull my legs between my arms and hook them over the trapeze. I miss my timing, however, just by a moment, and what should have been a simple maneuver, aided by momentum, is accomplished mostly by main strength.

The adrenaline coursing through my body makes this possible, but as I swing back through space, and unhook my legs, I feel something pop in my ribs. When I land on the net, still terrified, I know that I've done something to myself, not bad, but definite, and it feels like the muscle is holding its breath, getting ready to howl.

Birds of a Feather

"Holy shit!" the woman who's been walking behind me since I left the house says to the woman who just crossed the street.

"Holy shit," the other woman agrees. "I was waiting for you to see me, since I've been stalking you from across the street for blocks."

They chat for a while, keeping pace with me as we walk down Seventh, and I don't turn around to observe them, but still: gun to my head I couldn't have told you which one was speaking at any given moment, so alike did they sound.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cut My Hair

There's nothing sensual about this haircut: it's purely a mechanical operation. The clippers snip and the comb flies as the woman cutting my hair smoothly orbits the planet of my noggin, trimming and styling, styling and trimming.

And a trim is all I've asked for, which is why I'm surprised when, at what looks like a decent length, she continues to fuss and clip, until my hair is much shorter than what I expected to have when I sat down.

When she holds the mirror up behind me, showing my newly shorn locks, asking if it's short enough, I say, "Well, you can't make it longer."

Sunday, September 15, 2013


One guy tosses the ball, and it lands in the other guy's mitt with a nice, solid thwack.

"Yeah, you still doing the music?" he asks as the other guy throws the ball back. They're both early thirties, young, and neither looks like they've slept a full night in a while.

"Trying," says the other, "but with a new kid, well, you know."

What Took You So Long?

"That guy looks so worried," Katie says, indicating the Labrador Retriever-mix staring off into the distance with a furrowed brow.

"Maybe that's just his face," I say. "Some dogs just look like that."

A moment later, though, still staring at something we don't see, his tail begins to wag madly, and then his entire countenance transforms into the picture of doggy joy, as a woman walks up and casually picks up his leash.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Putting it Kindly

A co-worker stands leaning on the shelf in front of my cubicle, gazing at me with a thoughtful expression.

I meet her gaze, cock my head questioningly. "Got some silver coming in," she says, almost sadly, indicating my hair.

"It looks distinguished!" my cubemate Beverly says, indignant.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I finish the last book (The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, if you're interested), and close the hardcover with a satisfying thwap, settling back into my chair with the contented sigh of one who has labored long in the consumption of a good meal.

But already my mind is licking its metaphorical chops: the next book, from the library, waits seductively on my desk in the bedroom. This one's a doozy, too - thick and chewy, almost 900 pages, and supposedly one of the best in the last few years.

I should be going to bed, or working on my next story, or, God help me, writing this blog, but I can hear the pages, whispering to me, and I am, as I was when I was eight years old and being scolded by my mother for reading at the dinner table, helpless to resist.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To Be Fair, They Were Kind of Hidden

I'm waiting for my friend to arrive at Tea Lounge, and I'm a little nervous, not because meeting her is stressful, but because I've scanned every chalkboard in this place, and I can't find a list of the teas.

The guy behind the counter, loose and casual, aloof and cool in a way that I couldn't pull off even when I was twenty years younger, catches my eye and raises an eyebrow. I'm not entirely sure I can handle his disdain at my lack of knowledge, but I decide to just brazen on through.

"I am trying really hard not to be that guy, but I cannot seem to figure out what teas you have," I say, throwing myself on his mercy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Acting Like an Extrovert

After shaking numerous hands and saying my goodbyes to the kind people I've met tonight, I stand outside the bar, stroking the screen of my phone to find a way home.

I'm tired. My mind whirls with talk, names, ideas, faces, books, words, words, words.

The still warm air is thick around me, and I can feel the buzzing in my chest begin to subside, the words settling back into silence, where I can rest.

Monday, September 9, 2013


He's skinny, and not just regular skinny: spindly neck, bony wrists and shoulders, sunken cheeks and arcing clavicles forming deep, shadowed pockets. He's facing the subway doors, the ones away from the platform, toward the center, toward the darkness of the tunnels, muttering and singing to no one.

He isn't holding on to anything, so when the train goes around the corner, he loses his balance and checks me in the back with his pointy shoulder.

