Sunday, June 30, 2013


I've banished myself to the bathroom using my daily shower as an excuse, but really, I just need to calm down after my yearly birthday insecurity flare up.

"It's not that you're more comfortable doing for others," I say to my fogged reflection as I scrape the razor across my face, "because really, I'm far too selfish for that. No, the problem seems to be that I have such a hard time believing anybody really loves me, which is totally stupid."

The aching whiny-ness begins to subside as I focus on all the wonderful things I have in my life, and all the love I am given, if I only accept it, while I wonder what else I've missed out on simply because I didn't believe the people who wanted to be kind really meant it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Soaking

The biggest of the three ladies in the group is examining their portion of the beach worriedly. "It looks like this is the waterline," she says pointing to a spot a few feet beyond where they've already begun laying down their equipment: beach towels, blankets, and boogie boards, all sheltered beneath the piece de resistance, a beach umbrella that seems to have been fabricated from the hide of a murdered and skinned muppet.

She's right, of course - we saw tide roll up the beach and soak everyone, including us, scattering the former inhabitants of the very spot into which they've decided to settle. 

Her friends all seem to ignore her, though, and we watch to see what will happen as the waves break higher and higher, edging once again ever closer, bringing with them their inevitable karmic lesson for those who will not see what's right in front of them.

My Addiction

The library is cool and cavernous after the wet heat of the ride here, and I can almost feel steam rising from my skin as I stand in the fiction section after picking up my one reserved book. I promised myself I wouldn't check out any others, but all restraint deserts me in the stacks, amidst the worlds and voices beckoning to me from the shelves.

I carry my shame (a novel, a book of short stories, a graphic novel, and a book of poetry) to the check-out, and try to look nonchalant as the librarian informs me I owe them money for a previously late item.

"I don't suppose you might be willing to let that slide this time around, would you?" I ask, while he eyes my record sceptically, like a parole office going over a dubious rap sheet.

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's a Very Complicated Office

I walk past the security desk in my building on my way out at the end of the day, ignoring the hassle that seems to be taking place, when one of the women arguing with the security guard recognizes me. "Sir?" she calls out. "Can you help me?"

After I realize who she is, and take her upstairs, I have to guide her through the maze that is our floorplan, saying, "They could have let you up - even if you got in, if you weren't supposed to be here, you would have just gotten lost, and we would have found you next week, wandering around, dehydrated, looking for the exit."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Vision of Divine Compassion

In my dream, she comes to me, as she has so many times before, this time in the guise of a teacher, her charges swirling around her.

She doesn't acknowledge me until I speak to her, but as soon as I do (a stupid joke about being one of her kids), she's laughing and smiling, a wide smile in a generous mouth, dark eyes.

I still haven't recognized her (I won't until after I awaken), so when I ask her what she does, she looks at me for a moment, then leans in and kisses me, tenderly.

"Mostly I work with people who have PTSD," she says, and her smile is sad, and as deep as the ocean.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just This Once

I stare into the sink, brushing my teeth, contemplating, for the briefest of moments, blowing off my writing, just for tonight. The sink drains slowly, and fills up with water and the foam from my mouth as I brush, spit, rinse, repeat.

It's not that nothing happened today. It's just, right now, none of it seems compelling enough, none of it seems to matter, just one more day closer to the grave, but still I brush, keeping my teeth in my head, and get ready to write.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Ravages of Time (no laughing matter)

I stand from my desk with some difficulty, explaining to my cubemate, "I missed a bad wave yesterday. It was pretty big, I ate shit, and, because I'm not as young as I used to be, I think I jacked up my back."

Another co-worker walks by, and, overhearing, giggles as she passes on her way.

"You're not supposed to laugh at that," I call after her.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kids These Days

I can't tell how old she is when she comes up to us, almost shyly, while we're waiting on the platform for the Q train to take us home after a full day at the beach, and asks where we got our beach umbrella. We are laden down with the accouterments of beaching, including rainbow-striped umbrella, beach chairs, towels, bags of snacks, and we're tired, to boot, but she seems nice enough, and so we strike up a conversation.

