Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Clouds (2 - Are You Paying Attention?)

The airplane phases in and out of existence as it skims beneath the surface of the low cloud cover, its blue and red lights and blinking whites fading and reappearing out of the murk. I watch it most of the way on its approach to La Guardia while the dog patiently waits, and I think, "I should write about that."

Later, as I'm heating up the cat's food in the microwave to take the chill off it from the refrigerator, my dozing awareness surfaces, and I find myself acutely aware of my hand on the handle of the oven door, the ticking seconds, the hum of the fridge, the air I'm breathing, the cat practically vibrating with anticipation of her dinner. I wonder why I'm always looking for something "interesting" to write about when, every single moment of every day when I open my foolish eyes, the world is there, waiting for me to see.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Clouds (1 - Irritations/Pretensions)

Dark, flat bottomed clouds with fluffy, gray tops, scattered across a blue sky, like fleeting negative thoughts.

I can't figure out where the patience I've had for the last few days has gone.

I thought, "Oh, I'll write about this, call it 'Nuages.'"

Then, "But why the hell should it be in French, as if that had anything to do with anything?"


Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Art of Un-fucking Your Morning

"Why don't I un-fuck my morning," I say, climbing out of bed from where I was quite comfortable and ready to go to sleep.

"How you gonna do that, boo?" Katie asks.

By this point I'm armpit deep in the warm, clean, folded clothes we got back earlier this evening from the laundromat, rooting around until I come up, triumphant, with what I was looking for.

"Workout shorts!" I say holding them up before I set them in their spot, where I'll be able to find them, half-asleep in the dark tomorrow morning when I get up.

Ouija Doge

Since we got to the park late, Coco doesn't get to go off-leash. I'm trying to let her lead me where she wants to go, to simulate the off-leash experience, but she knows she's tethered, so she's following me, following her.

We nose around the muddy, barely alive grass, circling piles of dead leaves, until the feedback loops us to a standstill, watching a pair of robins.

They stand a few feet from us, watching us watching them, and the biggest one with the puffed out, bright red chest looks like he wants to pick a fight.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Just Needed Permission

I wondered how long she had been watching me from across the train while I grooved to the music in my headphones. I'm pretty sure I had been dancing a little, maybe shaking my head, probably bouncing a bit.

She turned away, but not before I saw her eyes widen in surprise. Then, a minute or so later, I saw her put her hands up to her headphones and do a little rhythmic shake, which segued into a little impromptu dance to music I would never hear.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Snack-ish Friend in Need

"Do you have snacks?" I ask my friend. She works all the way on the other side of the building, so I've called her on her extension.

"Yes," she says, and before the word has even travelled at light speed through the phone, I'm halfway down the hall to her cubicle, where she's lain out an array of salty snacks, including Saltines, Goldfish Crackers, and those little rectangular chip-like things you get with soup from the Chinese takeout place. 

I grab a handful of the Goldfish, practically crying in gratitude, while she smiles like a Boy Scout who's just helped a little old lady across the street. 

Creation Can't Be Forced

When I follow my co-worker into the group office, they're playing "Uptown Funk" on the radio while all four of the women who share the room watch me, and I get the feeling I've been set up.

"Riana says that you like to dance to this song," one of them says expectantly.

"Ladies," I say, backing out of the room, "I am not a trained monkey, to dance for your pleasure."

"I dance when the spirit moves in me," I continue, making it out the door, "like the spirit of God moving across the face of the water."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sometimes, I am Seen as the Problem

She sees me coming, sees me see her, knows we'll pass each other. It's a quiet residential side street, a little after nine at night, lit fairly well, and I'm walking the dog. I'm also a pretty big guy, and it's just us.

She crosses over to the other side of the street in the middle of the block before she reaches me, and continues on her way.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Shake it Off

The dog squats in the glare of the streetlight on her final walk of the night, when one of the kids with the clipboards saunters up for the shakedown.

I demur to his obviously fake sales pitch for a "basketball team," and he stands for a moment without speaking, then steps into my personal space. "Why don't you just give me some money and we'll call it a night."

I check to see if the dog is done (and she is surely taking her sweet time tonight) and when she stands, I let her lead the way, saying, "Sorry, I've got nothing on me."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Delicate Gentlemen

I take my toothbrush out of my mouth, spit into sink, and say, "I can't really tell if you're upset with me or not."

"You can't tell if I'm upset or not?" Katie says, looking stricken (she wasn't).

Later while discussing a very thin, fragile drinking glass, of which we have only the one, we agree that if we had more, we'd break them constantly.