He's so light he barely makes an impact, but when I ask if he's okay, he glares at me with deep set, suspicious eyes that only gradually soften back into insensibility as he turns back to the darkness to sing his tuneless song.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


The noise and crowds at the "Adopt-a-palooza" (Perry Farrell, what hast thou wrought?) are making all the animals super stressed, so we bail on the whole thing and go lie down on the grass, to stare up into the sky.

The clouds are moving fast, coming in grey and strange.

"I wonder if we'll get rain?" I say.

"Look at that blue sky," Katie says, pointing, "and besides, the wind's shifted," and the clouds change direction and dissolve.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Holding on to Disappointment

The man and his very cute Boykin Spaniel have left the cheese shop disappointed, unable to find the sandwiches they were looking for. Katie and I strike up a conversation (half to be friendly, half to possibly get some puppy action from the aforesaid supercute and very curious spaniel), and mention they might have something more to his liking at a place two avenues away.

"Naw," he says, "I'm not really interested in walking more than a couple blocks."

After he's walked away, still disappointed, Katie and I pass, in the opposite direction from the way he went, a sandwich truck with everything a dedicated sandwich lover could want, and when I wish that our recent acquaintance and his dog could have seen it, Katie shrugs and says, "He wasn't interested in his day."

Out of the Well

"There it is!" I shout, and everybody on the roof turns south to see the red spark burning up into the sky. It arcs eastward, glittering sharp and crimson, undimmed even by the dulling light pollution of Brooklyn.

We watch it for a few minutes, cheering, until the fire begins to fade and the mote shrinks to invisibility, swallowed in the gray darkness of a city sky, winging a robot towards the moon to keep up the long task we've set ourselves to explore the solar system.

There's a moment of sadness, and then the second stage ignites, and a cheer goes up from the roof again.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Something Like That

There's a very strange relationship between what I remember, and what actually happened. So when I'm sitting with two old friends from high school, one of whom I haven't seen in ages, eventually I talk about writing this blog.

"And some days," I finish, "I don't want to do it at all."

"At worst," Kevin says, "you could write about that."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Good Night for Stargazing

The sun sets over the Hudson, orange and peach and pink pale fire exhaling into night, and the first real star appears in the sky (Venus has been up for some time, not as bright as I remember, still plenty bright).

I swing my phone up to cover the star, and the sky on the view screen shifts and slides wild, coming to rest on a picture of the constellation Bootes, and I learn the name of the star: Arcturus.

Katie flexes her toes in the mild breeze blowing through the silhouettes of cattails. "I love fall," she sighs.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tired of Wasting Food

The night before I moved to New York, lo those many years ago, when I was younger and lived a little more rough than I do now, I ate a can of cream of mushroom soup that had been sitting up in the cupboard, slowly baking in the hot Arizona sun for God knows how long. That poorly considered decision landed me a bout with food poisoning that I consider one of my closest brushes with death, a torturous, eternal, sleepless night that left me wary of "leftovers" of any kind for years.

Tonight, the maybe week-and-a-half-old uncooked corn on the cob had dried out, just a little bit, to the point where it had some mummified cornsilk fuzzing up the ends (or was it mold? Is it mold? Oh my God, is it?).

I cut off the ends with a sharp knife and a shrug, and threw the cobs in the pot of boiling water.

Monday, September 2, 2013

That's How Blessings Work (Reciprocity)

"You know, this is the second one of these I've seen today," the cashier at the grocery store says, admiring our bag. Its red plastic mesh is printed with pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe gazing out with a look of placid beneficence.

She rubs the picture with both hands, and smiling broadly, says, "She takes such good care of us!"

My bag, and my day, both feel a little lighter, like they've been blessed.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Public Displays of Affliction

The bus seems to be taking it's sweet-ass time arriving, and I take the opportunity to work on a knot in Katie's neck she got riding a roller-coaster last night.

As I'm working the muscles in her shoulder, trying to get them to relax, two Hasids working late on a Sunday come out of the building, and one visibly stiffens in outrage at the sight of my wife's bare arms in a tank top, not to mention me rubbing her back.

"Go home!" he shouts, waving his hands, adding, "You're indecent!"

"Get some therapy!" I shout back.

Getting Summer in Just Under the Wire

The ballgame is over, the fireworks have all been blown up, and we've said our goodnights to our friends. The streets of Coney Island still team with people, though, strolling and chatting in the warm summer air. The amusement park rides still clatter and roar above, their riders squealing in glee at the unusual applications of physics via torque and gravity to their nervous systems.