"Well I usually go to Coney Island, but now I've started to go to Brighton Beach," she says later on, still talking 15 minutes later. "There's just so many kids there these days, and they're so loud."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Camelids With Attitude

"Did you know," the woman behind the register says, while I pet the small, long-haired dog sitting in his accustomed place on the counter in the upscale Brooklyn clothing shop, "that llamas and alpacas can be certified as therapy animals?"

The dog tilts his head back obligingly and offers to let me scratch his chin as I say that, while I could see alpacas being pretty good at it, llamas always struck me as kind of mean, and she agrees.

"You could always threaten to shave an alpaca if he got out of line, they're so shaggy," she muses as the dog rolls on his back for a belly rub. "But  llamas, man, llamas got nothing to lose."

Not Interested

"So I stopped by the bar, and Alex was there!" she says in a thick Brooklyn accent. Behind her, fireworks explode in fiery blossoms of gold and red, shimmering purple and glittering blue, beneath a giant moon hanging fat and full over Coney Island.

"I said, 'Oh shit, I'm gonna have to drink,'" she says, shaking her head. Miniature suns burst into being and fade in an instant above us; she doesn't look up, or even turn around.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Just before the subway door opens at my stop, the woman standing in the middle of the doorway gives me a look, sullen and appraising, as if she's pretty sure if it came down to it, she could take me.

She and her boyfriend had been talking only a few stops back, something bitter and sardonic I couldn't quite catch, and for some reason, I'd gotten the impression they'd been talking about me. No reason, just this weird guilt feeling I always seem to carry around with me.

Not always, really, just, when it does come up, it feels like there's this piece of me that's always been wrong, forever, and I'll always be the nerdy kid that the other kids called names and made fun of, even as I exit the station, up the stairs and out into a beautiful Brooklyn spring afternoon, into a beautiful life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Long Week

I crawl into bed, exhausted, and crouch, knees drawn up in child's pose, face down beside Katie, breathing deep.

She pats my back, hard. "I feel like this is what having a giraffe for a pet would be like. A baby giraffe."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


His face is a broken heart, clenched and anguished, a rictus of sorrow. He crouches, eyes shut, filthy, in the doorway under the scaffolding, sheltered with his flimsy, bulging plastic bags out of the rain. 

But he isn't crying - no tears stream down his cracked skin, and he might just be sleeping, or passed out drunk, with a face that, at rest, resets to a tragedy mask from a life of too much misery.

I open my umbrella, and keep walking.

Right for the Wrong Reasons (Or Just Wrong)

"Just answer me this! Just answer me this: can women vote in Saudi Arabia?" he asks, making the same point (some sort of anti-religion, anti-muslim thing) he's been making for the last five minutes to the group of strangers on the train, all of whom seem to be shaking their heads.

He's a big man with big hair wearing a dirty t-shirt and now he's standing, disputing loudly in a grating, professorial tone: "I'm just saying, if you drop a pen, it'll fall, and if the sun goes down, it gets dark."

As he gets off at Atlantic, he sticks his head back in, saying, "I'm just telling you the facts."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Weiner's Everywhere

Anthony Weiner is working the crowd at at the street fair. We can see his campaigners holding up signs from over a block away.

As Katie and I walk towards him a group behind us is discussing a Weiner mayorship. 

"Uh, I'm pretty sure he didn't go to sex rehab," one of the guys says, before veering off to check out some corn dogs.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Need to Get Me a Hammock

Pepper lays in the hammock he's installed on his roof, looking at the sky. A few feet away, the party continues, and our friends eat and drink and laugh, but here, for a moment, things are quiet. He pulls a string to rock the hammock gently back and forth.

"Remember when you were little, and you used to look at the clouds all the time?" he says

The Magic of Live Theater (Family Edition)

The actor opens his mouth to sing, and in the darkness of the theater, the world abruptly goes from flat to 3D, surround sound, high definition real life. The actors are real people, performing in front of real people, and I can feel all of us together in this single room, warm and breathing animals alive in this moment that is actually happening right now.

