Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Probably Nothing

"I suggested another place because you didn't seem to into the first one," I say. "I mean, you seem kind of pissed about the whole thing."

Katie sighs. "Let me just ask this: if I hadn't brought up what we were doing tomorrow night, what would have happened?"

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tempus Fugit

"How old was your dad when you were born?" she asks while washing her hair. I'm leaning against the back wall of the shower.

"32, I think," I say (eleven years younger than I am now).

The water from the shower head beads up in the air like tiny raindrops and sieves through my fingers faster than I can catch it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Who Knows How She Knows?

All the dogs my family owned when I was growing up were outside dogs, with a giant, sun-hammered yard in which to do their business. It was my job to pick up the desiccated, hard little nuggets they left for me, but I hardly ever had to see the things get made.

So the strange divination that is required for a city dog to go is an entirely mysterious process to me. She noses around in various piles of leaves and near trees, around lampposts and gateposts, up and down blocks and blocks worth of sidewalks until she finds the magical spot, and even then she checks and double checks (her hindquarters all the while twitching into hunch in anticipation of what's to come), making absolutely sure she's got the precise square quarter-of-a-foot to do the deed she must do.

Spoke Too Soon

"Good job on the avocados," Katie says as we're making dinner. Four dark green alligator skinned eggs in a dark green mesh bag.

But each proves more disappointing than the last, all revealing, beneath the firm, rough, wrinkled shell, a rotting heart of brown, mealy flesh and gloating, giant stones that take up the space that isn't dead.

"Is there anything worth salvaging?" she says, knife in one hand, holding the squishy, traitorous thing out to me with the other.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Life with the Dowager Countess

After her walk, the dog climbs the stairs as quickly as her stubby little body is capable, her tiny haunches and curly tail wiggling up to the landing.

But I get the feeling she used to live on the second floor, because that's where she stops, standing expectantly, ears alert and nose pointed to the door.

But we live on the third floor, you see. Every day I walk past her and call her to follow me, and her look of exasperation and offended dignity is truly something to behold, as if, by living on the third floor, I am the one who has made the mistake.

Innocent in Dreams

In the dream, my childhood friend had just gotten a haircut, but apparently hadn't actually seen it yet. It was shaved down to the scalp on one side, and buzzed super close on the other, along with a very kicky sort of stripe-y thing, and when she asked, that's how I described it to her. This freaked her out, because she didn't want it that shaved, and blah-blah-blah, it turned into this whole drama.

Which is how I narrate the dream to Katie, whose first response when I finish is an incredulous, "Wait, you didn't lie and say it looked nice?"

I Am Known

My reflection shudders and jumps in the windows of the passing bus, and I watch impassively as I move without moving. I am standing on the corner, the library behind me, waiting to cross the street.

This is how I look to other people, I think, like a series of distorted images, different things emphasized, bigger or smaller, or not depending on where they choose to focus, none of them really me, nobody seeing "me."

A text comes in, "Do you need eggs for your cookies?"

Blues on Parade

He waddles up Union Street on the sunny side of the street, cigarette perched beneath a thin blond mustache that only serves to accent the roundness of his moony face. Old army fatigues bulge and surrender across the fields of his flesh, and a bright green bandanna like a headband under his hat seems definitely non-regulation.

He stops, flicks the gold zippo lighter once, twice, three times with no effect and a look of preordained disgust, and, as I approach, gives me a squint.

"You smoke?" he asks as I walk by, and then, when I shake my head: "Jesus Christ!"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Teach Me To Just Shove Things in My Face

Katie pauses as she's scrubbing her face in the shower. I'm moving in and out of the hot water, letting the contrast with the cool air give me chills.

"I don't think that loaded-baked-potato popcorn is vegetarian," she says thoughtfully.

"Like, I'm pretty sure I found chunks of bacon," she continues, effectively explaining the stomach ache I felt starting earlier.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day

Katie's off at work today, so the cat, the dog, and I have a houseful of Christmas detritus to ourselves.

The cat lays on her back, eyes half-closed, with a rumbling purr emanating from her incredibly fluffy white belly.

The dog lays a few feet away, nose nestled between her front paws, snoring with long, sonorous tones.

I sit on the couch beside the cat, surfing the internet and listening to my belly grumble at the memory of too much candy, and count my blessings until I run out of things to count them on.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Smart Dog

The dog's forward momentum has slowed from a trot down to almost nothing as she pauses at the base of every post of this scaffolding to sniff.

After going over each in agonizing detail, she stands stock still looking over her shoulder with an expression that's difficult to read.

I'm trying to temper my impatience, repeating to myself that there's much to be learned from the pace of a dog, that I should really pay more attention to my surroundings, and so on, until it suddenly dawns on me.

"Do you want to go home?" I ask, and immediately she turns around and starts to sprint back the way we came.

An Antidote for Smells & Bells

The incense thickens the air of the church to the consistency of the fog that hangs over Brooklyn on this unseasonably warm Christmas Eve. I have no idea how the choir is managing to keep from coughing up a lung in the middle of the Vaughn Williams.

I escape through a side door to keep from making a spectacle of myself and have my coughing fit out in the wet night air of a quiet courtyard. 

A priest steps out from the sacristy while choir continues to sing and approaches me with a look of concern,  saying, "Can I get you some water?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12 Legs Toward Dreamland

Two sets of eyes watch me expectantly as I come into the bedroom. Katie's got her head down in her phone and doesn't look up. The cat watches from the bed, sort of over her shoulder as she lounges taking up as much space as possible at the foot, while the dog sits on her blanket on the floor with her head cocked in the traditional "His Master's Voice" pose.

I climb into bed, and all the mammals settle down for sleep, as Katie says, "Family bedtime!"

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Hate Admitting I Don't Know

Even if I don't think anything particularly interesting happened today, I still have to write something.

The guy yelling at the old man on the train ("Hugging up on me and everything, who even does that!?") seems a little negative, and I'm tired of train stories. The new dog running is sort of interesting, even though I could only go half a block before my lungs gave out and I lapsed into a painful coughing fit under the yellowish street lamp by the empty playground.

Katie and I also argued a little, about nothing, mostly because my brain wouldn't work right and I didn't understand her question, so I wouldn't simply respond by saying, "I don't know."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It Didn't Help

"I'm sick," I say. The choking heaviness in my chest is offset not at all by the wine I drank earlier.

"I know! You're so cute when you're sick."

Everybody Needs to Learn Manners

I only catch the tail end of the interaction, but it seemed to involve a young, stocky, frizz-haired woman shouldering though a line of people on the sidewalk.

"That is very rude!" exclaims an older woman.

"Go back to the Midwest!" the stocky woman, already halfway down the block, yells without looking back.

"I'm not from the Midwest, I'm from Holland, you fucking bitch!" the older woman lobs at her retreating back.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Habits of Houseguests

"What makes a sound like that in our house?" Katie asks.

"Is it the dog?" I say, stupidly.

"I'm gonna go check."

But in a minute: "She's drinking her water, and the bowl squeaks on the floor," Katie says, getting back into bed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'm PRETTY Sure He's Joking

I wasn't paying attention, and I didn't save any of the upper management people who were in meetings cake from the birthday celebration. I am a bad person, and they are not going to let me forget it - especially the Executive Vice President.

As he's leaving, he leans over my desk, a half-smile on his face, and says in his quiet voice, "Have you ever seen the license plates for Quebec? They say je me souviens - I remember what you did."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Emotional Head-up Display

"I think I might be my own Tomato-meter," I say.

"What the hell are you talking about, you ridiculous man?" Katie reasonably asks.

"Well, just, when I see a movie, I feel like I've got an 'emotions' bar, like the top of the screen on a video game, and for a really good movie, it's in the red, overflowing. But it fluctuates, and for a scene that's maybe only okay, it goes up to, like, sixty-one percent."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Proverbs 25:21-22

The guy delivering our food walks up just as I am putting my key in the front door to go upstairs. I know it's him, because we've gotten food from them a couple of times and he's been the guy every time, and I've had to speak to him (and complain to his employer) once or twice because, instead of calling up to be let in, he's just left stuff on our doorstep.

From his expression, I can tell he wants me to say something, start something, but I'm here, and he's here, and it worked out perfectly, so I decide to just take the high road and flash him a big smile as I take the box, saying, "Oh, hey, that's for me!"

The disappointment and confusion on his face when he leaves is hilarious as I call out after him, "Thanks a lot!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Who Knows?

He jumps to his feet from a dead sleep into a panic just as the doors are about to close, and pushes his way off the train, asking as he moves, "Is this Canal Street?"

At least I think that's what he is saying:  headphones are shoved deep in my ears, and I'm just reading his lips, but I look him in the eyes, and say, "Canal," with a firm, and hopefully reassuring, nod.

As the doors shut and the train pulls away from the station, I glance toward the doors and notice he's gotten back on the train. When I meet his gaze with raised eyebrow, he smiles in embarrassment, and shrugs, looking away.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

There's Something About That Name

The sun goes down earlier and earlier as the solstice approaches. The upper stories of the Brooklyn brownstones are painted in sunset gold, but down on the streets, everything goes to cold stone grey, no matter how hard the storefronts put up a brave face with lights in windows and tinsel on trees.

I walk past yet another church (I haven't been in ages), and think about all that stuff about Jesus being the reason for the season (so they say), and even though I haven't prayed in a long time, I send up a small beam of love to the idea of the highest possible version of a human being that I know of.

And instantly, the world changes, and whatever God may be within me remembers Itself, and I see the world, the street, the fading light, the people hurrying past, all of us together, as part of an indivisible whole, and my heart fills up my chest, and beats once, twice, hard.


I remember standing in the bathroom, naked, waiting for the shower to warm up. I remember looking at myself in the mirror, hair going in all directions, glasses, examining the bumps on my neck where I shaved the wrong direction.

I remember thinking, something about the way I think about things, the way Katie thinks about things, how they're totally different, and achieve different results, and thinking, "Yeah, that's what I should write my Four Each Day about."

