Sunday, January 31, 2021

Snowy Night

Snow falls thick and fast across the outline of the church steeple silhouetted black against the dark grey sky, and I think about the many reasons to love snow, any of which individually would be sufficient.

One, it blows sideways, drifts down, swirls through the beams of streetlights, and fills all of space, illustrating the sheer volume of air all around us, which can give us a much needed sense of proportion and perspective, by showing us how big the world is, and how small we are.

Two, the flinty, distinctly snowy smell of it, the taste of it scooped off of a drift like a hat topping a wall or a snowed-in car, the way the air of a snowy day feels in your nose. 

Three, the sound and feel of it crunching beneath boots and shoes, the way it blankets the streets and sidewalks, muffling the harsh noise of city life into a muted hum, the way it hushes the world.

In Disguise

It's like she took someone else's hair, dyed it to be the same color as her hair, braided it, and then wove the braids into a hat that she proceeded to festoon with cloth flowers, none of which match the rhinestoned sunglasses she wears indoors. When she opens up her bag, there are crumpled up wads of money, packets of tissues, and small plastic bags that you get from the liquor store, and she uses a pink fabric measuring tape to check the heel heights on every shoe I bring her.

Every time I go back into the stockroom for another pair of shoes, I take a moment to breathe, because this is my job - I'm good at it, and I like to take care of people, and I don't know for certain that this woman is wasting my time, so I'm just going to give her the same service I give everybody.

She ends up buying three pairs of shoes, and hands me a card with her contact info, letting me know that, in addition to her quirky sartorial and grooming choices, she also has a couple theaters uptown named after her, and that she'd love to have me help her shop again.

Saturday, January 30, 2021


The accordion player on the Q train is very good: his riff on Toccata and Fugue in D Minor during "Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel gets a laugh, and each song gets a smattering of applause. 

He makes his way down the car, joking and playing, until he gets to my end, where he plays a little until he notices the guy across from me taking a video.

As the train pulls into the station, he stares into the lens of the guy's phone and starts saying, "You're welcome," over and over - "You're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome" - each one increasingly more aggressive, until finally he gets off the train and takes his musical show to the next car.

"You know, I don't think he meant that," I say out loud, but either nobody hears me, or they don't think it's particularly funny. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Legalize It

Since no one is coming in to the store, we have a few moments to chat on the shoe floor while we tidy up.

"I mean, I can't afford Game Stop stock right now, but I'm not mad that a bunch of hedge fund guys are losing their shirts," one guy says.

"All my money's in cannabis," another says ruefully. "Just legalize it, guys, so I can retire."

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Getting a (Relaxed) Grip

The electric scooter is buzzing along, and I am having a great time, dropping down into the center of gravity that allows me to thumb the accelerator all the way down and swing my hips to weave through traffic.

Until I hit the long downhill stretch at the bottom of the park, and as I accelerate suddenly I find myself tightening up, gripping the handlebars too hard, trying to slow down, wobbling as my momentum fades, losing all my mojo. I'm reminded of when I was learning how to ski, the panic that sucked the life out of me, and how old I felt as agoraphobia gripped me and I imagined myself falling forever up into the sky.

I consciously slow my breathing, bend my knees, relax my hands, look down at the speedometer for a second to realize I'm not going much faster than a brisk walk, and then hit the accelerator and speed myself down the road.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


"You know how they say pepper is black?" I ask Katie as I storm into the bedroom from the kitchen. "But when it's ground up it's actually black and white!"

While I stand there, rapturous in the light of my revelation, Katie says, "Well, when pepper is whole it's black, which is probably where it comes from. Are you going to be okay today?" she adds.

Monday, January 25, 2021

New Words

"But the voice of the main character was just a bit too...."

"Precocious?" she says, stepping out of the water where she was rinsing. "I just learned the opposite of that word," she adds, making a face, "but I forgot it."

"If you remember in the middle of the night," I say seriously, "wake me up."

