Sunday, August 31, 2014

They Were Here First

Our first night in a new place, and I have my usual trouble sleeping. While trying to walk it off I look out the back window to see, walking on the back porch, a large possum, sauntering along as if he owned it.

He has the air of a janitor, doing his job, no longer having to think about it, maybe a little bored: "Yeah, I got this."

He strolls past the window, back hunched, thin, rat-like tail relaxed and swinging, fur like ash cotton candy, without a glance in my direction, and makes his way around the corner, out of the pool of light, and out of sight.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Usual Epiphany

The drive down to Hilton Head from Charlotte is about three and a half hours, most of it through South Carolina. We listen to 70's music on the radio, and I sing along while Katie sleeps. I stare out the window at the pines that line the highway as they stream by, watching their high branches twisting toward the sun.

The thought strikes me, hard, that I will never see these trees in this particular moment, this blue sky, this sunshine, and sadness washes over me, joyful sadness, because I know that time is passing, and because I know that I know.

Travel Imprinting

The plane touches down, most of us bored within the miracle that is modern jet travel, and I look out the window at the Charlotte airport at dusk.

Beside the jetways, several barely decipherable machines lurk in the gathering darkness, their inert bulks sulking with nothing to do.

For a moment, I flash that they are animals of some kind, grazing in the grassland of North Carolina, or camels maybe, and for a moment, I'm back on the plane coming in to Marrakech.

Years of flying back and forth to Arizona come back to me, too, and I say to Katie, "Whenever I fly, I'm used to landing in the desert."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Invisible Days

Some days I wake up a little depressed, a little anxious, maybe, for no readily discernible reason. Flesh feels a little less dense and I can't seem to find my way into reality as quickly as I usually do.

A woman nearly runs me down on the train platform, scratching my arm with her nails as I try to get out of her way.

A bird that has somehow made its way down into the tunnels beneath Union Square flies straight at my head, but no one else seems to notice as I duck to get out of the way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Less Weird than it Sounds

He's one of the "characters" of the neighborhood: average height, with the effeminate gait and chubby build of Truman Capote, a large head and small features, tiny round glasses perched on his bulbous little nose, and an unnerving, almost simian grin. Even though he's constantly singing or talking to himself in a creepy, operatic, Mickey Mouse voice, he's harmless, as far as I know.

It's near closing time in the grocery store, but the cat needs food so I'm here, scanning can after can at the automatic checkout, the computerized female voice announcing the price, "Sixty, cents, sixty, cents, sixty, cents...."

He stands, just out of sight, over by the frozen food, echoing the computer in his, strange, high-pitched voice, "Sixty, cents, sixty, cents, don't, stop, don't stop," and then giggling.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Deja Vu Times Two

The yellow tomato is ripe, almost overripe, despite (or perhaps because of) it's having been in the fridge for over a week, and it stands out against the white cutting board like a juicy miniature sun.

The knife I pick up to cut it, a big kitchen knife with the standard triangular blade, just rests on it, and even my sawing motion only puts a dent in the skin without actually biting into it.

I pick a smaller blade, a paring knife with a wicked point, and it immediately slices into the meat of the tomato, and suddenly I'm overwhelmed with this sense of having been here before, listening to Katie speak.

I interrupt her to tell her about my feeling, and she says what I always say, which is, "That means you're on the right path."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beggars of Park Slope

The guy with the eye patch is back at the top of the subway stairs, garrulous as ever, flirting with the ladies and chatting with the kids, punctuating each exchange with his signature phrase: "Can you please help me out."

But this new one that I see wandering up and down my block, skinny and mean looking, she doesn't seem nearly as friendly or engaged. She's got a suspicious squint and leathered skin, and she asks me something that turns out to be just her hitting me up for a dollar.

"No thank you," I say, putting my headphones back in and continuing on my way.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Carpet Meta

"Jules seemed really eager to be included in my Four Each Day," I say to Katie as we unroll the striped carpet we picked up from our friends in Astoria.

