Monday, February 29, 2016

Our Pasts Come For Us

"Richard Wright grew up incredibly poor," Katie says. "When he finally got published, he had money, and he could afford to eat better - vegetables and stuff."

"But he still died at age 52, because the damage was already done from his childhood. His death reached out across two socio-economic classes and a lifetime to kill him anyway."

Shout Out to My Dead Cat Honey - the Angriest Cat in the World

The dog is in one of her barking moods, where it almost seems like she can't help herself, and barks bubble out of her like harsh, abrasive hiccups.

Our friends who have stopped by to watch the Oscars are taking it all in stride, though. "I think you're just destined to have angry pets until the day you die," Kevin remarks.

"Or maybe," he continues, "you've pushed your anger so far down that your pets have no choice but to express it for you."

Sunday, February 28, 2016


The heavy-set blond guy and his friends walk by the booth where I'm selling Katie's work. "Disgusting," I hear him say.

"Did I hear you say disgusting?" I ask mildly.

They all get extremely uncomfortable as he says, "Well, it's just, I'm a Wiccan, so I really don't like the butterflies dying."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Objection: Leading the Witness

I see my friend and neighbor across the intersection, give her a smile, and cross the street with the light while she waits for me, both of us pulling off our headphones as I approach.

Without exchanging a word, she extends the headphones to me with a toothy grin and I slip them on to find Van Morrison's "Moondance" lilting along.

After I return them to her, we walk down the block together, and I ask her if this is her favorite Van Morrison album, but I almost instantly feel guilty for asking such a leading question: either she answers that it's the same album as I'm thinking, in which case we can agree and I've told her something about myself (it's all about me), or she says it's this album, and I insist that she listen to some other album, which again tells you something about myself.

But my wise friend is on to me, and she answers tactfully, "I think so?"

Friday, February 26, 2016

First Impressions

"Hey, thanks for taking care of the animals while we're out of town," I tell our neighbor while we're walking upstairs to introduce her to the menagerie. "Sorry the house is a wreck."

She takes in the devastation with equanimity, as I show her the cat food and the dog food and all the accoutrements that allow us to keep other species alive in our apartment.

The doge is thankfully quiet, and when she sees a woman with me, she runs out of the room, tail wagging, but as soon as she realizes it's not Katie, she retreats, barking over her shoulder at the intruder with a look of abject betrayal.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Alone Together

The guy next to me on the subway platform catches my eye by gesturing with his phone. "Hey, Two Dots," he says, smiling, and shows me we're playing the same game on our phones.

"Yeah, I stopped playing for a while because I got stuck on a level," I say, "but my wife showed me how to get past it and I haven't been able to stop since."

We share a few more friendly words, but, like a polite New Yorker, at the soonest opportunity I put my headphones back in and let him go back to his alone-in-public time, as I go back to mine.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The New Technique

The older woman at the self-checkout at the grocery is having a little bit of trouble with the concept. She puts the bananas on the scale, touches the screen, then examines the whole contraption skeptically as the machine waits impassively for her to do what she is supposed do next.

She shrugs in exasperation, clearly fed up, until a burly, bald guy in a store uniform steps up behind her and gently asks if he can be of assistance. Relief floods her face as he touches a button, and the machine stiffly informs her to please place her bananas, in the bag.

Monday, February 22, 2016

She Learned it From Me?

"You're gonna write about how your barks made the doge hear her bad sounds," Katie says, when I come up dry for what I'm writing here.

She's referring to the ultrasound anti-barking collar we got the doge since she's taken to barking at odd times of day (and unfortunately, night). Apparently my laugh, which I always considered to be charming and hearty, is actually at the exact perfect frequency to trigger the collar to emit a very loud (to the doge) but inaudible (to us human-folk) sound that is supposed to irritate her enough to train her not to bark.

"Actually, that's pretty good," I say, beginning to type.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Becoming Something Beautiful

After the older woman pays for the butterfly display that Katie made, she says, "Can I tell you why butterflies are so important to me?"

I finish wrapping  and give her my full attention. "Years ago, I was anorexic, and bulimic," she says, "and when I went into recovery, the butterfly symbolized me becoming myself."