Katie turns to me, the neon and sparkle of the boardwalk reflecting in her eyes and her smile, saying, "Want to ride the Wonder Wheel?"

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Midnight Walk Home

Seven beers, and I'm drunk. Not stumbling, falling down, slurring my words and making bad decisions drunk, but certainly well into what Robert Anton Wilson called "instructive and entertaining states of consciousness."

The trees along 2nd Street seem to have a harmony to their branching structure that is deeply pleasing, and the yellow of the street lights gives them an otherworldly glow: everything connected, peaceful and calm.

"Alcohol is amazing," I say to Katie.

A Nice Gesture

"Listen," I say to my boss. "I know we're under a lot of deadline pressure, and I don't want to take a vacation day if it's going to cause problems, so I'd be willing to come in tomorrow, if you need."

What I don't say is that I want to make sure that I still have a job when I get back.

"Oh, I don't think that's necessary," he replies mildly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


His voice is huge, filling up the office.

"I ran about two, two and a half miles this morning, but I really hit my stride about half way through, though," he says, standing over my desk.

When she comes out of her office, he turns, including her in the conversation, saying, "Oh, I was just talking about running this morning."

"I heard," she says.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


She's saying words, and I'm pretty sure she's speaking English, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what the numbers she's talking about are supposed to mean. They lie there on the page, dollars and numbers of people doing things, but they seem abstract, unreal, just arbitrary squiggles.

Words have been magic to me since before I knew how to read, but numbers seem like something somebody made up. I force myself to focus, knowing that I must make these seemingly lifeless numbers dance, even though I don't know the tune. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Are You Sure?

Is it a toothache? Not exactly a toothache, more like a pulled muscle in my jaw, or an ear infection.

"It feels like a swelling, right behind where my wisdom teeth used to be," I explain to Katie.

"Well, it's probably not cancer," Katie replies.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Eleanor Rigby Talks to Machines

Items in hand I stood, waiting for one of the self-checkout stations to free up so I could pay and finish cooking dinner. I'd forgotten butter for corn-on-the-cob, which, you might as well not even bother without butter, in my opinion, and my mind was already back at home, not thinking about where I was or what I was doing at all.

So when the small older woman in front of me in line spoke to me, at first I didn't hear what she said, and asked her to repeat herself.

"You come to the grocery store when you're lonely, and you get the machines to talk to you," she said, a strained smile on her face.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

That First Simile Seems a Little Strong to Me, Too, But I Just Sorta Went With It

The baby is strapped to her father's chest like a suicide bomber's vest. Her hair is long and wispy, fly-away in all directions, but her eyes are sharp and focused, and she is all about Katie.

Katie is happy to oblige, and she sits across the bus aisle the whole ride, playing peek-a-boo with the little girl, who  alternates giggling with burying her face in her father's chest.

The father rubs his daughter's head and pats her like a puppy, and she looks up into his face with a smile of toothless, beatific joy.

The Cycle of Anger

Our cab is stuck in the line of cars backed up behind a pack of cyclists. The ringleader's rail thin physique is accentuated by his faded, threadbare spandex. Rage contorts his face as he rolls down the middle of the lane, and he raises a defiant middle finger to the clamoring car horns baying for his blood.

"The truth hurts, doesn't it, you fucking death machines!" he yells.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Or Were They Dropped ON PURPOSE?

Fwap, goes the card as it hits the subway platform, then fwap, fwap. Two more.

They're falling out of that woman's bag, just up ahead, though I can't see the hole out of which they fell.

I gather them up as I go, catch up with her and ask, "Are these yours?"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Fabric of our Lives

The Crash Worship t-shirt I wear to do yoga, having lost its shape years ago, hangs loose on my body. Holes have begun to blossom in the black fabric, spontaneously volunteering to let light in as the weave of the knit evaporates.

I own a few other shirts like it: a Santa Clara Vanguard shirt from the year they won DCI doing Phantom of the Opera, and a t-shirt of my dad's with the word "TRINITY" on it in block letters that's at least ten years older than my wife.

Mostly I keep them folded away, pulling them out when I go through my drawers looking for clothes to donate to charity - I can't wear them without destroying them further, but I can't bring myself to throw them out.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Swear They're Following Me (Showtime! Part 3)

Their modus operandi doesn't change much: they cross between the cars while the train is still barreling along, so that people have to basically break the law (by crossing between the cars) to avoid them, and so they can shake down a captive audience with their roving-all-dance-and-shitty-techno version of amateur hour.