But I can't remember what I thought I should write about, or how we were different, or why I thought it was important, or anything like that, at all.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


The cat likes it when I sit in the couch with her late at night, in the dark, petting her.

It reminds me of my mother, of late conversations we'd have, talking into the small hours. We'd talk about things, deep conversation about our feelings and thoughts.

Now I sit on a couch and ruffle a cat's fur, while every once in a while, a car drives by.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Neurosis Is Seasonally Predictable

"I just...," I'm panicking, I know, and I can't seem to stop it. "I don't know what to get them, and I feel like it proves that I'm not paying attention, and that I don't know them, and they don't know me."

Katie is doing her best not to appear exasperated, but I can tell she's almost done. "But Scott," she says, calmly, "you need to know that you say exactly this each year at Christmas-time, using the exact same words."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I'll Be Fine Tomorrow

It is a general rule of my emotional metabolism that, when I have had too much to drink (as I did, I believe, Monday night at Katie's office party), the following day is fine. I may have a bit of a headache, but nothing major - I can deal.

But the day after the day after: oof, it's bad.

I spent the day trying to work, but I was unable to focus on anything for any length of time before waves of hopeless dread and paranoia washed over me, leaving me cringing in my ergonomically correct office chair, wondering why I was alive at all when clearly no one likes me and I'm a waste of time, and what am I even doing here to begin with, really, like, really, why?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Morning Luck

"That's the third B train that's come," the blonde woman standing nearby on the platform says to me as the subway rumbles into the station. It takes my brain a second to adjust to the notion that a stranger is addressing me in complete sentences (and the mild hangover from last night's party isn't helping) but I feel the gears engage quickly enough that someone not paying too close attention might not notice the momentary gap.

"Yeah, I think it's luck, sometimes," I say. "Sometimes there's no Q for forever, and other times, it's like you come down the stairs and boom: 'Your chariot awaits.'"

Somebody to Talk to At The Office Party

I've staked out a spot by the fried chicken station to people watch (since I won't be eating any chicken). The guy with the impressive beard is there, too, and we get to talking.

I feel like I'm on pretty solid ground, conversationally, when I mention his enormous, chunky ring, and he pulls it off, asking me to put out my hand.

I extend it as if he'll be putting it on me, but, "No, palm up," he says, and drops it: it weighs a ton.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Magic Beans

My ability to come home with an empty wallet and no real recollection of what I spent my money on has led to cash being called "magic beans" in our house - as in: "Did you trade the cow for magic beans today, Scott?"

So as part of my birthday gift, Katie created a set of twelve envelopes with small amounts of cash in them to be opened, one per month, over the course of the year. I am to spend these "magic beans" on one of my favorite things to purchase when I have money, that is, books.

Today's search for books on which to spend my magic beans came up empty, but I did manage to find a box full that somebody was just throwing away (if you can imagine someone actually just discarding books!) out of which I picked a few to bring home.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lost Pen

I get this thought, not a great one, but I try and write down any of them that come by, like a fisherman waiting for a tug on the line, knowing most of the fish are undersized, on the off chance that the next one pays off.

It sort of drips into my mind a little at a time, the thought does, based on this "girl" (really a woman) I see walking by, something like, "Men call women 'girls' because in their heads, no matter how old they get, they never stopped being 'boys.'"

But when I reach for my pen, there's none to be found: not where I usually keep it, nor fallen into my bag, or anywhere. Frustration chokes my throat, like I can't speak, and my teeth clench around the silent words, phrases backing up into my stomach to make me sick with things unsaid.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cooking Together

She mashes up the garlic, like the recipe says, and scrapes it into the pan where it begins to sizzle in the oil and release this lovely savor into the air.

But there's a whole bunch of garlic on the cutting board, and she's really taking her time about smashing it up, like she's not even smashing it, she's just being really thorough about scraping off the already mashed garlic into the pan, but I don't want the garlic to burn while she finishes smashing the rest (when will she smash the rest?) so I turn off the heat and give her a look, which she returns.

"Well," I finally say, because I don't want to make her feel stupid (though she is clearly being weird, and why hasn't she smashed the rest of the garlic?), "we should probably put the garlic in all at the same time...," hoping she'll get the hint.

Her eyes flash as she wordlessly points to the part in the recipe where I find that, oh! only one clove of garlic gets smashed, and the rest are reserved for the sauce, and maybe I should read the damn directions all the way through first before I say something foolish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Matthew 25:40

The tunnel between the two subways lines is hospital tile white, fluorescent lights giving everything a hard edge. About midway down, a beggar sits with his back against the wall, his bare, cracked feet on cold stone floor, pants rolled up past his ankles, dark brown skin gone gray with dirt.

I hurry past, headphones deep in my ears.

And just as I pass he lifts his hat beseechingly, his mouth moving with words I will never hear, the music in my head swells, and Michael Bublé sings "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Lights, Please?"

Curves filled with white representing snow, capped by a rectangle of red hatched with black lines, representing a brick wall, lay beneath a swath of blue, representing a midwestern sky from almost 50 years ago. Behind the rectangle stand two squat, misshapen humanoids who speak strangely adult truths with the voices of children, underscored by a lilting, melancholy piano. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is on TV, and I feel all of the noise in my head go quiet as I stare at the wide screen, high-definition version of the same show I've been watching since I was a child.

I am staring through a window into a world that seems impossibly distant and remote, and yet, by watching it, this world, which I live in, becomes the strange place, and that one, with its herky movements and continuity errors and unblinking, absolutely unreconstructed embrace of Christian mythology, becomes the real world, seeping into this side of the screen like a benign virus, reminding me of how I really want to feel at Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2014


The sun has gone down to dark, and the rain falls only as a wet in the air and flying spangles in the passing headlights. It's been a hard day, I'm tired and a little numb, but I don't feel bad, not the way I would have a few years ago when I was sunk deep in depression.

A brown pit-bull mix, tongue lolling from his enormous, grinning, toothy mouth, drags his owner up the street, and a smile crosses my face.

But the smile only goes part-way in, a needle of happiness penetrating a thick carapace of unfeeling, and I wonder at what cost my moods have evened out.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Gray day, walking in my old neighborhood with Katie and her parents. We chat about the flea market we've just come from (another sign of the gentrification of this part of Brooklyn that I was the vanguard of six years ago), and how much things have changed.

Memories crop up cold and fall-ish in my brain, and I'm only listening with half an ear as I kick through the leaves that crowd the sidewalk next to the vacant, trash-filled lots impatiently awaiting their allotment of condos and coffee shops. I think of the loneliness I felt back when I lived here, the freedom, the depression, the sense of having done something irrevocable and dangerous and romantic, and a part of me wishes I was back there, alone and getting high, wallowing in the pain that I had created for myself.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

All Things Considered

She rubs a towel on her wet hair. "You're so great," she says.

"I'm just brushing my teeth," I say around a mouthful of foam and a toothbrush (so it comes out "Ah jus rushing ai eeth").

"You're not exuding greatness right now," she says, "but just, overall."

The Day After

Empty streets of a cold clear morning, vertigo of jaywalking, I pause on the middle stripe where I can see for half a dozen carless blocks in either direction. I think about zombie movies, and daydream about being the only person left in Brooklyn to wander the earth.

On the subway, a young man and woman lean together, exhausted, sleeping. He's reached up to cradle her cheek in his hand, and she nuzzles her face into his long, elegant brown fingers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Save Us From What We Deserve

We're sitting on the couch, eating pancakes and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, when another band runs on to the screen, doing music from "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (says the announcer in his fruity, rich voice).

The color guard have on these very unusual uniforms: green, scaly-looking unitards with a headpiece that gives them a bright yellow mohawk, and I remark to Katie that it makes them look like Morlocks.

"Oooh, I'm stealing that," she says, typing away at her Facebook page.

But I'm already thinking that if the color guard are Morlocks, that makes the band members in their pure white uniforms the Eloi, and then I'm thinking about what happens to the Eloi, and how they kinda deserved it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I scroll through my "Watch Later" list on YouTube: music videos, documentaries about the coming economic and ecological collapse, Fred Armisen doing accents. Meanwhile, she is teaching herself Photoshop and editing her logo until well past midnight - this after baking an apple pie for Thanksgiving tomorrow and previewing designs for her website.

Later, in the shower, I comment on her work ethic. "I mean, you don't have to be a role model or anything," I say, scrubbing off the laziness, "but you are modeling good behavior and making me realize I need to work harder."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Family

I awake from a dream of my old room in Tucson, the cold tile floor, the white walls. In the dream, I lay in my childhood bed, crying, because I knew my parents had left me, and would never return.

Now I lay in the dark, far from Arizona, listening to my wife breathe as she sleeps next to me. She throws an arm across my chest, and though I know that we can't live forever, I am comforted.

Scenes From the Class War in Park Slope, Brooklyn

The dogs, two big, grizzled gents with the sad eyes that all intelligent dogs seem to have, are perfectly behaved the entire train ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn, laying quietly at the feet of their owner and taking up as little space as possible for such large fellows. Said owner, dressed in tattered fatigues, wide-brimmed hat, dusty boots and ratty coat, and wearing sunglasses inside and at night, seems used to the attention his companions attract, periodically patting their threadbare "Service Dog" jackets as if to reassure them, and all his fellow commuters, that everything is fine.

Now, however, getting off the train and tracking their way to the surface, they seem to move with greater purpose, fast and low to the ground. Halfway down the sidewalk, finding their target, they surround the businessman in his suit and tie, and one of the dogs lifts his leg to pee directly on the man's briefcase, after which, mission accomplished, they vanish into the night, leaving the incredulous suit to gawk in their wake.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What's Eating You?