"Thank you for telling me that," I say, handing her her bag, my eyes shining with tears.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Like This

"So, is there something in particular that worked or didn't work for you...?" I ask Katie at the conclusion of my reading her the latest revision of the story I'm currently working on

"You do this thing in almost every piece of your writing," she replies. "Where a character will ask some kind of question to somebody, and then that guy does this thing where he leans back and takes a drink or does this." She waves her hand airily, as if nothing in the world matters.

Willful Blindness

Despite the clause in the lease that clearly states "no pets," we've had a cat for years, so while we haven't been flaunting our recently acquired dog in our landlord's face, we haven't exactly kept her a very close secret, either.

So when the landlord and his handyman come up to check a leak in the radiator that threatens to cave in our downstairs neighbor's ceiling, I shove Coco, our very territorial shiba inu, in another room and pretend that her howls and barks of protest simply aren't happening.

Our landlord seems inclined to go along with the charade, since he seems to like us as tennentsd, but the handyman didn't get the memo, and keeps drawing attention to the dog as she loses her mind in the other room at the unfamiliar humans in her space.

"Is she a big dog?" he asks over her dry, coughing bark, while I pretend to stare at the ceiling and our landlord looks at something over to his left, with an expression that suggests someone mentioned having smelled a fart.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


My phone finally died, late last night. The plug had been wiggling around in the socket, and then it simply refused to charge.

I spent the morning trying to get an appointment at the Apple Store for repair, but in the process of searching for possible reasons why I was having this problem, I stumbled on a different solution.

After digging out the lint buried deep in the charging port on the phone with a nail, the screen lit up with the glorious charging icon, and I felt a relief something like the first dose of painkiller unknotting a tensed muscle you weren't even aware was making you walk crooked.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What's Good for Me

I get home, irritated again, but this time I'm ready. I'm not going to let it ruin my night.

I work out, doing pushups, sit ups, jumping jacks, until my muscles burn, and then I do more. 

When Katie gets home, I'm able to greet her with a tired, but unforced smile.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I'm still in my work clothes when Katie arrives home, which means I worked late, and that, plus staying up too late last night, has me irritated from the jump.

She offers to start dinner, but instead of asking her to let me do it, I call to her from the bedroom half-heartedly that I have a recipe I'd like to try, and she shrugs and gets out of my way.

The real issue is that I've worked all day doing stuff that other people want me to do, which is, I suppose, what most people through history have just called "being an adult."

I just want to do something for myself, exactly the way I want to do it. 

The Ravages of Time

Back when I first met Katie, when we were working together on a children's theater tour, I would routinely lose blood and get badly bruised setting up the steel and wood set we carried along with us. I would heal up pretty quickly, though, to the point where we both thought I might be Wolverine.

A couple of weeks ago, I sliced a chunk out of the knuckle of my middle finger, and it simply refuses to heal.

"Aw, are you losing your superpower?" Katie said sympathetically when I showed it to her.

Monday, February 15, 2016


"What were you going to say about that couple in front of us in the coat check line?" Katie asks as we walk to our train through the bitter cold of the Upper West Side.

"Oh, I was just going to say I never could understand why attractive girls ended up going out with skeevy guys," I say, measuring my long strides so she can keep up. "I mean, that guy was seriously rat-faced."

"Oh, I was thinking just the opposite," Katie said as she wrapped her coat tighter around her. "I thought he had potential, but she looked rode hard and put away wet."

Saturday, February 13, 2016


The wind is really picking up, swirling light snow around me and the dog as we take our morning walk. 

The dog sniffs around a tree checking the news like she does. From behind us, half a block away and on the other side of the intersection, an old man yells, "Curb your damn dog!"

I turn around, but nobody is looking at us, so I shrug and turn back to the dog, to find her squatting in the middle of the sidewalk, taking a dump.

Do You Like Piña Coladas?

The newest tube of shaving cream turns out to be "coconut mango" scented, and possibly for ladies? I figured it would be fine when I bought it, but the scent is pretty strong, it turns out.

I bring it into the bedroom for confirmation just as Katie is waking up, and shove it under her nose while she sits up in bed,.

"It smells like a free Jamaican vacation," she says, blinking blearily and squinting at the world.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


My grandfather's shearling jacket has lost every one of its buttons, and there is no way that I'm going through the next couple of days without my heaviest coat, so I run downstairs to take it across the street to the laundry to see if they can sew the buttons back on, and maybe clean it.

