Sunday, March 31, 2013

Which One is Reality, Though?

There's the stairs, the light from the lower landing which glares like some hellish mouth opening to swallow souls, and I suddenly feel alive.

"There is no one else who, in this moment, has ever or will ever see this exact place, this exact time happening as it is happening through my eyes, through my sense organs, whatever," I think as bounce up the steps two at a time. The door in front of me bobs like looking through the world's worst steadi-cam.

I knock on the door, I hear Katie, the cat, my in-laws, waiting behind the door, waiting for my return from my foray through the rain, waiting for everything to snap back into the quotidian day-to-day thoughtless busy-ness of reality.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

We Are Not Entirely Understood

Her father leans over the table at the Mexican restaurant, an earnest look on his face. "I was about forty-one, forty-two, and I had a few friends, and I knew what I was good at. I could read people - like you read books - and they helped me get a job doing what I was good at."

He relaxes back into his chair, sips his tea, then says, "I'm just saying I don't totally understand the lack of aspiration I see these days."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Come For the Meatballs, Stay For the Glimpse of the Abyss

Ikea has become the labyrinth, with only arrows taped on the path to thread us through the maze of inexpensive, yet tastefully laid out, relics of Swedish design.

I began to fade literally hours ago, and Katie's carefully planned snacks and strong words of encouragement have done nothing to halt the decline. I stand before the textiles baffled, defeated, my eyes dazzled with abstract patterns in primary colors that seem like obscene scrawls, ready to lay down in despair.

Katie is having none of it: "Scott, you're doing really well, but I need you to pull it together and just push through, okay?"

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Final Day Before Vacation

Work won't stop coming, and people won't stop asking for "just a minute" of my time, despite my strong hints that I'm already busy as hell. My cubemate, Beverly, says, "All these people coming up to us for stuff, and we're all, 'Good luck!'"

"I know how to keep people off," I say. I grin crazily and draw my thumb across my throat. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


A difficult night leads to difficulty finding sleep and, once sleep comes, to nightmares.

A darkened gym shower room, heavy with shadows cut in thin slashes of sight from the emergency lights off in the corner. Somewhere in the blackness, a rag doll comes for me, carrying knives and ill intent.

I kick the doll away with a curse and wake, kicking at the comforter as the words fade in my throat, while Katie breathes next to me, unaware.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Mountain Goats in a Florida Cemetery

Woke from a dream where Katie and I drove an old rental car to a rundown, rural cemetery in Florida to see the grave of her mother (who is, as of this writing, still very much alive and in good health, thank God). As we drove beneath trees draped in Spanish Moss, the radio played a Mountain Goats song I'd never heard before which utilized a sample from a Sammy Hagar song. I was worried about my attire, thinking it insufficiently respectful, since all I had to wear was a pink tank top and yellow Bermuda shorts, but I noticed that the caretakers were all dressed in colorful gear, neon yellows and reds and tropical motifs, as if they'd just come back from swimming.

As Katie hiked off over some hills deeper into the cemetery, I sat and talked with the old, white handlebar mustachioed caretaker and his wife on the porch of an old, Southern Gothic looking house about their memories of Katie and her mother, and how far away the grave lay.

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Wife is Very Charming

The round, wide, red plastic vintage glasses frames look gorgeous on her, and she spends quite a bit of time with the owners of this stall at the flea market talking about whether she'll be able to get her prescription lenses put in them. The verdict is inconclusive, but, as always, Katie manages to make them laugh and puts everyone around her at ease.

I try on various 1950's looking black plastic frames of various thicknesses as they talk eye width and face size, but none of the ones I pick look quite right, each one accenting the soft roundness of my face and the vague dreaminess of my eyes in different unflattering ways.

As we're leaving, the woman who sold us Katie's frames steps up to us shyly and says to her, "I know this might sound strange, but would you be interested in working for us?"

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hipster Vehicular Envy

The car skims the road like a manta ray, wide and sleek and black, with a huge engine purring so loud I can hear it from the sidewalk as it stops at the light.

The very good looking, long-haired blond fellow on the fixie passes the car going in the opposite direction, and can't seem to help his stare as his head swivels to watch it.

He circles back around, rides right up to the car, and leans down to stare in the tinted passenger side window.

The light turns green, and the car, apparently unconcerned, glides away, leaving the young man looking longingly after.

Objects in the Light May be Farther Than They Appear

The fickle sun hides behind clouds, and I think that I could spend the rest of my life trying to describe this light. The air seems to be made out of grey crystal that occasionally brightens into glowing incandescent gold. Everything is so clear and close and present that things across the street seem right within reach.

