Saturday, September 30, 2017

Four Buildings

1. The peak of the roof, a false fourth floor on an otherwise unremarkable red brick building, festooned with what looks like flowered terracotta tiles, reads "1886", which I can only assume is the year of construction, but the the thing looks so humble, ordinary, nondescript, that I can't believe it dates from before Brooklyn was even a part of New York City.

2. Yellow breeze block, industrial squat and businesslike, but framed above in blue sky and scudding clouds, with a sluggish green river below, all viewed through a lattice of scaffold.

3. Swimming with hard-hatted workers, swathed in funereal gray netting, like mirrors shrouded for a shiva house mourning the death of the old West Side.

4. There's a crack that runs from the street, through the sidewalk, and up the front of my building, and at least once a year I think about what it will be like when the earth opens up and swallows my home.
One year ago: The Question
Two years ago: Our New Friend
Four years ago: True Story

Friday, September 29, 2017

Leather Shoes

When I describe the butterfly sculptures Katie makes, there's always one person who takes the side of the bugs, and today, it's this lady.

"But isn't it sad that the butterflies died?" she says, her face twisting up in a show of pity.

"It's funny, isn't it," I say, as if I'm musing about something altogether unrelated to her question, "that the people who say that are often wearing leather belts, or shoes, or carrying around leather bags."

"That's true," she says, nodding in agreement, and I get to watch with great satisfaction the realization slowly dawn across her face as she figures out to whom I'm referring.
One year ago: Speaking Too Soon
Two years ago: I Feel The Jerk
Three years ago: The Evening Commute - One

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Four Subways

1. The doors shut with him on the wrong side, and he smiles a forced grin, teeth bared, as if he'd like to bite something.

2. Pressed up against the door, peering deep into her phone, long straight hair shrouding her bored expression.

3. If the C comes then I'll take that to Hoyt and transfer to the G to 7th Avenue and walk down to the donut shop but then the A comes and so it's that to West 4th to transfer to the F to 7th Avenue and I still get donuts.

4. The descent from the highest train station in New York City (in the world!) sends us soaring over apartment buildings and shops below, and for just a second, we're above it all, but the woman sitting next to me grooves to the music in her headphones, oblivious to the gorgeous view, happy anyway.
One year ago: Work It Out
Three years ago: Dolly Zoom
Four years ago: Cat People vs. Dog People

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Stress Shed

The dog, demented old thing that she is, stands at the door and barks at the nothing with hysterical ferocity.

Our admonitions and attempts to reassure her help not at all, so finally I just scoop her up and start carrying her around with me (her thick floofy weight against my chest, her tongue lolling out of her crooked head), which seems to calm her some until we finally settle on the couch to watch TV.

She's alright for a while, still keeping a watchful eye on the door for whatever her calcifying brain thinks is coming, but eventually her vigilance turns to agitation, and she's squirming on my lap, twisting and whining.

When I finally let her down I am covered in a thin scum of gray fur, and she staggers back to the door to confront her incorporeal pursuer again.
One year ago: I'm An Object Lesson
Two years ago: Final Push
Three years ago:"We Haven't Had That Spirit Here Since 1969"
Four years ago: That's Not What I Asked

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Four Men

1. Bald on top, a ring of bushy hair over the ears and wrapping around the back of the head, heavy set in an ill-fitting gray suit with red sports backpack, hunched over, asleep like a child sleeps, unselfconscious and innocent.

2. Coughing, but in Russian.

3. Suspicious, as if I might be eyeing the woman he so clearly believes he possesses.

4. Black doo rag and a thick frayed nylon belt the same shade, itching a pencil-thin mustache with his index finger wrapped in a bandage tinted pink with what might be blood.
One year ago: Perfectly Decent
Two years ago: Performance Anxiety
Four years ago: What's Her Story

Monday, September 25, 2017

Four Women

1. With an expression that confronts everything she sees as a mildly unpleasant surprise.

2. Working out her own grimoire in tattoos on bruised skin.

3. Can't operate the camera on her iPhone.

4. The metallic screech of the subway on the walls of the tunnel makes her cover her eyes with weary hands.
One year ago: His Life Matters
Two years ago: Holey Soles
Three years ago: So Close, Yet So Far
Four years ago: All Us Babies

Do You Even Lift?

I'm double parked in the Uhaul outside Katie's office while she runs upstairs, and the traffic is backed up all along the block.

A tan, good-looking dude-bro in a baseball cap leans out of the cab stopped next to me with his hand up, shouting, "High five, dude!"

Sure, why not, so I lean out and give him his high-five, noticing as I do how thick and strong his hand is, but smooth, soft, and uncalloused, as if he's never worked a day in his life.

