Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We Know Our Own

The woman in the hoodie with ears and a rainbow mane spots the woman in the fuchsia and black striped tights the same time I do. Striped tights is reading a comic book.

Rainbow mane hoodie walks by, slows down, peers over the shoulder of striped tights, curious to see what she's reading. I think of dogs passing each other on the street, friendly and curious by default, having recognized a kindred soul, sniffing to see what the other has found.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

That's On Me

"Well, you stayed up a little later spreading butterflies, so we went to bed a little late," I say.

She straightens up from washing her face in the sink and looks at me skeptically in the mirror. "Sounds a little like you're blaming me," she says.

"No, I should've gotten my shit together," I say, sighing.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Back to the Grind

After a week off, it's only three hours or so in front of a computer before I feel stupid. I can't remember shit, and the piles of papers I left before Christmas now actively offend me, for some reason.

And now this column of numbers I'm trying to reconcile from a list of signatures is refusing to add up properly. I pause, breathe deeply while massaging my temples, and recount, somehow managing to get yet a third, entirely different number from the previous two I'd come up with.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

An Ill(-ish) Wind, Part 2

I'm sitting at the flea market, minding Katie's booth and my own business, when out of nowhere, a wave of something like sadness wells right up from my feet and through my suddenly tender heart to my throat, where it catches on a lump. It's a sudden access of compassion and pity for the entire stupid human race, all of us striving and misunderstanding each other and trying as hard as we can to get love and fucking it up almost every time because we don't know how.

Not a second later, just a few feet away, a baby lets out a cry that quickly ratchets up a register into a wail as his mother leans over, desperate to discover the problem.

I wonder if it's like what happened the other week, only this time, instead of clumsiness, it's existential sorrow and sympathy.

If Someone Tells You They're Crazy, Believe Them

"I like your Looney Tunes shirt," I say. It's a plain white button-down, with the heads of Wile E. Coyote, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, Tweety, and Sylvester running down the front.

"Thanks, and proud of it," she answers.

"Just to be clear," I say as she continues to nod enthusiastically, "you're telling me you're Looney Tunes?"

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Holidays Bring Up Feelings

"Why you lookin' at me? Don't look at me like you know me!" he says threateningly to the guy who always begs for spare change outside my front door.

It seems to end there, with the angry guy going in the bodega across the street, leaving the beggar standing in the overcast morning starting at the ground with his head down.

But when I come back from taking the doge on her walk, the beggar seems to be gone, until I spot him on the other side of the street, hiding behind a tree.

Friday, December 25, 2015

What, 'Cause She's Black?

"Yeah, she's pretty old," I tell the kid hanging outside his apartment smoking. 

As the doge and I prepare to continue our walk the kid says, "Well, Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, you know."

"The dog probably celebrates Kwanzaa, right?" he adds as an afterthought.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

I Actually Did Do That, Though

The news from is not good. Even though I ordered it weeks ago, "It looks like one of your gifts might not get here before Christmas, Pookie," I tell Katie.  

"Well, maybe you shouldn't have waited until the last minute," she says, trying to make me laugh so I won't feel guilty. "Like that time you made stand on the corner in the cold on my birthday while you ran into Best Buy to get me a present."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Booze is a Depressant

But why, I think to myself walking along in the warm evening, the dog tottering along behind me, am I like this?

I could make a resolution to write fifty-two new stories next year, one a week, I continue, but even as I think it, and the dog noses the corner of a gate surrounding the small, absent sections of sidewalk they use to plant trees, my heart sinks.

And then I remember: I spiked my eggnog with bourbon before we watched It's a Wonderful Life tonight. Now all my thoughts are filled with dreams deferred and defeatist nonsense.

Blast Zone

The text she sent before I got home read,  "The house is a supreme wreck," but I don't think I was really prepared for the level of devestation that greeted my arrival.

After a brief tour of the blast zone, I took the doge outside for a walk, and Katie called me from her company's Christmas party.

"I know it's bad," she said as the doge stumbled along behind me, "but it was way worse. I cleaned up some."

Monday, December 21, 2015

HD Killed the Video Star

The TV at my parents' house is huge, and very high-tech. But the picture is so good it might actually be too good.

Whether it's a soft focus Hollywood classic from the Fifties, or a live football game, every picture looks like video, like it was shot about five minutes ago, and presumably in your backyard.

I find myself taken out of my usual state of absorption in story and acting, instead focusing on the video quality, and watching these people on the screen "act" like they actually are in these fake situations, and then I start think about what craft services served the actors for lunch, and by the time I notice I wasn't paying attention, I've missed 5 minutes of dialogue.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What Enlightenment Might Be Like

My mom doesn't know we're coming for her 80th birthday, and it's been years since I've been to visit, so when she sees me, her eyes kind of glaze over and her jaw literally drops. My sister steps back to watch, laughing happily, as I step up and say, "Hi, mom." She doesn't cry, but she seems pretty dazed.

Later, she still seems to be having a hard time processing, saying, "When you all walked in, I swear to God, I stopped thinking."

Saturday, December 19, 2015


After stopping the movie (Inside Out) twice to get ahold of my emotions, I finally give up. I'm just not mentally tough enough to handle it right now.

But the next movie I put on, ostensibly a comedy, has a pretty potent argument scene in it as well, and I find myself pausing even that to shake off the tension, even though it's played for laughs. I wonder if my inability to handle strong emotions in fiction is a sign of sensitivity, or just a lack of psychological fortitude?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Letting Go

"I wanted you to know, Scott," my boss says, "I'm not going to write you up for the mistake you made earlier this week."

"I didn't want you worried every time I pulled out a piece of paper," she continues, "or stressing about every single small error you make."

"Well," I say, "I wasn't really worried. I mean, if you were going to do it, you would have done it already, and besides, there wasn't anything I could do about it anyway, except continue to try and do my best."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holding On

I'm climbing the stairs to the apartment, weary, thinking about my past like you do, when I suddenly realize I'm not a very forgiving person.

I'm pretty laid-back, sure, and I don't usually get too uptight about things, but what I really mean is that the people I've "forgiven" didn't really hurt me.

The people who have hurt me in my life, and it's a pretty short list, are still on my list, unforgiven, a sore spot every time I think of them, which is pretty hypocritical, considering how many people I've hurt in my life who I sort of just expected to forgive me.

Not only have I not forgiven the people on my list, but I'm not entirely sure I know how to forgive them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Set Up

"Go ahead, pet her," she says to her boyfriend after successfully petting the doge (which most people can't, 'cause the doge is kind of a jerk to strangers). "Are you the chosen one?" she adds mischievously.  

So he reaches down, like you would to any normal dog, and she jumps like she's been shocked, causing him to snatch his hand back.

"Eh, I think you were set up," I say consolingly, rubbing the doge's head.

Monday, December 14, 2015

An Ill Wind

The guy walking about five, ten feet in front of me stumbles, catches himself, and continues walking.

At the same time, I also stumble, at the same time as I see him stumble, but like him I catch myself, and keep walking.

I didn't stumble on anything, didn't catch my foot on an errant piece of slate, or step on a cracked paving stone at a wrong angle, and neither did my doppelganger up there ahead. It was as if a wave of ineptitude blew down the street, catching us both with invisible hooks to trip us up, and then, fun over, it snuck off to trouble some other pedestrians.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rough Trade

The creepy guy who sells rock and roll memorabilia from a folding table on the sidewalk spins his spiel to every passerby, and I'm no exception.

"That's a signed letter from Lou Reed about an album he was recording, and I could let it go for seven hundred dollars."

"And if I had that kind of money, I'd be happy to give it to you," I reply, laughing.

"Well, if you have anything to trade, you never have to use cash with me," he says in that smooth, oily voice he has.

Yeah, Sort Of

The very nice lady from Spain who runs the booth next to Katie at the Brooklyn Flea Market has very kindly asked what I write. This is before she tells me that her husband has a book coming out this year from a major publisher. 

Still, I feel a bit embarrassed describing my main project: "Well, the thing I do the most is this thing where I write four sentences every day about something that happened that day."

She nods very seriously at this, saying, "So it's a conceptual piece."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dogs Make Friends

The kids (a bunch of girls, a couple guys trying to impress them) sitting on the wall are talking loudly, like kids, and somehow they're connected to the guys loitering by the bank across the street. The main guy in this group notices the group by the bank moving out, and he rounds up his charges, hikes up his pants, and walks by us where the dog and I are waiting for her to pee.

"Cute dog," he says gruffly, and I smile.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mea Culpa

After the dust has settled, and everyone has calmed down a bit, I approach my boss.

"I see you're eating lunch, so I'll make this quick," I say, and she puts down her sandwich to give me her full attention. "I don't apologize in the midst of a crisis, because it comes off as fake, it doesn't make anybody feel any better, and it's beside the point. But I just wanted to say," deep breath, "I'm sorry for the trouble I caused."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Phone Snatchers Abound in Midtown

This guy standing outside my building, narrow, stooped shoulders, pinched face, kinda squirrely looking, squints at me as I leave for the day.

He makes eye contact through the smoke from his ratty-looking hand-rolled cigarette, and steps up, way too close, saying, "My phone is broken. Do you know what time it is?"

A cold bolt of adrenaline hits my stomach as I check my watch (careful, now, not to touch or even gesture toward the phone in my front left pocket), and I reply, voice hard, "It's ten after."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Overheard at Work

He stands out of sight, just around the corner from my desk, talking to his supervisor about his latest visit to a client.

"...and she's asking me if I go to church, if I know Jesus, all that. Same time, she's rubbing Ben Gay all into her legs and stuff, and the smell! Reminded me of my grandmother, may she rest in peace."

Monday, December 7, 2015

Chopping Onions

We didn't fight, exactly - I just said something stupid right after she got home from a stressful day, and she rightly called me out on it and left me in the kitchen cooking dinner.

