Saturday, December 31, 2016

I'm Only Six Four, Tops

Katie's brother pounds on the kitchen window, and we get up to let the two of them in from the cold night air.

Katie comes in carrying a paper bag upon which she's cradling a fairly sizable amount of broken glass. Turns out she and her brother took the car escape tool (including a seat belt slasher, pocket knife, and glass breaker) her brother gave her and tested out the glass breaking tool on the wine bottle we recently cashed.

"I broke the glass," her brother says, "because I knew if she got hurt you'd blame me, and I don't need seven foot husband pissed off at me."
One year ago today: We Know Our Own
Two years ago today: Tempus Fugit
Three years ago today: Maybe I'M the Problem

Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't Look Away

The hawk sits on his branch, high up in the tree in the backyard, and I sit on the porch, both of us out there long after everyone else has gone inside. His chest feathers ruffle in the breeze, and he turns so his back is into it and hunches over a little more.

The breeze muscles the leaves around, threatening to turn into a full-blown wind, and the door to the porch swings open by its invisible hand.

When I turn back from the door, the hawk is gone.
One year ago today: That's On Me
Two years ago today: Who Knows How She Knows
Three years ago today: Comments on the Bukowski Documentary
Nine years ago today: 12-29-07 - We Gotta Get Outta This Place

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Shower Talk

"And then the muscle in my leg right here," I point to Katie's leg right above the knee where the river of shower water pouring down the delta of her thigh concentrates to a thin stream that trickles down her calf, "started twitching like this." I pulse out a tattoo of quick beats with my fingertips on her leg.

"The beacon I had implanted in you finally turned on," she says solemnly, turning away to rinse off the soap.

"Well, could you tell 'em to chill, please?"
One year ago today: Back to the Grind
Two years ago today: Innocent in Dreams
Nine years ago today: 12-28-07 hell is other people (booking your air travel)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


The plane tosses and bucks, skidding down and climbing up towering mountains of cloud. It seems impossible that we should remain so calm in the midst of such commotion, when the terror of the sky is upon us, but somehow no one stirs.

A bell rings, and in the darkness above every seat a hundred little identical sigils illuminate, a warning and ward from the captain to keep us locked down safe in our seats.

Everyone dreams on, complacent, but we are miles from the earth, and only a few slender, trembling feet from the void.
One year ago today: An Ill(-ish) Wind, Part 2
Two years ago today: I Am Known
Three years ago today: Home
Nine years ago today: 12-27-07 Mexican or Mexican't?

Monday, December 26, 2016


Television on in the background, another retelling of the redemption of Saturn, while I make us tea. I pause at the bay window and look out into the disheveled backyard. A gray sky glowers overhead, but I know it isn't below 60 outside.

I press my forehead to the cool glass, which is about as close as I get to going outdoors, or even leaving a radius of about thirty feet beyond the couch, all day.
One year ago today: If Someone Tells You They're Crazy, Believe Them
Two years ago today: Teach Me To Just Shove Things In My Face
Three years ago today: What Else Are You Gonna Do In Sun City?
Nine years ago today: 12-26-07 absolution

No Sidewalks

While we wait for her brother to arrive for Christmas, Katie and I walk through her parents' neighborhood, admiring the houses and counting the number of empty tree swings and abandoned trampolines.

"Not seeing anybody on the streets is weird," says Katie. "I mean, I know there are people in the houses, celebrating Christmas, but from the outside you can't tell there's anybody around at all."

I listen to the quiet and the high whine of my circulation; a hawk flies overhead in a cloudless blue sky, and Katie raises her hand, like she's calling it down so we can have someone else to talk to.
One year ago today: The Holidays Bring Up Feelings
Two years ago today: Smart Dog
Nine years ago today: 12-25-07 melancholy christmas

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Flying Home

Open throats of jet engines swallow huge volumes of air to furiously spin and shove us across the sky. Unseen vortices tumble in our wake twisting the atmosphere, changing the world's weather.

Below, the city glitters as we descend.

Streets like constellations beneath a darkened sky, stars of architecture and motion all grow and lift and resolve into somewhere we can land, a tiny space in an enormous world, a place on earth for us to stand.
One year ago today: What, 'Cause She's Black?
Two years ago today: An Antidote for Smells and Bells
Three years ago today: A Gnostic Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Go Whistle

I'm breaking down the boxes for recycling, when I notice a flash of silver on the dining room table, peeking out from underneath a pile of envelopes. which turns out to be a thin bar of chrome - is it a boatswain's whistle?