Love Language

A woman I admire a great deal, the manager who trained me for my current job, was just promoted to a new position out of state, and she sent a group text with words of wisdom to the people she hired. 

"She listed everybody on the text with a little memory or a phrase for them, and I was a little upset when I read mine was just 'Attention to Detail,'" I tell Katie as she's making dinner after I get home from work.

"Well, to be fair, that is literally the same criticism you've heard from every job you've ever worked," Katie says.

"Of course it's true," I reply, "I just had to realize that constructive criticism is her love language."

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Not What I Meant

"Weird times, right now, so, how are you doing?" I ask seriously as I sit down with the two women. The one in the expensive puffy designer jacket puts her mask back on after taking a long pull on the straw of her pale pink smoothie. 

"Yeah, I know what you mean, like I'm just trying not to get angry because I know they want to use me freaking out as an excuse to raise taxes, because government has always been so good at solving problems in the past, right?" she says animatedly.

"Okay," I say after a pause, "let's take a look at these boots."

Friday, January 22, 2021

A Problem With Lottery Tickets

"Is that 'billion' with a 'b?'" Katie asks when I tell her the amount of the jackpot for the lottery.

"Buy five tickets," I reply.

"Do you have ten bucks for me?"

"You know I don't."

By That Much

I can read the sign above the subway entrance saying "Q Downtown - 0 minutes" (which really means 1 minute) from half a block away, so despite my trick right leg and bum left knee, I start running.

I get down the stairs and into the station and down to the platform in record time, but the train has already pulled out of the station by the time I get there. I stand on the platform watching the lights receding down the tunnel while the arrival sign above the platform says that the next Q arrives in 11 minutes, which seems like an eternity. 

I stare across the tracks to the uptown platform, feeling sorry for myself, watching strangers read books, listen to music, stare off into space, and then I pull out my book and try to escape for a while.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Tip Your Delivery Guy

The app Citizen, which monitors police radio and 911 calls, alerts us that ten guys on bikes are beating somebody up down the street from us, which sounds like an awfully big fuss for Inauguration Day, and also kind of unfair, so we put on jackets and go to see if it’s really happening.

When we get there, the intersection is empty except for the usual cars waiting as the light quietly changes from red to green; a half a block away, a couple is walking their yellow Labrador Retriever. 

We look around for a bit, and then Katie gets on the app to let them know it’s not true. “Maybe it was a bunch of food delivery guys beating up somebody who didn’t tip,” I muse.

Yeah, I Knew That

The photoshoot by the skating rink seems to be going pretty well, and the photographer is getting good shots of the model drinking hot chocolate topped with artfully arranged whipped cream cresting the cup like a sweet dairy Matterhorn.

“If I was a photographer,” I whisper confidently to Katie as we watch them spritz another dollop of whipped cream on the cocoa, “I’d make sure all those chopsticks and napkins and trash on the ground around her were picked up.”

“Those things’ll never be in the photo, Scott,” she replies. “This is a food photoshoot."

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Birds Of A Different Feather

A red light and a couple of passing cars prevent me from crossing the intersection, but it's my lifelong tendency toward distraction that has me staring up into the sky when I see them: two enormous pigeons wheeling and soaring in the pale January sky above the brownstones.

But they're far too large to be pigeons; as my brain, which expects to see pigeons, starts to take in what's actually in the sky, I realize that one, with the muscular body and white underwings, is one of the hawks who lives over in Prospect Park a few blocks away, and the other, jet black with extended pinions like fingers grabbing the air, is a raven or a crow.

Almost as soon as I am able to process this, I lose sight of them behind the rooftops, the light changes to green, and I am tempted to wait there on the corner, mouth agape, staring at the sky to see if they come back.

I do not wait, but I am late for my train, regardless.

Sunday, January 17, 2021


The sun streaming through the front window refracts into multicolored light through the bottles on the bar cart. I write at my computer while the cat sleeps in her perch.