This crew barely look old enough to be riding the train by themselves. Their cries of "What time is it? Showtime!" are desultory and lack any conviction.

And if they meant to catch me, they are doing it all wrong, because as soon as they start, the doors open at my station and I practically strut off the train, a huge grin on my face, as their shitty music begins to play.

Further Encounters with the "Showtime!" Kids

I see them casing my car at Atlantic Street Station, peering in the doors to gauge the density of the crowd (too dense, their acrobatic dancing risks kicking some poor schmuck in the face). One of them motions to his buddies, and they get on, trying to look casual.

I make eye contact with one of them, making sure they are what I think they are - what else could the three athletic, skinny kids with the boom box be doing? - and then walk between the cars to the previous, where I can listen to my music in peace.

One of them comes up to the window between the cars and catches my gaze, spreading his hands like "why you gotta hate?" all mock offended, and I have to laugh.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Marriage is a Balancing Act

The short stone wall that surrounds the church on Seventh Avenue down the street from our house has a narrow, rounded beam on top, about the width of the curb.

Katie has stopped on the sidewalk, looking up something on her phone, and I step up on to the beam, balancing there, walking along it a few steps.

I can feel my muscles working, my feet teetering back and forth, my core adjusting and readjusting to keep me upright and standing, and I have to work to keep from flailing out with both arms, which I'm sure would only make things worse.

Finally, Katie looks up from her phone and says, "Traditionally, third anniversary is leather."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Monk Parakeets, To Be Precise

We're down by Green-Wood Cemetery, Katie and I, walking down Fifth Avenue.  The neighborhood has gone from the bustle of Park Slope to something decidedly less bustle-y, and old boarded up buildings slouch side by side with mid-century industrial spaces in a competition to see who can be the most depressing.

We're passing by a power transformer station when from above the trees of the graveyard come a flock of squawking, fast-moving birds, and we watch them until they pass directly over us, their green (green?) bodies slaloming through the air, wheeling and darting like a gang of kids running riot through the streets.

"Holy shit," I say, "were those fucking parrots?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

We Spent The Rest of the Ride Ignoring Him

Asian kid, about five foot three, thick body, rounded shoulders of somebody who does too much upper body lifting, (I'm taking a snapshot of him in my head, ready to spot him in a line up) is standing a little too close to Katie, eyeing her phone, then the door, as she texts the friend we're meeting in Coney Island. Just as he looks like he's about to make a grab, I make eye contact, steady, and he looks away, thinks about it, moves further down the train.

From halfway down the car, he starts talking to us. "Hey, you see me?" he asks, patting his shirt at the waistline where he's clearly packing a gun, and I look him in the eyes again, and nod.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


As I'm arriving home from work, Tommy and Wesley are coming down the stairs in their nicely pressed outfits, carrying their luggage.

"We're driving out straight after the wedding, so we're not coming back here afterwards, " Tommy says, "but thank you for letting us stay with you. I'm going to mail you a present."

When I demur, he explains, "Well, I ate all your salt-water taffy."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

God Lives in the Desert, So the Rest of Us Can Live Here

I stand on the corner and wait for the light to change, drinking in the cool breeze. The late afternoon summer sun as the season winds down to autumn is like honey poured over blue glass.

The desert of my youth, with its hot killing winds and cactus and spiders and sun like a ball of rage in the sky, is very far away, in time and in space.

It is so lovely to live somewhere where everything in the world doesn't want to kill you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sometimes You Gotta Eat Crow First

Something strange is happening: the double-decker GreyLine tourist bus I've seen before, so that's not a big deal, but the fact that it's stopped, in my unremarkable, albeit kinda wealthy, neighborhood, in front of a People's Pops, with the Rockettes doing some kinda thing out there to entertain the yokels from Iowa or wherever, is sort of weirding me out.

So when the woman standing on the corner, and clearly affiliated with whatever hot mess is taking place (a crowd is gathering, a man in a fat man party shirt is dancing like a chicken while throwing in the occasional high kick), tries to hand me something, I give her the look that I give all people who try to hand me something on the streets, and make my way to my building.

But halfway down the block, something in what she said registers, and I do an about face.

I deflect her skeptical gaze with my most cheerful and humble smile, and say, "May I please have a popsicle?"

Monday, August 12, 2013

Brain Fart

I lie on my back and pull my knee to my chest in what is traditionally called pavanamuktasana, or "wind relieving pose," and mutter to myself.

