Monday, July 31, 2017

(Silly) Signs and Portents

I walk to the park as an exercise in observation, a la William Burroughs: I'm to look for signs, portents, synchronicities, the ways the world is attempting to communicate with me all the time that I never notice.

Alas, despite a beautiful day, and a lovely blue sky, the world remains stubbornly mute, with at most a helicopter going over the neighborhood on the way to the park and then, maybe, the same helicopter a few minutes later going the opposite direction over the park while I sit beneath a tree and watch the clouds.

Resigned to my decidedly non-portentous life, I pull out my notebook and write a lightly poetic meditation on directions and looking for meaning in the world, afterwards relaxing in the shade and eavesdropping on nearby conversations until I push to my feet to amble through the sunshine out of the park.

On a trail out of the park, I see, coming into the park, a guy dressed in the exact same outfit I'm wearing (a blue t-shirt with little white palm trees on it, and olive green shorts), and he looks at me, looking at him, smiles hugely and says, "Strange, isn't it?"
One year ago: Phrasing
Two years ago: Flatbush Creek
Three years ago: It Works if You Work It
Four years ago: Brooklyn Midsummer
Eight years ago: too hot, too humid, too crowded

Avoidance Brownies

Our friends with kids go hard, but like, before 9:00 AM, so we get back from breakfast hanging out with them before noon. The streets of Park Slope are still empty, the sun is shining, a warm breeze gently wafts through the window, and an entire day stretches out before us.

Katie has already settled in to work on her business, and I know that I have writing to do - there's a story I could be working on, or at least a journal entry, and there's plenty of blog posts, and the novel still lingers like a stink in the air.

I stand in the kitchen for a minute, contemplating, and then pull out cocoa, flour, sugar, butter, and a mixing bowl, and start a batch of brownies.
Two years ago: Debaser
Three years ago: A Face for Radio
Four years ago: It's Peach Season

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cat Porn

I peek my head back in the bathroom as Katie is finishing up her shower. "When I came back in the room, the cat was sitting up in front of my open laptop, looking very guilty," I say.

"Like she downloaded porn and gave us a virus," Katie replies. "Cat porn, by the way, is just food and people falling down elevator shafts."
Two years ago: There's a Story, There
Three years ago: More Jeff Gillooly'd
Four years ago: Instead of Sports


I'm sitting in a thin hospital gown, Katie in the chair next to me, getting ready to leave the hospital after surgery.

As the nurse prepares to take the IV out of my hand, Katie looks over. "Yeah, I talked to the doctor, and you're not supposed to do any headstands or pushups while you recover."

"When you asked earlier, she thought you meant, could you do yoga that normal people do," she adds.
One year ago: Meditation
Four years ago: Too Late Now

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hare, Tortoise

The second time up the hill is killing me, but damn if I'm not going to pass as many people as possible on my way up. The competitive part of my psyche, the one that I hardly ever indulge in public, cackles with delight (internally) with each person that I pass, glorying in the little frisson of conquest, hoping that each person feels that slight disheartening sensation of defeat as I beat them to the top.

Now, at the top of the hill, my lungs are fire, and my legs molten jelly, but I suck wind with satisfaction as I coast into the downward side.

And here, on my left, comes one of the people I passed on my way up, trucking past me, leaving me in the dust without seeming to even break a sweat.
One year ago: Behind the Sky
Two years ago: She's Right
Three years ago: A Future in Sales
Eight years ago: at best

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It Was Delicious

Normally, I don't mess around with caffeine, as it tends to interfere with the calm demeanor I've cultivated over the years, but the prospect of "Russian Evening Tea" at the famed Russian Tea Room is too good to pass up ("Low in caffeine, this tea is ideal for enjoying in the evening or late afternoon").

It comes to the table with a tray containing a small bowl of sugar cubes, some packets of artificial sweetener, a small pot of cherry jam, and, on the side, a small plate of cookies.

When I suggest that the jam might be used for sweetening the tea, Katie looks at me aghast, saying, "You better use that on your cookies."

"I think I'll ask someone," I say, looking around for our server.
One year ago: And My Bald Head
Two years ago: Like Father, Like Son
Three years ago: Thanks
Eight years ago: Weird Ways We're Connected

On Brand

The strangers in our house sent the doge into seemingly endless paroxysms of barking, so we've decided that the best way to calm her down is ice cream.