There's no reason we would have a boatswain's whistle (think the Captain whistling for his kids in "The Sound of Music"), and it turns out to be part of a C-clamp, which is almost as weird, but I'm actually a little disappointed it's not a whistle.

And this is kind of a pattern with me: I see something I don't recognize, and think it's something awesome, or unusual, and then I'm bummed when it's not. I wasn't thinking of a boatswain's whistle, I didn't want a boatswain's whistle, so why am I now disappointed that the world has not suddenly presented me with a boatswain's whistle?
One year ago today: I Actually Did Do That, Though
Two years ago today: 12 Legs Toward Dreamland
Three years ago today: I Just Seem Approachable, I Guess
Nine years ago today: 12-23-07 Mama wants a gun

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cleaning Up the Meth You Made

"I got a nephew," the vendor says as he bags up my gift to my boss. "He's a meth-head, you know, but an affluent meth-head."

"Oh man, that sounds awful," I say.

"He's got a job, a girlfriend, but he's spent all his inheritance on rehab and more drugs."
One year ago today: Booze is a Depressant
Two years ago today: I Hate Admitting I Don't Know
Three years ago today: Which Explains a Lot, Really
Nine years ago today: 12/22/08 Putting It Together

Inadvertently Funny

"He's pretty friendly," the dog's owner says while I'm ruffling his fur, "but he's kinda racist. Like, he barks at black people."

"Yeah, I had a Scottish Terrier like that, but with Catholics," I said, thinking of the Scotch-Irish and the Ulsters, and recognizing almost as soon as I say it that it doesn't make any sense.

But the owner laughs anyway, because how could a dog tell you were Catholic?
One year ago today: Blast Zone
Two years ago today: It Didn't Help
Three years ago today: Make Believe
Six years ago today: 12/21/10 Cold winter's night that was *so* deep

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Instinct For Empathy

I'm walking down the soda aisle in the grocery store, not really paying attention, when my basket hits a pillar, driving the corner of it right into my leg just below where I had surgery. The nerves on the surface there are completely gone, they may never grow back, but the speed at which I was walking jabbed the plastic basket past the superficial numbness and all the way down to the still living nerves beneath, shooting shocking electric waves of pain straight throughout my body.

I almost dropped the basket in shock, which would have been bad enough, but apparently I also screamed a sort of high-pitched, very loud whine, which attracted the attention of my fellow shoppers.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry" a small woman says in alarm, without really even being sure, I think, what happened.
One year ago today: HD Killed the Video Star
Two years ago today: Everybody Needs to Learn Manners
Six years ago today: 12/20/10 Save all Your Love
Nine years ago today: 12-20-07 - Perspective

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Those Were the Days

Down the long corridor to transfer to the train home, I finally notice - they took down all the sticky notes people had posted on the walls of the station after the election. I'd gotten used to the colorful flags, and the bare white tiles seem clinical and sad in their absence.

People had put them up like temporary graffiti, covering the walls in their disappointment and reassurance after Trump's election. I wonder to myself as we all hurry by, how long before all of us are looking back nostalgically on 2016, reminiscing about the days when we could mourn publicly our disillusionment, when we could comfort one another with office supplies and hope?
Two years ago today: The Habits of Houseguests
Three years ago today: I Panicked
Nine years ago today: 12-19-07 flying

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"Here's to the Hearts that Ache"

Lights come up, credits roll, and I wipe a few errant tears from my eyes. The swooning, multi-colored spectacle has danced across the screen, and the pleasant ache in my heart seems well-worth my ticket.

Behind me, though, I hear a woman break down weeping, the kind of heartbroken, coughing sobs that come up from some deep place in the chest where sorrow lives until it can no longer be choked down or denied. I face the screen, embarrassed, though I can't say why, until my curiosity gets the better of me and I turn to see her a few rows back, face buried in the shoulder of her date, shuddering in the throes of some grief that only another romantic would possibly understand.
One year ago today: Jejune
Two years ago today: I'm PRETTY Sure He's Joking
Three years ago today: Late Night Wine Talk
Nine years ago today: 12-18-07 - scrabbling for change

Peeing Into the Void

For the second time tonight, the doge seems utterly flummoxed by the snow covering her favorite pee spots. She runs back and forth between the three spots, one tree, then the next, then a third, and back to the first, nosing around but absolutely refusing to pee so we can go back inside.

