Friday, February 27, 2015

That Turned Dark Rather Quickly

"That a card game?" the guy crushed up against me says, indicating my phone where I'm playing Adventure Time: Card Wars. "Like Magic the card game?"

After I explain to him the concept of Adventure Time (human boy, stretchy dog, magical land of Ooo, adventures) we agree that it's a wonderful time to be alive.

"Except if the Republicans win, cause I know a bunch a people sharpening their machetes waiting for those old men to die," he says.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fail Better

I'm sitting at a table in the conference room in my company, eating my usual lunch (steamed carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower with veggie burgers, no bun, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt). I've finished Just Kids by Patti Smith, with the sort of ringing bell echo in your heart that comes when you finish a book that really resonates with you, and I'm staring out the window, thinking.

I've made and discarded so many identities in my life, skinning myself with each new incarnation to try to erase the old sins and wrinkles and crusted scars that always seem to reassert themselves after a while, to the point where I think they must be deep and structural, because no matter how many bridges or pages I burn, no matter how far I run, I always end up myself, of course.

I pick up my pen, and begin to write again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Looks at Books

The books stand shoulder to shoulder on the shelves, presenting their proud, titled faces to the world. I know where each of them are, hundreds of them, not memorized in regiment, but lovingly known and noted every time I look at them.

I remember the University library when I was in school, how I would haunt the stacks, scouring esoteric volumes and despairing of ever finding God, how the words all seemed to dry up and die on the page on those old books written by men and women who tried to think God instead of drinking Him in.

My books nourish me, they have been harvested with care, and the words in them love me, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Where Are You Going? Where Are You From?

The earnest, blonde, middle-aged woman on the train is standing over the seated older black man, literally talking down to him. Her accent and body-language peg her for a tourist, while he claims the Bronx, even as his shabby clothes suggest a harder story.

"That's how God tells you you can do it!" she says enthusiastically, leaning in. He sighs and wags his head noncommittally.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Drunk and Cold

I didn't have that much wine with dinner - did I?

The thin, cold air that might as well be the vacuum of space, tonight seems almost syrupy to my slightly inebriated senses. The dog, in her little red latex booties that we put on her flipper-like feet to keep them from burning in the salt they've scattered over icy sidewalks, can't seem to do anything but run from one pool of light to the next, and I wrap her leash around my hand three times to shorten it and keep her close so she doesn't accidentally run out into traffic and get herself killed.

A little girl in pajamas yells down to her father from a window, "It's too cold out here - gotta go!"

I'm No Cary Grant

Katie is typing away on the computer, commenting on social media while the Oscars drone on. 

I keep thinking about that story I heard once, told by his ex-wife and instrumental in their divorce proceedings, about Cary Grant and the Oscars.

Apparently one of the reasons she filed for divorce was that he refused to take her to the Academy Awards ceremony, instead choosing to get a hotel room, take acid, and watch the show on TV while jumping on the bed and laughing like a lunatic.

I drink another glass of wine and fall asleep halfway through the program.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Another Long Walk Through Winter

The snow buckets down fine and wet, covering up the filthy ice in soft white and shrouding the sky in gray. We bustle the streets from shop to shop, getting supplies for the night - cheese, wine, olives, bread - just like real adults.

"See, I wish December was like this," Katie says as we cross the street, and I think about this for a minute. I wonder to myself what we would have left to save us from the soot and glaciers, the bitter cold, if we were already tired of fine, wet snow by the time January rolled around, and we still had so far to go.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The guy walking down the street looks like something exploded right at eye level, maybe a squid or octopus or something, and his face seems normal except where these narrow brown stains seem to have splattered across the middle of his face, and where they touched him, he's all burned and the liquid or whatever it was burned in little spatters like a grease fire. Only it looks like it just happened, because his eyes are haunted and he's walking with this tentative little shuffle-step that makes him seem like he's just about to burst into tears. He knows how he looks, and he's incredibly ashamed and self-conscious. 