As the light changes, his very attractive girlfriend leans across the seat and says earnestly, "Good luck with your move."
One year ago: They Don't Make Me Money
Two years ago: Dog v. God
Three years ago: Ice Cream Sutra
Four years ago: Snapshots of Prospect Park

Saturday, September 23, 2017

About All It Deserved

Though it's large for a Brooklyn grocery store, the aisles are in no way large enough to accommodate this couple, and their shopping cart, and their stroller; and yet, here we are.

As I try to slide between them and the shelves of coffee, the husband smiles apologetically, while the wife refuses to make eye contact, even as she hops her industrial-grade stroller out of my way.

We find ourselves again going opposite directions in the bread aisle, and I joke, "We have to stop meeting like this." The husband gives this a half-hearted laugh.
One year ago: Just Try
Two years ago: Not Great
Three years ago: In The Board Room
Four years ago: Winter is a Hill

Bad Manners

"It's not really like anything I've written before," I respond to my friend asking:"So how's the writing going?" I proceed to launch into a very long and detailed explanation of my new story, which everyone at the table very kindly listens to.

Later that night, when I'm separating the recycling (metal, glass, plastic in one clear blue bag, paper and cardboard in another) I cringe a little at having dominated the conversation like that. 

"You know," I say to Katie as she brushes her teeth before bed, "it's like this: the writer is the guy who, when somebody asks how his work is going, has the bad manners to actually tell them."
One year ago: Invisible
Two years ago: Sick Day
Three years ago: All You Had To Do Was Ask
Four years ago: Nice While It Lasted

Friday, September 22, 2017

*Emails Have Been Changed To Protect The Innocent

Typing email addresses in for a group email, the vagaries of age are really kicking my ass:  I have to take off my glasses and actually lean in to read the names.

Email addresses were one of the first things in the computer age that we as a culture got to choose for ourselves, and we weren't all that great at it, to start out, or so some of the "" and "" addresses would lead me to believe. I'm sure no one expected*,  or* to follow them around for the rest of their lives.

Not that I did much better, though 25 year old me would put the number 69 in his email address when he's just making it up, wouldn't he?
One year ago: In Media, Rest
Two years ago: Burning Eden
Three years ago: The Burden of Our Early Work

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Right Tool For The Job

"Oh my God, you're literally yelling at the TV," Katie says with a look of distress. On the screen, a beautiful celebrity emotes through dozens of smash cuts of heightened, tastefully shot wealth-porn over a grandiose soundtrack, culminating in a hardsell pitch for... perfume.

"But, I mean," I say gesturing wildly, "it's just so..., I mean..., just look at it!"

"Honey," she says, placing a gentle hand on my arm, "if you want to yell, that's what Twitter is for."
One year ago: Careful What You Ask For
Two years ago: People Watching
Three years ago: Starting Over
Four years ago: How Can I Hate You If You Insist On Not Being Hateful?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


"Okay, but this whole having-to-pay-for-the-three-months-rental-all-at-once thing is kinda..., you kinda sprung that on us, so uh, is there a way for us to go month to month?"

The storage space rental admin pretends to look at something on her screen, and in that moment, I know she knows I've got no leverage. I can feel her tuning me out, prolonging the moment as the air leaves the room before the phone rings.

When she hangs up: "Yes, that was the owner, and unfortunately, if you want the first month free, you'll have to pay the full amount up front."
One year ago: New
Two years ago: Unguarded
Three years ago: Drawing Attention
Four years ago: Priorities

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mild Synesthesia

"Really, almost all 'J' names are green," I say thoughtfully. The tables next to us at the restaurant are absorbed in their own conversations, and candlelight glitters through our glasses of wine, a deep ruby red flame.

"What about 'Katie?'" she asks.

"Katie is orange, of course," I reply matter-of-factly.
One year ago: Gloomy Imaginings
Two years ago: Deescalation
Three years ago: Cab Thoughts
Four years ago: Flying
Eight years ago: Get The Cool Shoeshine

Monday, September 18, 2017

Close Talker

I pass the bottles of seltzer and the large plastic container of spinach over the scanner at the self checkout, then the sausage and another bottle of seltzer.

"So I told him he needed to get working before I found somebody else to do the job," the guy on his cell phone says. He pushes his cart right up to my scanner and stands right next to me, badly invading my space.

My iciest look is of no avail, though, since his phone apparently puts up this social barrier that makes it impossible to see other people, even through he's practically standing on my foot.
One year ago: Catharsis
Two years ago: Perseverance
Three years ago: Aliquet Fuge
Four years ago: Birds of a Feather
Eight years ago: Because I Promised

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Ascension

I'm singing Gram Parsons to the doge as she stands hesitating at the bottom of the stairs.

I get the door open just as I hit the rocking part of my favorite verse: He swore the fiercest beasts could all be put to sleep the saaaame silly way. A woman strolls past and slows to watch our little tableau play out with a smile on her face.