I was still sort of muttering to myself in that way you do when you know you're in the wrong, but you haven't yet entirely admitted to yourself that you might be the asshole, and I was cutting onions, really strong ones. My eyes were watering as I carefully sliced them into quarters and diced them.

I realized I didn't want to cook our food with anger and make it taste bad, so I breathed deeply and calmed myself and tried to project as much love as possible into the bulgar wheat, the onions and peppers, the avocado, the taco shells, the salsa.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

First Rule

"I'll be okay," I say. "I'm just tired."

"No you're not - you're dying," Katie says, watching my face. "Oh my God, did you read the comments?"

Old Salt

Katie peeks out from the bathroom. "Did you stumble, doge?" she asks sweetly.

Sure enough, Coco seems to be having another minor bout of old dog vestibular syndrome, which is making her head spin. She staggers to the door for her evening walk like the apartment is a storm-tossed ship that tilts and lifts without rhyme or reason, and I sigh and go for the harness so I can carry her down the stairs to the street.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Bright Side

Occasionally, my desire to encourage people and help them see the positive side of things makes things awkward.

"Oh, my dog is fifteen years old too," the woman smoking out in front of her brownstone says after Coco, outraged at her overfamiliarity, barks her dry, coughing bark. "The vet says she won't live too much longer."

"Well, I hope she lasts you through the holidays," I say cheerfully before walking quickly away with my smile dripping down my face.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Discourse on Unheimlich

"The Wiz LIVE" on TV felt too long and rushed at the same time. We popped popcorn and were prepared to be impressed, and we certainly enjoyed parts of it, but overall it just left us bored and a little depressed.

I remembered the feeling of watching the movie when I was a child, watching Michael Jackson bend, twist and tremble as a scarecrow in some alley in what looked like an apocalyptic wasteland while the crows told him, "You can't win," and Katie told me stories of how much the Wheelies terrified her as a little girl. There was something profound and frightening and weird about that show that I don't think the producers could really capture, that feeling that a child gets of seeing something he doesn't completely understand, but which he knows is terribly wrong, which made the brighter, happier sections shine more in contrast.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Lighten Up

I came home and made a butternut squash and saffron risotto, and then Katie and I sat on the couch and ate it and drank wine and cuddled. 

The risotto was rich and comforting, and after we finished the wine, we drank eggnog. We watched the tree in Rockefeller Center light up and thought about San Bernadino, both the city, and the song I've been singing all day since a couple of vicious people decided it would be a good idea to kill a bunch of other people.

Maybe that's all I have to say: it seems pretty dark, but look for the light.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sounds Pretty Good, Even to a Vegetarian

"It's like Army Base Stew," our new friend says about the sausage stew (a simmering broth stocked brimful with sausage, tofu, scallions, hot dogs, and what I'm pretty sure is Spam) at the Korean restaurant. "But it's really good with a slice of American cheese on it."

I'm understandably skeptical, but he continues, "It melts, right? And makes the whole thing kind of creamy."

Monday, November 30, 2015

Barking at Midnight

"She's gonna get us kicked out of the house," Katie says, increasing desperation creeping into her voice.

"Well, it's not like we know how to stop her barking," I reply.

"I can sit with her on the floor," Katie says, grabbing her pillow. "That seems to calm her down." 

Sunday, November 29, 2015


"I like your ouija board socks," I say to the woman browsing Katie's butterfly sculptures.

"Thanks," she says, turning to me with a matter-of-fact look. "He," indicating what I presume is her boyfriend, "thinks they're hideous."

"That is not an argument I want to get in the middle of," I say, throwing up my hands.

Too Real

"Yeah, they just hold a pillow over the butterflies' heads until they stop moving," the guy says to his girlfriend about Katie's business.

"Nah, we just take them out back and tell them climate change is for real, and they off themselves," I reply.

We both laugh, and then stop and regard each other warily.

"That got a little dark," I admit.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

All I Want for Christmas

The cosmetics and perfume counters at Bloomingdales smell like Christmas to me. Lights and mirrors, glass balls and wreaths, motorized displays and piped in music shout Christmas cheer from every available surface of the sales floor, and the vulgarity of the display makes me cringe inside. We have commodified Christmas almost completely, deadening ourselves into mere consumers, purchasing anything and everything to try and fill the void left where a childlike love and wonder used to be.

And yet: the sales floor of Bloomingdales, or Macy's, any department store really, makes some inner child in my heart sing with happiness at the knowledge that Christmas is coming, really truly coming, and that same inner child breathes in the smell of the Chanel counter and smiles, and he eats all of these lights and mirrors and ornaments and wreaths and displays and that one Mariah Carey song up with a fucking spoon.

Friday, November 27, 2015


I'm sitting on the stoop, soaking in the glorious sunshine, when he walks by: older, heavy-set, baseball cap, zip up windbreaker, headphones draped around his neck.

He starts talking before he even reaches me. "What's the big deal with this day?" he keeps repeating. 

When he's right in front of the stoop he says, without looking at me, "I'm thankful every day."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


After the delivery guy and I get the table up three flights of stairs to the apartment, I can feel the small twinge in my back considering whether or not its going to give me trouble later.

I follow him back down to his truck to give him a tip. "I think I need to start working out more," I say ruefully as we step out the door into the cool night.

"Happens to me, too," he says, laughing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Good Are You?

"Can I just put the mail on your side of the bed?" Katie says with a sigh as she tries to clear the bed so we can go to sleep.

"Sure," I say. "Plenty of room right here," indicating the floor.

"Doge, would you please sort the mail for us?" Katie says while the dog licks her foot over and over and over.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Karma Leaves a Mark

I reach into the bag blindly, groping for my comb to tame the disaster that's become of my hair during the morning commute. This is, of course, in direct violation of all of my recent attempts to "do easy."

The pencil lurking in the darkness of my satchel does its work quickly, and I almost hear the little "pop" as it pierces my thumb like a needle. I jerk my hand back and watch a bubble of blood well on the tip of my thumb, remembering the time in junior high when I accidentally stabbed myself in the knee with a pencil, and wonder if this time, like then, will leave a mark that lasts years.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sales Banter

"It's just sad," the woman says, referring to the butterflies Katie sells. "The way they're all dead."

"You know," I say, looking her in the eyes, "it's kind of like how, in paintings from the Enlightenment, they'd put skulls in their portraits. It helps you remember that we're all going to die, and not to waste a minute of your life."

Saturday, November 21, 2015


The stranger with the bow and arrows (safely in a duffle bag, though) and I are hitting it off pretty well.

"If your wife learns to shoot," he says, "prepare to have her be way better than you. Men tend to power through, but women are taught to use technique."

"I'm used to Katie beating me in competition," I reply.


As I'm standing on the subway platform, staring idly across the tracks to the opposite side where people stand and pretend you can't see them, my eyes alight on a thistledown seed, floating in midair in the tunnel, delicate little hairs perfectly still.

It drifts on unseen air currents, like something underwater rising and falling languidly with the tide. 

After my questions exhaust themselves, I hear in my head a word, and behind it, a phrase, with the promise of more to come, so I scramble in my bag to find my notebook to write it all down, only to discover I left it at home.

I pull out the paper on which they printed my poor review for work, and scribble a poem on the back, and when I look up, the mysterious seed has disappeared.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Caught in the Act

Wish I could see the guy that likes to draw penises pointing at the mouths of all the people in the ads at this subway station, just to catch him in the act, you know? The ad for the newest Broadway play: dicks; the ad for the Daily Show: dicks; the smiling woman on the health insurance ad: dicks - like, a whole lotta dicks.

But what is this guy like, really? Whether he's just a kid, or a grown-ass adult, he can't be that bright, 'cause he didn't draw any dicks on the guy in the ad for the Museum of Sex, and that just seems like a missed opportunity.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Good Intentions

"Now, I know that the impulse is coming from the right place," I say. "But..., well, have you read the rules I wrote about what we can spend this money on?"

"Yes," the voice from another office on the other end of the phone says.

"Well, then you know that buying infant formula with this money isn't allowed," I say, a hint of desperation creeping into my voice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


"This guy, with the thinning, curly black hair and olive complexion," I write in my notebook as the train rocks me gently back and forth, "and this blonde woman playing solitaire on her phone sitting on the subway, I wish them happiness."

"I don't care what they've done," I continue scratching, "or what they've done, and I certainly don't care if they have good thoughts or bad, because none of those things matter."

"And this guy reading over my shoulder," I write slowly and clearly, tilting my notebook so he can get a good look, "I wish him happiness, too."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Watercooler Chatter

"There was this science fiction book I read," I say, continuing my thought. "The author describes the conflicts in in the northern hemisphere as basically being a single conflict, with more or less intense phases, starting around 1066 and lasting hundreds of years, with a culmination of violence and ideology around 1945."

"So basically, it's like we're just at the start of this next phase of ideological conflicts that are gonna last awhile," I say, "and these are sort of the opening salvos."

My boss, now visibly uncomfortable, says, "Okay, let's look at the calendar for this week."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Not Really

Every time I'm about to fall asleep, the dog barks her short, dry, cough of a bark and startles me awake. This happens four or five times until there's a knock at the door.

Our downstairs neighbor is there, with some feathers for Katie, wrapped in a tissue. She sees my disheveled look, my eyes slitted and bloodshot, and a look of concern crosses her face as she asks, "Oh, we're you trying to nap?"


Girl comes up to the guy in the next booth where I’m working at the Brooklyn Flea, hands him a postcard. “You dropped this,” she says, and walks away.
“What the fuck just happened?” I ask, even though I know.

Written on it: “Call me (maybe) - Alana,” and a phone number.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Deja Vu

When I moved to New York, almost 20 years ago now, I couldn't afford to take the subway, so I walked everywhere.

Tonight, I'm walking through the Lower East Side, remembering all those other walks, feeling the city speaking through the soles of my shoes.

