Thursday, August 31, 2017


The guy next to us has been pretty obviously listening to our conversation for a while, but I've managed to ignore him until my friend Rick finally just turns and gives him a look.

Okay, I think, turning to our interloper with my biggest, warmest smile, let's see what's going on.

"Hi, I'm Scott," I say.

"I'm um, I'm Philip," he says, surprised.
One year ago: Lovely Old Things
Two years ago: Assertiveness Training
Three years ago: They Were Here First
Four years ago: Midnight Walk Home



I put in my earplugs to drown out the TV while Katie watches the Late Show. The screen is blank, and I'm thinking about the conversation with Katie's dad over dinner, a conversation about politics, and voting your interests, and cynicism.

Katie reaches over, gives me a look, and then very deliberately types "poop," which, out of respect for verisimilitude, I have left.
One year ago: No Hurry
Two years ago: What Year Is It?
Three years ago: The Usual Epiphany

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


"Come on, man!" Katie says as I peer into the broiler at the shepherd's pie I've made. "You have to leave it in there for longer."

"I worry about it burning, though," I say, shutting the broiler door and we settle on the kitchen floor in front of the oven, and Katie pulls out her phone.

"Siri, set a timer for three minutes," she says.
One year ago: Sold Her Out
Two years ago: Neither, But It's Sweet of You to Think So
Three years ago: Travel Imprinting

Monday, August 28, 2017

Consider the Weeds

The doge noses through the miniature forest of tall, red plants that have sprung up this summer in the small bays of dirt for the trees interrupting the sidewalk along 7th Avenue. Thick red stalks extend four, five feet high, covered in greenish-red leaves and topped with deep crimson conical flowers heavy with pale pollen and swaying in the breeze.

"Oh, those are weeds," one woman says confidentially to the other as they pass us. "Only weeds thrive like that in New York City."
One year ago: Common Sense
Two years ago: I Have a Tell
Three years ago: My Invisible Days
Four years ago: Friendly

People Pay Attention

I step up to the cashier at the little convenience store with the only ripe avocado in North America, an onion, and hamburger buns.

"Oooooh," she says, looking over my items. "Buying something other than hardboiled eggs?"

Sure, this is my usual purchase at this place, as I buy them for breakfast on my way to work, but I'm so flummoxed that someone would recognize me and notice my habits that for a moment I'm at a loss for words, while Katie laughs at my astonished expression, saying, "She's sure got you pegged!"
Two years ago: No Big Deal
Three years ago: Less Weird Than It Sounds
Four years ago: Innumeracy

Saturday, August 26, 2017


The doge sniffs the foot of the woman who's stopped to look at her, showing surprising and uncharacteristic interest in another mammal besides the cat or Katie and me.

"She must smell my cats," the woman says, which gets me started talking about how old the dog is, how blind she is, how she still chases the cat, her dizziness, and how her climbing upstairs after the walk will be the most exercise she gets all day.

Later, relating the story to Katie, I tell her, "I think people expect me to be the typical New Yorker and not engage, but I'm always like this," I widen my eyes like I'm really paying attention.

"I wonder if it freaks them out," I add thoughtfully.
One year ago: Superpowers
Three years ago: Deja Vu Times Two
Four years ago: Are You Sure?

Help Anyways

"Since I'm looking at stuff all over your phone, I should introduce myself," Katie says to the older gentleman who interrupted our conversation to ask for help sending a text message.

After the introductions, she starts walking him through how to send it as an email, since it's way too long to send as a text. She explains it step by step, how to attach pictures, how to copy the text, hands him back the phone, and then, while he's asking follow up questions, pulls out her own phone, opens the "Notes" app, and thumbs in a message she shows to me under the table.