This woman walks by and makes a face as she sees him, sort of over her shoulder, and he knows she did, it's like he can feel her look and her horror and disgust, and his expression's like the dog that's shitting in the middle of the sidewalk: "So sorry you have to see this, I wish there was somewhere else I could do it, please go about your business."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I Know. Sorry.

"Um, Anthony, I'm gonna have to put you on hold a second," I say as a noxious burning smell from the office kitchen begins to permeate the area.

I race back where I was toasting a pita before I was pulled away for this urgent phone conversation to find a disc of smoldering carbon in the toaster oven filling the pantry with billowing smoke. Someone from the adjacent office sticks their head into the room and immediately retreats, nose wrinkled and accusing look in their eyes.

"And you just had a lecture on fire safety today!" the office manager stops by to scold me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another Perspective on a Night at the Museum

"I have to say, I expected more of a response when I talked about eating bugs," I say to my co-worker.

After we have a laugh about this, she says, "We're about the same age, you and I, but your wife is younger than you, while my husband is older than me. So our relationships skew, overall, I think, older on my part and younger on your part.

"I'm really glad you and Katie have found each other," she continues, "and you seem to have these wonderful adventures, but I have to say, I just sort of put them in the category of things that I have absolutely no interest in doing."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Another Dog Post

Serge the dog leans his full, bony weight against me and lifts his lean skull to look up to me with soulful eyes while his owner continues to talk. My dog sits patiently nearby on the cold wet sidewalk, not too far away, but far enough that she doesn't have to interact if she doesn't want to (and she doesn't want to).

"Oh, he was just such a lovely dog," Serge's owner says, referring to another pet of hers dead more than forty-five years. "He was sitting in the foyer, watching the kids come up for Halloween, just so delighted, and by Thanksgiving he was gone."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dog Pee

We return home from our night at the museum to discover that the dog has peed on the floor and, in her shame, pulled her bedding over the puddle to cover it up, which, while cute, has created the equivalent of a giant, pee-flavored sponge infusing the entire apartment with the musky, pungent smell of urine.

I didn't sleep well on the museum floor, nor enough, and so I'm sitting on the floor in the hallway trying to figure out what to do, and my brain seems to be working rather poorly, as nothing seems right.

"Well, we can't wash it at the laundromat, since it's too big, and I don't want to make the people we usually give our laundry to wash it, and I don't want you to have to do it," I say with increasing despair.

"Scott, get it together - it's Valentine's Day!" Katie implores me.

The Scientist Considers His Divorce

The "rock-star" scientist giving a presentation later tonight has skipped the table with the famous politician, and has apparently decided to eat dinner at ours.

He regales us with tales of the museum in which we'll be spending the night just to get things started, his conversation full of wit and little-known facts that he has obviously used before to break the ice, but as he loosens up a little talk shifts to our professions, and one of our dinner companions mentions her law practice.

"Divorce mediators are great," he says seriously. "I would go so far as to say that anyone going through a divorce who won't submit to mediation would make a bad parent."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

After a Fashion

The three young men standing at the bottom of the ramp are the exact type of beautiful you'd expect to see at Fashion Week: tall, rail thin, faces all cheekbones and lips and supercilious glint in the eye beneath perfectly coifs. I'm on a mission, though, so the usual nervousness with which I would tend to approach the rarified atmosphere that surrounds such luminaries (even the ones just working the door) escapes me as I ask them for directions.

They seem to genuinely think about it as one of them politely answers, "Um, really we're just here handing out free magazines?" as he offers me one.

I give them a big smile, "I'll pass this time, but thanks for offering!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The REAL 50 Shades

"Yeah," I tell my co-worker, "there's like, Gloom, Despair, Vitamin-D-deficiency, Seasonal Affective Disorder. All these different types of gray in winter."

She's nodding her head vigorously at this.

"I feel like a dial tone in the winter," she says, her face serious.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


The conference room is perfectly situated as a pass-through between the opposite sides of the office when nobody is using it. The gray light from a February day leaves it gloomy and dark as one of the Senior staff and I cross paths.

"I think I might have been dyslexic at some point," she says continuing a conversation we started earlier, "because I know what I want to say, but my brain is going too fast, and I twist all my words around and say everything backwards."