The bird which, just a minute ago, we held in our arms like a pet (its eyes calm and docile, even bearing as it did the clear signs of having had dinosaur ancestors who would have eaten our evolutionary shrew ancestors for lunch), struggles upside down in the cone as the blood pours from its throat into the aluminum trough thick with the gore of the birds slaughtered before it. Ninety seconds after Katie slit its throat, the butcher lifts one leg to see if it's still kicking and, certain it is dead, dunks it in a bath of boiling water to make it easier to remove the feathers before we gut it, take it home, cook it, eat it.

On the way home, the driver of the cab (smell of smoke, dents in the door, rips in the upholstery), cannot sit still in his seat. At each stop light he stretches, scratches his arms, pushes out of his chair and back down, twitches, adjusts his hat, grabs the back of his head rest, changes the radio (inevitably louder each time), looks in the mirror, at his phone, at his watch, at the road, to the point where I wonder what is inside him, gnawing at him, that he has to move just to keep it from eating him alive.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Growing Up

Brand new baby, one week old, about the size of a loaf of bread, curled up in the crook of her father's arm. He stands and sways, rocking her back and forth to the rhythm of the music coming from the playlist he made for her.

"Something So Strong" comes on, and he smiles and starts lip syncing along.

"I've...beeen...feeling so much older," he half-sings to her, and she is so small, and as big as the world.

At the Opening

While the woman (older, an artist, and self-proclaimed "kind of a big deal"), regales Katie with her wisdom, I talk publishing with her gentle husband. He's thin and with a shock of white hair on top, but tan and sharp, and an accent I later learn is Israeli.

"So I started doing silverpoint drawing - you know this? Ancient technique, you draw with silver on clay treated paper and the oxidation - you know this? - makes the mark."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Make-Up Work

So on the walk home, we discuss the speaker we just saw.

"I thought, hell, I know as much as this guy," I say.

"Yeah, and he didn't answer anyone's questions," she replies.

And we go home and do the work, instead of listening to motivational speakers, and things are a lot better.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scruffy, Part II

"Nice beard," says the sarcastic co-worker as sincerely as she's capable of saying anything. "You've really got the whole scruffy writer thing going there."

"But what's with those sides?" she asks, calling attention to the less than stellar growth on my cheeks.

"Yeah, I never really grew a full beard before," I admit, rubbing my hand along the mange I've made so far.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Attention Must Be Paid

The softest, fuzziest, cookie-monster blue onesie cannot prevent this baby from screaming his displeasure to the entire subway car, and all of his mother's efforts to placate him are for naught. She rolls his stroller back and forth, squeaks a toy at him, speaks to him in soothing tones, all of which just makes him screw up his face and screech harder, inconsolable.

Off the train, in the tunnel between subway lines, a guy wearing enormous headphones raps loudly to the music in his head as he strolls between the rushing commuters. He acts like he doesn't care, like he's too cool to care, as he enunciates every syllable and carefully avoids checking to see who's checking him out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Apologizing for Existing

"And I feel like I'm really writing better, and like maybe I'm...,"

"Valid?" she chimes in.

"Yeah, like I've got something to say," I say.

"And that you don't need to apologize to the cashier at the grocery store," she adds.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I look out the back window on the fall morning backyards between the buildings, trees yellowed, wall covered with browning leaves. A gray sky looks the other way above, indifferent.

"It's not exactly ominous, the sky," I say.

"It's just overcast," she replies.

He Found Them

"Let me just go in back to check," he says, grabbing the greasy paper out of the empty basket of doughnuts. 

I can see down the length of the cafe all the way through the kitchen to the back of the restaurant. He disappears behind a line of short order cooks furiously working over a hot griddle.

A moment later he reappears with the basket piled high with doughnuts hoisted high on one shoulder, and a huge goofy smile splits my face.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Friendly World that Speaks

I'm currently learning the Japanese alphabet, so walking through Manhattan now has an added voice in the cacophony of signage that lines the streets.

An old friend of mine and I used to play a game where we tried not to read the billboards and ads in the subways, the streets signs and murals, the awnings, plaques, memorials, the constant words that bombarded us from all sides demanding attention and layering meaning between us and the world.

But now that I think about it, we may have had the wrong idea. The more words that I know, the more I feel everything that has been placed here trying to communicate with me, as if I am surrounded by a friendly world that is trying to speak.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fooling No One

"You want to try that?" he says, pouring a taste of the wine into my glass. I toss it back, swallow wrong, and try to conceal my choking, fooling no one.

"Hate it when that happens," he says sympathetically as he fills my glass to the rim.

"Dark days," I reply, still choking.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Showtime for One

I'm sure the loud conversation of the two old drunk guys in camo, the yeller and his quieter friend, is going to be the greatest barrier to a peaceful commute this evening. Then the kid walks up.

Music plays on his phone, no headphones, only loud enough for me to hear, and he proceeds to rehearse a dance routine, twisting his hips and ghosting through spins, hat catches, pole twirls, and flips to the quiet click and spit of the repetitive electronic soundtrack.

To my dawning horror, I realize that I am the recipient of and sole witness to this guy doing Showtime, and I begin to wonder if I am the center of the universe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This Number is Out of Service

The phone ringing at three in the morning used to be a portentous thing, a sign of doom: who died, or was sick, or needed to be bailed out of jail?

These days, technology has rendered our fear superfluous. "Hmm," we say after a few clicks on Google, "area code 233 is Ghana?"

"I don't know anyone in Ghana," we say to ourselves, and we roll over and go back to sleep.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Growing a Beard is No Real Disguise

In the tunnel to the subway I see my friend from work and fall into step beside her.

"Heeeyy," I say, a little sly, like one of those guys that are always trying to pick girls up by falling into step and walking with them. She knows it's me, though, and gives me a smile.

"You're getting pretty scruffy, there," she says, by way of greeting.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Am I Actually Nice?

When we walk into the ATM vestibule (one of those weird rooms that exists only as a way station to other places, like train stations or the gates at airports), this guy is frantically scribbling away on his check at the little table in front of the window on the street.

When he's done he stands a little off to the side, not exactly in line (which would be behind us, now) but just sort of off to one side, waiting for one of the ATMs to open up. When it does, I catch his eye and motion for him to take it - I'm not in a hurry - but I wonder at my own motivation: how much of my willingness to let him go is in order to avoid conflict, and how much is genuine kindness and generosity of spirit on my part.

I decide I'm really nice, but that, if I was in a hurry, I might not have let him go.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

When I Wore a Younger Man's Clothes

An interview with J. Mascis saved on my "Watch Later" list on YouTube leads me down the proverbial rabbit hole into the past. An hour later I'm watching videos shot by drones of people having sex in nature. 

Something about all of this, the music, the visuals, I'm not sure what, reminds me of when I was much younger. A spark inside me that's been flickering faintly flares up, and I remember what it's like to want to make something beautiful with whatever skills I have.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


"It looks like spring in here," the CFO of my company says. She's talking about my bright blue pants and my yellow and light blue plaid shirt, and too be fair, it is a pretty out-of-season outfit.

I'm filling up my thermos with hot water at the coffee machine, which is one of those things where you have to hold the red plastic flange-dealy down to keep the spigot open, so I'm sort of concentrating, and I don't reply.

Perhaps she takes my silence as being offended, because after a quick second she adds, "I have to give you a hard time, since you dress so nicely all the time."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Look As Good You Will Not

Your mom and I felt sad but had to say goodby to Yoda today. He gave us sixteen loving years. Dad

was the message on my phone. Yoda (so named by Grandma Gladys McCoy when he was a kitten, because of his enormous ears)an enormous siamese mix tom with a sweet disposition who slept beside my mom almost every night while she was in the worst of her illness, had to be put to sleep today, and he'll be missed. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just Like When I Was A Kid

My company give us Election Day off and, after fulfilling my civic duty (and obtaining my "I Voted" sticker) I drop off Katie at the subway and take another route home.

At home I can hear the children playing in the schoolyard that butts up against the backyards behind our building. They scream and shout at each other, like kids do.

I sit inside, like I used to at recess, quietly reading, listening to the chaos of life outside and glad I'm not out in it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lots of Folks Eat Ramen

"Hey, buddy," I say as my co-worker passes me in the hall. "You have ramen today? 'Cause it's all over the counter in the break room."

"Yeah, no, everybody was getting ramen from me today, so you can't pin that on me," he says, and suddenly I feel really guilty.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Just Missed It

I've just given my bankcard to the women behind the table at the flea market when another woman sidles up.

"I'm sorry," says the woman behind the table, pointing at us, to the woman now eyeing us in despair. "They just bought our entire stock of antique bottles, plus the box they're in."

The newcomer picks up the biggest, prettiest pale blue glass bottle, and offers it to us, saying, "I don't suppose I could buy just this one from you?"


Confusion reigns at the self-checkout stations in a Brooklyn supermarket. The man caught in the vortex of the three little girls spinning around him can't make up his mind which station to use, and his ambivalence has spread like a virus to a seemingly weak-minded middle-aged lady, who now stands stupefied in the middle of the aisle, under some impression that the machine she could use is broken, even though there's no reason for her to believe that.

When another guy seems about to wade into the fray and just take a machine, even though there's a line (which I'm in), I explain to him, "No, see, that man has to go, and the woman, then me, and then, I guess, you."

"It's so much easier when there's a narrator," he says brightly, and I can't decide if he's being sarcastic or not.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Most of the kids (even the older ones who don't wear costumes, childish and hulking in their love of candy like bears) are polite. Despite their ignorance of the exact etiquette, they still know (mostly) to say thank you, and the obligatory "Trick or treat!"

But this little wide-eyed wonder child, no mask, body encased in the faux-muscle costume of an adolescent mutant amphibian possibly trained in the art of ninjitsu, ignores all rules of decorum or personal space and climbs right up the stoop to me, his face inches from mine. His hand rests on my knee as I place a box of Whoppers and a mini Kit-Kat in his cloth bag, and he does not blink or speak as, our transaction finished, he climbs down, rejoins his parents and continues down the sidewalk on his quest for more, more, more, ever more.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mansplaining Hiccups

"So the thing with hiccups is that you're trying to trick the autonomic nervous system... you know about the autonomic nervous system, right? You've got voluntary and involuntary muscles, and when you have the hiccups, you're like trying to overwhelm the autonomic nervous system so that it basically resets...."

