Monday, October 31, 2016

Samhain Ninjas

It's a crowded sidewalk, so I barely notice, or mind, when somebody kicks my heel as we're shuffling down the street among the hordes of trick-or-treaters and their parents.

"Sorry," says the teen politely as he and his crew flow smoothly around us like a hunting pack of wolves. They all sport hoodies and loose-fitting, soft pants, and they swing around trees and leap gracefully over obstructive bags of trash, dipping in and out of pedestrian traffic, glorying in their ease and comfort with their bodies.

As one does a completely amazing flip, head-over-heels over a wall in front of the church, while another dances trippingly along the top of the same wall like he's walking down the middle of the street, I say, "They're ninjas," because they are.

One year ago today: I Alone Have Escaped to Tell Thee
Two years ago today: Halloween
Three years ago today: The D Train is Bat Country
Five years ago today: 10/31/11

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Weather, Man

After the third gust from the open kitchen window ransacks the pictures hanging on the fridge, I look up from my typing to see the backyard trees convulsing in the wind of a sudden storm.

Katie and I quickly run downstairs to watch the riot, only to find an older gentleman with kind eyes and no umbrella taking shelter from the rain on our stoop beneath the outcropping roof. 

We reassure him that there's no need for him to vacate, and chat amiably while the clouds rend and reform from tatters into dark masses high above.

"The wind came up all of a sudden," he says, gesturing widely, "and it just blew all the leaves and trash straight up in the air."
Two years ago today: Mansplaining Hiccups
Three years ago today: Another Show
Five years ago today: 10/30/11

The Horror

After watching a horror movie and arguing with Katie about why I can't hang (something about horror movies tends to precipitate an anxious existential crisis in me), I take the dog downstairs and, after she's done, sit on the front stoop to cool down.

A couple pass down the street, on their way to or from a party, together but walking separately, not speaking. I can tell they're together because they're wearing a couples costume - she's a fly, complete with wings and extra set of floppy, stuffed felt legs, while he's a green, fuzzy frog.

After some thinking, I've calmed down enough to go back upstairs (the problem's mostly with me, anyway), and I come back to myself to find the dog ready to go inside, staring past me to the door with a look of total longing, like she's been cast out of paradise forever.
One year ago today: Anachronistic
Two years ago today: Haibun Without Haiku
Three years ago today: Jesus is Magic, But Can He Play Keyboard?
Five years ago today: 10/29/11 In October?
Six years ago today: 10-29-10 Some things you have to pay for after you've already used them

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lowered Taxes

I walk through the underground at Union Square subway station, unafraid, in no danger, hurrying along with hundreds, thousands of other commuters on their way to work on a Friday morning.

There was a time, not too long ago, when New York was a place of crime and terror, when every venture out of doors was an invitation to mayhem, to robbery and thievery, to the dangerous tax on just being alive that was just the price you willingly paid to live in the Center of the Universe.

This morning, a string quartet performs at the top of the stairs down to the N, R, and Q platform, backed by a pristine white tile wall so clean as to be antiseptic.  A quiet, tasteful rendition of "Smooth Criminal" sings from their instruments, drifting above the white noise of the trains rumbling through the station, but everyone except the tourists ignores them completely.

One year ago today: So Much For Atmosphere
Two years ago today: Dinner Party (Nioi)
Five years ago today: 10/28/11 - What's the worst that could happen?
Six years ago today: 10-28-10 reminds me of the day I proposed

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Walk in the Rain

The dog clambers down the stoop onto the wet sidewalk, takes a beat, and then, as the rain pours down, looks up at me with the most accusing eyes I've ever seen.

Once I get her to walk again (she sniffs in disgust at her low, quickly moistening state), we walk over to her favorite tree, but once there, she noses the ground a couple times, and then, lifting her paws gingerly, pulls me away.

We go to another, scrawnier tree, so skinny we don't normally allow her to pee on it for fear of killing the withering thing, but she somehow knows that the deluge has suspended the rules, and she does her business in the rain.

Back inside, her fur glistens as if dusted in diamonds, until I try to wipe her down with a Shamwow, and suddenly she's like some kind of enormous, bristly sponge, with a vaguely doggy smell.

One year ago today: Not As Helpful As I Could Have Been
Two years ago today: Hands
Three years ago today: That's That
Five years ago today: 10-27-11 safe
Six years ago today: 10-27-10 let's pretend

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Subways and Means

"Now, you're not pushing me on purpose, are you?" I finally say, turning to the woman who's been shoving what feels like a purse full of bricks into the small of my back for the entire train ride.