"And it's not like I like you anyway," I say to the empty room, to a person who slighted me years ago whom I haven't seen since. The early morning gray light that fills the room seems grim and oppressive.

I struggle to feel the air, my body, the world around me, instead of wasting this moment on someone who probably wouldn't remember my name if we met on the street, and who doesn't like me anyway.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


By the time we get back to the apartment after brunch, the three of us - Katie, me, her mom - have decided that perhaps DUMBO is a bridge too far, and we should just stick around the neighborhood. We'll put on some sunscreen, you know, to keep looking young and cancer-free, and then go down to the farmer's market.

Katie's mom changes shoes, and we settle on the couch for a brief respite before heading back out into a leafy green and sunshine gold of this lovely summer's day.

Within minutes, all three of us are asleep.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Done, Too Late

"I'm just so tired," she says.

"Well, let's go to bed then," I say.

"Just a minute," she replies.

I'm kind of tired, too.

I Speak Non-Neurotypical

The librarian taps a few keys on the keyboard, and then looks down and about a foot to my right. "If it's called The Mongoliad, it must be an ancient tale about the Mongols, like The Iliad," he says in his slightly stilted, almost affectless voice.

"That's exactly right," I say, smiling.

He stands up stiffly, still not looking directly at me, and says, "Maybe I can help you find it."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It Wasn't Even Ten AM.

The banana pudding is perfect: creamy, with chunks of banana, and it's that perfect yellowish brown that lets you know you are eating the real freaking deal, man. There's even a little puff of meringue right off the side. Meringue!

I pause the dance I've been doing non-stop since the first spoonful, and look up at Joelle with a blissful expression, saying, "You know you made my day with this, right?"

Which is Why I Moved Away from Tucson

The path curves down and around, revealing, suddenly and with a dramatic flourish, the vista of the calm, still pond surrounded by the dark green trees of twilight. The buildings loom above, on the fringes of Central Park, their faces turned away from us, as if they were pretending to ignore our oasis.

"Holy shit," says Michael. "There is nothing like this where I live."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I'm Only Kinda Lazy

"I know I was characterized as workshy, let's say by SOMEONE," I say to my parents. "But really, it was just something to keep me from feeling terrible every time I was less than perfect."

"I know what that's like," says my dad.

"Yeah, that's me," says my mom, ruefully.

Mundane Epiphany

The end of a long day at work, I'm plodding the weary steps up from the subway to make my way home, filled with thoughts of the job. 

Suddenly it hits me (and reader, you do know how fond I am of the occasional epiphany): I've spent literal years thinking that whatever day job I happened to have at that moment was a barrier to what I really wanted to do, and that, someday, whatever creative ship I currently was sailing would come in, and my life would unfold and ramify with meaning and connection, and I would be the person that God intended me to be, full of life and joy and purpose.

That was no longer the case.

I knew, certain in my bones, that my life, better or worse, creative or not, working or not, was happening, right now, and no magic moment was approaching - everything was part of that life, and I could either embrace it or stick my head in the sand, but either way, it was gonna happen.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Lovely Day (Even for Teddy Bears)

The warm breeze is ribboned with cold threads that, far from causing discomfort, only heighten the sweetness. We lay on the "navajo" blanket (purchased somewhere in Texas, years ago; hecho, says the label, somewhere en Mexico) in the dappled shade of a tree on the lawn in Prospect Park, staring at the bluest sky, watching the clouds above dissolve and reform and dissolve again, for hours.

I point out one cloud that "looks like a tiger, but it's changing into a coyote."

"That one used to look like a teddy bear," Katie says of another, "but now it looks like a decapitated teddy bear."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My Problems With Authority Stem From My Problems With Stupidity

"Naw, see," the woman sitting in the small, dingy office in one corner of the precinct says, shaking her head, "you gotta have an affadavit from the bank saying that you're officially disputing the charges."

"It's not a bank, it's Sprint, the phone company?" I explain again. "And I need a police report saying I filed a complaint with you guys so I can fill out their fraud report."

She looks at my ID and back to me, confused, says, "Wait, what's the name of the bank again?"

Friday, August 2, 2013

See You Around. Or Not. Probably Not.

"So," I say to our now ex-roommate as he trades me his set of keys to the apartment for a check for the deposit. "Where are you moving to?"

He shrugs his rounded shoulders, tilts his giant head to one side, says, "Oh, I'm in corporate housing, near 50th and 8th."

