Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another Show

Plays let you be in the same room with somebody or -bodies as they play "let's pretend." You can watch them struggle and fail and occasionally levitate, and when they levitate they sometimes access that magic that let's them take the room with them.

But I've been in a fair number of shows myself, and when the cast takes their final bow for the night, I feel a certain sadness, the letdown of setting foot back on earth and coming back to reality, and I can see in their eyes that some of them are already back to themselves, thinking about getting out of makeup, into their street clothes and maybe grabbing a beer before heading home.

"I hope they're nice to each other," I say to Katie as we gather up our coats to leave.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jesus is Magic, But Can He Play Keyboard?

The guy doing magic on the train is the most benign version of showtime I've ever seen. I mean, he's not good or anything, but he's certainly not blaring shitty music at me while I try to read, instead turning a ball into a crystal ball, into a dollar bill, and back, while keeping up a stream of unwitty, but harmless, banter.

But when he starts talking about how "Jesus is the only one who does supernatural magic," I dive for my headphones. My favorite song fades in, and the Jesus magician fades away.

For Example

I play with the tarot app on my phone while I wait for Katie to come home. "Why do I seem to have lost my spark, my passion, for the creative things that used to enthuse me?" I ask, and the cards come up with some ideas: physical comfort, a general inability to commit to any one project for long, a nagging suspicion I'll never be good enough and wanting the instant gratification that short term success brings. Then, Katie comes home, and I lose myself in the enjoyable evening busy-ness of our good life together - baking bread, a rehearsal with some friends, watching TV and chatting.

I wake up in the morning in a mild panic, realizing with disappointment that I forgot to write this blog.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

That's That

Lights already off, fan on, head on pillow when suddenly: "Dammit. I forgot to write  my four a day."

The usual excuses whine their siren song - I'll do it in the morning, nothing really happened today, I'm tired. But I know that this is what I set out to do, so like it or not, this is what I'm doing.

You Might Hurt Somebody

"You know that sort of sarcastic laugh you did when we were arguing earlier?" I say. "Well I know that you learned it from me, but when I heard you do it, I was like, 'Shit, is that how she feels when I do that?'"

"Yeah I did learn that from you," Katie says, "but as soon as I did it I thought, 'Oh man, it's been a good day. You better sheathe that.'"

This Sounds Kinda Perfect

"Okay, here's the plan." She's home from work, I'm lying on the bed watching her change out of her work clothes. "Mexican? And we watch a movie on pay-per-view."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Star-crossed Lovers

"Yo," his girlfriend says, after he holds forth for a few minutes on the virtues of hip-hop and its environs, "Harlem sucks." I'm only sort of sure they're together, but I don't want to turn and look at them, even though I'm pretty certain she's baiting him, and they want people to notice.

"How you gonna say you grew up never knowing who Aerosmith is?" she says later. "Steven Tyler?"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Autumn Scents

Cold wet pavement smell of slate and stone glistening under the streetlights.

Wood burning, smoke rich against the brisk air.

The funk of the basement beneath a deli, sour milk and soil and garbage.

Musty jacket, moth ball chemical and dust and all the falls that have come before, inhaled with every breath.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Far Away

I hit the button on my phone to see it's 3:30 in the morning. The pain in my knee that's awakened me is throbbing, like I've got a stomach ache in the middle of my leg, deep inside the muscle.

I rub it and stretch, at first lying in bed, trying not to disturb Katie, then walking around the room, but to no avail. Finally, I walk over to her side of the room, and grab a few ibuprofen, hoping that will help, but the rattle of the pills tumbling around in the bottle wakes her, and she says, as if from a long way away: "What?"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Magic is Just Spending More Time on Something Than Any Reasonable Person Would

The horn fits in my hands exactly the way it always has, easily, like a good pair of shoes or jeans that you barely notice. 

My mouth, however, is another matter entirely. My lips feel abused, swollen, the way they felt after a clumsy makeout session in high school.

I squawk and squeal, make some passable sounds, keep playing, pushing past my desire to quit, because I know that if I keep doing this, somehow the muscles will eventually build themselves back up, and I'll be playing pretty well in no time.

No Free Lunch

"I really like kava," I tell Katie as we're standing on the subway platform, waiting to go home after an evening out with friends. "It evens me out, and keeps my anxiety down. But I'm worried that it's sort of flattening me, and that's why I'm having trouble connecting with the emotional center of my writing."