"No!" she says, pointing over her shoulder to a tiny, curly-headed child gripping the pole by the door who looks like he's about to be swallowed up in the crowd.

"Let's give you some room," I say, mashing myself into the subway pole, and she flashes me a grateful look as the entire car redistributes its mass around them.

I feel that familiar rush of pleasure I get at being helpful, but the remnants of the adrenaline hum of aggression I was about to unleash on the woman I thought was pushing me spoil my self-congratulatory joy.


One year ago today: Risky
Two years ago today: Cat Scratch, No Fever
Three years ago today: This Sounds Kinda Perfect
Six years ago today: 10-26-16 (though I could still use the money)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Please Don't Tell My Boss

"I'm good," I say to my friend at work. "It's just, staring at the screen all day and not moving around, I really don't belong in an office."

She shakes her head sadly. "No you don't."
One year ago today: Walking Distance
Two years ago today: The Time of the Season
Six years ago today: 10-25-10 - the hutch

Monday, October 24, 2016

Professional Boundaries

"I woke up at exactly 2:13," says my boss, newly returned today from a couple of weeks out after surgery on his shoulder, "and I couldn't go back to sleep." The pain was keeping him up.

What I want to say is, "Well, you know what helped me sleep after my surgery, though, is weed."

But instead all I say is, "Oh, man, I know how that feels."
One year ago today: Nodding Off
Two years ago today: Whining Hypochondria
Three years ago today: Star-crossed Lovers

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Locked Out

The truck is almost packed - just one more load from upstairs and we'll be ready to go to the flea market for the day to sell Katie's sculptures. I have that soft, pleasant, baseline hum of adrenaline that comes from working at something you like to do.

When I get back to the front door of the apartment building, though, Katie is still waiting for me, and that niggling worry I hadn't even known was there blossoms from unconscious anxiety into full blown panic.

"Do you have your keys?" she asks, as I begin to pat my pockets frantically.
Two years ago today: Reincarnation/Rumination
Three years ago today: Autumn Scents

(Another) Brief Encounter

The serpentine bas-relief carvings above the dormer windows on the old stone building look like they could be dragons, maybe, but I can't tell for sure from where I'm standing across the street.

The harder I look, the more elaborate and abstract they appear, and I fall further and further into their intricacies until I realize that I'm leaning so far forward that I've gotten severely off-balance, and for a brief second I have the stomach-dropping sensation that I'm about to fly off the curb straight up into the sky.

I catch myself and rock back on my heels until I'm sufficiently grounded again, only to find I'm looking into the window of a car parked next to me, where a large black man is holding up a chihuahua and babbling to it like it's a baby.

He sees me, seeing him, and we have a moment of eye contact before he gives me a huge, toothy grin so I can't help but smile back, and he goes back to cooing at his dog.

One year ago today: Doggie Facebook
Two years ago today: Candy (Sour)
Three years ago today (I wonder how long I had cancer?): Far Away
Six years ago today: 10-22-10 Fall arrives - we fight off the chill

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Here Come the Cold Jets

Dully glittering slivers of jet airplanes sharpen their bent wings across a stony sky.  They slice the firmament like almost invisible razors, high over Park Slope on approach to JFK.

The silhouette of a bird flaps heavily across the street, a controlled, directional tumble of feathers and muted noise just overhead.  The bird, body of bone and feather and beak, is something awkward and alive, while the jets just look obscenely linear, surgical and unnatural, the product of a mind of steel and wheels.
One year ago today: Mundane
Two years ago today: Sunset (Bitter)
Three years ago today: Magic is Just Spending More Time on Something Than Any Reasonable Person Would
Six years ago today: 10-21-10 The days are long, but the years are short

Thursday, October 20, 2016

More than a Server

The waitress's smile collapses as she remembers our earlier conversation."I know I said I would discount your meal because I forgot to put in the order," she says, stammering, "but, but I forgot to add the discount."

"It's okay," I say.

"I'm studying for a test right now, and my mind is...," she rolls her eyes up and clasps her hands at her heart.
One year ago today: Delayed
Two years ago today: Healthy Eating (Salt)
Three years ago today: Clowns are Nothing to Worry About

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Right of Way

The woman with the stroller at the bottom of the stairs finally gives up waiting for people to let her up and, hoisting contraption and toddler, starts climbing.

She shoves past her sole obstacle, a woman in a thin, sleeveless dress and wedges coming down the same stairs, using her kid and her stroller as a battering ram. Words are exchanged, but since I have headphones in, I am not privy to the content, though I can guess from the expression sleeveless dress has when she gets to the platform that they didn't compliment one another on their exquisite taste in fashion or infant conveyances.

Battle over, she stares up with dead, cold eyes at the retreating form of the woman with the stroller, like she's trying to memorize her features so she can recall them for the benefit of the prosecution on judgement day,

One year ago today: Accelerate Out of Danger
Two years ago today: Bitter/Sweet
Three years ago today: Saved

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Vegetarian Murderer

I smoothly grab a thick sheaf of papers off the bookshelf (the top page a letter from a collection agency, demanding payment for library fines), and fold it in half lengthwise. The fly on the lintel above the closet remains undisturbed, unaware, perhaps, of his impending doom.

But I have to move slowly, carefully, and I do, inching my way up until I'm poised above him, my hand with its bundle of pages ready to strike.

And with a resounding thwack, I bring the hammer down, leaving a thin, black smear on the paint, and a small, spindly mess of legs and wings on the paper, my heart singing it's own, thin, triumphant song: "Die, die, die."
One year ago today: Jealous Again
Two years ago today: A Metaphor For So-Called Post-Racial Discourse in America

Monday, October 17, 2016

Big Bird

Dusk, and the dog and I are out walking, both of us doing our own thing - her head down focusing on her business, me focused on her doing her business.

"I have to tell somebody," a voice says behind me, and I turn to find a blonde woman carrying an equally tow-headed child coming up to me. "There's a red-tailed hawk up on that air conditioner," she continues excitedly, pointing past my shoulder, and sure enough, there it perches, across the street on top of a window unit on the second floor, its breast feathers ruffling proudly in the wind.

"Well, you told the right person, 'cause I am super into stuff like this," I reply, while the dog noses around the light post, ignoring our enthusiasm.
Three years ago today: Is There a (Cat) Ghost in My House?


"Well, what address did you gave Uber?" Katie says, after the little icon of the car drives past our little blue dot on the Uber app.

"I just sent the location where we were," I say, and I cringe to hear the whining in my voice as she sighs and starts walking to the address it shows on my phone, a block away.

"I really don't understand why you're being so rigid," she says. I don't know how to explain that I feel like I spend my whole life being flexible, and adjusting for other people, and for once I want something to just work, dammit.
One year ago today: We'll Do it Live
Two years ago today: Another World
Three years ago today: Literally Full of It

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Party (Fire) Foul

We retire from the dance floor and make our way down the hill to the fire pit below. The band continues to play today's hits and the usual wedding favorites (though "September" never seemed to come up on the list, for some reason).

We warm ourselves after the cool air of an October evening, until, with the fire getting low, I throw a couple of logs on the fire just as the breeze shifts, and sparks and smoke swirl around and then billow over the couple sitting across the fire from us.

I apologize profusely as they stand up, coughing and squinting through the haze.

Friday, October 14, 2016


"Were you nervous?" Katie gently asks about the speech I gave at the rehearsal dinner.

"Yeah," I admit.

We walk across the dark parking lot and into the brightly lit hotel lobby.

"Actually, part of it was," I say, "that the room was a little dark, and I couldn't read."

Thursday, October 13, 2016


After the doge's walk, I stop at the downstairs neighbors' apartment to discuss some things, and, knowing how little she likes other people, I'm unsurprised to find that the doge has continued upstairs without me.

But when I get up to our floor, Coco is nowhere to be found. I wait a minute, and finally go one more flight up.

She's standing at the end of the hall upstairs, in the dark, eyeing warily the ladder that leads to the roof, clearly unable to remember this part of her nightly journey, but seriously trying to figure out the next step, since that's apparently what we're doing.

One year ago today: Jet Lag
Two years ago today: Junk Shop

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fake Out

The usual oversized hospital gowns, which normally come in heavy, navy blue cotton, are nowhere to be found, and instead I have to make do with these tiny, thin, white, almost see-through things that barely reach down to mid thigh. As I stand around (sitting would be a bit too revealing), waiting to get dosed with radiation again, I have a sudden access of sympathy for woman who wear short skirts, as the vulnerability of being so exposed like this must be excruciating.