At each spot, she noses the ground frantically, as if she's looking for other dogs' pee, and finds nothing, and therefore she doesn't want to waste her contribution. If dogs communicate via pee, then it's almost like she's got an absolutely fire tweet to post, but the only site available is Myspace.
One year ago today: Letting Go
Two years ago today: Emotional Head-up Display
Three years ago today: Gotta Start Shopping a Little Earlier
Six years ago today: 12/17/10 Did you forget?
Nine years ago today: 12-17-07 - "Squaaaare eyes. Turn the oth-eh way. I don' wanna see. Ya criy-y-y."

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Mask of Another

Bored eyes, pursed lips, pushing a wheeled suitcase across the subway platform. I unconsciously find my lips twisting to mimic her disappointed moue, in the same way that I find myself repeating phrases spoken in a foreign accent, not to mock, but to taste the way the words feel in their mouths.

In the mask of her expression on my face, I can feel her unsurprised disdain, a touch of disgust, and, beneath it all, a little bit of wistfulness, as if she wished the world were, somehow, different from the way it is, was, will be.

What would it take to make a mouth like that smile?
One year ago today: Holding On
Two years ago today: Proverbs 25:21-22
Three years ago today: Being "In the Moment"
Nine years ago today: 12-16-07 ghosts on my retina

Thursday, December 15, 2016


I haven't seen him in, what, ten years now? but it's him for sure: same loping walk, blond hair long like he used to wear it before we fell out, same profile. He's even wearing the kind of bag he'd probably wear - something colorful from South America strapped across his chest, handwoven, eminently practical and lightweight - over a mountaineering style jacket back from the days when he climbed Aconcagua and I thought he was the coolest person I knew.

As I get closer, about to pass him, my heart clenches, and I realize I have no idea what to say, even if he'd want to talk to me, which I doubt; and then I'm right next to him, and I realize it's somebody else, somebody I don't even know.

It really doesn't look like him at all.
One year ago today: The Set Up
Two years ago today: Who Knows?
Three years ago today: Starstruck
Six years ago today: 12/15/10 Straight to Hell
Nine years ago today: 12-15-07 - Golden Flow Orange Juice

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Tan coat and bad shave doesn't hold the door for the person behind him after he exits the building, and it swings closed forcefully, but I'm just able to catch it with a grumble before it hits me in the face and I follow him out onto the street.

Not that I'm following him, understand, just that we're going in the same direction down the same street at the same time, so when he reaches the line of cop cars parked in front of the doughnut shop, I'm there to see him wave to each car as he passes; a strange sort of little-boy wave, all wrist and hand, and he's looking into each car, trying to make eye contact as he goes.

I pull one ear bud out to hear what he's saying when he stops to chat with some regular looking guy on the sidewalk.

"...and they're always within five hundred feet of wherever I am," he says, pointing to the cop cars, "I don't know why."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

So This is Christmas

I'm decorating the tree, lighting the candles, singing along full-throated with the playlist of carols my computer has been kind enough to find for me, when unasked for and unwanted, apropos of nothing, a vision of Aleppo comes into my head.

A family huddles in the dark, somewhere, far away, waiting for dawn, while footsteps outside go door to door with ill intent; every few minutes a bomb goes off with a dull thump close enough to feel the concussion through their bodies like a second, bullying heartbeat.

Later, I'm walking the dog down a cold Brooklyn street, and one of the guys who spare-changes on the corner walks by carrying a bedroll with a, "How you doing, big guy?"

"Right on," I say, for some reason.
One year ago today: Rough Trade
Two years ago today: Fickle
Three years ago today: Just Keep Dancing
Six years ago today: 12/13/10 Passing time
Nine years ago today: 12-13-07 - Where Christmas lights come from

Sleeper Car

On the subway on the way home from the office holiday party, three guys sit opposite us, while one sits next to us. All of them wear black ski caps, and one says something in Spanish before handing his phone across the aisle to the one sitting next to us to show him a video.

