Saturday, April 30, 2016


We lay in the dark with the TV on. We've put a gate, one of those child-or-doge-proof ones, across the door so the cat can have free reign of the house without doge harassment. Stephen Colbert cavorts on the Late Show in flickering light, and Katie falls asleep to the sound of others staying awake around her.

Meanwhile, the dog stands in the doorway, staring out past the gate to the dark, empty hallway beyond, and periodically barks, a high-pitched, coughing sound, at the nothing she sees out there waiting for her. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Used To It

"And did it freak you out," I ask my coworker, "when you found out your boyfriend had cancer?"

She thinks for a moment. "No," she says finally. "It was something that happened so much in my family that I was just, like, 'Well, this is what happens.'"

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


The flowchart I created at the VP's request was not quite what she wanted, and while her notes were pretty extensive, what they had in volume, they lacked in clarity.

"Just make it pretty," she says, when I call her to explain. "You're the creative one."

I shuffle the boxes and fix the fonts, thinking the entire time, "I'm the creative one."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


"So, Paul," I say as he's about to slide me into the MRI machine for the second time. "What do you like about your job."

It's quiet in the room now, but a few minutes ago the din of the machine buzzing and clacking, whirring and howling, unsettled me a little, until I finally got tired of startling and fell asleep.

"Well," he says after some thought, "I get to help people, and they're always learning new things, so that stays pretty interesting, but mostly it's just helping people."

The Acoustics of Wealth

The red plush fabric on the railings of the boxes in Carnegie Hall matches the upholstery on the seats, but it looks a little threadbare here and there. We're midway between the orchestra seats below, and the soft white ceiling inset with incandescent bulbs like jewels hanging airily several stories above, as the ensemble down on stage begins to play Beethoven.

I'm surprised: muscular, angular Ludwig, while still maintaining some of his momentum, sounds like he's had his edges sanded off, and the power of the 7th Symphony seems to have dissipated somewhat. I wonder at the acoustics of this room, if the men who built it specifically designed it to smooth out the rough spots so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the wealthy patrons of the arts who once frequented these now frayed chairs for their weekly doses of art.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Work Ethic

"One of the things I admire about you, about your work ethic," I tell Katie as we're sitting at her booth at the flea market, "is that you really finish stuff."

"Neil Gaiman, before he went crazy and married Amanda Palmer, used to say the way you get good at something it to finish lots of things," I continue, indicating the globes and centerpieces all around us. "You really finish things, and I wish I was more like you."

"Well, your work ethic is good, too," Katie says, but I can tell she's trying to think of a reply.

Rich People Medicine

The doctor's office is very nice, with its tasteful furniture, soft music and lighting, plush carpets, and friendly staff. Maybe a little too nice.

"Where's the desperation, the ambience of impatient despair?" I ask.

The woman behind the counter nods knowingly, waving towards the door as she says, "Out there."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Where Does Depression Hurt?

After a long, difficult day, fighting with work, fighting with insurance companies, we come home and eat too much pizza, drink some wine, and watch a movie, but I still feel kind of terrible.

"Pookie," I say, hugging myself as we're getting ready for bed, "my skin hurts, and my joints, and everything."

"Well, you had kind of a hard day," she says, watching me sympathetically. "Maybe you're just depressed."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I'm Kinda the Worst

"That's a pretty engagement ring," I say to the young nurse taking my information. "How long have you been engaged?"

I instantly regret my question as her face grows sad and thoughtful, and she says, "Um, about a year?"

"Oh," I say, trying to play it off, "have you set a date?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Rather than work on my current project, I go back to the kitchen to try and make it presentable before my friend comes to stay with us this weekend. I scrub the dishes that we keep trading out for new dirty ones, sweep the floor, wipe down the counters with bleach. 

I stayed up too late last night, and so I suppose that I could tell you more about the process. Right now, though, in this moment, as I type these words, my eyes have slammed shut three times, maybe four, and I'm having a real hard time keeping them open.

