Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brooklyn Midsummer

The lion statues lording over the park entrance at Third Street look particularly majestic beneath a pink-clouded sunset sky this evening.

"I think they're panthers," says Katie, as we veer off to take the side path, skirting the main entrance, and head into the soft summer darkness inside.

She points out that both of the cats are mane-less, and that lions have squarer heads, which is true, and I can't imagine why I didn't see it before.

Lightning bugs send out semaphores of sex in neon hues, a bug meat-market disco, hovering like little jewels in the half-light over the dim undergrowth, showing us the shape of the air.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's Peach Season

"I guess you want to talk to your mother," dad says as soon as he picks up the phone. It's his way of avoiding talking to me, a little, and using a joke to diffuse the tension he probably feels, since I'm pretty sure my mom's tests didn't go so well.

I make him stay on the phone for a few minutes more, get him talking a little, let him know I'm onto him, help him forget he's worried.

"Peach iced-tea, peaches and cream, peach cobbler," he finishes after he's loosened up a bit, "and I realized: peach is actually my favorite fruit."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Instead of Sports

"I'm thinking, since I got the new Microsoft surface, I'd also get a Windows phone."

"Really, Dad? I haven't heard a lot about those," I say, instead of what I'm thinking, which is that I've heard a lot about them being kinda glitchy.

"Well, it'll be easier to sync across platforms, so let's say if somebody's wifi isn't working, I can easily create a hotspot, or edit on my phone, or show presentations on my tablet, and it all matches up," and he sounds so enthusiastic that I find myself nodding along, getting jazzed up with him, forgetting about my mom's surgery, just two guys, shooting the shit.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Too Late Now - Spacefest Bonus Edition

"So I wrote this story," I say to the two very nice, very smart women from NASA, whose job it is to send humans into deep space to explore the mysteries of the universe, "about this old man who used to work on the space shuttle breaking out of his nursing home to see the last one before they sell it for parts."

"Oh wow, I'd love to read it," says Jennifer, reaching for her phone and going to Google. "What's it called?"

They have spent the last twenty minutes telling me how hard they are working on interplanetary travel, on solving the problems of radiation and micro-meteorites and the mind-shriveling distances of space (all of which my story essentially uses as an excuse for why nobody is ever going into space ever again, boo-hoo humanity is shallow and pointless) and I suddenly feel woefully inadequate and scientifically wrong, but it's too late, my ego has spoken the title aloud, and I shudder inside to think of these people who really know this stuff reading my fancies; I, who only know what I make up in my head.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A 22-foot Long Battleship Made of Legos

"My Grandfather was in World War One, in the navy," he says, ticking them off his fingers as he names them, "and my father stormed Normandy Beach, my uncle was in Korea and my brother fought in Viet Nam, but for medical reasons I couldn't join up, so I serve by coming here."

He wears a cheerful, pale yellow polo shirt with the words "Volunteer - Intrepid Museum" over his barrel chest, and his wide, pink face smiles broadly with genuine pleasure at being able to help.

"So you're gonna want to go to the end of this hall," he says, pointing with two fingers, "two hangers over, and they'll get you the stamps for your scavenger hunt."

A conspiratorial glint sparkles in his eye, and he says, "But let me ask you: do you like legos?"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Saving The Day by Going Places

After a short journey on the train, I arrive at our Brooklyn office with my boss's forgotten items. I wind through the labyrinthine dingy grey cubicle farm that makes up most of the floor, to the office where she's seated, and she greets me enthusiastically.

"Scott is the man - didn't I tell you?" she says to the Director with whom she's meeting.

"My ability to travel is unparalleled," I agree.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"The Patient Died of Food Poisoning... and MURDER!"

"I've still got some stuff to do," I say. My stomach is rioting, my joints ache, I'm exhausted, and I desperately want to go home, but I still feel vaguely obligated.

"Think of it this way," my boss says. "If you're infectious, I don't want you here, and if you get me sick, I'll kill you."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My People are from Southern Illinois, but Good Point

"Donnie Williams?" I say, "That's my dad's name."

The black man writing his name on the client sign-in sheet in my office does a slow take, no expression, taking in my pale skin, and the moment seems quite long until I say, deadpan, "I don't think we're related."

He snorts, smiles, shakes his head, replies, "We might be, if you're from North Carolina."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Exactly HOW Do You Like Them?

The infant, barely able to walk, in regulation floppy hat and navy blue overalls, pauses in his toddling headlong rush and pivots like an NBA guard to press his chubby little hands against the display window of the bridal shop.

