Friday, May 31, 2013

I Must Have Had "Soft Eyes"

The two bulldog puppies tumble over the redheaded toddler in their midst, just one more puppy to them, another playmate, another chew toy to gum. The toddler laughs like a maniac, even as the puppies knock him to the ground, and continues to laugh as he stuggles to sit up, fails, and is swarmed over by their enthusiastic, chubby, fuzzy bulks.

A crowd has gathered, sharing vicariously in the joy exuded by these three wonderful, loving little idiots, and as we're about to leave, a gentleman with whom we made eye contact earlier stops and calls me over to show me some pictures on his phone. I'm feeling particularly easy-going after witnessing such unabashed joy, and so I listen as he points to the pictures of huskies playing with a polar bear, saying, "So, you can tell when an animal, a dog, wants to play, because they have 'soft eyes.'"

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Walking past the park to meet Katie, I can feel the heat creeping up, like God focusing the sun to burn all us little ants under His omnipotent magnifying glass.

We walk East until we reach an intersection where we can watch the sun as it sets between the canyons of skyscrapers, and we're not alone. Crowds like pipers running into the receding tide of traffic dart into the middle of the street, cameras held high, madly photographing the firey demise of day with each red stoplight, and then dart back to the sidewalks, chased by the honks of irate drivers as the light turns green.

Katie takes a picture of the sunset as it appears on the phone of another person taking a picture of the sunset, while a lady walks through the impromptu party/good-natured riot pleading in confusion, "What's going on?"

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm Just Bigger Than You

The doors open at Grand Central onto the usual cave of the subway platform, and we who are inside the train trying to get out are confronted by that grim wall of those on the outside of the train trying to get in, thus beginning the daily negotiation slash passive-aggressive war of us pushing past them to get out while they push in. Sometimes you get a crowd that has learned basic subway etiquette that stands aside to let us out, but today is, apparently not one of those days, and a small dark haired woman in front of me who hesitates for the briefest of moments provides just the breach needed for the hordes to begin their incursion, and what was an orderly exchange, like osmosis, devolves into a shoving match.

A thin blond woman with a nice handbag tries to thrust me aside with her yoga arms to no affect whatsoever. She stutter steps, without even looking at me, then goes around me as I make my way out, and I think, with some unwarranted measure of New York bravado, "Lady, if you try to walk through me, you're gonna bounce."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Constant Disappointment

"No," my dad says, "I got a great deal on the rental car, so I'm going to pick it up as soon as we land."

"Okay," I say, "then why don't you not drive too far, and just stay in the hotel by the airport?"

He's fighting back his impatience and annoyance, but he manages to keep most of it out of his voice, saying, "No, Scott, the noise."

"Well, dad, then your guess is as good as mine."

My Responsibility

Brunch with Kevin's parents was delightful, and now to take the bus back to Park Slope and stroll in the memorial day sunshine. I can feel my anxiety rising, though, as we reach the intersection where Google has assured me the bus stop awaits - the streets are covered in scaffolding and trash, and I can't find exactly where we should stand. 

These people, my wife, my friend, his parents, are my responsibility; they're counting on me, and I can't find the bus stop, and we'll miss the bus, and it'll be all my fault!

"There it is," I say, picking out the sign for the bus stop from where they've hidden it behind a street sign, and I breathe easier, even though I'm sure nobody was worried but me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sometimes, Giving Up is Okay Too

The open meadow in Prospect Park is surrounded by trees that break up the gusting wind into swirling eddies and sudden lulls. We figure working together we'll be able to do better than those that have come before, but our best efforts come to naught, with the kite almost going up only to spin to the ground.

Finally, after enough of this, we lay on the ground watching the clouds coalesce and dissolve in silence far above us. "Look," says Katie, shading her eyes and pointing straight out into space, "that cloud has a rainbow."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Starting Over

I sit on the kitchen floor, surrounded by small piles of dirt and several small plastic pots, while Katie dances around me cooking dinner.  I'm repotting herbs that we bought earlier in the spring that have since become root-bound, along with an aloe I've carried around since before I moved to Brooklyn from Queens.

It's been awhile since I've allowed myself to really care for plants (the spindly aloe, especially, shows signs of having suffered under my recent neglect), but back at my old place in Queens, I used to have literally rooms full of them. The feel of the dirt under my fingernails and the smell of the soil is good, and reminds me that, when I pay attention to things, I take a great deal of pleasure from the small details of simply maintaining life - be it mine or something else's.