I cross my legs and tap my knuckle idly on the wood top of a divider wall that separates the hall from the waiting area, and in doing so I notice the lovely grain of the blond wood, but something about it seems off, to me. I follow it around the width of the board and, sure enough, the grain doesn't match the end, or even the sides of the wood, and the tapping of my knuckle causes the wood to knock hollowly, almost as if the thing were made of plastic, beneath the faux wood veneer.

One year ago today: A Long Day
Two years ago today: A Man in the Kitchen
Three years ago today: Touchdown

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Street Scenes

The cabs flow down Lexington Avenue like smooth, yellow fishes, ads perched on their roofs like fins, trying to hook me: electronic cigarettes, Broadway musicals, gentlemen's clubs. The advertisement becomes more important that the thing that carries it, until the two tons or so of hulking steel speeding along the asphalt almost disappears, and the ad takes up all of my vision.

Later, a rugged looking man walking by a playground picks up an errant ball that rolled onto the sidewalk and enthusiastically tosses it back to one of the kids. I catch his eye, and he tries to hide his smile, embarrassed that I saw, even for a second, how much he wanted to join the game.
One year ago today: We Give it Life
Two years ago today: Morning - Five (Do You See What I See?)
Three years ago today: What They Really Think

Monday, October 10, 2016

Faith of Fall

New York really puts on her finest when she dresses up for fall: her bluest sky, her brightest sun, her faintest moon rising pale and mysterious in the daylight over the East River. I walked through Manhattan on the way to treatment, reveling in the glorious day, a cool breeze idly frisking the fallen leaves already beginning to fill the streets.

When I finally come to First Avenue, I turn the corner to find a little bread-colored church illuminated into holiness in a shaft of light like the very smile of heaven come to bless a small corner of the world, where even the golden cross perched on top beams in the beneficent glow.

I quickly lift my phone, snap a shot, and text it to Katie with the caption, "What a lovely day!"


The day's soaking gloom and wet, heavy clouds retreat as a cold, autumn wind rushes in and sweeps the sky clean. Low, golden sun burns through the remnants of the storm at the horizon to our backs, bathing the buildings and street ahead in a honeyed light.

Katie, riding in the passenger seat of the van I'm driving home from the flea market where we sat in freezing twilight for the past eight hours, flips the visor down and squints out through the glare of the dirty windshield at the now luminous flow of traffic before announcing, "I didn't even bring my sunglasses."

"Why would you have?" I reply without looking over.
One year ago today: In Peace Park, Hiroshima
Two years ago today: Morning - Four (Noseblind)
Three years ago today: In Spite of Myself

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Vision Problems

I'm almost sure that I'm seeing a very large bird of some sort, a hawk, maybe, or an eagle, half turned away from me, sitting on the gate post in front of the brownstone, but for some reason none of the other people on the street with me today seem to care, or even notice that it's there. But when I get closer, I'm disappointed to find that it's nothing more than a knitted cap hanging there, angled in such a way as to suggest a bird.

This used to happen all the time as a kid: I would wake up in the early morning in my childhood bedroom, and from my bed I would see something on my dresser, a box I couldn't remember leaving there, and I would get all excited, thinking it was a present for me, maybe left overnight by mom and dad, just because they loved me and wanted to make me happy.

Inevitably, though, it would turn out to be something ordinary, say a familiar book or toy, distorted by shadows and bad lighting into something I couldn't recognize, and I would be terribly disappointed, but even that wouldn't keep me from being excited the next time it happened.

One year ago today: History
Two years ago today: Morning - Three (Contrasts)
Three years ago today: Sponsored by Nobody
Six years ago today: 10-8-10 a few words on the meta-narrative

Saturday, October 8, 2016

City of Sound

Third night in a row coming home late from radiation, but no matter how late I get in, the moon seems further to the left, to the east, from where it rose, as if it's still early.

I flip through song after song on my phone: country, noise, electronic, punk, but they all sound drearily familiar. I know within the first few moments what the song sounds like, what it's about, and I'm tired of it.

I take out my headphones, bringing back the traffic, the wind, the footsteps around me, my own breathing, like the lights in a theater being brought up.
One year ago today: Smile
Two years ago today: Morning - Two (Listen)
Three years ago today: Simplification

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Stuff that Really Happened, Probably

The two pretty ordinary looking fellows - t-shirts, standard issue side parts, cargo shorts, soft, chubby dad-bods - are discussing the intricacies of bar fights with the very good-looking dread with the high cheekbones and the stylish clothes, and I can't figure out how they're connected until I see the ComicCon passes all three wear around their necks.

