Thursday, May 31, 2018

Night and Day

Katie and I switched shifts at the booth, her working the night, and me working the day.

She comes home at the end of her shift, it’s late, but we stay up chatting at the kitchen table for a bit because we haven’t had a lot of time to hang out for the past few weeks, so we take it where we can get it.

When it’s finally time to start getting for bed, I stand up, and every muscle protests it’s weariness, and I groan quietly.

“Oh yeah,” Katie says, “working the day is way harder than working the night shift."


“Did you hear something about the Met no longer being free?” my roommate asks as we ride the train into Manhattan together. 

I think about this - I did hear something about the Met charging people, and maybe I also heard some people were happy about it, because it didn’t effect them, but why?

“Oh, yeah, but just for non-New Yorkers,” I say when it suddenly comes to me from the deep recesses of my brain where the information was hiding.

A little while later, apropos of nothing, I say, “You ever wonder how your memory actually works?"

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

An Angel Passes

Even the chattering teenage girls pause in their gossip as he makes his careful way up the car. No one needs the sign he holds up that reads “victim of acid attack” to know: he is flesh dissolved and remade into new shapes, stretched stiff and taut over a brittle scaffold of bones.

The shadow of shocked silence that proceeds and follows the sight of him makes his muffled request for spare change stand out like a shout.

He moves between the cars to the next, and the girls restart their conversation tentatively, then with more vigor, like birds beginning to sing again after a clap of thunder fades in the distance.

Monday, May 28, 2018

What Have We Learned?

"Yesterday was awful for me, personally," says the beard products guy, eyes wide, "'cause all day I had gay guys hitting on me!"

"Yeah," I say, hoping to divert whatever awful shit he's about to say next, "can you imagine being a woman? They must have to deal with shit like that from dudes all the time."

"I'm not a homophobe," he starts ("I didn't say you were," I murmur), "but like, five guys saying how they want to fuck me is too much."

Sunday, May 27, 2018


"Oooh, this is a good song," I say as the end credits to the movie play. It was a documentary about the struggles of the fire department in Detroit, so I figure it's a band from that area.

I ask my phone to identify it, and it turns out to be "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent.

"Oh goddammit, I don't want to give him any money, but it's a really good song," I say.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

I Know How You Feel, Man

A seat opens up on the subway, and the woman sits while her boyfriend stands. He reaches up to hold the subway pole with that same hand with which he's carrying one of those big matte paper bags from a department store, and when the train goes around the corner at speed the bag swings forward and the corner of it bops her in the face.

The bag is pretty large and kind of heavy, and it clearly surprises and maybe even hurts her a little, but since I've got my headphones on, I'm unable to hear the scolding she proceeds to give him, at the completion of which she reaches up and takes the bag from him and puts it in her lap with a look of extreme disappointment.

That look, that look of disappointment, like, "how could the man I love be so unconscionably stupid sometimes,": I've seen that look.

Customer Service

"We'll be here tomorrow from ten in the morning to nine," I say to the Russian gentleman who's been trying to get a discount out of me at the booth. "And if you show up early enough, you might get to meet Katie."

"Then I can tell her how little money I have and she will give me a good deal!" he replies, half-joking.

"I wouldn't expect that," I say, without adding because she will cut you.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Brick Wall

"That woman you left me with tonight...," I say to Katie after I get home from the booth, lying next to her on the couch with my head resting on her thigh while she strokes my hair.

"I did, I did leave you with her on purpose," she says regretfully.

"...she was really dumb, and she didn't listen to anything I told her," I say.

"Really dumb," she agrees.


The guy at the subway turnstile is clearly a tourist: he looks down at his MetroCard as he swipes it excruciatingly slowly through the reader, and of course it rejects him, and the line building up behind him, since there's only one reader at this entrance, isn't really helping him focus.

"You gotta do it faster," I tell him without taking off my headphones, and eventually, after a couple more tries, the machine relents and lets him through.

I step up and swipe my card, without even bothering to look to see if there might be an issue, and walk right through the gate.

I promptly bounce off the gate as it stops, and the little digital sign on the turnstile reads, "Card swiped too fast please try again."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Better Living Through Science?

"There's this new umbrella," Laura, who works the booth next to ours, says, "it's just this stick but when you turn it on it blows out air at the top and blows all the rain away." She makes a whooshing sound.

"I sort of wonder what the fail-point for those would be, though," I say. "Like, at what point is it raining so hard that it just stops working?"

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


"Can you imagine if a dragonfly and a moth would like, fight?" asks the little boy with the buzzcut and the dinosaurs on his shirt.

"Yeah, but what would a dragonfly and a moth even fight over?" I ask, hoping to steer the conversation in a wholesome direction.

This seems to stump him for a second, in that blank way that kids who are way up in their own heads about things have when their patterns are interrupted and adults treat them like people.

"A piece of bread." he finally says firmly.

