Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Lovely Old Things

"It's from 1927," I say, lifting a knob on the side to make the typebars on my grandpa's old, black typewriter stand up in a fan that looks like a crown. "I wrote my first short story on it when I was ten, and he wrote his thesis on it when he was in college."

"It's beautiful," my co-worker says, nodding appreciatively.

Later that night, Katie and I unpack some old railroad lanterns she bought on eBay, and we scan up and down their lovely, rusted flanks for serial numbers to see when and where in the last century they were made.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

No Hurry

The older couple sitting behind me in the waiting room got here after I did, but the office assistant just came back to tell them that the technicians were ready for them.

"You're going in," the man says to the woman as he pats her gently on the shoulder.

I saunter up to the front desk ("sauntering" because I'm in no hurry to go in there and get my thigh nuked) and ask the assistant, "So, they're running a little late?"

"So sorry, Mr. Williams, they're just finishing up now," he replies with an apologetic smile.

One Year Ago Today: What Year Is It?
Three Years Ago Today: A Nice Gesture

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sold Her Out

After her evening walk, I sit on the stoop with the doge, telling stories to myself. 

I mean literally: I'm telling a story I'm thinking about doing in front of an audience and trying to find the shape of the thing while the dog, in blissful incomprehension, watches my mouth move until, satisfied no food is going to come out of it, she goes back to sniffing the sidewalk.

I come upon a particularly good line, and I'm going over it and over it, trying different ways of saying it, different inflections, until I notice a woman coming up the sidewalk, and she's trying not to stare curiously at me as she walks by.

"And that's why you need to be a better dog," I say to cover, and the dog looks up at me in shocked disbelief.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Common Sense

"My love," says Katie as she yet again moves a chair I've left in the middle of the room, "why do you move the farthest chair in the dining room all the way into the family room for your meditation?"

"It's the one with the most padding," I say, "and the other ones hurt my leg."

"And why don't you switch it with the other chair so that it's closer?"

I stare at her for minute before answering, saying, "Listen, if you're gonna say stuff like that I'm leaving."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Before it's Cool (Cash)

We head out into the late summer afternoon, Katie and I, along streets already in shade from the low sinking sun, to pick up fresh vegetables for dinner.

At the light, behind us come three guys deep in conversation. "Any watch you know the name of isn't a rich man's watch, you know?" one of them says seriously.

They pass us, nodding importantly to themselves, but we're unable to hear the rest of their conversation over the sound of our eyes rolling so hard.

Friday, August 26, 2016


"Let us know if you have any questions before we get started," the radiation technician says as I come into the treatment suite.

"Yeah, how long you think before my radiation induced superpowers kick in?" I say. "I'm hoping for flight, but I'll settle for telepathy."

"Ooooh, that's a lot of responsibility," says the technician, "but it's usually about two weeks."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Radiation Vibe

While Matchbox 20 plays insipidly over the speakers, the room-sized machine revolves its enormous, heavy, blind head around my supine, immobilized form, and tomorrow I know it will beam the stuff of my childhood nightmares into me: the invisible, odorless, tasteless, unfelt corruptor of DNA that is radiation.

Afterwards, when the nurse tells me that it'll be the same tomorrow, I try to make a joke to chase away my nerves, saying, "Oh, so all I have to do is show up and look pretty."

"You don't even have to look pretty," she says, laughing.

"I can't help it," I say distractedly.

The Nightmare of Eternal Return

The train hurtles through the darkness underground, and I think about a video I saw earlier in the day which reminded me how some people believe that, after death, the energy that makes up our consciousness becomes part of other beings' consciousnesses in something that could be called reincarnation, and that there truly is no death.

I know this is meant to be comforting, but I find it horrifying. The thought of living over and over, waking up every time to find you have forgotten everything you learned in the previous lifetime, having to go through the suffering ignorance of childhood and the crushing awkwardness of adolescence, not to mention the chance that you might be reincarnated poor, or in a war zone, or subject to any number of the other bum hands that have been dealt throughout the world and history, fills me with dread.

As my throat closes up in terror of the eternal recurrence of consciousness in a world of suffering, the train climbs out of the darkness and up on to Manhattan Bridge to cross over the sparkling East River beneath a sky of azure sunshine, and a piece of me relaxes, thinking it might not be so bad after all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Still Friends

"If you knew about The Get Down and didn't tell me about it, I'm mad at you," I say to our roommate.

There's something that happens with a great piece of art where it gives you a boost, a swagger by association, the emotions buoying you up and putting some glitter and sparkle, some cool into even the most mundane actions, even if you know you're not really all that cool.

"You watched it again with us, though," I continue, "so we can still be friends."

"I just thought everybody knew about it!" she says, laughing.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Good to See You Again

The rock 'n' roll show in Williamsburg is exactly where it's supposed to be: in an industrial district far away from the apartment buildings and houses so they can really turn up, surrounded by shuttered mechanics and furniture manufacturing warehouses. The door isn't even marked, and I just hang around with the smokers out in front of the address until I see enough people going in to one of two doors covered in stickers to figure out where I should enter.