Outside, a baby screams its displeasure all the way down our block. The cat meows in irritation at the noise, stretches out a single paw that ends in vicious claws, then settles back into her slumber, tail wrapped around her nose.

What Did The Fist Say To The Face?

The discussion about professional mixed martial arts fights is getting pretty heated in the lunchroom. 

“How you not gonna get mad when the guy is punching you in the face?” one of them asks incredulously.

“They’re professionals, it’s not personal,” his friend replies, laughing.

“Well, you tell that to the fist on your face,” the first one says.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Missed Connections

The guy leaning up against the pole outside the subway turnstiles looks like he’s waiting for something.

Now, while it’s illegal to ask for a subway swipe (it’s panhandling), it’s not illegal to give someone a subway swipe, so I try to give a swipe if I can, but the thing is that people can get in trouble with the cops if you make a big deal about it, so you’ve got to be subtle.

So I make eye contact with this guy while holding up my card as I’m leaving, indicating I can get him into the subway if he wants.

But apparently that’s not what he’s there for, and he has no idea what I’m doing or offering, so we just end up making awkward eye contact until I’m past him and on my way out of the station.

Friday, January 15, 2021


The small brown dog looks up expectantly at the young girl. Her attention is elsewhere, but his is entirely on her.

She gestures using her hat which she has been holding in one hand on this particularly mild evening, and the dog attempts to grab it with his mouth. Failing this, he circles her twice, then, when she moves on, he follows her, head high, happy to know he did his part to keep the pack intact.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Concentration vs. Tension

A day of tidying and putting new furniture together has had me concentrating all day, and apparently it has not done wonders for my mood.

"Your eyes are hard," Katie says concernedly.

I try to relax them to no avail. "Your shoulders are up, too," she adds, and I'm about to deny it before I notice that they are, in fact, up around my ears, and I consciously push them downwards. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Things We Do For Love

There’s no crowd in the art-supply store, and I find the notebook I’m looking for (Moleskine, red, line-ruled, medium) no problem. I’m searching the aisles for a better pencil sharpener when I spot, and am spotted by, a small horse that turns out to be a Great Dane. 

I politely ask his owner if I can say hi, but the dog is already spooning me in such a way that I almost, but not quite, fall down. 

“My wife would kill me if I didn’t pet your dog,” I explain as I attempt to stay upright.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

On A Mission

I can feel the rough, pitted surface of Seventh Avenue through the wheels of my electric scooter. It's about 1:30 in the afternoon and double parked delivery trucks and lunching commuters have turned parts of the street into an impound lot without a fence. I slalom in and out of the bike lane, into oncoming traffic (all at safe speeds, of course) to avoid colliding with cars who've decided to unload their passengers right in my path, or to miss the garbage can that the movers have simply left in the middle of the street.

I come to the cafe, pop the kickstand, run inside and tell them, "Marble twist and a chocolate frosted, no sprinkles, please."

Monday, January 11, 2021


I’m already out the door, standing on the steps, when I see a woman walk by, bundled up in her down jacket, fluffy hat, scarf, and mask.

Which reminds me that I am outside, and that I have somehow managed to leave the house without a mask on.

“Oh my goodness,” I actually say, out loud, with my mouth, which is uncovered, and which apparently belongs to a prim schoolteacher from 1950s Illinois, because who actually says, “Oh my goodness?”

I hear the woman wearing her mask snort as she laughs at me, and I turn to head back upstairs to remedy my mask-less face.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

New Band Name

“It’s called a ‘Refined Creeper Neo Chelsea’ rainboot,” I tell the father/daughter duo who are buying it. "‘Refined Creeper’ also happens to be the name of my new band,” I add.

As they’re finishing up, I thank them for letting me help them out. “Good luck with the new band,” says the dad over his shoulder with a wink.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Don't Overthink

"My top three customers? I mean, I haven't seen a few of them in months now, and with the pandemic, it's impossible to say...."

