Monday, September 30, 2019

I Just Have That Look, I Guess

“So are you and your wife vegetarian?” my co-worker asks.

“No, I mean, I am, but she is an unrepentant omnivore,” I say. “But I don’t remember saying either of us was, so how did you know?”

She looks me up and down and says, “Well, I have to admit I kind of stereotyped."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Consolation Prize

The street fair ends at a pizza shop that’s set up a tent outside with a little beer garden and people selling slices to the passers-by. They also have a DJ playing middle-of-the-road hits at ear-bleeding volume while a middle-aged guy with a receding hairline who’s probably the manager shouts over the music through a microphone. 

“I’ve got a t-shirt from our shop as a prize for the best dancer in Brooklyn!” he yells as a bunch of white ladies half-heartedly boogie to Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”

“Your prize for being the best dancer in Brooklyn is a mediocre t-shirt,” Katie says.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


The dog, a curly-headed little russet puppy, clocks me walking down 7th Avenue from about a block away.

Unlike most New York dogs, who are a little too bored to get too excited for a new person, this dog leaps onto his hind legs and begins to dance a little jig.

When I finally arrive next to him and his owner, he immediately stops dancing and, after a few desultory licks, commences looking for the next person down the block.

“Looks like I’ve been dismissed,” I say to his owner, who nods back sadly.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Like an Animal

Katie and I help out the neighbors by occasionally walking their dog. We wrap the harness under and around her tiny, smooth-furred frame, and take her downstairs, where she immediately pulls us around the corner to a tree beside which a bald man stands between two cars, pissing on the street.

“Looks like everybody is peeing here tonight,” Katie says as the dog squats to do her business.

“Sorry, I just couldn’t hold it anymore,” the guy mutters as he continues to do his.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Former Mayor of New York

We’re riding in a car to a meeting for Katie’s business, about to cross the bridge, when I do that thing that apparently I’ve done since I was a very little child and start reading interesting signs I haven’t seen before.

“Forno’s Italian Restaurant and Cafe,” I pronounce, as if I’m reading scripture at Sunday service.

“Was that the name of the pizza place by where we stayed in Chicago?” Katie asks.

“I keep wanting to say ‘Fiorello’s’ but I know that’s not it,” I reply.

Too Tight

In my new job with shoes, I find myself noticing what people wear on their feet, and I try to identify it and translate it, like I’m attempting to learn a new language.

One woman wears an espadrille with a perforated orange shell and an ankle strap, and the contrast between the texture of the sole and the strapiness of it reads like a dialect where I understand the words individually, but the overall meaning eludes me: a failed seduction.

The woman next to her wears a snake skin sandal with a heel and an ankle strap, but the toe strap is far too narrow for her feet, and her toes are crushed together, leaving the bone at the joint of her big toe protruding alarmingly. Her face is pinched and drawn too, and when she looks up from her phone, she seems to regard the world with a look of pained disappointment.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

American Flag As Warning Sign

My co-worker and I have to ride the freight elevator down to the second basement to put the extra inventory into overstock, and two guys who are working in construction on the new store are riding with us.

“Nancy Pelosi announces impeachment inquiry,” one of the guys says, looking down at his phone. He’s wearing a t-shirt with an American flag on it.

As we arrive at our floor, the other construction guy says, “What?” but I hustle to get off the elevator so I don’t have to hear what the first guy replies.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


The hot sun reminds me of a fall day in my hometown in Arizona, so I decide to eat lunch outside at a little sidewalk table.

But the reason the table was untenanted quickly becomes apparent, as the bees descend upon me and my sandwich. They land on the table, on my food, on my bag of chips, on my thermos for tea, and they refuse to leave, no matter how many times I flap my hands at them to wave them off.

Finally, one lands on my wrist, and I pull it close to my face, attempting to reason with him by saying, “It’s not for you buddy."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Totally Bought It

“How are you doing?” I say, making strong eye contact with the clearly bored kid behind the counter at the hardware store.

