Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Maybe I'M the Problem

I can't believe I'm having to deal with "Showtime" on the freaking 4 train!

But when the music ends (I haven't been paying attention, my nose deliberately buried in my Kindle), people actually clap. One of the performers daps smiling spectators up and down the car, and dollars are pouring into his hat. 

A suit fishes in his wallet with a rueful grin and fishes out a bill, saying, "Here you go, man."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Comments on the Bukowski Documentary

"I mean, I get the whole self-mythologizing thing, you know? I've told stories about my childhood, and made it look maybe worse or whatever." I'm finishing drying off after our shower.

Katie walks into the bedroom, toweling off, and says, "Maybe so, but I have exactly zero patience, tolerance, whatever, for guys that beat their wives."

Tomaytoe, tomahtoe

"Check out the murderer," Katie says.

I look around the subway car, but nobody immediately presents as "murderer," exactly. Then I see him: black suit, black gloves, shaved head, hard, weathered face, scowl.

"Oh, you mean the assassin," I say.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


My first day back to work since returning from vacation in Arizona, and after days in the most pleasant weather, after the ease of driving everywhere we went, the feeling of walking through the cold morning air to the subway is bracing. I stretch my legs and lengthen my stride, watching my breath billow faintly out into the air and tatter as I walk through it.

We're only a couple days past Christmas, so the streets and stations seem comparatively empty. Still, I'm glad to be surrounded by people everywhere, walking my streets, my pavement underfoot, tasting the air that knows me, even if, despite the cold, it does still smell a little of trash.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Else Are You Gonna Do in Sun City? (part 2)

"Oh, Goddammit!" dad says, cursing the driver sitting out in the middle of the intersection. "He won't turn!"

After we're back in motion, and he's calmed down a bit, he tells the story of the 55 year old man who assaulted the 75 year old man on the streets of their retirement community in an apparent incident of "road rage."

"The best part is, though, the 75 year old stabbed him!" dad says, cackling.

What Else are You Gonna Do in Sun City?

The dry desert air is sweet and mild, and we stand out on my parent's back porch, me, Katie, and my cousin Paul, breathing in the air and picking grapefruits and oranges off the trees and eating them while taking refuge from the occasional insanity that is Christmas Day with a seven-year-old.

A bee has settled on the peels we've left out, and she (aren't all bees that aren't specifically mating with the queen shes?) seems to be drunk, slowly exploring the pitted and pithy terrain of thick grapefruit peels, with tentative, deliberate steps.

The three of us watch, fascinated, wondering if this is "normal" bee behavior.

"I'd hate to think I'd invested all this time in a bee that wasn't normal," says Katie, finally, as the bee begins to lick the oily peel in earnest.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Gnostic Christmas

That part of me that is God celebrates the birth of the Christ child, and I sit in church listening to the minister stumble over his words (he's God, too), watching another child burble in his mother's lap (both God) while the elderly man in the pew behind them coos and pulls funny faces to make the child laugh, God entertaining himself.

Jesus was born, probably in spring, ages ago, to remind us that we are children of God, and, though they try to get us to forget this part, that means that we are Gods, too. But we celebrate at the solstice to bring us all together before the long, cold, bitter winter of the world we chose to live in sinks in its teeth.

I remember, and forget, and remember, and forget, cycling in and out of Godhood, while the planet turns on, forgetting and remembering, from darkness into light (and back again).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I Just Seem Approachable, I Guess

As I wait for someone to help me at the deli counter, the older woman with the slightly "butch" haircut (short, spikey, silvery grey) waiting with me is going to talk to me, I'm sure.

"What kind of swiss cheese are you going to buy," she finally asks. I tell her.

She shakes her head, says, "I don't really touch the stuff, myself, since I'm lactose intolerant, but my son sent me this shopping list."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Which Explains a Lot, Really

After the third poop joke and the fifth actual onscreen murder of a dinosaur by another dinosaur, we're starting to think this movie might be inappropriate for my seven-year-old niece, who is cowering in her mother's lap, eyes covered and fingers in her ears.

It reminds me of that time my parents took six-year-old me to see "The Old Gun," a movie which my parents believed would be a goofy western flick, a la Disney's "Hot Lead and Cold Feet," but which turned out to be a World War II movie, and which opened with Jews being burned alive against a wall with a flamethrower in a Warsaw ghetto.

The manager, upon being informed of my parents mistake, directed us to the only movie he could think of that might be appropriate. 

Which is how I ended up permenantly scarred at the tender age of six by the movie "Wizards" directed by Ralph Bakshi.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Make Believe

"Where is the evil Doctor keeping Cutie Pie?" I ask the Fairy Princess (a.k.a. my niece). The Doctor was originally called Diddagond, and was an evil robot, but when pressed on pronunciation, Fairy Princess declared we could "just call him D," which became The Evil Doctor, somehow.

It turns out that his evil lab, where the Doctor was also holding the magical fairy dog, was the closet. We managed to save them, in spite of the Evil Doctor (also a.k.a. my niece) who pulled out all of the stops, including stripping us of our powers and a freeze ray, when she figured out that we were winding the game down. 

