Monday, September 30, 2013

True Story

The two women manage to get on the train and push their way past the boisterous crowd of kids blocking the entrance to the much less full center of the car.

One of them purses her lips in annoyance, and says, "They don't know to move in?"

"Whatever," says the other woman, "they white."

Then they go back to discussing the English classes they teach, and their apparently quite difficult students.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Mean, We Can't Just Leave Them for the Eagles

A beautiful day, clouds moving fast across the sky, the sun dappling between the leaves, and meanwhile, this kid is having a meltdown, right there on the sidewalk.

He drags on his father's arm, trying to stop his forward momentum, and succeeding, until finally he's sitting in the middle of the pavement, crying giant crocodile tears.

"What's the procedure, when our kids do something like that?" I ask, hypothetically.

"If there's no hurry?" Katie replies.

Cat People vs. Dog People

We're walking through Javitt Center at "Meet the Breeds," a yearly opportunity put on by the American Kennel Club to play with puppies and kitties of almost every conceivable type.

The dogs have generously bestowed their slobber and fur upon us, leaving us vibrating with happiness and goodwill, so we decide to check out the cat portion of the event.

Static glamour shot-style photos of angry looking cats and their sour handlers line the booths, and almost all of the cats sulk in their cages.

As we pass one more of these dour exhibits, Katie says, "Walking into the cat section feels like attending the funeral of a stranger."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

That's Not What I Asked

The 5k run (really a brisk walk for us) through an electric light wonderland has ended, and we're enjoying some granola bars and the sweet lassitude of the righteously weary.

When my co-worker walks up, I try to engage her in small talk. "Did you have fun?" I ask.

She makes a face, says, "I don't really like techno."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's Her Story?

The presentation at the expo is in full swing when she walks in and sits down: medium height, looks to be close to the far end of her late-thirties. Following close behind her are three boys, oldest to youngest, tallest to shortest, all of them with the blank, placid look of the terminally bored youngster.

They are all dressed in their Sunday best, which for this family (because they must be related, even though none of them looks like the other) means wrinkled buttondown shirts and ties, while the youngest also sports a rakish fedora and long hair that spills out from beneath it and girlishly curls around his collar.

The mother wears a sleeveless dress, and when she claps politely at the appropriate points in the (very Christian - "hallelujahs!" and "praise gods!" and the whole deal) speeches, a tattoo of what might be a dragon peeps demurely out from under the strap on her right shoulder, speaking to a wilder past; wilder, at least, than a conference room in some midtown hotel in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

All Us Babies

The baby on her lap is remarkably well behaved, given how crowded the train is.  She's a little fussy, but I'm not sure I would do any better if I was only a foot and a half tall.

I look around the car, all of us look tired, weighed down by our day, packed in tight. I'm surprised we're not all breaking down, weeping, all the time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Snapshots of Prospect Park

I still can't do yoga after I aggravated my old injury during our trapeze shenanigans, so I ride my bike around the park.

A woman in sunglasses, a baseball cap pulled low on her forehead with her ponytail dangling out the back, runs like a storm trooper in the opposite direction to traffic (we call these people "salmon").

Groups of young Jewish boys walking around the park ask me if I'm Jewish as I streak by on my bike, pedaling like crazy.

The men playing dice in the small box they have set up off the main road have a floating craps game going, I suspect.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Winter is a Hill

I fly down the hill, the gears on my bike making that deeply satisfying, speedy sound. The park breathes deep all around me, all the best smells of fall.

Somebody's barbecuing, somebody else is smoking pot, the trees are all exhaling into the cool fall air.

I push my pedals to make my machine go, anticipating the heavy hill to come.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nice While it Lasted

The sun is almost set as I walk back from the drug store, and the low light caresses the high steeple of the church in gold, turning the edifice into a stack of honeyed bricks.

I can feel in the cooling autumn air an older Brooklyn, one that's closer to New England than the mid-Atlantic states. I've walked streets like this, in Massachusetts, in Maine, old streets that remember other voices that spoke differently, with a slower tempo than New York's crazy rhythm.

Just for a moment, I'm there, and I breathe deep before a honking horn from a gypsy cab brings me back.

All Because I Wanted to Watch Dudes Beat Up On Other Dudes

Lashona, the fourth person I've talked to in my long, long phone call with Time Warner Cable, is proving herself to be a reasonable human being.

"I gotta do some actual math here," she says. "Because you are really paying too much just to be having basic cable."

As she carries the two and picks through packages, I say, "It sounds like you're booking travel arrangements for us where we fly out of Newark and back into LaGuardia or something."

Friday, September 20, 2013

How Can I Hate You if You Insist on Not Being Hateful

"Man, do I hate showtime," I say, surprising none of my readers, as I move away from the center of the car to avoid getting kicked in the head by the two-man crew that has arrived in our car.

"You're not the only one," says the blonde woman, deadpan. 

