Thursday, July 31, 2014

It Works if You Work It

I lay on the couch and carefully write in my notebook, like a child sentenced to copy down sentences he should memorize: "Life only means something if you mean it."

This tee-shirt platitude is the best I can muster at the moment, as a foul, black mood has descended upon me, despite the lovely sunshine streaming through the front window, and the mild breeze ruffling the curtains.

I'm waiting for Katie to come home so that we can work out. I'm dying to move, lift something, feel my heart beat, breathe heavy, just because the reality of the body under stress makes the existential angst seem foolish and far away.

A Face for Radio

The doughy, moon-faced avatar of every class-clown that ever made fun of me (rightly) for being an uptight know-it-all has his microphone shoved in my face.

"So, when I saw you outside I was sure that the button down, ("Chino-wearing!" Katie chimes in, bless her) skinny-tie wearing guy was NOT here to see Sharknado 2," he says.

When Al Roker comes on-screen, he asks, again with the mic, "Do you think Al Roker looks like a transvestite?"

"What, no!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More Jeff Gillooly'd

"Can we talk about the bloodletting?" she says, pointing to an inch-long scratch on her kneecap, right where the skin is thin and sensitive. "At one-forty-five in the morning it felt like I got shot."

The cat continues to lay on the bed, blank-eyed and half-asleep, no remorse while Katie leans over her.

"She totally Tonya Harding'd me," Katie says, ruffling the cat's fur.'

Straight from the Notebook

Subway platform like a Charles Ives song

Amazing Grace harmonica player ("WAR VET Playing 4 Peace and CHANGE" which war? looks too young...) 

shading into mellow jazz guitar stylings further down the platform from the fedora'd black man in the yellow suit

Almost in key almost in time

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Future in Sales

The hand crank ice cream maker looks straight-up '80s, with smoked grey plastic lid and rounded square corners, an internal metal sleeve that you throw in the freezer before hand cranking your small batch of home-made.

The short, sketchy guy running the stoop sale, mid-50's, maybe, thinning hair and a desperate mien, seeing my interest comes sidling up, "Yeah, it's, uh, I don't know how it works. A lady in my building gave it to me to sell, so, uh...."

Katie grabs me by the arm, drags me away, saying, "Pookie, I will buy you a new ice cream maker, if you want one."

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I squint at the other end of the pool and then, finally, unable to make it out, I ask the guy in the next lane, "I'm sorry, I can't see very well without my contacts - are those kick boards over there in the corner?"

Even so, my vision is good enough to see his moue of annoyance. "No, that's a pool cleaner," he says tersely.

"You know," he says after a few beats, obviously trying his best to be helpful despite himself, "you should get those prescription goggles on Amazon or something."


The city fans out beneath us, buildings unfolding upwards as we lift out of the canyons of streets and sail across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn.

"I love this city," I sigh contentedly. "The suburbs just seem so... unreal."

"Just because they're fake doesn't mean they're not real," Katie says, gazing out the subway window at the bicyclists zooming by on the bridge bike path.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Learning to Live

No one told me, when I was growing up, that there was no real escaping this world. 

The things that seem to offer escape - art, drugs, love, sex, god - all bring us back to earth, one way or another. They promise escape and then, after you've been working at them for a while, you realize that you're here, right here, in the same warm body that you've always been in, on the same ground that refuses to give you up, working with the only tools you have on something that absolutely doesn't do what you hope it will, that is, free you from the world, no matter how many times you play that song, smoke that bowl, love or fuck that person, pray to that altar....

And then you start to understand that the work was the only time when you ever felt free, and you begin again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Got Off at the Same Stop, Is All

"Hey," I say, seeing her coming up the stairs from the other side of the subway platform. "You were at the class today, right?"

She smiles, a little awkwardly, says, "Yeah, I was!"

"Yeah, home sweet home, so... see you around," I say cheerfully, walking away, not wanting her to think I'm stalking her or something.

Enneagram Type 9

"I'm not upset with you," she explains as we're turning off the lights to go to bed. "I'm just trying to hate my mornings less, and it's getting late."

I still feel vaguely responsible, though. Sometimes, in the name of having some "alone time," I space out, and crucial hours disappear that should have been spent, say, getting ready for bed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Power Nut Bar

My boss is talking, but I'm still thinking about what I read on the website: "Please note that the Foundation Center-New York is a nut-free environment."

Like, I can't bring a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich for lunch? The part of me that's a total asshole thinks about the weakling that is so desperately allergic to creation that even just a nut, a single nut, even the dust from the nut, would kill him dead, and suddenly I'm standing over him, gloating in my evil, watching him choke (would I be able to actually watch him, see him turn blue, watch his tongue fill his mouth?), murdering someone with a handful of nuts.

My boss continues to talk while I note on a post-it: "Commit murder with peanut."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Love Anyways

The child wearing the helmet has interposed himself into yet another family's game of soccer to which he wasn't invited, and his long-suffering father is finally intervening.