Friday, May 24, 2013

In Which I Dream of China, For Some Reason

The solider and the revolutionary student travelled long and far to find the warrior/scholar. He grabs a brush like a sword and begins drawing characters with slashing strokes on the parchment hanging behind him.

"This is the character for many men's names, while this," he said, continuing to draw, "is the character for shoes. Together," he said, turning, "they make the character for 'poverty,' because who must own another man's cast off shoes is poor indeed."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Veterans of Twitter Warfare

He was wrong, obviously: wrong in his interpretation of events, wrong in the conclusions he drew, wrong in the rude way he was expressing himself - the very definitions of the words he used were incorrect! Nevermind that he and I essentially agree, somebody on the Internet was wrong, and it was my job to correct his effrontery!

I sat on the edge of the tub, the shower running, steam frosting the mirrors, later for work with every character I typed (140 max, looks like I'm going to have to spread this out over a couple of tweets...), furiously stabbing at my screen, righteous in my terrible, swift anger, hands shaking. I called him out for what he was: pedantic, and knew, in my heart, that it was so, that one of us was a pedant, and that the whole Internet would know it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nostalgia as the Highest Form of Feeling

New York prefers a palate of gray (when she's not decked out in sundress sky blue), and today everyone wears the obligatory face in the crowd. I hunch my shoulders against the glowering blank sky and hide behind my headphones, but then this song comes on, dredging up memories of things I've never done, things I shouldn't have.

I want to fall on my knees on a midtown sidewalk, overly dramatic, bring the whole thing to a stop. I don't want to go back, God knows, I just need a second to think, but I keep making choices, changes, regrets, and it won't stop for me, no matter how much the ache of it wounds me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Her Friends Were Nice, but I Needed Maté

"What was wrong with you tonight?" She asks as we're leaving dinner.

I look at her blankly for a moment, but then it starts to come back to me. The fidgeting, playing with the silverware, the inability to focus for too long on anything anyone was saying, the weird lack of my usual ebullient emotional affect.

"Oh no!" I say, "did I not look like I was having a good time?"

They Say the City Thickens Your Skin

The air is clammy as the sun begins to set. Outside the grocery store, two of the beggars that routinely spare-change on the corner by the bank stand by the dumpster, closely examining a shrink-wrapped styrofoam tray of brownish meat. 

When I come out of the store, provisions in hand, they're gone, along with the meat and a box of wilted vegetables. I turn up the block and head home, unconcerned.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Or Maybe I Could Use a Nap

I walk wet sidewalks, the cars hissing down the street beside me as the rain slackens to a fine, drenching mist.

It's been a number of weeks since I've meditated, and my soul, whatever that might be, feels as loggy and drooping as this gray day.

The only sin that the bible says is unforgivable is the infamous "sin against the Holy Spirit," the nature of which is never made entirely clear.

My guess is that it has something to do with the belief that a person doesn't need any sort of grace, spirituality, whatever, and that it's "unforgivable," not because it's particularly egregious, but because the mechanism by which it might be cured is the very thing that needs healing.

Red Head Probs

"I'm sorry, is that real?" she says, leaning over us, pointing to Katie's head. She looks to be in her early 50's, rocking the skinny jeans and fingerless gloves, her short bleached blonde hair sticking up in tight spikes. She's talking, of course, about Katie's red hair.

After we make the usual jokes about how Katie stole it from her mom, and yes it's real, the train arrives at her stop, and she gets off with a satisfied nod, saying, "I was worried about asking, but I could tell you wouldn't mind."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Seventh Inning Booty Moving

Seventh inning stretch, and some guy has taken off his shirt and dances in the aisle, his flab shifting beneath his leathery skin like a couch from the 70's come to life. His jean shorts have ridden down, and the crack of his narrow, bony ass peeps out demurely just over the top of his brown leather belt as he gyrates.

Katie does a slow take to me as everyone else does their best to look anywhere but at this guy. There's no metaphor, no larger lesson - just a middle aged guy dancing with his shirt off to some hair band while the Yankees pause in their shellacking of the Toronto Blue Jays on a mild evening in May.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ooooh, Burn.

The vast array of gum and candy in front of the registers is daunting, and it takes me a few seconds to find the exact brand I'm looking for. I toss the box of Dentyne down in front of the register at the exact moment a white haired man walks up attempting to buy a bagel, but, since I'd already spoken to the cashier, she takes my money. The man looks at me like I'm the bad guy, but seriously, I was there first, and the cashier moves on quickly after I've paid and asks the man if he needs anything else.