The mannequins tower above him, in taffeta and sequins, in lace and straps and disdainful, plastic expressions, and he stares up at them. His face is perfectly slack in the way that only babies and the deeply stoned can pull off when they are transfixed by something that has totally blown their minds,

His mother, no makeup, glasses, hair a wild tangle, looks down at him with a curious expression, and asks, "Do you like the pretty dresses?"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kachori from Baluchis

"We can get whatever you want for dinner," she says. She strokes my hair as I lay, practically in the fetal position, the way I've really wanted to just curl up all day.

"Now, you know I'm not like you," I say, sighing "where I just have a craving and know what it is, but I'll give it a shot."

And suddenly, like a vision, it comes to me, and I know exactly what I want, where to get it, and one of my first genuine smiles of the day spreads across my face.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Bug Spray Just Seems to Make 'em Mad

"Guys?" says the roommate, his voice muffled as it comes through the wall from his bedroom. "What did you use to kill the last cockroach?"

"Shit," I say, "another one? We used a shoe."

Doing Battle With the Physical World

I tighten the bolts on the elaborate contraption we've constructed out of pictures on the internet, a couple of pieces from ikea, and the fevered imaginings of my wife's brain. It has been a long day, and our creation has been stubborn in it's insistence on the laws of physics and gravity, refusing to cooperate and become the headboard she's been craving.

Two trips to the hardware store, and despite my prophecies of doom, we are close to finishing, but I'm done, spent, completely and sincerely willing to throw down my wrench and walk away from the whole misguided project. Katie asks me a question, and I force myself to slow down, breathe, think, stay in the moment, answer her (mostly) civilly, finish what I started, finish the damned thing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Customer is Always Kind of a Pain

"No!" the waiter says. "You have to tell me which you're interested in, and then I tell you what goes with it."

"Geez," I say, "fine, then tell me this one."

After I have the waiter walk me through each of the specials in turn, and give him my order, Kevin chimes in, "I'll have what he's having!"

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Go Make Babies, You Guys.

This couple, on the 4/5 subway platform at Grand Central, are killing me they're so beautiful. Both young (late teens, early twenties) with smooth, flawless light brown skin and the guy with hair like one of the dudes from One Direction only actually pulling it off and strong chin and intelligent brown eyes. And the girl, oh Lord, with long legs and short, lacy white linen shorts and a pink tank top as tight as her next breath, she wraps her arms around his neck and smiles up at him with a toothy grin that lights up her face, and he has the sense to seem stunned by his good fortune, looking down at her love beaming up at him like a klieg light.

I watch them from inside the train as the car doors close, and when he leans down to kiss her, all I can say is, "Damn."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Crazy From the Heat

"And then she acts like it's my fault!" I finish. "I was all, 'Yeah, after I helped you out? That was not work related.'"

"The heat is just making everyone crazy," Katie says, "and I've resolved not to do anything to anybody until after it's over."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Insomnia Rhapsody

2 AM, and still I lie awake, staring at the ceiling. The worst thing about insomnia is that the cliches are all true: sleep evades, regrets gather, time slows - all that.

The day after, though, is strangely peaceful. My brain, too tired to fuss, quiets down, and all the usual noise goes away, so that what I lack in quickness, I make up for in hyper focus.

How Can I Hate You If You're Me?

This kind of scorching heat is familiar to someone who grew up in the desert, but there's something off about the light. The sharp outlines that should surround every object, every shadow, the borders that should separate everything from everything else are all muted and blurred in the humidity.

I walk down the street, letting the sun bake me, but my enjoyment of the moment is bittersweet. Where the heat should be drying me out and turning me into the hardline desert fanatic of my youth, it simply melts everything into a puddle, an undifferentiated mass of messy contradictions and sweat and other people who are too much like me to hate.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ikea Builds Relationships

The Swedes have posed us quite the puzzle in this bed frame. We've been struggling for hours to put it together like a Lego set (another nordic creation), proceeding deliberately and carefully through the 40-step directions, making sure everything is tight, everything is lined up.

We screw the final parts of the frame together, each of us working on his or her side, back to back, and I lean back to spoon Katie while I tighten one more bolt. She sighs, and even though I'm tired, I'm so very happy we work so well together.

Ikea Eats Relationships

We're driving back to the parking garage to drop off the Zipcar after a long evening at Ikea, and tempers are wearing thin.

"I need you to try to be patient," I say, after Katie snaps at me about the address I'm entering into the phone to get driving directions.

I hear her audibly breathe, calming herself, and then say, "Okay, could you please look at the Zipcar app for the address?"

"It wasn't on there, alright?" I bristle.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bad Wizard

The guy in the golf shirt with the khakis and the striped golf umbrella thrusts it at the door as we head downtown, then begins to aggressively whistle a tuneless song. One note, over and over, with occasional forays to the adjacent higher or lower notes, just to muddy things further.