Monday, May 21, 2018


The bachelorette party cutting a swath through the market is mostly well-behaved, but strangely homogenous looking: all of them are incredibly tall, with the same blow-out blonde hair, tight black leggings, tottering around on spike heels, and all of them are wearing the same black tank top with gold metallic lettering that reads, "Pop the bubbly, she's getting a hubby." They're all built about the same, too, like maybe they all dance at the same strip club, and even their faces have similar shaped noses and cheekbones that they, perhaps, purchased from the same plastic surgeon?

They don't seem particularly attractive to me so much as they are sort of remarkable, like I'm looking at what an alien who looked at nothing but Hollywood movies and fashion magazines would create if asked to construct a woman at a bachelorette party, and I want to talk to someone about them, but I'm not sure I'll be understood, so I try to explain what I'm seeing to one of the other vendors who's this dude who sells beard grooming supplies.

"Yeah, they're all like super hot!" he says, his eyes lighting up, and I instantly regret saying anything at all.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Automatons Touching Things

The two Indian women finish their purchase and leave with the usual pleasantries and requests that I convey their compliments to the artist.

After they leave the booth, though, I notice that the booth is a bit disheveled, and I go around tidying things up, only to find that someone, maybe the women who just left, has taken all the business cards and just sort of dumped them into the bowl of buttons we've got on the shelf.

When I mention this to Katie later that evening, she nods knowingly. "Some people just have to touch everything, and they don't even know they're doing it," she says.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Not Making it Weird

Head down, headphones on, making music on my phone, I completely miss my stop - not by a little, but by three stops.

I get off the train with a curse, but after I calm down, I notice an employee at the liquor store I frequent standing on the platform to go back uptown with me.

We exchange pleasantries, both of us friendly enough, but when the train comes and we get on together, I decide to head things off.

"Don't feel you have to make conversation if you want to listen to music or whatever," I say, and with a grateful smile he reaches for his headphones.

Hard Sell

The booth next to ours sells grooming products for beards, and the salespeople who work there seem to accost anyone, sometimes whether they have a beard or not.

Like this family - mother, father, two kids - that the salesman has buttonholed, insisting that he has some grooming product they need, whether for themselves or someone they know.

"Wait, can I buy a beard?" the small daughter asks, all wide-eyed and faux-astonished.

When the salesman grumpily admits that no, she can't actually buy a beard, she nods solemnly and says, "Mmmhmm."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Be Kind to Yourself

"This one is my sister," she says, referring to the first of Katie's pieces she picked out, "because it's cute and small, like her."

"Now I just have to pick out one for me," she says, but then her eyes get very sad as she holds up a delicate, see-through butterfly called an Invisible Angel.

"This one used to be me, forty kilos ago," she says, tearing up.

"Well, now I think I'm going to have to insist you get it," I reply firmly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Too Soon? (part another)

I get home from the booth, it's almost ten at night, a freak storm blew through in late afternoon and kept a lot of the foot traffic away, and I'm a little dispirited. I lie on the bed on top of the covers next to Katie, feeling my pulse reverberating through my body, tired and a little hungry, and up comes the cat, complaining about the paucity of food on her plate, stalking back and forth across my body like I'm some kind of Nordic Track for felines.

Understand, this is the same shit she pulled this morning at six A.M., and I am really not having it, but I'm too tired to really kick her off the bed.

"Girl, I will get you a dog," Katie says threateningly, and the cat turns her head to me and slowly blinks.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Losing Concentration

I play the etude on my guitar, slowly, but steadily, and making no mistakes. All the notes sound good, and I'm even playing somewhat musically, God forbid.

I'm getting near the end, and I find myself wondering if I'm going to get all the way through without making a mistake, which, my old saxophone teacher used to say, was the starting point of mastering a piece.

I get so excited that I blow a chord change, the whole thing stutters to a halt and collapses, and I sigh and start at the beginning yet again.

Drive It Like A Mother

"Well, at that Air Force Base, I think it's closed now, but there were a number of people who fly... the fast planes, jets," my mom says. "I dated a couple of them, so I knew the base pretty well, and they would close one of the runways, and the other one, the pilots would drive their sports cars on it, and that's where I learned to drive fast."

I have a huge smile on my face as I ask, "Is that where you learned how to race?"

"Drive fast, downshift, put the car into a skid, all of that," she says, obviously enjoying herself.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Pick Up After Yourself

The bag of vegetable scraps tears open and spills most of its contents into the bin at the green market, but a jumble of egg shells, banana peels, spinach stems, and other detritus scatters all over the pavement.

"Nice work, Williams," I mutter, and begin to pick my mess up as it continues to rain.

Finally, I throw the last bit of green onion into the bin where it belongs, and a woman who's been patiently waiting for me to finish exclaims, sincerely, "You did it!"

"I did it," I reply, with a smile and a shrug.

Razor Sharp

He seems friendly enough, and he's buying one of Katie's pieces for his mother, so he can't be bad, but something about this guy seems a little... off. Again, not bad per se, but just off in a way where he's clearly not altogether here, seeing something I can't see, like he's thinking about something else while he's talking to me, or like his mind is standing just a little to the left of where his body is.