I don't watch, though. Katie rests her head on my shoulder and falls asleep, and I rest my head on top of her head, the heat of her aliveness warming my ear through her hair, until I fall asleep, too.
One year ago today: Dogs Make Friends
Two years ago today: Memory
Three years ago today: The Cat Saves the Day
Six years ago today: 12/12/10 God doesn't mind if you have a good time
Nine years ago today: 12-12-07 - metrocard athlete

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas Brass

We've been standing here for at least fifteen minutes, but the men and women carrying tubas keep filing out onto the stage on the ice at Rockefeller Center, right in front of the gold statue of Prometheus. The giant Christmas tree towers above them, green and glittering multi-colored beneath a cold gray sky, swaying in the light breeze that swirls flurries of snow around us.

I'm so excited to hear Christmas carols played by a choir of tubas that I'm bouncing up and down, and Katie twists around in the tight crowd surrounding us and laughs at me.

"We're so lucky," I say, squeezing her as tight as I can.
Two years ago today: Memory
Three years ago today: He's Got My Back
Six years ago today: 12/11/10 a conversation at a party - 2:30 AM
Nine(!) years ago today: 12-11-07 - There is no good in tarot cards.

Accelerate Out of Danger

Flatbush Avenue is not bike friendly.

The traffic roars down Flatbush as it cuts across the borough like a diesel cataract, and I am utterly inconsequential to the buses, trucks, taxis, towncars; to the double parkers, the close passers, the door openers. And yet, for all that, I am not afraid.

At 6th Avenue, traffic trying to get across the intersection gets caught in the middle of the street, making it impossible for the flow going crossways to move, but I know better, and I weave through the honking cars that point every which way, just to keep my momentum, knowing I am only safe when I move, and the faster I go, the safer I will be.
One year ago today: Mea Culpa
Two years ago today: I'll Be Fine Tomorrow
Three years ago today: Among Other Things (But Not Many)
Six years ago today: 12/10/10 Sometimes I get carried away

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Physics of Fire

The text from Katie reads, "5 alarm fire 2 blocks from apt!"

"On my way down," I text back, slip on my boots and my coat, and head out.

When I get down, flashing lights illuminate the whole street, but the worst seems to be over even though the ladder is still up to the 5th floor and the occasional gust of white billows out from where the fire department broke a window to get in.

We stand in the cold and debate whether it's smoke or water vapor, but Katie finally settles it, saying, "If it was water, it would fall down, at these temperatures, but since it only goes up, it has to be smoke." 
Two years ago today: Morning Luck
Three years ago today: Good Guy Brain
Six years ago today: 12/9/10 late nights in the slope

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Headphones again as I leave work, this time Sonny Rollins and Saxophone Colossus, recorded in 1956 in Hackensack, NJ. As the first notes of "You Don't Know What Love Is" cry out, the stoplight changes, I feel a pause, a shift, and suddenly I'm in another city. Not another city, but the same city, New York City, the greatest city, but in the late 50s: the economy is booming, and the city is constantly surprising itself with its ability to be, not just a city, but a haven for creativity and commerce.

I stride down powerful sidewalks to the soundtrack of another era, and I am suddenly a time traveller, transported to a past full of promise and beauty, watching cars roar into the future down Lexington Avenue, as I walk into the past.
One year ago today: Overheard at Work
Three years ago today: Dad Jokes at the Wine Shop


Old man with a walker that doubles as a seat wheels onto the subway car, turns his walker around, and sits. His caretaker stoically follows behind, grabs a pole, and stands, staring at nothing.

A man on the bench, seeing them, stands and offers his seat, but the man sitting in his walker chair waves him off, and the man standing takes a moment to understand that he's being offered a place to sit before he shrugs and also declines.

A older, black man in a long, sharp, brown plaid coat with a fur collar watches all this, and after everyone is done being polite, he hustles over to grab the vacated seat, with an expression of, "Damn, well, if nobody's gonna take it...."
One year ago today: Chopping Onions
Two years ago today: Magic Beans
Three years ago today: An Important Day in a Boy's Life
Six years ago today: 12/7/10 Armored

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Psalm 121:1

It's dark by five in the evening when I get out of work, these days, and I am exhausted at the end of a long day. I walk out into the gloom, clouds gathering that will shortly rain down cold and sloppy wet on the city, though the streets are dry right now, and despite my weariness and discouragement, I look up.