Just then I remember that this woman is also going to nursing school in the evenings, and I catch myself, "Sorry, you already know about this, right?"

"Yes," she says, kindly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Haibun Without Haiku

"So I'm sort of obsessed with haiku right now," I say. The waiter has taken our order and retreated to the kitchen while George Harrison asks what life could be without your love (not much, apparently).

"I've noticed," Katie says, laughing.

The wine is bright in the glass, and catches light deep inside it, like her eyes when she laughs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dinner Party (Nioi)

I pinch each sage leaf off at the stem, then add them all at once to the browning butter. Our guests have already arrived, and I can hear them chatting and laughing in the living room as Katie and I finish making dinner.

Basil mint ice cream chills in the freezer, pumpkin ravioli boils in the pot, veggies roast in the oven, filling the whole apartment with the smell of good things.

I take another sip of my cocktail to calm my nerves, and the licorice taste of anise floods my mouth.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Purring loud and slow, the cat reaches out one lazy paw and claims my phone where it lays on the bed. She looks up with slitted eyes, daring me to object, not really caring if I do.

Katie rubs lotion into her hands, then carefully puts on soft white gloves.

I think about nail clippers, then forget about it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cat Scratch, No Fever

"See my wound?" she says. I'm looking at the recent remains of some problems she had on her fingers, a couple of spots where the skin is healing up nicely, but she doesn't mean that.

She points out the two long, angry looking welts on her hand where the cat scratched her earlier today, and, she adds, "She got Kevin, too."

"We've got to cut her nails."

The Time of the Season

"So the thing about XTC, was that they were this bridge between punk and art rock." I'm on one of my enthusiastic jags that I get on, dancing around the kitchen in headphones as I clean.

"Oh, you're nostalgic again," Katie says, pausing in her cleaning to listen patiently. "You get like this, like, not every month, but like, once a season."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Whining Hypochondria

"I don't know," I say, yawning. "I've just felt off all day, and the movie wasn't really that scary."

"Well, we can watch a scary movie in bed," Katie says as she rises from the couch.

But when I try to pick up the plates to clear the table, something in my elbow twinges in protest, and for a brief second I wonder if all today's ailments are somehow related: my stomach pains, general lassitude, dizzy spells, pain in joints that won't go away - maybe some kind of weird cancer or something that'll get discovered when it's too late to do anything about it because I hate to go to the doctor.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Despite my occasional religious mania, I've never been afraid of hell. I've found myself unable to believe in a God that was so arbitrary as to punish eternally for sins that only lasted the duration of this brief life here on earth.

That being said, I am afraid that, if there is balance and justice in this world, reincarnation may exist, and that I might end up coming back as, say, a Chinese woman watching the days of my life peel away in twelve hour shifts in some factory in rural Guangdong Province, or as a man trying to cross the border from Northern Sonora into Arizona in the claustrophobic darkness of a coyote's truck, hoping he doesn't rob me and leave me and my family for dead in the desert.

If I'm unlucky, I won't even be a human at all, but I try to remain optimistic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Candy (Sour)

"They are calling it K2, and it is killing our children," says the bald preacher with the glassless eyeglasses holding up three foil packets decorated with cartoon images. "And the parents say, 'Well I saw it around the house, but I just thought it was candy,' but I'm here to tell you it is not candy. It is a drug."

"Just last week," he says, "just last week a boy was taking K2, and he killed his father, he stabbed him up because he was hallucinating that his father was a demon!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunset (Bitter)

Going over the bridge on the Q train, the sunset burns the color of a Venetian Spritz (golden white wine, bloody red Campari, sparkling water). The Statue of Liberty stands small and defiant beneath, dwarfed by the immensity of the everyday.

Just then, as we pass apogee, the short guy with the acoustic guitar who's been lurking by the door steps into the center of the train and begins to sing a sad, quiet song in Spanish. His voice is resigned and melancholy, and the train goes silent for a moment after he's finished, before we fall from the sky down the parabola of steel, rushing back beneath the earth of Brooklyn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Healthy Eating (Salt)

Wine poured, grilled cheese sandwiches cut in half, roasted veggies on the side. We sit on the couch and chow down in front of the TV.

"I didn't salt any of the food," Katie says as the theme from The Walking Dead starts up. "I figured the fake bacon and butter would take care of it."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Antique Shop (Umami)

There are skulls and skeletons everywhere: in the display cases (human skulls, animal skulls, an articulated lemur skeleton perched fetchingly on a tree branch), next to the taxidermied deer parts, on shelves and bureaus, stenciled on helmets and warning of poison on antique bottles. Books leer with the faces of devils and remonstrate with disapproving angels. Esoteric symbols that no one remembers peek out from mugs and on china patterns of which this example may be the last remaining.

And over all of it, over the ouija boards and the marionettes, the diaries from long dead spinsters and toys played with by children who are now in the grave, is a savor of time, dust, the flavor of years that have passed and gone, and we are time travelers, picking up the pieces of the past, putting them down again.


The apple pie contest is in full swing, people sampling the various cinnamon and apple pastries and casting their votes, and the air smells warm and delicious. It's all in good fun, except for the one older woman with the purple streak in her hair and the mean streak in her heart, who seems to be taking it all VERY seriously. She's brought two pies, and she seems to think that it's really important that she win... something, though no one is quite sure what it is she thinks she's going to win.

Katie laughs and jokes with the judges and the other contestants, saying, "When the stakes are this low, the only thing to do is make friends," but the lady with the purple streak in her hair is clearly not here to do anything of the sort, and keeps throwing dirty looks Katie's way like she wishes she were throwing grenades.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Metaphor For So-Called Post-Racial Discourse in America

The old man getting off the train has to watch where he puts his feet, deliberately stepping forward, minding the gap between the platform and the car, each stride considered. His gait is slow and awkward, and he trembles a little with the effort of not falling, of just walking.

I imagine how it must gall him to have to work so hard and be so deliberate. When he was young, he could just walk, wherever he pleased, without thinking about it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Another World

At the top of the park, on the benches where the people nobody seems to want hang out, the three guys are convening their meeting around a joint that scents the overhanging trees with a piney, musty smell. Their clothes, like the skin of their faces, are rumpled and dirty, and hang loosely, shirts and pants overlarge by at least a couple sizes, but they seem to have found a species of contentment in the gradually graying air of dusk as they puff-puff-pass, puff-puff-pass.

Another guy, maybe somebody they know, another denizen of the streets, shuffles by in sweatpants and sneakers, his fuzzy hair tied back in a top knot, and they say something I can't catch to him that makes him turn around, a beatific, vacant smile splitting his face.

They do not notice me, because I am wearing a tie and stride with purpose through the fringes of their existence, as they relax and smoke on the fringes of mine, but I wonder how easy it might be to step across that dividing line between us, settle on a bench in another world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Closing Time

"Hey, we're on a schedule here," Mario says as I run up. He's joking, but I still feel bad as his boss unlocks the store, resets the security system (after first accidentally setting it off), and goes to the back to retrieve the packages he's been holding for my wife and me.

Mario's holding the chain that brings down the security gate, swinging it back and forth in his fist absent-mindedly, ready to close up for the night. Most places in the neighborhood don't even have the rolling metal shutters anymore, those reminders of the bad old days when Park Slope wasn't the bastion of money and mommies that it is today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


1. When the red-headed woman with the thick calves stops leaning on the subway pole to adjust her bag, slide your hand down the pole so that when she tries to resume her rude leaning, your fist is in the way at approximately the small of her back, making it extremely uncomfortable for her.

2. She will glare at you, but you should continue to read your book as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred.

3. Since she will be aware that she was in breech of basic subway etiquette by taking up a pole that is supposed to be for EVERYONE, she will be unable to say anything to you, and will end up with her arms crossed, swaying to the motion of the train and occasionally stepping to one side or another to keep her balance as if she is dancing angrily, because she refuses to grab the pole like a normal person.

4. On your connecting train, when the ash-blonde lady with the upturned nose tries to pull the same leaning-up-against the pole nonsense, shut her down by repeating the above strategy, and smile inwardly to yourself as she fumes.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Junk Shop

"So we're on the same page, right?" says Katie. She picks up and puts down dusty and broken items from where they were dumped, seemingly at random: a bronze candlestick, a plaster bust of Elvis, a plastic toy drum trimmed in chrome, a cheap ceramic angel like my grandmother owned back when she was alive, half a badly made china pattern. Everything piled on top of everything else, scattered across shelves and thrown under furniture, or on top of other pieces of junk, stacked all the way to the ceiling.

"This is basically a hoarder with business license," she finishes.

Chinatown, the Musical

"I had no idea you would like Chinatown so much," Katie says as she rinses out her toothbrush. "You were wiggling and laughing like you were watching a musical."

I nod and shrug, still smiling, and walk down the hall.  

"I'm glad," she calls after me from the bathroom, "just I wasn't expecting it!"

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Man in the Kitchen

I sign Katie up for the apple pie baking contest in which she'd expressed an interest, and the women under the main canopy at the greenmarket start asking me all kinds of questions. Something about my dizzy spell earlier lends the entire conversation a surreal quality, and I can't quite seem to find my bearings, until one women asks why I don't go home and make the pie, instead of my wife making it.

"She makes the pie, I make the ice cream," I say, and even though it's true, it still sounds defensive and strange in my ears.

"Oh, this is my kind of man," one of the women responds as I turn and walk away.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Morning - Five (Do You See What I See?)

In the blind darkness from waking to shower, I shuffle my feet, kicking clothes - my shoes, her bra.

Flip the light switch in the bathroom to supernova the world until eyes adjust.