Missed it by That Much

"And the man says, 'That dog never went to Harvard.'"

We all laugh appreciatively at the joke, but one of the guys leans over and says, "What did he say? I missed the zinger."

After I repeat it, he laughs more heartily and says, "You built the story up, but in fact it was a fallacy."

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Panicked

The post office by Grand Central is a giant echoing place, full of voices and the desperation of shipping gifts a week before Christmas.

My gifts don't fit into the boxes they supply, and the line is long, and I can see the hostile boredom on the faces of the clerks. Their job isn't exactly difficult, per se, but it is challenging, and probably a little soul crushing, and I'm pretty sure they don't want to help me, nor why should they.

The line snakes back and forth between the velvet ropes they've set up for crowd control, and I feel my anxiety rising, threatening to swallow my reason entirely, so I bolt, out the door and back onto Lexington Avenue in the wet, disheveled afternoon sun.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Late Night Wine Talk

"It's like that thing with astrology, you know?" The wine has made me grandiose and prone to pronouncements.

"It's not true, like, the planets beaming down their rays on us or whatever, but since everything is connected and everything, you could say it's sort of 'true,'" I say, making air quotes

"Yeah," Rick says, nodding, as if I'm somehow making sense.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gotta Start Shopping A Little Earlier

We stand in the kitchen, arguing. The conversation has gone south pretty rapidly.

"I'm just reacting like this because I hate it when you wait until the last moment to do stuff," she says.

"I thought I wasn't waiting until the last minute!" I cry.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Being "In the Moment"

The train is crowded, and people are keeping it together remarkably well, but still I envision this woman seated in front of me finally snapping, objecting to the proximity of my junk to her face. In my (now running rampant) imagination, she kicks her leg out, smashing me in the crotch, and we end up fighting, my fellow passengers have to pull her off me, or worse, me off her, blood everywhere.

I stop, breathe, adjust my posture to avoid smacking the woman behind me with my bag. "That is not what's happening, right now," I say, calming myself.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Persistence of Phenomenon

Yesterday's party has left us unsuited for most pursuits, so we take a walk around the neighborhood in the late afternoon dying sun. Upon arriving home, we see not one, but two stacks of pennies, perched prettily on our stoop.

I stare at the stacks,, dumbfounded, pointing, and Katie laughs, saying, "One stack isn't that big a deal, but two? Now you've got something to write about."


As I walk past the Christmas trees, I see a couple huddling close together through the stinging snow, she in a floppy leather hat and trenchcoat, he in a toque and sunglasses (even though the overcast sky leaves little room for glare). Only after I'm past them do I recognize Park Slope's Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard.

I'm momentarily starstruck, even though I don't acknowledge that I've seen them (to do otherwise would be supremely un-New York of me), but my steps do slow. I come to a stop and look around me, and realize that the grocery store I meant to go to was entirely the other direction down Fifth Avenue, and I've walked almost a half-mile the wrong way.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Just Keep Dancing

"Okay, I think it's right at the end here," I say. We pause our trimming of the tree and decorating for Christmas to watch this particular scene in the movie intently.

Sure enough, right at the end, Vera-Ellen trips over Danny Kaye's foot as he's kneeling for her final flourish, but she doesn't even stumble. "Damn," Katie says, "I've watched her feet for years and I've never seen that."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cat Saves the Day

I'm a apretty good touch typist, but the cat is NOT making it easy, by sitting donw directly in front of me and blocking my view of the screen. It's a good thing, too, because seriously, I had literally nothing to write about except this stack of pennies that somebody left on my stoop, and I don;t think I could fill up four sentensce with just that.

I'm gonna leave it just like this, though. You know, for historical purposes

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

He's Got My Back

We meet at the slightly posh wine bar with the indirect lighting and exposed brick and, in a rather ill-advised decision, sit by the window, where the freezing cold can sneak in around the edges of the glass.

I out of habit more than anything else, sit in the corner. Kevin, who's known me since high school, where I pulled this kind of nonsense all the time, laughs at me.

"Yeah, sit in that corner, and if any mob hitmen come up behind you, I'll be sure to warn you," he says.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Among Other Things (But Not Many)

The muzak cheerily burbles a Fifties version of "Let it Snow" while outside, real snow pours down on the old stone church that sits at the head of Wall Street beneath a sky the same color as stone.

My co-worker stares out the towering bank windows at the huge descending flakes, until finally he says, "Lotta history, Wall Street, you know?"

I make a non-committal noise.

"You know:" he says, "money, slavery."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Good Guy Brain

I wake up at precisely 6:54 in the morning after a very relaxed weekend, my mind suddenly racing, remembering the one thing I should have done on Friday at work. 

Though I'm glad that I remembered as I lay in the dark, I'm still surprised that my brain would take this long to remember. But even if I had remembered, what would I have done about it? This way, at least I got to enjoy a couple of days stress free.

Dad Jokes at the Wine Shop

"...with a hint of rubber in the nose," Katie concludes, reading from the description of the wine we're considering taking with us to the party in Astoria later. "Rubber in the nose?"