The crowd is exactly the way I remember them from when I went to shows like this - young, slightly awkward, happy just to be out on a Monday night, ready to rock, super horny, and probably the most attractive they will ever be.

My friend climbs on the stage with his band and suddenly I'm twenty years old again, whole, healthy, strong, but the ache of longing I used to walk around with like a gaping chest wound is completely absent, replaced by a gentle fondness for everything I see, without nostalgia, like I was never gone.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Eating Feelings

The food on the coffee table looks appropriately ransacked, while on TV the Olympics wind down into a confused heap with occasional music. We're just chatting about my upcoming radiation treatments, now, and I confess to having gotten freaked out a little thinking about the whole thing.

"Katie went to do something, and I was reading about the singer from the Tragically Hip's inoperable brain cancer that responded well to radiation, and I thought, 'Oh, I'm doing that, I should look up what it does,' and I realized that it kind of scared me a little," I say over strains of "The Girl From Ipanema."

"You need your person and snacks if you're going to do stuff like that," Katie says sternly.

The One-Year-Old's Birthday Party

"I just can't find the thing that encapsulates how great the day was, how great everyone was, how wonderful it was to see everybody," I say, staring at the keyboard.

Katie turns over and partly buries her face in the pillow. "It was the weather - how nice everything felt, and how nice everything tasted, how good the hugs were, and the babies splashing in the pool, and everything smelled good," she says, her voice muffled.

"The weather, pookie," she murmurs again.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


I found a book on a brownstone stoop - a book of humor essays from The New Yorker magazine, literally one of the most New York things ever - and took it home with me.

I carried it down the summer streets of Brooklyn, feeling very pleased with myself, and wondering how many times this particular book had changed hands: had the person who left it on the stoop for me to pick up, picked it up when she found it, years ago, from someone who had, years before that, picked it up from yet someone else's stoop, etc., going back to some ur-purchaser who grabbed it as a gift for a friend back when it first came out and gave it to his friend at a party with a card that was a little sentimental, but still kind of funny?

Later, I sat in the bathroom and read to Katie what I thought was a particularly clever essay by Woody Allen while she showered and periodically asked me to repeat myself over the noisy plashing of the falling water.

"Is that supposed to be funny?" she asks after yet another joke abjectly fails to land.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dad Humor

My parent's recent trip to Europe ended in Amsterdam with my mother falling and breaking her arm.

Today at work I got a text from my dad letting me know that mom was about to go in for surgery to install some plates and screws.

I call immediately, and get my dad on the line, who greets me with "Who's this?"

I stammer my answer, but he just laughs and says, "I'll put on the person you want to talk to."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


"When you're alone in church and suddenly it's like, 'Where did all these big dark shadows come from?' I remember when I was a girl that would happen," our downstairs neighbor says about a story her father wrote.

"I used to be so comfortable in church as a kid that I'd just find a place to curl up and go to sleep, because nothing bad could happen in a church," I reply.

"You obviously didn't grow up Catholic," Katie says, laughing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The race is over, and the U.S. runner is out of medal contention, so I try to pick back up the thread of conversation with Katie.

"So your company is changing what?" I say slowly.

Katie looks up from her phone. "You weren't listening, so I just stopped talking," she says.

Monday, August 15, 2016


After nearly being knocked over by her hug, I tell my friend at work that the plant she gave me kept me company while I was at home healing from surgery. She's given out many plants to co-workers.

"After he overwatered the last one," she says of an executive who works near me, "I gave him a new one he could water as much as he wanted. I told him if he could kill this one, he was a genius."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Misery Aficionado

"But the chemo," says the vendor next to us at the flea market where we sell Katie's sculptures on the weekends, "that must have been awful."

I appreciate her concern, but it almost seems like she's trying to elicit tales of pain and woe from me. 

"Yeah, it was awful," I say, "but it's over now."

"But the chemo," she says again.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

You Just Don't Understand!

A few days ago, in what was probably a very graceful, acrobatic leap from our bed to the dresser, the cat managed to bring a very large, heavy mirror crashing down on her. 

Cat's fine, mirror's fine, but she's a little beat up, and has some feelings on the subject. I don't exactly speak cat, but she retreated into our roommate's room and refuses to come out or interact with us except to demand to be fed on her usual schedule, as if we were somehow to blame for her injury.

"Is this what it's going to be like to live with a teenager?" I ask Katie, who nods sadly.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Getting Better

Though I'm pretty sure that I could get up the stairs by myself, albeit slowly, with all these packages, I'm still relieved when my landlord takes them from me to help get up to the apartment.

"You won't need to help me too much longer," I say, trying to save face.

"I wish I had a camera," he says. "I could take a picture everyday to show you how you're getting better."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fine Distinctions

The conversation over lunch turns, as it so often does, to one's choice of weapon during the zombie apocalypse (I was thinking a shotgun), and thence to the different types of shot available.