"Eh, I guess it's not that bad," I reply.

But instead of the usual bad hip-hop or techno, they hit play, and Bruno Mars's "Treasure" bumps out of the speaker, and I can't help boogeying along.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This Beyoncé movie I'm sort of half watching with Katie has all kinds of people working overtime and then some to realize and translate Beyoncé's visions into reality. Some of these folks are going without sleep for days, overcoming incredible discomfort and challenges to do what they love.

Later, I ask Katie about what she's done that was so important to her that she stayed up all night, and after she tells me (her first semester in college as a textiles major) she asks me the same question.

"You know, I was thinking about that, and mostly, it was meditation, fasting, and drugs," I say.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


"Legs up!" yells the teacher, and I pull my legs between my arms and hook them over the trapeze. I miss my timing, however, just by a moment, and what should have been a simple maneuver, aided by momentum, is accomplished mostly by main strength.

The adrenaline coursing through my body makes this possible, but as I swing back through space, and unhook my legs, I feel something pop in my ribs. When I land on the net, still terrified, I know that I've done something to myself, not bad, but definite, and it feels like the muscle is holding its breath, getting ready to howl.

Birds of a Feather

"Holy shit!" the woman who's been walking behind me since I left the house says to the woman who just crossed the street.

"Holy shit," the other woman agrees. "I was waiting for you to see me, since I've been stalking you from across the street for blocks."

They chat for a while, keeping pace with me as we walk down Seventh, and I don't turn around to observe them, but still: gun to my head I couldn't have told you which one was speaking at any given moment, so alike did they sound.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cut My Hair

There's nothing sensual about this haircut: it's purely a mechanical operation. The clippers snip and the comb flies as the woman cutting my hair smoothly orbits the planet of my noggin, trimming and styling, styling and trimming.

And a trim is all I've asked for, which is why I'm surprised when, at what looks like a decent length, she continues to fuss and clip, until my hair is much shorter than what I expected to have when I sat down.

When she holds the mirror up behind me, showing my newly shorn locks, asking if it's short enough, I say, "Well, you can't make it longer."

Sunday, September 15, 2013


One guy tosses the ball, and it lands in the other guy's mitt with a nice, solid thwack.

"Yeah, you still doing the music?" he asks as the other guy throws the ball back. They're both early thirties, young, and neither looks like they've slept a full night in a while.

"Trying," says the other, "but with a new kid, well, you know."

What Took You So Long?

"That guy looks so worried," Katie says, indicating the Labrador Retriever-mix staring off into the distance with a furrowed brow.

"Maybe that's just his face," I say. "Some dogs just look like that."

A moment later, though, still staring at something we don't see, his tail begins to wag madly, and then his entire countenance transforms into the picture of doggy joy, as a woman walks up and casually picks up his leash.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Putting it Kindly

A co-worker stands leaning on the shelf in front of my cubicle, gazing at me with a thoughtful expression.

I meet her gaze, cock my head questioningly. "Got some silver coming in," she says, almost sadly, indicating my hair.

"It looks distinguished!" my cubemate Beverly says, indignant.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I finish the last book (The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, if you're interested), and close the hardcover with a satisfying thwap, settling back into my chair with the contented sigh of one who has labored long in the consumption of a good meal.

But already my mind is licking its metaphorical chops: the next book, from the library, waits seductively on my desk in the bedroom. This one's a doozy, too - thick and chewy, almost 900 pages, and supposedly one of the best in the last few years.

I should be going to bed, or working on my next story, or, God help me, writing this blog, but I can hear the pages, whispering to me, and I am, as I was when I was eight years old and being scolded by my mother for reading at the dinner table, helpless to resist.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To Be Fair, They Were Kind of Hidden

I'm waiting for my friend to arrive at Tea Lounge, and I'm a little nervous, not because meeting her is stressful, but because I've scanned every chalkboard in this place, and I can't find a list of the teas.

The guy behind the counter, loose and casual, aloof and cool in a way that I couldn't pull off even when I was twenty years younger, catches my eye and raises an eyebrow. I'm not entirely sure I can handle his disdain at my lack of knowledge, but I decide to just brazen on through.

"I am trying really hard not to be that guy, but I cannot seem to figure out what teas you have," I say, throwing myself on his mercy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Acting Like an Extrovert

After shaking numerous hands and saying my goodbyes to the kind people I've met tonight, I stand outside the bar, stroking the screen of my phone to find a way home.

I'm tired. My mind whirls with talk, names, ideas, faces, books, words, words, words.

The still warm air is thick around me, and I can feel the buzzing in my chest begin to subside, the words settling back into silence, where I can rest.

Monday, September 9, 2013


He's skinny, and not just regular skinny: spindly neck, bony wrists and shoulders, sunken cheeks and arcing clavicles forming deep, shadowed pockets. He's facing the subway doors, the ones away from the platform, toward the center, toward the darkness of the tunnels, muttering and singing to no one.