He shoots me a dirty look, "Well, now that I think of it, I could use some gum."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just Don't Call Her Late for (Insisting on) Breakfast

That swimming to the surface feeling of waking from deep sleep, up from darkness to the bright claxon of the alarm. Normally I don't sleep straight through the morning, as there is usually a cat doing her passive-aggressive best (stomping with all her weight on my chest, curling up around my head and purring loudly into my ear, flexing her needling claws in what may or may not be genuine affection so that they puncture the thin skin on the inside of my arm, and oh, were you sleeping?) to awaken me in the small hours that I might feed her sooner rather than later.. Today, strangely, she is absent.

As I walk into the kitchen, however, she comes trotting down the hall meowing in distress, like someone late to an appointment she slept through, and demanding that, despite her seeming neglect, I fulfill my obligations to her now, please?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Maybe I'm Not Ready to Quit My Addiction

I take my phone back into the bedroom promptly at eight o'clock, plug the charger into it, place it on the nightstand, and walk away. This is all part of my plan to be more "present" and "available" to my experience at nights - talking to my wife, playing with the cat, cooking dinner, instead of spending the night fucking around on Facebook and playing Dots (have you played Dots? Dots is really awesome).

Later, I snap at Katie for the third time (or fourth?) over something inconsequential, saying, "Why are you being so contrary?"

"Well, normally it makes you laugh," she says with a brittle smile.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Good Advice

"Urijah Faber, he's teaching me how to fight in this dream, and it's, like, underneath the Manhattan bridge, actually under it with the girders and stuff, or maybe it's just an underpass. So he asks me to show him what I've got, and I put my fists up," I raise my hands, "like this, but my thumbs are sticking out, and my arms don't work right."

"And Urijah smiles this really big smile, and he tells me not to worry about it, because I have to get my kicks working, and if I use my kicks, he says nobody'll be able to stop me."

Katie listens to all this very seriously, and then says, "Pookie, you're not allowed to be a UFC fighter."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Darkness at Noon. And Most of the Day, Actually

The day has had a slight air of gloom about it since morning, and now, as we attempt to walk off an early afternoon's brunch, both Katie's phone and mine buzz simultaneously in our pockets. We pull them out to see the weather alert from the National Weather Service, suggesting not just that we might have some weather, but that, indeed, we should get the hell indoors immediately due to some sort of impending, apocalyptic wrath of God shit. "Remember," the notice finishes ominously, "if you are close enough to hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning."

We wait on our stoop for a half-hour as the darkness increases rapidly, until we start to see umbrellas unfolding into existence a block away, and the passers-by begin to pass us by with increasing urgency, first strolling, then walking, and finally, as the hiss of the swift approaching rain dials up into a roar, running.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cerberus Minus One

The best way to find a dog park (which is where you want to go if you want to watch dogs play at night before you go see a movie) is to follow the guy with two dogs walking late at night into the park, so we follow him and his samoyeds. The dogs seem pretty happy just to be out for a stroll, but the guy stops abruptly by a fence, looks both ways, then picks up one of the dogs, and flings him over the fence onto the grass. The dog seems to be used to this, and waits patiently where he landed on his feet while his twin is also picked up and flung, whereupon they both begin to dash in tandem around the grass like crazy things, rolling and tumbling over one another, wrestling and laughing open mouths, pink tongues lolling.

Katie watches enraptured as they execute a perfectly synchronized hairpin turn, says, "They're like one animal in two bodies"

Friday, May 10, 2013

You Know, for the Police Sketch

"Hey," says the guy I've never seen before suddenly appearing by the water cooler as I'm filling up my water bottle first thing in the morning. I pull back sharply, and find myself making a quick mental inventory of him: white, balding, glasses, yellow and orange plaid short sleeve shirt, kinda short, khakis, boat shoes (what my parents used to call "topsiders").

"Oh sorry, didn't mean to startle you," he says mildly.

"You didn't," I lie, smiling, heart pounding.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Creature Driven and Derided by Money

Katie sits on my lap, both of us on the couch, her arm draped around my shoulder, the afternoon sun reflecting wetly through our front windows off the buildings across the street after a day of rain.

"But the thing was," I continue, "the reason the kid didn't buy her something from the fair wasn't because the salesperson was mean, or that he lost his nerve or whatever. I've been reading this story for literally years and I was just too stupid to know that it was because he didn't have enough money left, even though it basically said so!"