I realize that my parents, who occasionally say terrible things to me, to each other, are alive, right now, in the seats next to me (my father on the aisle, because his knees don't fit in the narrow rows, my mother next to me, smiling in delight at the songs, almost singing along  but catching herself just in time), and we're seeing this show together, quite possibly the last show we'll ever see together.  All of those resentments, all of the painful memories, suddenly seem unimportant, and I literally feel a knot just under my sternum begin to unknit, like something from the end of a cartoon about the grinch, and I'm grateful, just grateful, that I'm here, that they're here, that we're here alive for this moment at all.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

As If What I Want Has Anything to do With It

"The reason why I want you to send him to law school," my father says, "is because I want to be able to argue with him about the law and have him know what he's talking about."

Katie shoots a quick look of horror my way before composing herself.

"I'm not sending him to law school," she says.

"Yeah," I say, "and I don't want to be a lawyer."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Still Learning (Family Dynamics Edition)

There's a moment of self-consciousness when you use Facetime, right when you hit the "Accept" button, but when it's your sister, you stop thinking about it right away, and just relax into the conversation. 

"Yeah, you sounded pretty stressed on the message you left this morning," she says, pushing her glasses up.

"Well, you know, I want them to have a good time, and sometimes Dad and I don't get along, and Mom and Dad argue all the time...."

"Scott, if they start to argue, just ignore it," she says.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How Am I Supposed to Hate You if You Insist on Being Nice?

My position on the "What time is it? SHOWTIME!" kids is well documented at this point, so I won't get into it here, but when they got onto my car during this afternoon's rush hour commute, I may have uttered a curse and walked between the cars to escape them, laws be damned.

Watching them silently finish their shakedown of my former car through the windows, I realized my error: they were making their way toward the back of the train. They were following me!

I saw them, and they saw me, knew where I was going and why, and one of the kids, with a deferential nod, graciously held the door to let me pass back into the car I'd just left, as they began their act once again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

50 Years of A Certain Kind of Marriage

"Your father thinks I lost my voice because I'm too loud," the rasp in her voice is exacerbated by translation from digital signal through the atmosphere down to my walk home in the rain. 

"That's not very nice," I say, dodging a puddle in my path, phone in one hand, umbrella in the other.

"No, it's not nice," half to someone else in the room on her end.

"Wait," I ask, "are you passive-aggressively bitching to Dad while you're on the phone with me?" 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Typical Brooklyn Sunday (In Some Places)

The sun beams down hot and bright on the carousel and the entire crowded riverside Sunday. Families huddle beneath the scant shade of scattered trees, eating artisanal pulled pork sandwiches, fish tacos, and shaved ice drowned in hibiscus and rhubarb syrup.

The small woman with the pinched expression carrying an umbrella to keep the sun off is shouting in a high pitched voice less panicked than annoyed. Her daughter (soon to return, dragged back to the fold by a harried looking man I presume to be her father) got bored sitting watching her mother eat and simply wandered down to look at the water, just to get away for a minute.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Brooklyn Elderly Woman in Her Natural Habitat

The grocery store aisles are wide enough for three people walking abreast to pass down without touching the sides, but somehow the two old women and their carts have managed to snarl traffic amongst the cleaning supplies.

One bends down, futzing with something on the bottom of her cart. "I can't get it out," she shouts, presenting her full, entire, pale blue denim clad backside to me while her companion looks on, unconcerned.

Her companion glances to me, smiles, then back to the pale blue denim expanse, and says, still without urgency, "Just move over to the side so this nice gentleman can get by."

Friday, June 7, 2013

If Only I Could Apply This Level of Obsessiveness Elsewhere in My Life

As I hunt through the garbage, one piece at a time, looking for the receipt my benefits company says I need to scan for them in order to reinstate this... look, it's all very complicated, but let's just say I'm digging through the garbage looking for a small piece of paper, and, having recently cleaned up my room somewhat, there's a lot of small pieces of paper to sort through, and I find myself talking to myself (like you do).