Platform Shoes

"When I was growing up in Puerto Rico," our very laid-back server at the Mountain Goats show tells us, "who would have thought that I would get to take Sinead O'Connor's food order?"

"Who else have you met through this job that you never thought you would?" Katie asks.

"Prince came through one time - that was amazing. He stood next to me, and I'm five foot eight inches, and I'm telling you, that gave me confidence."

Monday, April 18, 2016

All's Well That Ends

"When you pushed your chair back from your desk," my coworker says, "you looked like you were going to die."

"You had a vein throbbing in your temple, and you just kept saying 'No, no, no,' over and over," she continues.

"Yeah, it was pretty bad," I say. "But then my boss said it was okay, and I guess it was, after all."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Let Me Know How it Works Out

Working at the flea market affords me a lot of time to people watch. Sometimes, I find myself wanting to introduce people with complementary tattoos.

"You, with the bad posture and the beautiful carp surrounded by lilies on your shoulders, I'd like you to meet this gentleman with the well-coifed beard and a branch of cherry blossoms over a sunrise. I feel like you might make some interesting bad decisions together."


The going away party is in full swing when Katie strolls by carrying a baby. It's a very Brooklyn moment: bar, beer, and babies.

The woman I'm talking to who is familiar with the mother of the baby smiles knowingly when she sees Katie and the baby moving from group to group around the bar. "You can always tell the second baby," she says, "because the first baby, mom wouldn't let her out of her sight, but the second baby, she passes her off to practically anybody and goes and gets a beer."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

None of Your Business

The dog is struggling down the stairs one at a time, with many pauses and looks back over her shoulder as she goes. I hand an extra wine bottle from upstairs to the guy bagging up our recycling for us and he looks at it in surprise.

"What's this, a double bottle?" he says slyly. "Isn't this a repeat from last week?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Facebook Disagreement

Katie lays her head on the dog to keep her from barking. "You'll never be right to the guy who changed your diaper," she says about her dad.

"I mean," she continues, "you literally knew nothing until he told it to you. To have you suddenly grow up and spout different opinions must be very...," the dog shifts her weight and sighs, "...disconcerting." 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Unfair Advantage

There's a commotion at the foot of the bed, like someone throwing a sack of shoes at the floor, then quiet. I peer over the side to find the dog, her head and tail down in shame, watching out of the corner of her eye as the cat jumps up on top of the covers.

"You're only gonna hurt yourself," Katie chastises the dog as the cat stalks over her before settling in primly at our feet with a satisfied expression. "You know she's got nine lives."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Falling in Love

When the project you're working on starts to click, it's a bit like falling in love. The world conspires to bring you bounty - ideas, tangents, information - all of it connected somehow to the thing you're working on, and every reinforcement serves as further evidence of the rightness of your path.

This morning, I'm thinking about giving my current project a binary star system to make the weather work correctly, and this afternoon I hear from a co-worker about the plan to send robots to Alpha Centauri to study the binary system there. This, of course, sends me to the Wikipedia page, where I discover artists' renderings of the way they think the sky will look on a planet with two suns, and which gets me thinking about what an equinox on a planet with two suns would even look like.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Too Cheerful

"So, at the meeting, I told them that sometimes I don't want to even say 'good morning' to people. And I said that you, sitting where you do where everybody walks by, you say good morning to everyone, and that it used to scare the shit out of me!"

"Oh my God, really?" I say, laughing.

"No, not really, but I didn't want it getting back to you from somebody else," she says.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


During the critique of my story, one of the instructors says, "You know who your piece really reminds me of: Ursula K. Le Guin."

Now, there's no way for him to know this, but when I was a boy, I worshiped Le Guin; I read everything she wrote, and wrote Earthsea fan fiction when I should have been doing math homework.

I look away in embarrassment, afraid that he'll see my eyes welling up a little at a professional writer telling me I resemble, even a bit, one of my heroes.

