Thursday, September 29, 2016

Speaking Too Soon

My radiation nurse comes in for the hug when she sees me, and then pets my head (a move I have totally given her clearance for, since a. I love to be touched, and b. I'm very proud of my hair growing back so nicely). 

"So how's it going - fatigue, swelling, anything?" she asks as we sit down in the examination room.

"Well, I'm feeling like the fatigue has sort of leveled off, so maybe I'm getting used to it?" I say.

She makes a sympathetic face, and says, "Well, it tends to really kick in towards the end, so it might be a little early to say that."

One year ago today: I Feel the Jerk
Two years ago today: The Evening Commute - One

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Work it Out

"Well, you're in a good mood," my co-worker says after catching me singing at the water-cooler.

"Well, I had a fight with my wife this morning," I say with a smile, and then, seeing her look of incredulity, "oh, but we worked it out! The thing is, when you feel that bad, and then it finally gets sorted out, you feel incredible."

"Nice dress, by the way," I add as I'm leaving.

One year ago today: Final Push
Two years ago today: Dolly Zoom
Three years ago today: That's Not What I Asked

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I'm An Object Lesson

I haul the laundry and a bag of Chinese food in to the apartment, and I explain that my lateness was due to seeing a guy we were friendly with downstairs on the street.

"We ended up chatting for a while," I say, "and I guess he's really having a rough time: lost his job, had to sign up for Medicaid, went to rehab for drinking but it didn't really stick, depression, the whole thing."

"Poor guy!" Katie exclaims.

"Yeah, but you know, it's amazing how people pull themselves together and say their lives aren't that bad when you tell them you just got over cancer," I say.

One year ago today: Performance Anxiety

Monday, September 26, 2016

Perfectly Decent

I get out of treatment late, and the sun has already gone down, the days growing shorter. The gloom before the street lights turn on after dusk above the slate sidewalks of Brooklyn, leaves me feeling nostalgic for my friends, the ones I had back in high school and college, and all the dreams we had before the inevitable slide into middle age and mediocrity, with nothing more to show for our time than a mountain of debt and a sense of creeping dissatisfaction that leaves us aching and empty....

Wait: I just got done with treatment for the day, and I'm tired and hungry, and my leg is sore like it's got a stomach ache. 

I take a deep breath, keep walking, and stop searching my perfectly decent life for reasons to be bummed out.

One year ago today: Holey Shoes
Three years ago today: What's Her Story?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

His Life Matters

The little black boy at the bagel shop, while he couldn't be more than seven, reminds me of Huey Freeman from The Boondocks: a shock of wild hair framing an intelligent face and curious brown eyes. His mother pays for his bagel, and the man behind the counter hands him the brown paper bag with a smile, for which the kid thanks him in a sweet, piping voice.

It hits me all at once, a shrinking, sinking feeling in my heart - this boy's mom is going to have to give him "the talk" someday soon, about how to be careful around cops, about how to talk to white people who will be scared of him, about how to dress and act so as not to attract undue attention from those who will judge him, fear him, possibly put him in jail or even kill him, just because he's black.

But for now, he takes his mother's hand without hesitation and, swinging the bag in his other hand, walks with her out into a sunny, blue sky Sunday, while the man behind the counter, still smiling, watches them go.
Two years ago today: So Close, Yet So Far
Three years ago today: All Us Babies

Saturday, September 24, 2016

They Don't Make Me Money

"And Kevin's been pushing me to go into distilling, really get that absinthe idea I had going," I say to Katie on the way to help our friend move.

"Are you detail oriented enough, though? You turn the risotto off before it's done, you turn the oven off before the turkey's done at Thanksgiving," as she proceeds to list a number of instances of my impatience and lack of attention.

Seeing I'm hurt, she adds, "And you have a number of very excellent qualities, too."

One year ago today: Dog v. God
Two years ago today: Ice Cream Sutra
Three years ago today: Snapshots of Prospect Park

Just Try

The dog hates most people, but she has a special fear in her heart for our friend Kevin, who inspires her to a frenzy of barking whenever he has the temerity to stop by.

As he prepares to leave after an evening of hectic barking, Katie, finally having had enough, says, "Could you please get her to stop doing that?"

"No," I say, laughing, knowing that she'll bark no matter what I do, and for my remark I am favored with a flash of anger from Katie's eyes, which baffles me for a moment.