"And then the bartender tries to jump over the bar, and he falls on his back, so I climb up on the barstool, and I was wearing my Mastadons, right? and I kick the guy in the chest," dread says.

"Wow," says the shorter of the dad-bods, impressed, "what bar was that at?"

"You know," says dread, "the one down by the, you know, the East River."

One year ago today: The Familiars of the Gods
Two years ago today: Morning - One (Psalm 34:8)
Three years ago today: A Glimpse of Darkness

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


The skin on my leg where it's being irradiated has finally started to blister and redden, as they said it would; the machine whines like an enormous mosquito and my leg shivers lightly, like a horse trying to shake the biters from his hide.

When it's done, Dee Dee comes in and turns on the light and, after a little bit of chit-chat about her long day, apologizes for complaining.

"Yeah, I'm kinda grumpy too," I admit.

She doesn't believe me, but I tell her, "Well, when I'm carrying around a bucket of shit, I feel like it's my job not to splash on anybody."
One year ago today: Directions
Two years ago today: A Possibly Plagiarized Dimensional Theory of Literature
Six years ago today: 10-5-10 Many Changes Make for Renewal

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


After our meeting is over, my boss and I end up discussing books we're reading, and she confesses that she reads what she calls "junk food" books, because she doesn't want to be made to feel bad the way that modern literature often tends to do.

"If I were to write a book, I would want it to be the kind where you were sad, or scared, but where you ultimately felt glad to be alive at the end," I say, and I am surprised at myself for saying something so honest at work.

"I would buy that book," she says sincerely.

"But, now to go add charts to the presentation," I say, waving the corrected printouts over my head as I'm leaving her office.
One year ago today: Bodhisattva Vow
Two years ago today: Self-Esteem
Three years ago today: Good Job!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Heavy Feels

The music playing in my headphpones stutters and swoons through me, stirring my heart, and I find myself walking the Brooklyn sidewalks toward home in distraction, wondering how I might make words carry the weight I feel.

I'm still a bit distracted when I arrive home to find Katie hard at work, and though she smiles gamely and tries to be cheerful, she's clearly not feeling well.

I go in for the hug, but she shies away, saying, "Wait, don't touch me. I'm kinda going through some stuff right now."
One year ago today: Better Without God
Three years ago today: Rock Star

Sunday, October 2, 2016

All In How You Carry Yourself

"I like your style," I say when I catch her eye. She's been admiring Katie's butterfly sculptures, and she's clearly a bit of a butterfly, herself: red satin (or is it silk?) turban, black satin pajamas revealing a substantial amount of cleavage decorated with gold chains, covered all over by a modest red-trimmed black robe embroidered with flowers and vines and birds.

"Well, I like what you do, too," she says in an Australian accent, smiling over Katie's work.

After she's passed on through the market, a neighboring vendor steals up to us and asks, "Was she somebody famous?"
One year ago today: Speak Low
Two years ago today: The Evening Commute - Four (Fractured Ambient)
Three years ago today: Invisible Subways


The woman at the self-checkout at the grocery store fills up one plastic bag with her avocados and eggs and cans of pink salmon, and then takes the bag and sets it on the floor.

There's a scale under the bags that makes sure that we're not robbing the store blind, and it objects strenuously to the woman's removal of the bag, but she doesn't even notice, nor, when she does notice, does she know why the machine is objecting.

She keeps scanning stuff, which makes the machine squawk a short, garbled, digital curse each time she does, but she doesn't even notice until finally the machine announces, in a delightfully cheerful voice, that she should "Put the scanned items back on the scanner scale."

I make eye contact with the self-checkout monitor who's watching the whole transaction with appropriate boredom, and I shrug, a gesture she considers before giving an elaborate shrug/eyeroll and then going over to the woman who is staring at her self-checkout machine in baffled defeat.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Question

"What's your name?" the guy sitting next to me waiting to go get radiation says, and since we're both in hospital gowns, a certain amount of familiarity is to be expected.

We exchange pleasantries: the weather, how long we've been waiting to go in, how they're kind of slow today, and then there's a lull.

"I kinda feel like we're meeting in prison or something. Like, 'What are you in for?' or something," I say.

One year ago today (one of my favorites): Our New Friend
Two years ago today: The Evening Commute - Two (Disappearer)
Three years ago today: True Story