He isn't holding on to anything, so when the train goes around the corner, he loses his balance and checks me in the back with his pointy shoulder.

He's so light he barely makes an impact, but when I ask if he's okay, he glares at me with deep set, suspicious eyes that only gradually soften back into insensibility as he turns back to the darkness to sing his tuneless song.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


The noise and crowds at the "Adopt-a-palooza" (Perry Farrell, what hast thou wrought?) are making all the animals super stressed, so we bail on the whole thing and go lie down on the grass, to stare up into the sky.

The clouds are moving fast, coming in grey and strange.

"I wonder if we'll get rain?" I say.

"Look at that blue sky," Katie says, pointing, "and besides, the wind's shifted," and the clouds change direction and dissolve.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Holding on to Disappointment

The man and his very cute Boykin Spaniel have left the cheese shop disappointed, unable to find the sandwiches they were looking for. Katie and I strike up a conversation (half to be friendly, half to possibly get some puppy action from the aforesaid supercute and very curious spaniel), and mention they might have something more to his liking at a place two avenues away.

"Naw," he says, "I'm not really interested in walking more than a couple blocks."

After he's walked away, still disappointed, Katie and I pass, in the opposite direction from the way he went, a sandwich truck with everything a dedicated sandwich lover could want, and when I wish that our recent acquaintance and his dog could have seen it, Katie shrugs and says, "He wasn't interested in his day."

Out of the Well

"There it is!" I shout, and everybody on the roof turns south to see the red spark burning up into the sky. It arcs eastward, glittering sharp and crimson, undimmed even by the dulling light pollution of Brooklyn.

We watch it for a few minutes, cheering, until the fire begins to fade and the mote shrinks to invisibility, swallowed in the gray darkness of a city sky, winging a robot towards the moon to keep up the long task we've set ourselves to explore the solar system.

There's a moment of sadness, and then the second stage ignites, and a cheer goes up from the roof again.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Something Like That

There's a very strange relationship between what I remember, and what actually happened. So when I'm sitting with two old friends from high school, one of whom I haven't seen in ages, eventually I talk about writing this blog.

"And some days," I finish, "I don't want to do it at all."

"At worst," Kevin says, "you could write about that."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Good Night for Stargazing

The sun sets over the Hudson, orange and peach and pink pale fire exhaling into night, and the first real star appears in the sky (Venus has been up for some time, not as bright as I remember, still plenty bright).

I swing my phone up to cover the star, and the sky on the view screen shifts and slides wild, coming to rest on a picture of the constellation Bootes, and I learn the name of the star: Arcturus.

Katie flexes her toes in the mild breeze blowing through the silhouettes of cattails. "I love fall," she sighs.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tired of Wasting Food

The night before I moved to New York, lo those many years ago, when I was younger and lived a little more rough than I do now, I ate a can of cream of mushroom soup that had been sitting up in the cupboard, slowly baking in the hot Arizona sun for God knows how long. That poorly considered decision landed me a bout with food poisoning that I consider one of my closest brushes with death, a torturous, eternal, sleepless night that left me wary of "leftovers" of any kind for years.

Tonight, the maybe week-and-a-half-old uncooked corn on the cob had dried out, just a little bit, to the point where it had some mummified cornsilk fuzzing up the ends (or was it mold? Is it mold? Oh my God, is it?).

I cut off the ends with a sharp knife and a shrug, and threw the cobs in the pot of boiling water.

Monday, September 2, 2013

That's How Blessings Work (Reciprocity)

"You know, this is the second one of these I've seen today," the cashier at the grocery store says, admiring our bag. Its red plastic mesh is printed with pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe gazing out with a look of placid beneficence.

She rubs the picture with both hands, and smiling broadly, says, "She takes such good care of us!"

My bag, and my day, both feel a little lighter, like they've been blessed.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Public Displays of Affliction

The bus seems to be taking it's sweet-ass time arriving, and I take the opportunity to work on a knot in Katie's neck she got riding a roller-coaster last night.

As I'm working the muscles in her shoulder, trying to get them to relax, two Hasids working late on a Sunday come out of the building, and one visibly stiffens in outrage at the sight of my wife's bare arms in a tank top, not to mention me rubbing her back.

"Go home!" he shouts, waving his hands, adding, "You're indecent!"

"Get some therapy!" I shout back.

Getting Summer in Just Under the Wire

The ballgame is over, the fireworks have all been blown up, and we've said our goodnights to our friends. The streets of Coney Island still team with people, though, strolling and chatting in the warm summer air. The amusement park rides still clatter and roar above, their riders squealing in glee at the unusual applications of physics via torque and gravity to their nervous systems.

Katie turns to me, the neon and sparkle of the boardwalk reflecting in her eyes and her smile, saying, "Want to ride the Wonder Wheel?"