Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Human Being

"When I was a kid in Georgia, a butterfly landed on my lip, and it freaked me out!" he says. The smell of alcohol and cigarettes coming off this old man fills up the booth as he wobbles from shelf to shelf, looking at Katie's pieces.

"They don't just land on anybody, though," I say, thinking for some reason of Saint Francis, "so that must mean you're pretty special."

He stops and looks at me, and suddenly, in spite of his drunken, half-lidded eyes and sentimental, garrulous manner, I feel more than see the weight of the person standing in front of me, not that he's fat or something, but the weight of his existence, his history, the sheer physicality of his being standing as an entity before me, and for whatever reason it terrifies me, and I wonder what the two of us, him and me, are doing here (in New York, the Western Hemisphere, on Earth).
One year ago: Know Return (Been Here Before)
Two years ago: Neutrality
Three years ago: All Things Considered
Four years ago: Paris, je t'adore
Seven years ago: Even Kids Aren't Really That Much of an Accomplishment

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


With the second sense that comes from riding the train every day, I look up from the book in which I'm engrossed to check which station is coming up.

"Oh goddamnit," I say out loud to no one in particular, as, through my inattention, I only now have noticed that I'm on the wrong train, and about to go express past my stop into the far reaches of darkest Brooklyn.

I do some quick calculations in my head and get off at the next stop to transfer to a returning train that, while it doesn't get me exactly where I was headed, gets me close enough.

A woman on the platform is selling churros, three for two dollars, and I buy a brown paper bag of the sugar-crusted fried dough sticks to assuage my irritation, sticking my face in the sack and munching moodily as I walk through the station to the uptown side.
One year ago: Happy Monday
Two years ago: Too Real
Three years ago: The Day After
Four years ago: Bloody Soil
Six years ago: New Cat
Seven years ago: Falling

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Trials of the Physical World

The little boy struggles with his bag of gummy bears while his dad and the cashier watch. They let him work it out for a while as he first tears at it, then pulls at the seams, and finally manages to rip it at a weird angle that threatens to spill the treats all over the floor.

"Here you go, man," the cashier says kindly, handing the boy a plastic bag while the father hestitates. "Put 'em in here so they don't fall out."
One year ago: Teaching a Worldview
Two years ago: All I Want for Christmas
Four years ago: Life Skills

Monday, November 27, 2017


"I'm getting kind of fuzzy-headed, and I'm not really thinking clearly," I tell Katie, who looks up at me from where she's working at the coffee table with bleary eyes. She nods in agreement.

"Also, I think I'm repeating myself," I add, hearing myself.

Katie does a double take in confusion and then, realizing what I initially said, shrugs and laughs.
One year ago: Maybe a Little Offense
Two years ago: Shame
Three years ago: Check Your Bags (And Your Privilege)
Seven years ago: It Was Delicious (They Tell Me)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

No Method, No Problem

After trying to figure out my system for putting price tags on pieces we're selling at the market, Katie finally gives up. "I have no idea how your mind works," she says as she goes off to finish another part of the project.

As I happily work through the rest of the tags, I realize part of the problem is that I don't really have a system, as much as I just do whatever happens to be in front of me at the moment, which, while it creates confusion for others, makes perfect sense to me.

I remember my sister's abject frustration whenever I would set the table: I'd put down a fork at this place, then a spoon, then a fork at the next place, then a knife at the previous place, and so on, until everything was done, and how after a while she simply refused to watch me set the table anymore, because the way I did it was so injurious to her calm.
One year ago: Welcome Home
Two years ago: Strained
Three years ago: My Family
Four years ago: The Elusive Glasses Are Somehow My Fault
Seven years ago: Everyone

Friday, November 24, 2017

They Found Her

“Ladies and gentlemen we are looking for a three-year-old child in one of the cars of this train. If anyone has seen an unattended three-year-old child, please alert me, the train conductor, right away.”