Since we want ice cream too, this works out pretty well.

But when we bring her out her tiny little cup of vanilla ice cream, she's too wound up to even get into it properly, and after a couple distracted licks, she goes back to panting and looking worriedly over her shoulder, on the lookout for whatever doom she seems to believe is on its way to catch her unawares.

Katie sits on the sidewalk and tries to tempt the dizzy doge with a spoonful of creamy white goodness, but the dog can't even focus, and as I watch my wife try to feed our shiba-inu Haagen-Dazs, I think, "This might be one of the most Park Slope things I've ever seen."
One year ago: Weather or Not
Two years ago: Coming Home
Three years ago: Real/Phony

Monday, July 24, 2017

Perfect Rain

Katie stands over me looking out the window as I lay on my yoga mat. Outside, the trees whip back and forth in the wind, and rain falls thick and heavy.

"The rain is perfect," she says, opening the window, and the noise of the rain increases, while a cool breeze flows through the room, sweet with the smell of green and wet asphalt and sidewalks.

"I feel like we've had this conversation before," I reply, and I wiggle my toes happily.
One year ago: In the Cave
Two years ago: In Bruges
Three years ago: Learning to Live
Four years ago: My People Are From Southern Illinois, But Good Point

Drunk Girls

A light rain falls on a street empty except for her, her friends who have moved a ways down the block, and, across the street, watching the whole drama play out, the doge and me.

She slams her hand against the window of the cafe that left the bench out for her, and the boom of it reverberates up and down the street. "Where my Four-Loko, hoes?" she yells at her friends, and they just laugh.

But when the guy walking around the corner sees her lolling across the bench and asks her if she's okay, her friends descend en masse: "She fine, don't worry about it, mind your business, okay?"
One year ago: Love and Light
Two years ago: Reminiscing

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Force of Habit

The guy hiding under the awning of the bagel shop next door is the only person I can see for blocks, since the pouring rain has chased everyone else inside. I give him a nod as I put the dog down and hook the leash on her collar, but he doesn't respond.

The dog takes off at her lopsided run, and even though there are perfectly good trees within ten feet, fifteen feet, even twenty-five feet of the building, she still has to go to her one tree, the one she likes to pee beneath.

"Couldn't change your plans just this once," I say, as the rain soaks the streets, the ground, her fur, my skin, and she squats in the exact same spot she's always done with a look of determination on her doggy face.
One year ago: The Lives of Our Younger Mothers
Two years ago: Not Playing
Four years ago: Kachori from Baluchis

Saturday, July 22, 2017


"There's this quote from Einstein, I think it's Einstein, that says, 'The most fundamental question is, is the universe friendly?' And I like to think that, by being calm, and kind, and friendly, I can sort of tip the scales in a person's perceptions toward being able to answer that question 'yes.'"

"But what do you mean by 'universe,' because it's clearly not friendly," Katie says.

"Well, 'friendly' is like any other perception of value," I start, "in that it's not intrinsic to what we see, but is a reflection of our own...I'm sorry, I'm babbling, it's just I haven't had anybody to talk to all day."
One year ago: Spelling
Two years ago: Adventures in Badassery
Three years ago: Power Nut Bar

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Question of Altitude

"I have a serious question," I say, seriously, and John lean backs against the counter while Katie watches me closely with narrowed eyes.

"It's not a serious question," she says finally, shaking her head. "His nostrils flare when he thinks he's about to say something clever."

"For real, though," I say, standing up and ignoring her, "do you guys think I've gotten shorter?"
One year ago: Mom and Dad
Two years ago: Not That Nice
Three years ago: Love Anyways

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


"So I listened to more commercials than music," Katie says, coming out of the shower before bed, "and I heard a commercial for cosmetic gynecology."

"Oh, also, they do faces," she adds sardonically.

"Why?" I ask, eyes wide and innocent. "Clearly no one is looking above the waist."
One year ago: Recreational Vehicle
Two years ago: Stranger Danger
Eight years ago: C.H.U.D.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Weaponized Sound

After the Grand Guignol that was "1984," I have to stand outside for a few seconds, across the street from the theater, fighting the nausea and calming down. The psychological aspect of the show is not nearly so distressing as the sound design, which weaponizes amplification and frequency to the point that the body becomes a crucible for really, really bad vibes.