A woman down the street catches her heel on a raised piece of pavement, stumbles, and falls, and I see two people, both of them farther than me from her, reach out to try and catch her.

Friday, March 22, 2013

At Least I Didn't Get My Initials Engraved On It

She comes very close, rests her hands gently on my arm, looks deep into my eyes with love and compassion, and says, "You know I didn't want that Bluetooth speaker you bought me. You wanted that."

And of course I know she's absolutely right, though I am only realizing it just this second. I struggle to keep my screaming, guilty ego under control, but the only thing I can hear amidst the hot wet undertow of shame is a small voice in my head, saying, "Oh my God, I'm Homer fucking Simpson."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why "Four Each Day"

If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all. (John Cage)

James Kolchaka, back in 1998, started drawing a four panel comic, detailing aspects of his daily life. He called it American Elf.

Ten years later (always late to the party, I am), I found it, and fell in love with it. As I tend to do, I got obsessed. It's one of the hallmarks of my personality, this obsession. I find something I like, and I want to devour it. Give me something I like to eat, and I'll eat it every day for months. Drugs, sweets, books, fitness, TV shows, information: you name it. If it tickles the adrenal cortex, I am into it.

Until I'm not.

Which is the main purpose behind my blog "Four Each Day". I wanted to do something until I wasn't obsessed anymore, and then keep doing it, just to see what would happen.

(There's also a bit about sentence construction which, if you're interested, involves trying to make well-formed, clear sentences that compress as much information as needed (and not one bit more!) into the available space. This is writer wonkery that I try to conceal, but I'm not always successful).

I want to make something that changes my life, because whatever we do everyday, we become. I am a writer. I want to be a better one. I want to make my living writing. The only way to do that is to write everyday.

There's (at least) two kinds of magic - the kind that comes from the heroic leap, the upward surge of energy, the explosive arc that burns bright across the sky, that's one kind.

The other kind is the slow accretion of effort: the water on stone method, the soft root of the plant that splits the sidewalk, the constant wind that scours the mountain clean.

I spent a lot of time trying the first. Four Each Day is part of the second.

Donut Danger


"Go get a donut," my big, blonde co-worker says.

"What's the occasion?" I ask, already standing up and on my way to the pantry.

"It's spring," she says, "and I won twelve hundred dollars in the afternoon numbers."


Two donuts later, and today I woke up with a heart full of wet and sad, depressed, sick of life, and totally unaware that what I ate yesterday might have something to do with it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Snapshots from an Evening Walk

"Why the fuck do we live in New York City if I can't run out to get us coffee in the middle of the night?" I say as I'm leaving.
The middle-aged white man walking his very old, stiff-legged dog smiles as I walk by; the dog smiles too.
The glass on the front door of the Subway sandwich shot is spiderwebbed into a million shards, but the young man sweeping up in the door way looks entirely unconcerned one way or the other; it's just a job to him.
The sky is hazy, smearing the moon as I walk past the same stiff-legged, bushy-tailed dog standing in the middle of the sidewalk, smiling.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

They Were Delicious (with apologies to my wife and WCW (no relation))

"I ate all the brussel sprouts for lunch today," I chat to Katie.

"I'll make you more if you want.

It was selfish.

I'm sorry."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Leave No Man On His Behind

The snow can't decide whether it's rain or not, and the sidewalks wallow in wet and slippery slush. We walk back from Katie's birthday dinner, she and me, both of us slightly pixelated, huddling beneath the one umbrella, waddling like penguins down Seventh Avenue's treachery towards home.

I can hear the guy behind us trying to figure out whether to pass us or not, his boots stamping impatiently, until the even tramp of his steps shuffles into incoherence as he hits a sneaky patch of ice.

We almost look back, unwilling to abandon a fallen fellow traveler, but the heavy tread of his step resumes without a hitch, and we turn back on our way, until he passes us in the intersection without a glance, eyes locked forward, making his scowling way through the descending frozen rain.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wasted Years

We've finally almost got the house back in order after trying out a different configuration for the rooms,  and even though it didn't work out, I'm actually quite glad to have gotten a real spring cleaning in for once. I'm taking a break, sitting on the couch, drinking yerba mate, and on the TV comes an Iron Maiden concert from Brazil in 2009.

The guitarist and fellow songwriter from my first real band post-high school, Chris Kaufmann, always used to say that, if I'd been exposed to Iron Maiden instead of Yes in my musically formative years, my whole life would have been vastly different.

