Monday, November 28, 2011

11/28/11 new cat

Is it too soon to be overjoyed? Katie says, her hand buried in a bellyful of the softest fur either of us has ever felt, "I feel like were dancing on Honey's grave."

Every time I believe I've reached my capacity, for love or happiness or whatever, I am blown wide open by yet another thing that proves to me I have no idea how much I can feel, love, enjoy, experience. A long haired calico cat with a white belly and sweet green eyes purrs between us as we lie on the bed, her back pushed up against my leg, one pink-padded paw draped over Katie's leg, and my heart feels fit to burst.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11/22/11 Rrrrargh

Work has been brutal, the last week. The accumulated karma of 15 years of slacking coming home to roost.

It feels like something inside me has been beaten - not defeated, but actually beaten, tenderized. A part of me has given up, at least for now, but even so, I can feel it lurking, waiting to rise back up and assert its stupid, foolish dominance.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11/15/11 Allocating your time

"I don't believe that you spend 7o% of your time on my work," I read in her email, and the anxiety which I'd been staving off for the past few hours comes crashing back. My head seems to swell up like a balloon full of blood and I wonder if this is what it feels like right before a person has a stroke.

This is what comes of working in industries where you have no native talent or interest, and a strange resolve kindles in me.

I am going to find a job in a place that roughly corresponds to what I actually care about.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

11/13/11 I know how you feel, kid.

The child walking behind us begins to snarl and howl. His mother gently encourages his displays of spookiness: "Oh, you're pretty scary."

I look up for the full moon that has been dogging me the past few days, but I can't seem to find it. The kid goes, "Ow-oooooooooooo!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

11/12/11 too soon?

"Katie" is the name they give for the calico/Maine coon cat mix in the cage in front of us. Her eyes, the same color as my only-a-week-gone-kitteh, watch us with relaxed interest, and then close in satisfaction as we stroke her long, soft fur.

We talk ourselves into and out of taking her home four different times over the course of an hour, finally deciding that it wouldn't be fair to bring her home for a few months and then have us leave on vacation.

Of course, the real reason is that we still haven't completely gotten rid of all the cat hair, and toys, dishes, and pillows where she slept, that remind us of Honey.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 Fall Fell

Overnight, the city has gone from the shabby end of summer to full blown fall. The ginko trees shed golden leaves in sheets as cold wind gusts down Brooklyn streets.

Katie and I walk west with clouds scudding overhead, past trees with brick-toned leaves. "Are they the same color as my hair?" she asks, knowing that, even in the fleeting sun, they couldn't possibly shine as bright as that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

11/9/11 Waking Up is Hard to Do

Katie's new job has us waking at the same time, and both of our alarms go off simultaneously, making a quiet digital racket in our bedroom.

She and I have completely different morning styles, given that she would like to murder all goodness in her rage at being awake anytime before nine A.M., and I am cheerful, instantly awake, and full of energy.

Last night I commented on us being up at the same time, and how did she like it? "You're so cute in the morning I want to smother you with a pillow," she said.

11/8/11 Sick Holiday

Home from work on election day, as my company takes the day off for some reason. I probably would have and should have taken the day off anyway, as the head cold I've been nursing for the past few weeks has kicked in with a vengeance.

I decide to take advantage of the free day to stay inside and write, but the words are coming hard today. Some days I get to my 500 words and I fall away from the keyboard feeling like I've been wrestling with something large, wild, and completely out of my control.

Monday, November 7, 2011

11/7/11 Instigator

"Any room for a little person?" I hear the cracked voice of an older woman ask, mock plaintively. The train is packed and she cackles as the grumbling commuters crammed around the door grudgingly make way. She then proceeds, in sotto voce that carries above the rattle of the tracks, to urge the people around her to punch each other in the face.

As I step off the train, she stands by the door watching all of us disembark, a brightly colored, iridescent feather on her black cap, a satisfied smirk on her face.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

11/5/11 Remember, remember

The vet leaves the room for a minute to "give us some time." The first injection was administered without much fuss, and after a moment of the kitty thinking that she might go take a walk on the floor, she lays down on my lap, completely relaxed and breathing slow and easy.

We stroke her fur, pet her head, play with her paws and tail, all in the ways that she would never let us do before now, when she was conscious and able to object. Her paws twitch, as do her ears, as if she is dreaming of walking away from us, and I tell Katie I hope it's a good dream.

Friday, November 4, 2011

11/4/11 That'll work

"So Jonathan," I said, "you're similar to my wife in your rage and your restlessness and intolerance for boredom. What do you suggest for activities when we're low on funds?"

