Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Public Service

Cello player on the subway platform, head down, long hair falling across his face as he sways, eyes closed, draws his bow deep and slow across the strings. He taps the pedals on his loop sampler that stores his ostinato drones and arpeggios over which he plays plangent, longing melodies, and the music subtly changes, growing agitated and intense as the train screeches into the station.

I give him a dollar to encourage his work, and I think, he has given me something, allowed me to give myself something: a connection to my soul. By giving a dollar, even just a dollar, nothing to me, but by giving, I acknowledge that I am in touch with a heart that is not dead, and he has created the space for that, to be here and know that something inside me feels, is alive, hears the tune and still remembers how to dance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Work/Life Balance

I think, as I'm standing on the platform waiting for the train to go home from work, "Oh, I should write down my thoughts from that last meeting before I forget."

But all I've got is my new, personal notebook, full of silent pages waiting for words.

I feel a clenching in my gut. No, that notebook is for me.

Monday, April 28, 2014

It Was Britta from "Community"

I come out to the reception area a little apprehensive, as the receptionist wouldn't say why the security guard from our building would want to see me, except to say it was "personal" (this followed by a giggle that, under the circumstances, managed to sound sinister rather than girlish and silly as she probably intended).

He's out there in the vestibule by the elevators waiting for me, and when he sees the concern on my face, he rolls his eyes and shakes a mocking fist at the receptionist. "Ah, I hate her," he growls, laughing.

"No, listen though, who is this?" he says, handing me his phone where there's a picture of him with his arm around some very attractive blonde woman who's obviously some kind of celebrity or other, but with me still imagining some dire "personal" matter (a debt collector chasing me after all these years? some law enforcement officer come to arrest me for something that happened years ago that I can't remember?) that he wouldn't want to embarrass me by revealing, it takes me a second to place her.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

And Done a Better Job, Too

"I'm sorry," I tell her. "I didn't know there was more than one entrance to the Gardens."

Katie is clearly struggling to control her temper, and I'm worrying I've spoiled this beautiful day with my inept lack of planning.

"It's just that, when it's something where other people have made arrangements," she says, "where I have no control, and there's chaos and ambiguity, I just think, 'Well, I could have arranged it.'"

A Visit to the Dentist

We sit with our downstairs neighbors on their deck as the clouds roll in, drinking proscecco and chatting. 

"It's kind of an emotional roller coaster," Katie says. "After they've been drilling, my legs don't work and my hands are numb and my core is cold, and I'm just this lump of cold sweat."

"I guess I kind of go into shock," she finishes, shrugging.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

On the Boundary Between Public and Private Life

As I become more entangled with the day to day threads of simply living, I find that there are limitations on what I can write about here. Admittedly, these are self-imposed limits, but still, finding that balance between what you can and can't write about on a daily diary sort of blog (such as this), can be difficult.

And I'm not flattering myself that a HUGE number of people are reading (although there are a few, and thank you, you know who you are) but let's say, for example, my boss reads this - that could be kind of weird, right?

So I'm asking Kevin about how I should go about asking for a raise, and he says, "Well, don't get fired."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Start Over

"I don't feel like you're listening to me," I say.

"Well, I don't feel like you're listening to me," she replies. 

I sigh. "Okay, what are you trying to do?"

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

They're Not There

Watching Godzilla must have got my blood up, or maybe it's the wind, whipping the trees and blowing cold past my cheeks, but I'm having arguments with friends to whom I no longer speak.

They say the things they said that broke us, or they ask what they did. Sometimes they ask for forgiveness (which I sometimes give, or not), or angrily defend themselves.

In my imagination, I am strong, and righteous, maybe a little sad, like a hero in some tragic novel, confident in my isolation, only vaguely aware of my own ridiculousness.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Flags and Bags

The flag on the top of the high school is in rags, the edge tattered and the main body of it torn in half along the stripe just beneath the blue field of stars. It flaps haphazardly in the wind, strips of it flying all different directions.

Just above my head, plastic bags flutter in the trees to the same wind, their never-to-decompose corpses buzzing like cicadas. I look back and forth between them and the top of the high school, watching.

I Don't Move Around Much

One of the two grey tabbies in the copy store gets up from his bed and, after knocking into me with his enormous square head, circles around where I am kneeling before clambering up into my lap, where he proceeds to settle in by nuzzling into the crook of my arm and purring with gusto.

I get Katie's attention to my new friend, and she nods knowingly. "You have a very calm energy for cats," she says. "Like that color copier."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Keep Your Vestment On

"And, as good as I have it, I can't wait to go to heaven," Father Murphy says in his Easter sermon. The siblings a couple pews in front of us keep poking each other and whispering, until their mother taps them on the shoulders and they settle down.

"Because, as good as it can be here, heaven is non-stop ecstasy, ecstasy, ecstasy!" Father continues, his voice rising with each repetition.

