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.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


The symphony is in top form tonight, and the weather in the park is cooperating wonderfully. The lawn spreading out in front of the stage, all the way up to the dark banks of trees surrounding us like a bowl, is full of people sprawled on picnic blankets, towels, and tarps, eating and drinking, chatting over the music, texting one another, checking their Facebook pages, or staring off into space.

Jets fly above, their lights blinking counterpoint to the music, and a child points up at one winging its way into LaGuardia.

"We're spoiled for perfection," I say to Katie, as I sip wine from a blue Solo cup and let the music wash over me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Extra Productive

Garbage out, recyclables sorted, cat fed, dog walked, and now I'm finishing up the dishes. As I rinse suds from pans and swirl water in wine glasses, I try to decide if I'm being extra conscientious just to make up for being such a dick last night, or if I'm just feeling extra motivated.

I rule in favor of virtue when I notice Katie standing next to me at the counter wearing her sleepy-time t-shirt, swinging her arms idly and bouncing up and down on the balls of her bare feet.

When I look at her inquiringly, she says, "I desperately want to get to that window, but you're being way more productive than me, soooo you just go right ahead."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Turn it Off

Some days, you gotta just go to bed and hope for a better tomorrow. Katie sleeps with an eye mask on and the TV turned to some crime movie dubbed in Spanish. The dog licks her paws and ignores the foul cloud that hangs over the house.

The neighbors drink wine downstairs and laugh, and I type a few more words before breaking the neck of the day, closing my computer, and going to sleep.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Am Too Familiar

The clerk at the wine shop is friendly, but we're not exactly friends just yet. So when he talks about moving out of New York eventually, I begin to wax philosophical, saying, "Well, every devil makes a deal, and if you're not in New York to do something big, maybe it's not for you."

As soon as I say it, his uncomfortable shrug (midwestern diffidence aside) tells me I've overstepped, but when I apologize, he waves me off.

"I sometimes like talking about something other than wine," he says.

Monday, June 15, 2015

How Others See Us

A black teenager, alone rather than with the usual crew of three, paces the train, casing it carefully before finally announcing, "Showtime, ladies and gentlemen, showtime. I'm by myself, 'cause I'm not very good, but let me assure you, you're all perfectly safe. Perfectly safe," he repeats with a sigh before beginning his dance routine, and the weariness in his voice makes me sad for him, for anybody who has to constantly reassure others that he is no danger.

Because I wonder if, after a certain amount of reassuring people that you're not dangerous, you might start to question if you might really, actually, be dangerous after all, just because everyone's so scared of you all the goddamn time.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why Yes. Yes I Would.

"And what books did you choose?" says the older gentleman in the yarmukle as I pause next to him. His beard is full and unkempt beneath kind, faraway eyes, and he is pulling volumes from the tables of used books on this Upper West Side street and taking notes from them despite the disapproving looks from the proprietor.

I present my choices for his approval: an encyclopedia of the occult, a book of comparative mythology about shamanic traditions in ancient Britain, some literary criticism by Italo Calvino, and one by Robert Anton Wilson that I haven't read yet.

He nods appreciatively, saying, "Well, I've been writing a book about swimming and the kabbalah which you might find interesting."

Saturday, June 13, 2015


It's only a shot, diluted almost five-to-one with water, but past the alcohol dizziness, I feel a subtle calm elation as all of the day's noise is swept away. And there is a lot of noise from the day: writing didn't go as well as I'd hoped, and all of my hopes and dreams seem, once again, no more than the wishes of a man who is far too invested in himself.

Now I stand beneath a halogen lamp on the side of a school wall, watching the shadow of the dog as she sniffs the corner where bricks come together. It is perfectly still, she is perfectly still, the shadow held in balance, and the warm, thick summer air that I'd hoped would never come settles on me like a tongue, and yet I am happy to sit in this moment, and wait until it chooses to move again.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Vision of the Future

"You see these shoes?" says an irate co-worker of mine. She's wearing super-jacked-up, bright red stiletto heels that effectively cripple her. "I ain't walking down stairs in these things," she continues, referring to the fire drill which we're currently in the middle of.

Later, on the way home, I see an older man, clearly stricken with arthritis, his hips moving all out-of-sync with the rest of him, using a pair of ski poles to walk, and getting along pretty quickly, for all that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It's a Reasonable Question

At Katie's suggestion, we bought ice cream and walked to the park at dusk with the dog and lay down on the lawn. The cool breeze smelled of all the green things exhaling at once, and sometimes a warmer pocket of air would tumble through the chill, hinting at the true summer yet to come.

A bat careened through the quickening dusk, diving for bugs beneath faint glimmering stars. The grass itched on my legs and back where my shirt rode up, and Katie asked, "What if the bat came down and ate my face?"