A man standing in the park on the corner lights a cigarette and the smoke swirls arounds his shroud of shredded winter coats. The wind picks up the rags of him and spins them with leaves as I shove my hands deeper into my pockets and run across the street.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

She Doesn't Like Kids

She climbs out of the baby carriage and barrels straight toward the dog, grunting, arms out. hands flexing. The dog watches in horror, and then, realizing what's happening, retreats up the stairs.

The kid can't climb the stairs with her little legs, and the dog won't come down (nose to the door, absolutely refusing to acknowledge whatever nonsense is going on behind her), so they remain at this impasse while I watch, delighted.

It's a couple seconds before I realize that her dad is looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to go in and end this farce, and I hurriedly fumble my keys in the door and shout, "Good night!" over my shoulder to the expectant child standing at the bottom of the stairs with her arms outstretched to pet my dog.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I crawl off the couch and kneel next to the sleeping dog, burying my face in her fur. She lifts her head for a moment, then lays back down with a sigh.

Her fur is so dense, it's like a very small area sensory-deprivation chamber, swallowing up all sound and light.

I feel the rise and fall of her chest, and I snuggle in deeper.


I have a distinct memory from high school: on the school bus for a band trip to California, somebody wants to play the  soundtrack for the musical The Phantom of the Opera, and I can't handle it. Even at that age, the soaring romantic emotions leave me feeling heartbroken and inadequate, unable to express the music of my soul.

I can laugh about it now (Andrew Lloyd Weber! What was I thinking?) but I still occasionally feel like that 18-year old kid. Some kind of high school Salieri, dreaming of beauty and truth, but unable to even listen to beautiful music without eating my heart out.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Needs Work

The article ( describes a good approach to mindful action, so I spend most of the night trying to pick things up slowly, deliberately. I carefully observe where things go and try not to let go of them before they're done moving.

So when I pour the remains of one bottle of wine into the new one (same wine, same vintner, what am I, a barbarian?) I look forward to exercising my newfound skill.

Which is of course the precise moment my hand twitches, causing me to dump red wine all over the table, as if I'd deliberately splashed it, in some fit of inebriated joy.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Schrodinger's Lottery Ticket

On the way back in the house from taking the dog for a walk, I reach down to pick up a discarded scratch lottery ticket someone wedged between the stoop and the railing. It's one of those tickets where you scratch off one or two numbers, and then, if you match it, you win some money.

But the tickets are already printed, I think to myself. The winning ticket has already been printed, and you might have bought it or not, but you won't know until you scratch it off.


"Is that a Japanese dog?" the woman loading up the car says as we come out of the apartment building.

"She's a shiba inu," I say.

"Well, she's beautiful," the woman replies.

"Don't let it go to your head!" the man next to her calls as we continue down the street.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What Else?

"We've talked about this," my boss says in response to my latest lapse at work. "So, I'm going to have to give you a verbal warning."

She clearly doesn't like doing it, but she does what she has to, and while it's definitely not pleasant, it's professional and nothing personal.

When it's all done, she says, as kindly as she can, "Have you ever thought that maybe this type of work just isn't for you?"

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Kind of Integrity

"Who wants a doughnut?" my co-worker says, not talking to me.

"I do," I say, because it's true, and because I don't care that she wasn't talking to me.

But now I feel bad, especially when she comes back around the corner (she wasn't even in the same room!) and says, "Okay, let me go get it."

So I get up and follow her, saying, "No, if I'm gonna take your doughnut, the least I can do is get it my damn self."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


"Goodnight," I say to the woman who cleans our office, before I notice how she's standing. She's leaning on her waist-high trash bin with both forearms, holding a hamburger wrapped in paper in one hand.

"Goodnight," she replies, unsmiling, her eyes dead. Without looking away, still leaning over the trash bin, she tears off a piece of the burger and pushes it into her mouth and begins to chew.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Living in the Past

Ginkgo trees are developmental throwbacks, with the entire length of their angular limbs festooned with fan-shaped leaves. The other trees, more modern, yet somehow more old-fashioned looking. push their leaves to the ends of their branches, like hands, groping the sky for more light.

The ginkgoes have already turned, this fall, and their brilliant yellow leaves litter the sidewalks and clog the gutters. The other trees still hold some of their green, turning more slowly, reluctant to acknowledge the coming cold.

Monday, November 2, 2015

New York is Burning

The tang of sulphur from a lit match.

The sour, piney aroma of marijuana, drifting behind some law breaker as he struts uncaring down Broadway.

Cars growl exhaust, and every breath is a small preview of the grave.

Street lights bend their lofty heads beneath skyscraping towers, each one filled with light, all burning through the darkness, indifferent to the vagaries of air, just burning, burning.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

You Talk to Strangers

"Hey there, killer," the friendly guy walking his dog says to my dog, at which greeting she promptly jumps up in the air and skitters away to the end of her leash in terror.

"Well, she's kind of shy," I say by way of an apology.

"Just like me," he says, laughing.

"Yeah, I don't really get that from you," I reply.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I Alone Have Escaped to Tell Thee

I know what hell looks like. I've seen what the world will look like when all those doomsday scenarios we celebrate on TV come to pass, and it has left me hollowed out and shattered.

I've seen the haunted look of the damned who were once in charge, pushing back against the tide of humanity breaking on their doorstep, the looting, the torn clothing, the fear in the eyes of my fellow human turning to rage and hunger when they are denied what they need.

I've been to a Party City on the day before Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


"Right on!" I say, when the guy in my building hands me my package from Amazon.

"Can you even say that anymore?" he asks, laughing together with one of the older guys who works in the shop downstairs.

"Well, it's not exactly fashionable," I say, smiling and turning to go, "but it makes me feel good."

"Right on, right on," they repeat back and forth to each other as I head upstairs.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

So Much For Atmosphere

In the interlude between deluges, I hustle the doge outdoors for her evening constitutional. 

Everything is a wreck - streets like rivers, cars covered in leaves and trash, all permeated with the stony smell of rain on slate sidewalks. I inhale deeply, relishing the atmosphere, when a sudden gust of wind strips the tree on the corner of it's leaves, and a particularly wet one swoops up under the scoop of my umbrella and thwacks me right in the eye.

I'm so startled, I can't help but laugh.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Not As Helpful As I Could Have Been

"I just don't think it'll be good enough," my friend at work says about her college entrance essay.

I've heard this one before, however, and merely reply, "Well, screw your courage to the sticking place."

"What does that mean?" she asks.

"It means 'man up.'"

Monday, October 26, 2015


The giant gray dog sees Coco coming from half-a-block away, and I switch her over to the opposite side of me with a soft tug on the leash, so she won't have to deal with any untoward advances.

But as we approach, the other dog, tail wagging, comes in to greet us, and his owner, rather than holding him back, does the opposite.

He drops the leash.

I literally gasp, but the dog displays remarkable restraint, sniffing politely as Coco tries to hide behind his owner's legs

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Walking Distance

The woman at the counter of the Thai place favors me with a look of pity. "Uhh, we don't have an order from anybody named 'Scott?'" she says, slowly, as if I might be stupid. "Maybe you ordered from a different restaurant?"

Rage mounting, I consult my phone and, sure enough, we ordered pickup from a Thai restaurant of the same name approximately 9 miles away, in Manhattan, where there's no way I'm going to go pick it up.

Rolling in the Deep

The guy ducks under the half-closed rolling shutter outside the bagel shop, and for a second he sees me, seeing him. We lock eyes and then, like the good New Yorker I am, my eyes sort of unfocus a little, and I keep it moving down the street.

But apparently, our interaction is not complete. Behind me, I hear him speak/sing, "We could have had it aaaaalllllll," and I know he's singing directly to me, though I can't immediately recognize the tune.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Nodding Off

What is the word for work-induced narcolepsy? Because I have it.

As soon as I'm done writing for the night, though, with a movie on and a glass of absinthe in front of me, I'm wide awake. Katie's in her workshop, gluing butterflies on things, and I'm narrating "My Neighbor Totoro" to her, and remarking on how much more it makes sense since we visited Japan.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Doggie Facebook

Rather than going to her usual spot, peeing, then jumping up on to the sidewalk to kick nonexistent dirt over it, the dog is nosing around her favorite stump with unexpected intensity.

"What's going on?" I ask, mostly rhetorically.

She ignores me as she takes another loop around the stump, sniffing at each place another dog has peed as she goes, until she finally leans up against the stump at the most awkward angle possible, nearly falling over in the process, and squats. Here, apparently, wedged between the car and a dead tree, with almost no place to stand, here is the ideal place for her to leave her contribution to the conversation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


"It smells like oranges in here," A co-worker says as she walks by my desk.

"That's because Beverly just ate an orange," I reply without looking up from my computer.

"Oh. Okay," she says, and walks back to her desk.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


The sign says "we are delayed because of...." I look out the train window, and for a second I can't tell if the darkness in the tunnel outside is moving or not, until, with a jolt, it does, and we continue on our way.

Am I standing still, believing I'm still moving? How will I know until I start moving again?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Accelerate Out of Danger

I pump the pedals from my hips and the streetlights double their tempo overhead. I fly down dark Brooklyn side streets on my bike, and I remember, once again, why I love riding so much.

A rumble and rush of stinking air buffets me from behind, and an instant later a garbage truck roars by, inches from my handlebars.

I don't even pause, I don't flinch, and I don't get angry, because any of those would only slow me down.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jealous Again

The printer doesn't work, but after an hour of reinstalling drivers and re-entering passwords, I print out the story for my writing group.

And it's so damn good I can hardly justify my existence, let alone writing another thing, maybe for the rest of the month.

I finally go to meet Katie at the Brooklyn Flea, and when I get there I instantly feel better.

"I'm having kind of a day," I tell her with a sigh.

Marry Your Opposite

The rearrangement of the sales space at the Brooklyn Flea market isn't going quite as planned, and Katie is getting frustrated. "I just wish," she says, taking a deep, calming breath, "that something would be easy."