"Teller, of 'Penn and Teller' says, 'Sometimes magic is just spending more time on something than anyone might reasonably expect.'" I explain to my imaginary interviewer.  "Like my friend Chad used to say, 'If you want to be a millionaire, there's nothing easier than making a million dollars, provided you don't want anything else.'"

After about half-an-hour of searching, sifting through dozens of pieces of paper, I pull up the receipt I'm looking for, concluding my imaginary interview with, "And that's why some people are successful: they just want it more than you."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chatty. Sorry.

Katie lies on the bed after work, absently swiping at her iPad, making her Sims enact their miniature, mildly pixelated antics. Our bedroom is cool and softly lit.

I come in and flop on the bed, already saying, "So I read this article today," (which is how I begin most of my conversations post-work), and I launch into the pros and cons of the latest thinking on bodysurfing, or writing, or kava, or maybe it was this movie we wanted to see, or there's this bar that we should hit, or the office gossip, or this recipe we should try....

"Man, have you had nobody to talk to today?" Katie asks.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Somebody That I Used to Know

I'm lying on the yoga mat, flat on my back, eyes closed, and my mind, bored, wanders over and starts playing with the river of words that seem to be constantly flowing through my head. Apparently it's interested in writing an essay about how going to a Catholic church with Katie has inoculated me, somehow, against my more fanatical impulses.  It lists all of the drugs I've done, the gurus I've followed, the books (holy and profane) I've read, the meditations and fasts I've inflicted upon myself, the religions, both orthodox and un-, I've visited upon my soul with holy dread, the chants chanted and the beads counted and the prayers intoned over how many years, only to have them all amount, at least right now, to "something I used to do."

I wrestle my truant mind to the ground and back on to what we're doing, i.e. yoga, not without a certain regret, as some of the sentences were pretty good.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Some People Think About Sex During Meetings

Only fifteen minutes to go and still only half-way through this meeting's agenda, as one of the executives begins to hold forth enthusiastically on the minutia of the political relationship between our company and some county or other. My need to be constantly moving manifests itself, today, in repeatedly clicking the button on my pen; not the pen I like, of course - that one I gave to my boss, fool that I am. 

It was perfect: smooth writing, the perfect line (not too thin or fat - too thin, and my handwriting looks like a serial killer's spidery, wandering hand, too fat and I might be mistaken for a kindergartner), a good weight and well-shaped, but still plain enough to avoid attracting the eye of the practiced pen pilferer, and admittedly, she does sign more documents than me, it really was perfect for that; I wonder if I could find another one, maybe order it, what was it called again, Signature-something.... 

My ear catches an unfamiliar acronym, and I snap back from my pen-centered reverie, two minutes gone, with no idea what we're talking about.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Or What to Write Here

My sunburned feet (an unfortunate byproduct of my awesome beach day on Saturday) don't work properly as I try to do my various yoga poses. The burned areas have lost pliability, and resist bending and stretching like undercured, new leather.

I lie on the mat, staring at the ceiling after completing the session, my first in almost a week. Katie will be home soon, and the deep breathing and stretching has made me stupid and light-headed, unable to put my thoughts together properly to think of what to make for dinner.

A Sense of Humor Like a Cat

The eastern European guy waiting on us at brunch is stonefaced to my usual charm, I mean, he's nice enough, but he's not really warming up to us or anything. 

Suddenly. a woman behind us laughs a single, loud laugh, startling everyone in the restaurant.

The waiter and I exchange looks. "I thought there was a dog in here," he deadpans.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bodysurfing Meditation

The surf rumbles like a distant subway train, rolling into shore with the rush of hard rain on concrete, and rolling back out with the hiss of static. I'm further out than anyone today, chest deep in the frigid water, my arms bent at the elbows and held close to my chest, cold as I've ever been, waiting for the next good wave to lift me up so I can ride it back to shore.

This guy swims out next to me, chatting away, like my own private hype man: "Yeah, man, you got this...oh, this wave isn't big enough, leave it alone."

But now, here, rolling in a couple feet overhead, is the wave, and I drop in while he whoops, already yards behind me as I suddenly become a part of the ocean, in with the tide, practically flying, not a thought in my head.