Hot shower steams the room and fogs up my glasses, softening the hard edges of the world, making the borders porous. When I take of my glasses I see more clearly, but no better than I want to, putting off the moment when I have to wipe off the hard mirror and see myself staring back.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Morning - Four (Noseblind)

Fewer dogs today. Some mornings you hit the jackpot, and there's dogs everywhere, sniffing the ground, reading the messages in urine from other dogs on the fences and lightposts, scenting the coming fall in the wind, able to "read" the world better than I ever will.

Days like this I realize how much I miss with my human's nose. The summer heat that cooked the trash and coaxed the trees into deep, relaxed breaths is gone, and the cool breeze whisks all but the strongest scents away: coffee from the corner shop, smoke from the first delicious cigarette of the day, exhaust from the idling truck waiting for the light to change.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Morning - Three (Contrasts)

The water pours down my skin in warm streams, and taps out thousands of tiny needles on my face as I raise it to the showerhead. I scrub my chest until it stings a little, scrub arms, legs, as far as I can reach on my back, my entire body tingling with waking up and sloughing off sleep.

I come into the bedroom, naked, the cool air making the hair on my arms and legs and the back of my neck stiffen, to find Katie still in bed.

"I feel terrible," she moans, her mouth muffled somewhat by the pillow, "and I feel like my body is full of broken glass."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Morning - Two (Listen)

Blind in the dark, I am awakened by the warm thick purr of a cat sitting on my head, breathing deep and slow.

I wander through my morning, chased by the gabble of talking heads on the television, until I drown them out with a whirring blender to make my smoothie.

On the way to the train, the sidewalk clack of footsteps behind me phase in and out of syncopation.

The half-heard electronic clap and shout of hip-hop leaks from the headphones of the blank-faced kid riding with me and everybody else through the roaring tunnels of Brooklyn, all of us drowning in sound.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Morning - One (Psalm 34:8)

The cat extends her neck, E.T. like, to smell the taste of sleep in my mouth, and, while she doesn't exactly recoil, it seems to give her a lot to think about. Half-awake, I suck down the rest of the water from my bedside table bottle, and it cuts the muck on my tongue with a flavor of old plastic.

Breakfast is tart yogurt, with sweet berry preserves and the nutty crunch of flax seeds, chased with an almost overripe banana that I could have eaten without any teeth.

As I step out the door, I pop a single tab of gum, crushing through the sugary shell to the cold, chewy, chemical mint at the center, but it quickly fades to flavorless goo.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Possibly Plagiarized Dimensional Theory of Literature

"I can't believe no one has ever thought this, or said it before," I rant to Katie. We're sitting on the couch in pajamas as the cat lazily migrates from one patch of sun to the other.

"Words are like points, and you string them together to become lines, and then a whole series of them become planes, and then, when you publish a book, you've created a three-dimensional solid." Katie is squinting into her coffee as I finish, "And if the writing is successful, it travels through time into the future."

Saturday, October 4, 2014


"It's just," I say. "I get nervous when I ask for things."

Katie says, turning off the TV, "It makes me sad when you say things like that. I didn't know you were writing."

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Evening Commute - Five (Diverge)

Come to the stair you ascend everyday on this last day of the week, the very same stairs you walked down this morning, and the morning before, up and down, but the stairs are blocked by caution tape, with a bored looking man standing behind the tape to warn you away, "work goin' on," so you have to take a different way.

And the same further up, your usual path to the surface is blocked so you have to go the other way yet again, the way you haven't gone in, maybe, years, following the crowd up into the pewter light of sunset across the street from where you normally walk, patterns interrupted.

Slip on your sunglasses and look at the world while you wait for the light to change, the traffic flowing by on Flatbush Avenue, six lanes wide, the cracks in the asphalt, trees in their last green of the summer, the shabby buildings lit up like the Parthenon in the fading day, buttery gold and grey.

Notice the differences as they come to you, notice before you slip back into the everyday, notice, notice and rejoice.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Evening Commute - Four (Fractured Ambient)

42nd Street Station: gilded capitalist bronze, indirect lighting white, terra cotta red, institutional gray, corrosion black

Number 5 Subway Train: black, white, speckled slate, brushed aluminum, cold marine blue, fluorescent white, electric blue spark shifting through the window from a passing train in the tunnel

14th Street Station: mottled grey, stepped on chewing gum black, bathroom tile white, industrial swamp green, scratch graffiti wooden brown, edge-of-platform safety yellow, omnipotent rust, sludged oil slick black, smoker's teeth taupe

Q Subway Train: also black, also white, also speckled slate, also brushed aluminum, also cold marine blue, also fluorescent white, and the no-color of an overcast New York City day going over the bridge, leeching the palate away.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Evening Commute - Three (Stream)

Have to pee swipe card buy gum two dollars have to buy cat food woman in tight shirt buttoned far too low chubby guy in in boxing t-shirt boring same old usual N Q & R train fruity voiced get off excuse me

"Due to an ongoing rail condition" something about my train woman slips through the throng the edge of the platform skillful only barely bumps my bag

guy reading his phone black t-shirt middle aged presenting younger jeans jacket standing in my spot canvas shoulder bag blue headphones the color and texture of a sex toy matte silicone reading a magazine crowd in sideeye from the woman next to me back to my phone

have to pee rolling bridge dark and light and dark and light and back underground into darkness and darkness and up the stairs out into overcast gray day light

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Evening Commute - Two (Disappearer)

She stands, back to the train door in a Lemony Snicket t-shirt and a black hoodie. I can see her from the corner of my eye, checking out my book. When she sees me notice her t-shirt, though, she quickly zips up the hoodie and shoves her headphones deep into her ears, which is when I notice the boyish features and clothes, the stubble on her upper lip, the adams apple and large knuckles, the poorly applied, then removed, nail polish (black, like the t-shirt and hoodie) the long hair covering the lightly receding hairline. 

I look back down to my book, and after the next stop, she's gone.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Evening Commute - One

"I know most people don't care about veterans," says the beggar making his way down the aisle of the train, but then his voice vanishes as the subway doors open and the noisy platform pours in.

Woman on the platform with the black, terribly high, patent leather heels is facing away as I walk by, her long blonde hair hiding her face, and when I look away, another woman further down the platform is watching me watch her, and gives me a look to let me know she thinks I might be a pervert.

A man sitting on a wooden bench is eating chicken and cabbage and rice from a thin styrofoam container, so that everyone in a ten foot radius breathes in the warm funk of take-out.

Short woman, heavy-set, short-haired with a pock-marked face and glasses, shoves her way onto the train before the passengers have gotten off, and I feel only the smallest thrill of pleasure when somebody shoulder-checks her on their way out.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dolly Zoom

We swing around the corner at 6th Avenue going south, and all of a sudden the entire day does this Sam Raimi focus thing, where the close things come closer and the far things move farther away. It's very dramatic, what with sun dappled sidewalk and the people walking holding hands and the green leaves rippling in the cool breeze that already has a hint of fall in it despite the heat.

"Is it just me," I say to Katie, "or is today particularly beautiful?"

"Yeah," she says, squeezing my hand, "it's nice."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"We Haven't Had that Spirit Here Since 1969"

"Next stop: Franklin Avenue," the conductor says over the speaker. Everyone in the car looks up in amused confusion, since this stop, the one we're at, is Franklin.

"Stupid guy doesn't even know where we're going," the woman across the aisle says to no one in particular as she shakes her head in mock disbelief.

But for a second I wonder if he really does know, that maybe we've been transported into some kind of hell where we simply close the train doors and rattle through the noisy darkness between stations, only to emerge into the light at the same station again, unable to leave, and back into the darkness, and so on, and on, trapped between stations, for eternity.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

So Close, Yet So Far

"No," I say to the delivery guy. We're both on the phone, and I can see him facing the opposite direction about half a block away and across the street.

"I can see... no, go left, no your left, wait... just, just turn around. I'm waving at you, look!"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ice Cream Sutra

I only start listening when the two kids (siblings, to look at them, the instigator maybe nine, his minion maybe seven or so) start chanting, "Meditating, meditating, meditating, meditating...."

"Okay, that's kind of annoying," says the adult with them in an Australian accent (tattoos, a guitar in a soft case, grizzled and tanned, young enough to maybe qualify as "hot dad," with the whole salt and pepper hair thing happening).  "Let's pretend we really want ice cream!"

"Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream...," they begin to chant, the monotony undercut a bit by the giggles they keep having to suppress.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In the Board Room

Despite my best efforts to concentrate on what everyone is saying, my eyelids insist on slamming shut every couple minutes or so, and I find whole chunks of conversation vanishing entirely.

The leader of the meeting says, "I'm always thinking about what's best for the company, so sometimes I don't know if I should make nice with these people, or tell 'em what I really think of them."

"You're pretty cynical today," one of the directors chimes in, laughing.

"I prefer to think of it as realistic," the leader's associate responds, with a terrible, wide, earnest grin.

Monday, September 22, 2014

All You Had To Do Was Ask

"Yeah, you're just going to have to go back," says the more-executive-than-me assistant. "Or at least give them a call to let them know that we left something at the space, and that you're going to come get it tomorrow."

I take a second and think it through, walking through my memories step by step, until I remember where the box she's looking for is: it's here at our office, and not there at all.

When I present it to her, she still seems to act as if I somehow had been hiding it from her all along, even though I just found out she was even looking for it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Burden of Our Early Work

He presses play on the famous rockstar's very early demo and watches me expectantly. Having made a few demos myself in the eighties, the sound is familiar: the tinny guitar tones, the compression and distortion, the not-quite-there rhymes and melodies.

My internal wince of recognition must have crept into my expression, because he says, "You're one of the only people to ever hear this. I mean, when I first heard it, I cried."

"I'm sorry I'm not reacting appropriately," I say.

Starting Over

"Dude, Jim and Kaylin date, and they go to different high schools," he says, dribbling the basketball as the four of them cross the street. They're all tall and good looking and wearing long shorts.