"Oh yeah, Hell's Kitchen is pretty great," I say, suddenly overcome by the strange sensation of speaking to someone whom I know I will never see or speak to ever again.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Limbic System Needs to Stand the Hell Down

I start to put away my things at work, and realize my boss got out of the office without signing a check request. My nerves go on high alert for the second time today, and though I may not be showing it, a part of me is in adrenaline shut down.

Once I've resolved the situation (which, it turns out, was easily taken care of, and not nearly as dire as I anticipated), I try to relax at home, and finish up a story I'm working on.

It seems like the story might be pretty good, and I can tell because my entire body is singing like a high tension wire: I am righteous, incredible, unstoppable.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brooklyn Midsummer

The lion statues lording over the park entrance at Third Street look particularly majestic beneath a pink-clouded sunset sky this evening.

"I think they're panthers," says Katie, as we veer off to take the side path, skirting the main entrance, and head into the soft summer darkness inside.

She points out that both of the cats are mane-less, and that lions have squarer heads, which is true, and I can't imagine why I didn't see it before.

Lightning bugs send out semaphores of sex in neon hues, a bug meat-market disco, hovering like little jewels in the half-light over the dim undergrowth, showing us the shape of the air.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's Peach Season

"I guess you want to talk to your mother," dad says as soon as he picks up the phone. It's his way of avoiding talking to me, a little, and using a joke to diffuse the tension he probably feels, since I'm pretty sure my mom's tests didn't go so well.

I make him stay on the phone for a few minutes more, get him talking a little, let him know I'm onto him, help him forget he's worried.

"Peach iced-tea, peaches and cream, peach cobbler," he finishes after he's loosened up a bit, "and I realized: peach is actually my favorite fruit."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Instead of Sports

"I'm thinking, since I got the new Microsoft surface, I'd also get a Windows phone."

"Really, Dad? I haven't heard a lot about those," I say, instead of what I'm thinking, which is that I've heard a lot about them being kinda glitchy.

"Well, it'll be easier to sync across platforms, so let's say if somebody's wifi isn't working, I can easily create a hotspot, or edit on my phone, or show presentations on my tablet, and it all matches up," and he sounds so enthusiastic that I find myself nodding along, getting jazzed up with him, forgetting about my mom's surgery, just two guys, shooting the shit.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Too Late Now - Spacefest Bonus Edition

"So I wrote this story," I say to the two very nice, very smart women from NASA, whose job it is to send humans into deep space to explore the mysteries of the universe, "about this old man who used to work on the space shuttle breaking out of his nursing home to see the last one before they sell it for parts."

"Oh wow, I'd love to read it," says Jennifer, reaching for her phone and going to Google. "What's it called?"

They have spent the last twenty minutes telling me how hard they are working on interplanetary travel, on solving the problems of radiation and micro-meteorites and the mind-shriveling distances of space (all of which my story essentially uses as an excuse for why nobody is ever going into space ever again, boo-hoo humanity is shallow and pointless) and I suddenly feel woefully inadequate and scientifically wrong, but it's too late, my ego has spoken the title aloud, and I shudder inside to think of these people who really know this stuff reading my fancies; I, who only know what I make up in my head.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A 22-foot Long Battleship Made of Legos

"My Grandfather was in World War One, in the navy," he says, ticking them off his fingers as he names them, "and my father stormed Normandy Beach, my uncle was in Korea and my brother fought in Viet Nam, but for medical reasons I couldn't join up, so I serve by coming here."

He wears a cheerful, pale yellow polo shirt with the words "Volunteer - Intrepid Museum" over his barrel chest, and his wide, pink face smiles broadly with genuine pleasure at being able to help.

"So you're gonna want to go to the end of this hall," he says, pointing with two fingers, "two hangers over, and they'll get you the stamps for your scavenger hunt."

A conspiratorial glint sparkles in his eye, and he says, "But let me ask you: do you like legos?"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Saving The Day by Going Places

After a short journey on the train, I arrive at our Brooklyn office with my boss's forgotten items. I wind through the labyrinthine dingy grey cubicle farm that makes up most of the floor, to the office where she's seated, and she greets me enthusiastically.

"Scott is the man - didn't I tell you?" she says to the Director with whom she's meeting.

"My ability to travel is unparalleled," I agree.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"The Patient Died of Food Poisoning... and MURDER!"

"I've still got some stuff to do," I say. My stomach is rioting, my joints ache, I'm exhausted, and I desperately want to go home, but I still feel vaguely obligated.

