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.