I hear the opening riff of "Wasted Years" and realize how precisely my high school rock band (named, embarrassingly enough, "Harborcoat" after the R.E.M. song, even though our sound apparently owed more to the New Wave of British Metal than it did to the Athens scene) ripped it off as the intro for our first song, and I begin to suspect that I may have been more influenced by Maiden than I knew.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


The snow transitions through a fine sleet, to misting rain. Even though the sky hangs close overhead, the air seems very clear and full of light, as if the sun is about to break through somewhere (it never does), and everything is distinct and sharp in the grey afternoon.

We walk past a man and his son. "Glooooom," I say, and Katie echoes: "Glooooooom."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Honesty is the Best

Guy standing at the subway doors hands over the pack of menthols to his friend, who opens the box and then looks up in consternation.

"Son, how you gonna smoke all my cigarettes?" he says.

"You smoked all mine two weeks ago, remember?"

Guy thinks for a second, then, sheepishly, "Yeah, I ain't gonna lie."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nothing Happens Without Something Else Happening (no blame)

I am very sorry about your experience. Please contact me directly to see how we can make it right.

Scott Lee Williams @scottLwilliams
I sincerely appreciate your apology and your offer, but we found what we were looking for elsewhere. Perhaps another time.

I knew that this was what would happen (in fact, it's what I hoped would happen), but my usually non-confrontational ego still found the interaction (which I initiated) uncomfortable, mostly because I prefer to let stuff go.

But when you actually stand up for yourself, even in a very low-key manner, the wheel of karma turns, and you have to accept that people might respond, whereas if you don't do anything, then nothing happens.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Finding Ourselves in a New Room

We've moved the bedroom into what used to be the living room, and vice versa, and covered the windows in heavy curtains to block out the light and noise from the Avenue outside, turning what was once a fairly airy space into a bit of a cave. This is mostly my fault, I'm afraid, as I find light and noise intolerable when I'm trying to get to sleep (which is an unfortunate point of contention between me and Katie, since she likes to fall asleep with the TV on, a condition which I would find about as amenable to sleep as trying to catch a nap in the middle of, say, the main floor in Grand Central).

The new space is a little tough to get used to, but I'm determined to give it a fair shake.

I kiss Katie on the forehead to wake her up as I'm getting ready to go in the morning, and her eyes flutter open, but I can see by the blank, almost panicked way that she searches my face and the air above our bed that, for a moment, she has no idea where she is.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

But Really, What Do I Know?

The crowd sweeps by her as she presses her back to the olive green I-beam by the top of the stairs down to the subway platform. She wears very little makeup, but what little she does barely covers the acne and scars on a face that her worried, pinched mouth does not make any prettier.

But there, beneath her thin, dark hair, she wears two, slightly oversized hoop earrings of silver. I can imagine her looking into the mirror with a serious expression as she tilts her head to each side to put them in, and I want to reach out and stroke her hair, soothe her, tell her that everything will be okay.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Some People Shouldn't Be In Customer Service. Or in Public.

Having met and had a good conversation with the owner of the bike shop in Gowanus, I figured it would be a great place to start shopping for Katie's bike.

I immediately began entertaining second thoughts when we walked in and were roundly ignored for five minutes, with the fellow I'd spoken to nowhere in sight. Finally, with the air of one who'd lost a bet, a large guy with the name "Reland" stitched on his bowling shirt put down his (obviously more important) work with a sigh, and lumbered sulkily over as if he were doing us a favor by deigning to speak with us at all.

He seemed aggressively indifferent to our plight, correcting our genuine ignorance with contempt and annoyance, acting as if he had much better things to do, and in general discouraging us from wanting to spend money in his establishment; from there he proceeded to try to sell us a brand called "Surly," which seemed entirely apropos.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Saving Daylight, Burning Midnight Oil

Still a little buzzed after our night out (what made me think I could drink Cruzan straight?) I lie in bed and watch TV. The cab from the bar took us forever to get back to Brooklyn, though thankfully we didn't have to fight with the cabbie to take us over the bridge. 

I look up at the TV, and the clock on the cable box turns from 1:59 to 3:00 AM. 

"Oh, fuck this," I say, hit the off switch, roll over and turn off the light.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Moving the House - Tourette's Style

A scratching on the door interrupts me just as I'm about to write (not strictly true, as I have no idea what I'm about to type - the past day was only mildly interesting: an eye appointment, a bunch of kava drunk, a strange dream about saving a mouse that turns into a small dog, TV watched and ignored, Indian food consumed - none of it seems worthy). I open the door to the bedroom where I've exiled myself while Katie tears apart the house in a process that is as much about mental health as it is about interior decoration, and explain the nature of my dilemma to her.

"If you need inspiration, I could use your help doing some little stuff before we have to move the big pieces," she says. When I demur, she picks up the rug and recommences dragging it down the hall, shouting, "Dicks!"