He thought for a moment. "Booze and Wii," he said.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

11/3/11 The March of Sickness

I knew, as I went to bed last night, that this morning I would have a cold. All the usual suspects showed - the heavy dryness in my sinuses, the stinging, swollen throat, the shaky exhaustion - and made my dreams (once I was finally able to sleep) strange and unsettling.

On waking, however, I found myself still only in the initial stages, waiting on the further indignities to come. I ate handfuls of Tylenol, sucked down spicy and bitter herbal elixirs, gargled desperately with warm water into which I'd dissolved crushed aspirin and salt, but nothing seemed to arrest the inevitable march of sickness through my body.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

11/2/11 She who is not busy eating 9-Lives is busy dying.

My cat meows plaintively at the door outside our bedroom where Katie and I lay asleep. It is four in the morning, and like the elderly of any species, she has trouble sleeping through the night. Since the majority of her time that is not spent sleeping is now spent eating, any time she is awake she has decided that she must be hungry, and she therefore demands to be fed.

I am a light sleeper, unlike my slumbering wife who manages to sleep right through the cat's complaints, and so I struggle out of bed to feed the beast, who circles my feet, still yelling, until I plop the food onto her plate with a wet splat to place it gently before her, and stumble in darkness back to bed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

11/1/11 - another morning

My high school band teacher, Mr. McEnaney, drilled into our heads that, when exiting a bus, it is always polite to thank the bus driver. Today, while getting off the B67, which I only take in direst of need when I hope to catch the earlier train into work by lopping off the few blocks between the 7th Avenue Q Train station and my house, every single person thanked the bus driver as we exited. It was very satisfying.

In the station, a man, presumably homeless, lay sleeping in one of the giant, three-wheeled baby carriages that jogging parents use to take their offspring with them on their daily run, and it seemed to fit him quite well.

Monday, October 31, 2011


This summer I spent a night with a group of about 500 people in the main branch of the New York Library as part of a game that ended with all of us collaboratively writing and publishing a book by the end of the night. I went in there hoping that it would be like Book Church, which it sort of was, but in the end all the relics and the cavernous spaces and the hallowed halls feel to the place really left me sad and cold, more like spending the night in a museum, or a mausoleum.

Across the street from the vast, intimidating marble facade sits the more humble lending library, with its irregular shelves filled with plain, ordinary books that have been read and loved and abused and opened and closed hundreds of times. It is unoffensively bland and shabby and not at all grand, and it is here, not in the grand, palatial monument across the street, that I feel at home.


We walk down the center of Ocean Parkway, a street designed by Olmstead and Vaux, in Gravesend. I'm doing research for the book I'm writing, part of which takes place right nearby here.

Katie and I try to process the monstrous houses that line the street, all of them fairly new, and wonder if the walking tour this book has sent us on is maybe a little too sanitized for my purposes. After yet another McMansion looms over our pathway, we agree they're a bit boring, and content ourselves with the glorious, perfect blue sky fall day we've been given in the wake of yesterday's bizarre snow.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

10/29/11 In October?

We lie in bed and watch the news while the blond anchor with the bad hair smiles and tells us about the snow coming our way. It's almost eleven, and we have no real motivation to get up.

I only half-believe the blond anchor until I'm sitting down in the front of the house to do yoga, and it starts to come down. Katie runs up to the window in her PJ's and yells at the descending snow, "What the hell, nature?"

Friday, October 28, 2011

10/28/11 - What's the worst that could happen?

The bus driver dropped me off right by the subway stop with the friendly suggestion that I enjoy my weekend, and I stepped off the bus with a little spring in my step.

I patted my left front pocket with my habitual gesture, checking to make sure I had my usual implements, phone, wallet, and felt a sudden shock of cold panic as I realized I did not have my phone. The bus still stood at the curb, waiting for the light to change, and I briefly considered running back to search where I had been sitting, only to remember I'd been checking the weather right before I left home this morning to go to work, and that it was probably sitting lonely on the coffee table, offering up time and temperature to an empty room.

"Well," I thought, "I probably don't need a phone today anyway," wondering as I walked to the train if I had inadvertently doomed New York to a day filled with disasters, train delays, missed connections, and terrorist attacks.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

10-27-11 safe

I come up the stairs from the subway, mashed in the commuter crowd as we slowly trundle up from the platform. At the top, to each side of the corridor leading out to Grand Central Terminal, stand two cops in full military regalia: bullet-proof vests, helmets, automatic weapons, gloves, a whole Batman utility belt thing with all kinds of implements and gadgets I don't recognize and would need explained to me by an adult.