"Oooh, looks like you really touched on something," one of my fellow writers says, laughing.

Time Flies

I text Katie after the workshop: "On my way home!"

"Already!? Is that a good thing?"

Followed almost immediately by: "Wow! Okay! Yay!!"

She had no idea what time it was, I'm sure.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Just for One Day

I'm helping one of the instructors from the writer's workshop I'm attending get to the place he's staying this weekend after our meet-and-greet at the bar. "Has anybody said your eyes look a little like David Bowie's?" he says, while we stand on the subway platform, waiting for a train.

"No, I don't believe they have," I say.

"We miss him, don't we?" he replies, mournfully.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Daily Goals

The construction down at Atlantic Yards by the new stadium has the roads all screwed up, and crossing the street becomes an exercise in faith and recklessness.

When the guy turning left across traffic screeches to a halt only inches from the crosswalk, the two women behind me and I give him a look and continue on our way while he idles impatiently.

"I guess he forgot we had the light," the woman behind me mutters to her friend. "I wonder, does he really want to kill somebody today?"

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Memento Mori (Again)

I'm scrolling through Facebook at lunch, scanning the posts, ignoring the ads, seeing if there's anything new since this morning.

"I have a finite life span," I think to myself.

Scroll, scroll, scroll.

"This is how I'm choosing to spend it?"

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tiocfaidh ar wha?

"Do you mind me asking where your ancestors are from?" the guy behind the counter at the Stop and Shop in Brooklyn asks me after telling me I "look English"

"Well, they're English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh," I say, "so I'm kind of a UK mutt."

"All those countries oppressed by the English," he says, shaking his head. "So, between you and me," he says, leaning in conspiratorially, "what do you think of the IRA?"

Monday, April 4, 2016

May I Have Another?

The critique of my story is going well, but not because my writing group particularly likes the thing.

"This version just seems a lot more...," one of the women says with an apologetic wince, "sentimental."

It stings a little, but she's right, and I know it, so it's nice to know I'm not getting away with anything.

"Thanks," I say, honestly, reaching for my third madeline cookie.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Trains are Heavy. Possibly Also Your Mother.

Katie and I are sitting at our booth at Brooklyn Flea on what seems to be the coldest day ever, and time absolutely refuses to pass.

In an effort to distract ourselves from the chill, Katie is reading me the news, and informs me that the Amtrak derailment earlier today was caused by someone parking a backhoe on the tracks.

"Oh my God, a backhoe is so heavy!" I say.

"Yeah, you know what else is heavy," Katie replies.

Impatience, Pt. 2

The worst employee at the van rental place apparently still works there, nearly a year later. My patience, meanwhile, has not grown one bit over the intervening time.  

He examines my driver's license as if he's never seen one before in his life, until he finally says, "This isn't your license."

"Okay," I reply, my head in my hands, "whose is it?"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bonus - Linger

I thought of this yesterday, but forgot about it, but then I remembered, so you get it today.

It's one of the oldest pieces of clothing I own: a once black, now gray tank top with an irregular, almost orange bleach stain over the belly. I remember the girl I stole it from in Tucson, after we went and saw a show at the Downtown Performance Center where they covered the audience in chocolate syrup, whiskey, flour, maybe urine? and other nameless substances while drums pounded the venue into a frenzy.

It took forever to get the smell out, and it lingered for years, the same way I remember her raspy voice and her constant, simmering rage, her combat boots and her prickly sensitivity; and while I don't miss her at all, I do remember her.

Friday, April 1, 2016

If A=B, and B=C, then A=C

"So where does your girlfriend live?" I ask my co-worker on our way to lunch. The streets are noisy and full of traffic, cars sparkle with sunshine, and we squint in the glare and lean in to hear each other.

"Well," he says in his hesitant way, "I live with my parents, and she lives with me."

"I'm sorry," I say, "I can't hear very well, but I thought you said she lives at your parents?"