"Only very elegant ladies, with no roommates, or very delicate gentlemen, also with no roommates, could own glasses like that," Katie says.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Go to Sleep

It's past midnight, and I'm in the kitchen, in the dark, standing in my boxers, filling a water bottle and looking out my back window. The kitchen looks out on the backyards of all the buildings on this block, each a little fenced in rectangle of paradise that I imagine united in summer into a single small park - nobody would probably go for it, though, or want to knock down the fences, even if they were into it.

Right now, though, everything is heavy and quiet and white with snow, and the sky is glowing with reflected light from Manhattan to the west. The air is full of an orange light like a fire about to go to sleep, and it lights up the backyards almost as bright as day.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Best I Could Do

It's a stupid metaphor, but somedays, that's all you get, and you have to go with it: rainbows in the reflective safety tape. I saw them scintillating in the light from our passing car on the wall of the subway tunnel as I rode the train home tonight, and I liked the sound of the phrase they evoked, the way the r's in "rainbow" and "reflective" spoke to each other, and how nicely assonant "safety tape" is.

I wrote some other stuff down, too, about how being reflective without being reactive may be the only thing that's going to keep me from turning into an anxious, defensive asshole as I get older, and there may have even been a passing thought towards how a soul is like a rainbow, which I promptly throttled.

It wasn't much, but it felt like something - something I could take home, write up, give away - so I did.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Little Rough Around the Edges

"No, don't bother to get me another napkin," the older lady says roughly to the waiter as he tries to help her. Then, more kindly, "Just pick it up - I'm not fussy."

After the manager of the restaurant (whom she seems to know - it later turns out she works at corporate) stops by to chat with her, she and her dinner companion at the table next to ours go back to quietly discussing little things. 

She seems relatively unembarrassed when she lifts her hand to her face a few minutes later and pulls it away with blood on it, saying, "Oh, I always get nosebleeds when it's dry like this."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

They Stay the Same Age

I see the group of kids on the street with their clip boards as they harangue passers-by to get money for some bogus cause or other (baseball team? a field trip? sure, whatever), and I cross to the other side of the street to avoid them.

They clock me doing so, and a couple try to cross back to head me off, but the traffic lights aren't with them, and they have to retreat to their side. I find myself exhilarated, heart pounding from what feels like a narrowly avoided disaster.

And I catch myself, catch this thought, and wonder if I've gotten old, that I'm almost afraid of a group of teenagers, but then I remember that I was afraid of teenagers when I was a teenager.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Digging for Copper

"You take your time honey," the cashier says to the older man in front of me as he fumbles with his change. Her long, resigned face and her protuberant eyes give her a slightly melancholy look, like an icon of a saint in an Orthodox church. "He's a very patient man," she says, referring to me.

He looks at me with watery blue eyes from beneath a shock of white hair and smiles apologetically as he holds out a handful of nickels and dimes, but "I thought I had more pennies," he says.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Talking Back to Showtime (cont'd)

The biggest of the "It's Showtime" kids is right up in the face of the old man with the guitar who got on the train at the same time - something about "respect" and something about being "grown." Katie booed as soon as the Showtime kids came on the train, so they're already feeling a little like they've got something to prove.

And now she's talking back to Showtime as they get off at the next stop after they've threatened to follow the guitar guy around until he goes home. The conversation goes about as well as you'd expect, with the kid in the Spongebob Squarepants backpack howling "Suuuck my diiiiiiick!" from the platform as the doors close.

One At a Time

After the Pi-Day event, Katie and I walk through the rain to the Museum of Math to indulge in some pie and hot chocolate. Katie's mood is dour.

"I couldn't even hear myself think with that kid talking and running around - it was like his voice was just drilling straight into my skull," she says as we cross against the light.

I've had similar reactions to other kids, and Katie talked me down then, so I realize that my job is to be the balanced one right now, and all I have to say is, "Uh-huh."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Physical Exertion

"I can't seem to wake up," the guy behind the counter at the liquor store says as he rings us up. He flaps his hands in the air as he continues, "maybe I'll see if what they say about physical excercise works. I could go down into the basement and move some boxes."

"I could chase you around the block with a hammer," Katie suggests brightly.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


The cold sores that blossomed on my lips have swollen to impressive, even horrific, proportions, and I can feel the ache of them all the way back into my soft palate and up through my sinuses. It's disgusting.

The pain of them leaves me distracted and drained, even as I do my yoga to try to calm my body down. As soon as I'm done, I lay down on the couch to rest my eyes for a moment, and within seconds, I'm asleep.

3/8/15 - I Get It

At the bottom of the bunny hill, the "Learn to Ski Area" as they call it, I pause to catch my breath. I told Katie I would need to rest after working my way down from the top of the larger hill, but now that I'm here, I don't really want to stop. Yesterday's panic has subsided, and I'm left empty as the space between pine needles, hollowed out and quiet inside.