The colors of the carpet, a subdued, almost avocado green and a couple of shades of light blue and brown, really tie the room together, as they say.

"Yeah," Katie agrees. "It was really sweet of him to say that."

A Good Day for Mushrooms

A grey, cloudy, almost fall-like day, the air cool and moist as I walk down Union Street toward the greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza, and there, at the base of one of the trees that dot the sidewalk, are two large healthy looking mushrooms, peeking out round and brown and cheerful between the roots.

But, upon closer examination, I see that they aren't even attached to the ground. They're actually just a couple of store-bought crimini mushrooms that someone has, apparently, tossed on the ground for some reason.

The next tree along has shelf mushrooms, perched fetchingly over some small black turds where somebody failed to clean up after their dog.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Relearning Object Permanence

My life tends toward routine: same trains, same paths, work, home, same thing for breakfast and lunch. So the signal on the subway platform at Union Square as I'm changing trains on the way home from work catches me by surprise. 

It's not a small thing, this signal, at least as tall as me, and it's chunky and made out of pitted, knobby metal that's been painted black so many times that the once sharp, machined edges of it have started to soften and round, with a bright red light shining on the top, and a currently dark light colored green on the bottom.

But it surprises me, because I get off the train at the same place everyday, and I don't remember it being there yesterday, and yet it's not entirely unfamiliar to me, like I've seen it recently, which makes me wonder if it's only there on certain days, like Brigadoon, or if it's only there when I notice it (both ideas being, of course, entirely insane).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Way "Cranky" Works

"Well, you said you were kind of cranky earlier," Katie says. "Are you still?"

"Wait, so I totally misread that? You're not irritated at me?"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Like Usual

One of the two kids slouching by the subway door chooses the moment when we're delayed in the tunnel to switch on the (presumably bluetooth) speaker in his backpack and play the shitty hip-hop he's been saving for just this occasion.

It's after work, everybody's tired, nobody wants to hear this crap, and I find myself shaking with rage at the rudeness of it. I want to step up, talk to them, "Forgot your headphones, huh?" I envision pulling out my own bluetooth speaker (I know exactly where it is on the shelf at home), cranking up some blast beats or, better yet, some Carly Rae Jepsen.

Instead, I just shake my head, plug in my headphones, give them a dirty look, like everybody else, silently seething at them until they get off at Atlantic Avenue and I continue my ride home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


As I get older (is there anything more boring than that phrase: "As I get older?" Wisdom is presumed to attend to the process, to be imparted to the reader, but it seems no more likely than those monkeys with their typewriters banging out Shakespeare: i.e., possible, but unlikely) I start to feel the passing days with greater urgency, and with that urgency, the sense that I have wasted something precious.

Today, I played "Card Wars," advancing into the top 10 of my bracket, cleaned the kitchen (only to promptly dirty it again), washed some dishes, ate dinner with my wife, drank a couple glasses of wine, read a not-insignificant portion of the internet, attended to a few tasks that needed doing at work, thought about music and writing, thought about how time is passing, thought about how little I've accomplished in this life, and felt bad about that. 

Earlier, on the walk from the train to my home, I watched a dog with three legs hop gamely down the sidewalk after his owner, a look of happiness on his little doggy face as he enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine, and I thought, "What does it all mean?"

Monday, August 18, 2014

4 People/4 Seasons

He walks with spine ramrod straight, his face composed, his tidy, slate grey suit immaculately tailored. 

She leans forward, her mouth pursed, steps quick and forceful in high heels, skirt flouncing with each step as if in a breeze.

He strolls, eyes at half mast, t-shirt and jeans, no socks, tan ankles peeking out from the cuffs, each step as if he'd no particular place to go and all day to get there.

She is moving steadily through the crowd, but nothing seems to touch her, her long dress flowing, her bearing regal, carrying some unseen season inside her: a sunset, a stillness that the city does not know. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014


"I'm home, and my friend's with me!" our roommate says. I'm wandering around the house in just my shorts, picking up before bed.