The doge, unaware of anything but the task at hand, with an old lady's sigh places her front paws on the first step, and laboriously jumps her hind legs up behind her to begin her ascent.
One year ago: Catharsis
Two years ago: Four
Three years ago: A Night of Random Encounters
Four years ago: Cut My Hair

Saturday, September 16, 2017

All The Way Down

"Those look like pretty steep steps to me," the woman says, while the doge examines our stoop dubiously. The woman is wearing dark, Ray Orbison-style sunglasses and leaning heavily on a cane. 

"When you're going upstairs, it's a little easier, since you're in control," she goes on thoughtfully, "but going downstairs is scary!"

"I mean," she indicates her cane, "I can make it up from the subway okay, but can you imagine what would happen if I fell going down?"
One year ago: What Does It All Mean?
Two years ago: Dropping My Eaves
Four years ago: Deferred

Friday, September 15, 2017

Out of Work

Katie's been at work all day, and I went out tonight, so we haven't seen each other all day.

"I've decided I don't like being at home by myself," I say. "It makes me sad."

"Welcome to my world," Katie sings.
Two years ago: Time Bully
Three years ago: Signs of Age
Four years ago: What Took You So Long?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dance Like Nobody You Know Is Watching

Our new friend at the office party comes back from the DJ booth. "He said, 'If I play a line dance, are you gonna do it?' and I went like this," sassy face.

Then, through the speakers, coming over the air like an air raid, blasts out the goddamn Cha-Cha Slide, and I am not a quitter, so I do my cha-cha, even though I occasionally have trouble telling my left from my right. 

What the hell, I'm never gonna see most of these people again, right?
One year ago: I Got This
Three years ago: Teddy's "Rescue"
Four years ago: Putting It Kindly

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Spot the Difference

We come away from the elementary school with our "I Voted" stickers slapped proudly on our chests, prepared to run the gauntlet of candidates and their surrogates up 7th Avenue, but since they saw us go in to vote, they mostly leave us alone.

Here, however, tired look on her face but still game and ready to engage, is one of the candidates both Katie and I voted for, holding a sign with her campaign slogan and her picture.

Except it's not her, it's her sister, and the actual candidate is standing over there, a few feet away, where she's talking with Katie, who wasn't fooled, while I try to smooth over my awkwardness.

"Oh, I see your hair's a little different," I say, not really making it better.
One year ago: Yes It Is
Two years ago: Momento Mori
Three years ago: It Was Totally Different
Four years ago: Bookworm

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Question For The Ages

"So with The Get Down the question is, does a seriously inferior second season, or second part of a season, invalidate what came earlier?" I ask over my shoulder while I'm doing dishes.

"Well let me ask you: how do you feel about the ending of How I Met Your Mother?" Katie replies.

"I'm sorry," I say slowly, turning around to face her where she stands in the doorway to the kitchen with a smug smile on her face. "We don't say that name in this house."
One year ago: The Rich Aren't Like You and Me
Two years ago: In Vino Veritas
Three years ago: Not a Good Fit
Four years ago: To Be Fair, They Were Kind of Hidden


Some couples play board games, we have "toothpaste chicken": a high-stakes game of nerves where we squeeze the last remaining dabs of paste out of the tube until one of us caves and buys another.

But lo and behold, here, perched on the edge of the sink, all plump and pretty, is a brand new tube of toothpaste that I didn't buy.

"Remember that time we both bought toothpaste on the same day?" Katie says by way of explanation. "I was looking for a travel sized tube just now and I kept picking that one up and putting it aside," indicating the new tube, "not even seeing it as toothpaste."
One year ago: Burning Off Karma
Two years ago: A Discourse On Beauty
Three years ago: Slipped My Mind
Four years ago: Acting Like An Extrovert

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Truth Hurts Sales

One of the vendors at the flea is selling typewriters, and a tween kid is tapping away while the guy selling is away from his booth.

A few minutes later, after the kid's mom has gently guided the kid away, the vendor comes over, clutching the paper from the typewriter like some oracle of doom.

"'Is there so much despair in my life because I expect it to be fair?'" the vendor reads from the page. "I feel like I should find the guy, tell him, 'This is yours, 'cause I don't want it,'" he continues.
One year ago: We Got a Problem?
Two years ago: Call It the Blues, I Guess
Three years ago: They Ran Out of "I Voted" Stickers
Four years ago: Orpheus


"Yo, you can't fuck with that Mountain Dew, man," the large, heavy-set black man in the gray t-shirt says.

"Nah, but sometimes I like to get like a couple Red Bull, and drink that?" says the latino guy in the black rimmed glasses.

His friend throws his head back, saying, "Man, Red Bull is even worse!"