As I walk past, one of them breaks my stride as he crosses in front of me to speak to a woman who is leaning against the opposite wall, texting away. "Everything okay?" he asks her, as she looks up guiltily.

Friday, March 25, 2011

3/25/11 White Light in action

"And when they asked me why I was leaving... I told them!" Even through the phone, she sounds vaguely surprised at her candor, and I laugh.

"And then that other place, Fortuna? Forino? whatever, yeah she called me up today and asked me to come in for an interview," she says.

Smiling, I say, "Of course they did."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

3/24/11 - then who CAN you tell?

Woke up early to do yoga because I won't be able to do it tonight, as I have rehearsal. Katie is despondent over her job, not because it's particularly hard (though it is) as much as it violates her intense sense of justice and fairness. Apparently some people are slacking but get better tables and more money while she busts her ass and gets less.

When I go to sleep, I need darkness and quiet, while she prefers sound and light.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3/21/11 - Nothing can be OK, too

Katie's not feeling well, but she still has to go to work today, thankfully not a double shift. She and I will be home tonight, and we will eat ice cream (after I do yoga and sit - I believe I am at 13 consecutive days, which is only 23 days off my goal for lent!) and watch Battlestar Galactica.

We sat in silence for a while last night, and then she apologized for not having anything interesting to say. I told her, "We've got a million months to go, and chances are we won't always have something to say."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2/22/11 Barbaric Meo-awp

The cat screams for a half-hour, starting around 5:30, and waking me up from a rather disturbing dream that involved scary noises (a long time nightmare maker for me) and Battlestar Galactica.

She then quiets down and settles in, and I fall back asleep. I wake at 7:00 (my now usual time after changing my sleep schedule to better hang out with Katie, since she's more of a night person) and do my morning ablutions.

Lying in the kitchen, almost dead, legs slowly kicking, first one then another in dying regularity, is a fairly giant roach, which presumably the cat almost killed and over which I'm guessing she stood earlier to give her triumphant, house-waking screech.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2/16/11 bathroom humor

I come back from the bathroom after a particularly difficult session. I'm shaking a little, a little nauseated, chills.

"Well, that sucked," I say, attempting to be discreet.

She looks at me in horror.

"Why would you *tell* me that?" she yells.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2/14/11 no good reason

wake up, the alarm sounds like church bells, with none of the gravitas.

I woke up 2 hours before, so this is what a full night's sleep feels like.

Emotionally fraught for no good goddamn reason, except maybe too much wine last night.

My beautiful wife sleeps next to me and immediately takes over the bed as soon as I leave.

Friday, February 4, 2011

2/4/11 The smell test

Lying in bed after a long day, she buries her face in my chest and inhales deeply, then sits up with a suspicious look on her face.

"You don't smell like you," she says studying my face, leans in, sniffs my neck, my armpit, then sits back again, with a comical look of disappointment on her face.

When she comes back from long trips, or if I've been away for a few days, this happens, and admittedly, we have been ships passing in the night, with her working doubles and me rehearsing.

But I think it might be something else: "Well, I did eat a lot of garlic tonight...."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2/3/11 what goes around comes around

Kid, wearing headphones, bumps me pretty hard as the crowd surges forward in the tunnel between the trains. There's plenty of room around me, but he keeps on trucking, eyes forward, no expression.

I don't break stride, and I don't stretch; I just keep my exact same pace and see where exactly my foot fits right in front of his next step, and sure enough he trips over my foot, not enough to fall, just enough to put a hitch in his getalong.

After the glow of triumph fades and I'm waiting on the subway platform for my train to arrive (after studiously avoiding getting in at the same door as my victim) I feel a twinge of regret, because, after all, how can I expect kindness and forgiveness from others if I can't give it myself?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

1/20/11 The prisoner

Living with an old cat is very much what I imagine living with an old woman in the house would be like. She is picky, irritable, constantly uncomfortable, and very vocal in expressing her displeasure.

This morning's infraction involved a large plastic cup from which she drinks by sticking her head in almost past the ears (Katie says it's because the sides of the cup "tickle the cat's whiskers" which seems as plausible as any other explanation). It was empty, never mind that there was a perfectly functional (and full) water dish in the kitchen, no, THIS was her water receptacle of choice, and by God she would wake up the entire building at five in the morning if she had to until someone filled the goddamned cup full of water, NOW dammit NOW!

Friday, January 14, 2011

1/14/11 Things we say in the dark

She's a little cold, less snuggly than usual, but it takes her longer to recover from fights than I do. We lay in the dark and chat, about the day, things we read, the cat.