"He's got emails from Breitbart and Fox News Updates on his phone!" it reads.
One year ago: Radiation Vibe
Two years ago: Slingshot
Three years ago: Beggars of Park Slope
Four years ago: Eleanor Rigby Talks to Machines

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Key Food Thunderdome

I slip into line for the self-checkout at the grocery store behind the single woman waiting there. Another woman comes up on my left, fine, good, but then yet another woman, this one pushing a baby carriage with the exhausted obliviousness of the tired, working mother, comes up on my right and stands there, staring at her phone.

As the woman in front of me goes to the next open machine, I can feel my chest tightening at the thought of the conflict to come: the maneuvering, the faux polite attempts to ascertain who got there first, the passive-aggressive "After you," "No, after YOU"s.

A machine opens up and I dart over to it and begin hurriedly scanning my food as a guy walks up to the about-to-unfold melee and says, "So, uh, which one of you is the back of the line?"
One year ago: The Nightmare of Eternal Return
Two years ago: That's What I Meant
Three years ago: New Carpet Meta
Four years ago: That First Simile Seems a Little Strong to Me, Too, But I Just Sorta Went With It

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

That's Probably Enough To Start With

"Okay so if I die and turn into a ghost, I'll try to contact you," I tell my roommate John.

"By knocking things over?"

"No, do you know morse code?"

"I know SOS," he says, knocking it out on the wall.
One year ago: Still Friends
Two years ago: Unexpected
Three years ago: Relearning Object Permanence
Four years ago: The Cycle of Anger

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Television Friends

Katie comes home exhausted from work well after seven in the evening and makes a beeline for the bed where she lies down with a tired smile.

"You did such a good job," she says to me when I describe all the tasks I did around the house for the home business, putting together shelves and writing emails, but clearly she's the one putting in the hard work.

"I understand why you leave the TV on while you're working," I say, crawling onto the bed next to her. "Watching 'Parks and Rec' it's like having your best friends around for entertainment."
One year ago: Good to See You Again
Two year ago: Impatience
Four years ago: Or Were They Dropped ON PURPOSE?

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Difference Between Us

I awaken from dreams of a flood, where Katie and were swept away in a raging torrent, only to find ourselves, after a few misadventures, floating gently down a stream on a perfect sunny afternoon, and climbing out onto the banks somewhere in Queens.

(This is pretty normal for my dreams, and probably says something about my basically optimistic nature: a disaster turns into something fairly benign, and everything ends up for the best.)

I open my eyes next to Katie, who's already beginning to stir, and tell her everything I remember about my dream, since she was in it.

"Were there eels?" she asks sleepily.
One year ago: Eating Feelings
Two years ago: And Not Fictional
Three years ago: The Way "Cranky" Works
Four years ago: The Fabric of Our Lives

The Naked Eye

For no reason other than laziness, I've been wearing my glasses all day today.

I carry the dog downstairs and hook up her collar and, just for a moment, take off my glasses.

The streetlights, the stoplights, the still-lit signs above the sleeping shops and cafes, the lights of the passing cars, all blossom into diffuse jewels of myopia.

Even though I can't see the details. the world still seems closer, more present, more real, than when I go back behind the wall of my glasses, back to the world of the visible.
One year ago: The One-Year-Old's Birthday Party
Two years ago: How You Treat the People Who Serve You
Three years ago: Like Usual
Four years ago: I Swear They're Following Me

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Crime Scene

They show up like brown, cubist versions of the chalk outline on the sidewalk, a spot where a person fell to earth. It's daytime, so no one's sleeping on them, but they're becoming more ubiquitous in our neighborhood - boxes flattened out and lined up, maybe a blanket balled up at one end for a pillow, always fast food containers.

The dog walks up to one to sniff them, but she won't step directly on them, even when I tug gently on her leash. It's like she knows that something happened here, and she's loathe to disturb the scene.
One year ago: Subjective
Two years ago: The Problem of Education
Three years ago: Existential
Four years ago: Further Encounters with the "Showtime!" Kids

Friday, August 18, 2017

I Tried

"Is the delivery guy still here?" Katie says, invoice in hand, worried look on her face. "I don't have everything."

