Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Truing the Wheel

After reading the internet about truing my badly dented wheel, and several attempts to tighten the spokes on the front wheel of my bicycle using a pair of needle nose pliers, I finally start looking for a real spoke wrench on Amazon - eight bucks.

“The bike shop is right down the street though,” Katie says as she grabs a drill from her studio.

“You mean I should probably have it done right for a little more?” I ask.

“Probably?” she says, heading back to the kitchen.

Monday, April 29, 2019


Katie and I stand in the aisle of the bus back from the airport, swaying and rocking back and forth as the bus weaves in and out of traffic through the construction zones that seem to have always surrounded La Guardia.

Katie catches my eye and raises her eyebrows, then looks down behind me, and I follow her gaze to the very openly displayed phone of the gentleman sitting in front of me, where he is sifting through some text messages I can’t read. I get the gist of things, though, from the several prominent, racy photos of a dude’s butt that the guy keeps opening to examine in greater detail.

“Well, if he wants to make it everybody’s business,” I sigh, and Katie shrugs like what are you gonna do?

Sunday, April 28, 2019


“They’ve got something they’re calling a cancer survivor’s garden,” I tell Katie as we walk through the park towards the sky swallowing vastness of Lake Michigan. We agree it’s probably just got a bunch of bored cancer survivors standing around on display, wondering when they can leave.

“Do you think there’s a disease out there that’s as deadly as cancer, but it doesn’t get as much attention when it’s diagnosed?” Katie asks.

“Heart disease?” I venture.

That We Know Of

The woman working this booth, clearly done with the small red-headed child’s questions, smiles in relief as Katie and I come into the booth. “Well, here’s your mom,” she says.

“Oh, he’s not mine,” Katie says.

“He’s not?” she replies, looking with confusion between Katie’s red hair and the child’s.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Demise of the City Is Greatly Exaggerated

The Chicago River glitters green in the morning sun as we walk along its banks, but for some reason I feel melancholy.

“There’s all these tie-ups, and all these former factories on the river, but the river itself is empty, and the factories are all restaurants and condos,” I say.

“I see those tie-ups as potential,” she replies thoughtfully. “It’s cold right now, but soon this river is going to be full of people on their boats, cruising around, spending money, because Chicago summers are awesome!”

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Mrs. O’Leary’s Legacy

Katie pivots to look up and down the alley outside the bar we’ve just left. “The great thing about Chicago,” she says, glancing down at her phone, “is that cow burned the whole thing down, so they rebuilt it to be a grid.”

The alcohol swirling around in my head forces me to take a moment to process what she just said until it comes true. “I thought you were talking about that woman that kept bumping into you in the bar just now,” I say, laughing.

The Boy In The Bubble

The kids, around a dozen of them, are draped artfully over and around the Citibike stand at the end of the block. I watch them laughing, shouting at each other, tugging at the docked bikes, trying on various attitudes of cool, or sexy, and then forgetting and throwing their heads back to scream or suddenly staring off into the distance with a look of intense concentration.

I have my headphones on, listening to music, the beats rattling around the inside of my skull to make their own, larger space between my ears, and I walk within a few feet of the kids. For some reason I feel very vulnerable but the magic bubble of sound I carry in my pocket buoys me right past them, as if I’m floating several feet overhead, even as one of them shouts something at me I can’t quite hear.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Danger: Falling Kites

The dad of this seemingly enormous brood of children has taken over the kite from one of his boys, and has managed to get it pretty high up into the swiftly shifting blue and gray spring sky. He pulls it in a little then lets out more string, sailing it further and further up.

Finally he hands it over to one of his children, the child inexpertly yanks the string, and the kite promptly nosedives, crashing hard and fast into a (now rather annoyed) couple sitting on a hill nearby.

“Let’s go sit over there,” Katie says casually, pointing to a spot well away from the fallen toy as the family rush over to the couple, shouting their apologies.

Monday, April 22, 2019


At the doctor’s office where I work, women with children often bring strollers in to their appointments, since they’re still taking care of kids, and childcare doesn’t allow for sick days, but this woman with a stroller doesn’t seem to have an appointment.

