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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
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."
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
"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.
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."
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.
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.
"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.
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!"
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?"