I think, but don't say, about how this is one more way she and I differ. She will often start a project thinking it'll only take "a few minutes," and it ends up taking a lot longer, whereas I think a project like making some bookshelves will essentially take the rest of my life to complete, and so never get started.

Friday, October 16, 2015

We'll Do it Live

"You see," says Katie, as the train gently shakes us side-to-side, "I worry about all the possibilities."

"That's what makes you a more creative person than me," I say.

Later: "That's 'Plan A,' and then I have 'Plan B,'" she says.

"I don't usually even have a 'Plan A,'" I say, watching the sun play on the water as we cross the bridge.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


The white kid breakdancing on the subway platform "for tips" keeps doing the same preparatory shuffling cross-step over and over, with this lonesome, grieving look on his face.

A young guy in a gray suit puts a dollar in the baseball cap hat the kid has set out in front, inspiring him to bust out a couple of desultory shoulder spins.

He goes back into his test pattern as I walk past.  The salty funk of his long-fermented sweat smells desperate, and resigned.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


With my legs over my head in what's known as the "Plow" pose, I grab my hands and pull my arms together behind my back. It's kind of hard to visualize, but you might get close by imagining me in the middle of a dive at the Olympics, doing a pike, but then the pool turns out to be empty and I land on my neck. 

And as my shoulder blades squeeze together, the accumulated tension of two weeks carrying my bags through several miles of Japanese and American airports and train stations suddenly asserts itself, and the muscles along the length of my spine seize up.

I come out of the pose slowly, gently, all the while knowing that when I get up, I probably won't be able to stand up straight. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jet Lag

As I'm making dinner, something Katie says has me doubled over with laughter, tears streaming down my face.

"Oh, you are tired," she says, with a shake of her head. I think, well there's my story for the day.

Lying in bed now, though, I can't for the life of me remember what she said.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Long Day

The laundry across the street where we dropped off our clothes closes at 8, and right now it's twelve after.

We go there all the time, and I know that he usually stays open a little after, so I tear down the stairs, and sure enough, Michael, the owner, is at the counter going over the books.

He looks up, clearly weary after a long day, but still manages to muster a smile for me. The lines of his face look a little more pronounced than I remember, his thick hair a little grayer and disheveled, and the happiness I feel at his still being open is tempered somewhat by the unwelcome prospect that he might have kept his shop open waiting for me.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

We Give it Life

The brilliant white castle towering above gleams dully in the overcast sun, its curved, winglike rooflines and gables giving it the appearance of being about to take flight, despite its immensity. While lovingly restored inside and out, I can't help but wonder what it must have been like when it was lived in, with princes and courtiers and samurai walking its halls in soft soled stockings, wearing the wood down to a sheen, and servants preparing food and shuttling bedclothes from room to room, privy to every secret, gossiping quietly in corners.

I know the logic, of course: landmark treasures such as this one, the last of its kind in Japan, must be preserved, and using it as a residence, as it was it in the past, would only hasten its decay.

But I think they might have got it wrong - the only way some houses can live is if they're lived in, and the house in which no one lives moves closer to death 

Friday, October 9, 2015

In Peace Park, Hiroshima

The children all wear school uniforms in the style of old-fashioned sailors' clothes: white shirts, navy blue kerchiefs, navy shorts or skirts. They've gathered around the giant bell, and a few of them are manning the log that hammers the side of the bell to make it chime.

The rest are underneath, sticking their heads up into the cup of it to listen to it reverberate as it sounds its mellow, heavy tone. They giggle and clutch each other and put their hands on the bell to feel it shiver, and then then duck out and run into the park, laughing beneath a perfect blue sky, in the shadow of a shattered dome.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Growing up in the Southwest gave me a very confused relationship to capital-h History: much of the actual history of the people who once lived in the area was erased by colonization, and what did remain was either worn-out relics of missionary efforts and tacky theme-park recreations of boom-town mythologies that were never made to last, or new and shallow creations of the last fifty years that lacked both depth and history. I found myself longing for worlds where history was neither something meaningless, nor something I had been taught to ignore.

But here I feel the weight of ages, in the zen garden by the bamboo grove, under the green, tree-covered hills rising to blue skies mottled with gray, uncertain clouds. The temple monastery, practically unchanged in almost 500 years, stands serene and unconcerned behind me, as piebald carp flash orange and white in the murky pond beneath a low overhanging pine, while overhead an unseen bird trills ancient songs, and I sit in the shade on an old oak bench and think placid, unhurried thoughts about time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The young girl in the school uniform sitting across from us on the train out of Kyoto puts her manga back in her purse and stares at the passing houses out the window beneath the almost lowered shade.

When she notices out of the corner of her eye that I am ducking my head a little to also watch the scenery beneath the lowered windowshade, she reaches over and raises it a notch, without making a big deal out of it.

I nod, acknowledging her kind gesture, and she favors me with a shy, touching smile that I can help but return with a smile of my own.

As soon as I do, though, I recall the seaweed snacks I'd been munching just before boarding the train, and I wonder exactly how much shit I've got stuck between my teeth.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Familiars of the Gods

Sure, we bought the crackers specifically to feed the deer who roam wild in this shrine, but these guys are getting pushy. Katie is surrounded by three young deer who are acting like they're ready to shove her to the ground and take the damn crackers by force if necessary, while the guy next to me with the horns is nipping my hip to make sure I know he's ready for his snack.

When I am a bit slow in responding, he lowers his head and stabs me in the thigh. I bat his horns aside and, communicating in a way that I believe most mammals understand, hiss, and he takes a step back in shock at being so affronted.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Apparently we were staring at the map a little loudly, because the man in the dark suit has come over to offer assistance. 

When we explain to him that we're looking for a bus that Google tells us is right here but which is, in fact, nowhere to be found, he smiles apologetically and grabs a guy holding piles and piles of maps.

So now we've got two guys helping us and we're still no closer to finding the bus, until we manage to communicate to them where we're going. 

They tell us a bus that we were going to get on anyway (before I started paying more attention to Google than to what was going on in front of me), and Katie manages to not look at me like I'm once again the dumbest guy in Kyoto.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bodhisattva Vow

After a few hours by bullet train in the Japanese countryside, we arrive in Kyoto and, after parking our luggage in a coin locker in the station, Katie and I head off to explore.

The first temple, described by the guidebooks as "the last word in gaudiness," is, while a bit on the large side, hardly as tacky as the description would lead one to believe. A moat full of shimmering carp surrounds an enormous compound in which a good half dozen buildings, all dedicated to one form or another of the Buddha.

As Katie and I kneel together in the temple, I feel this enormous pressure, almost physical, in the almost exact shape of the space surrounding us, and I can feel the area in my body around my heart slowly opening, and I think, "How can I make this happen for everyone, all the time?" but there's no real answer.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Better Without God

The second time we were approached today was the only time they didn't talk about religion. The first guy just wanted to talk about the difference between Soka Gakkai International and his Original True and Completely Not Made Up Like SGI Buddhism, but I told him we already had some. The third time was a little lady who wanted to "lead us to her church," which I'm pretty sure is how a slasher movie, I can't recall which one, starts.

The second time, though, was just a bunch of kids who asked to speak to us and do a "small cultural exchange," and they were sweet and funny and not at all religious: just a tall, gawky guy with the shock of bleached-orange hair and a shy, smiley girl who used to live in Hokkaido, along with their classmates, trying to talk about Japan and remember the words for what to call the Statue of Liberty.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Speak Low

"Speak soft!" the Japanese tour guide says sharply to the obnoxious man who has been talking over him for the last fifteen minutes. "There are other people here."

And suddenly, my dislike of the obnoxious man and his loud, entitled European family melts somewhat, because I know that he might not be able to help it. I know what it feels like to be too large and too loud and too sarcastic in a land where people are polite, neatly proportioned, tidy and almost entirely lacking in irony.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tokyo Morning/Night

After the priests march solemnly through the square in front of the temple, their paper thin white robes rustling over the rhythmic clip-clop of their thick soled sandals, the acolyte pounds the enormous wooden drum, and its hollow boom rises high above the silent trees surrounding the temple compound. A shimmering drone begins, woven through with a reedy, nasal melody, and then a mournful flute joins in as the Shinto funeral procession files into their seats in front of the shrine.

Later that night, the lights go down at the Robot Restaurant, and the performers hammer on smaller versions of the same drum the acolyte played this morning, but this time they wear outrageous wigs, and a sound system pumps gallons of techno music through the auditorium while flashing LEDs shove every color possible down our gaping eyeholes. Dancers in skimpy outfits and terrifying masks gyrate to the beat while glittering robots show us yet another side of Tokyo.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Our New Friend

The old Japanese man approaches just as we're leaving the buddhist shrine. "Where are you from?" he asks in a thick accent.

When we tell him we're from New York City, a wide grin splits his face, and he lifts his cane in triumph. "I am going to take you for coffee or a beer," he says, "and you will help me practice my English."

I Feel The Jerk

Jet lagged as I am, I've still already managed to catch one fish at the restaurant that allows you to catch your own dinner, so now I'm just fishing for fun. Katie pulls up a flounder she's caught by a fin, but she throws it back because she wants to catch it "for real," meaning through the mouth.

But when the pole twitches indicating I've caught yet another fish, by the gills this time, I'm at a loss as to what to do - I don't want to deny Katie her moment in the spotlight catching her own fish, but I feel like it's against the rules if I throw it back.

Before I can really figure out what to do, though, a very helpful server has come up and whisked my fish away for deep-frying, and the disappointment in Katie's eyes at my stealing her thunder is crushing me.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Final Push

The Japan Airlines check-in process is doing us no favors, nor is my tiredness from the day's flea market. Technology seems to be intent on thwarting us - the computer reboots twice for no reason I can see, and the website kicked us out just as I was about to get our tickets.