Then I remember something he said earlier in our conversation, and I realize he probably works for Google, and that he's likely one of those tech dudes whose minds work on a different level from us mere mortals.

Then he hands me his credit card, a metal AMEX, and it gleams bright in my hand like a razor blade, light and sharp and almost vibrating with how good it is at what it does.

Friday, May 11, 2018


I come up out of the subway to light rain falling from a dark sky periodically illuminated by flashes of distant lightning. The storm must have come off the ocean somehow, or pulled in air from offshore, because everything smells a little fishy.

I'm grateful to past-me as I pull the umbrella I had the foresight to bring to work from my bag, but I feel a bit stupid opening it in such inconsequential rain. It isn't until the rain starts to fall more heavily that I firm up my grip on the umbrella, and my chest swells with a strange, excessive pride.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


"You know about 'avocado hand?'" I ask the woman who works in the booth next to ours.

"It's when you're trying to get the pit out of half an avocado," I mime slicing a knife into a pretend avocado in my cupped hand, "and you miss and slash your hand."

She cringes in a satisfying fashion. "And now that's an image that you have to live with for the rest of your life."

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Inside Voice

The old man in the booth is not using his inside voice, despite his son's best efforts to shush him.

"So how do you kill all the butterflies?" he asks, despite me having said, only moments ago, that we get them after they've died, and the sign that says that we get all our butterflies from places that help support the ecology and butterfly species.

I smile at him without blinking. "Well, that's an interesting question," I say, "because it presupposes that I'm some sort of butterfly murdering psychopath."

Monday, May 7, 2018

As If That Has Anything To Do With It

After an early, long morning, the booth is set up for our month-long stint selling Katie's sculptures at the market, but it's not really worth it for me to go home and then turn around and come back to work a shift, so I decide to go to the movies.

Feeling pretty decadent, I go into the almost empty movie-house, give my ticket to the older man at the door, and make my way to the concessions counter where I find the lone person behind the counter reading a book.

"So..., is the popcorn..., from today?" I ask.

When she assures me it is, I add, "Sorry, I must have lived in New York too long if I get suspicious of the popcorn."

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Topping the Top 40

"What, are they just playing the entire '50 Shades of Grey' ouvre tonight?" Katie asks as the radio in the van segues from an orgasmic Ellie Goulding to a pensive The Weeknd brooding over depressed electronic bloops.

"Baby makin' music," I say, keeping my eyes on the road.

"But isn't it just music for like, sodomy and face punches?"

"'Soft Rock Sodomy' is the name of my new band."

Like I'm Bringing 88 Back

We wander to the other side of the rooftop bar, and stop by the railing looking up Lexington Avenue toward the Chrysler building while the headlights from traffic cascade downtown. A couple of bicyclists with a death wish weave in and out of a shimmering belt that extends as far as we can see.

"Like jewels," I say to Katie.

"Like little pebbles flowing downstream," she replies.

Friday, May 4, 2018

New Life

Traffic has started moving on the way back from dropping the doge's remains with a taxidermist in Long Island. The sun begins to set through the delicate new green on the trees lining the road. Spring has finally arrived, after a long winter, and the grief I'm carrying today seems, for just a minute, to lighten.

Death comes, new life follows - it's the same old story, but it's true, and sometimes it helps to say it.

Night Walk

I slip one arm under the doge's tummy, another under her chest, and lift her up. She's gotten lighter over the past few months, but she still feels substantial.

I can feel her heart racing in her chest, and her tongue lolls out of her mouth as I carry her downstairs. We go outside, I set her down and she shakes it off, then stands abstractedly while I put on her leash, and we trot off into the humid Brooklyn night.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Guessing Game

The enormous dog, as big as a Bernese Mountain Dog, turns out to be a Tibetan Mastiff puppy just like I guessed.

"Do you work at the bike shop?" Katie asks his owner, and when he confirms, Katie and he agree that the dog should be the mascot of the shop.

After we leave, I compliment her on her ability to suss out where the guy worked. "Yeah, but you guessed what kind of dog it was," she says.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


"Come on, you can do it," I tell Coco as she eyes the stairs to our front door dubiously.

Our landlord comes out of his store downstairs and laughs at Coco's expression. "If she could talk, she'd say, 'Scott, you know Katie carries me up the stairs,'" he says.

"That might be why she likes Katie more than me," I say, and Coco sighs and puts a paw on the first stair.
One year ago: Flew In From Miami Beach BOAC
Two years ago: Ghosts of Roommates Past
Three years ago: Obligation
Four years ago: Beltane
Five years ago: Trying our Best, Being Friendly

Modern Art

The sunset is spectacular out the train window as we cross the bridge into Manhattan: a straight grey line cutting across the horizon above a band of pink shading into yellow. Katie stands at the train door and waits for the train on the opposite track to pass before she shoots a bunch of pictures of the sight, hoping to get the best shot.

"Some of the best shots were the ones between the cars of the other train," I say as she comes back to our seat with a satisfied smile on her face. "It looked like a Rothko."