"Billy," he calls, but the boy shakes his head, non-verbally defiant. The other family looks awkwardly anywhere else and moves their game away as Billy's father sighs, gets up, and Billy looks upset, poised to run, unable to understand why this is an issue.

"So, do we have some kind of... plan, if our kid is special needs?" she asks as we leave the park.

Typical Night

This game I've been playing, it's basically a "Magic: The Gathering" kind of thing with an "Adventure Time" theme thrown over the top, but for the iPhone.

If you don't know what that last sentence means, congratulations, you aren't a man in his early 40's who does.

On the other hand, as a man in his early 40's who has a fairly good handle on strategy for turn-based fantasy-animation-themed card games, I am killing it in the current tournament.

Katie sits next to me on the couch playing "The Sims" as the theme from "True Detective" wails it's apocalyptic sorrow from speakers of our TV, while outside, the sounds of a Brooklyn night drift through the screened open window - laughing voices, sirens, a garbage truck, an airplane far overhead going away or coming home.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tone Deaf

"So, have you been on vacation this year?" the server, wife, perhaps, to the owner of the Mexican restaurant, asks. Her homely, pleasant face is open, listening - she's known us for years, indeed, she hardly ever leaves the restaurant, it seems.

"Not in a while," I say, unthinking. "A few months."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Have the Touch, Redux

"I see these people, everyday," she says. "I know how they're feeling on a given day, where they like to stand, and I touch them, more than I touch people I know well - even people I live with."

We walk down 7th Avenue towards sundown, laden down with grocery bags full of tonight's dinner, crackers and cheese, seltzer, lemon juice to make lemonade, and I don't answer for a while, to give this thought of hers the consideration I believe it's due.

I don't see anyone that often, I think, and I wonder what the variable might be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That Old Chestnut

The day, busy as it is, with work and workings, with all the talk and moving about, with all the projects done and yet undone, still feels wasted.

"There's only two hours a day I don't fucking hate," she says, and I know exactly what she means. I put up the wine bottle, and rinse out the glasses, start the dish washer, brush my teeth, take out the slivers of plastic I use to see, all the daily maintenance with which I keep this body knit together.

I read my book about mindsets, trying to tame my straycat mind into the habits that make for a good life, a happy life, and I wonder at all this effort, when I spend so much time working, working, working, and then I think, ah shit, this old feeling again?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Happy Home has Many Cats

After a glorious, decadent, but still vegetarian meal at Dirt Candy (who knew there were so many ways to make a beet, or a carrot, delicious?), we slog through the storm home. Katie calls her mother while I take apart and clean an electric fan that seized up right before the hottest part (so far) of the summer, and for a while I am surrounded by fuzz and dust and screws and motor parts and dirty cotton swabs.

After I put the whole mess back together and am pleasantly surprised to find it works, I finish getting ready for bed, turning the lights out through the rest of the house, when I notice a little light trickling under the door of our sometimes elusive roommate.

"Looks like our other cat is home," I say to Katie, as she swipes through pictures of her niece online.

Monday, July 14, 2014


I have precisely five minutes to write this, and not a thing in my head. When Katie got home, the weird barometric pressure thing that happens right before a storm made me super-sensitive while she made dinner. I felt like I was doing everything wrong.

A couple of glasses of wine and an episode of True Detective later, and I'm laying in bed, listening to the rain patter on the air-conditioner, watching "Wife Surprised with New Puppy" videos, and knowing I need to get to bed in just a few short minutes, thinking about the difference between keeping my word and making something interesting, and wondering if the effort to accomplish something is enough, even though occasionally the work itself isn't all that great.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

That Might be Why

We've been on each other's nerves a little (at least, I've been on hers, as far as I can tell) all day, but we've reached some kind of detente after dinner. After a nice walk down the block, we pick up dessert, and now we're sitting on the stoop in dusk, eating a cream puff with our hands, like God intended.

It's been relatively un-messy so far, but as I'm about to take a bite that threatens to destabilize the entire puff structural integrity, Katie deadpans, "You haven't listened to me all day, about anything, but don't do it."

But of course I do, and it does.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


"Well, it's an amazing novel, almost a memoir, really, with incredible detail so that some parts have a lot of impact while others are sort of banal." His thick eyebrows jump about on his forehead when he gets really excited about things, and his skin has this pallor and thin sheen of sweat like a habitual drug user - that look of someone who doesn't see the light of day too much.

Then he smiles conspiratorially, says, "Everybody's talking about it, but actually, I haven't read it yet. I just read a bunch of reviews, you know, just to see what it was about."

People Pleaser

My boss stops me in the hall on her way out. "I read your comment on the evaluation, about how this was the first time you'd heard some of the feedback? That was really good for me to read."

"If you tell me what you want," I say, "I will do my best, every time."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Strange Fruit

This will be short, because of the lateness of the hour, but I just got back from seeing literally the best Broadway show I've ever seen.

In a time when the sheerest dreck will tread the boards, it's nice to know that art can still be made, and that awards are occasionally worth the gilt. Audra McDonald played Billie Holiday, in all her ragged, stoned glory, and gutted me utterly.

