Thursday, March 31, 2016

An Angry New Friend

The Beemer turning down 7th Avenue narrowly avoids hitting the runner in the crosswalk, and the runner, understandably pissed at almost getting creamed, smacks the trunk as it passes before continuing down Union Street toward the park.

I'm watching all this from the corner, so I get a good look at the driver and his blank, rage-filled stare, as he flips an entirely illegal u-turn, guns it back to the intersection, and screeches down Union to follow the runner, who's nearly half-way down the block by now.

Whereupon the driver is brought up short by the very reason he turned down 7th Avenue in the first place: heavy traffic. He doesn't even get a third of the way down the block before his journey is choked by a line of brake lights a quarter of a mile long, while the runner, blissfully unaware, continues to lengthen the distance between himself and his angry new friend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The dog is asleep at our feet, but we don't go out of our way to avoid disturbing her. It just happens that we make it back to the kitchen on the other side of the house before she notices we're gone.

Katie and I are chatting in the kitchen when we hear her begin barking as she comes to find us. It's clear she's pissed we ditched her, and she is expressing her displeasure in the most direct way she knows.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spider Senses Tingling

As I walk into the grocery store, I happen to glance across the street and see two kids in grey hoodies scoping out folks as they walk out of the bank. I immediately peg them for kids running that "can you give us money for our baseball team?" scam, but something about them gets my guard up, and I hope they haven't switched to my side of the street by the time I'm done shopping.

When I walk out of the grocery store, the kids are nowhere to be seen, but an older man is lying on the sidewalk, on his back, with a stunned look on his face.

I hurry over to ask if he needs a hand up from where I think he's fallen, but he declines, saying, "No, but did you get a look at the two kids who knocked me over?"

Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Cold

My sinuses are stuffed with hot cotton, simultaneously too dry and too full to function. I spray saline water into them from a small canister as the cat watches, until she gets bored and wanders off somewhere, but it doesn't really help.

My face feels puffy and warm, the skin too tight over elastic bones that stretch to accommodate the viscous fluid that now inhabits my skull.

I give up and start breathing through my mouth.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Workout Buddy

I see him almost every time I ride my loops around the park, walking briskly against the flow of traffic: a jewish man, early to mid-thirties, though it's hard to tell exactly through his ginger beard. 

He wears a yarmulke, a medium-weight, plain black and brown sweater, slightly shiny black slacks, and wholly inappropriate, clunky black dress shoes, and he walks with a slight sway in his hips. He's a little overweight, maybe a lot, to judge by the belly pouching out his sweater, but he's got this grim determination in his eyes as he power walks around and around, like he's on a mission.

I'm happy to see him every time, and when my legs start to burn, I think about him and his mission, and I keep trying.

Go Inside

The skinny, old guy sitting next to me on the subway smells like booze, and he is mad-dogging the enormous guy sitting across from him. I'm trying to decide if I should put my book down and get my phone out to video this, because I'm pretty sure that if things proceed, these guys are going on World Star Hip Hop.

Finally, the old guy sighs and says, "Aw man, I can't go back inside," and he gets off at the next stop.

The huge guy sitting across rattles his news paper a couple of times, and finally looks up at me and says, "That guy better had a bazooka in his bag, because I woulda broke him."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fear of Missing Out

In the midst of getting ready to go, I stop myself and take a big breath: why am I getting so worked up?

A few minutes before my friend texted me, I was waiting on my food to be delivered, anticipating watching a movie with my wife, and really looking forward to getting some writing done. Now, I'm running around the house, wondering how I'm going to feed myself, and trying to decide if a flannel is too "dressed down" for a whiskey tasting. 

One more deep breath, and I send a text back to my friend, thanking him for the offer, but politely declining, as the timing just wasn't right.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Just Kids

The "showtime" kids are having a hard time on this train: their sojourn at the other end of the car ended in angry looks and outright hostility, and now one of them approaches me. 

"Would you mind if we used this pole for a few minutes?" he asks, and he looks so vulnerable and tired, so defeated, that I can only say, "It's up to you," as I step to one side to give him room.

He favors me with a smile, and I realize he's probably fourteen at the outside. "I ain't trying to hang with all the negativity in this car," he says to his friend as the music starts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

That Ol' Devil Moon

The three of us walk out of the bar: Katie, me, and our friend that Katie used to date before she met me. We've each had a couple, but not more than a couple.

As we walk down Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, south towards home, the giant, blazing yellow moon comes out from behind a building; and when I comment on "that ol' devil moon," our friend wonders why.

"On a full moon I tend to become more emotionally..., volatile," I say grandly while Katie nods in emphatic agreement.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


"So I'm gonna take that room," my co-worker from another department says over the phone to me. She's talking about the room that is exclusively for use by my department, which I book.

"Okay, no problem, but I'm going to say something, and it's going to sound harsher than I mean it to," I reply. "You could say please, right?"

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tough Guy

There's this myth, not exactly an urban legend, but something like it, that says if you ever have to go to prison, your first day inside you have to find the biggest, toughest guy and pick a fight with him.