“Is there a drinking fountain in this office?” she asks, and since I’m a temp, and since I don’t know what the policy is, I head to the back to talk to my boss, my first impulse being just to give the lady some water from the employee water-cooler in the back.

“Nah, we don’t do that,” my boss says, shaking her head, her lips pursed.

I go back to the woman with the stroller and regretfully inform her, expecting some kind of pushback, but as soon as she hears she heads out the door without a word, or even lifting her eyes, as if she expected nothing better from anyone.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Puddle of Filth

The wind kicks up at my friend’s booth where I’m working today, and some pieces of paper blow into a brown, oily puddle. A passing tourist points out that the “paper” is, in fact, a little less than half of a burned hundred dollar bill, but she and I agree that it’s probably not worth getting dirty over, since it can’t even be cashed in.

An hour later, the wind kicks up again, blowing a couple of sheets of stickers into the puddle, and without even thinking I grab it and instantly regret it.

“Oh great, now I have chlamydia,” I say

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Glitch In The Matrix

A man and his dogs pass us going the other way - two poodles, one brown, one black, the brown one shy and tentative, head down, stepping carefully and peering around with each step.

Afterwards, much further up the block, Katie and I stop to admire the blooming magnolias in front of a stately old brownstone until Katie punches me in the arm.

I turn to follow her gaze, and there, coming up from the same direction we’re headed, are the same dogs with the same man, same tentative brown one, none of them acknowledging that we just saw them walking away from us a good five minutes ago.

“I would like to know what route got them here,” Katie says, watching them as they pass us again.

Friday, April 19, 2019

A Nice Try

The little old lady comes into the doctor’s office where I’m temping, and we’re immediately confronted with a problem. She speaks very little english, and I speak even less spanish.

“Lo ciento por mi espaƱol,” I say, deciding to have a go at on-the-fly translation of my go-to french phrase, but apparently my mangled attempt is good enough.

“Is okay, papi, you a good man,” she says, smiling and patting my hand.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


The line at the post office is predictably long, but everyone is being patient and quietly waiting their turn without complaint.

One woman, however, has decided that this small waiting area, with its gray, dingy walls and cement floor, its hard, reflective surfaces perfect for amplifying sound - this place is the ideal place to make her phone call.

“Well I told her what the caterers would charge... haha, yeah I know, but what about Thursday?” she says, full voice, as if she were in the privacy of her own home.

“I mean, why?” she continues, asking the question that everyone in the room except her is asking right this moment.

How Long Before the Cat Eats Me?

The writing isn’t going badly exactly, it’s just not going the way I want it to go, so I drop the notebook and pen on my bed and walk out into the hall.

I get about halfway down the hall before sinking to my knees and then slowly pitching forward until I am lying face down on the runner rug, my chin pressed into the floor, look like nothing so much as a hairless bearskin rug.

The cat, hearing me settle in to my newfound spot, circles me in some concern. Finally she stops and stands a few feet in front of me, and whines.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Copy of a Copy

One time, in high school, I got sick, and since I had to stay home from school for a few days my parents rented me some videotapes from Casa Blanca Video: one called “Urgh, A Music War” which had all of these live performances from various UK and American punk and New Wave groups, and a music video compilation called “Beast of the I.R.S.” (I.R.S. being my favorite record label at the time since they had the band R.E.M.).

Nowadays, of course, many of the pop cultural artifacts of youth now exist only online, if we’re lucky, so on to YouTube I go to find the detritus of my memories, and lo and behold, there's the whole thing - even a grainy, pixelated version of one of my all time favorite songs: Radio Free Europe by R.E.M.

The thing is so degraded though, a bad copy of a bad copy of a videotape, that it’s hardly recognizable. Like my memories, it’s mostly something I have to make up in my head - just a copy of a copy, emotions that I conjure up from ghosts.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


The morning rain gives way to blustery winds whipping harried clouds across a shifting sun as Katie and I walk home from the grocery store, and trees toss their newly greening heads around, while the few that have already opened their flowers wave them back and forth frantically.

Magnolia,” Katie growls in her best heavy metal voice as we pass one in full bloom, its pink flowers like cool flamingo flames.

“I’m not sure that’s how it sounds,” I say, laughing.