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ray IS a Persuasive Dude

When the buzzer rings, I leave Ray up in his apartment and run downstairs to open up the heavy double doors to let Gerry the bass player in.

Gerry's bushy, black beard is beaded with moisture from the snow falling in giant flakes from the slate gray sky, and our greeting is a wet one as I clap him on the shoulder and water sprays everywhere.

As he follows me up the stairs, we discuss the new song (which, I explain, sounds like a Cure b-side from the Faith-  or maybe Seventeen Seconds-, era) but my mind is elsewhere, mulling over a question: Why did I automatically run downstairs to open the door at somebody else's apartment?

Am I so obsequious that I simply do someone else's bidding without being asked?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Selling the Couch, part III - The Encouchening

Katie sits in the front seat (to forfend the roving parking cops and their vicious tickets) while Bert and I wrestle the love seat into the back of the car. It almost fits, but the overstuffed arms, always a point of contention in our home, are getting in their last licks by simply being a couple of inches too stubborn to get the hatchback closed.

I finally manage to tie the door down, and Bert stands up and brushes off his hands on his pants legs.

"Cheers, man," he says with a smile, and shakes my hand, just as it starts to snow.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Selling the Couch part II

The friendly, bearded, ponytailed, slightly overweight British guy grins when he sits on my old couch. "Yeah, it's gonna be for my office, so when people stay late they can crash," he says, thumping the cushions and arms like it's a big, brown dog.

After he's paid me and left to go rent a car, I tip it up on its back to remove the feet so I can fit it out the door.

Katie watches with concern as I unscrew the boxy wooden legs, and says, "Are you sure this is okay?"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trolling: You're Doing it Right - Selling the Couch Edition

craigslist reply 423f 423fc5ff99193b2191d37ebafae40efb""
Mar 3 (2 days ago)
to cwsqk-36569941.
I was just wondering if u still have that shit brown couch if so I am intersted.

"Why would somebody do that?" Katie says, standing over me while I arch my back into fish pose. 

"It's probably just somebody trolling, you know," I say, "trying to get a rise out of me." 

She thinks for a moment, then says, "That's gay."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Wait, You Guys Have Some of My Books? Which Ones?

"Well, tell him about your project," my mother says to my father as they both talk to me on the phone. I lay on the very comfortable bachelor-brown couch my father bought me which I will shortly be selling because Katie hates it, and hold the phone up to my ear (though usually I prefer to use the handsfree earphones).

"Oh, I finished the attic," my father says, "and it's pretty good. We should be able to store all your old stuff, like your paintings and your books, up there and get them out of our way."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fuck Day Drinking

The hangover from the three bloody mary's at brunch digs in its claws just as I'm about to eat dinner: a brutal headache, cramping nausea chewing up my guts, sinking certainty I'm gonna die. I realize that I may never have had a hangover up to this point in my life - that this, this shattering, disabling shitstorm in my body, is what everybody's always bitching about, and what my formerly quicksilver metabolism and rockstar liver have kept me from ever experiencing.

It certainly explains why this previous entry sucked so desperately. God, what was I thinking?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Brother Paul

"Hallelujah!" says the cabbie as we climb in. The car interior is papered with bumper stickers saying "Jesus changed my life for GOOD!" and "Jesus is the light of the world!" He's swerved across three lanes of traffic to get to us, and he spends the rest of our trip back to Brooklyn regaling us with tales of the many fares he's enjoyed.

He has a camera with pictures of his favorite fares that he calls his "Wall of Fame," which he uses to photograph us, and then he turns it to video, while he makes Katie repeat the statement she made earlier about how he's the "Fred Astaire of cabbies," and he laughs and laughs.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dressing Up and Annoying the Neighbors

"I think it's time to bring this out," Ray says as he disappears into his coat closet, emerging with a mod-ish looking jacket patterned in two different sizes of black and white houndstooth, black leather patches on the shoulders and elbows, oversize shiny-metal-zippered pockets, and a wide shiny black vinyl belt that cinches the middle. He puts it on, along with a scarf on his head that, together with the jacket, makes him look like a cross between a Latino Little Steven and Austin Powers, or in other words: awesome.

As we continue to play through the night, the noise rises around us, until finally Ray's guitar howls distorted joy into the void over a dance beat that would have made New Order proud circa 1985, Gerry hammers a bass line into the ground, and I grind out a support system of power chords to help launch the whole thing into orbit.

We finish and begin packing up, listening to the playback, enjoying the sounds that we couldn't hear at the time of their creation: blissed-out, buzzed, pleased with ourselves, happy.