A train rattles by on the center track, going downtown, and Katie makes a face at it as she says, "You like the plants, but you don't like what happens afterwards."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Clowns are Nothing to Worry about

We drink on the roof across the street from the venue. Despite the efforts of our new friend Grace, we were unable to get into the show, and so we've retreated back to the roof to people watch and chat.

The instructions for those attending the show said to wear either a costume or formalwear. 

We watch a clown leaving as the show ends chasing a limo down the streets of Bushwick, and Katie and I shout encouragement from the rooftop, laughing.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


The honking klaxon of the ladder truck roars from the firehouse and tears up Union Street. Stymied by the already standstill traffic of a Friday afternoon rush hour, the fire truck blares at the cars, and finally bullies it's way through oncoming traffic to the following intersection, where it leaves us.

After it's passed, I try to cross the street, but I'm caught by the gasp of the woman walking next to me, who saw the impatient driver barreling through the intersection, upset about his lot in life.

I stop, and the car passes a mere foot from me, for which I turn my head to the woman who stopped me from dying, and say, "Good job!"

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is There a (Cat) Ghost In My House?

In the early morning darkness of the front room, the cat crouches on the hardwood floor, staring intently at the space beneath the chair in the corner.

She doesn't move, or even blink, except when she occasionally adjusts her crouch and, in doing so, scoots almost imperceptibly forward.

It's like she's hunting, doing her genetically hardwired stalking thing, but when I look beneath the chair, following the line of her sight and staying very still, all I see are dustbunnies and balls of fur, silent and unmoving.

I lay down to do my daily yoga, leaving her to her strange game, and suddenly feel something brush my foot, like a whiskered face marking me the way cats do, but when I open my eyes, she's several feet away, still crouched, still staring.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Literally Full of It

My brain isn't working the way I like it to. I'm negative, down on myself, thinking maybe I'm used up, that whatever potential existed in me from the days of my youth might be gone.

Also, and this is kind of embarrassing, but, whenever I travel, I really get uncomfortably constipated.

As I'm cleaning up in my bedroom towards the end of the night, after a whole day of this, I feel a rumbling in my guts, and rush to the bathroom to relieve myself, realizing that the two might be related.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

There It Is (I Has the Dumb)

"My quandary is," I say, coming into the kitchen, "what do I write about?"

"For your Four-a-day?" Katie says as she spoons another measure of coffee into the maker for tomorrow morning. "But there's so many things you could write about: the laundry, what we watched on TV, dinner.

This conversation."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Scent of Home

The cabbie has inexplicably decided to take surface roads all the way back from the airport.

At another of the seemingly endless number of stoplights, Katie sighs, and I ask if everything's okay.

When she explains that the stop-and-go ride is making her nauseated, I suggest she roll down the window for a little fresh air.

She does, and the air smells like home, humid and cool and sweet, even on Atlantic Avenue in the middle of Brooklyn.

Social Realism Isn't Easy

They've turned the ruins of this old flour mill into a museum, and the exhibit we're currently admiring informs us that after the mill closed in 1965, it was abandoned, left to vagrants and the homeless, who sheltered from the vicious Minnesota winters within its walls.

Eventually, a careless campfire burned out of control, gutting the old building, and leaving the banks of the Mississippi in these parts bereft of industry. The rise and fall of the flour industry reflects in microcosm the rise and fall of of many industries in America, and this museum makes the wise choice of showing those changes through the eyes of the people who worked here.

"I want to write one of those historical novels, like those bricks that Michner wrote, about the flour industry, but I'm afraid I'd fuck it up," I tell Katie 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Two Men, One Skirt, and One Pair of Underwear

The man in the kilt waits with me outside the bathroom at the wedding venue, and my question about his tartan spins out into a discussion of the etemology of family names in old Ireland.

When the bathroom's current occupant finally vacates, I make to go in, but the man in the kilt asks if he might, too. 

It's kind of crowded, and there's no real separating barrier between the urinal and the toilet, but of course I say yes - as the saying goes, when you've gotta go....

So the man who sticks his head into the bathroom a few seconds later is a little surprised to see two men peeing, chatting about Welsh place names and the terrible state of the Isles since 1066.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


As the wheels touch down on the wet tarmac, the plane shudders, and the plastic doors to the overhead compartments rattle deafeningly the length of the compartment.

No one seems alarmed, however, and the flight attendant's voice is calm, friendly, and mildly sedated sounding as she recites, "On behalf of USAirways, we'd like to welcome you to Minneapolis, where the local time is eleven... thirty nine."