"Scott," my manager says, "you're overthinking it. We're selling shoes, not putting people into space."

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Everywhere Signs

On our way to my doctor's appointment, we pass a shoe repair shop in the subway station. It's closed, as so many places are these days, with a sign on the glass that reads, "To get shoes call 917-xxx-xxxx I will bring them to you," which is nice. 

"That sign is kind of ominous," Katie says, indicating a totally different sign. This one's an EXIT sign done up in traditional subway Helvetica, but in a hotly glowing orange red which I agree is a little off-putting, but it does the job and we head to the surface.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021


They didn’t even bother trying to buzz our apartment to deliver the package before they took it to the Post Office and told us to come get it ourselves.

After I return from the Post Office with it, Katie asks me, “Did you give ‘em hell?”

“No,” I say resignedly. “The lady looked tired, and after everything going on today, I just felt like being nice to somebody."

An Agent Of Small Chaos

The produce aisle is heavy with color -- smug red tomatoes, thick green peppers nestled up against yellow peppers against red ones, bins forested with leafy greens and overgrown with brainy white cauliflower. 

A woman parks her cart next to an island in the middle of the aisle, effectively blocking anyone from getting through, and then walks away to grab something on the other side.

Her back is to me as I sidle past her cart and I give it a quick bump with my hip, sending it rolling across the aisle to follow her and crash into the display.

No one sees me do this, and I do not break stride as I grab some cilantro and continue on my way.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Not Mad

The small black poodle ignores me completely when I put my hand down and stares up at his owner expectantly. “He’s not unfriendly,” she explains, “he just really wants a treat.”

“I’m sorry I don’t have a treat, fella,” I say, and he looks at me and begins barking impatiently.

Later, when I tell Katie about how mad the dog was, she explains, “He wasn’t mad, just disappointed that you were wasting his time."

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Separate But The Same

I’m walking through Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library. To my right is the Library itself, gray stone in the misty-wet day, old-fashioned pillars and tall windows capped with arcs of glass, like whiskey poured from a glass decanter in a gentleman’s dark wood and leather upholstery study - a taste of old New York that you can still find, even in the early years of the 21st Century.

To my left, though, is the city as it is now: tall, aggressive glass skyscrapers, indifferent to us on the streets here below, their faces constantly heavenward or turned inward in brooding contemplation of the world-shaking decisions made within their glacial facades, today their lofty heads shrouded in low clouds that give them an even more elitist, otherworldly air.

I straddle the divide between these two expressions of the same world, recognizing how little they have reference to me, simply pleased to be in their presence.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Keep It To Myself

“What’s its name?” I ask the owner of the severe underbite attached to the face of a chunky English Bulldog in a baby carriage.

“His name is Juno,” she says proudly. 

“Juno?” I ask, making sure I heard correctly.

She affirms that the dog is named Juno, which is a female goddess’s name, but I decide not to point that out, because Juno seems happy, and the owner is happy, and what the hell do I care?

Friday, January 1, 2021

2021 Off To An Auspicious Start

“Forgot to say ‘Happy New Year’,” I shout to my co-worker, by way of apology.

She gives me a strange look over her shoulder as she’s walking away, and then replies, “Happy New Year!”

A minute later I realize that, while I meant to apologize because I had forgotten to tell her Happy New Year, as a result of the weirdly ambiguous way that I had phrased that, she probably thought that I was chastising her for not saying it to me.

The feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach takes all morning to dissipate. 

Last Gasps Of 2020

After I pick up the food for tonight’s festivities, I realize I’m pretty close to where Katie is manning the booth selling her sculptures.

I walk toward the park, but the block seems a lot longer than I remember, It’s only by the time I get to 8th Avenue that I realize I’ve gone the completely wrong direction, and spent a good ten minutes doing it.

By the time I get back to where I started, it’s raining.