Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Apologies, Part 2

"The reason I lost my temper with you yesterday," I tell the belligerent optometrist, "is that you told me, when I bought a gift certificate from you with my FSA, that there'd be no problem. But I had to pay for it, because it's totally not legal."

After going back and forth for a bit, he finally says, "Well, if you'd let me know, I could have written a receipt saying you bought some glasses or something, and that would have taken care of it."

"Yeah, I try to avoid lying to the government as much as possible," I reply.
One year ago: Sleeper Car
Two years ago: Dogs Make Friends
Three years ago: Memory
Four years ago: The Cat Saves the Day
Seven years ago: God Doesn't Mind if You Have a Good Time
Ten years ago: Metrocard Athlete 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

He Called Back to Apologize

"No, see, you have to come in for an exam, since the prescription changed," says the optometrist I've been going back and forth with.

"You see," I finally say in exasperation, "this is why I stopped going there: everything is a hassle with you guys."

"Why don't you just go fuck yourself!" losing his cool in an instant.

"Yeah, you too," I reply, and we both hang up.
One year ago: Christmas Brass
Three years ago: Memory
Four years ago: He's Got My Back
Seven years ago: A Conversation at a Party - 2:30 AM
Ten years ago: There is No Good In Tarot Cards

Monday, December 11, 2017

Where You From?

He's looking down at his phone, absorbed in whatever arrangement of pixels happen to be going on there, so he doesn't hear me say, "Excuse me," but I'm carrying two pretty heavy bags, and so, without touching him, I move past him with a, "Right behind you." That seems to startle him enough to wake him out of his electronic stupor, and he obligingly moves out of the way and further into the subway car.

When we go over the bridge, though, he and his girlfriend get up and look out the window over the East River, down the length of the island toward the Statue of Liberty.

"It's much prettier than yesterday," she says, and he nods, thinking, probably, of a dark sky flinty with snow.
One year ago: Accelerate Out of Danger
Two years ago: Mea Culpa
Three years ago: I'll Be Fine Tomorrow
Four years ago: Among Other Things (But Not Many)
Seven years ago: Sometimes I Get Carried Away

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Talking About the Weather

Bananas, spinach, milk, and a half-tube of cheez flavored Pringles - I lay them on the counter and, while she rings them up, I look through the glass out the front door where the late-fall snow is drifting down in enormous, fat flakes from a frozen smoke sky.

"Pretty bad out there," I say, making idle conversation. But she looks up from scanning barcodes with furrowed brows and says, "Not stopping anytime soon."

When I express surprise at this, she shakes her head, as if addressing someone who is clearly dealing with a serious brain injury, adding, "They say it's gonna keep snowing all through the night."
One year ago: The Physics of Fire
Two years ago: Phone Snatchers Abound in Midtown
Three years ago: Morning Luck
Four years ago: Good Guy Brain
Seven years ago: Late Nights in the Slope

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dodge Parry Thrust

I sometimes feel as though I'm fencing with customers, parries and ripostes against their cynicism and bitterness.

"But they're not real butterflies, right?" he says, smiling as if he's caught me out in some desperate lie.

I smile back and shake my head, but I know my smile has a bit of an edge. "Nope," I say, "they're all real."
One year ago: Colossus
Two years ago: Overheard at Work
Three years ago: Somebody to Talk to At The Office Party
Four years ago: Dad Jokes At The Wine Shop

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2018 is Coming

2016 was the warm-up: the usual trials and sorrows that we are all heir to (illness, death, regret), but amplified, a border skirmish with the emissaries from the realm of grief and loss.

2017 has turned up the volume on all that 2016 portended, and added the voices of those who would no longer remain silent in the face of suffering; it burned away the facades of pretenders and told us that everything not freely given would be stripped away.

A man stands immobile in the middle of the subway platform, clutching a cane in his enormous hand. The furious swirl of commuters part like water to either side around the vast bulk of him, while he waits for something just out of sight with a look of stoic, smoldering rage.
One year ago: Politeness
Two years ago: Chopping Onions
Three years ago: Magic Beans
Four years ago: An Important Day in a Boy's Life
Seven years ago: Armored

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Abandon Hope, Ye Who Enter

I run up the stairs to the second floor of Whole Foods, my bladder singing a single, insistent note (a P above middle C), to find, thankfully, no line to the bathroom.

But when I walk in, the door to the only stall is closed, and a clear trash bag wraps the only urinal in despair. A smell of the sewer greets my nose as a voice, echoing against the tiles like some damned soul speaking from hell, intones, "No good in here, man."

I stand for a moment, dumbfounded and desperate, only to be recalled to myself when the speaker lets loose a long, ringing fart in the silence, and I beat a hasty retreat.
One year ago: Psalm 121:1
Two years ago: First Rule
Three years ago: Two Wrongs
Seven years ago: The Band is Passive Aggressive, We Are Not

Rent Control

After I confess my rent to the two ladies from Long Island (the daughter of one of them standing off to the side watching, smiling) one of them laughs. "I can top that," she says. "Six bedroom apartment, Upper East Side, he's was born there...," she starts

"He's been living there since 1944," the other chimes in.

"...and when his parents died, he got the apartment for what they were paying and he still pays only," her voice drops to almost a whisper, "a hundred forty-four dollars a month."
One year ago: Secondhand Communion
Two years ago: Old Salt
Three years ago: Lost Pen
Four years ago: Rumors of the Real World

Monday, December 4, 2017


"What about a deal on that piece?" the woman says, naming a price half the value of the item, like she's doing me a favor.

We've been doing this for a few minutes, so I fix her with a look and say, as sweetly as I can, "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to do that."

She stares back for a moment, then shrugs, and gets out her wallet to pay the agreed upon price, only to balk yet again when I tell her she still has to pay tax, even though she's paying in cash.

"If I'm going to pay tax on it, so are you," I say with a smile.
Two years ago: The Bright Side
Three years ago: Cooking Together
Four years ago: Who Cares What You Think?

Am I Psychic?

"Are you humming 'Jolene'?" the woman asks me, incredulous.

I look up from where I'm wrapping the ornaments she just bought with what I'm guessing is a dumb look on my face and say, "Yeah, I guess I am,"

"That's the name of one of the people I'm buying these for, " she says, her eyes wide, gesturing to the ornaments.

"Well," I say in confusion, "did you say it out loud or something?"
One year ago: Who Usually Takes Charge
Two years ago: A Discourse on Unheimlich
Three years ago: Matthew 25:40
Four years ago: Unconscious

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Inferior Trash

For a while, any time Katie and I would finish a bottle of wine during the week, I'd have to hear about it on Friday from the guy who bagged the recyclables for the building. He wouldn't be judgey, exactly, just sort of insinuating, like we were these wild partiers throwing out tons of bottles when in reality we might have a small glass with dinner every night.

Since the market started, though, we've been too busy to even do that, but I've still kept up the habit I got into of bagging up my own recyclables to go out late at night after he goes home.

The only problem is I worry I'm doing it wrong, and that whatever I put out on the curb on Friday night is subject to some arcane set of rules that will cause the recycling guys to reject my trash, and so I wake up Saturday mornings and go to the window, anxious that I'll see my the clear plastic bags stuffed with either paper or glass, metal, and plastic, still there in the light of day, mocking me with their stubborn solidity.
One year ago: Testing
Two years ago: Lighten Up
Three years ago: "Lights, Please?"
Four years ago: Here, You Throw This Away

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Back to Baseline

A show on television about bullying in middle school gets in my head, and I find myself wishing the same suffering I experienced on the children of those who tormented me - constant anxiety, loneliness, confusion in the face of seemingly inexplicable hatred, depression. I even find myself envisioning these children, blameless except for an accident of being born to hateful parents, thinking of killing themselves, the way I used to. 

I realize I need to calm my happy ass down when I’m walking down the street to the train as the schools in my neighborhood are getting out, and the groups of kids, loudly laughing and jostling down the sidewalk the way normal kids do, have me striding faster and faster to pass each of them, my pulse racing angrily.

After my train ride, when I arrive at my stop, the gently rocking motion of the train and the familiarity of the station seems to have narcotized my rage, and I’m able to recall some of my usual benevolence for the crowd; a brass quartet echoes Christmas carols off the subway tiles, and I take a deep breath and manage a smile, 
One year ago: Not His Night
Three years ago: Melancholia
Seven years ago: So Much For Meditation

Friday, December 1, 2017

Slow It Down

One of the greatest joys in my life is to move unselfconsciously: to quickly, gracefully, do the thing that is in front of me, speaking or writing, dressing, walking, catching with the smooth loop of the basketball star the cup falling from the top shelf and putting it back in place. I’m often clumsy for precisely this reason, in that I try to try to do things with this unconscious grace when I haven’t earned the right, either because I’m not paying attention or because repetition and practice have yet to write the grooves into my mind that would allow me to act with such an animal elegance.

But spending hours everyday in the tiny booth where we sell Katie’s glass and butterfly sculptures has forced me to slow down, lest I destroy with a stray gesture of my frankly too large frame some precious thing, or knock over a shelf, or smack a customer in the face.

It’s even bled into my everyday life, and I find myself moving more deliberately as, for example, I take off my scarf on the subway: carefully moving so as not to impinge on others' space, right hand unknots while the left pulls the length of it around my neck and, without allowing it to drag on the ground, I gather it into my now free right hand and bunch it into my bag with what feels like ridiculous slowness and concentration.
One year ago: Kinda True
Two years ago: Barking at Midnight
Three years ago: Nostalgia
Seven years ago: Wound Up