"I love these two guys," I say to Katie, who nods emphatically without making eye contact.
One year ago: They Would Have Seen It Anyways
Two years ago: It's True
Three years ago: Blue Flavored
Four years ago: Cloudbusting

Friday, September 8, 2017


"You don't look married," the older woman on my block says to me in response to my "Does this t-shirt make me look married" shirt. I laugh indulgently, even though she never remembers me, or the fact that my dog doesn't like to be touched, or interacted with in any way, and she does both those things anyway.

But while she attempts in vain yet again to try and pet a dog that clearly doesn't want to be petted, one of the kids running the "I'm raising money for my basketball team" scam comes up with his clipboard and tried to engage us, and I fix him with one of my most aggressive smiles and say, "Oh, hey, how are you?"

"Oh, fine," he says, only momentarily startled out of his robotic recitation of the scam script before launching back into it, but by that time the woman has already escaped, and he has to pursue her down the street.
One year ago: Why Are We Like This?
Two years ago: Blowdart
Four years ago: Holding On To Disappointment

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

On The Left Hand Side

It's obvious he screwed up his back by the way he gently walks over and sits down with a grimace. "Do you smoke?" I ask, thinking it might relax his spasming muscles.

"Well I just got a vape which is really nice," he says, his eyes lighting up. "But since I managed to do this," he indicates his back, "under the influence, I'm not sure it'll help."
One year ago: Feisty
Two years ago: He Doesn't Eat Much
Three years ago: To My Shame
Four years ago: Out of the Well

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

All The News That's Fit

The weather's the only news anyone believes anymore, and the news from the Atlantic is all bad: horrific, monstrous storms, rising tides, drowning towns.

I never bothered to learn how to wash dishes correctly - I run the water until it's hot, and then soap each dish individually while the water keeps running until the drain trap fills up with old food.

I think about houses filling up with dirty water while the sink fills up with dirty water over a choked up drain.

I wonder what I'll give a few years hence for a single sip of drinkable water when the rivers overflow their banks.
One year ago: High and (kinda) Tight
Two years ago: The Girl Can't Help It
Three years ago: Sand in my Shoes
Four years ago: Something Like That

Monday, September 4, 2017

"Stay a while, you are so beautiful."

Sunlight carves the buildings out of the air and gives them sharp, hard edges so they look brand new. I stand by a tree at the intersection, staring up at the spire of a church, listening to the occasional car go by. The bark is rough and warm under my hand where I lean against the tree.

It's very peaceful here right now, but I know it hasn't always been that way, and I find myself saying a prayer, a wish, a hope, that it stays that way for just a little while longer.
One year ago: All Summer In A Day
Two years ago: It Was Quite Loud
Three years ago: There and Back
Four years ago: A Good Night For Stargazing

Bumping All The Hits

"Yeah, I don't know that song," Katie says after I sing the first verse of "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red to her, to explain why I was laughing at a car driving outside blasting such a soft rock hit.

"Well, let me sing the entire rest of it to you, just in case," I say as she walks from the room.

Later, she laughs at a car driving by and I ask her to explain.

"Well, it was blasting something and then the GPS came on and said, 'In 300 feet, turn left.'"
One year ago: Tomato Koan
Two years ago: I Missed It
Three years ago: Packs Come In All Sizes
Four years ago: Tired of Wasting Food

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Child's Superpower

Someone has placed, in the dark soil at the base of this Brooklyn tree on a shady residential side-street, a miniature tableau: wire cages from the tops of champagne bottles twisted into chairs, a tiny table made of popsicle sticks and cardboard from a small box of cereal, some small toys as garden decorations.

I'm behind in my errands, so I don't stop to examine it closely, but a young girl and her father pause at her squeal to take a look. She excitedly begins to describe who would be sitting in the little chairs at the table, and what they might be eating and drinking, a whole guest of list of little folks sharing tea and crumpets in the very small world beneath the very large tree.

I try to remember what it must be like to be so young as to see something for the very first time, to see everything for the first time, and think how I might regain this superpower.
One year ago: My "Tell"
Two years ago: Misunderstood
Three years ago: A Day's Work
Four year ago: That's How Blessings Work (Reciprocity)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Long Showtime No See

I get on the train and sit next to the manspreading dudes in the tight t-shirts and jeans who, it turns out, are riding with the guys sitting on the other side of the train.

"But if Messi joins Chelsea, then we might stand a chance," the one next to me says, loud enough to make me flinch, but I get out my notebook and start writing anyway. Eventually I'm concentrating on what I'm doing enough to tune them out.

At the next stop, four kids get on, and one of them shouts, "Showtime, ladies and gentlemen, showtime," but I just sigh, keep my head down, and keep writing.
One year ago: Boing
Two years ago: Marry Well
Three years ago: Waving Not Drowning
Four years ago: Getting Summer in Just Under the Wire