"I know exactly what you mean," I say, which is sort of becoming my answer in most office conversations these days.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Too Many Teeth

"Okay, you're gonna look right here," she says tapping the camera that will take my ID picture right below the lens.

I dutifully stare at the spot, grin fixed, and wait for her to say we're done. And wait.

"Maybe just a little less teeth," she finally says after a minute.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

FaceTime Isn't for the Weak

Mom finally points the camera on her phone at her face, and she's surprised at what she sees on her screen from my end. "There's so much silver in your hair!"

I lift my phone so she can see the top of my head. "Better get used to it," I say.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What Else Am I Gonna Do?

"What are you..., you think you're gonna poop?" The dog is frantically nosing the ice, checking each frozen leaf and patch of brown, dead earth, for the perfect spot to do her thing.

When the crisis has past and we walk a little further down the path, I point out to her a giant Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog, noting in passing that it's actually a polar bear.

The woman behind us laughs, and when I turn to see what's amused her, she's appraising us frankly, and says, "You've been talking to your dog this entire time."

Friday, February 6, 2015

Poor Workman Blames His Tools

"Ah," I think. "That's what I'll write about for my four each day."

But the freezing morning has turned the ink in my pen to jellied ice, and I can only scratch out a single word (unintelligible) before the train comes to whisk me off to work.

Later, when I try to reconstruct my moment of inspiration only to find it lost to the day's stress and my usual forgetfulness, I write, "Note to self: get rid of this fucking shit pen."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Biometric Timebomb

The guy explaining the new timekeeping system at my work speaks with a thinly-veiled hostility and that cheery tone that parents get when they're trying to get you to take medicine. He experiences a mild, bullying pleasure from laying down the law, but mostly he just wishes he were somewhere else.

While he explains, for what must be for him the thousandth time, that your supervisor will be able to see exactly when you start work, and exactly when you leave, a small piece of food dislodges from some crevice between my cheek and jaw where it had been hiding  and I think, "Wait a minute, I ate yogurt for breakfast. Where the hell did that come from?"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sounds the Same

With his fists clenched, his brow furrowed, he looks like he's about to start a fight - sounds like it, too, haranguing the people standing at the platform's edge as they wait for the train. He's wearing camouflage pants with a backpack to match that he's leaned up against the pillar, with his dark skin set off by the light sweatshirt he's wearing and the gray in his coarse hair.

Normally I ignore such folks (don't want to draw crazy's attention, their laser focus of malevolence or fear) but I realize that somebody could be in danger here, and so I section off a little piece of my attention in case I might need to intervene.

Until I listen to his words, and realize he's talking about Jesus, and hellfire, and salvation, and then it all falls into place, and I leave him to his ranting, and return to my book.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Full Moon

There's a sudden influx of people pushing past me, coming not from the subway door, but from further down the car, and I pivot and move back the way they came, following some primitive directive for balance, before I see what caused the migration.

I don't even see it until I catch the wide eyes of the woman sitting down in front of me. She's not looking at me, but rather past, around me to the bench opposite where a man has pulled the cowl-neck of his once-nice, now filthy and tattered sweater over his head and is feeding tissues into it like some kind of mentally-ill, headless Mummenschanz.

Having finished that, he sits there, still headless, with his hands in his lap, until I get off at my stop, whereupon he begins to twitch and spasm, either masturbating or seizing, and I exit to see him no more.

Monday, February 2, 2015

They Can Smell it On You

The saddest guy in the office keeps stopping by my desk to talk. We chat about nothing and have a sardonic laugh.

I think he can tell my job has been stressing me out. He senses in my tense smile some kindred spirit of unhappiness, and he's drawn to it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Football is Manly

The foreman for the construction crew on the project Katie's managing is taking us up in the elevator to go over his work, and Katie, always one to try to keep the conversation going, asks him if he's watching the Superbowl.

"Oh yes, I'll be watching it," he says to me.

"So who are you rooting for?" Katie asks.

"I like the Patriots," he tells me, not looking at Katie at all.