Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Brainstorms Tend Toward the Impractical

"What about stackable desks?" Beverly, my cubemate, says. We're rapidly expanding, adding employees in some areas, running out of places to put people in our current office space.

"We could have them on hydraulics," I suggest, excited, "like at the parking lots."

"We could also have a dumbwaiter," she says, which is, of course, a much better idea.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Neither Okay?

As I'm getting ready for bed, Katie says, "Hey, I'm thinking about going to the gym tomorrow. Would you be interested in joining me if we were to go to a Zumba class, or maybe beginning yoga?"

I hate saying no, but I'm just not feeling it, and afterwards, when I'm apologizing for not being more flexible, Katie is totally understanding.

"If you were to come to me at eleven the night before with something like that, I'd be like, 'No thanks!'"

Sunday, April 28, 2013


The handsome, cut-glass jawline, cappuccino-skinned guy in the pricey mid-sized sedan, douchebag air of entitlement thick as his gel-spiked hair, has graciously deigned to share his nightmarish, repetitive techno music with us at top volume as he rolls down Fifth Avenue and turns onto Flatbush.

Because of the vagaries of traffic, stoplights, and a cruel and unfathomable God who cares nothing for our sensibilities, Katie and I, walking, are subjected to this guy's shitty, shitty music for a couple minutes longer than really seems fair.

"You're an asshole, and your music sucks," I say to the back of his car as he and his oonce-oonce-oonce-mobile pull away from the light to fade into the sunny Brooklyn afternoon.

"Tell me about it," says another guy near us on the sidewalk, lips pursed, shaking his head in resigned disgust.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

So Apparently We Bought a Banjo

The sun shines down clear golden light on us: me, Katie, Damien, the plastic tables full of bric-a-brak, the other browsers at this particular stoop sale that is only one of many that clutter the sidewalks on this first really beautiful day of spring.

"Yeah, there's all kinds of deals, people selling all kinds of stuff," Damien says. "Guy just down that way," he hooks a thumb down the sidewalk to another table half a block away, "is selling a banjo that looks pretty good for forty dollars."

Katie, who has been examining a ceramic jar with a spigot that she thinks might be perfect for summer's lemonade, perks up: "A banjo?" she says.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sympathy for the Elf Locks

Skinny tween kid, delicate, pale wrists poking bony out of too-short hoodie sleeves, empty stare of the tabula rasa, stands right in the subway door where everybody is getting out. His too-long, dirty mop perches on his head and lends him a waif-ish air.

A long grown part of me aches for his dumb face, his slack-jawed vacancy in the face of the jostling hordes, knowing what's in store for him.

"Oh kid," I think, "wash your hair."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Eternal Arm Bar

While Katie's showering, I watch the Best Submissions EVER! on the TV in our bedroom, dozens of cage fighters at the end of their battles inflicting grievous bodily harm on the joints, windpipes, and spines of their opponents, each kimura or choke hold or triangle different, each outcome identical, until the grinding spectacle of it all bums me out and I switch it off.

I sit on the floor in our bathroom beneath the steam while Katie towels off her heat-pink skin. "It's like a nature show," I explain, "but the only thing they film is the cheetah eating the gazelle, over and over, until they all look the same. The one guy who wins beating the one guy who loses, all day, everyday, forever."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boring Dreams

The white, futuristic Apple earbuds look like conjoined twin sperm attached at the tail. The right one, the one with the broken speaker that only outputs at about half-volume, is shoved tight into my ear, and bolstered to equalization by the pillow upon which I lay my head.

I'm using recordings of binaural beats to induce deeper sleep, but tonight I've chosen the"Dreamy Sleep" program (I love dreams! That's where I'm a pirate!) as an experiment to see what insights more dreams might offer.

I wake up disappointed in myself every two hours from mundane dreams of work, discussions about TV shows, and other things I don't even bother to remember, and the only upside is looking at the clock, and enjoying how much time I have left before falling back asleep.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Cat and I are Having Feelings

She walks over to the couch where I am sitting with my current "usual" breakfast (one cup of Greek yogurt with half-a-cup of blueberries, a glass of V8 juice, and a banana), and looks up at me with wide, stricken eyes. Her little pink lips barely part, letting forth a tiny, plaintive "meaw?" and then another, louder, when the first doesn't solicit the reaction she was looking for.

"I don't know what you want," I say, but this doesn't placate her.

A truck drives down Seventh Avenue in front of our building, engine roaring, and she looks worriedly out the window at the slate gray day, then back to me, demanding some solution I don't have, to problems I don't understand.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Leaking Light

I seem to be "leaking"energy today, pedestrians of all stripes cutting me off, nearly running me down, walking right through me, interacting with me when I would prefer to be invisible, and ignoring me when I need to take my space.

Once I've finally made it to the train, I stand in my accustomed place holding the pole, listening to this song, dizzy with sentiment, buoyant with joy. I wish that everyone I've ever known could feel like this, could feel as good as I feel right now. 