"Think of it this way," my boss says. "If you're infectious, I don't want you here, and if you get me sick, I'll kill you."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My People are from Southern Illinois, but Good Point

"Donnie Williams?" I say, "That's my dad's name."

The black man writing his name on the client sign-in sheet in my office does a slow take, no expression, taking in my pale skin, and the moment seems quite long until I say, deadpan, "I don't think we're related."

He snorts, smiles, shakes his head, replies, "We might be, if you're from North Carolina."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Exactly HOW Do You Like Them?

The infant, barely able to walk, in regulation floppy hat and navy blue overalls, pauses in his toddling headlong rush and pivots like an NBA guard to press his chubby little hands against the display window of the bridal shop.

The mannequins tower above him, in taffeta and sequins, in lace and straps and disdainful, plastic expressions, and he stares up at them. His face is perfectly slack in the way that only babies and the deeply stoned can pull off when they are transfixed by something that has totally blown their minds,

His mother, no makeup, glasses, hair a wild tangle, looks down at him with a curious expression, and asks, "Do you like the pretty dresses?"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kachori from Baluchis

"We can get whatever you want for dinner," she says. She strokes my hair as I lay, practically in the fetal position, the way I've really wanted to just curl up all day.

"Now, you know I'm not like you," I say, sighing "where I just have a craving and know what it is, but I'll give it a shot."

And suddenly, like a vision, it comes to me, and I know exactly what I want, where to get it, and one of my first genuine smiles of the day spreads across my face.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Bug Spray Just Seems to Make 'em Mad

"Guys?" says the roommate, his voice muffled as it comes through the wall from his bedroom. "What did you use to kill the last cockroach?"

"Shit," I say, "another one? We used a shoe."

Doing Battle With the Physical World

I tighten the bolts on the elaborate contraption we've constructed out of pictures on the internet, a couple of pieces from ikea, and the fevered imaginings of my wife's brain. It has been a long day, and our creation has been stubborn in it's insistence on the laws of physics and gravity, refusing to cooperate and become the headboard she's been craving.

Two trips to the hardware store, and despite my prophecies of doom, we are close to finishing, but I'm done, spent, completely and sincerely willing to throw down my wrench and walk away from the whole misguided project. Katie asks me a question, and I force myself to slow down, breathe, think, stay in the moment, answer her (mostly) civilly, finish what I started, finish the damned thing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Customer is Always Kind of a Pain

"No!" the waiter says. "You have to tell me which you're interested in, and then I tell you what goes with it."

"Geez," I say, "fine, then tell me this one."

After I have the waiter walk me through each of the specials in turn, and give him my order, Kevin chimes in, "I'll have what he's having!"

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Go Make Babies, You Guys.

This couple, on the 4/5 subway platform at Grand Central, are killing me they're so beautiful. Both young (late teens, early twenties) with smooth, flawless light brown skin and the guy with hair like one of the dudes from One Direction only actually pulling it off and strong chin and intelligent brown eyes. And the girl, oh Lord, with long legs and short, lacy white linen shorts and a pink tank top as tight as her next breath, she wraps her arms around his neck and smiles up at him with a toothy grin that lights up her face, and he has the sense to seem stunned by his good fortune, looking down at her love beaming up at him like a klieg light.

I watch them from inside the train as the car doors close, and when he leans down to kiss her, all I can say is, "Damn."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Crazy From the Heat

"And then she acts like it's my fault!" I finish. "I was all, 'Yeah, after I helped you out? That was not work related.'"

"The heat is just making everyone crazy," Katie says, "and I've resolved not to do anything to anybody until after it's over."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Insomnia Rhapsody

2 AM, and still I lie awake, staring at the ceiling. The worst thing about insomnia is that the cliches are all true: sleep evades, regrets gather, time slows - all that.

The day after, though, is strangely peaceful. My brain, too tired to fuss, quiets down, and all the usual noise goes away, so that what I lack in quickness, I make up for in hyper focus.

How Can I Hate You If You're Me?

This kind of scorching heat is familiar to someone who grew up in the desert, but there's something off about the light. The sharp outlines that should surround every object, every shadow, the borders that should separate everything from everything else are all muted and blurred in the humidity.

