Tuesday, October 31, 2017

If It's too Loud....

Young men, released at the end of the school day, spill out onto the street and roar down the sidewalk, their pent-up energy leaving a wake of noise and chaos behind them that you can almost see, and that you can definitely hear.

These two, for example: laughing too loud, jostling side-by-side in front of me, hip-hop shouting from the bluetooth speaker in the one guy's backpack.

I've had too many encounters on the subway with kids like these playing their music out loud, and my blood pressure is up as the three of us head toward the train station while I play through scenarios in my head confronting them ("Nobody likes your shitty music," or "Forget your headphones at home?"), knowing I'll probably just end up saying nothing and moving to a different car.

But as soon as they get to the stairs going underground, he cuts the volume on his music and the two of them descend to the platform opposite mine in silence, leaving me to ride into Manhattan unmolested, aurally, wondering at my hostility, where it came from, what it means.
One year ago: Samhain Ninjas
Three years ago: Halloween
Four years ago: The D Train Is Bat Country
Five years ago: 10/31/11

That Time Of Year

I look up in alarm as Katie runs into the room. "The radiators just turned on," she says, hand raised to receive a high five.

I stand up from where I'm working on the floor, high five my wife, and breathe in a metallic, musty, warm scent. "I can smell the dust," I say.
One year ago: Weather, Man
Two years ago: I Alone Have Escaped to Tell Thee
Three years ago: Mansplaining Hiccups
Four years ago: Another Show
Six years ago: 10/30/11

Monday, October 30, 2017

Aggressively Friendly

The line for the self-checkout at the store can go either to the left or the right, and nobody seems to ever know which, so I just slide in next to the woman waiting there.

So when the guy rolls up with his grocery cart on the other side of her and just sort of looks around blankly without really seeing me, I get a little anxious: how am I gonna let him know that I was here first?

On his next scan of the area, though, we lock eyes, and I give him the biggest, most genuine smile I can, along with a chin lift, and I even say, "Hey, how's it going?" which is a little more forward than I was really planning for but okay, apparently this is what we're doing.

He looks vaguely alarmed at all this, but when somebody else comes up, he makes a point of saying, "Uh, I'm actually the back of the line."
One year ago: The Horror
Two years ago: Anachronistic
Three years ago: Haibun Without Haiku
Four years ago: Jesus Is Magic, But Can He Play Keyboard?
Six years ago: In October?
Seven years ago: some things you have to pay for after you've already used them

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Penguins Are Scary, Numbers-wise

"I mean, there's more butterflies than there are people," I say, which is technically true, if you count all of them. "It could be a little scary for people who feel outnumbered."

"Exactly, it's like the penguins," the stranger replies. She seems sincere, so I can't really play along if she's just having a laugh, so I nod, but I cock my head questioningly, to indicate that I might be on to her.
One year ago: Lowered Taxes
Two years ago: So Much For Atmosphere
Three years ago: Dinner Party (Nioi)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not

"See, that's why I don't have a dog," says the parking enforcement officer as she watches me pick up Coco's poop.

I give her a smile and think that the conversation's over at this point, but she continues, "My friends say they're gonna get me something they say feels just like a real dog, but I think they're just gonna get me a stuffed animal."

"That's the problem with living things:" I say thoughtfully, "Everything poops."
One year ago: A Walk in the Rain
Two years ago: Not As Helpful As I Could Have Been
Three years ago: Hands
Four years ago: That's That
Six years ago: safe
Seven years ago: Let's Pretend

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Gaslighting Technology

The thermometer in the freezer, rather than displaying a temperature, even a really low one, has apparently just given up. It's even read negative numbers before, but now it just reads "LL," which is not so much a temperature as an admission of defeat.

I pull out ice cube trays and crack them one at a time into the bin, then fill up my water bottle, and Katie's. When I get back to the freezer with the refilled trays, the thermometer innocently reads 20 degrees, as if nothing had happened, and I shut the door slowly, watching the digital readout suspiciously.
One year ago: Subways and Means
Two years ago: Risky
Three years ago: Cat Scratch, No Fever
Four years ago: This Sounds Kinda Perfect
Seven years ago: (though I could still use the money)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


"Siri, How much of what you hear do you send to the government?"

We lay in bed in the darkness, with the TV talking about crimes that happened many years ago.

"I don't know what you mean by how much of what you hear do you send to the government. How about a web search?"
Two years ago: Walking Distance
Three years ago: The Time Of The Season
Seven years ago: The Hutch

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hunger Pangs

"So, Annie has a got a lecture she's giving in Dubai," says the guy on his phone as he passes me on the street, and the rest of his one-sided conversation is lost as a wave of jealous anger roars up in my chest.