I want you to hear this sound, and then we could talk about the romance of despair, how much it reminds us of driving at sunset in the California sun.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

By the Time It's Here, It's Gone

Even though the trees are coming on green and the sunshine warm, a cold, cutting wind still occasionally slips a fickle knife in, reminding us that we aren't completely out of the woods yet.

We tour the neighborhood, hoping to enjoy the sun, first stopping by a farmer's market, then sifting the shops for a new iPhone case for me, but after only a little while, I'm worn out.

"Can we head home?" I ask Katie, and she agrees.

A plane sails silent across a blue sky scoured clean of clouds, heedless of us down here walking the just waking earth.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In Which I Find that I May Not Be as Awesome as I Think I Am

I step out into traffic and pull the cab to me by sheer force of will. I've got this gift, you see, a gift for attracting taxi's quickly and easily.

The rest of our party clambers into the cab as I give the driver our destination, but Katie is definitely giving me the side eye.

"You know you stole Laura's cab, right?" she says.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Angry Dance

"With all the bad stuff going on in the world," says our dance teacher yesterday, "I really just want to get it all out."

He proceeds to put us through our paces, making us wrench our bodies around faster and faster until we look like the floor of the studio is electrified.

Today, my neck and back have clenched into an spiteful knot that makes it difficult to look anywhere but the ground a few feet in front of me.

"Dance class last night was the equivalent of angry sex - he was having feelings and took it out on us," Katie replies when I complain.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

You Make My Life Better

Katie washes the dishes from dinner, her red hair pulled back in a messy knot on the top of her head, strands of it flying every which way in a very fetching, distracting fashion.

She looks up, catches me checking her out. "What?" she says.

"I never thought I'd get to travel anywhere before I got old," I say, my voice catching in my throat, "but you made it happen."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Like Caesar

The limo hustles down 7th Avenue, beeping, and comes to a quick stop on the opposite side of the street from where the man stands on the steps of the brownstone. He is soft and round, with wavy blondish hair, gold wire rim glasses perched on his mild, round face, and a leather satchel strapped across the blue and white striped button-down shirt he wears untucked. There is already a car there for him, on the same side of the street, and I wonder if he got tired of waiting for the one that just arrived, and called another car service.

Now he has a choice to make - the one that he called first, or the one that came first? - as he looks down imperiously on the two cars vying for his fare, maybe to the airport, or work, knowing that, while the choice makes very little difference to him, it's quite important to the drivers, and the hand not holding a cup of coffee wags noncommittally.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Literature Saved My Life (or at least my day)

5:30, and I stumble out of the building where I work, defeated. The day has been... let's say, "not my best." Mistakes made, meetings bungled, trust diminished, and I feel like my best move would probably be to head home, hide under the covers, and hope to fall asleep so that I can wake up to a better tomorrow.

But the book, the book I'm reading (Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, if you're interested) has really gotten to the good part, the writing sparkling and witty, lifting my day out of despond, and I read all the way home, even while I walk down a street that seems, somehow, sunnier.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Are You Sure That Was Me?

A friend mentions, in an email, a dusty summer in Tucson in the early 90's when I took care of his orchids while he visited a girl he was seeing in the Bay Area.

I took care of his orchids?

I wonder what other deeds, good or bad, I have done, that others remember of me but which I have forgotten, and which redound down the years to my credit or shame?

I imagine the judgement day (if there is such a thing) goes something like this: the things we've done which we remember are put side-by-side with the things we have forgotten, and our self-image is shown to be, overall, only a small part of who and what we actually are.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Home is Where You Don't Need to See

At the bottom of the stairs in my apartment building I stand, worn out, and just for a moment, I shut my eyes. It feels good, restful, and I keep them shut as I climb up to our apartment.

I run my hands blind along the banister, the grain of the worn, old wood smooth beneath my fingers while my feet shuffle on the threadbare carpet, feeling my way up to each landing until I'm finally in front of my door. The keys fit into my hands, easy and familiar, and I let myself in and stand in the dark while the cat weaves between my ankles, meowing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Negotiating Alone Time

"Well," says Katie with a sigh as she rises from the couch, "I'm gonna go to the laundromat, since you're clearly done talking for the day."

She's right, of course - she can easily read me, and I've run out of steam about twenty minutes ago.

At the same time, though, I don't want her to feel like it's her, like she's somehow not interesting or that I don't enjoy her company, so I make some protesting noises.

She meets my objections with a thin smile, and says, "I get it - you're just like this sometimes."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lock it Up in the Memory Vault

"We should cut over to Eighth," Katie says on our way to dance class.

"Oh, right," I say, having forgotten, yet again, the address of those rehearsal studios, even though we used to go there almost every day for auditions. "Why can I never remember that?"

"You have a block about that place, because it's where you go to feel uncoordinated and old."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

We Made a Deal

"It's just, it's so terrible right now, it's an unreadable mess," I say, standing in the doorway of the bathroom while she brushes her teeth.

"Doh fohget, I hah a vesteh," she spits in the sink, "a vested interest in this book."

"What, so I can get an advance and take you away from all this," I say, indicating our very nice apartment, our good lives in a city we love.