I run into my downstairs neighbor on my way out and he's coming in.  "I'm just getting this cleaned," I say for some reason, indicating the jacket. He smiles pleasantly, but it's clear he's wondering why I'm telling him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I push the pen up and down the page, sketching this woman's head so I don't have to die of boredom in this lecture. She's sitting in front of me, this woman, and the gentle waves of her short, respectable grey hair form perfect S's which I conscientiously draw.

The folds of her sweater, and the shadows that hide between the folds, are a different matter, but I get a pretty good facsimile down.

I tilt the drawing towards my co-worker, who is sitting next to me, and she gives it a glance and smiles dutifully.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Whatcha Thinking?

I'm walking back from the subway after work, the same route I always take, thinking about dinner. Katie made a lot of food for the Super Bowl, so I'm thinking maybe I can have a couple of fried eggs on the leftover pizza we've got.

Suddenly my thoughts stop, though I continue walking past the puddles of melting snow, and the podcast I'm playing continues to yammer in my ears. Is this what my life has become? I think to myself, without breaking stride.

Monday, February 8, 2016

You've Been Warned

"I got to tell Jonathan about the cat almost throwing up on your head this morning," Katie says.

"And I had to throw her off the bed, and the dog ate...," I start.

"NO - I ate hot dog salad for dinner and it is not sitting well," Katie says. "Also, do not Google 'hot dog salad."

Intrusive Thoughts

"I have to make a list, when I do my meditation, just sort of go over a list of things before I start that I think are going to break my concentration."

"I'm pretty sure," I add, "that 'puppy-monkey-baby' is gonna be on the list tomorrow."

When I'm cleaning up after the Super Bowl had endedm I find myself chanting quietly to myself, "Puppymonkeybaby, puppymonkeybaby."

Katie stops me, "Don't you get that stuck in my head."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

She Knew

I've got it all planned out: if one of the guilt mongers hawking Amnesty International tries to stop me as I'm walking down the street, I'm going to point over their shoulder behind them with a look of horror and scream, "Jesus Christ, what the hell is that!?" Then, when they turn to look, I slip around the other side, and I'm home free.

My heart rate spikes as I walk into their sphere of attack, and the woman of the pair (they always hunt in pairs) locks eyes with me.

But all she says is, "Hi," and I pass without incident.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


I ask for a roll, toasted and buttered. With a practiced motion he slices one in half and tosses it onto the conveyor belt that constantly cycles bread, bagels, and rolls over the glowing red electric elements inside the hell of the toaster.

Once this is done, he takes a moment to look over his station, paying special attention to his cutting area, which is made up of two regular sized cutting boards fit together tightly to make one big chopping area. He notices a slight irregularity, invisible to me, and lifts up one of the boards to reveal a towel underneath, out of which he smooths an equally invisible wrinkle before laying the board back down on top of it and fitting the boards back together with an almost imperceptible seam.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Subway Slashings

He gets up from his seat unexpectedly, between stations as the train slowly trundles downtown, and sort of flails up the car to the pole where I'm standing. I do that half-unconscious pivot counter-cross that New Yorkers do when there's room to move in a subway, but he still manages to end up standing too close to me as he grabs the pole.

His energy is all spiky and too big for the contained space, but I try to focus on his hand (beautiful dark brown skin shading to pale on his palm) as a part of my brain wonders if his other hand might be feeling in his pocket for a razor.

The train rolls to a halt still in the darkness of the tunnel, and he sighs in exasperation, leans impatiently against the door, then thrashes down the car to yet another seat next to a woman, who shifts uncomfortably to give him room.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why Downtown?

I come down the stairs to go to work and the guy who begs in front of our door waggles his eyebrows at me significantly. When I turn to look at what he's indicating, I see a fairly nice electronic keyboard propped up against my stoop.

"All I need's a cable," he says, "maybe get one downtown."

"Yeah, downtown!" I enthuse.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


"The Super Bowl is this weekend?" I ask.

"Yes. I have told you that, several times."

"I'm sorry, I have trouble keeping that in my brain, sometimes."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mundane Mindfulness

If the water pressure is too high, the curved cups of the ice cube tray act like parabolas and shoot jets of water up and everywhere, splashing the counters and the floor.

Too low, though, and it just takes forever to fill the tray. There has to be some kind of balance.

I move the tray evenly through the cold water streaming steadily from the tap, holding it at an angle to fill each of the cups and letting them overflow into the next, all the while wondering why I'm paying such close attention to such a mundane task.