Perhaps I'm getting prudish, but a priest saying "ecstasy" in church in increasingly rapturous tones makes me a little uncomfortable.

The Truth is Out There

As we walk away, Katie attempts to distract me from my seething resentment of the "truthers" camped out around the World Trade Center construction site, saying, "Yes, and Santa Claus flew his sleigh directly into the second tower. As of today, Rudolph's whereabouts are still unknown."

"The Easter Bunny planted explosive eggs at the base of the towers, consistent with the pattern of controlled destination that you can see in the videos of the World Trade Center collapse," I add.

"We've just defamed, like, three of our favorite things," Katie says, with a look of shame.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


"Yes, those are cherry blossoms," our cab driver says, interjecting yet again.

I don't turn around from where I'm seated in the front, but I can imagine Katie struggling not to roll her eyes.

"No, dad," she says, continuing the conversation with her father to which the driver was not really invited. "You're thinking magnolia trees."

Friday, April 18, 2014


The heavy-set guy in the knitted cap and the vintage tshirt and his friend walk down Union Street, going past me in the opposite direction. The sun has gone down behind them, turning the street that shade of blue-grey twilight peculiar to New York.

"And so she says, 'Babe, why don't we go to Europe?'" the heavy-set guy says to his friend. "Shit, dude, I haven't even left the country with my wife!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Just Keep Doing What You're Doing

I skip ahead in the book I'm currently reading with a certain guilt. Its grim squalor and constant downbeat tone are getting to me, and I feel guilty because somehow I've got it into my head that this is the type of book I should want to read (and therefore write) and my inability to stick with it and see it through to the end is indicative of all sorts of other moral failings, primarily my inability to finish my novel.

I get off the train and and walk through the concrete cave of the station to the stairs leading up to the exit, toying with the idea of packing it all in entirely. There's a certain peace that might come from giving up on the ideas I've had since I was a child of being a "famous" writer (or, indeed, a famous anything), and just being some dude; but then I realize, that's kind of what I'm doing anyway, so why even go through the hassle of "giving up?"

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brush My Hair

Big girl, pretty, bored face, heavy-lidded eyes like she's always on the verge of sleep, hands her taller friend a tube of chapstick from her pocket.

Friend pulls off the cap like she's wringing the neck of a very small animal, twists the base, and applies it to her lips.

I envy their casual intimacy (sharing lip balm!) the way, as a kid, I used to envy the girls at recess, brushing one another's hair. I would steal glances as we ran by, yelling, playing Elves and Gnomes, or Battle of the Planets, some confusing bubble of longing filling up my chest as the brush turned blonde to burnished gold or brown to shining auburn falls with gentle, deliberate strokes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Wisdom of Children

There's a documentary on public television tonight about Muhammad Ali. When I was a child in the 1970's, he was a hero of mine, even though I hated violence and fighting.

I loved how clever he was, how brash and funny, and how confident he was, but I wonder if I would have liked him as much if I had been an adult back then. 

Everyone would like to think they would have been on the right side of history, against the Vietnam War, pro civil rights, but history allows us to make those choices ex post facto, and I'm not sure what I would have thought of this follower of Elijah Mohammed who tweaked the establishment, and stood up for himself with his mouth and his fists, if I had been just another white suburban liberal back in 1971, scared of something I didn't totally understand.

Briefing for a Descent into Hell

The moment the medicine starts working often passes unremarked: you're doing this or that, and all of a sudden you notice that you don't feel quite so shitty, without having noticed exactly when you became normal.

The moment that the medicine stops working, however, there is a sharp dividing line. One minute you are feeling almost yourself, maybe a little out of it, and the next the world goes all swimmy, and you're breathing half-underwater, a weight like a wet bag of sand on your chest, and the music in the IKEA where you were, just a moment ago, enjoying yourself and figuring out where those Stolmen Posts can fit in your bedroom, turns into hateful, mocking ditties sung by vicious little demons.

Katie must have seen me turn a little pale, says, "Okay, you're doing really well."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Joys of Adulthood

"Wait, it's not even eleven yet, right? So this is a rerun of Saturday Night Live."


"Thank God, the rest of the world is becoming as lame as I am."

In Vino, Veritas

The older guy with the intense eyes, jacked arms and the billy-goat chin beard is presumably the owner of the wine bar.

"Well, I guess I'm really kind of stupid when it comes to wine," I tell him, trying to use my usually effective technique of self-deprecation to get people to be friendly and teach me things.

He grins, a little maliciously, says, "And earlier you said you were easy when it came to wine. Do you usually volunteer so much information when you first meet people?"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Little "No" Is a Bigger "Yes"

I ride the train home across the Manhattan Bridge, the sun glittering warm over the surface of the water, a guilty little thrill riding with me in my stomach. Katie said she'd be home later tonight, and I left work practically on time for the first time in weeks, so I'll get a few extra moments to myself to just think and write and be alone.