As I get on the lift to the top of the hill, rising smoothly up from the earth into the silent midair, my heart that was knotted with tension before is slowly suffused with elation, and I can feel the pleasant anticipation of another run through the snow, maybe faster this time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


The lady comes out of her brownstone with a garbage bag and sees me standing with Coco, my shiba-inu. The air is cool but not cold, so I'm wearing a pair of rubber boots Katie gave me which I've discovered are perfect for slipping on when I'm about to take the dog around the block, a hoodie and some jeans - no gloves, no heavy coat, no booties for the dog.

The woman nods, smiles, and I smile back. "Isn't it nice," she says, "to just take your dog out in normal weather?"

3/7/15 - First Time on the Slopes

I'm standing in skis, frozen on a very gentle slope, and Gus is trying to talk me down from my panic attack.

"So, you ever, you know, talk to a doctor about these attacks or anything?" he asks, partially to get me to think about something else, partially just to keep talking. He's a big dude, big-nosed and shaggy-headed, and clearly an elder statesman amongst the ski teachers, with a friendly stoner kind of vibe that makes him perfect for hyperventilating newbies like me.

"Dude, when I'm not hurtling to my death, I'm one of the calmest guys I know," I reply.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I Might Have Felt Guilty if it Wasn't Raining

Guy leans out the window into the rain as I walk away from the tree in front of his house where the dog just peed. "Heyr-something-something bathroom?"


He says it again, then ducks back inside, but I'm already halfway down the block, not interested, regardless.

3/6/15 First Night in Vermont

Some of the "logs" that make up this cabin are clearly just rough cut boards, while some of them, the cross beams in what seems to be the older part of the house, for example, are structural, and possibly actual logs.

The stove is real, though, and the logs shoved into its mouth are consumed merrily in dancing flame.

Outside, a thin haze covers the stars, diffusing the moon's cold light across the entire sky. The brightest stars are the only ones that shine, same as New York City.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Two Versions of Emptiness

Morning commute via Manhattan Bridge as the snowstorm grays out the world, and we hang suspended in the emptiness of fog, passing over nothing, through nothing, going from nowhere into nowhere. I consider our passage across the void past my reflection in the subway window while Elie Goulding sings at the center of my skull and all my chakras light up like I'm the only source of illumination in the world.

Coming back at night, same bridge, storm almost done, I'm listening to some Brooklyn art-rock band, and the visible world, grainy, exhausted, and solemn in the aftermath of the storm, slows down to accommodate the soundtrack of ambient swoosh. A boat passes beneath, parting the turbid East River and Brooklyn rises to meet us, empty and muted and white.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Office Odors

Lavender hand lotion, alcohol tang of sanitizer, black coffee.

Sharp grapefruit peel, printer toner like an oil spill, dusty reams of paper.

Computers charging the air with electric ozone, hands still redolent of peanut butter, hours after lunch.

Air choked with too much cologne, bitter tea, breathe in to cover the smell, breathe out, breathe in.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You Spare Change Your Mother With That Mouth?

The beggar starts speaking when I'm only half-way across the street - jay-walking at the middle of the block, no less - so I'm not really sure he's even talking to me until I'm almost up on him. By then I'm stepping up off the asphalt over ice lumping the sidewalks like filthy gray tumors, with a good excuse to not make eye contact. As I walk past he's blessing my family in a dead voice like he'd love nothing more than to see them freeze to death one at a time.

I know what you really mean, when you "bless" like that.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Brief Encounter

The dog interrupts her sniffing at the snowbank and stands alert, watching the guy walk down the block towards us through alternating darkness and pools of light from the streetlights.

His energy is a little off, a little wound tight, so I make eye contact and smile, but he only sees the dog.

"Beautiful animal," he says.

"Have a good night," I say, but he doesn't reply.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Near Miss

A text from a friend of mine mentions the meeting of my ex-wife with a never-was old flame from high school at the closing night of a play where a lot of people I used to hang out with were working.

I'm the star of my own life, of course, but for sure a minor player in the movies of most other peoples' lives. Still, it gives me pause, to think about the ways that circumstance brings people together.

"The good part:" his text concludes, "you didn't need to be present and make it awkward."

Growing Up

"I told some friends we're doing brunch tomorrow," I tell Katie as we're making breakfast, "and they automatically assumed day-drinking."

"Well, that's what brunch means for a lot of people," she says without looking up.

Later, when she tells me that our brunch date is at one in the afternoon, I remark on how civilized a time that seems.

"Yeah, well, with new parents and pregnant folks, lame people like us fit right in."