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