It's not healed, not completely, but it's less sore, less raw.

I turn on my side, she scoots herself into place behind me, her arm draped over my side, and I slide into sleep almost immediately.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

1/12/11 anatomy of a fight

We lie in bed in the dark. She's mad, I'm mad.

She sits up, and I ask, "Well, what are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking irrationally right now."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1/11/11 bad mood meanderings

It comes on like this: a black mood, a hollow in the chest, a sense of "why bother?" Sometimes life is just one goddamn thing after the other, with no purpose or meaning.

I think that's really the question - reading Paul Tillich right now and one of the things he talks about is religion being whatever it is that is the "ultimate concern" of your life, which could be anything, really, hence the danger of idolatry.

Faith requires courage, and I think I may be a coward.

Friday, January 7, 2011

1/6/11 this story is missing some crucial element, but I can't remember what it is.

Ray tends to be rather florid in his descriptions of the altered states of consciousness he enters when he plays guitar, but today he is uncharacteristically succinct. "Well, I can't say I was exactly a witness to what happened," he says, after a particularly "out" performance of one of our songs that we are tearing apart and putting back together.

Later, he comments that he didn't feel like he did as well on a different song, and asks if we had any hints for him.

"Well," says Gerry, "I can't say I was exactly a witness...."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

1/5/11 A Little Not Music

Elaine Stritch is KILLING this show. Going up on lines, mugging, back phrasing so hard she might as well be on a 5 minute delay (when she remembers the lyrics) and then making up lyrics wholesale when she doesn't recall them, forcing the actors around her to improvise around crucial plot points to make up for the fact that she has no idea what comes next - it was brutal, and every time she got up on stage, I had to cover my eyes.

We walk out into the bright lit night of Broadway, Katie in a long, elegant mink coat she inherited from her Grandma, me in my long jacket from Italy, looking quite the couple as we swim up stream through Times Square to the subway, fuming at producers who would put an obviously unwell old women up on the stage and expect her to do eight a week.

Katie is livid: "If I had paid full price for those tickets, I would have been PISSED."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1/4/10 cold to warm

I walk out of Ray's room to retrieve my sweater, our evening's output blaring over the speakers while we pack up our gear for the night, and find Liz standing in the kitchen. She looks displeased to see me, though not just me, necessarily, just anyone, but she manages a wan smile and a hello, and even an impersonal hug. I leave unsettled by her chilly reception, trying not to take it personally.

Back in Brooklyn, Tame Impala comes on the headphones: "Everyday/back and forth/what's it for?/Desire be, desire go"; I realize it's got nothing to do with me, I say a silent little wish for her happiness, and continue upstairs to my home.

Monday, January 3, 2011

1/3/11 Ascension Day

Yesterday's fog lifts, and after a day at my job, I feel more like myself than I have in several days. I like the routine, having somewhere to go and useful work to do there.

The sun is setting as I come up from my train in Brooklyn, and as I walk down Seventh Avenue, listening to Talk Talk, wrapped in a warm coat, on my way home, I relax back into my skin. The sky darkens, the lights come up along my street as we dodge the snow drifts, my chest relaxes like someone's snipped the rubber bands that were holding me in - I'm back.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

1/2/11 You ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

I walk through the aisles of Duane Reade (soon to be Walgreens or Rite Aid or some conglomerate or other) searching for 1) facial cleanser, 2) airborne, 3) something sweet to make me feel better about this ridiculous sinus infection when I recognize a tune over the speakers. They are playing Summertime Clothes by Animal Collective on the PA in a drugstore in the dead of the winter, with the snow of last week's blizzard laying like a filthy corpse on the street.

The sheer effrontery of it, the bizzare non-sequitur-ness of this beautiful music singing of summer joys while I contemplate suicide next to the toiletries, is the topper on the day.

I have no plans, the new year is waiting to jump out at me while I try to figure out why I'm on the planet, and the flourescent lights are killing me slowly, which is to say, I'll get back to you when I'm feeling less sorry for myself.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/1/11 We ended up straightening up a little

"Pooks, I'm starting to feel like I'm wasting my life," I told Katie, as we sat watching "Sister Wives" while sitting around without pants on and trying to recover from the previous night.

"Well, do you want to try cleaning this place up a little?" She gestured to the piles of stuff, reminders of our guests from the past week, and of the blizzard that still clogs the streets.

When I demure at the immensity of the job, she says, "Well, it's not like we can really clean up, since Bloomberg won't let us throw out our garbage."