When I mention the way that a chained-shot shotgun shell rips through ballistic gel, Katie is less enthusiastic.

"I'm not against torture," Katie says. "I just think that if you're going to make somebody suffer, you should do it with your hands."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Missionary Man

This time, it's a van, bumping generic hip-hop out the windows to any and all in a two block radius.

I check in the cab to see what kind of person thinks we're all interested in his music, and notice the "I ❤️ Jesus" t-shirt he's draped over the passenger side headrest. Then I hear the blandly earnest lyrics, rapping about blood, salvation, and the usual calamity, as I'm sure he intended me to.

I wonder about the man in a van and his "mission," and I wonder if he feels right with God as he drives around, kicking out the Lord's jams.

Bigger Problems

The couple headed up toward the park strolls past the dog and me, and the woman they passed turns to look at them before stooping to the sidewalk.

"They just dropped it on the ground," she says to no one in particular, picking the italian ice lid the guy discarded.

When she looks to me for confirmation, I shrug and smile sympathetically. I know she expects a bigger reaction, but I'm worried the dog is going to poop again, and I just used my last bag.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ask First

"Somebody touched me without my permission on the train today," Katie says as she washes her hands. We're heating dinner after she's gotten home from work.

"Like, you didn't really have to go so slow as your hand 'accidentally' went across my breast," she elaborates sadly.

"Can I give you some positive touch?" I ask, stepping into the middle of the kitchen with my arms out.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Reminder

The three guys cross the street blasting their music, and the dog skitters nervously away, pulling on her leash. They smirk and strut and turn it up.

Then the garbage truck grinds by, engine roaring, compactor rattling, brakes squealing, the whole huge, cacophonous monstrosity drowning out any and all sound for a block, including the guys and their ridiculous music.

No matter how bad you think you are, New York will always be badder.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Olympic Household

"They're almost done!" I shout from my spot on the couch where I've been all morning eating chex mix and watching the road-race cycling event at the Olympics.

Katie pokes her head out of her studio. "They are?"

"Yeah, like, they were going down hill at fifty miles-an-hour, and three guys in the lead crashed," I say as she sits next to me to watch the finish.


After the party we climb into bed, and Katie lies down on her stomach with her arms beneath her head. I open my computer, go into the list I made this morning of all the stuff I had to do to prepare the house for guests, and begin checking off all the stuff I did.

I tell Katie, "I get to mark all these as complete."

"So satisfying," she murmurs into the pillow.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Weaponized Doge

Where we're sitting, on a gentle hill at the top of Long Meadow near the entrance to Prospect Park at Grand Army Plaza, is in shadow, but further south of us is still bathed in warm, golden light shining off the greenery of lawn and trees. Toddlers stumble like drunks over the grass, a dog runs pell mell after a ball and then refuses to give it up once he's captured it, and we sit in the shade and watch the shadows lengthen into dusk.

The summer heat has the dog shedding her undercoat, and we run our fingers through her fur, pulling out handfuls of fine gray down that floats away on the wind, hopefully to soften the nests of innumerable birds.

I get more and more enthusiastic as tufts and chunks of fur waft away in my hands, until Katie makes me stop, as the fur is starting to drift into a nearby soccer game and, I imagine, into the noses and mouths of a bunch of soccer moms.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Washed Clean

The previous customer has vacated the tiny space at the counter of the laundry across the street, and Kevin, the doge, and I are able to go in to pick up my shirts.

"You two are brothers?" Judy, who's worked there forever, asks.

"We've just hung out a long time," I say, at the same time that Kevin says, "It's the hair."

The man who just left is standing outside, engaging in what sounds like a very noisy prayer, which starts, "Oh, Lord, if you can keep my mind and heart and soul pure of my sexual sins...."

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Have a Bad Night

The balding man in glasses, rust-colored polo shirt and cargo shorts has a crowd gathered around him as he harangues the grocery store manager. As I walk away down the freezer aisle to pick up our ice cream, I hear him say excitedly, "I demand some compensation for my inconvenience."

Things have escalated considerably when I return with a half-gallon of cookies-and-cream: the manager has walked away, pursued by the angry man, who is jabbering away on his cell phone with all the privileged righteousness he can muster.

"Yes," he says, "the manager said that he would call the police if I didn't leave, so I'm calling first to tell you he is harassing me."

Monday, August 1, 2016

Root and Bone

The old tree towers above the quiet Park Slope side street, and its roots extend, lava-like, over the curb and concrete walk in huge, thick, lumpy folds and ropes, embedded in which can be seen chunks of flat, gray stone, torn-up remnants of the antique slate sidewalks that were once de rigueur for the neighborhood.

"A time lapse of those roots growing would be hilarious," Katie says contemplatively. "Humanity is pointless."

"Well, it certainly is superfluous," I agree.