Kevin caught the look, too, and, seeing my confusion, explains, "You made it sound as if you didn't want her to stop."
One year ago today: Not Great
Two years ago today: In the Board Room
Three years ago today: Winter is a Hill

Thursday, September 22, 2016


She teeters by, staggering almost, in a mid-length black dress and clunky, impossible heels.

"Women have it tough," I say, pointing her out to Katie. "'You've been walking since you were nine months old or whatever, but here, wear these things that make it almost impossible to walk or else you'll be unattractive.'"

"You'll be invisible," Katie corrects me.
One year ago today: Sick Day
Two years ago today: All You Had To Do Was Ask
Three years ago today: Nice While it Lasted

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

In Media, Rest

First, the short, waddling steps of all us commuters in a crowd, squeezing into the the rush hour train, then we endure the dark tunnels of the underground until coming up into twilight on the bridge.

A hundred heads bow simultaneously into glass screens, and we stab out texts and swipe in timelines that tell us nothing we need to know.

But one post from a friend says, "Gorgeous sunset tonight!" causing me to look up and out the window across Buttermilk Channel into New Jersey, and sure enough, it is a beautiful sunset, full of crimson and fluorescent orange burning brilliant against the grey.

I stare in silence, the only one watching on the train, it seems, and say a silent thank you to my friend, and to social media, good for something for once.

One year ago today: Burning Eden
Two years ago today: The Burden of Our Early Work

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Careful What You Ask For

The new guy at the hospital (I only assume he's new because he's taking twice as long as the ladies that used to set me up) grabs my knee and thigh to make yet another twisting adjustment so that the beam of the elemental particles of the universe hit me in the right spot.

"Can you do me a favor?" I ask as the strange stinging numbness fades where he was gripping. "When you're making adjustments, can I get you to be a little more gentle when you move me around?"

It's not his fault that my nerves are acting all weird, and he's appropriately apologetic, but from then on he handles me like I'm made out of glass, which makes everything take longer.

One year ago today: People-watching
Three years ago today: How Can I Hate You if You Insist on Not Being Hateful

Monday, September 19, 2016


The dressing room at the hospital is, for some reason, equipped with full length mirrors in the curtained stalls. I stand, naked from the waist down, under the yellowish fluorescent lights and examine myself: hair on my head coming in nicely, pubic hair beginning to thicken again (but grayer than it was, I think), leg hair almost grown except for one hairless oblong outlining the thick scar running down one leg where you can almost see the dimension and shape of the rays they beam into me to keep the cancer from recurring.

I sigh and wrap the rough blue gown around me, opening to the back, negotiate the thin straps they use for ties to keep it closed, and place my stuff in a thin locker that reminds me of a high school gym.

There's a new guy working the machine, and he's got the form they put me in to make sure I'm in the same position every time on the table completely backwards.

One year ago today: Unguarded
Two years ago today: Drawing Attention
Three years ago today: Priorities

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gloomy Imaginings

In the light of day, of course, it all seems ridiculous, but in the darkness of the middle of the night, when you wake up next to your person coughing as if she's terribly sick, your mind conjures morbid visions of death and loneliness.

When I explain it to Katie, she looks shocked. "Pookie, I just had a tickle in my throat!"

"Then again, that would explain you snuggling me so hard afterwards you almost knocked me off the bed," she adds contemplatively.

One year ago today: Deescalation
Two years ago today: Cab Thoughts
Three years ago today: Flying
Seven years ago today: 9/18/09 - Get the Cool Shoeshine


"One..., two...," Katie counts, scooping coffee into the machine as she stands in the kitchen. Her shoulders glisten pink above the towel she wrapped around herself after climbing out of the shower.

She looks up at me leaning silently in the door way, smiles and asks, "Are you waiting while I make my coffee?"

"I didn't want you to lose count," I explain.

One year ago today: Perseverance
Two years ago today (let's play "can you spot the reference?"): Aliquet Fuge
Seven years ago today: 9/17/09 - Because I Promised

Saturday, September 17, 2016


"I'm exhausted," I tell her, and I am, from the radiation, from waking up at 4 AM and finding myself sleepless, "but I'm also kind of... agitated? I just get so...," I add, and I pound my fist into my hand.