I walk down the street, letting the sun bake me, but my enjoyment of the moment is bittersweet. Where the heat should be drying me out and turning me into the hardline desert fanatic of my youth, it simply melts everything into a puddle, an undifferentiated mass of messy contradictions and sweat and other people who are too much like me to hate.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ikea Builds Relationships

The Swedes have posed us quite the puzzle in this bed frame. We've been struggling for hours to put it together like a Lego set (another nordic creation), proceeding deliberately and carefully through the 40-step directions, making sure everything is tight, everything is lined up.

We screw the final parts of the frame together, each of us working on his or her side, back to back, and I lean back to spoon Katie while I tighten one more bolt. She sighs, and even though I'm tired, I'm so very happy we work so well together.

Ikea Eats Relationships

We're driving back to the parking garage to drop off the Zipcar after a long evening at Ikea, and tempers are wearing thin.

"I need you to try to be patient," I say, after Katie snaps at me about the address I'm entering into the phone to get driving directions.

I hear her audibly breathe, calming herself, and then say, "Okay, could you please look at the Zipcar app for the address?"

"It wasn't on there, alright?" I bristle.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bad Wizard

The guy in the golf shirt with the khakis and the striped golf umbrella thrusts it at the door as we head downtown, then begins to aggressively whistle a tuneless song. One note, over and over, with occasional forays to the adjacent higher or lower notes, just to muddy things further.

He dashes off the train at Canal Street, his upswept hair (almost a pompadour) bobbing as he runs, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

The entire car seems to relax, as if he had held us in a spell for a moment, for no reason but capricious, nasty whim.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

THAT'S the Most Unbelievable Thing About the Movie to You?

"It's my f-ing BIRTHday!" Katie declares delightedly. She talking about the movie, Sharknado, which exhibits all the plot and filmic subtlety of a ball peen hammer, only the hammer has better acting.

The voice-over news announcer in the movie declares that the tornado of sharks [sic] plaguing Santa Monica is a result of the "hurricane."

"Wait," I say, "there aren't any hurricanes in the Pacific," prompting Katie to give me an incredulous look.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pretty Sure

"The problem with your 'experiments,'" she says, "is that you always forget one crucial detail. Like, 'Surprise! Kratom is a crazy addictive opioid that'll take years to recover from.'"

"I'm pretty sure that only one study says that Yerba Mate can give you throat cancer," I reply, back pedaling madly, "and only if you also use a lot of alcohol and tobacco, which I don't."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The cop car slips down the street, lights rioting, pulls over to the curb a few blocks down, and two of New York's Finest get out, searching for something.

As I draw closer, I pass a black man, casually dressed, t-shirt, jeans, walking in the opposite direction. We're still a block or so away, and it's unlikely they've even seen him, but still he glances worriedly over his shoulder at the lit-up car and its cops.

The police pile back into their vehicle and speed off as I walk past, wearing my tie and white skin and entitlement, knowing they wouldn't have stopped me, frisked me, made me afraid, and not just because I hadn't done anything wrong.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not Her Kind of Place

My friend's normally smooth, oval face is pinched in consternation. "He took me to a Manhattan club, and, I don't know, I feel like I was underdressed."

"Why's that?" I ask.

"Well," she says, "I'm just now way more intimate with a bunch of strangers' bodies than I would ever want to be, and just, I don't dress like that."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Different Definitions of "Fun"

We're playing "Pandemic," infecting the world with various undescribed (but highly evocative) diseases, and then cooperatively trying to save it, and we're doing pretty well. We're making good decisions, catching lucky falls of the cards, and overall moving towards a narrow win scenario, which, given the myriad ways in which we can actually lose, is pretty neat.

And let me tell you, I am into it, in such a way that Katie is getting a little wary of me. Finally I have to explain: "I'm not trying to be a jerk, it's just getting all worked up and emotionally involved is fun for me, you know?"

Like Nobody Is Watching

The kitchen is way dirtier than I expected. I get bored easily, and when Jackie Wilson starts singing "Lonely Teardrops" I find I'd rather dance by myself in an empty house than scrape off the counters or the stovetop.

I wonder if Jackie Wilson wanted to be a legitimate singer, like Caruso or something. I wonder if he was ever dissatisfied with himself, even though he was responsible for creating one of the most perfect songs ever, as well as a bunch of almost perfect songs, like, say, "Reet Petite."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Shopping Isn't for Everyone

Old Navy is a riot of affordable fashion in kicky spring colors, and apparently my distress at tarrying there for one moment longer than necessary is showing. 

"Oh my God, are you okay?" Katie asks, seeing the look on my face.

Later, once my mood is under control, she congratulates me for being flexible. 

"I'm the boss of me," I say proudly.