Finally everything is finished, and Katie and I are showering, exhausted and a little punchy.

"New York is obdurate," I say, leaning against the wall of the shower.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Performance Anxiety

The space on the busy street looks almost big enough for me to park the van.

But after pulling ahead to the next car, turning on my blinker, and throwing it into reverse to let everyone know I'm serious, the traffic immediately begins piling up behind me, and suddenly a whole host of folks are watching me try to parallel park a cargo van in what may or may not be an appropriately sized space.

I inch backwards, cutting the wheel hard like I was taught, but it's a tight fit, and the turning radius isn't great, and now I can feel people getting impatient as the traffic light ticks through its cycle yet again.

When the cop car going the other direction slows down to watch the show, all my nerve deserts me and, sighing, I put it back into gear to circle the block one more time.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Holey Soles

The cobbler is using the shoe he's currently working on to avoid meeting my eye. "So you wanted the half sole?" he says about the shoes I was supposed to pick up yesterday.

When I remind him that I asked for a full leather sole, he says, "Oh, I think we may have misunderstood each other."

"Okay, let's talk about that," I say firmly.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dog v. God

The sign on the churchyard fence reads, "We're in this struggle TOGETHER," over a picture of the current pope (Francis, for our readers coming from the far reaches of time and/or the internet) embracing a brown-skinned woman. It's a pretty basic sentiment, but it touches me, nonetheless.

And the building behind the wrought-iron fence, a solid church of the white stone Brooklyn variety, early 20th century, simultaneously unassuming and slightly ostentatious, suddenly seems very important too, and I can feel the weight of all that stone and all that time and history in the carvings of angels, in the tall stained-glass windows, in the steeples crowned with crosses.

The dog walks by, completely unconcerned, sniffs a corner where other dogs have almost certainly peed, and then looks up at me curiously where I stand, transfixed by something like an epiphany that has no meaning attached, and waits for us to move on.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Not Great

I finish walking the dog and feeding the cat. I'm dead on my feet and impatient with the entire thought of being awake.

"Do you want to take a shower?" Katie asks, sticking her head out of the bathroom. When I explain that I really just want to finish getting ready for bed, that I'm tired and cranky, her face instantly falls in disappointment and she disappears back into the bathroom with a parting, "Great."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sick Day

There's a sound like someone dumping a bottle of soda out on the subway floor, and people scatter away from the source of the noise, making the crowded car even tighter.

At the center of the rapidly clearing circle sits a man, hunched over and swaying in his seat, clearly drunk or high, hovering over a puddle of the worst kind of thin, brown sick as it spreads across the floor. 

As he belches and then noisily looses another wet torrent down his front, I turn to the woman next to me and ask, "Should I push the button and let the conductor...?"

"Yes," she says, without hesitation.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Burning Eden

Soon, California will be nothing but a scorched memory, but I want to remember sunshine and beaches. I want to remember possibility, a place where dreams are born into the real on palm-lined streets beneath endless, eternal blue skies, where the drugs were always good, and the people were always beautiful. 

When I lived in Arizona, California was Eden, the real vacationland, the magic country from which everything good and pleasurable thing came: Disney, music, oranges, avocados, almonds. Blue water and wine and the lure of driving west with the sun and never coming back.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


The woman at our booth at the flea market is a big lady - not fat, but tall and broad and meaty, with a mass of thick black curls sticking out every which way from the top of her head despite her obvious attempt to tame them. Her expression, however, belies her size, and seems timid and small and a little lost, like she is somewhat overawed by the market, or by us, or because she's alive.

I wonder to myself what it must be like to feel as if you're a lost little lamb when, by your looks, you run the place, or you could if you wanted. I wonder what it must be like to have people look at you and see one thing when you feel like something very different on the inside

Saturday, September 19, 2015


The dog is getting all kinds of attention at the green market today, but I finally manage to pull her away from her adoring fans and up the hill towards the exit.

As we pass a couple of grocery bags full of delicious-looking vegetables, a small voice pipes up, "Don't let her eat all of my food."

The food is guarded, I now notice, by a little blond boy, who eyes the doge warily as I quickly reassure him that she won't eat his food.

Apparently satisfied, he squats down in the dirt and, smiling, shrugs as he says, "So what now?"

Friday, September 18, 2015


The guy with the backpack and the dreadlocks has clearly had enough, and the cops are doing their best to remain patient.

"Sure I had a beer," he says, "but you know what you'll find of you search my pack?" He starts to take off his pack, saying, "My work clothes!"

One of the cops shakes her head, while the other puts out his hand, "We do!'t need to search your backpack."

Thursday, September 17, 2015


The woman at the place where Katie asked me to go pick up her butterflies twists her mouth when she talks, like she's chewing her words a little, and finding them slightly sour, and even though I normally find something like that annoying, on her, it comes across as charming.

After numerous texts back and forth with the owner, she finally finds the butterflies that Katie needs. I'm on the phone with Katie when she brings them out, and we're both incredibly grateful.

"Tell her I love her," Katie says, "not because she gave me the right answer, but because she persevered."


I saw a couple old friends for dinner tonight. We talked for a long time.

There's too many things to say, and it's late. It's nice to talk to people for whom your awesomeness is a given.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dropping my Eaves

The group of people walks by just as the doge squats to pee, and I curse inwardly. If she gets startled, she won't go, and we'll have to start all over looking for a spot.

But for once, she keeps her eyes on the prize, and I get to hear their conversation as they pass.

The woman is pointing over her shoulder at an old building that's been turned into a bank, and the older man says to her (imagine an Eastern European accent, a little like a vampire), "I just wrote a blog post about that last week."

Monday, September 14, 2015

Time Bully

"I feel like it should be five," my co-worker says lackadaisically at around three in the afternoon. I've been up to my neck in work all day, and the prospect of the day being over, with so much left to do, fills me with dread.

"No," I say, firmly, fixing her with my sternest look. When she demurs, I cut her short, announcing, "I have no time to defer to your schedule."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What Are You Running From?

As soon as she's done pooping, the doge pulls to the end of her leash, straining to continue her walk, not even wanting to give me time to pick up.

When I've finished cleaning up after her, we start walking again, but she's clearly on a mission. We walk faster and faster until, finally, we're both running.

I can't speak for her, but I have no idea why we were running.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Momento Mori

When I return from my morning errands, the computer is closed on the floor, where I left it, but the apple logo is lit, and the machine is making this horrid whirring sound. When I open it up, the screen shows the terrifying visage of a folder, blinking, with an ominous question mark at the center.

I know something is wrong with the object through which I interact with the majority of my life, but I can't deal with it right now. I somehow manage to forget, and yet the feeling is always there, a vague sense of unease, a darkness lurking just on the edge of vision, darkening the day, leaving even the most pleasant interactions with a residue of doom.

Friday, September 11, 2015

In Vino Veritas

The sneaking tickle in my sinuses has turned into a ache. I finally drag the dog away from a particularly compelling corner of a fence in an effort to get home in time to get a little extra sleep.

I think, "I didn't have a glass of wine with dinner." This is the first time this has been the case in a while.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Discourse on Beauty

The pretty woman with the very long legs, perched on very high heels, in a very short skirt, teeters outside my work building as the rain lets up. She is chatting animatedly with the two button-down guys, presumably from her office.

The three guys from ConEd digging up the street have all stopped dead in their tracks, struck dumb by her figure. They stare, unashamed, slack-jawed and grinning like idiots, naked lust in their eyes, while she stands and talks, and they seem unsure whether to whistle, cat-call, or just bear witness, until one finally shakes his head ruefully, breaking the spell, and they return to work.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Call it the Blues, I Guess

The guy in the government office conducting my interview is as close to an archetype of "bureaucrat" as I've ever seen: square jaw, bit of a pudge hanging over his belt, a crew cut close enough that his scalp shines pink beneath the spiky hair, and a shave, even at this late hour, so clean that the skin of his neck looks almost like the wattles of a turkey.

He turns to the computer and asks me a couple questions about my current address and my middle name. He then notes something on a pad, and, in the silence that briefly blossoms, he begins to speak/sing absently, "Don't wish it away/don't look at it like it's/forever."

And that's it; we finish the interview, I thank him, and he gets up to make coffee as I'm leaving.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's True

Katie and I are going over AirBnB listings for Tokyo for our visit later this month.

"Well," says Katie, "you're clearly pushing for this one, but I don't like how strict the rules are."

"Like what?"

"Well, it says we have to be quiet, so we don't disturb the neighbors," she says, "but you've got a really loud laugh."

Monday, September 7, 2015


It's 6:30 AM, on a holiday, so no work today. No reason to get up out of bed unless we feel like it, but here we are, Katie and I, awake as hell.

Well, Katie's awake, restless and turning, and each time I almost fall back asleep, she shifts to try and find a more comfortable position, and I wake up again.

Later, after we've both fallen asleep and awakened again at a more reasonable hour, I mention my earlier desire to knock her out with a blowdart, and she nods, saying, "I wish you had!"

Sunday, September 6, 2015

He Doesn't Eat Much

Our usual after-flea ramen spot is super busy, and kind of loud. Katie's mom is doing her best to be social after a long day, but all three of us are deep in our bowls of ramen, quietly eating with gusto.

Katie notices it before I do: a small, black and green iridescent beetle about the size of an aspirin, floating face down in my ramen broth. I'm not even disgusted, just disappointed that I won't be able to finish my ramen as I call the waitress over to let her know.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Girl Can't Help It

"Go to your place," I say in my sternest possible voice, pointing. The dog has been completely discombobulated by the visit of Katie's mother, her presence in our home an apparent source of irritation so great that the only solution is to bark nearly incessantly.

Once the dog is on her blanket, crouched and looking very repentant, I command her to stay, and put up the gate in the door of our bedroom, effectively locking her in.