As she continues her spiel, the mid-fifties aged man in the row in front of us remarks on the loudness of the landing to no one in particular.

The good looking, crew-cutted young guy next to him turns and says, "Yeah, but it's quieter than any landing in one of the army planes."

Friday, October 11, 2013

What They Really Think

I can hear them talking in the copy room, talking about me.

"... and I had eyeliner clumped all over my face, and he was like, 'Um, you might want to check a mirror,' but totally nice about it!"

The other one chimes in, "He's just so nice."

When one of them walks by a few moments later, I keep my head down and pretend to be engrossed in the document I'm editing, so as to avoid eye contact.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In Spite of Myself

I've all but determined I'm not going to go to the bookstore to talk to them about booking a reading. It's not that I'm lazy, just terminally insecure, worried they'll see right through me, recognize I'm not a real author.

Yet, my feet continue to walk, almost without any volition on my part, and before I know it, I'm at the door. 

"Well, since I'm already here," I think, stepping inside amidst the smell of books to speak to the man behind the counter.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sponsored by Nobody

She says, "He's, like, eleven? But fancy eleven, like he's got, like, an iPad and stuff, so I don't know what to get him for his birthday."

I don't even look up from my typing. "Get him a gift card at the iTunes Store, so he can buy apps."

Monday, October 7, 2013


"Scott," she says, a box of Lean Cuisine in her hand, "how many tablespoons is 550 milligrams of sodium?"

"Well, really you're talking about two different types of measurements," I explain. "Milligrams is for weight," I continue, "while tablespoons and teaspoons are more about volume."

Finally, I conclude with, "Listen, a gram is about the same weight as a raisin."

Good Even at 1.5D

Watching the movie "Gravity" on the IMAX screen in 3D is an almost overwhelming experience. The sound, the sheer scale of the visuals, stuns the audience into silence.

About fifteen minutes into the movie, my eye itches, and when I rub it, I inadvertently push my contact out of place, leaving my vision half-blurred.

Rather than get up, mess up everybody's experience as I sidle out the row to the bathroom to fix my eyeball, miss part of the movie, I fight down the panic of knowing there's a tiny piece of plastic shoved up deep under my eyelid, and sit there and watch; and it's still an amazing film.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Glimpse of Darkness

We sit on the bench on the platform waiting for the train to take us to Queens. Across the tracks on the opposite platform, a woman sits, staring off into space.

She looks young, clear skin, dressed in a long skirt that doesn't fit poorly, hair clean, nothing unusual.

As I watch, she reaches up and strikes herself in the head repeatedly, then pushes her fist to her forehead with a pained expression, then punches herself again.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Good Job!

I mention unfriending someone on Facebook because of their take on the Sinead O'Connor/Miley Cyrus back and forth nonsense which will likely be forgotten before I even finish writing this post.

Katie doesn't even blink. "Everybody's doing their jobs," she says, getting out dishes for dinner. "She's acting like a little spoiled brat, and that's her job, everybody is all outraged, and that's their job; everybody is doing exactly what they're supposed to do."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rock Star

I read on Facebook that he's dead, and though I'm not sure I believe it, part of me is unsurprised.

I remember standing in front of the stage watching him play, watching the beautiful women dance to his music, thinking that this was the only thing I'd ever wanted. I was nineteen, ready to change into something else, and realized in that moment that that necessarily involved disappointing all the people who thought they knew who and what I was.

So I set out to destroy myself, and luckily I did not entirely succeed.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Invisible Subways

The details, the lifeblood of a writer, have begun to blur together. I'm on the train, again, and a woman gets on, her bag presses into my back; or: I stare out the window at the wall of the tunnel smearing by; or: the sun blinks through the repeating trestles of the Manhattan bridge, blinding me.

I realize that the trains have begun to overlap in my head, and distinguishing between them has become beside the point. Every train ride I describe is the one train ride, repeated, variations on a theme, like different recordings of the same piece of music recorded over and over until the waves of sound, the rising and falling of an unintelligible melody, are all that can be heard.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Do I Remember What I Saw? Or the Words I Used to Describe It?

I'm standing at the sink, washing dishes. Beside me, ignored, the window opens onto the backyards of a block's worth of buildings - backyards filled with trees still green with summer and climbing ivy and peacefulness.

A sudden, unheard movement of the wind catches my eye (can it be fall so soon?), and yellowed leaves spiral up the window to flutter down, spinning to the ground three stories below.

I think to myself, watching the leaves, "Spiraling, yellow, flutter, dishes, window, backyards, green, fall."