He kicks your ass, of course, but that's not the end of your to-do list: the day you get out of the infirmary, you have to go back to this big, tough guy, and pick another fight.

The truth of this bit of advice notwithstanding, the logic of demonstrating your toughness by going back to a situation which you know is gonna suck, and doing it anyway, makes a certain sense.

All that is to say, my heart sank as I rounded the corner of the park on my bike to begin my ascent of the final hill again today, and I knew no amount of downshifting was gonna make it any easier.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Back in the Saddle

This is new: my legs, my lungs, my throat - all burning as I ride my bike for the first time in ages. I can feel my heart, huge and pounding, hanging heavy in my chest.

I am going to ride forty miles on May 1st, and I am ridiculously out of shape. I slip behind a group of cyclists and we all begin the long ascent up the last hill to the park entrance, but I'm the only one that's breathing hard.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Poetics of Politics

"In politics," our friend from the flea market says as Katie and I sit on the couch sipping wine, "you've got two things."

He spreads his arms and makes fists. "You've got fear," he shakes his left fist, "and hope."

He opens his hands, "With one or the other, you're going to get elected."

Close Quarters

"Oh, we should have done that," says the woman at the next table as all four of the drinks Katie and I ordered before the end of happy hour arrive. We're celebrating Katie's birthday with fondue and tapas, and the tables in this tiny place are jammed in so tight that we have little choice but to be all up in each other's business. Fortunately, when it comes to interacting with strangers, we're pros.

Katie looks at her watch, says, "Well, it's quarter-to-seven, so you've still got fifteen minutes!"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dogs Remind Us We're Human

The wind gusts suddenly, staggering the dog, unmaking my umbrella with a scree of metal, and causing the old fellow with the dreadlocks and the cane to lean into the blast to keep from falling over.

After the wind blusters off to mug some other pedestrians, the old man notices my dog, and we get to chatting, keeping each other company on the way to her vet appointment.

"I had a dog," he says after a while of watching her trot alongside us, "and it really tore me up when she died."

"They really live inside us, don't they?" I say.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Kids These Days (Bike Shop Mix)

"Please and thank you," I say, handing my credit card over to the bike repair guy who's ringing me up for my tune-up (and who looks a few years younger than me).

"You don't hear that a lot," he says smiling, "especially from the kids who come in here."

"I think it facilitates all kinds of social interactions," I say.

"Yeah, it's like, I want to ask them, 'How do you get anything done, talking like that?'"

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hard to Stomach

The conversation at work has strayed from where it started (St. Patrick's Day) to haggis, and thence to a discussion of the relative merits of menudo, a Mexican soup made from cow stomach which is considered a delicacy in some quarters.

I tell my favorite menudo story from when I lived in Tucson, involving a long search, a roadside cafe, a proprietor who spoke no English, and an excessive use of very hot chiles, until another co-worker walks up.

"How do you feel about menudo?" I ask, in an attempt to include her.

"Well," she says, "I really liked them when Ricky Martin was in the group."

Monday, March 14, 2016

Eat Something

Instead of rushing her along during our after-work walk, I allow the dog a pause by the garbage can to sniff, and it occurs to me that, at her advanced age, any walk could be her last.

These scents she inhales, the air she breathes, the sights she sees, all of these could be the last, or near the last, things this consciousness that we call "Coco" ever experiences - a unique experience in all the universe that will never exist again.

But then, I realize, isn't that the same for me, too, and I aren't I just as likely to be snatched from this earth, this consciousness called "I" snuffed out forever, to be forgotten, as we are all forgotten, in an indifferent world where life is so fleeting...?

My stomach grumbles, and I remember I kind of skipped breakfast, and had a very light lunch, so maybe I'm less deep and more just hungry.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Boundary Issues

While sitting on the bench, waiting for the train to come, I look up from my phone to find I'm surrounded.

Three small, dark haired women stand above, looking down at me with some concern. One of them sits right next to me on the bench and leans in alarmingly close.

"Excuse," she says, holding up a map of Manhattan, "this train, goes to Manhattan Bridge?"

Putting the "Fun" in Fundraising

"No thanks," I say to the kid as he unfolds his crumpled piece of paper before he launches into his spiel.

"You haven't even heard what I'm gonna say, I mean, I'm raising money for my...," he starts in, aggrieved.

I've put my headphones back in, but I still hear him say something about, " a dick about it," before one of his friends wraps his arms around him and drags him away.

I turn away to ignore the whole scene, but another one of the kid's friends walks by and says, close to me, "Yeah, you don't have to be a dick about it," as he flicks me in the back with his hand.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring Looks Delicious

The dog pauses to sniff the mild night air beneath a young, denuded tree, and I stand, hold her limp leash and examining the eye-level branches.

Spring has come a bit early, and despite the light chill, the branches have pushed out new, reddish growth at the tips, with small buds bulging on the ends. They have the faintest layer of fuzz, they're so new.