"Sorry, you caught me with my shirt off," I say, trying to be casual while I run to the bedroom to get something to cover up.

"Aw, you spend so much time looking in mirrors at your pecs, I'm sure you wanted them to catch you," Katie says later with a smile.

sketch 8/16

This is a sketchbook, in some ways. Still lifes and drawings from life, keeping the pencils sharp and the eye keen.

A little girl balances on the low stone wall that surrounds the church, walking her pink sandals toe-heel like a balance beam while her mother holds her outstretched hand and keeps the concern from her eyes.

We eat fried green tomatoes for dinner, watching a movie, while somewhere nearby, a saxophone wails in the streets, just like our own private noir movie.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quiet Kids

The kid with the bike and the safety-cone orange doo-rag gets on the train at our door, while his friends, including the kid on the skateboard, get on one door down the car. They weren't super talkative on the platform, which is good - usually kids in a group on a platform spend a lot of energy being loud, trying to impress each other, freak out the squares, and it can be a little obnoxious.

But these kids seem relatively quiet, until one of them, the kid with the bike, starts gesturing grandly, but in a focused way, to the kid with the skateboard, who gestures back, and it quickly becomes apparent that they're signing to each other. Soon the whole lot of them are signing, silently holding animated conversations the length of the car, making jokes and joshing around, just kids, while one of their number grins and dribbles a basketball on the floor of the train, the rubbery, slightly metallic sound of the ball bouncing loud in the otherwise quiet of the subway.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hoo Boy

I was standing in the kitchen, literally just standing, when it was like something in the small of my back decided to say, "Hello." 

Just off center on the right side, a squeeze like someone had their hand somehow inside that complexity of muscle, and had just found a set or strand of muscles to grip and pull. But gently.

I continued to stand, with what I imagine was a rather foolish look on my face, as the pain quickly increased, the grip of that invisible hand tightening, and then I said, "Hoo boy."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sic Semper Bullies

"No, I got that a lot actually," I say, after taking another sip of my bourbon. "In fact, there was actually graffiti on a bench at my elementary school when I was in sixth grade that said 'Scott Williams is a fag.'"

"I will murder them," Katie says.

"Eh, one of the worst bullies ended up managing a Village Inn in Tucson, last I saw him, plus he turned out to be gay himself," I say with a shrug.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dead Food

I clean out the drain, and there's pasta in the strainer, white elbow macaroni, flabby and quivering as grubs.

In the fridge, there's cottage cheese, milky white, rubbery curds suspended in a white plastic tub with a cheerful red cow grinning on the lid.

A can of peaches sat out on the counter last night, day-glo orange half-spheres floating in thick yellowish syrup.

I wash out the pot my roommate left in the sink, scrubbing it with hot water, tap the strainer into the garbage, and go get ready for bed.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Kids are Alright (with Adult Supervision)

"We don't see a lot of kids playing with each other, these days," I say as we walk past the playground. One child kicks a ball to his mother, another pelts after her father, chasing him across the asphalt, without interacting with each other at all

"Maybe they're doing it at another time," Katie says while a kid in a helmet bigger than her head makes lazy figure eights on her scooter around a group of older adults, all of whom watch, rapt. "Play dates, school, something."

Child Abuse

"If Hillary wins in 2016, then she and Bill will be the first presidents in U.S. history to have slept together," Katie says with a smirk.

"That we know of," I say, raising my index finger. "I mean, I'm pretty sure they slept together, after all, they did make Chelsea...."

"Watch?" Katie says, eyes wide in shock.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Made You Look

The way the sleeping kid in the Pooh-bear stroller is trussed in, the straps pushing his hips forward and wrapping over his shoulders, then fastening at the waist, he looks a little like a WWII pilot belted into his parachute. His father, young, tired, five-o'clock shadow well on its way toward midnight, reaches his gym-jacked arms up and holds the subway pole, while kicking his leg back to rest against the car wall, stretching his already tight jeans even closer to the breaking point.