But lo and behold, not five minutes later she appears in the living room, a look of incredible guilt on her face, as she looks directly at me and lets out one of her dry, almost coughing barks.

It Was Quite Loud

"I'm so glad you liked it," the waiter says with a very thick accent to Katie's mom as he takes her plate. She's come up to New York to stay with us for a few days.

After he's gone, she leans over to me. "I'm not really sure what he said," she says over the loud music playing from the bar.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Missed It

"I don't care what we watch," Katie says, standing abruptly from where we were going over our DVD collection. "I just hate fighting."

"Wait," I say. "We were fighting?"

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


"You don't read out loud very much, do you?" Katie asks.

"What do you mean?"

"Well," she's trying to be kind, now, "the way you pronounce certain words, like 'eulogize.'"

"Did I?" I say, frantically searching the text.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Marry Well

Do I write about the guy leaning up against the pole on the subway that Katie out-crazied on her way home from work today?

Or do I write about us lying on the couch, bloated after eating too much Indian food, her head in my lap? I asked a question about whether or not she thought she would actually throw up if I touched a certain spot on her tummy, and we laughed until tears ran down her cheeks into her ears.

Whatever I write about, she usually makes it more interesting, and more fun.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Assertiveness Training

"Okay, here's what I'm going to need you to do," I say to the Time Warner representative, because I'm working on being more assertive. "You guys are going to comp us the week that we don't have service until you can get a technician out here."

"Of course sir," says the rep, without skipping a beat.

Caught off guard, I can only say, "Well, thank you," and wonder if I was too hard on him.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What Year Is It?

Despite my intentions to write more clearly, the words squeezing from my pen grow more and more indecipherable. 

"I'll just close my eyes for a second," I think, but the notebook is already flat on my chest, and I'm unable to keep my eyes open, regardless.

I awake an undetermined time later with the cat on my chest, flexing her needle-like claws through my shirt and into my skin.

"How long have I been asleep?" I ask her, but she just blinks and purrs.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Neither, But It's Sweet of You to Think So

"I'm sorry, did I hear you guys say you needed recommendations for a place to eat?" Katie says to the couple (whom we've never before seen in in our lives) standing by the traffic light.

In less than five minutes, we're chatting like we're old friends - Gary and I are discussing his growing up on the Upper West Side, and his travels in the Middle East, while Sam acts like she's about to invite Katie to her wedding.

"You live in Park Slope?" he says, his eyes twinkling. "Let me guess: finance, or law?"

Friday, August 28, 2015

I Have a Tell

"You don't believe it!" Katie says, pointing at me. "You have your lying eyes on."

"But it's true!" I protest.

"Look, I did you a favor by explaining one of your 'tells,'" Katie replies.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

No Big Deal

"Look," I say apologetically, "if you tell me you're not coming in, like if I know you're not coming in ahead of time, I can't let you take a sick day. People will get suspicious."

"Yeah, I understand," he says in his usual deadpan fashion. "It's no big deal."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Does This Pillow Smell Like Chloroform to You?

"So how did you do going to sleep to the dog videos last night?" I ask Katie.

"It was perfect," she says.

"Like someone tapping you on the temple with a tiny silver hammer," I say, laughing.

"More like chloroform: nice and slow."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


A couple sits perched on the stone wall by the old Reformed Church, talking intensely, and the dog seems to want to pause and check them out, but I steer her away, as I don't want to intrude.

"I don't see why you have to make this about you," the woman says, her voice flat and uninflected. "I'm trying to get better."

I pass through the edge of the gravity well of their despair, and slingshot away, down the sidewalk and into the night.

Monday, August 24, 2015

That's What I Meant

I'm sitting on the stone steps leading up to side door of the church, on the phone with my mom. The moon floats in and out of clouds, hazed and fuzzy in the humidity.

"I'm just really glad we're okay, these days," I say.

"Well, I thought we've been okay for a few years," she replies.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


"Same color, same face, same tail," says the unexpectedly friendly stranger as we're walking down the street to the dog's favorite pee spot. "But your dog seems a little... short."

"She's a shiba inu," I say, as if that explains anything.

"Damnedest thing I ever saw," he says, shaking his head in disbelief.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


The guy behind the counter is about five feet two inches, with a marked hunch and a comb-over that hides nothing on his narrow pink skull. His nails look like little half-circles on square, blunt fingers, and his hands shake as he caps and recaps his yellow highlighter pen.

"So here's the emergency roadside assistance number," he says slowly, highlighting a phone number on the van rental contract before capping, then un-capping the pen yet again, to highlight another number, "and here's the mileage."

I'm trying not to be impatient with him, so I keep my face carefully composed as I nod and say, "Uh-huh."

Friday, August 21, 2015

And Not Fictional

She seems to be hanging around the bin of kitty litter at the pet store, waiting for someone to talk to, or maybe I just have one of those faces that make people feel like opening up.

"So he's a dwarf," she says, showing me a picture of an enormous, resigned-looking tabby with stubby legs in a Santa Claus costume, "which means that he can't clean himself."

She tabs through the pictures on her phone, continuing, "He really looks like Garfield, only handsomer, don't you think?"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How You Treat the People Who Serve You

"Well can I get four of each of the different dumplings?" my friend asks, after she's already told him no. "Like, chicken, and shrimp, and beef?"

As the server tries to keep her patience, I look at him incredulously and say, "What are you doing to these nice people?"

"I don't know they're nice," he replies.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Problem of Education

"So you must have read all the big names, growing up in Russia," I say to my co-worker. "Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekov."

He sighs. "When you are young in Russia, they make you read those authors, so when you are an adult, you do not want to open them again."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


"You're all set, thanks," I say to my co-worker as I take the paperwork back from him. I start to sign my copy, a quick scribble resembling the letters that spell my name, but I stop, breathe, and start again.

I take my time, not overly careful, just trying to be deliberate, moving my pen with smooth, patient loops and strokes across the page. I finish and admire my handiwork, a signature that my elementary school teacher would be proud of, while my co-worker has long departed down the hall and away to more important business

Monday, August 17, 2015


"Nice hat," I say to the woman behind the counter. She's wearing a black baseball cap with a gold triforce symbol, referring to her love of the video game series "The Legend of Zelda," a series I have spent more hours than I care to count playing.

"Yeah," she says, "I love Twilight Princess, but I'm still stuck on Majora's Mask, and I've been playing for months."

"I know what you mean," I say, sighing and giving her cash for the white paper bag with the eclair.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

THAT Kind of Marriage

After a long, hot day working Katie's butterfly business at the flea market, we climb into the cab of van and turn on the air conditioning full blast.

As the sweat crusts to salt, Katie sits back and sighs. "Air conditioning is the greatest invention in history, and I'm including the polio vaccine," she announces.

"You never disappoint," I say, shaking my head.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

They're Too Short

"So I asked him," the woman at the checkout counter says, double-bagging my eggs even though I asked her not to. "I say, 'Do you want me to sugar coat it, or do you want the truth?'"

They've been remodeling the grocery store, and I asked her what she thought.

"And he wants me to tell him the truth, so I say, 'Well, it looks really nice, but the new checkouts suck.'"

I'm a Liar

The dog poops under one of the trees that lines the sidewalk (which is somewhat frowned upon) and in the dirt right next to the fresh turds is a beautiful, polished stone. After I scoop up the poop (turning the bag inside out around it with a single, practiced motion) I stoop down and grab the rock for one of Katie's butterfly sculptures.

As I walk away, I imagine what I would say if anyone asked, for instance, "Who took the single rock that I left in the woodchips under that tree?" or "I saw your dog poop, and even though you picked it up, are you kidding?"

But in my mind I'm denying everything, without shame, and getting away with it (even though nobody asks).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Impersistence of Memory

"Do you remember the salary from the paperwork we filed a few weeks ago?" my boss asks. She's been after me lately to be more conscientious about details.

"No," I say simply, because, of course, when she says it I remember, but when I was writing out the form we're talking about, I didn't. Not that that does me much good right now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Brief Discourse on Style

When Willie Nelson sings, he's so far in the pocket it sounds like he might be singing a different song. His guitar has a second hole, a worn out spot just down and to the right of the main one on his acoustic, and it sounds like he hasn't changed the strings, maybe ever.

And "singing" is sort of a strong word, anyway, when really, as Katie says, it sounds like he's doing a very loose spoken word interpretation of whatever song his band happens to be playing.

But when it all comes together, you realize he's doing exactly what he wants to do - not because he can't play in strict rhythm, or right on pitch, or with a new instrument - but because he wants to do it exactly the way he's doing it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Nicest Thing He's Ever Said About My Work Ethic

We're on a video chat with my Dad, discussing Katie's business. "Well, he works for cheap," Katie says, referring to my helping her out at the flea markets she does over the weekends.

My dad laughs. "Well, I had him work for me one summer," he says, referring to the summer of my thirteenth year, where I was pretty sure my parents existed solely to torture me, "and he did okay."

Monday, August 10, 2015

You Should Be More Specific

The dog stops and shakes, her harness rattling like sleigh bells, and we continue on our walk. When we reach the corner, one of the kids with the clipboards who hits people up for donations for her (probably nonexistent) "basketball team" steps up with a brittle smile stuck on her face.

"I'm sorry to bother you," she begins.

"That's okay," I say with a smile of my own, looking in her eyes as I walk right on past her, and her smile drops into a scowl.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Morning Snapshots

Man on his morning run brushes past, close enough for me to feel the breeze from his passing, and I watch him race away down the sidewalk, the leading wave of his impatience fading with his footsteps.

Short guy in a suit walks the other way, his tiny tie a blood-red choke-knot beneath his chin. It pushes up the fatty folds of his neck into fleshy collar that seems ready to throttle him, despite the undone shirt button at his throat.

A woman bumps my bag gently in the narrow aisle between the zucchini and the peaches at the greenmarket, and I only think to check for my wallet when I'm on my way home later. 