A chill creeps up my spine, and I look around the car to see my fellow passengers also scanning the length of the train, until my eyes fall upon a little boy playing a game of some sort on an iPad. He looks up from the game and says to his father, “This one’s too easy for me," while the later tries to keep a concerned expression off his face.
One year ago: Sweet With Teeth
Two years ago: What Good Are You?
Four years ago: Tales From High School
Seven years ago: Who Really Runs This Joint 


The manager from Whole Foods, when we tried to talk to someone about our problem on the phone last night, said that if we wanted to replace the seven pound turkey we'd received with the ten pound turkey we'd ordered, we'd need to get there early. "Like, early," he emphasized when we asked for clarification.

So here I am, out at seven in the morning on Thanksgiving, happily riding my bike down to the Gowanus in the lovely, quiet, crisp air, not a soul other than me on the road.

The honk at my left shoulder comes as a bit of a shock, then, like the only car in Brooklyn hunted me down for the sole purpose of hassling me, and I pull over despite him having the entire road, and motion him past with an irritated wave.
One year ago: Suburban Apocalypse
Two years ago: Karma Leaves a Mark
Three years ago: What's Eating You?
Seven years ago: crossing paths

Thursday, November 23, 2017

They're Just Having A Nice Time

They're sitting across the train car from me, laughing, these two women, and for just a second my stomach tightens and I feel painfully self-conscious. I have my headphones in, so I can't hear what amused them, but I can remember what it was like to be seven, eight years old, and have the other kids laugh at you, pretending it's not you, acting like you're not the subject of their ridicule.

Maybe that's what I'm reacting to, nothing to do with right now.

I close my eyes and turn up the music, and I remember that I'm not really that important, or conspicuous, nor am I as awkward as I was when I was eight.
One year ago: Like a Gas Leak
Two years ago: Sales Banter
Three years ago: Growing Up
Six years ago: Rrrrargh
Seven years ago: Snapshots of a Commute

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

We're Knot the Same

Each of the sculptures in the booth where we're selling Katie's work is labeled with a small, kraft tag tied to the piece with a small length of dark green string.

For new pieces, she's left a small baggie of the strings in tidy, knotted bundles at the booth. I unknot the bundle to obtain a single piece of string for a new tag, and silently marvel at her organization, her foresight and planning for even little things like this.

But when I try to retie the knot, what was an elegant, neat whorl of string disintegrates in my hands into a disorganized, depressing tangle that I spend longer than it should take trying to fix.
One year ago: Agoraphobia
Two years ago: Competitive
Three years ago: Make-Up Work
Four years ago: No Making Out Tonight
Seven years ago: A Little Forceful

Much To Answer For

"Guys, just stop it!" Katie says in frustration to the newest sexual harassment revelations (this time against Charlie Rose). She stands by the door after getting ready for bed, pulling her hair up into a pony tail. "I mean, are most guys like this?" she adds.

"Yeah," I say sadly.
One year ago: Swimming Lessons
Two years ago: Seed
Four years ago: Old Before Her Time
Seven years ago: The very nice doctor is not a dentist

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Grow Gills

"There were two actually broke artists talking to me today," Katie says after her shift at the market where she's selling her sculptures, "and when I told them that this was my full-time job, they were like, 'Whooooaa.'"

"But I told them," she continues, "there's a point where you're spending money to do stuff for your art, so you're working to get the money to do that, and eventually the balance shifts, and there just comes a point where your canoe flips over and you find out you can breathe under water."

"Did you actually say that?" I ask, incredulous.

"No, I didn't want to be weird," she says without embarrassment.
One year ago: Not Above It All
Two years ago: Caught In The Act
Three years ago: Scruffy, Part II
Four years ago: Fall Is Just The Space Between
Seven years ago: Late Edition

The Last Doge On The Left

We've been feeding the doge treats off Katie's cousin Ryan's shoe, in an effort to get her to calm the hell down whenever he's in the house. We figured it would get her to associate his smell with treats, but that's not really working, although she seems to appreciate the whole eating a lot of treats part of our plan. She still barks, growls, and carries on like he's some kind of home invader, intent on killing us all and making us into lampshades, and being the charming, affable guy he is, he finds it personally offensive that any creature would have the poor taste to dislike him.