It's that moment, right before the storm, when the air is extremely clear, and the tops of the buildings seem close enough to touch and each detail stands out like an archetype of itself, a platonic ideal come to this plane of existence, hard-edged and sharp and perfect: bricks and stone and steel and glass in precise and soaring visions of frozen physics.

I stop for just a moment, taking it all in, then allow myself to get swept along in the gust of pedestrians that tumbles me underground.
One year ago today: First Rule
Three years ago today: Two Wrongs
Six years ago today:  12/6/10 The band is passive aggressive. We are not.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Secondhand Communion

I pause in the vestibule of my building before heading out into the night to push my earbuds into my ears and zip up my coat. The form-fitting plugs of the earbuds are as much to cancel out the noise of the subway station, the streets, New York, as they are for the music I thumb into life on the screen of my phone.

Down on the platform waiting to go home, as the music plays, I click on the lyrics to read along, and I'm reminded of how much I dislike lyrics websites. There was a time when I would pore over the lyrics sheets that came in the records I bought for a couple bucks apiece, looking for clues, obsessing over nuance, but now, with the lyrics typed up by somebody I don't even know, it's like there's a third party in the relationship, somebody interpolating themselves between us, instead of just me and the artist communing in the space between my ears, him whispering inside me through my headphones right into the center of my brain.
One year ago today: Old Salt
Two years ago today: Lost Pen
Three years ago today: Rumors of the Real World
Six years ago today: 12/5/10 What more do you want from me? A cookie?

It's Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas

The Christmas trees they're selling on the street next to the co-op smell heavenly, a lovely, citrusy pine smell that wafts across the pavement in pungent, delicious waves. We scrutinize the small handful they've got leaning on a wooden frame, but they're mostly too tall, and the shorter ones are too wide, even though they're all handsome and green, with strong needles that don't fall when you bounce the base of their trunks on the sidewalk.

Finally the woman running the place comes over and asks if we need anything, and after a little negotiation, we find the right tree: not too fat or skinny, good, tight branches, and just a little taller than me. We pay for it and I tuck it under my arm to haul it home, the dark, sticky pine sap staining my fingers to the point where I find myself sniffing my hands for the rest of the night, drinking in concentrated childhood longing.
One year ago today: The Bright Side
Two years ago today: Cooking Together
Three years ago today: Who Cares What You Think?
Six years ago today: 12/4/10 Which is what we named the tree

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Who Usually Takes Charge

"I don't really care where we eat," says Dan, hands above his head in a "don't shoot" posture. "You guys decide."

"Great," one of them says, and then the three women's heads dive into their phones to find us a spot while Dan and I watch, impressed.

"Lucky you just got kind of opted out, without having to abdicate like I did," he says, and I shrug happily.
One year ago today: A Discourse on Unheimlich
Two years ago today: Matthew 25:40
Three years ago today: Unconscious

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Something sparkles on the edge of sight, and without thinking I lean down and scoop it up - an amethyst, rough cut, about the size of an egg, shading from translucent white into purple at the tip. The tiny bronze-ish loop embedded at the base suggests it might have once been a pendant.

I hesitate for only a moment before deciding to go back out of the subway gates to give it to the subway attendant in her booth in case someone comes looking for it, but the entire time I'm wondering: is this a gift from the universe for me to keep, or a test of honesty I'm meant to pass?

After I drop it with the attendant, I ask to be let back into the subway, and she chides, "The next time you come out, make sure I see you, 'cause I don't know if you paid to go in or not."
One year ago today: Lighten Up
Two years ago today: "Lights, Please?"
Three years ago today: Here, You Throw This Away

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Not His Night

After we figure out that the tickets for the show are for tomorrow night, not tonight, my friend and I head down to the subway back to Brooklyn.

Just as I'm through the gate, he says, "You know, I just used this -" meaning his MetroCard that allows him entrance into the subway station. "I hope it works," he finishes, and I'm on the other side.

But sure enough, it won't let him through (there's around a fifteen minute wait on the unlimited MetroCards before you can use them again), and he says through the bars with a rueful look, "You know, with the luck I'm having, you might just want to head home - get a little farther away from me."
One year ago today: Sounds Pretty Good, Even to a Vegetarian
Two years ago today: Melancholia
Three years ago today: That's How I Got Over My Fear of Heights
Six years ago today: 12/1/10 So much for meditation