About Time

After a night with Kevin at the kava bar, I make my way home, only mildly krunked, and catch a glimpse of my reflection in the plate glass window of a shoe store. I'm having a good hair day, I notice with no small pleasure - my side part is hanging very fetchingly over one eye, giving me a slightly anime look.

I realize with a shock that this, this hair, this look I've got going now, as an adult (supposedly) looks familiar for a reason.

It's the exact style I was going for when I was in junior high school, imitating the coolest guy I knew, and now I've got it.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Sawbones Saves the Day

What to do before we watch the bloviating assholes that make up the front-runners of the Republican Party debate on national TV? It doesn't seem like there's enough time to really get any momentum going on any of the multiple projects Katie and I have.

But just as I'm about to leave to go pick up the food we ordered a few minutes ago, inspiration strikes.

"I'm gonna saw the bone off those antlers I bought," Katie says brightly, and goes off to do just that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How You Get Paid

"So I sent the landlord a letter by certified mail, asking for the rest of my deposit," our friend says. We're standing at the curb by her SUV while she drops off some stuff for Katie, chatting as the dog stares off into space.

"But the smart thing was, I cee-cee'd my friend who is a lawyer," she continues with a sly grin.

"And I included a self-addressed, stamped envelope," she adds, shrugging.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pure Bred Jerk

"Look, honey, it's a shiba-inu," the man says to his daughter as we pass them standing by the bus stop.

"Well, ours is sort of mongrelized," he adds. "We think she might be part corgi, or maybe a terrier."

"Oh, well that might make her less anti-social," I say brightly as Coco stares off into the mid-distance, standing as far away as she possibly can while still being on-leash.

Monday, August 3, 2015

She Reminded Me of Her Name Soon After

I stare at the brown, fluffy puppy laid out panting on the floor of the train for several minutes before I recognize it as Teddy, the dog I met a few days ago, and his owner Kaylene. 

"I thought it was you," I say, and Kaylene turns around with a shocked smile. She's only been here a couple years, so she probably hasn't yet got used to the way that New York, a city of millions, throws people together. 

"James!" she says.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Consider the Trees

Katie is hard at work in her own personal sweatshop, making butterfly sculptures for next weekend's flea market, and her strong work ethic has shamed me into revisiting some of my old stories that I've been neglecting. But first, I open up some music files on my computer to limber up my creative muscles. 

This proves less fruitful than I'd hoped, however, and after a couple of hours, I'm only slightly closer to having a completed song than when I started, and the thought of writing just fills me with despair.

I snap the laptop closed and go out the window to breathe for a moment on the fire escape, where a sunny day dappling through green leaves and a gentle breeze don't give a good goddam about my work ethic.

Night Blind

The moon is huge and bright and yellow over the park. Katie and I lay on our backs with the cool grass tickling our bare legs, unspeaking, staring up into the sky while the dog paces circles around us.

I identify a couple of constellations (Sagittarius low in the south, Lyra straight above with Vega bright and blue), and then a shooting star, throwing off sparks like a roman candle, scrapes across the darkness.

A few minutes later, Katie stands up and heads over to Coco, saying, "Hang on, I think the dog is lost again."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Flatbush Creek

We can see Bergen Street a block away, but Flatbush is closed, with police and fireman's tape criss-crossing the sidewalk and barring our way, and trucks flashing blue and red lights stretched across the road blocking traffic. Cops stand around idly chatting while, in the center of the road, water bubbles up and sheets into the gutter, turning the Avenue into a river.

"Water main," the policeman explains somewhat helpfully when we ask if we can walk under the tape to our destination. "Gotta go around the block," he adds shaking his head.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


The guys at the liquor store know me well enough to be on a first name basis, and to ask me what's new.

"Well, I had a dream last night that Katy Perry was my muse," I say. Their shocked faces are all the reward I need, but, of course, being who I am, I can't leave it alone.

"'Dear Penthouse,'" I say, to general laughter, but really, it wasn't that kind of dream at all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

There's a Story, There

"Yeah," the stranger who stopped to pet Coco says. "I'm the overqualified MD who works the checkout at the grocery store."

"Oh, man, what happened?" I ask.

"I'm not so great with tests," she says with a shrug and a bent smile.

Monday, July 27, 2015

She's Right

"I'm not trying to make you feel bad," Katie says. "I'm really asking: when you say 'objets d'arts,' why do you pronounce the 't'?"

I don't really have a good answer, but I smile uncomfortably and try to play it off, saying, "Well, I'm just not that good with languages."

"But you are," she insists.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Like Father, Like Son

"I visit your blog every two weeks or so," my dad says on our semi-weekly phone call, "and I have to say, I really envy your ability to write fiction. All I can do is write and read the law."

"But not everybody can do that," I say. "And it really seems to speak to two sides of your personality: you like to solve puzzles, and you like to stick it to the man."

Coming Home

I come back from the grocery store, and Katie is napping on the couch under her snuggie. The dog is asleep right next to her on the floor.

My heart fills up, so full I don't know what to do. I stand at the door watching the two of them sleep, while the milk I bought collects condensation, until I go back to the kitchen to start making ice cream.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In Bruges

The sullen waiter at the place we call "Angry Indian" brings our platters of food, and Kevin and I continue our discussion.

"So if you guys ever do get rich," he says, "I need you to do me a favor. I need you to get an apartment in Bruges."

"I feel like this is like one of the criminals on the crosses around Jesus, saying 'Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom,'" I say while Kevin nods firmly.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


The thing about having a drug habit, I think as I'm walking down the street home from the train, is that your life is about something. The sun is shining, a mild breeze is blowing, and the day is warm and lovely.

Even if your life is boring, I think, you've got a certain drama, a certain romance. 

You know exactly what's going to happen, and that's what's great about it, and that's what kills you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Not Playing

He stares at Katie without acknowledging me and slides down into the seat next to us, and continues to stare until I rouse him with a friendly, "Hello." "Sharknado 3" plays on the big screen TV, but the bar is so loud that it's not really audible.

The guy, clearly drunk, introduces himself, and he's giving off a very strange, almost intimidating vibe as he says, kinda glowering as he does, "So, you guys don't look to me like regulars."

But I'm not playing his game, and I continue in my friendly tack, saying, "Yeah, no, we're just here to watch the movie."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Adventures in Badassery

"Excuse me,  ma'am?" says the woman in the tank top with the tattoo on her brown shoulder of a heart bisected by the name "Michael." "There's a mosquito behind you."

As the entire bench cranes to see the spindly thing perched on the subway car wall behind the woman, I reach into my bag and, after a moment's searching, pull out a crumpled Playbill for a play I saw a few weeks ago.

Feeling more badass than I have in a while, I quickly mash the magazine into the offending insect and crush it in between the pages, and the pretend that it's no big deal that I saved the day.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Not That Nice

After I'm done with my errand, I unlock my bike from the fence and trundle it down the steaming hot sidewalk to the light.

As I pass by the empty, parked taxis, I see a ten dollar bill on the ground. No one is around, so without breaking stride I scoop it up and slip it into my pocket in a single, smooth motion.

Almost immediately, I feel a pang of guilt at the thought of a taxi driver losing ten of his hard-earned dollars out of his pocket, but I don't stop walking, and I don't turn around.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Stranger Danger

"And when I came out of the grocery store, there were three strangers hovering over the dog, and water all over the sidewalk," Katie says.

"They were like, 'We thought she was thirsty, and we bought water, but she just won't drink it,'" she continues. "So I had to explain to them about her condition, and the head tilt, which is why her tongue is hanging out."

"What I didn't say is that, even if she was thirsty, Coco would sooner die than drink water from strangers."

Unasked for Massage

"She's such a pretty girl," the older woman says, kneeling down next to my dog. The dog's tongue hangs out of her mouth and she holds her head cocked towards the ground as if she's just heard something she can't quite believe ever since she got sick a few weeks back.

Without asking, the woman reaches out and starts to pull the dog's head back into what would be it's normal position, all the while massaging her shoulders. The dog, usually utter averse to anyone so much as touching her, let alone this kind of manipulation, bears it with good grace, while the woman Rolfs her spine and says, "Just gotta get her back in alignment, here...."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Not that Smart

"Is that right?" Katie calls down the hall as I walk to the kitchen, but I already have the nagging suspicion that my math is off. I was talking about the fact that my boss over-tipped at an event today, thinking how smart I was that I noticed.

But now I realize that I totally got it wrong, and relief floods me that I didn't say anything. 

I sometimes think I'm smarter than I actually am.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Not Feeling It

"Um, where's the key to the ladies room?" the fifth person today asks. My co-worker, in whose cubicle said key lives, keeps her head down in her work and studiously ignores them.

I point the questioner to the key and, after she's left, ask my co-worker, "So, uh, I guess you're not really feeling people asking you for the key today, huh?"

A sheepish grin creeps up her cheeks, "Yeah, I guess not."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

She Thought She Was Helping

The strange woman leans down and starts scratching the dog's back, interrupting my attempts to cajole Coco into mounting the stairs back up to our front door.

"These dogs are such divas," the woman says, as if she knows. "Come on girl, you can do it!"

But when I grab the handles on the dog's harness, lifting her up into the air, the woman is horrified at Coco's practically catatonic expression and lolling tongue, and backs away in horror before quickly walking away.

Monday, July 13, 2015

For Me, It's 'Blazing Saddles'

"What movie makes you laugh, no matter what?" I ask Katie. She's feeling kinda down.

"For me, it's a lot about who I'm seeing the movie with," Katie says after giving it some thought. "But I think I would laugh at 'BASEketball' if I was alone."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Things I Kept, Things I Discarded

The box at the top of the closet has yielded a number of treasures, but many more objects that I really can't identify - objects that maybe were once treasures, but now only produce a sense of bafflement.

