Sunday, November 30, 2014


Gray day, walking in my old neighborhood with Katie and her parents. We chat about the flea market we've just come from (another sign of the gentrification of this part of Brooklyn that I was the vanguard of six years ago), and how much things have changed.

Memories crop up cold and fall-ish in my brain, and I'm only listening with half an ear as I kick through the leaves that crowd the sidewalk next to the vacant, trash-filled lots impatiently awaiting their allotment of condos and coffee shops. I think of the loneliness I felt back when I lived here, the freedom, the depression, the sense of having done something irrevocable and dangerous and romantic, and a part of me wishes I was back there, alone and getting high, wallowing in the pain that I had created for myself.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

All Things Considered

She rubs a towel on her wet hair. "You're so great," she says.

"I'm just brushing my teeth," I say around a mouthful of foam and a toothbrush (so it comes out "Ah jus rushing ai eeth").

"You're not exuding greatness right now," she says, "but just, overall."

The Day After

Empty streets of a cold clear morning, vertigo of jaywalking, I pause on the middle stripe where I can see for half a dozen carless blocks in either direction. I think about zombie movies, and daydream about being the only person left in Brooklyn to wander the earth.

On the subway, a young man and woman lean together, exhausted, sleeping. He's reached up to cradle her cheek in his hand, and she nuzzles her face into his long, elegant brown fingers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Save Us From What We Deserve

We're sitting on the couch, eating pancakes and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, when another band runs on to the screen, doing music from "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (says the announcer in his fruity, rich voice).

The color guard have on these very unusual uniforms: green, scaly-looking unitards with a headpiece that gives them a bright yellow mohawk, and I remark to Katie that it makes them look like Morlocks.

"Oooh, I'm stealing that," she says, typing away at her Facebook page.

But I'm already thinking that if the color guard are Morlocks, that makes the band members in their pure white uniforms the Eloi, and then I'm thinking about what happens to the Eloi, and how they kinda deserved it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I scroll through my "Watch Later" list on YouTube: music videos, documentaries about the coming economic and ecological collapse, Fred Armisen doing accents. Meanwhile, she is teaching herself Photoshop and editing her logo until well past midnight - this after baking an apple pie for Thanksgiving tomorrow and previewing designs for her website.

Later, in the shower, I comment on her work ethic. "I mean, you don't have to be a role model or anything," I say, scrubbing off the laziness, "but you are modeling good behavior and making me realize I need to work harder."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Family

I awake from a dream of my old room in Tucson, the cold tile floor, the white walls. In the dream, I lay in my childhood bed, crying, because I knew my parents had left me, and would never return.

Now I lay in the dark, far from Arizona, listening to my wife breathe as she sleeps next to me. She throws an arm across my chest, and though I know that we can't live forever, I am comforted.

Scenes From the Class War in Park Slope, Brooklyn

The dogs, two big, grizzled gents with the sad eyes that all intelligent dogs seem to have, are perfectly behaved the entire train ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn, laying quietly at the feet of their owner and taking up as little space as possible for such large fellows. Said owner, dressed in tattered fatigues, wide-brimmed hat, dusty boots and ratty coat, and wearing sunglasses inside and at night, seems used to the attention his companions attract, periodically patting their threadbare "Service Dog" jackets as if to reassure them, and all his fellow commuters, that everything is fine.

Now, however, getting off the train and tracking their way to the surface, they seem to move with greater purpose, fast and low to the ground. Halfway down the sidewalk, finding their target, they surround the businessman in his suit and tie, and one of the dogs lifts his leg to pee directly on the man's briefcase, after which, mission accomplished, they vanish into the night, leaving the incredulous suit to gawk in their wake.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What's Eating You?

The bird which, just a minute ago, we held in our arms like a pet (its eyes calm and docile, even bearing as it did the clear signs of having had dinosaur ancestors who would have eaten our evolutionary shrew ancestors for lunch), struggles upside down in the cone as the blood pours from its throat into the aluminum trough thick with the gore of the birds slaughtered before it. Ninety seconds after Katie slit its throat, the butcher lifts one leg to see if it's still kicking and, certain it is dead, dunks it in a bath of boiling water to make it easier to remove the feathers before we gut it, take it home, cook it, eat it.

On the way home, the driver of the cab (smell of smoke, dents in the door, rips in the upholstery), cannot sit still in his seat. At each stop light he stretches, scratches his arms, pushes out of his chair and back down, twitches, adjusts his hat, grabs the back of his head rest, changes the radio (inevitably louder each time), looks in the mirror, at his phone, at his watch, at the road, to the point where I wonder what is inside him, gnawing at him, that he has to move just to keep it from eating him alive.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Growing Up

Brand new baby, one week old, about the size of a loaf of bread, curled up in the crook of her father's arm. He stands and sways, rocking her back and forth to the rhythm of the music coming from the playlist he made for her.