She leans back to look me in the eye, says, "In your defense, you're really bad with money."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Metaphor for Post-Industrial New York (or something)

We're tired of standing in line (and just standing) on the pier beside the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, and we duck around behind the food trucks to take a load off. The cruise ship in port next to us looms hundreds of feet high, a giant floating city of rooms, and we watch a few small figures strolling on its outer decks in the creeping dusk.

Some portholes down near the waterline light up while we sit on the stone bench, and I say, "That's where the lower-class Irish are doing jigs in their wooden clogs."

I imagine their "betters" above, waltzing through gilded ballrooms in tuxes to the gentle strains of Strauss, the ship so large that they can't even feel the tide.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Longest Conversation We've Ever Had

My normally reticent co-worker walks back into the office, presumably from smoking outside, and the lenses of her glasses are already changing from tinted to clear beneath the fluorescents.

"Oh, are those the Transitions glasses?" I ask, making conversation, since Katie has the same ones.

"Oh yeah," my co-worker says, "I just love them, but the last place I went they didn't get the prescription right."

"I got progressive lenses, and I still couldn't see - had to read with a magnifying glass even when I was wearing glasses," she continues, miming bending over a desk with an invisible hand held lens, squinting.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Great Minds and All That

We stand in the shower, Katie washing her hair, me mostly just watching (I prefer to take my showers in the morning, but I like to keep her company when she showers at night).

I've been silent for a little while, spacing out, and, by way of explanation, I say, "I've just been trying to decide what I should write for my four-a-days." I've already decided to write about the dog who likes to make strangers fetch her ball for her.

"You should write about Sasha!" Katie says, rinsing the shampoo from her back.

The Opposite of "Fetch"

We've seen the golden retriever on Third Street before. In the fenced-in little slate patio that functions as a front yard to one of the refurbished brownstones that line this wide street, she stands, stiff-legged, looks us straight in the eyes, tennis ball filling her mouth like an avatar of desire compressed into a furry yellow sphere, and drops it.

Since Park Slope is, as the name suggests, on an actual slope, the ball rolls downhill, under the wrought-iron fence and into the next yard, and she looks at the ball expectantly, then to us.

Her owner, smiling and friendly beneath a floppy, wide-brimmed gardening hat, watches as we reach over the fence and pick up the drool-covered, obviously well loved ball to throw it back to the coiled, waiting dog, and says, "I see you've met Sasha."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How Did She Know...? Oh, that.

Gorgeous spring day, the leaves filling out nicely, the inevitability of the seasons working in our favor for the moment. We go to pick up Katie's glasses dressed in our springtime best, Katie in her big floppy hat, me in my checkered fedora and skinny tie.

The woman behind the counter gets us what we need and sends us quickly on our way. "Have fun at your derby party," she says with a smirk.

Friday, May 3, 2013

It Fits Him Perfectly

As we walk through the sunny spring day, dodging the lunchtime throngs that crowd the mid-town sidewalk, I notice my co-worker's houndstooth blazer in a similar shade to one I received at Christmas, and I remark on it.

"I still need to get mine altered," I say, "because my arms are too long."

He is quite a bit shorter than me, and smiles at my words.

"I have the opposite problem," he says, tugging his cuffs, as if by doing so, he might make his arms longer.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

PSA, Just in Case

"Are you ever worried that somebody might get offended?" Katie asks after reading yesterday's entry.

"What do you mean?" I say.

"Well," she says, "it might be weird for people, seeing something from their life just up on the internets like that."

So, as a caveat to all my friends and loved ones, as well as anybody else whom I write about here, from now until whenever: if you don't want your name up on these pages, if I've put something up that really bugs you, or makes you feel bad, just let me know, and I'll give you a pseudonym, or I'll make sure that people can't read your name, because obviously this is all through my eyes, and just because I wrote it doesn't mean that it happened exactly like what I said.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Trying our Best, Being Friendly

"Hello, Scott," Hannah says, in a deep, fake voice she and I both use when greeting each other. "Hello, Hannah," I reply, in the same deep, slightly stupid sounding voice. We do this almost every time we see each other walking the halls of the office, or during lunch, in one of those silly workplace rituals that seem to spontaneously blossom when a bunch of strangers with essentially nothing in common but their chosen profession are shoved together into a building for eight or more hours a day.

Most of us don't really know each other, but we figure out ways to pass the time: maybe the familiarity of the same jokes makes us feel more comfortable, the nicknames and the little rituals smoothing the way between us so the strangeness of the situation seems a little less lonely.