We go to a ramen place in the neighborhood to grab a bite and let the adrenaline work through our systems, only to find ourselves slurping noodles in the middle of a pitch meeting between a producer and a couple of directors whose nervousness has made them into "loud talkers."

When Katie suggests we steal their ideas and make a movie ourselves, just to spite them, I reply, loudly "I guess we could, if we could find an original idea in anything we've heard for the last twenty minutes!"
One year ago: After the Rain
Two years ago: Unasked for Massage
Three years ago: Tone Deaf
Four years ago: Go Make Babies, You Guys

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why We Write About Ourselves

Katie goes upstairs to talk to the woman helping her out with her business, and I wait downstairs with the bikes. The sun's almost gone down, and a wet breeze, still heavy with the humidity of the day, meanders down the street, barely cooling me off.

After about twenty minutes of waiting, I see a woman using a cane slowly making her way past the building, each step an exercise in patience and concentration.

I accidentally make eye contact and give her a small smile, and she smiles back, briefly, but even that little bit of frisson is enough: somebody saw me, and I saw her, and I belong here, and so does she.
One year ago: Oh, Those
Three years ago: I Have The Touch, Redux
Four years ago: Crazy From the Heat
Eight years ago: Word (actually, Excel)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weapon of Choice

"The only time I almost got mugged," my new friend says, "I was going through kind of a dark period, so I was," his voice lowers a little in embarrassment, "carrying a knife."

I lean in to listen more closely. "He came up behind me, and I just kind of pulled it out of my pocket and," he demonstrates, "sching, and he looked at the knife, and I looked at him, and he just kind of," he shakes his head, "and took off."

"Well," I say, laughing, "at least your story leaves you the dignity of having an actual weapon," thinking of my attempt to beat a mugger to death with a plastic bag full of empty Tupperware.
One year ago: Convergent Play
Two years ago: Not That Smart
Three years ago: That Old Chestnut
Four years ago: Insomnia Rhapsody

A Grudge

The three-story, stained glass globe in the middle of the Christian Science Library is pretty boss, even if the map it shows of all the countries is frozen in mid-1933. We walk around inside it on a catwalk that traverses the southern hemisphere, wondering at the distance between countries, and at how large Africa really is.

Later, perusing the exhibits, we read about the ideals of Christian Scientists, and how they believe that faith in God can pretty much cure all disease.

"Sounds nice," says Katie, "but I'm pretty sure they took Jim Henson away from us, and for that I will never forgive them."
One year ago: Using My Contusion
Two years ago: Not Feeling It
Three years ago: A Happy Home Has Many Cats
Eight years ago: Nice try, asshole

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Shipping Up To Boston

Three lanes on either side stretch out before us, free and clear, with enormous green signs proclaiming the way to Boston sailing overhead. A throng of trees crowd the verge on either side, as if we're passing through thick forest.

All of the people that crowd every available square foot of space back in New York, standing on top of each other, stacking up into the sky, all of them have been left behind, and their absence echoes in my awareness like the sound of a vast, empty room.

Then I remember the cars all around me, filled with people and music and conversation and arguments and fast food and cigarette smoke and the eternal roar of engines, the eternal roll of road beneath their wheels, and I sigh; a single bird flies overhead in a flat gray sky.
One year ago: Apocalypse Every Day
Two years ago: She Thought She Was Helping
Three years ago: Four
Four years ago: Ikea Builds Relationship
Eight years ago: Welcome To New York!

Thursday, July 13, 2017


"You were really lucky to come here," the nurse says as she finishes prepping me for my MRI. "I've seen miracles. They saved my life."

"Yeah," she says, peeling of the purple latex gloves, "I had breast cancer, and I'm ten years in remission, all because of the people here."
One year ago: Friendly Fire
Three years ago: That Might Be Why
Four years ago: Ikea Eats Relationships

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Dammit, I still haven't gotten used to the N train coming in on the same track as my Q train going home at night, so now I'm on the wrong train. 

If I get off at Atlantic Avenue-Barclays, though, I can grab the 2 to Grand Army and walk home from there.

So I settle in on the 2 train, turn up my podcast and relax into it....