The guilt comes from saying "no" to the chat she sent right as I was leaving: "There's no way you wanna come pick me up at my office and commute home with me and my wards do you?"

I hardly ever say "no" to her, but as the subway car gently rocks with our descent back underground, and I dream of my notebook and pen, my couch and cat, I think, maybe it's healthier to say a little "no" every once in a while, than to have the "no"s build up, to where you say no just because you didn't say it before, and the weight of all the unsaid "no"s has made you heavy and sad.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Speculations on a Past Life (With Tuna)

There's still a little wet food left on the cat's plate from dinner ("With Tuna" reads the can, slightly sinister in its vagueness), and I don't just want to throw it away before I feed her her evening meal, but I've discovered a trick.

I tap the plate with my finger so it rings slightly, and she comes running into the kitchen, and circles her plate warily. Then I pet her while she eats, and for whatever reason, this seems to calm her and make her feel secure so that she can settle in and finish her meal.

I think about the life she must have known before we adopted her, flashing in my mind on a kitchen somewhere else in New York, an old lady, her strong, thin, wrinkled hands petting the cat as she ate, as I do now, and I imagine this memory soothes our cat when she is unsettled, and forgets to finish her food.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ex Marks the Spot

She looks different, of course - we both do: both of us a little fleshier, a few more gray hairs. 

Finally, though, it's time to go, she's got somewhere to be, I've got dinner waiting at home, and she says, "Well, you live in my neighborhood...."

"Do I really live in your neighborhood, though?" I say, smiling.

She winces, smiles, says, "You really haven't changed, have you?"

Monday, April 7, 2014


The schlubby looking guy in the white button down and black velvet yarmulke takes a highlighter to his book, painting slabs of pure text fluorescent yellow. It's a beautiful, red leather bound book, thick gold-edged pages with glossy black Hebrew letters, and here's this guy, just highlighting away like it's some kind of high school American History textbook.

I don't like writing in books anyway, but something about this guy treating his book like it's just a bunch of words on paper really bugs me, and I'm not sure why.

The tall, elegantly dressed women sitting next to him chatting in (what sounds to me like) Catalan ignore him, and he them, as he continues to graffiti meaning into his book, marking his territory of thought in pee yellow highlights, annotating his book into just another thing, like a yarmulke's just some kind of hat, just another thing to put on your head.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Watching the Trailers of British Films

"I think she looks like that one girl, the one from About Time."

"Rachel McAdams? You're drunk."

"Oh, how nice for me."

Not Quite

An uncertain spring day, or rather, a typical spring day, indecisive with warm, golden, buttery sunshine chased by the shadows of low scudding clouds on a chilling wind. The newly arisen season still stares blearily at its alarm clock and contemplates hitting the snooze for another week or two.

The gentleman at the compost drop off seems a little disgusted at my cheerful greeting of, "Happy spring!" as cold gusts bluster across the park.

"Still seems like winter to me," he answers, gritting his teeth in what looks like an attempt at a grin-and-bear-it smile.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Giant Pustulant Anal Sore

"I think... no, I'm certain," she announces, laying on the couch as we survey the detritus of our dinner and contemplate adjourning to bed, "that I saw the same rat two days in a row."

"And how do you know that?" I ask, reclining on the floor at her feet, lazy and happy and bored.

She winces. "You do not want to know."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Can't Stop. Won't Stop.

Work's been beating me up for the past week, after a co-worker left me holding the bag on a massive project. I enjoy feeling like my life has meaning, a purpose, but it takes a lot out of a guy, you know?

So my creative juices have been at, shall we say, a low ebb, and I keep having the same thought: "Maybe writing just isn't my thing."

And my next thought is always, "I should really write that down."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Never too Young to Start?

The side street down which I walk in my Brooklyn neighborhood is quiet, the brownstones on either side still dark with twilight. Later, their windows will be warm and softly lit.

Now, however, it's so quiet that I can hear the blood singing in my ears, and the footsteps of someone, from the sound of it, a drunk, running, catching up with me.

A young boy, twelve or thirteen from the looks of it, flops by, his shoes slapping the slate sidewalk in haphazard rhythm, looking far too young to be "jogging" but, from his t-shirt and sweatpants, appearing to be doing just that, however inexpertly.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Can't Fight What Isn't There

"Dumbass white motherfucker," the man behind and to my left on the train says, loud and directed enough for me to know he's talking to me.

I'm not an idiot (his opinion on the matter notwithstanding), so I continue to resolutely not engage, shifting my stance and my grip on the pole just enough so that I've got him in my field of vision without actually looking at him or up from my book.

I consider my options: I know I haven't done anything in particular (we haven't had any other interaction up to this point, and his choice of words leads me to believe he may have gone on similar rants in the past), but I know that if I speak to him, or get defensive in any way, I will have already lost.

When the door opens up at the next stop I move unhurriedly down the train, to stand in front of another door, and magically, that seems to work.