"No! When you get published," she says with a smile, turning, "I get to punch you in the face."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

She Wasn't Even Talking to Me

She's got her back to the pole, leaning, on a crowded morning train, and people are doing their best to work around her, grabbing high, low. He hair keeps brushing my hand, but it's so stiff with hairspray I'm sure she doesn't feel it, but she does feel the guy standing to her left's knuckles in the middle of her back.

"You don't stop poking me, I'ma hit you," she says, beginning a stream of invective at the gentleman who continues to read his paper, avoiding all eye contact with her.

"Oughta be setting an example," she finally finishes up after a minute of this, before settling back down to her spot, leaning up against the same pole, and the adrenaline begins to dissipate, my heart stops pounding, and the urge to dig my knuckles into the back of her head subsides.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sins of the Alpha Male

The kid yelps as the man grabs his hand, hard, compressing the bones, and says, "Yeah, is that how you did it?"

The woman walking with them says, warily, "Take it easy, dude."

The man stares down the kid for a second more, the kid, like a good pack member, not meeting his eyes, and then lets go, "What, I didn't hurt him, did I?"

The kid, wincing, shakes his hand as they continue walking, the tension easing: "No."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Justice Served with a Side of Awwwwww-yeah

After taking Katie to see the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden back in February, our attempt to take a taxi home to Brooklyn was stymied by a cabbie who refused to go. He demanded we pay him upfront, in cash, and wouldn't turn on the meter.

This was not our first rodeo, so we got out of his cab (first taking his license number) to find a more honest taxi, and I spent most of the night in a rage, calling in the offense to the city hotline, fulminating against the cabbie, his questionable parentage, and a city that would let my wife freeze out in the cold.

Today I got an email saying that the cabbie had plead no contest to my complaint and paid a fine, and I felt a small joy that sometimes, justice was served, even in the big, tough city.

Share the Glory

A man down on the vast field that makes up this section of Prospect Park attempts, one more time, to get the giant square kite of purple and blue up into the clear spring sky, but the stiff breeze seems determined to frustrate him. The kite catches the wind just fine, but the mischievous eddies that chase alongside the main gust twist the frame just as it seems ready to take flight and spitefully spin it back to the ground.

"He needs somebody tall to hold it up and help him get it into the air," I say while the man picks it up for another shot, "but he's trying to do it all by himself."

"If he wants to get it done, he'll have to share the glory," Katie says, nodding, as the kite crashes once again to the earth.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Apparently, I'm Greedo (in Star Wars Monopoly)

She sits across the table in judgement. "You have, like, nineteen different tells," she says, her arms crossed. Kevin sits in the other seat, nodding sagely.

She pulls back the card representing St. James Place (or, in this version of the game, the Yavin Throne Room), with a look of disdain, says, "And frankly, I don't like the energy you're bringing."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Looks Like I'm Staying Late at Work

"Can I help?"

"No," he says, "but..." distracted look, just this side of wild-eyed panic, "print out whatever we've got."

"Are you sure you want to do that, before we've got the changes back from John?"

Shakes his head, squints, nods, says, "Yeah, just...." runs his hands through his hair, "just sit tight."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mama's Boy

I cook dinner, clean the kitchen, read for a while, watch TV, read some more in bed, but something in me will not settle down to sleep, until finally, well after midnight, I turn out the light. Katie, exhaustion in her voice, turns over and mumbles, "Could we please just go to bed earlier?"

In my dream, I live in my current apartment with my mother, and I am keeping my (dream) heroin addiction from her, hiding my works and cooking up in the kitchen. I look at the syringe full of brown, murky liquid, but suddenly a resolve steels me never to shoot up again, so that I bend, and finally break, the needle, knowing I will not easily find another.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why Do They Still Call Them "Straphangers?"

The subway has been more crowded, but it's still pretty tight in here, with me and my fellow commuters careening off each other as we stuff the train almost to capacity. Once I've established my spot, placed my bag on the floor between my feet, and grabbed the overhead pole, I settle back into the book that I've been reading for the past few days while traveling back and forth to work.

It's a pretty heavy read, with lots of graphic violence, cursing, dirty sex, dense prose, and Fourteenth Century mysticism, and in these close quarters, I wonder if anybody is looking over my shoulder to read (as I often do to others) and becoming offended.

I glance up, and a women I saw out of the corner of my eye looks away, her face typical New York City impassive, giving away nothing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

"Well, what do you want on it, then?" she asks finally, exasperated.

"We can get whatever you want," he says. "Just, black olives?"

"If you don't like black olives, what do you want?" she asks, and the whole thing starts up again.

Monday, April 1, 2013


In the scrum of shuffling commuters I trudge up the stairs, and there, beneath my feet, blinks the copper flash of a shiny penny, face up. There's too many people behind me, slow but inexorable, and I feel a pang of loss as I leave the luck where it lays and continue up to the street.

What if that was my luck for the day, the one thing that could have made today the pivot point towards a whole new destiny of chances grabbed, gambles won, challenges surmounted?

"Ah," I think to myself, "there's probably somebody out there who needs it more than me."