"Something So Strong" comes on, and he smiles and starts lip syncing along.

"I've...beeen...feeling so much older," he half-sings to her, and she is so small, and as big as the world.

At the Opening

While the woman (older, an artist, and self-proclaimed "kind of a big deal"), regales Katie with her wisdom, I talk publishing with her gentle husband. He's thin and with a shock of white hair on top, but tan and sharp, and an accent I later learn is Israeli.

"So I started doing silverpoint drawing - you know this? Ancient technique, you draw with silver on clay treated paper and the oxidation - you know this? - makes the mark."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Make-Up Work

So on the walk home, we discuss the speaker we just saw.

"I thought, hell, I know as much as this guy," I say.

"Yeah, and he didn't answer anyone's questions," she replies.

And we go home and do the work, instead of listening to motivational speakers, and things are a lot better.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scruffy, Part II

"Nice beard," says the sarcastic co-worker as sincerely as she's capable of saying anything. "You've really got the whole scruffy writer thing going there."

"But what's with those sides?" she asks, calling attention to the less than stellar growth on my cheeks.

"Yeah, I never really grew a full beard before," I admit, rubbing my hand along the mange I've made so far.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Attention Must Be Paid

The softest, fuzziest, cookie-monster blue onesie cannot prevent this baby from screaming his displeasure to the entire subway car, and all of his mother's efforts to placate him are for naught. She rolls his stroller back and forth, squeaks a toy at him, speaks to him in soothing tones, all of which just makes him screw up his face and screech harder, inconsolable.

Off the train, in the tunnel between subway lines, a guy wearing enormous headphones raps loudly to the music in his head as he strolls between the rushing commuters. He acts like he doesn't care, like he's too cool to care, as he enunciates every syllable and carefully avoids checking to see who's checking him out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Apologizing for Existing

"And I feel like I'm really writing better, and like maybe I'm...,"

"Valid?" she chimes in.

"Yeah, like I've got something to say," I say.

"And that you don't need to apologize to the cashier at the grocery store," she adds.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I look out the back window on the fall morning backyards between the buildings, trees yellowed, wall covered with browning leaves. A gray sky looks the other way above, indifferent.

"It's not exactly ominous, the sky," I say.

"It's just overcast," she replies.

He Found Them

"Let me just go in back to check," he says, grabbing the greasy paper out of the empty basket of doughnuts. 

I can see down the length of the cafe all the way through the kitchen to the back of the restaurant. He disappears behind a line of short order cooks furiously working over a hot griddle.

A moment later he reappears with the basket piled high with doughnuts hoisted high on one shoulder, and a huge goofy smile splits my face.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Friendly World that Speaks

I'm currently learning the Japanese alphabet, so walking through Manhattan now has an added voice in the cacophony of signage that lines the streets.

An old friend of mine and I used to play a game where we tried not to read the billboards and ads in the subways, the streets signs and murals, the awnings, plaques, memorials, the constant words that bombarded us from all sides demanding attention and layering meaning between us and the world.

But now that I think about it, we may have had the wrong idea. The more words that I know, the more I feel everything that has been placed here trying to communicate with me, as if I am surrounded by a friendly world that is trying to speak.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fooling No One

"You want to try that?" he says, pouring a taste of the wine into my glass. I toss it back, swallow wrong, and try to conceal my choking, fooling no one.

"Hate it when that happens," he says sympathetically as he fills my glass to the rim.

"Dark days," I reply, still choking.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Showtime for One

I'm sure the loud conversation of the two old drunk guys in camo, the yeller and his quieter friend, is going to be the greatest barrier to a peaceful commute this evening. Then the kid walks up.

Music plays on his phone, no headphones, only loud enough for me to hear, and he proceeds to rehearse a dance routine, twisting his hips and ghosting through spins, hat catches, pole twirls, and flips to the quiet click and spit of the repetitive electronic soundtrack.

To my dawning horror, I realize that I am the recipient of and sole witness to this guy doing Showtime, and I begin to wonder if I am the center of the universe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This Number is Out of Service

The phone ringing at three in the morning used to be a portentous thing, a sign of doom: who died, or was sick, or needed to be bailed out of jail?

These days, technology has rendered our fear superfluous. "Hmm," we say after a few clicks on Google, "area code 233 is Ghana?"

"I don't know anyone in Ghana," we say to ourselves, and we roll over and go back to sleep.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Growing a Beard is No Real Disguise

In the tunnel to the subway I see my friend from work and fall into step beside her.