When he goes on the doge's walk with us, hoping to get her used to his presence, she twists around every few seconds to look behind her at him, as if he's the killer in the horror movie, gaining every moment on the heroine as she stumbles in terror through the forest.
One year ago: Boogie. Down.
Two years ago: Good Intentions
Three years ago: Attention Must Be Paid
Four years ago: Picky

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cab Ride

Katie takes another sip of water to quiet her stomach. We were stuck in traffic all along Canal Street, with plenty of time to admire the tiny red lights strung above us welcoming us to Chinatown in Christmas-like letters, but the stop and go of it all made her a little carsick.

Now, though, we float above the East River, lofted by the Manhattan Bridge over the world, and I stare idly out the window, watching the quiet waves ripple below, when my gaze strays upward and I see four planes on approach to La Guardia, one behind the other, perfectly evenly spaced like discrete diamonds on an invisible chain. 

We both watch them for a few seconds before turning back to the road as the cabbie drives us home.
One year ago: Thinner
Two years ago: Metta
Three years ago: Apologizing For Existing
Four years ago: Flight of the Hunter
Seven years ago: But I Have To Stand Somewhere Too

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Two Customers

1. "You have to remember, you've helped a lot of people, and even though you're not the type of person to boost yourself up, there's a real kindness in you," he says, putting his hand on my shoulder. In other circumstances, being touched like this by a stranger would be off-putting, but exhaustion from the last few days has crushed my defenses, so all I can say is, "Thanks, man," as I blink away tears.
2. "I won when I sued the Department of Corrections for three-hundred thousand dollars, cause I went to visit my boyfriend in prison and I had a tampon in," the alarm bells that went off when she twitched her way into the booth are now accompanied by the wail of danger sirens, "which they shouldn't have seen, but they pulled down my panties and examined me with the same gloves they used to search two other women, and one even told me this was true, and so I got a STI."

I find myself inordinately proud that, during our conversation, I've managed to steer her out of the booth (and away from a little boy and his mother examining a centerpiece along the western wall) using nothing more than my physical presence and whatever.
One year ago: How Others See Us
Two years ago::Watercooler Chatter
Three years ago: Over-dramatic
Four years ago: Almost Ready to Turn Off Cable
Six years ago: Shoulda stayed home and played Zelda one more day

It's a Big World

The conversation he's having on his mobile is loud, expansive, demonstrative, and entirely unintelligible to me. I don't know the language, and I don't pause to parse, but keep moving down the street toward my destination like a good New Yorker.

I imagine a place where people speak some language I don't know, a small village, maybe, miles from anyone, where a cozy, warm fire crackles, the only sound at all beneath an enormous, deep blue-black sky quiver-full with stars. It's not this guy's home, probably, but there's somewhere like that, where they've heard of New York, but only as a place out there in the world that has no real impact on them or the people they love whatsoever.
One year ago: Politics at Dinner
Two years ago: Not Really
Three years ago: He Found Them
Four years ago: Context
Six yearx ago: Allocating Your Time
Seven years ago: ...and now I've got it too

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

No Rent?

"Are you from Canada?" the guy taking his stuff out of the freight elevator asks me.

"No, the gentleman around the corner is, though," I reply, hooking my thumb back to where I'd been talking.

"I'm at the holiday market, at Columbus Circle, but I don't pay rent," he says with a grin, opening up the crate on his dolly to show me hundreds of exquisite, hand-painted blue and white eggs.

"Oh man, you must make a mint on these things at Christmastime," I say
One year ago: Sounds Like It Hurt
Two years ago: Seriously?
Three years ago: A Friendly World That Speaks
Four years ago: Cultural Confusion
Seven years ago: She's had a cold

Monday, November 13, 2017


Maybe all storage places are marginal, on the edge of things where the people who are scrabbling out a living collect their lives. 

The two guys still blocking the hallway on my third trip from the van pause their rhythmic, rolling conversation in an African language that they periodically season with French, and one of them gives me a half-hearted squint that I studiously ignore.

"Thanks," I say humbly as he moves his bulging, overladen cart out of the way yet again, and he shrugs and sits back down on the chair in his storage unit.

The next time I pass, they don't stop talking, but he gives me a curt nod, and his cart remains parked around the corner.
Two years ago: Deja Vu
Three years ago: Fooling No One
Six years ago: I Know How You Feel, Kid

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Did He Do It On Purpose?

On my way to rent a van for tomorrow, I ride my bike past the couple walking in the parking lot of the U-Haul, up to the entrance.

But they've made some changes to the place, and the door that looks like it's going to let me in has no handle on it. It takes me a second to spot the new entrance, an automatic double sliding door a few yards along the front, so I walk my bike over to it, and in.

The couple that was behind me, though, has been let in the old way by the guy pushing the broom along the floor, and they're already at the counter getting their truck, with me standing in line behind them while the porter gives me a huge grin that I can't quite read.
One year ago: Long Island Ice Tea
Two years ago: She Doesn't Like Kids
Three years ago: Showtime For One
Six years ago: too soon?
Seven years ago: Close Enough

Runs In The Family

"And when you get older, it gets worse," Katie's dad says, referring to his tendency to say exactly what's on his mind.

"I know what you mean," I say, nodding. "My dad always used to say that I had to hear what I said to know what I thought."

"Oh, and your dad's one to talk," Katie says.
One year ago: Disobedience
Two years ago: Dog
Three years ago: This Number Is Out Of Service
Four years ago: Quoth The Guy Who Has To Go To Work Tomorrow
Six years ago: Fall Fell
Eight years ago: Nicholson Baker's "Box of Matches" Inspired Me

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Things We Get Excited About

At the local hardware store, this mountain of a guy unlocks the cage full of spray paint, and waits patiently while I fiddle with my phone to figure out what kind Katie wants me to buy.

Which is, of course, the moment when my phone dies.

He casually waves off my apologies, but his face lights up when he sees me, after a few moments of digging in my bag, pull out a battery and plug my phone into it.

"Oh man, I got a huge one of those that charges my phone like three times!" he says enthusiastically, as I nod.
One year ago: Armchair Quarterbacks
Two years ago: Salieri
Three years ago: Growing a Beard Is No Real Disguise
Four years ago: Flinty
Seven years ago: Contrasts

Thursday, November 9, 2017


"Excuse me, where can we find sheets of acrylic?" Katie sweetly asks the guy in the orange Home Depot apron.

"Aisle forty-nine," he says without hesitation, and goes back to staring vacantly up the escalator.

But when we get to aisle forty-nine, there are no sheets of acrylic, at all, and it takes another five minutes of searching on her phone before we find their true location.

"I want to be able to say things with that kind of confidence," Katie says as we walk by him directing another couple somewhere else, likely incorrectly.
One year ago: Women Be Hating
Two years ago: Needs Work
Three years ago: Am I Actually Nice?
Four years ago: Maybe He Was Just Trying To Help
Six years ago: Waking Up Is Hard To Do
Seven years ago: Pie Is Too Nice To Be Bad For You

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Opening the Shop

"I found this little hat," Mario says to another employee at the shop downstairs after he's done rattling up the security gate.

"I seen that hat yesterday," the guy answers, taking it from Mario and examining the little grey beanie.

"No, that would mean it was out overnight," Mario looking a little disgusted.

"Man, I dead ass saw that hat on the street yesterday," handing it back.
One year ago: Accommodation
Two years ago: Schrodinger's Lottery Ticket
Four years ago: I got nothing
Six years ago: Sick Holiday
Seven years ago: My Mini Spooner

Fall Swing

I come out of the subway into drizzling rain that, as if the clouds have spotted me, immediately turns to a downpour.

I spit out my gum the flavor of bathroom caulk and rub my jaw. Realizing that if I walk faster I'll get rained on less, I lengthen my stride while the rain soaks my clothes.

My breath, for the first time this year, fogs the air, and despite the drenching I'm getting I smile, knowing that fall is in full swing.
One year ago: Corrective
Two years ago: Doge-calling
Three years ago: When I Wore A Younger Man's Clothes
Four years ago: It Only Takes A Spark
Six years ago: Instigator

Monday, November 6, 2017

It's Okay To Eat Fish

He's wearing a yarmulke and a black turtleneck, with a beard like Maynard, and she's got granny glasses and a wig like the orthodox Jewish wives wear, so I know I'm dealing with some kind of counterculture types here, I'm just not sure counter- to what?

Regardless, they love the doge, who reminds them of their recently departed, and deeply mourned, pit bull.

"Our girl was really showing signs of dementia," says the woman, her hand down at doge level for sniffing, "but when we added fish to her diet, all the symptoms went away."

"Of course, she was a vegan before that," she adds, while he nods knowingly.
One year ago: Suffragette City
Two years ago: What Else?
Three years ago: Backtrack
Four years ago: Making My Own Drama

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dance Anyway

"I mean, in four years, I'll be fifty," I tell her.

"You know, you've mentioned that a lot lately," Katie replies.

Later, cleaning in the kitchen, one of my (many) favorite songs comes on and, with no one around to see, I dance.

There's a dancing of youth that celebrates life pouring through you, the eternal spring of capital-L Life that leaps with ever-new joy, expressing itself through your being, but there's another kind of dance you dance even though you see yourself headed toward the downward slope, and you're still alive, so you dance, dance anyway, despite everything.
One year ago: The Opposite of Hyperbole
Two years ago: A Kind Of Integrity
Three years ago: Look As Good You Will Not
Four years ago: The Starvation Method
Six years ago: Remember, Remember
Seven years ago: Happy Drums

Does This Bedtime Make Me Look Married?

The long day is over, we've watched the last two episodes of "Stranger Things," and the remains of dinner lie strewn across the table in piles of take-out carnage.

I look over to Katie, who's looking at her phone with eyelids at half-mast, and ask, "So, is it time to go to bed?"

"I mean, it's time for married people to go to bed," she says, looking at the time.

"Do you see a ring on this finger?" I say, showing her my wedding band.
One year ago: Concerned Bystanders
Two years ago: Eating
Three years ago: Just Like When I Was A Kid
Four years ago: The Best Spies Believe Their Cover Story
Six years ago: That'll Work
Seven years ago: Even In Park Slope? Really?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ghost Mouse

I've just settled in cross-legged on my mat and closed my eyes to begin my meditation session when the sound of glass exploding behind me jolts me upright. Expecting the worst, I leap to my feet and run back to the dining room where literally hundreds of Katie's artworks (butterflies beneath glass domes, in glass cubes, in glass bottles) wait to be sent to market, but, search though I may, I can't seem to find any carnage despite the noise.

Katie and I search for the source of the crash, finding nothing, until Katie finally identifies the culprit as a single cocktail glass on the bar cart off to the side, though it looks like nothing fell on it, and it didn't fall over either.

"Well, maybe it's that mouse the cat almost killed that got away, like we're being haunted by its vengeful spirit," Katie speculates, as I attempt to pick up shards of glass with my bare fingers before they work their way into the cracks in the hardwood floor.
One year ago: Foliage
Two years ago: Living In The Past
Three years ago: Lots of Folks Eat Ramen
Four years ago: It's Up To Me
Six years ago: The March of Sickness
Seven years ago: Wake Up In The Morning Feeling Like P-Diddy

Friday, November 3, 2017


What limited human interaction I have today occurs only at the grocery store, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

The older guy next to me at the self-checkout terminals leaves a fraction of a second before I do, and so I'm stuck behind him as he shuffles to the door. He barely picks up his feet when he walks, and though I'm tempted to try to dive around him and bolt out the door, I follow his lead, swallowing the scream of impatience choking in my throat, until finally, after an eternity watching him work out the mechanics of upright ambulation, we get outside, first him, then me tumbling after, and I practically sprint down the street toward home.

The glow of the moon lights up the sky as it begins to rise, ever so slowly, from behind the apartment building on the other side of the street.
One year ago: Time Flows Around Us
Two years ago: New York Is Burning
Three years ago: Just Missed It
Four years ago: I Guess I Don't Either
Six years ago: She Who Is Not Busy Eating 9-Lives Is Busy Dying
Seven years ago: Acting Out (Staying In)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Indian Food Massacre

"I don't mind if the naan is a little crispy," Katie replies to my dismay at over toasting the Indian flatbread. 

She keeps her eyes resolutely focused on the dishes she's washing as she pronounces her next words. "I just don't want my paneer... to saag."

She looks over at me with a smirk, as if to ask what I propose to do about it.
One year ago: Next In Line
Two years ago: You Talk To Strangers
Three years ago: Haunting The Bastard
Six years ago: Another Morning
Seven years ago: Sous Chef Rhapsody