Katie raises an eyebrow, says quietly, "Definite similarity between father and son packages."

"Oh," I say, low enough so only she can hear, "thanks for making me check out their junk." 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Office Party

The rooftop bar babbles with conversation, while the speakers push inoffensive pop through the cool evening air. My third plastic cup of wine hums pleasantly in my chest and turns the quickly coming sunset into a Maxfield Parrish while my boss's boss's boss holds forth.

"Nobody goes into this nursing home and comes out, right?" he continues. "But there he was, ninety-one, running numbers, and when we came to pick him up to get him out of there, he was in a pink suit with a white bowtie."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mind = Blown (Star Wars Edition)

"The problem with midi-chlorians...,"we're walking up quiet Brooklyn sidewalks at night, yellow light from the sodium lamps slanting through the leaves.

"Aside from the fact they're bullshit," I say.

"...yes, aside from that though, is that you can't have Darth Vader," he says.

"Half his body is gone, and if midi-chlorians are real, that means that half of his are gone, which means he has half the Force power," he finishes, clearly relishing the look of shock on my face.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

After the Gold Flush

The farthest stall in the bathroom is occupied, so I take the one closest to the door, take down my pants, and sit.

I'm a little worried about... the sounds that accompany the act of defecation, and there's a certain amount of anxiety that comes with having to urinate simultaneously ("Oh," I imagine the other guy saying, "you sit down to pee?"), but, as the saying goes, when you've gotta go... so I go.

My fears fade away, though, as I hear, coming from somewhere (where? the women's bathroom next door, the vents, where?) music, faint, but unmistakably "After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young.

There have been no sounds from the other stall, however, and maybe the music is distracting him from his business, because I hear him, whispering, "Jesus, shut the fuck up."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kickass Dreams in a Restless Night

Nathan Fillon (Captain Mal from "Firefly," if you remember) is a curmudgeonly, cynical, wise-cracking collector of magic articles for a ministry-of-magic sort of group, bringing in enchanted artifacts to a central office for safekeeping from the mundane world. Per protocol for his office (and in order to get paid) he has to prove his haul is magic, but on this particular day, he's brought in a bunch of little items (a pen knife, a penny, a brass cylinder that looks like a mezuzah), none of which seem to be reacting to the magic tests. 

But it turns out that no one's magic is working, as the ministry has been taken over by some kind of evil genius who has figured out a way to eliminate all magic (except his own, of course), and who threatens to make the change permanent, leaving himself as all-powerful dictator of the planet, with only Nathan Fillon having to stop him without using any magic.

Katie's alarm goes off and we lie awake in the grey half light of morning until she groans, "I didn't sleep at all last night."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Blast from the Past

The hippies are still on our front stoop when we return from the grocery store, but they quickly gather their stuff to get out of our way.

"So, what? You guys waiting for the bus?" I ask, taking a slightly chillier tone than when I first saw them going out. and the guy (dreaded, bearded, tie-dye, Lennon-glasses) nods as I step past him into our foyer.

"I love your red hair," the female of the pair calls to Katie, and the door slams to behind us.

And So On

It was almost as if the guy had been waiting for me to say something to him while we got dressed in the locker room, because as soon as I asked, he started chatting away.

"Yeah, I thought I was gonna swim in the little pool," he said, buttoning his shirt. "I did it once, but it was just too small, so I joined this one Y, that was close enough to my office? But the new pool is so much better."

A Heavy Pour

I took the last beer from my friend because he was holding two, and clearly looked like he was not relishing finishing either of them

That said, that one extra beer was a bridge too far. They have a heavy pour at this bar, and I think I was overserved.

After we got home, I stayed up, watching Queen concert videos on YouTube until the bed stopped spinning and I could fall asleep.