I want to be the kind of person who jets off to give lectures in Dubai about things, and I want to go first class on airlines and eat fancy food and tell people, "No, I'm sorry I can't go that week, as I'll be giving a lecture in Dubai."

(Katie, later that evening when I tell her this story, gives me a calm, appraising look when I tell her all the things I want and simply says, "You might want the perks of that job, but you don't want that job.")

In the moment, though, I find myself stopped dead on the street, and, getting a grip on myself, I think, "God, I need to eat something."
One year ago: Professional Boundaries
Two years ago: Rolling In the Deep
Three years ago: Whining Hypochondria
Four years ago: Star-crossed Lovers

Always Wear A Helmet

I pull over on the sidewalk right after I leave my friend's house, the lights on my bike flashing red and green in the night, and text Katie: "I'm leaving now! (I'm so sorry I didn't text when I arrived.)"

After I get underway again, the streets are quiet, until, without warning, the wind whips up, thrashing the branches of trees above.

Suddenly it's like I'm in a video game, dodging falling acorns as they clatter on the asphalt and set off alarms on all the parked cars.
One year ago: Locked Out
Two years ago: Nodding Off
Three years ago: Reincarnation/Rumination
Four years ago: Autumn Scents

Monday, October 23, 2017


The doge, having pooped once already on this, the final walk of the evening, has decided, after I've already bagged up her refuse and thrown it away, that she's still got one in the chamber, so I wait patiently as she squats beside the tree, and I pull out another bag with a resigned sigh.

A kid on a bike rides by carrying a large, metal chair over one shoulder, steering with his one free hand, and riding down the middle of the street with the insolent grace of youth.

He takes us all in at once - me and the dog, me standing by, the dog in her not-entirely-dignified pose, - locks eyes with me, and favors us with a grin.

"I get shit done," he says, and pedals away, through the red light, to vanish into the Brooklyn night.
One year ago: (Another) Brief Encounter
Two years ago: Doggie Facebook
Three years ago: Candy (Sour)
Four years ago: Far Away
Seven year ago: Fall Arrives - We Fight Off The Chill

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Cleaning Lady Out Is Out Sick

"It's amazing how quickly our house can go from clean to pig-sty," Katie says, rummaging around in the kitchen.

"I resent that," I say.


"Pigs are very clean animals."
One year ago: Here Come The Cold Jets
Two years ago: Mundane
Three years ago: Sunset (Bitter)
Four years ago: Magic Is Just Spending More Time On Something Than Any Reasonable Person Would
Seven years ago: The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Don't Get Murdered

The long, empty halls of the storage space, with their flickering fluorescent lights and exposed duct work, are a little unnerving. 

More unnerving, though, is the guy sitting quietly in the storage space next to ours, with his legs poking out into the hall, eating a banana - nothing else, just eating a banana.

He doesn't say anything, but gets up and leaves, and I go about my business. 

The motion detectors get bored, though, and the lights in the place automatically shut off, plunging me into darkness so that, for just a second, I wonder if he's out there, waiting for me.
One year ago: More Than A Server
Two years ago: Delayed
Three years ago: Healthy Eating (Salt)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Check My Work

I come out of the bathroom at the cocktail party with the front of my shirt almost completely wet, but it looks like I got the wine stain out. I try to decide if I should be embarrassed or not, shrug, and figure no one is really paying that close attention anyway.

"I think I got it," I tell Katie a little later when I find her admiring a painting.

"I would have spent the rest of the night scrubbing it out if you hadn't," she says seriously after checking my work.
One year ago: Right Of Way
Two years ago: Accelerate Out Of Danger
Three years ago: The Antique Shop (Umami)
Four years ago: Clowns Are Nothing To Worry About

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

House Of Many Dogs

Both the dog and I stumble blearily to the door for her morning walk. When I open the door, though, I hear an exclamation from downstairs that stops us in our tracks. 

Up the stairs comes a scampering streak of a small black dog named Val, and she blazes past the frozen, stiff-legged Coco (who gives me a look like, "Are you kidding me with this shit?"), to go sniffing around our apartment, tail wagging mischievously.

Our downstairs neighbor comes running up the stairs after his dog, and I scoop Val up with a smile to pass her back to her mildly embarrassed owner.
Two years ago: Jealous Again
Three years ago: Bitter/Sweet
Four years ago: Saved

A Nice Walk Saved

I'm stuck on the final scene in my story, so I take a walk down Prospect Park West to try to dislodge my thoughts, strolling beneath bowering trees, light playing between the leaves, talking to myself, making brilliant points and discarding them again.

And since I'm already at 8th Street, I might as well walk the rest of the way down to 9th Street and back over to 7th Avenue to my favorite donut shop, because I deserve a damn donut.

Then, walking back up 7th Avenue with my donut nestled in its curled up white paper bag, admiring the lovely day I seem to be having, I think how great it would be to have an errand to run, to justify my long detour around the neighborhood.