"I don't know," the saddest looking of the quartet, says, shaking his head, "I was thinking I was gonna start over when I got to high school."

"God, listen, I'm trying to help you here!" the first guy says, slapping the ball in frustration.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Drawing Attention

"Oooh, I like your bow tie," the cashier says after taking my order.

The thing about wearing something unusual, be it more colorful than the normal palate, or a notable item, say a bow tie, or a pocket square, or a nice hat, is that it calls to attention the nature of clothing. We're all wearing a costume, in some way, though that costume may be near enough to everyone else's to not draw attention.

"I have a date tonight," I reply, "with my wife."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cab Thoughts

New York loves gloss and the grandeur of pop music that resonates in the space that opens up when you've emptied yourself in the pursuit of some lofty goal and find that emptiness is all you've achieved.

Lights go by the window of your cab home, the reaches of the unimaginably wealthy high above you in their eyries, attending their fabulous parties, coke so pure it doesn't even burn. All the songs on the radio sing of giving in: "I can't resist it no more," the digitized voices of desire wail, and you will long for the release of failure.

You will never have what you need, because when you get it, you will need another thing, further on, and you will sit in the cab after the show, and rejoice in the hollow ache of your desire, and so (somehow, hopefully) transcend it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Aliquet Fuge

The cat sits by her dish, eyes wide and waifish, while I open the fridge to get her can of food. The bananas on the top shelf remind me.

"The bananas are in the fridge," I say to Katie as I close the door, "because time flies like an arrow."

"I appreciate," she says slowly, "your restraint."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Night of Random Encounters

After dinner with Katie's father, we coincidentally run into an old salesman friend of his in the hotel bar lobby, a real Bill Brasky kind of guy.

"I knew this guy," he says, an arm around Katie's father, "when I was, what, twenty-six? Practically grew up with him."

On the way home, I see my friend Kevin, whom I've known since high school, waiting on the Q Train platform at Union Square.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Signs of Age

Charmaine snips away at my hair, combing, gathering, clipping the unruly ends. I can see, in the mirror, the coarse, shorter, curly white hairs on my head sticking out at odd angles from the wet mass of the sleeker dark ones. Another sign of age.

"You can buy a house," Charmaine continues, still cutting, "if you're willing to move out of the neighborhood."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Teddy's "Rescue"

The dog that we thought was abandoned in front of the Food Co-op was only temporarily forgotten, and he has a family after all, and a name: "Teddy."

"We've got a newborn, and we're both operating on, like, zero sleep, so...," Teddy's owner says as he picks him up from our apartment where he spent the afternoon. The man's wearing a polo shirt that's got Freddy Kruger's green and red stripes, and the bags under his eyes reinforce his words.

"Well, my birthday's already passed, but on my next birthday," the little boy with Teddy's owner says, "on my next birthday, can you please come and I'll share my cupcakes with you?"

Friday, September 12, 2014

It Was Totally Different

"I think I experienced your four-a-day," Katie says, standing in the kitchen. She is rinsing out a small plastic spray-bottle, overfilling it under the tap until the soapy water in it runs clear.

"I came out of the liquor store," she begins, "and there was this woman in front of me."

 "Oh and she...," I interrupt, and then immediately stop myself, because I'm thinking of something that happened to me, and I need to listen to what she's saying here, in this moment, which might be totally different.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Not a Good Fit

"Well, if you really wanted me to direct it, then it would have to be my way," I say to the woman who usually just orders me around at my job. She's asking me to help direct a choir of my co-workers (which I used to do at another job) at the last minute before a company event next Thursday.

"I would have them do one song, not parts of three different ones," I continue, "and everybody would at least be holding a lyric sheet, and there would be NO solos."

"Don't forget the rap at the end," she says, smiling as if this is the best idea she's ever heard.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Slipped My Mind

"Ship without a rudder's like a ship without a rudder's like a ship without a rudder...," I sing, clicking away at the spreadsheet I'm creating. 

"Really, dude? With the singing?" my co-worker finally begs, looking over.

I hunch slightly in my chair, chastised.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

They Ran Out of "I Voted" Stickers

The school gym echoes emptily as I sign my name beneath the facsimile of my signature in the voter registration book and take my ballot from the woman staffing the table. Not a single other name on my page is similarly undersigned.

"Not a lot of action today, huh?" I ask.

"Oh, we had a lot earlier, I heard," she replies.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blue Flavored

She fishes in the bowl for a piece of the salt-water taffy I brought back from the beach.

"What flavor do you think blue is?" she asks, unwrapping the paper encasing it.

"It's blue flavored," I say as she pops it in her mouth and walks away without responding.

"Blue flavored!" I call after her.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

To My Shame

"What did you do to my husband?" Katie asks her brother.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he was acting weird all night, and he didn't want to get a Salty Dog t-shirt with the rest of us," she says. "And then I found out that he had shots with you at the Mellow Mushroom, and you know he can't handle stuff like that, so when you asked him to hang out he just panicked!"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

9/5/14 - Sand in my Shoes

Alligator sighting in a water hazard by a golf course as we ride our bikes to the beach, his sullen eyes just above the surface of the water watching nothing and everything.

The wet, rainy morning (drenched pine needles releasing resinous scent into the air, bubbles forming on the lagoon behind our house from the enormous drops) gave way to blue sky, a final gift from the island. We swam and played in the surf, trying to soak in as much sun and memories as possible to get us through the coming New York City winter.

We rode our bikes home through a tunnel formed by the branches of live oaks draped with spanish moss, summer further behind us with every push of the pedals.

9/4/14 - There and Back

Early morning low tide, the sand wide, on the shore a couple of beachcombers, dog walkers, bike riders, nobody in the water but me. I pull my goggles on, push my head beneath the water, and start to swim with the powerful current towards the spit of land about three hundred yards down the beach.

Visibility is nil, and my imagination conjures nightmares from what I can't see while my heart rate rises, mind chanting with each stroke - I am afraid, I am afraid, I am afraid.

When I get back to my clothes they are covered in ants.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Packs Come in All Sizes

The dog, concentrating, joyous, grabs the ball floating on the water and swims furiously back towards shore with it in her mouth, her brown head poking out of the swells. 

Katie, watching with me on the beach, tells me the story she saw on TV about the dog that worked on the dolphin-watching boat that had its own pod of dolphins it would swim with.

"Dogs love packs," I say, as the dog bounds through the shore break to her master, wet fur bedraggled, grinning around a mouthful of ball, tail wagging, as happy as she's ever/always been.

"Even it's only a pack of two," Katie agrees.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Day's Work

First real day of vacation, all the other sinners back at work and I sit here on the sand and listen to the crashing waves rush-shush and thumble. I feel like I'm playing hooky, getting away with something, putting off the price to pay for when they take a moment from the day-to-day to deal with a minor functionary like me who's been derelict in the duties he never wanted to do in the first place.

Katie's toes are covered in sand. She wiggles them idly, then pulls them out of the sun.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Waving Not Drowning

Waves of heat alternate with a cool ocean breeze. Katie bobs on the surf, the crash of the waves somehow making her seem even further away.

She looks so very small and lonely, just her head visible above the breakers, a huge grey-green sea behind her, endless blue sky above. She lifts a pale arm from the water and waves to me, and I wave back from the shore to make sure she sees me.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

They Were Here First

Our first night in a new place, and I have my usual trouble sleeping. While trying to walk it off I look out the back window to see, walking on the back porch, a large possum, sauntering along as if he owned it.

He has the air of a janitor, doing his job, no longer having to think about it, maybe a little bored: "Yeah, I got this."

He strolls past the window, back hunched, thin, rat-like tail relaxed and swinging, fur like ash cotton candy, without a glance in my direction, and makes his way around the corner, out of the pool of light, and out of sight.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Usual Epiphany

The drive down to Hilton Head from Charlotte is about three and a half hours, most of it through South Carolina. We listen to 70's music on the radio, and I sing along while Katie sleeps. I stare out the window at the pines that line the highway as they stream by, watching their high branches twisting toward the sun.

The thought strikes me, hard, that I will never see these trees in this particular moment, this blue sky, this sunshine, and sadness washes over me, joyful sadness, because I know that time is passing, and because I know that I know.

Travel Imprinting

The plane touches down, most of us bored within the miracle that is modern jet travel, and I look out the window at the Charlotte airport at dusk.

Beside the jetways, several barely decipherable machines lurk in the gathering darkness, their inert bulks sulking with nothing to do.

For a moment, I flash that they are animals of some kind, grazing in the grassland of North Carolina, or camels maybe, and for a moment, I'm back on the plane coming in to Marrakech.

Years of flying back and forth to Arizona come back to me, too, and I say to Katie, "Whenever I fly, I'm used to landing in the desert."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Invisible Days

Some days I wake up a little depressed, a little anxious, maybe, for no readily discernible reason. Flesh feels a little less dense and I can't seem to find my way into reality as quickly as I usually do.

A woman nearly runs me down on the train platform, scratching my arm with her nails as I try to get out of her way.

A bird that has somehow made its way down into the tunnels beneath Union Square flies straight at my head, but no one else seems to notice as I duck to get out of the way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Less Weird than it Sounds

He's one of the "characters" of the neighborhood: average height, with the effeminate gait and chubby build of Truman Capote, a large head and small features, tiny round glasses perched on his bulbous little nose, and an unnerving, almost simian grin. Even though he's constantly singing or talking to himself in a creepy, operatic, Mickey Mouse voice, he's harmless, as far as I know.

It's near closing time in the grocery store, but the cat needs food so I'm here, scanning can after can at the automatic checkout, the computerized female voice announcing the price, "Sixty, cents, sixty, cents, sixty, cents...."

He stands, just out of sight, over by the frozen food, echoing the computer in his, strange, high-pitched voice, "Sixty, cents, sixty, cents, don't, stop, don't stop," and then giggling.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Deja Vu Times Two

The yellow tomato is ripe, almost overripe, despite (or perhaps because of) it's having been in the fridge for over a week, and it stands out against the white cutting board like a juicy miniature sun.