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?

I get up every morning at six so I can write before work, in the calm darkness of a quiet house, and I usually get a few hundred words written before I'm dragged into the day by the gravity of the world, but I work pretty long days, and when I get home around six in the evening, instead of writing some more, I just think about writing - while I'm watching TV, cooking dinner, getting ready for bed, walking the dog. I'm deliberately not writing, like a guy giving himself blue balls, abstaining from something I love so that, when I actually do write, it's all the sweeter.

But really, what if I die tomorrow, say, and all of this shit unwritten festers on hard drives, in the aether? I mean, how much time do I really think I have?

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Long Cut

You read the article again, the one saying that you (yes, even you, talentless and abased as you are) might write a novel in three days. It seems so easy, so possible: just a little bit of preparation and you too might join the ranks of those who are paid to make up stories for a living, your childhood dream made real.

But walking down the stairs to the train home from the day job that eats up most of your waking hours, you realize that, however wonderful such a thing might sound, shortcuts aren't for you.

Not that you wouldn't like to take them, but you, stubborn as you are, inconstant and willful, you, sad to say, must take the long way, as always.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Slushies are Hard to Make at Home

The lines at the food truck rally in Grand Army Plaza (note: a "food truck rally" is this peculiarly early-21st century thing where a bunch of trucks equipped with mobile kitchens come together, like some gastrointestinal ent-moot, and people freak out and pay top dollar to eat stuff that they could probably make at home) are generally pretty chaotic, so the woman who came up could be forgiven for not knowing where the end of this particular line was.

Except the heavy-set guy in the backpack and thick-framed glasses thought he was the end of the line, when really it was me, so when he got all doe-eyed and let her go in front of him, he was cutting both of us. The sun was shining brightly, the sky hung blue and friendly way up there, and I had no place to go, so I let it slide.

Now, I'm not sure exactly what he was hoping for, but the look on backpack-guy's face when her boyfriend walked up and slid his arm around her waist to kiss her, well, that sour, disappointed look was the look of justice, my friends.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Wait, I think. I should ask Katie about that funny thing she said when we were driving the van back to the rental place and that guy cut us off. That could be my four-a-day.

Really, though I continue, I should write about thinking about asking her what she said, because I'm too tired to go through the whole remembering thing.


Around about 11:00 PM, I really start to fade, and I can tell Katie's fading too. But there's still plenty of things to do and pack before tomorrow's craft fair. I'm not really being particularly helpful, since, in my tired state, I'm easily distracted by the TV, my phone, the dog, the cat, a shiny thing, some food, I'm thirsty, is that a fire truck?

When I snap out of it, and ask how I can help, Katie says, "It takes me longer to explain to you what to do than to just do it myself."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Nothing's Free

I put on a song that always thrilled me in the past. The familiar chords rise and fall, the drums patter and crash, the rhythms crackle, the guitar dives and swoops through waves of sound, and yet, I remain mostly unmoved.

I step onto Lexington Avenue, a block from the soaring chrome facade of the Chrysler building, my steps pacing between the black and white of the crosswalk, and try to conjure some feeling, but I remain...just okay.

Is this the price you pay for feeling good most of the time - that the things that once sent you into ecstasy don't get you off the way they used to?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Out of Practice

When I was little, I used to play a game when I was riding around on interminable road trips with my parents. I'd stare out the window at the passing cars and find people in them: driving, talking, sleeping, staring out the window back at me. Then I'd imagine what it felt like to be in their bodies - the way that guy rested his arm on the door with the window down, the weight of that thin woman's skin on her bones, what it felt like to have dark skin, or blond hair, or what that pair of jeans felt like, or that jacket, in that car, going that way.

To pass the time today, I played again on the subway, but I must be out of practice, because it was a lot harder than it used to be to slip into somebody else's skin.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Human Condition

"What are you doing in here?" I say, loudly enough for the older woman in the green parka to turn around and look at me.

"Sorry," I say to her, pointing up. "I'm talking to the bird up there," referring to the sparrow that somehow got into the store and is now fluttering madly, open beaked, against the highest window in a desperate bid to escape.

"He just needs to calm down and come a little lower," she says, sagely, "then he could fly right out the door."

Monday, June 1, 2015


[NO PAPER] says the printer, despite the fact that I can damn well see the paper, right there, until I finally give it up as a bad job and try to settle in to watch Game of Thrones on my friend's HBO Go account.

Except that's not working either, is it? Frustration mounting, peaking even, I download the damn thing to watch on my computer.

And yet this, even this, is not working, showing nothing but a pinwheel cursor of neverending lag, mocking me, further proving that technology is determined to thwart me tonight.