“I bet it sounds like something when each of those flowers open,” she says, and suddenly I can imagine the buds bursting open like cannon fire, explosions of color and plant sex into the spring air.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Where I Belong

Delta Airlines has separated Katie and I on our flight, so now we’re both sitting in middle seats several rows apart, but when I get to my seat, the older man and woman sitting on either side of me look at me expectantly.

“Would you like an aisle seat?” the woman asks pleasantly, and of course I say yes, because I’m six foot two at least, and the aisle is always better.

But now we have a bargaining chip, and as soon as Katie sees me sit down, she’s commences negotiations with the person sitting in the aisle in her row.

A few minutes later, a tall asian fellow ambles up the aisle to take my seat, and I gather my things to go back and sit next to Katie where I belong, saying to the couple in my row, “Lovely meeting you!"

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What Drives Us

“I don’t use the signal all the time because sometimes, when they see you’re trying to get in, they’ll speed up,” our driver says.

While the rest of us take this in he continues,  “Coming from New York, you see some things.”

“So when it comes to driving, who's better, New York or Atlanta?” I ask.

“People in New York know how to drive,” he says with a chuckle.

Friday, April 12, 2019


We talk to the artist for a while, since there aren’t too many other customers at the festival at this hour. Her work is beautiful - thin sheets of wood bent into swoops and waves, parabolas of grain and knot, stained and tinted and twisted together into some sort of three-dimensional language - but there’s not a price to be seen.

She chalks it up, with a raspy laugh, to her inability to get started in the morning, part of which she attributes to her indecisiveness as a Gemini.

“I’m not picky,” she says, grinning behind sunglasses, “I’ll just have a bite of what everyone else is having.”

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Just Visiting

Looking through the window of the drop-off laundry place on our block, I become instantly wary when I see the cops standing at the counter talking to Judy, who runs the place. She’s gesturing broadly and speaking rapidly in Chinese as I come in, but I don’t want to pry so I just smile and slide my ticket across the counter.

“Everything’s okay, we’re just visiting our friends,” one of the cops says with a grin, and Judy nods happily.

“I mean, I was just gonna keep myself to myself,” I say as I feel my shoulders lower about an inch.

Having a Day

“Just go home,” the guy behind the counter at the donut shop says brusquely into his phone, before repeatedly stabbing the screen to hang up. “What do you want?”

Katie and I repeat our order, then repeat it again because he’s staring at his phone again without doing anything, and as he finally gets our donuts I whisper to Katie, “Seems like he’s going through some stuff.”

“Have a better one,” I say on the way out, but he’s staring angrily at his phone, and doesn’t hear me.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


Since we have to be quiet while Katie’s being interviewed, our whispered conversation eventually fizzles out, and I go back to scrolling through memes on my computer while our friend and his baby stare out the kitchen window at the low descending rain as it settles in over the backyards and gardens of the buildings behind ours.

After the interview, the baby is put down for a nap, and our friend sets up the lights to take pictures of Katie’s studio. Bored with memes, I stand up, stretch a little, and go stare out the window myself for a while, when what should appear but a woodpecker, darting from branch to branch with sharp, angular jumps, and a blue jay, who leaps arrogantly ever higher to the top of the same tree, periodically pausing to shout his claim on everything in earshot of his cry.

I wonder if our friend and his baby saw the birds, if they marveled at the different ways they moved, if the baby might someday remember, or if I was the only person in the world who saw.

Monday, April 8, 2019

She Has Things Under Control

The woman standing by the Citibike stand yells at the man walking away from her (toward me), and he yells back, but I can’t make out what they saying

“You just mad ‘cause you ain’t getting fucked,” he says, and now I think I’m looking at some kind of lover’s spat.

“You know I caught you trying to grab my purse,” she replies, and whoops! I got it wrong.

They do this for the three minutes it takes to reach her, with the two of them yelling variations on the above for the entire time, but when I reach her, she stops yelling, and fixes me with a look as if to say, “No thanks to you, buddy.”

My First Torta

“And you thought Mexican food didn’t use bread,” I say, munching happily on my first ever torta.

“To be fair,” Katie says, putting down her taco to address my slander, “I phrased it as a question, so maybe you could just get off my dick.”