I've never been so ashamed of being an American, and simultaneously glad to be a human being, as I was tonight.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Just Trying to Help

"Dude, you should probably take off your backpack," the guy says to the younger guy between us. His voice is calm and polite, but firm, as he continues, "You're hitting this woman in the back."

"Here, I'll help," I say, feeling all proud of myself at being part of the solution as I step slightly to one side to give the guy enough room to take off his bag.

In doing so, I inadvertently elbow the woman to my left in the face.

What I don't say.

There are a few things I don't talk about here. Not horrible things, but I've noticed that I have just enough readers so that there are a couple of things I keep secret.

I occasionally try for brutal honesty, but not at other people's expense. Mostly I try to tell stories that, if there's a butt to the joke, it's me.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The New Normal

We sit around the table, laughing and telling jokes, drinking wine and eating italian food - a normal night with friends.

But we all know that the definition of "normal" has shifted pretty significantly for them. Their grief lies just beneath the surface; which is why we're here: not to make them "normal," whatever that means, now, but to be with them in whatever that means now.

Somebody tells a dirty story involving a less-than-well-endowed ex-boyfriend of an ex-roommate and hanging hotdogs around the apartment, and the apartment fills again with laughter, and someone brings out a cake.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


The park smells of summer: barbecue, the breathing plants slowly exhaling green, the baked asphalt releasing its held heat up into the declining sky.

We lie on my old Navajo blanket (NB: blanket contains no actual Navajo workmanship) and stare up into the fuzzy clouds, looking for faces and counting the jets. A half-moon sails the clouds, its face cut by a contrail, while beneath both of those, closer to us on the earth, a kite bobs and weaves against invisible currents above the meadow.

"So what exactly is in a contrail?" Katie asks, snuggling deeper into the crook of my arm as another jet passes high overhead, and I sigh in happiness.

Sunset in the Slope

The sunset makes everything on that corner golden, from the kids waiting for the light to change to the dog trotting alongside his owner to the bugs that wing and swoop through the air.

A local theater troupe is in the middle of a performance of a musical at the park, and we settle in to watch. "It's a good show," Katie says, but I keep losing the thread, and we eventually get up to leave.

A old black and white Boston Terrier is tied up by the exit, and it stands trembling as we walk by out in to the cool grey dusk.


The building in the way of the fireworks has left us but one narrow band to see the explosions in the sky, but these schmucks from the building next door have decided to stand on OUR roof, and RIGHT in the way.

We call them out on it, and they move, albeit with a minimum of grace. They then proceed in their stoned, anti-social way to stand directly in front of a few of us in a unique and different way, and when asked to move, the female of the couple says, "Well there's only a couple of places to actually stand up here."

"Is that really true, though?" I ask.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Patriots and Swayzes

We pull up chairs to the window and turn off all the lights to watch the lightning roll east away from the city. Our feet rest on her old blue steamer trunk where we keep our linens, and the cat paces back and forth underneath our outstretched legs, stroking us with her tail.

The street lights reflect up off the wet Brooklyn streets, giving the underside of the clouds a hectic yellow glow as we recite the names of patriotic blockbusters back and forth (leaving out Independence Day as too obvious, of course), though by now we've kind of lost the thread.

"So the ranking of Swayzes goes: Roadhouse Swayze over Point Break Swayze over Dirty Dancing Swayze over Red Dawn Swayze."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thirsty Dreams

Using both hands, I shovel ice from the oblong bucket in the freezer into two large plastic tumblers, one pink and one blue, and a blue metal bottle with a wide mouth. I then walk them over to the sink and fill them with water, pop plastic straws into the tumblers, and screw on a lid with a built-in straw to the bottle.

This is a nightly ritual I do for us, for Katie and me, outfitting us for the nightly journey through unconsciousness - the tumblers for me (because I drink more water) and the bottle for her. Periodically during the night, we will wake on our raft of a bed that is sailing through darkness, and sip some fresh, cold water, and sink back down into dreams, while the raft drifts on through the desert of night.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Swearing in Brazil

The board room was freezing at the meeting earlier today, but apparently the building shuts off the air conditioning after five, so it's a little warm in here now as we gather around the TV.

Or maybe it's just the tension of the game: the American defense seems almost flat-footed against the Belgians, who are only unable to score based on the amazing skill of our goalie.

I catch myself saying that a couple of times - "our" - and wonder at myself, who never gave a shit about team sports before.

I make an observation about a Belgian player mouthing what certainly looks like a string of blistering profanity and my German boss confirms, "Yes, they do speak Flemish."

In My Prime

Forty-three is a strange age. You rarely read of fictional characters being forty-three - thirty-two, sure, but rarely forty-three. 

Thirty-three was when Jesus supposedly died, and many celebrities seem partial to kicking it when they're twenty-seven (for whatever reason), so those numbers, along with the major decades (twenty, thirty, forty, etc.) as well as the half-decades (twenty-five, thirty-five, etc.) have their own sort of milestone quality.

Forty-two has the benefit of being the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything (neeeeerrrrrrddd!) but the only thing that forty-three seems to have going for it is that it's a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself.