Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Special Occasion

We’re almost at the pizza place when we see the two older people, a man and a woman, bidding each other farewell on the sidewalk. 

“Well, let’s hope it’s not so long until next time,” he says, giving her a gentle fist bump.

“Oh, you’re gonna make me cry,” she replies, hand to her chest.

“Hey, that’s why I had the sambuca with the coffee beans - it was a special occasion,” he says.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

New Normal

 I drop off the truck at U-Haul after an exhausting day, only to realize that I left home without a mask.

It’s early Tuesday evening in Brooklyn, so the streets aren’t too too filled, but I find myself checking a full block ahead to see if anyone is approaching, walking out into the street to give folks plenty of space, and just generally feeling deeply uncomfortable.

I don’t know how people do it, walking around with their whole face hanging out like its normal. When I finally got home I was so relieved. 


Loading the truck full of Katie’s art and displays takes several trips, and on one of them I come down to find a gentleman parking his bike in front of our apartment building. He takes off his helmet to reveal curly brown hair and a long face, partially concealed behind a mask.

He pulls a paper bag out of his backpack, then leans down and unties a garbage bag sitting on the curb, which, it turns out, is full of what appear to be day-old bagels from the bagel shop next door.

He carefully goes through the bag as I continue to load the truck, pulling out ones he likes the look of and throwing the rest back in, until his paper bag is full, and he and I do not speak the entire time, even though I pass him more than once, because I figure he’s doing nothing wrong, so why make a fuss?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sometimes You Can Just Tell

We step out of the apartment into the overcast fall day, Katie in her new, brightly hued sweater dress and leather jacket and me in a hooded t-shirt and army green button down, fresh-faced and ready to go vote and the first thing I hear is two young women eating under the tent for the bagel place next door, discussing politics.

“Like, don’t act like you’re all virtuous just because you’re voting and I’m not...,” one says to the other in this nasal, aggrieved tone before I pass out of earshot.

“Man, I hated everything about that conversation,” I tell Katie.

“Oh yeah, even though I couldn’t hear what they said,” she agrees.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

To Make Himself Smile

He stands up after finishing his lunch to go back to work. At other tables in the lunch room, people are chatting, watching videos on their phones, eating, one guy is clearly asleep, with his head under his arm to shade his eyes from the fluorescent lights. 

As he leaves, he shoots his trash into the garbage can with an unfancy fade away shot, nothing but net, no one saw but me. “Kobe,” he says softly to himself, and heads out with a small smile.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Arriving At Home

I sit at the dinner table - in front of me, an empty plate that previously held a grilled cheese sandwich, and a bowl that had held vegetable soup. Across from me sits my wife, thumbing through her phone, a smaller empty plate in front of her.

I take a sip of wine, red and full-bodied and delicious, and a tension I wasn’t aware I had been carrying around in my shoulders and chest relaxes. I take a deep breath, and smile.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Just a Normal Conversation With A Customer

“It reminds me of a line from the Gospel of Thomas,” I tell the woman I am helping find shoes (after a long discussion of her work as a therapist and counselor) as she takes off the too tight Ugg slippers. “‘If you bring forth what is within in, what you bring forth will save you, but if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.’”

This seems to excite the psychologist side of her. “I would add to that,” she says, “that if you bring forth and name what is within you, it will save you."

Monday, October 19, 2020

Chaos Boys

Milo and his friend look to be about ten or eleven, and certainly act like it, with each daring the other to jump into the murky water at Dog Beach while the park slowly winds down toward the end of a cool fall Sunday afternoon.

Finally they hit upon a plan to upend a sizable stump that people have been using as a seat. Working together, they heave it up and over and into the pond with a sad, heavy splash.

Not content with simply spoiling a good place to sit, they eagerly grab a long branch and push it out further into the water, where it floats uselessly, and then, finished with their task, they stand on the rocks overlooking the pond until Milo says, “I dare you to take off your pants."

Sunday, October 18, 2020

In On The Joke

“Do you guys want some water while you’re waiting?” I ask the mother/daughter duo to whom I’m currently selling shoes, before I run into the stockroom in another attempt to find them what they're looking for.

“I don’t think you have anything strong enough for me,” the mother replies jokingly.

“Well, unless you’re looking for heroin, I think we can oblige,” I say, indicating the actual bar with booze we have behind her in the middle of the shoe floor, and her face goes stony.

There’s a moment, right after you make a joke that may have landed wrong, where the world seems to hold its breath, but the daughter must have seen the bar on the way in, even though the mother clearly hadn’t, and she laughingly points it out to her, while relief floods through my body.

Saturday, October 17, 2020


Shoes left after a customer has concluded the transaction (either by buying something or not) are traditionally called “wood,” and it’s part of the job of the salesman to clean up their wood to keep the sales floor tidy. 

This pile of wood is something else, though: three different sizes of three different shoes, plus a couple random shoes for good measure, strewn about the floor surrounded by piles of the paper and cardboard and plastic bags that are used to pack the shoes.

I’ve seen this sort of thing before - the desperate attempts to engage the customer who doesn’t know exactly what she wants, or even what size, only that she doesn’t want whatever it is you brought out for her, but maybe if you bring out one more thing, she’ll finally decide....

As I pass the guy to whom the wood belongs, he laments, “Man, I’m not making any money today."

Thursday, October 15, 2020

We Must Take Sides

“I’m not going to vote,” my customer says. I manage to hold my tongue as she continues in an aggrieved tone, “Trump supporters don’t seem to care when I say that, but people who oppose him get really nasty with me."

I take a deep breath as I loosen the laces on the boot she’s about to try on. “They don’t get mad at you because silence favors the oppressor,” I finally say, as casually as I can.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

An Hour For Lunch

Yeah, that’s a good idea, I think as I sit down for lunch. I should totally do that.

I watch a few minutes of a show on my phone, and then realize that I do not remember the thing that I thought I should do.

I stare at the paused image on my screen, wracking my brain for it, but nothing comes to mind, and eventually I just give up and unpause the show.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Guilt Is A Useless Emotion

The boots that I suggested Katie purchase last year specifically because they were waterproof seem to be no match for today’s rain. 

“Yeah, there are wet spots on my socks,” she says looking down at her soaked toes as we enter the grocery store.

“Man, I feel like I really let you down,” I say.

“Don’t make this about you,” she replies mildly.


The mini Australian Shepherd startles as I approach, then proceeds to make this huffing noise that is, almost, but not quite a bark.

“We’re trying to socialize him again,” his owner says apologetically as I kneel with my knuckles held loosely toward the dog. “He was fine before lockdown, but he seems to have forgotten how to be around people.”

“Yeah, that seems to be going around,” I say, as the dog huffs again.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Still A Little Ways To The Robot Uprising

“We moved a piece of furniture, and there were all these dust bunnies underneath it,” my father tells me on our phone call. “So we watched the robot vacuum cleaner go past it once, twice. On the third time, it got it.”

 “This is what passes for entertainment in lockdown, right?” I reply.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Everyone’s A Comedian

Being outside for so many hours yesterday (while wearing a mask, and with my hair falling over one side of my face) has left me with a rather peculiar sunburn, covering most of the left side of my face down my cheek to a line right above my nose, and leaving the right side of my face relatively unaffiliated.

Today, I wore a new pair of shoes that matched nicely with my pale-pink pants and a crisp white button-down shirt.

“Oh, I like those pants,” says my friend Ben. “They go so well with your face!"

Friday, October 9, 2020

Do The Math

The sky is what I like to call “anime blue”: a clear, intense, friendly blue, characteristic of a warm spring or early fall, that seems to promise a bit of adventure and fun. I’m standing on an asphalt playground at a school on the Lower East Side, helping fit kids for shoes that the company I’m working for is giving away.

“So what’s your favorite subject?” I ask the boy sitting in front of me while I unbox a new pair of sneakers.

He looks very serious under his mask, thinks for a moment and then says, “I think I like math best."

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Mars In Retrograde

On the walk home from the subway, I wonder if the guy who made eye contact with me as I walked up the stairs is following me home and hoping I turn down a side street so he can rob me. I find myself eyeing the small plots of earth where they planted trees along 7th Avenue, searching for rocks or pieces of trash that I can pick up to beat somebody over the head.

There’s an empty beer bottle, standing in front of a shuttered store front that might do the trick.

They say if you think everybody hates you, you need to take a nap, and if you hate everyone, you need to eat something, but what’s the solution when you find yourself imagining violent ways of murdering somebody with objects found on the street?

Monday, October 5, 2020

Play By Play

The thin black woman with the young doberman pinscher and the enormous pit bull picks up the waterlogged branch and throws it into the water yet again. The doberman, all giant paws and gangly legs, splashes awkwardly into the water to retrieve it while the pit hangs back on the shore.

A young and impetuous yellow lab named, awkwardly, “Jeff” tries to horn in on the stick action in a tug-of-war when the doberman comes out of the water, and then, when that doesn’t work, tries to hump both other dogs. 

The woman, seeing that Jeff’s owner (a young, diffident man in Birkenstocks and socks at a pond no less) is unable or unwilling to pull him off of her dogs, very calmly walks over, hauls Jeff up in the air by the collar, and says, gently admonishing, “Now, no humping."

Saturday, October 3, 2020

New York City Cops

After Katie’s run in with the cops earlier in the evening, I’m surprised they have the audacity to still be in our neighborhood, but walking to the store, I have to pass three police vans, with their occupants (unmasked, natch) hanging out in front of the Old First Church.

I do not make eye contact, and I do not speak to them, on my way there or back from the store.

A Black man is crossing the street going in the direction of the cops and I want to say something to him, tell him to be careful, but really, what would I say? He’s not doing anything, not that that matters.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Belgian Shepherd

I walked home from the subway, and saw a man with a shaggy german shepherd. I thought to myself, “Is that dog called a Malinois, or am I just making that word up?”

Later, at dinner, Katie mentioned seeing a man walking a dog, a shaggy sort of german shepherd, and I wondered, is she talking about the same dog?

A few minutes ago, I looked up the word Malinois, and it turns out I wasn’t making up the word at all.

Williamsburg and Points North

The bike ride to my friend’s house, one of the first rides I’ve taken in months, is easy and smooth up the coast of Brooklyn into Greenpoint. I keep having to put my ego in check to stop killing myself to try and pass people, and to stop getting mad when people pass me.

After I park my bike, we go for a walk, back down the way I just came, and we pause to admire the peculiar view this part of Brooklyn affords us, with the Chrysler Building and the Empire State and all the other icons of the city jostling up against one another.

“You’re used to Manhattan being spread out along the horizon, but here, it’s like it’s all compressed into a flattened, weird perspective,” I observe, and my friend wisely let’s this remark pass without comment.