The knife I pick up to cut it, a big kitchen knife with the standard triangular blade, just rests on it, and even my sawing motion only puts a dent in the skin without actually biting into it.

I pick a smaller blade, a paring knife with a wicked point, and it immediately slices into the meat of the tomato, and suddenly I'm overwhelmed with this sense of having been here before, listening to Katie speak.

I interrupt her to tell her about my feeling, and she says what I always say, which is, "That means you're on the right path."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beggars of Park Slope

The guy with the eye patch is back at the top of the subway stairs, garrulous as ever, flirting with the ladies and chatting with the kids, punctuating each exchange with his signature phrase: "Can you please help me out."

But this new one that I see wandering up and down my block, skinny and mean looking, she doesn't seem nearly as friendly or engaged. She's got a suspicious squint and leathered skin, and she asks me something that turns out to be just her hitting me up for a dollar.

"No thank you," I say, putting my headphones back in and continuing on my way.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Carpet Meta

"Jules seemed really eager to be included in my Four Each Day," I say to Katie as we unroll the striped carpet we picked up from our friends in Astoria.

The colors of the carpet, a subdued, almost avocado green and a couple of shades of light blue and brown, really tie the room together, as they say.

"Yeah," Katie agrees. "It was really sweet of him to say that."

A Good Day for Mushrooms

A grey, cloudy, almost fall-like day, the air cool and moist as I walk down Union Street toward the greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza, and there, at the base of one of the trees that dot the sidewalk, are two large healthy looking mushrooms, peeking out round and brown and cheerful between the roots.

But, upon closer examination, I see that they aren't even attached to the ground. They're actually just a couple of store-bought crimini mushrooms that someone has, apparently, tossed on the ground for some reason.

The next tree along has shelf mushrooms, perched fetchingly over some small black turds where somebody failed to clean up after their dog.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Relearning Object Permanence

My life tends toward routine: same trains, same paths, work, home, same thing for breakfast and lunch. So the signal on the subway platform at Union Square as I'm changing trains on the way home from work catches me by surprise. 

It's not a small thing, this signal, at least as tall as me, and it's chunky and made out of pitted, knobby metal that's been painted black so many times that the once sharp, machined edges of it have started to soften and round, with a bright red light shining on the top, and a currently dark light colored green on the bottom.

But it surprises me, because I get off the train at the same place everyday, and I don't remember it being there yesterday, and yet it's not entirely unfamiliar to me, like I've seen it recently, which makes me wonder if it's only there on certain days, like Brigadoon, or if it's only there when I notice it (both ideas being, of course, entirely insane).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Way "Cranky" Works

"Well, you said you were kind of cranky earlier," Katie says. "Are you still?"

"Wait, so I totally misread that? You're not irritated at me?"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Like Usual

One of the two kids slouching by the subway door chooses the moment when we're delayed in the tunnel to switch on the (presumably bluetooth) speaker in his backpack and play the shitty hip-hop he's been saving for just this occasion.

It's after work, everybody's tired, nobody wants to hear this crap, and I find myself shaking with rage at the rudeness of it. I want to step up, talk to them, "Forgot your headphones, huh?" I envision pulling out my own bluetooth speaker (I know exactly where it is on the shelf at home), cranking up some blast beats or, better yet, some Carly Rae Jepsen.

Instead, I just shake my head, plug in my headphones, give them a dirty look, like everybody else, silently seething at them until they get off at Atlantic Avenue and I continue my ride home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


As I get older (is there anything more boring than that phrase: "As I get older?" Wisdom is presumed to attend to the process, to be imparted to the reader, but it seems no more likely than those monkeys with their typewriters banging out Shakespeare: i.e., possible, but unlikely) I start to feel the passing days with greater urgency, and with that urgency, the sense that I have wasted something precious.

Today, I played "Card Wars," advancing into the top 10 of my bracket, cleaned the kitchen (only to promptly dirty it again), washed some dishes, ate dinner with my wife, drank a couple glasses of wine, read a not-insignificant portion of the internet, attended to a few tasks that needed doing at work, thought about music and writing, thought about how time is passing, thought about how little I've accomplished in this life, and felt bad about that. 

Earlier, on the walk from the train to my home, I watched a dog with three legs hop gamely down the sidewalk after his owner, a look of happiness on his little doggy face as he enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine, and I thought, "What does it all mean?"

Monday, August 18, 2014

4 People/4 Seasons

He walks with spine ramrod straight, his face composed, his tidy, slate grey suit immaculately tailored. 

She leans forward, her mouth pursed, steps quick and forceful in high heels, skirt flouncing with each step as if in a breeze.

He strolls, eyes at half mast, t-shirt and jeans, no socks, tan ankles peeking out from the cuffs, each step as if he'd no particular place to go and all day to get there.

She is moving steadily through the crowd, but nothing seems to touch her, her long dress flowing, her bearing regal, carrying some unseen season inside her: a sunset, a stillness that the city does not know. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014


"I'm home, and my friend's with me!" our roommate says. I'm wandering around the house in just my shorts, picking up before bed.

"Sorry, you caught me with my shirt off," I say, trying to be casual while I run to the bedroom to get something to cover up.

"Aw, you spend so much time looking in mirrors at your pecs, I'm sure you wanted them to catch you," Katie says later with a smile.

sketch 8/16

This is a sketchbook, in some ways. Still lifes and drawings from life, keeping the pencils sharp and the eye keen.

A little girl balances on the low stone wall that surrounds the church, walking her pink sandals toe-heel like a balance beam while her mother holds her outstretched hand and keeps the concern from her eyes.

We eat fried green tomatoes for dinner, watching a movie, while somewhere nearby, a saxophone wails in the streets, just like our own private noir movie.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quiet Kids

The kid with the bike and the safety-cone orange doo-rag gets on the train at our door, while his friends, including the kid on the skateboard, get on one door down the car. They weren't super talkative on the platform, which is good - usually kids in a group on a platform spend a lot of energy being loud, trying to impress each other, freak out the squares, and it can be a little obnoxious.

But these kids seem relatively quiet, until one of them, the kid with the bike, starts gesturing grandly, but in a focused way, to the kid with the skateboard, who gestures back, and it quickly becomes apparent that they're signing to each other. Soon the whole lot of them are signing, silently holding animated conversations the length of the car, making jokes and joshing around, just kids, while one of their number grins and dribbles a basketball on the floor of the train, the rubbery, slightly metallic sound of the ball bouncing loud in the otherwise quiet of the subway.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hoo Boy

I was standing in the kitchen, literally just standing, when it was like something in the small of my back decided to say, "Hello." 

Just off center on the right side, a squeeze like someone had their hand somehow inside that complexity of muscle, and had just found a set or strand of muscles to grip and pull. But gently.

I continued to stand, with what I imagine was a rather foolish look on my face, as the pain quickly increased, the grip of that invisible hand tightening, and then I said, "Hoo boy."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sic Semper Bullies

"No, I got that a lot actually," I say, after taking another sip of my bourbon. "In fact, there was actually graffiti on a bench at my elementary school when I was in sixth grade that said 'Scott Williams is a fag.'"

"I will murder them," Katie says.

"Eh, one of the worst bullies ended up managing a Village Inn in Tucson, last I saw him, plus he turned out to be gay himself," I say with a shrug.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dead Food

I clean out the drain, and there's pasta in the strainer, white elbow macaroni, flabby and quivering as grubs.

In the fridge, there's cottage cheese, milky white, rubbery curds suspended in a white plastic tub with a cheerful red cow grinning on the lid.

A can of peaches sat out on the counter last night, day-glo orange half-spheres floating in thick yellowish syrup.

I wash out the pot my roommate left in the sink, scrubbing it with hot water, tap the strainer into the garbage, and go get ready for bed.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Kids are Alright (with Adult Supervision)

"We don't see a lot of kids playing with each other, these days," I say as we walk past the playground. One child kicks a ball to his mother, another pelts after her father, chasing him across the asphalt, without interacting with each other at all

"Maybe they're doing it at another time," Katie says while a kid in a helmet bigger than her head makes lazy figure eights on her scooter around a group of older adults, all of whom watch, rapt. "Play dates, school, something."

Child Abuse

"If Hillary wins in 2016, then she and Bill will be the first presidents in U.S. history to have slept together," Katie says with a smirk.

"That we know of," I say, raising my index finger. "I mean, I'm pretty sure they slept together, after all, they did make Chelsea...."

"Watch?" Katie says, eyes wide in shock.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Made You Look

The way the sleeping kid in the Pooh-bear stroller is trussed in, the straps pushing his hips forward and wrapping over his shoulders, then fastening at the waist, he looks a little like a WWII pilot belted into his parachute. His father, young, tired, five-o'clock shadow well on its way toward midnight, reaches his gym-jacked arms up and holds the subway pole, while kicking his leg back to rest against the car wall, stretching his already tight jeans even closer to the breaking point.

Katie raises an eyebrow, says quietly, "Definite similarity between father and son packages."

"Oh," I say, low enough so only she can hear, "thanks for making me check out their junk." 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Office Party

The rooftop bar babbles with conversation, while the speakers push inoffensive pop through the cool evening air. My third plastic cup of wine hums pleasantly in my chest and turns the quickly coming sunset into a Maxfield Parrish while my boss's boss's boss holds forth.

"Nobody goes into this nursing home and comes out, right?" he continues. "But there he was, ninety-one, running numbers, and when we came to pick him up to get him out of there, he was in a pink suit with a white bowtie."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mind = Blown (Star Wars Edition)

"The problem with midi-chlorians...,"we're walking up quiet Brooklyn sidewalks at night, yellow light from the sodium lamps slanting through the leaves.

"Aside from the fact they're bullshit," I say.

"...yes, aside from that though, is that you can't have Darth Vader," he says.

"Half his body is gone, and if midi-chlorians are real, that means that half of his are gone, which means he has half the Force power," he finishes, clearly relishing the look of shock on my face.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

After the Gold Flush

The farthest stall in the bathroom is occupied, so I take the one closest to the door, take down my pants, and sit.

I'm a little worried about... the sounds that accompany the act of defecation, and there's a certain amount of anxiety that comes with having to urinate simultaneously ("Oh," I imagine the other guy saying, "you sit down to pee?"), but, as the saying goes, when you've gotta go... so I go.

My fears fade away, though, as I hear, coming from somewhere (where? the women's bathroom next door, the vents, where?) music, faint, but unmistakably "After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young.

There have been no sounds from the other stall, however, and maybe the music is distracting him from his business, because I hear him, whispering, "Jesus, shut the fuck up."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kickass Dreams in a Restless Night

Nathan Fillon (Captain Mal from "Firefly," if you remember) is a curmudgeonly, cynical, wise-cracking collector of magic articles for a ministry-of-magic sort of group, bringing in enchanted artifacts to a central office for safekeeping from the mundane world. Per protocol for his office (and in order to get paid) he has to prove his haul is magic, but on this particular day, he's brought in a bunch of little items (a pen knife, a penny, a brass cylinder that looks like a mezuzah), none of which seem to be reacting to the magic tests. 

But it turns out that no one's magic is working, as the ministry has been taken over by some kind of evil genius who has figured out a way to eliminate all magic (except his own, of course), and who threatens to make the change permanent, leaving himself as all-powerful dictator of the planet, with only Nathan Fillon having to stop him without using any magic.

Katie's alarm goes off and we lie awake in the grey half light of morning until she groans, "I didn't sleep at all last night."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Blast from the Past

The hippies are still on our front stoop when we return from the grocery store, but they quickly gather their stuff to get out of our way.

"So, what? You guys waiting for the bus?" I ask, taking a slightly chillier tone than when I first saw them going out. and the guy (dreaded, bearded, tie-dye, Lennon-glasses) nods as I step past him into our foyer.

"I love your red hair," the female of the pair calls to Katie, and the door slams to behind us.

And So On

It was almost as if the guy had been waiting for me to say something to him while we got dressed in the locker room, because as soon as I asked, he started chatting away.

"Yeah, I thought I was gonna swim in the little pool," he said, buttoning his shirt. "I did it once, but it was just too small, so I joined this one Y, that was close enough to my office? But the new pool is so much better."

A Heavy Pour

I took the last beer from my friend because he was holding two, and clearly looked like he was not relishing finishing either of them

That said, that one extra beer was a bridge too far. They have a heavy pour at this bar, and I think I was overserved.

After we got home, I stayed up, watching Queen concert videos on YouTube until the bed stopped spinning and I could fall asleep.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It Works if You Work It

I lay on the couch and carefully write in my notebook, like a child sentenced to copy down sentences he should memorize: "Life only means something if you mean it."

This tee-shirt platitude is the best I can muster at the moment, as a foul, black mood has descended upon me, despite the lovely sunshine streaming through the front window, and the mild breeze ruffling the curtains.

I'm waiting for Katie to come home so that we can work out. I'm dying to move, lift something, feel my heart beat, breathe heavy, just because the reality of the body under stress makes the existential angst seem foolish and far away.

A Face for Radio

The doughy, moon-faced avatar of every class-clown that ever made fun of me (rightly) for being an uptight know-it-all has his microphone shoved in my face.

"So, when I saw you outside I was sure that the button down, ("Chino-wearing!" Katie chimes in, bless her) skinny-tie wearing guy was NOT here to see Sharknado 2," he says.

When Al Roker comes on-screen, he asks, again with the mic, "Do you think Al Roker looks like a transvestite?"

"What, no!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More Jeff Gillooly'd

"Can we talk about the bloodletting?" she says, pointing to an inch-long scratch on her kneecap, right where the skin is thin and sensitive. "At one-forty-five in the morning it felt like I got shot."

The cat continues to lay on the bed, blank-eyed and half-asleep, no remorse while Katie leans over her.

"She totally Tonya Harding'd me," Katie says, ruffling the cat's fur.'

Straight from the Notebook

Subway platform like a Charles Ives song

Amazing Grace harmonica player ("WAR VET Playing 4 Peace and CHANGE" which war? looks too young...) 

shading into mellow jazz guitar stylings further down the platform from the fedora'd black man in the yellow suit

Almost in key almost in time

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Future in Sales

The hand crank ice cream maker looks straight-up '80s, with smoked grey plastic lid and rounded square corners, an internal metal sleeve that you throw in the freezer before hand cranking your small batch of home-made.

The short, sketchy guy running the stoop sale, mid-50's, maybe, thinning hair and a desperate mien, seeing my interest comes sidling up, "Yeah, it's, uh, I don't know how it works. A lady in my building gave it to me to sell, so, uh...."

Katie grabs me by the arm, drags me away, saying, "Pookie, I will buy you a new ice cream maker, if you want one."

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I squint at the other end of the pool and then, finally, unable to make it out, I ask the guy in the next lane, "I'm sorry, I can't see very well without my contacts - are those kick boards over there in the corner?"

Even so, my vision is good enough to see his moue of annoyance. "No, that's a pool cleaner," he says tersely.

"You know," he says after a few beats, obviously trying his best to be helpful despite himself, "you should get those prescription goggles on Amazon or something."


The city fans out beneath us, buildings unfolding upwards as we lift out of the canyons of streets and sail across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn.

"I love this city," I sigh contentedly. "The suburbs just seem so... unreal."

"Just because they're fake doesn't mean they're not real," Katie says, gazing out the subway window at the bicyclists zooming by on the bridge bike path.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Learning to Live

No one told me, when I was growing up, that there was no real escaping this world. 

The things that seem to offer escape - art, drugs, love, sex, god - all bring us back to earth, one way or another. They promise escape and then, after you've been working at them for a while, you realize that you're here, right here, in the same warm body that you've always been in, on the same ground that refuses to give you up, working with the only tools you have on something that absolutely doesn't do what you hope it will, that is, free you from the world, no matter how many times you play that song, smoke that bowl, love or fuck that person, pray to that altar....

And then you start to understand that the work was the only time when you ever felt free, and you begin again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Got Off at the Same Stop, Is All

"Hey," I say, seeing her coming up the stairs from the other side of the subway platform. "You were at the class today, right?"

She smiles, a little awkwardly, says, "Yeah, I was!"

"Yeah, home sweet home, so... see you around," I say cheerfully, walking away, not wanting her to think I'm stalking her or something.

Enneagram Type 9

"I'm not upset with you," she explains as we're turning off the lights to go to bed. "I'm just trying to hate my mornings less, and it's getting late."

I still feel vaguely responsible, though. Sometimes, in the name of having some "alone time," I space out, and crucial hours disappear that should have been spent, say, getting ready for bed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Power Nut Bar

My boss is talking, but I'm still thinking about what I read on the website: "Please note that the Foundation Center-New York is a nut-free environment."

Like, I can't bring a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich for lunch? The part of me that's a total asshole thinks about the weakling that is so desperately allergic to creation that even just a nut, a single nut, even the dust from the nut, would kill him dead, and suddenly I'm standing over him, gloating in my evil, watching him choke (would I be able to actually watch him, see him turn blue, watch his tongue fill his mouth?), murdering someone with a handful of nuts.

My boss continues to talk while I note on a post-it: "Commit murder with peanut."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Love Anyways

The child wearing the helmet has interposed himself into yet another family's game of soccer to which he wasn't invited, and his long-suffering father is finally intervening.

"Billy," he calls, but the boy shakes his head, non-verbally defiant. The other family looks awkwardly anywhere else and moves their game away as Billy's father sighs, gets up, and Billy looks upset, poised to run, unable to understand why this is an issue.

"So, do we have some kind of... plan, if our kid is special needs?" she asks as we leave the park.

Typical Night

This game I've been playing, it's basically a "Magic: The Gathering" kind of thing with an "Adventure Time" theme thrown over the top, but for the iPhone.

If you don't know what that last sentence means, congratulations, you aren't a man in his early 40's who does.

On the other hand, as a man in his early 40's who has a fairly good handle on strategy for turn-based fantasy-animation-themed card games, I am killing it in the current tournament.

Katie sits next to me on the couch playing "The Sims" as the theme from "True Detective" wails it's apocalyptic sorrow from speakers of our TV, while outside, the sounds of a Brooklyn night drift through the screened open window - laughing voices, sirens, a garbage truck, an airplane far overhead going away or coming home.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tone Deaf

"So, have you been on vacation this year?" the server, wife, perhaps, to the owner of the Mexican restaurant, asks. Her homely, pleasant face is open, listening - she's known us for years, indeed, she hardly ever leaves the restaurant, it seems.

"Not in a while," I say, unthinking. "A few months."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Have the Touch, Redux

"I see these people, everyday," she says. "I know how they're feeling on a given day, where they like to stand, and I touch them, more than I touch people I know well - even people I live with."

We walk down 7th Avenue towards sundown, laden down with grocery bags full of tonight's dinner, crackers and cheese, seltzer, lemon juice to make lemonade, and I don't answer for a while, to give this thought of hers the consideration I believe it's due.

I don't see anyone that often, I think, and I wonder what the variable might be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That Old Chestnut

The day, busy as it is, with work and workings, with all the talk and moving about, with all the projects done and yet undone, still feels wasted.

"There's only two hours a day I don't fucking hate," she says, and I know exactly what she means. I put up the wine bottle, and rinse out the glasses, start the dish washer, brush my teeth, take out the slivers of plastic I use to see, all the daily maintenance with which I keep this body knit together.

I read my book about mindsets, trying to tame my straycat mind into the habits that make for a good life, a happy life, and I wonder at all this effort, when I spend so much time working, working, working, and then I think, ah shit, this old feeling again?