And look up only to find I've passed Grand Army; I'm now somewhere in Eastern Brooklyn, and I have to change trains yet again and go back the way I came. 
One year ago: Guard Doge
Three years ago: Poseur
Four years ago: Bad Wizard
Eight years ago: on returning

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Underground Geography

I haven't been in this train station for years. There are little brass statues  - bulbous, silly little homunculi hidden everywhere, peeking out of corners and on top of pillars, like Easter eggs - and a long, wide hallway that I remember vividly from when I used to come here on the E train, back when I lived way out in Queens.

I used to rush through this station on my way to the L, heading to some rehearsal in Brooklyn maybe, or to meet a friend in Union Square, but now I linger, taking my time and really looking at the place. As we change, grow older, become more ourselves, the geography of the city changes too, morphing around us, and once familiar places become new and strange.
One year ago: Repentant Thief
Two years ago: Buffy and I Love a Good Game of Squash
Four years ago: THAT'S the Most Unbelievable Thing About the Movie to You?

Monday, July 10, 2017

An Oral History of Gentrification

Standing on the train home from work, I sway back and forth, absorbed in an oral history of the gentrification of Brooklyn I checked out of the library.

"Mommy!" pipes the little girl at the window as we emerge into the light and begin climbing the arc of the Manhattan Bridge across the East River beside dozens of cycling commuters. "Brooklyn, mommy!" she exclaims, pointing. "Look at all the bikes!"
One year ago: And Then Some
Two years ago: Conversation Starter
Three years ago: Strange Fruit
Four years ago: Pretty Sure

Sunday, July 9, 2017

He Got The Point

The kindly looking old man sitting on the bench outside the cafe motions the dog over, and to my surprise she stops, maybe just to halt her blocks-long march to the vet that I've dragged her on today.

We quickly establish that he speaks no English, and I no what-I'm-guessing-is Italian, so we resort to broad gestures and elaborate facial expressions to get our respective points across. I realize that it's actually pretty hard to communicate that your dog doesn't really like people in general.

"Tutti!" I finally seize on, spreading my arms wide to encompass the world, and then putting on a mean, growly face with my teeth bared.
One year ago: My Bad Hand
Two years ago: Safe Bet
Three years ago: Just Trying to Help
Four years ago: Invisible

Stealing Again

"I mean, I think Tarantino meant for it to be viewed as a single movie, you know?" I say to my downstairs neighbor out on the sidewalk.

"Absolutely," he replies. At that same moment a black woman walking down the street behind us suddenly begins shouting all these terrible, sexual things about herself, and the people around her.

Our conversation halts while she walks by, ranting the whole way, but when she's passed, I say, "You know, I was writing about this yesterday."
One year ago: I Asked That Same Question
Two years ago: Not Her Fault
Four years ago: Not Her Kind of Place

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Honor Among Thieves

"Nah, I think he went to school to be on they level, 'cause he tired of fucking all those women," she says loudly, and its unclear whether she's on the phone, or talking to herself, or what.

I pull out my notebook and pencil and prepare to record it all when I'm stopped by a thought: isn't it a kind of theft, this writing down the behavior of others, like I'm stealing their words and thoughts? Aren't I just a thief when I take them down, freezing them in electrons and ink, recording their faces, their mannerisms, their rages and joys?

I realize, though, that just as I see them, all of these eyes around me are seeing me, recording me, placing me in their memories and thoughts, and I resign myself to being a thief among thieves, and keep writing.
One year ago: Not the Same
Two years ago: Comfort Food
Three years ago: The New Normal
Four years ago: Different Definitions of "Fun"

Thursday, July 6, 2017

I'll Bet You Do

The composer from a show I'd been in years ago is standing on the corner with a mouthful of pizza, and he makes an awkward, muffled sound of greeting when he sees me walking by. His hands are full of the pizza, napkins, a binder of music is shoved under one arm, so instead of a handshake or a hug, I offer him an elbow to bump, which he gratefully accepts.

When he's finally swallowed, we exchange pleasantries, and I say, "Oh, I saw this show last night, and I said to Katie, 'This sounds like something Nate would have written.'"

"I wish," he says, before dashing off to rehearsal, and I resume my walk home from the train, while the breeze blows warm and soft past me to other destinations.
Two years ago: Fair Point
Three years ago: Picnic
Four years ago: Like Nobody Is Watching
Eight years ago: wedding stuff

Midnight Snack

"Egg and cheese on a roll," I order, and the guy at the slightly grungy deli on Flatbush glides into action while two girls, just off work on the late shift, sit at the counter, quietly chatting and eating what looks like gyro on rice with white sauce.