“I will never get off  your dick,” I say seriously.

“Awww, marriage means never having to get off your spouses dick,” Katie says happily.

Sunday, April 7, 2019


I’m talking to one person, finishing off a sale, when I notice, over their shoulder, another person sneaking a photo of one of Katie’s pieces. I’m loathe to break off my (pleasant, lucrative) conversation just to tell some rando to GTFOH with their visual thievery, so I decide to ignore them this time, but I can’t help being reminded of so many other photographers (attempted and otherwise) in the past.

All of them seem to have this smug, self-satisfied look about them as they raise their phones at that very particular angle, like they somehow believe that, in their act of pushing a button, they too are part of the act of creation, participants in the making of something beautiful, even though they have done literally almost nothing.

Finally, I can’t stand it anymore, and I lean around the person I’m speaking to with my friendliest, most aggressive smile, and say, “Sorry, no pictures, please."

Friday, April 5, 2019

It’s A Tonal Language

“So how does this work?” the woman sitting directly in front of the reception desk of the doctor’s office where I’m temping today asks. “I got here before her but she got called before me.”

“I hear you, but she finished her paperwork before you did, so she got called first,” I say, trying to be as straightforward and neutral about it despite feeling a little bad about how things worked out.

She watches me suspiciously for a few moments after I bend back to my work, then goes back to her phone conversation in Spanish, where she sounds a little like she’s talking just the tiniest bit of shit about somebody who may or may not be me.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

First Impressions

Blond guy, broad shouldered but not terribly tall, gets on the train when the doors open without letting people off first, so I don’t like him already.

He beelines for an open seat, ignoring the lasers I’m shooting into his back from my eyes, and sits down, and I see from his acned chin and slightly doughy look that he’s really just a kid. I watch him for a while, taking in his sullen stare, the lightly greasy sheen of his forehead, his pale blue jeans, and I don’t know why, but I’m put in mind of the type of kid who brings a gun to school.

My opinion of him is not improved when I notice the enameled American flag he’s got woven into the laces of his boots.

Urine Luck

The clearly harried HR director who’s been tasked with getting me situated at my new temp gig doesn’t really seem to know a whole lot of information about the usual tasks of the position, but she does have some interesting insights, nonetheless.

“Sometimes the guys will complain about the state of the men’s restroom,” she says cryptically, but I’m taking everything in, just trying to figure out what’s important and what’s not, so I nod and smile, and we move on to other topics.

It’s not until later that afternoon, when I hear shouts of distress, and a whole bunch of guys talking excitedly as they walk away from the restroom, that I remember what she said, and ask one of them, “Men’s bathroom?”

“I mean, how does a urinal overflow?” he replies with an amazed shake of his head.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Nineteen Cents

“I’ll tell you the best thing that happened to me today,” I tell Katie as she’s lying on the couch idly tapping her phone’s screen. “I went to buy the frozen concentrate orange juice, which was two sixty-nine, and then I thought, hey, I’ll check to see if there’s a deal on the not-from-concentrate orange juice.”

“And the not-from-concentrate stuff was two-for-five, so there was a deal, and that’s the best thing that happened to me today.”

Afterwards, Katie looks up at me where I’m standing triumphantly with the most pitying look on her face.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Sleeping Alone

“And this ‘sleeping apart’ thing has got to go,” Katie says, concluding her description of the hotel she stayed in while I dropped off the truck last night.

“Yeah,” I agree. “Nothing beats a warm pooks at your back and a schmecks curled in the crook of your arm to get to sleep.

“You know, to be fair, we didn’t really ‘sleep’ ‘apart’ much last night,” I add later.

Park Slope Is Closed

3:15 in the morning, I drop off the truck in the desolate U-Haul lot and begin my journey home. A cold wind blows down empty, foreboding streets, perfect for a mugging, and I pull up my hood, put on my mean face, and walk like I have someplace to be, which I do.

By the time I’m almost home, walking down President Street, I start to think my earlier suspicions were silly, as not only have I not seen another soul, but not even a car has passed me in almost 15 minutes.

Then I come around the corner to my house, and there’s the garbage truck, with three dudes picking up the trash, and I know I was being silly.