He dashes off the train at Canal Street, his upswept hair (almost a pompadour) bobbing as he runs, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

The entire car seems to relax, as if he had held us in a spell for a moment, for no reason but capricious, nasty whim.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

THAT'S the Most Unbelievable Thing About the Movie to You?

"It's my f-ing BIRTHday!" Katie declares delightedly. She talking about the movie, Sharknado, which exhibits all the plot and filmic subtlety of a ball peen hammer, only the hammer has better acting.

The voice-over news announcer in the movie declares that the tornado of sharks [sic] plaguing Santa Monica is a result of the "hurricane."

"Wait," I say, "there aren't any hurricanes in the Pacific," prompting Katie to give me an incredulous look.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pretty Sure

"The problem with your 'experiments,'" she says, "is that you always forget one crucial detail. Like, 'Surprise! Kratom is a crazy addictive opioid that'll take years to recover from.'"

"I'm pretty sure that only one study says that Yerba Mate can give you throat cancer," I reply, back pedaling madly, "and only if you also use a lot of alcohol and tobacco, which I don't."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The cop car slips down the street, lights rioting, pulls over to the curb a few blocks down, and two of New York's Finest get out, searching for something.

As I draw closer, I pass a black man, casually dressed, t-shirt, jeans, walking in the opposite direction. We're still a block or so away, and it's unlikely they've even seen him, but still he glances worriedly over his shoulder at the lit-up car and its cops.

The police pile back into their vehicle and speed off as I walk past, wearing my tie and white skin and entitlement, knowing they wouldn't have stopped me, frisked me, made me afraid, and not just because I hadn't done anything wrong.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not Her Kind of Place

My friend's normally smooth, oval face is pinched in consternation. "He took me to a Manhattan club, and, I don't know, I feel like I was underdressed."

"Why's that?" I ask.

"Well," she says, "I'm just now way more intimate with a bunch of strangers' bodies than I would ever want to be, and just, I don't dress like that."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Different Definitions of "Fun"

We're playing "Pandemic," infecting the world with various undescribed (but highly evocative) diseases, and then cooperatively trying to save it, and we're doing pretty well. We're making good decisions, catching lucky falls of the cards, and overall moving towards a narrow win scenario, which, given the myriad ways in which we can actually lose, is pretty neat.

And let me tell you, I am into it, in such a way that Katie is getting a little wary of me. Finally I have to explain: "I'm not trying to be a jerk, it's just getting all worked up and emotionally involved is fun for me, you know?"

Like Nobody Is Watching

The kitchen is way dirtier than I expected. I get bored easily, and when Jackie Wilson starts singing "Lonely Teardrops" I find I'd rather dance by myself in an empty house than scrape off the counters or the stovetop.

I wonder if Jackie Wilson wanted to be a legitimate singer, like Caruso or something. I wonder if he was ever dissatisfied with himself, even though he was responsible for creating one of the most perfect songs ever, as well as a bunch of almost perfect songs, like, say, "Reet Petite."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Shopping Isn't for Everyone

Old Navy is a riot of affordable fashion in kicky spring colors, and apparently my distress at tarrying there for one moment longer than necessary is showing. 

"Oh my God, are you okay?" Katie asks, seeing the look on my face.

Later, once my mood is under control, she congratulates me for being flexible. 

"I'm the boss of me," I say proudly.

Friday, July 5, 2013

That Should Postpone Judgement Day

"I'm not sure that I'm okay with it," Katie says. Fireworks bloom in the distance over the skyline of Manhattan as she continues: "They've got all these new fireworks that can blink and do stuff on their own, like Skynet!"

"Well," Kevin says, "it's not like they're gonna be around for very long to cause trouble if they just burn up like that."

"We should have a rule," Kaylyn says, "no strong AI unless it's on fire."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Not Funny

The white plastic folding table is beaded with bottles of gin like water droplets. Katie and I have paused to listen to the earnest, mustachioed man behind the table hock his product and we sip his proffered gin and tonics appreciatively. 

Another couple comes up, and the woman says, very formally "I heard you had gin here."

I laugh out loud at her joke, and the couple shoot me chilly looks, not joking at all.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

All's Well That Ends

"So," I say, tucking the papers my boss signed back into their folder as she gets ready to leave for the day, "thanks for talking me down this morning."

"Well, I could see you were really emotional," she says. I can tell she's still a little pissed at yesterday's screw ups, but that she knows I'm no good to her all worked up, and she's decided to move on.

"Truth is," I say, "getting a little fear of God in you never hurt anybody."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Not Even the Worst that Happened Today

"When I got here, I expected that you would already have printed out the reports, and have them waiting for me, so I could just go," she says.

The high-backed office chair seems to swallow her up, and she looks more tired than angry. I try to keep my emotions in check, but I'm so upset, I can hardly speak.

"I'm sorry I let you down," I say.