I suppress the strong urge to bite the delicious looking tips of the branches off and chew them up in some strange, atavistic winter-killing ritual, and the dog and I turn and walk home.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

If It Ever Began, Here

The sudden change from the dead of winter to basically summer is disconcerting. My body still guards against a chill that is long gone, and my clothes seem entirely too heavy. 

Bare knees, shins, forearms and elbows, all begin making strange appearances, decontextualized by the absent cold. 

"It's warm," somebody says at my work every hour, and somebody else replies, "Yeah, winter's finally over."

Bonus - Uncharitable Charity

Open bar at the comedy show, a benefit for a good cause, but the room is full of half-rich dudebros and their patrician girlfriends/wives rubbing shoulders with the actually wealthy, everyone trying a little too hard to convince each other they belong there. Me, I just want a couple of glasses of wine.

I see this woman make an end run around me, even though she was behind me in line to the bar; and even though I position myself squarely in front of the table, she still manages to cut me off and catch the bartender's eye first.

He places her glass of Chardonnay in front of me, and I have to suppress my uncharitable urge to spit in it before she whisks it away.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


"Why are they laughing at this guy?" says the drunk asshole behind us to his girlfriend at the comedy show. "He's not funny."

She leans back to whisper something furious and inaudible.

"Maybe they should get somebody funny," he half-heartedly heckles, as if he isn't sure he wants to attract attention.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bum Skier

As usual while we're home alone, when Katie is talking to me about almost anything at all, I pull down my pants, turn around, and moon her. This usually elicits a small chuckle, but this time, she audibly gasps.

"Pookie, what happened?" she says, as the evidence of my rather lackluster skiing ability becomes apparent. "Your bum is so bruised it looks dirty!"

Monday, March 7, 2016

What a Ham

The small Vermont cafe is almost filled by the voice of our waiter as he clears our table. He's got a greying flattop, a black t-shirt covering a fairly substantial belly, and a single stud glittering in one ear.

"My family, they fed me Taylor Ham, and shit like that," he continues, holding forth, then looks down at his gut ruefully. "No wonder I was such an overweight kid."

I Was Thinking Email Addresses, For Starters

We're riding through the Vermont countryside into town with our new friends Kate and Trevor.

"So I'm not trying to make this awkward," I say when we're a few minutes into the drive, "but I'd like to exchange information with you guys."

There's a brief moment of silence. "Like, what kind of information?" Kate asks.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

In My Head/In My Mouth

"I just want you to ski to me," Katie says after about a half-hour. The hill looks impossibly steep, impossibly long, and I am so tired and panicked, so I tell her no, even as I'm pointing my skis downhill, in the requisite plow shape, and making my way slowly down to her.

The hill drops, and suddenly I'm going what feels incredibly fast, with no way to control my speed, and I do what Katie told me to do when I feel like I've lost control - I fall down.

I slide a few more feet, skidding to a stop, and try to laugh, but I taste bile.

Friday, March 4, 2016


Snow is thin on the ground here in Vermont. We see broken patches of the stuff, half-melted and mottled with bristling brown dead grass as we drive by the unpromising work of sun and wind.

Our friend, who's driving, keeps up a steady stream of cheerful conversation, but I can tell he's a little worried. How will we ski if there's no snow?

Bonus - What the Cat Said

"They're leaving, you know," the cat says, her eyes slitted as she watches us pack.

"Oh my God, they are?" the dog replies worriedly. "How long will they be gone?"

"Forever, probably," the cat says, flicking her tail.

Snow Pee

It's late, but we're finally done packing for our trip. I coax the dog downstairs and into the strangely bright night for her final walk just as the first flakes begin to swirl against the streetlights.

We go to her favorite tree in silence through the empty, quiet streets. After she's done peeing, she spins right around to walk home, and the snow starts to cover her as we make our way back.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Nostalgia Trip

The song comes on and I'm in my twenties again, miserable and ready to sprout wings, dancing with furious joy by myself in a filthy, rotting RV in the desert. I still believe implicitly in all of my arrogant dreams for my future, sure that I will shake off the dust of this little town and rise to glory, and that once I do, I will never be sad or lonely again.

Not only does time give the lie to youthful hubris, but it takes all the things we love and shows them to us next to the ever-expanding scope of our lives. We come to know that the songs of our lives, the ones that live in our hearts, have fallen from fashion, but we'll still feel that youthful pang of longing, and we'll still reach over and turn that shit all the way up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Dishwasher Epiphany

I'm lucky in lots of ways, but one of the ways I'm particularly lucky is that I have a dishwasher in my apartment.

I was unloading it today, picking up the plates three at a time. They're heavy, thick, Fiestaware plates in bright, uniform shades of yellow and deep blue, and I can feel the weight of them in my hands.

That "feeling" lets me treat them with some care, and not accidentally throw them on the ground, or crack them in the dishwasher, and it sounds obvious, but I don't know that I ever paid attention to the weight of plates before now.