"And for the lady?" he says in his indefinable eastern European accent, but Katie can't decide, even though the guy makes the "best burgers in town," so she ends up getting nothing.

When it comes time to pay, he looks at the twenty Katie has out. "Twenty dollars," he says, deadpan, then grins mischievously. 
One year ago: No-time
Two years ago: Eating My Feelings
Three years ago: Sunset in the Slope
Eight years ago: travel day

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Another Perspective

"You got that completely wrong," Katie says after I read her a first draft of my four each day. "He was sitting on the bench playing guitar, completely chill, like, snuck-into-a-Jimmy-Buffet-concert chill, and you made the joke about the dog, and he laughed, and then he went back to being super-chill, and we said have a nice day and he was chilling and playing guitar, but as soon as his friend with the camera walked up he struck a pose."

"Oh my God, I didn't see that," I say.

"So it doesn't matter what he said," Katie finishes, turning back to her phone.
One year ago: S(pit)
Two years ago: Not Exactly Overshare
Eight years ago: gayest post yet
Nine years ago: 

The Power of Crowds

Our section has seemingly adopted Carl, to the point that, every time he is at bat, the bleachers burst into cheers and chanted spellings of his name in the humid night air: "C-A-R-L - what's that spell?" etc.

At first it has a somewhat mocking quality, inspired by a lackluster performance by the home team and a crowd of bored people looking for something to do, but from its start in a few rows down in front it grows until the whole section seems to be focusing all its energy on this one guy, on Carl, as he faces down the opposing pitcher with a sharp intensity.

Then, almost as if on cue, the very next pitch Carl smacks the ball right over the fence and out of the park, and the crowd erupts in amazed, ecstatic joy.
One year ago: Counterintuitive
Two years ago: Not Exactly Overshare
Three years ago: Patriots and Swayzes
Eight years ago: cleaning out the shed

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Theme Song From "Orange Is The New Black"

The cat, like so many of my cats before, starts yowling in the middle of the night for no readily apparent reason, only to stop just as quickly, also for no apparent reason.

"Earlier today," I tell Katie, "I was going down stairs and the dog started to bark and the cat started yowling. I come back up the stairs, like "What the fuck?", and she's just sitting by my bag all," I pantomime washing my paws nonchalantly.

"Okay, next time we leave the house, we should just turn on the gas," Katie suggests.
One year ago: Hoarders
Two years ago: Stepping In
Three years ago: Thirsty Dreams
Four years ago: All's Well That Ends
Eight years ago: Mars Attacks

Sunset After Rain

Rain pours down from thick heavy clouds over Brooklyn, turning the shared backyards of all the buildings behind ours into a dark mini-jungle - trees dripping water, vines drinking it all in, their leafy hands up in supplication. It's a fast moving storm, too, so it's only a matter of a half-hour or so before we can see the sun coming out from the clouds from our kitchen, even as the sky remains dark and foreboding over the front of the house.

We've lived here long enough to know what that means, too: rainbows, and sure enough when we run to the front windows there's one of the brightest double rainbows I've ever seen arcing over the city to the east of us.

When I come downstairs just a few minutes later to forage for our dinner, the rain has stopped and the sky has almost completely cleared; the rainbow is gone, but the whole world has been cleaned and scrubbed, leaving the edges of everything sharp and precise and filled up to the top with light that threatens to spill over on the still-wet streets.
One year ago: Burying the Lede
Two years ago: Little Help?
Three years ago: Swearing in Brazil
Four years ago: Not Even the Worst that Happened Today
Eight years ago: Caitlin Rose Visits the Zoo
Nine years ago:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Two Types

He sweeps in from the next subway car, between cars like you're not supposed to, trailing a pungent smell of weed, while we studiously ignore him. 

He sits directly opposite us, the piney, skunky fug of marijuana curdling around him, an angry look in his eye, when a plastic disposable clatters from his hands to the floor; we ignore that too.

When he gets off the train an older woman, who's also been sitting across the aisle from us, notices us reading the program for "The Play That Goes Wrong," 

She follows Reeky Weed out of the train, but not before pausing to comment to us about the play, saying, "It was so funny though, wasn't it?"
One year ago: The Face
Two years ago: Sick Puppy
Three years ago: In My Prime
Four years ago: Birthdon't