I run down stairs and around the corner to where he's parked, but I can only catch a glimpse of his tail lights at the corner a block away, so I keep running, hoping to catch up.

By the time I get there, though, he's long gone, and as I walk the long block back home through the thick, wet air, a giant butterfly flaps slowly across my path, up into the trees, and out of sight.
One year ago: Dad Humor
Two years ago: Penmanship
Three years ago: 4 People/4 Seasons
Four years ago: Marriage is a Balancing Act

Active Seniors

My dad's face comes up on the screen, sweaty and pink, a brick wall behind him. "Hey there, son!" he says heartily.

"Why do I always catch you out doing something when I call?" I say, laughing.

"I'm playing pickleball!" he says happily, holding up a black-gloved hand. 
One year ago: Theophobia
Two years ago: Gaming
Three years ago: Vanity

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Be Nicer

We're trying to find a place to put the papers that Katie is taking into work with her tomorrow so she doesn't forget them, because mornings are hard.

"Yeah, you get all worked up, running around....," I say, to which I receive a raised eyebrow.

"Be nice," she says.

"I'm not being mean," I say, "I'm describing."
One year ago: Distracted
Two years ago: THAT Kind of Marriage
Three years ago: sketch 8/16

Because We Ate Them

"Think we can split the bottle of sake?" I ask Katie, who shrugs and nods. "We'll get the sake, and one order of avocado buns," I tell the waitress.

A few minutes later comes the small bottle of cloudy, slightly sweet nigori sake, along with two pillowy buns hugging avocado slices drizzled in a thick teriyaki sauce and covered in sweet Japanese mayo, and we raise our glasses with our usual toast ("To the popular vote") and dig in.

A few minutes later, a different waitress comes up and apologetically informs us that, unfortunately they are entirely out of avocado buns this evening, even as I'm raising the remaining half of one to my mouth.
One year ago: Overenthusiastic
Two years ago: They're Too Short
Three years ago: Quiet Kids
Four years ago: Houseguests

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Streets Aren't Safe

I'm standing on 7th Avenue, leaning on a construction awning, waiting for the post office to open. Some people have joined me, forming an orderly queue, like we do in NYC.

A squirrel runs up, stares me right in the face, and stands on his hind legs, like he's squaring up, and in my shock, I step back quickly, which seems to scare him enough that he runs off.

"Thought he was gonna mug me," I say to the guy laughing behind me.
One year ago: Misery Aficionado
Three years ago: Hoo Boy
Four years ago: God Lives in the Desert, So the Rest of Us Can Live Here
Nine years ago: For those still paying attention

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Times, A'Changin'

"Whoa," I say quietly to Katie as we hit the corner by the grocery store. "check out the refugee from The MC5."

"I don't know what that means," Katie says, but there he is standing on the corner, talking on his cell, but otherwise straight out of the 1960's: bell-bottomed pants and Cuban heels, slim suit jacket with no shirt, a red, white, and blue cravat, and some of the biggest hair I've ever seen on a white man in the flesh.

He goes into the grocery store, too, but we quickly lose sight of him in the aisles, until I see him leaving, still chatting on his phone, with a case of LaCroix sparkling water under his arm.

When I mention this to Katie, specifically his choice in cans of overpriced, flavored bubbly water, she says, "Of course he did."
One year ago: You Just Don't Understand!
Two years ago: I'm a Liar
Four years ago: Sometimes You Gotta Eat Crow First

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Violence In Our Hearts

This part of Williamsburg, as it shades into Greenpoint, reminds me of the seedier parts of Tucson I used to frequent - single-story cinder block garages and warehouses covered in graffiti, weeds cracking the sidewalks, cyclone fences standing watch over empty, overgrown lots where wild green things eke out a meager existence in the space between stones. An overcast sky paints the whole scene a yellowish gray, while hundreds of miles away, white supremacists beat on their shields and throw Nazi salutes to the cameras like desperate divas throwing kisses to horrified paparazzi.

"I think there's a piece of me," I say to my friend as we stroll back to his workspace after lunch, "that is just fascinated by the violence, that glories in it."

"I mean, what you're talking about," he replies, as we walk slower and slower, "is really the human condition, right?"
One year ago: Getting Better
Two years ago: A Brief Discourse On Style
Three years ago: Sic Semper Bullies
Four years ago: Brain Fart

Friday, August 11, 2017

We Wondered How They Stayed Open

"At lunchtime, they come eat here from the school," our server at the Mexican restaurant says.

"What year are these kids?" asks Katie.

"Fourth, fifth graders, and they just come in here and order food, but they're very well behaved."

"Man, I thought they were barely domesticated at that age," I say, shaking my head.
One year ago: Fine Distinctions
Three years ago: Dead Food
Four years ago: Naptime!

Growing Boys Need Their Rest

His mom wakes up the little boy sitting next to me before she gets off the train, holding his chin in one hand as she instructs him. "Your brother's right there," she says, pointing a few seats down to where another child, only barely older than this one, sits, "and you need to hold his hand on the way home, okay?"

He nods drowsy assent, she kisses him and gets off the train, and almost immediately he falls back asleep, if possible even more deeply than before. His face squishes against my shoulder, shoving his glasses askew, and he begins to snore delicately, but he looks so exhausted that I just let him sleep.
One year ago: Missionary Man
Two years ago: You Should Be More Specific
Three years ago: The Kids Are Alright (With Adult Supervision)
Four years ago: Done, Too Late

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Almost For Me

The beer aisle at my local supermarket is perfect for someone as susceptible to advertising as me - bright colors, intricately designed labels, suggestive names like "Nooner" or "Golden Monkey" or "Delrium Tremens."

(Note for my non-New Yorker readers: beer in New York City is sold in grocery stores, but wine and liquor are sold in separate stores - local laws and customs may apply.)

The prices are right, too, for all of these interesting styles of drink in vast array, with nuanced differences between each (porter, lager, IPA, saison, Belgian, witte, barleywine, etc. etc., etc.), promising a lifetime of classifying and learning about regions and brewing minutiae. 

Unfortunately, I don't really care for beer all that much. 
One year ago: Bigger Problems
Three years ago: Child Abuse

Speak Kindly

"What I need you to do," says the voice drifting up through the window from the street, "is shut the fuck up."

"Oh no!" says Katie.

But she didn't hear the voice, and was upset because she'd forgotten to put the packing slip in the box she's sending out tomorrow.

"I think he's talking to his girlfriend, though," I say sadly, leaning out the window and peering down the street.
One year ago: Ask First
Two years ago: Morning Snapshots
Three years ago: Made You Look
Four years ago: It Wasn't Even 10 AM

Monday, August 7, 2017

Two Guys

"A little help
Helps A LOT" reads the sign. He's sitting in a dirty t-shirt and muddy jeans, slumped at the bottom of the staircase on a stolen milk crate, face shrouded under lank, humid black curls, eyes at half-mast and despairing.

Down on the platform, by the downtown train, his doppelgänger, to the point where I have to do a double take, but this time everything went right: Adidas sneakers; deep red, clean pants with a fashionable taper, tastefully cuffed to reveal bare ankles; crisp button down shirt. The same curls, the same face beneath them, but everything softer, cleaner, brighter, his entire life a place of safety and rest, and he likely doesn't even know it as he steps on the train that whisks him even further away from the life he might have lived.
One year ago: A Reminder
Two years ago: About Time
Three years ago: Office Party
Four years ago: Which is Why I Moved Away From Tucson

Grapefruit Juice

Sometimes it's just whatever I remember best: standing in front of the patrician gray stone church on the corner, both of us burdened with bags full of groceries for dinner.

Katie is trying to be patient with me, so she asks, "Well, do you want grapefruit juice for drinks tonight?"

I'm starting to get hungry, so I don't really know, and I say so.

"Babysit these bags, okay?" she says, handing them to me, grabbing my card, and striding back to the store for the one thing we forgot.
One year ago: An Olympic Household
Two years ago: Sawbones Saves the Day
Three years ago: Mind=Blown (Star Wars Edition)
Four years ago: I'm Only Kinda Lazy

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I Should Just Be Glad I've Got Hair

The woman at the salon washing my hair thinks she's giving me the spa treatment. She's working the sides, scrubbing behind the ears, doing this one little technique where she starts at the hairline and works all the way back to my neck with a sort of squishing motion. 

But the fact is she does it too hard, and she's not mindful enough of the water, so now I've got water in my ears, but I do sort of like being touched, in general, so I give her a pass.

A client walks up to the hair-washer while she's drying my hair and hands her a five-spot, and I wonder if I'm just too picky to really enjoy things properly.
One year ago: Afterparty
Two years ago: How You Get Paid
Three years ago: After the Gold Flush

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dogs Deserve It More

Ziggy the Labradoodle is on a leash, as they just rescued him pretty recently, and he nuzzles his big ol' russet head right up into everybody's crotches with the self-assurance of an animal that knows its love will be absolutely returned, while Baxter (also a Labradoodle) is more independent, and he's chosen to use his off-leash time to bury his enormous black head in the florist's marigolds.

"So you rescued a senior dog?" Ziggy and Baxter's owner says happily, gesturing to us. "You see, there are good people in the world," he tells his teenage daughter, who's sitting on the sidewalk with her arms around Ziggy.

"I love these dogs more that anybody in the whole world," she explains.
One year ago: Weaponized Doge
Two years ago: Pure Bred Jerk
Three years ago: Kickass Dreams in a Restless Night
Four years ago: A Lovely Day (Even for Teddy Bears)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Keep Calm

The walk to the post office in the hot, sticky afternoon sun is not doing wonders for my calm. Also, I haven't showered yet, so I'm a little self-conscious, like, is it possible that I am the source of that funk that I keep catching a whiff of?

So when the woman at the other window sends me back into line yet again, I engage in some positive self-talk: I am here to be kind, to make this world better, and these people are just doing their jobs, however poorly, and I am going to be fucking pleasant, dammit.

So I smile at (quick glance to the name tag) Kim while she finishes filling out a form, and when she finally acknowledges my presence, I walk up to her window, slide the delivery tag she asked me to print out under the three inches of bulletproof glass, and, still smiling, say, "Hey, thanks for your help with all this."
One year ago: Washed Clean
Two years ago: She Reminded Me of Her Name Soon After
Three years ago: Blast From the Past
Four years ago: My Problems With Authority Stem From My Problems With Stupidity

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Crisis Averted

I've done self-checkout before, I know what's up.

But after quickly scanning all my items and placing them in the bagging area to await transfer into my eco-friendly bag, I snap my card into the reader, pop the correct buttons for "debit," and punch in my PIN... and accidentally hit "cancel."

Which shuts the whole thing down, and now here comes the woman who monitors the self-checkout machines to help the idiots who have trouble figuring out things like scanners and card readers, coming over to me like I'm some kind of help-needing moron.

I curse quietly and get the card back into the reader before she gets to me, and, seeing that I've got the situation under control, she goes back to her bored post, staring off into space at the foot of the aisle.
One year ago: How to Have a Bad Night
Two years ago: Consider the Trees
Three years ago: And So On
Four years ago: See You Around. Or Not. Probably Not.

Save The Comics

The woman in the front of the house at the comedy show, the one drinking High Life who talks back to all the comics, is trying to get my attention. I resolutely keep my eye on the stage though, until finally she stands up in the middle of this guy's set ("And what about airline food - you hate it right?") and gets right in my line of sight.

"Can you watch my bag?" she says, slurring her words. I give her the silent thumbs up and pretend like I'm not associated with her as she staggers off to the restroom while the guy on stage tries to carry on like nothing's happening.
One year ago: Root and Bone
Two years ago: Night Blind