"I know what you mean," my friend says, flipping her green hair out of her eyes and fixing me with a mischievous look. "When I'm at work at the bar, if there's nobody around at the end of my shift, I'll throw a pint glass at the wall."

One year ago today: Four
Two years ago today: A Night of Random Encounters
Three years ago today: Cut My Hair

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What Does It All Mean?

My friend and I, who haven't seen each other in several months, sit at the counter facing the windows and eat burgers and fries, watching the people pass out on the street.

"I just keep looking for some kind of meaning in all this," I say. "There's coincidences and synchronicities, but nothing to do with how I make my living, or with my art."

"Well," he says, smiling, "you don't really get to pick the meaning of the things that happen in your life."

One year ago: Dropping my Eaves
Three years ago: Deferred

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Making Do in the Deluge

I finish "getting zapped," (as my mother requested I call my radiation treatments - I was formerly calling it "getting nuked" but apparently that's a bit "excessive") and, after getting dressed, head to the front to check out and go home. The windows of the waiting room, however, are filled with grey, unsettled darkness and what looks like a biblical flood, the kind where a man has taken a number of paired animals onto his very large boat and is heading down the East River to the Sound.

"It's pouring," says the woman at the reception desk, spreading her arms to show off the trash bag she has cut a hole in to make it an impromptu rain poncho.

"You seem prepared," I say, and she nods happily.

One year ago today: Time Bully
Two years ago today: Signs of Age

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Got This

I swing my legs over the side of the table, trying as I do so to keep the back of my hospital gown closed in the back and only partly succeeding.

"Whoa, take it easy," says one of the technicians. "Most people get a little light-headed right after treatment."

"When I was a kid, I grew so fast that I never got enough food or sleep, and for like a year every time I stood up I'd almost black out," I say.

One year ago today: What Are You Running From?
Two years ago today: Teddy's "Rescue"
Three years ago today: Putting it Kindly

Monday, September 12, 2016

Yes It Is

After the radiology techs compliment me on my hair coming back in so well, I confess that I'm hoping it grows out curly, like super curly. Bob Ross curly.

"We had a boss, an Armenian, with a really curly beard like that, but he finally shaved it after the cops pulled him off of New Jersey Transit and searched him," one of them says.

"Well that's not racist," I say.

One year ago today: Momento Mori
Two years ago today: It Was Totally Different
Three years ago today: Bookworm

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Rich Aren't Like You and Me

The woman has been at our table for less than thirty seconds before she says to her son, "Don't you think it'll be nice on the table? Let's get that one," pointing to Katie's most expensive piece, a large glass cloche enclosing nearly a dozen butterflies on a manzanita branch. 

I've never held a black American Express in my hands before. It's quite heavy. 

One year ago today: In Vino Veritas
Two years ago today: Not a Good Fit
Three years ago today: To Be Fair, They Were Kind of Hidden

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Burning Off Karma

After packing the van for tomorrow, we sit on the stoop in the thick night air, sipping on cookies-and-cream milkshakes and chatting, when a postal service truck rolls up.

"Yo, you live here?" the driver calls to us, and upon hearing the affirmative, jumps down with packages for me, hands them to me, and dashes off.

Katie watches this ruefully, then says, "Sure, I walked two miles today to the post office in the disgusting heat to get my package, but my husband sits on the stairs, drinking a milkshake, and they just drive up and hand it to him, in the middle of the night!"

"The karma almost makes getting cancer worth it," I joke.

One year ago today: A Discourse on Beauty
Two years ago today (special appearance by The Lemonheads): Slipped My Mind
Three years ago today: Acting Like an Extrovert

We Got a Problem?

He seems pretty normal: button-down long sleeve and shorts, topsiders, short hair, and he's holding on to the subway pole like a normal person. But every time the train has to stop in the tunnel, he sways backwards, and has to take a half step back to avoid falling, invariably stepping on my foot.

When he steps on the arch of my foot a second time between DeKalb and Atlantic Avenue, I give him a wan smile that I know doesn't go all the way up to my eyes, and he avoids my gaze and turns his back.

If he steps on my foot one more time, I'm gonna have to say something.