"Heeeyy," I say, a little sly, like one of those guys that are always trying to pick girls up by falling into step and walking with them. She knows it's me, though, and gives me a smile.

"You're getting pretty scruffy, there," she says, by way of greeting.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Am I Actually Nice?

When we walk into the ATM vestibule (one of those weird rooms that exists only as a way station to other places, like train stations or the gates at airports), this guy is frantically scribbling away on his check at the little table in front of the window on the street.

When he's done he stands a little off to the side, not exactly in line (which would be behind us, now) but just sort of off to one side, waiting for one of the ATMs to open up. When it does, I catch his eye and motion for him to take it - I'm not in a hurry - but I wonder at my own motivation: how much of my willingness to let him go is in order to avoid conflict, and how much is genuine kindness and generosity of spirit on my part.

I decide I'm really nice, but that, if I was in a hurry, I might not have let him go.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

When I Wore a Younger Man's Clothes

An interview with J. Mascis saved on my "Watch Later" list on YouTube leads me down the proverbial rabbit hole into the past. An hour later I'm watching videos shot by drones of people having sex in nature. 

Something about all of this, the music, the visuals, I'm not sure what, reminds me of when I was much younger. A spark inside me that's been flickering faintly flares up, and I remember what it's like to want to make something beautiful with whatever skills I have.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


"It looks like spring in here," the CFO of my company says. She's talking about my bright blue pants and my yellow and light blue plaid shirt, and too be fair, it is a pretty out-of-season outfit.

I'm filling up my thermos with hot water at the coffee machine, which is one of those things where you have to hold the red plastic flange-dealy down to keep the spigot open, so I'm sort of concentrating, and I don't reply.

Perhaps she takes my silence as being offended, because after a quick second she adds, "I have to give you a hard time, since you dress so nicely all the time."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Look As Good You Will Not

Your mom and I felt sad but had to say goodby to Yoda today. He gave us sixteen loving years. Dad

was the message on my phone. Yoda (so named by Grandma Gladys McCoy when he was a kitten, because of his enormous ears)an enormous siamese mix tom with a sweet disposition who slept beside my mom almost every night while she was in the worst of her illness, had to be put to sleep today, and he'll be missed. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just Like When I Was A Kid

My company give us Election Day off and, after fulfilling my civic duty (and obtaining my "I Voted" sticker) I drop off Katie at the subway and take another route home.

At home I can hear the children playing in the schoolyard that butts up against the backyards behind our building. They scream and shout at each other, like kids do.

I sit inside, like I used to at recess, quietly reading, listening to the chaos of life outside and glad I'm not out in it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lots of Folks Eat Ramen

"Hey, buddy," I say as my co-worker passes me in the hall. "You have ramen today? 'Cause it's all over the counter in the break room."

"Yeah, no, everybody was getting ramen from me today, so you can't pin that on me," he says, and suddenly I feel really guilty.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Just Missed It

I've just given my bankcard to the women behind the table at the flea market when another woman sidles up.

"I'm sorry," says the woman behind the table, pointing at us, to the woman now eyeing us in despair. "They just bought our entire stock of antique bottles, plus the box they're in."

The newcomer picks up the biggest, prettiest pale blue glass bottle, and offers it to us, saying, "I don't suppose I could buy just this one from you?"


Confusion reigns at the self-checkout stations in a Brooklyn supermarket. The man caught in the vortex of the three little girls spinning around him can't make up his mind which station to use, and his ambivalence has spread like a virus to a seemingly weak-minded middle-aged lady, who now stands stupefied in the middle of the aisle, under some impression that the machine she could use is broken, even though there's no reason for her to believe that.

When another guy seems about to wade into the fray and just take a machine, even though there's a line (which I'm in), I explain to him, "No, see, that man has to go, and the woman, then me, and then, I guess, you."

"It's so much easier when there's a narrator," he says brightly, and I can't decide if he's being sarcastic or not.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Most of the kids (even the older ones who don't wear costumes, childish and hulking in their love of candy like bears) are polite. Despite their ignorance of the exact etiquette, they still know (mostly) to say thank you, and the obligatory "Trick or treat!"

But this little wide-eyed wonder child, no mask, body encased in the faux-muscle costume of an adolescent mutant amphibian possibly trained in the art of ninjitsu, ignores all rules of decorum or personal space and climbs right up the stoop to me, his face inches from mine. His hand rests on my knee as I place a box of Whoppers and a mini Kit-Kat in his cloth bag, and he does not blink or speak as, our transaction finished, he climbs down, rejoins his parents and continues down the sidewalk on his quest for more, more, more, ever more.