This music box, for instance, is easy to recognize: it used to belong to my grandmother Gladys, who collected them, and was given to her by my grandfather when they visited Italy. But what are these strings of dark brown, tiny seeds or beans that end with little green glass beads, and why would I keep them?

And this headshot from almost eighteen years ago now: who's this guy with a beard and hollowed out cheeks, looking less in need of an acting gig than of a good, hot meal, and why does he remind me of someone else?

Buffy and I Love a Good Game of Squash

"You guys look sporty," the blond kid at the wine shop says with a grin to Katie and me. He's referring, I'm guessing, to Katie's mid-calf white socks with two blue stripes at the top. Tennis socks.

"Yes, we were just on our way to play squash," I say, in my best Thurston Howell the Third voice.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Conversation Starter

It was a mistake to try to bring the dog outside. The disorientation occasioned by picking her up to carry her down the stairs has utterly discombobulated her, and she is paralyzed, clinging to the ground as if she's stranded on a steep, slippery slope.

As I sit on the stoop, calming her down in hopes of taking her back upstairs, the guy who walks around the neighborhood asking folks for cigarettes sits down next to me and, surprisingly, starts talking.

"What's wrong with your dog?" he asks, in what may be the longest sentence I've ever heard him speak.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Safe Bet

The playlist I used to keep me company while I did the dishes failed to perk me up. I ruminate on smoky bars and loud music and loneliness that somehow seemed heroic, long past, while I separate the recyclables into paper or plastic and bag them up for tomorrow.

"I'm melancholy," I say to Katie as I scoot the cat over and climb into bed.

She circles around to my side of the bed and lays down next to the diapered dog, saying, "Well, I'm no expert, but maybe it's 'cause you're tired?"

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Not Her Fault

The scuffling next to my bed easily awakens me in the middle of the night, and I turn over, grab my phone, swipe around on the screen until I find the right button, and turn on the flashlight that doubles as a flash on the camera.

I shine it down into the little nest we've constructed for the dog to keep her from falling down and hurting herself, and she looks up at me woefully, her milky eyes still pinwheeling slightly in her head. Her head bobs down and to the right, a symptom of what they call "Old Dog Vestibular Disease," which basically just means her inner ear that helps her balance got all wonky and now she has trouble walking, or standing, or sitting.

She's peed on the pad we put down for her, and I sigh, grab another pad, and start to clean up one more time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Comfort Food

American cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, mixed with Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and a little sriracha.

Fake bacon, fried onions, sliced tomatoes, avocados.

Twelve grain bread, Irish butter, fried up in a pan until it's golden brown.

Tomato soup, with milk instead of water.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fair Point

"That was kind of sarcastic," I say. "It hurt my feelings."

"Look," Katie says. "I get criticized all day, and I don't need it within 10 minutes of getting home."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Eating My Feelings

In the midst of the green market, my chest tightens, and my thoughts grow confused and dim. Everything seems pointless, and I'm questioning every choice I've ever made.

"Would you like a doughnut?" Katie asks brightly, dragging me over to the table.

Afterwards, two doughnuts down, I'm smiling.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Not Exactly Overshare

The cashier looks at one of my purchases curiously. "I didn't know that Domino made agave syrup," she says.

"Oh yeah, and it's cheaper than any of the other brands," I say. "Plus, that, these limes, and some tequila, and you got some killer margaritas."

Friday, July 3, 2015

Stepping In

I've got my headphones in, plus I'm too far away to hear them anyway, but it's easy to see from their posture and their expressions that these two kids and the bald guy in the suit are arguing. He commented about them standing in the way on the stairs down to the train, they took offense, the usual stuff.

Now, on the platform, they're standing a little ways down from the guy in the suit, eyeing him with ill intent, and just as they move in to do... well, I don't know what, but they had something in mind... I step in the way, right between them and their target, and start reading, as if I'm oblivious.

My heart is pounding, I'm on high alert, but my physical presence seems to have diverted whatever was about to happen, and the bald guy to my right looks around nervously and then bugs off, leaving me standing with the two kids who, bereft of the object of their ire, shuffle their feet and then, for lack of anything else to do, get on the next train.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Little Help?

When I come back from the store, pistachio ice cream in hand, the dog isn't where I left her in front of the TV in the living room.

Where could she have gone, though? It's not like she can get far, with her eyes wandering back and forth in her head, throwing her off balance and making her sick.

I hurry back to the bedroom only to find her, laid out flat in the hall, her ears back apologetically, as if to say, "I'm so sorry about this, but my legs don't seem to work properly at the moment."

Sick Puppy

After a long night at the emergency room, we pay the cab driver and walk the stairs to our apartment, carrying precious cargo. It's 5 in the morning, the birds are singing, and the dog that seven months ago we didn't even know existed is now the focus of our universe.

We carry her up the stairs, exhausted, and sleep a few hours. It's my birthday, and I'm 44 years old.

Monday, June 29, 2015


The dog sniffs at the cedar wood chips and the white stones someone has arranged around the base of this tree; she's clearly thinking about doing some of her business here.

I glance up to the building to see a man silhouetted in the window of the second floor watching me intently. I tentatively wave and he hesitates a moment before nodding in acknowledgement.

At that same moment, the dog decides she's found the perfect spot to cop a squat, and I hurriedly pull out a plastic bag to scoop up her waste in the event that the guy in the window was hoping to catch me in the act of defacing his small attempt at landscaping.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Obvious Measurement

The guy walking down his front steps watches while I inch the truck back as far as I think I can to get out of range of the fire hydrant.

"I'm cutting it pretty close," I say as I step from the car.

"Nay," he says. "You only have to to be, like, three squares away," he continues, pointing to the slabs of sidewalk. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Not Even the Best at That

The text from my sister was short and sweet.

I come in to where Katie is furiously working away at her sculptures, clutching my phone. "I missed my niece's birthday," I say, somewhat dramatically. "Do they give out awards for 'World's Worst Uncle?'"

She pauses and looks up contemplatively, "Well, maybe not the worst."

Kids Can Be Cruel

"Hi, my name's Stone, and I'll be your server tonight."

"Cool name," Katie and I both say almost simultaneously.

"Yeah, it's cool now, but when I was younger...," he trails off shaking his head ruefully.

"I was just thinking this morning," Katie says, "that there isn't a name, no matter how you say it, that kids won't find a way to make fun of it."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How's the Weather in Osgiliath?

When I was eight, after summer school, I would go stay at my mother's workplace. I had stolen a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers from my sister (because she said that it was "too old" for me) and was working my way through it, slowly, skipping the Elvish I couldn't pronounce, during the long, boring hours between two and six.

I would sit beneath a mesquite tree while the afternoon monsoon clouds rolled in, alternating between reading, examining three rusted nails hammered in about half-way up the tree in a small triangle, and staring at the sky, imagining I was a hobbit on a desperate quest to save the world.

Which is why, today, as Katie and I walked to the grocery store, I pointed at the unsettled sky and said, "It's Frodo going to Mordor weather."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


She catches your eye because of the dress - it's almost the exact shade of reddish-orange your wife was wearing last night, but shorter, and this woman has thrown a cream cardigan spotted with matching red flowers across her shoulders. Her legs are tan and her hair is blonde, but not naturally blonde, to judge by the dark roots at the crown of her head and the dry, thatched straw of the ends.

You walk past, hoping to catch a glimpse of her face, curious to see the face of a person with hair like that in a dress your wife might wear, but just as you come up beside her, she turns away to look down the track for an approaching train.

Just when you think you'll see her face, she's always turning away.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rainy Day

I hustle to Katie's office with our dinner - four slices of pizza - as the rain gathers like an angry mob, spitting on us to get its courage up before the rampage.

By the time I'm upstairs, the clouds are dumping manhole covers from the sky. The Empire State Building has disappeared in seething, viscous gray that explodes with lightning and shattering thunder.

Katie and I watch the catastrophe from the conference room on the 12th floor, "Maybe we'll be late to the show."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cleaning Cure

Five o'clock rolls around, and I'm pretty sure that, given today's output of writing (on my day off, no less, a day expressly set aside for writing) that I'm gonna have to kill myself, or at least stop writing. I spent many hundreds of words describing scenes that, I realize after writing them, are strictly and logically impossible, given the set conditions of my world, not to mention the usual reams of crap that normally come out, so almost the entire day's work is a wash.

In order to feel like I've accomplished anything at all, I set to cleaning the kitchen (with it's attendant ant issue) with a will - scraping stuff, and spraying things, and just generally tearing the place apart.

By the time Katie gets home from work, I seem to to have cleaned my way out of a pretty deep funk, and the ants that were living in the dishwasher have been sent to their maker.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Pull everything off the shelves: all the cookbooks, the bottles of vinegar (balsamic thick and sweet, red wine tangy and thin), oil (truffle, corn, olive, sesame, chili), seltzer (orange and raspberry, flavored by some arcane science) and soy sauce, boxes of salt, Fiestaware serving plates that didn't really fit anyplace else, nested mixing bowls, canvas bags self-righteously toted to the store, multicolored aprons.

Then pull the shelf away from the wall to find where they're coming in, the little buggers - sugar ants, the tiny black ones that wriggle around on the counter, industriously searching out the nuggets and morsels of food we've left in our half-assed cleaning to take back to some writhing nest nearby.

In the process, though, we see what our neglect has wrought, all of the times we missed sweeping back here, or swept things under to make the rest of the floor seem clean.

I dig the broom out of the closet and attack the corners with a will before nuking the site from orbit with nerve gas and a couple of bait traps, just to be sure.


I read in the bedroom while Katie sings in the kitchen. She's going through the leftovers in the fridge and chucking the science experiments.

She's singing along to the soundtrack from the musical "Ragtime," a show that she did years ago, but she clearly remembers all the parts, as she sings harmonies and leads, men's parts as well as women's.

I put my book down and listen, remembering first hearing her sing years ago in a practice space in Boston where we first met doing another show together, and the memory makes me smile.