One year ago today: Call it the Blues
Two years ago today: They Ran Out of "I Voted" Stickers
Three years ago today: Orpheus

Thursday, September 8, 2016

They Would Have Seen it Anyway

"We went to the movies," my dad informs me towards the end of our call. "Suicide Squad, and Scott, we were the only people in the theater."

"I think maybe the director owes you a thank you note," I say dryly.

"Maybe everyone else read the review we missed," he replies.

One year ago today: It's True
Two years ago today (a favorite of mine): Blue Flavored
Three years ago today: Cloudbusting

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Why Are We Like This?

The alarm drags me up from light into exhausted darkness, and I struggle to keep my eyes open as my dreams turn into a ghost.

The entire day, generosity deserts me, and I am hard and unhelpful, knowing I am hard and unhelpful, and not knowing how to stop.

On the stuffed, stuffy subway, two women nearly throw down in front of the door, and I mutter, "Too crowded for that shit."

Is it the weather, or is it me, or is it me and everyone else and the weather?

One year ago today: Blowdart
Two years ago today: To My Shame
Three years ago today: Holding on to Disappointment

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Two girls, one guy, stylishly dressed, maybe on their way to a party, walking together down the street as Coco and I stroll back from her favorite pee spot. They seem easy with each other, relaxed. The girls put their arms around each other while the guy talks, and all three of them laugh.

I watch them walk past, and as they continue down the block, out of the back pocket of one of the girls pokes the bright orange handle of a box cutter, within easy reach if anybody tries to get feisty.

One year ago today: He Doesn't Eat Much

Monday, September 5, 2016

High and (kinda) Tight

"Like the hair, man," our neighbor John says of the quickly lengthening fuzz sprouting on top of my head as he comes upon me and the doge concentrating mightily on her thrice-daily descent of the stairs. "You look like a Marine."

"Yeah, but with out the training, skills, or physical prowess," I say.

"Well, you don't have to tell anybody that."

One year ago today: The Girl Can't Help It
Two years ago today: Sand In My Shoes
Three years ago today: Something Like That

Sunday, September 4, 2016

All Summer In A Day

After brunch, before we go to the baseball game, we take a ride on the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. 

At the top of the Wheel, far above the glittering ocean, on the first cool, clear blue day in months, the ride pauses. They've kicked everyone out of the ocean, since the riptides are strong this weekend, but tiny sunbathers still litter the sands, and I breathe deep and smile.

"Are you having fun?" Katie says, and snaps a picture.

Two years ago today: There and Back
Three years ago today: A Good Night for Stargazing

Tomato Koan

I close my eyes in ecstasy as I bite into another slice of "cherokee purple heirloom tomato" which they're giving out as samples at the greenmarket stall.

Seeing this, one of the asian guys who runs the stall smiles and says to me, "They're kind of spiritual."

Not knowing exactly what he's getting at, I play it safe and respond, "Well, it all is, isn't it?"

Laughing, he leans in conspiratorially and says, so only I can hear, "It was an exaggeration, wasn't it?"


One year ago today: I Missed It
Two years ago today: Packs Come In All Sizes
Three years ago today: Tired of Wasting Food

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My "Tell"

"The streetfair outside is nuts!" my co-worker says, coming back from lunch.

"Totally nuts," I reply, laughing, but inside I'm thinking, "Weird, that doesn't sound like me at all."

Later, when I'm telling Katie about it, she says, "Oh no, that's exactly what you sound like. When you're not paying attention, but you overhear something that sounds like you need to respond, you repeat whatever they said, but you add, 'Totally.'"


One year ago today: Misunderstood
Two years ago today: A Day's Work
Three years ago today: That's How Blessings Work (Reciprocity)

Thursday, September 1, 2016


"Okay," says the nice technician after I'm immobilized under the radiation machine, "I'll be back soon."

In order to beam the particles into the correct part of me, they've got my hospital gown hiked up to my waist on one side, exposing the long pink scar snaking up my pale, thinly haired leg to my hip, and I'm naked underneath. As she leaves, I suddenly find myself worrying that I'll spontaneously spring an erection, for no good reason except that I'm naked, and in the sort of situation where it would be maximally embarrassing.

Mercifully, everything remains quiescent downstairs, as the machine whirrs into life and begins its heavy, poisonous work.


One year ago today: Marry Well
Two years ago today: Waving Not Drowning
Three years ago today: Public Displays of Affliction