With a gasp and a cold thrill in my stomach, I suddenly recall my morning conversation with Katie, that I actually DO have an errand to run, and I only barely remembered before I got home and missed it.
One year ago: Big Bird
Two years ago: Marry Your Opposite
Three years ago: A Metaphor For So-Called Post-Racial Discourse In America
Four years ago: Is There a (Cat) Ghost In My House?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Special Delivery

"The boxes are here, aren't they?" I say as Katie picks up the phone.

"Great! And you're downstairs?" she says to the delivery guy on the other end of the line with a smile/grimace, nodding.

"Well, guess I'll go put on pants," I say.
One year ago: Rigid
Two years ago: We'll Do It Live
Three years ago: Another World
Four years ago: Literally Full of It

Sunday, October 15, 2017

House of Pain

"My arms hurt," Katie says with a look of concern. "To the point where I'm actually worried I may have injured them working today."

Wordlessly, I open up the bottle of ibuprofen and hand her four tablets, and she wanders off to look for her water bottle to take them.

Later, as I'm bringing the dog back upstairs from her walk, I pause on the landing to let my legs rest, because they hurt from standing all day.
One year ago: Party (Fire) Foul
Two years ago: Breakin'
Three years ago: Closing Time
Four years ago: There It Is (I Has The Dumb)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Is It A Mani Or A Pedi?

When we get to the dog-groomer, the doge's near-chipper attitude (chipper for her, anyway) takes a sharp right turn into alarm as she figures out where we are and why we're here. The person-in-a-muppet-costume of a dog lying in front of the door doesn't help matters, adding physical bulk to the already existential panic the dog is currently undergoing. Coco braces all four legs at the door and has to be (gently) dragged inside.

"Sorry, she really doesn't like anything," I call after the groomer as he picks her up and carries into the back to get her nails trimmed.
One year ago: Presbyopia
Two years ago: Plowing
Three years ago: Leaners
Four years ago: Scent of Home


My friend's bout with food poisoning isn't going well, so I hand him a stick of gum, which he takes with a little confusion.

"When I was in high school, I got sick in the bathroom right before a big show where I had a saxophone solo," I explain, "and this elderly black jazz musician gave me a stick of gum to settle my stomach."

"So tonight you are my elderly black jazz musician," he says with a pained smile.

"Yeah, let's just keep that between us," I demur.
One year ago: Tenacious
Two years ago: Jet Lag
Three years ago: Junk Shop
Four years ago: Social Realism Isn't Easy

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lift Every Voice

After dropping off my (massively overdue) books at the library, I decide to take the long way down Flatbush to the drugstore.

My new contact lenses, combined with the crisp fall air, make everything sharp and lovely, and I'm happy despite the fact that the reason I'm going to the drugstore is to pick up my first pair of reading glasses that I apparently need now.

We're at the end of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and a large group of young Jewish men are walking the same direction I'm going, about as boisterous as any group of twenty or so young men would be.

One begins to sing in Hebrew, the entire group joins in, and their joyful song carries me down the street, buoyed into the sunset.
One year ago: Fake Out
Two years ago: A Long Day
Four years ago: Two Men, One Skirt, and One Pair of Underwear

Thursday, October 12, 2017

True Names

"On the way home I saw Caesar," an old wolfhound mix in the neighborhood we're both fond of, "and he had a cone on from surgery."

"You mean Serge?" Katie asks with an indulgent smile.

Do I forget the names of things, people, dogs, because secretly, secret even from myself, I know there are truer names than the ones we give, true names at the essence of things, of which our appellations are only approximations?

"Oh God, and she was too polite to even correct me," I groan.
One year ago: Street Scenes
Two years ago: We Give It Life
Three years ago: A Man In The Kitchen
Four years ago: Touchdown 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Keep It

"A half-pound of...," I pull up the list on my phone, "thinly-sliced Boar's Head bologna, please."

The woman behind the counter unwraps a long, dense, pink cylinder and feeds it into the spinning blade of a steel and white porcelain slicer. As the machine whirs to a stop, she comes back to where I'm standing with a single, almost translucent disc of the stuff and makes to hand it to me, saying, "That's your sample slice."

"I'm sorry," I say apologetically, "I don't eat meat."
One year ago: Faith of Fall
Four years ago: What They Really Think

Monday, October 9, 2017

Can Confirm

Heavy rain paints New York like a color-blind impressionist, all hazy outlines and variations on the color gray. Katie and I are driving a truck through Manhattan to the storage space.

"I was watching 'Barney Miller' with your mom the other night," I say, "and I told her that show and 'Sesame Street' were my basic ideas of what New York was gonna be like before I moved here."