"Well for me," I say, really winding it up, "that's where the rubber meets the road."

Both she and the clerk packing boxes behind us say, in unison, "Ay-oh!"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Important Day in a Boy's Life

"He's going to have his first lox sandwich today," the father says to the bemused counterman at the bagel shop. "So is there any way he can try a small piece first, to see if he likes it?"

His son stands quietly beside his grey haired father, his curly blond hair a thick nimbus around his head, perched like a heavy sun above his thin boy's build, serious expression on his face, watching all this go down.

After they've negotiated the nibble, the son takes his bite, nodding enthusiastically to himself, saying, "It's good!"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Two Wrongs

The streets outside were wet with that fine, misting rain that didn't seem like that big of a deal, just to look at, but which somehow managed to soak you clear through to the skin.

I crouched on the floor, sorting through the umbrellas by the front door of the restaurant one more time, even though I knew it wasn't there.

"Why don't you just take someone else's, then?" our friend said jokingly, but Katie and I were both already shaking our heads.

I didn't bother to answer, but Katie shrugged and said, "The karma is too much to handle."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rumors of the Real World

A man getting off the train like he's disembarking from a ship, not entirely trusting either his vessel, or the earth, to be where they appear to be.

He carefully holds the pole inside the door with both hands while stepping onto the platform sideways, sliding his feet.

Once he's on the ground, he lets go of his anchor, and stands on the bumpy yellow tiles, swaying gently, still feeling the rise and fall of some unseen ocean swimming in his veins. Booze, fatigue, madness, age, something that makes the seeming world of solid forms a phantom, a charade, a rumor, not to be believed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Who Cares What You Think?

Read an article using the word "grups" today and had to look it up, only to learn that it meant something like "gr(own) ups whose interests were indistinguishable from a teenager's."

I recognized the derivation from Star Trek (or at least thought I did - I might have that wrong) but I thought, "That's what's great about being grown up for real: you don't have to care what people think about your interests, leisure activities, clothes, whatever, at least in theory, and you can just do what you want."

As I walk by the exit to the surface in the Union Square subway station, feel the cold air snaking down the stairs, and inhale the instantly recognizable aroma of that incense the Hare Krishnas use.

I could imagine them gathered in the plaza above, shaved heads and top knots, saffron robes, harmoniums and tambourines making a glorious racket, dancing around ecstatically, chanting their repetitious hymns to their blue-skinned, pretty-faced god.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The main character in the current section of the book I'm reading is black, but it takes me about 30 or so pages to figure it out. The basic, casual racism of my brain no longer surprises me, but I still feel slightly disappointed in myself, so I put the book back in my bag and look around the train.

A family of three slumps against one another, asleep, gently bouncing in unconscious rhythm to the ride. The mother holds a fishing pole, while a cooler sits between the legs of the son who sleeps sprawled out like a coma victim, mouth open and entirely unselfconscious, and I imagine them getting up before dawn to stake out their spot on the pier on Coney Island, casting their line far into the gray-green ocean, fishing all day, watching the waves rise and fall, rise and fall, lulled until they can't help but pass out as soon as they get on the subway, exhausted and hypnotized and dreaming of the sea.

Here, You Throw This Away

The short, mustachioed man in the sharp dark suit preaches in the underpass between the subway lines at the Times Square station, his voice echoing off the tiles and down the incredibly long hall, until, in a sudden access of passion, he breaks into what sounds like an improvised song.

Two unfortunates pass a little too close to him and he attempts to hand them one of the dozens of flyers he's clutching.

Both refuse, but that isn't good enough for him, and he chases the woman of the pair up the tunnel, waving a pamphlet at her, shouting, "Take it, take it, take it, take it!"

Finally, after she's retreated down the corridor, he returns to his spot, shaking his head in disbelief, saying, "But it's salvation."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The "Showtime" Curse Follows Me to Paris

The two men walk by on the subway, one carrying an amp, the other, an accordion, and they set up in the vestibule one down from us and begin playing.

It's pretty tame, almost pleasant - light, lilting, with that tiny ache of nostalgia characteristic of the accordion. Once they're done they walk up and down the car, plaintively shaking their clinking cup of change at the tourists riding the train out to the airport. Finished, they walk down, working their way backwards, one car to the next.

That's How I Got Over My Fear of Heghts

At the bottom of the 300 (or so) stairs spiraling up to the dome of Sacre-Coeur high above Paris, we joke with a middle-aged British couple about the arduous climb ahead of us, agreeing that it will most likely be worth it, but that we just have to "take our medicine," and tough it out. The woman of the couple, a raw-boned, horsey woman with a generous, infectious laugh and a motherly air, appears to be game for anything, but the thin-haired, worried-looking man with her doesn't seem quite so sure.

We pass them about two-thirds of the way up the claustrophobic stairs at a breezeway across the open roof which leads to another set of claustrophobic stairs, and the man is clinging to the wall green-faced, while the woman rubs his back murmuring encouraging words. I realize its not the exertion that's getting to him: he's afraid of heights.