"And I was right," I add, gesturing to the view out the windshield.
One year ago: Unneeded
Two years ago: In Peace Park, Hiroshima
Three years ago: Morning - Four (Noseblind)
Four years ago: In Spite of Myself


Outside the U-Haul place, one of the guys separates himself from the eager throng of people offering their services as itinerant movers, and approaches us while we wait for the truck.

We refuse him, with thanks, and he doesn't take it amiss, instead offering to give us his card, which we take. Katie moves to photograph it, and I ask if, once we've got it on her phone, if we should give it back so he can give it to someone else.

"Eh, it's probably fine," Katie says, showing me the "card," which is just a cut up piece of a neon green index card, on which he's written his name and phone number in a barely legible scrawl.
One year ago: Vision Problems
Two years ago: History
Three years ago: Morning - Three (Contrasts)
Four years ago: Sponsored By Nobody
Seven years ago; a few words on the meta-narrative

Sunday, October 8, 2017


It happens almost every day: a person walks by the booth filled with Katie's art, their eyes glazed over with the surfeit of stimulation. Their eyes light on her work with surprise and delight, and, for a minute, they're present and paying attention. I can see the distractions consuming them drop away, and a real person steps forward into the driver's seat of their personality.

But only for a moment - someone bumps them, or speaks to them, or they just kind of space out, the dullness washes across their face, and they're gone.
One year ago: City of Sound
Two years ago: Smile
Three years ago: Morning - Two (Listen)
Four years ago: Simplification

Friday, October 6, 2017


"Actually," I tell the downstairs neighbors, "lately I've taken to wearing earplugs to bed, because the dog wakes up in the middle of the night and tries to dig to China."

"And then goes, 'Ha!'" John adds, imitating her dry, frantic bark.

After I apologize, Ellen assures me she finds the dog's constant comment almost comforting in the middle of the night.

"Maybe it's easier to sleep knowing that somebody is awake at the edge of the fire, like, if the wolves come, Coco will save us," I say.
Three years ago: Morning - One (Psalm 34:8)
Four years ago: A Glimpse of Darkness

Not Much To Give

I come out of the eye doctor's exam room to the receptionist to render my co-pay. "I need to give you some money," I say cheerfully.

This makes her laugh. "You can give me all of it, if you're offering," she says with a wicked grin.
One year ago: Bucket
Two years ago: Directions
Three years ago: A Possibly Plagiarized Dimensional Theory of Literature
Four years ago: A Glimpse of Darkness
Seven years ago: Many Changes Make for Renewal

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Little Help?

"Spare a dollar?" John asks in a nasal voice from where he haunts our stoop. Despite him being almost colorless as a person, I still find him grating in a way that I'm not proud of, nor can I explain my reaction to him.

We're not really able to ask for what we want, because we don't just want a dollar, or a cigarette, or for that pretty girl to "smile,": we're hungry, or bored, or lonely, but we don't know it, or how to say it, so we can't actually help each other.

"Sorry, man," I say, like always.
One year ago: Aspirations
Two years ago: Bodhisattva Vow
Three years ago: Self-Esteem
Four years ago: Good Job!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


"I'm gonna go take a shower while you do that," Katie says.

"I always watch you do stuff to keep you company," I reply as I continue to prepare dinner for her mom.

"Yeah, come watch me do this," she says from around the corner, and when I come out, she's doing this demented dance like an old man's version of The Twist.

"Goddamn it, see how well you've got me trained?" I say, walking back to the kitchen shaking my head.
One year ago: Heavy Feels
Two years ago: Better Without God
Three years ago: The Evening Commute - Five (Diverge)
Four years ago: Rock Star

Monday, October 2, 2017

All Joking Aside

Lou at the unemployment office fancies himself a bit of a card.

"You've only been married seven years? I've been married twenty-seven and I've got five stents in my heart to prove it: three for my wife and one for each kid."

"Actually, my family is beautiful, and I'm incredibly blessed by them," he adds humbly.
One year ago: All In How You Carry Yourself
Two years ago: Speak Low
Three years ago: The Evening Commute - Four (Fractured Ambient)
Four years ago: Invisible Subways


He busts through the door between the subway cars like a diva taking the stage, the clattering of his crutches drowned out by the soapy music blaring from his bluetooth speaker. He sings along with the tune in Spanish and periodically shakes his cup, extracting a few grudging dollars from the commuters.

He hops down the car, singing over the music as it rises to a delirious, sentimental climax, until he reaches the next set of doors, whereupon the music abruptly stops. He passes through to the next car, rewinding the song as he goes to the exact moment he needs for the grand entrance designed specifically to wow his presumably breathlessly waiting devotees.
One year ago: Self-Checkout
Two years ago: Tokyo Morning/Night
Three years ago: The Evening Commute - Three (Stream)
Four years ago: Do I Remember What I Saw? Or The Words I Used To Describe It?