He holds my gaze with a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’m doing fantastic.”

This makes me laugh, which surprises him, I guess, because now he smiles for real, and says, “Practicing my acting."

Sartorial Insults

The relatively normal looking guy (kinda short and skinny, blond, bearded, red flannel shirt and skinny pants, lace up boots) leans over to the guy sitting by the door on the subway, says something unintelligible in an accent I can’t place, flips the guy off, and walks to the next car.

I’m sitting on the same bench as the guy who got flipped off, so I lean around the person between us and ask, “What just happened?”

“He said my watch ‘fucking sucked,’” the guy says with a chagrined look.

When I take a look at his watch, and tell him it looks perfectly fine to me, he replies, somewhat sadly, “I work really hard for it."

Friday, September 20, 2019

Controversial Opinon

“What’s up jerks!” Katie yells from the other end of the couch. “If there was a way that the Oreos could stick together without the middle, I’d be fine with that.”

“'Welcome to my TED Talk,’” I add, completing her thought.

“Anybody who doesn’t like it can get double stuffed,” she finishes, which of course makes me laugh and almost causes milk to come out my nose.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Steady On

I’m pushing two large boxes on a dolly down the sidewalk, and I’m trying to be relatively decent. That means, as I pass the elementary school where, through an accident of terrible timing, the entire world is picking up their kids, that means not running these oblivious idiots (and their children) down with my dolly.

This woman walking toward me pushing a stroller, however, is not oblivious at all, and for a brief moment there is a clash of wills as she and I walk straight at each other, neither of us swerving, counting on the cultural weight of our respective burdens to give us the right of way.

Finally, at the last moment, both of us diverge slightly from our paths, leaving us a small bit of wiggle room through which we pass, neither one of us looking at the other.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

“I’m Gonna Need A Second."

“So then I finally get an IT guy on the phone,” says Katie, describing her ordeal with customer service today, “and he says, ‘There will be ninety seconds of silence.’”

“Like he was going to put me on hold, but then he didn’t put me on hold! He just sat there for a moment and took a deep breath,” she sighs in imitation.

“Like he needed to pull himself together or something,” I say, laughing.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Katie tells me about thread she discovered this morning on a neighborhood website about a dog who was left abandoned on a Brooklyn street who was subsequently rescued and given much needed surgery, and concludes her story by saying, “Humanity is garbage."

“But I like you,” I say.

People are fine, but humanity is garbage,” she says. “Would you like an Airborne?"

Water of Kindness

The crosstown bus is crowded - packed with all the people who would normally be riding the broken L train - but the driver patiently gets them all on, and extends the ramp so people using walkers and wheelchairs can board.

An older woman in colorful headdress and matching dress pushes her walker up the ramp like a queen boarding a ship and parks at the front of the bus. Then, at the next stoplight, she reaches into the basket of her walker, pulls out a water bottle, walks it up to the driver, and hands it to him with a smile.

He takes gratefully and thanks her, and she waves off his thanks and makes her way back to her walker, where she and I exchange a smile.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


While I wash dinner’s dishes, the cat sits in the hall just outside the kitchen with a most severe expression, waiting for me to get over my incredible stupidity and feed her.

“The cat is so disappointed in me,” I tell Katie.

So disappointed,” she agrees. “I think the only reason she’s not as disappointed in me is that she think you feed both of us.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Coming On Fall

“Joan Shelley,” says Katie, coming into the bedroom from her shower, her shoulders above the towel wrapped around her still glistening and pink. “Like the River Loves the Sea.”

So I put on a song from the album, and sit listening, and for a moment it’s like I always listen to music, with my heart tense, primed and expectant for some kind of epiphany, some revelation of ecstasy.

But after a minute, I realize that living in this feeling isn’t really listening, per se, so I let my heart relax, and the song, a delicate, folky thing that makes no gesture toward grand, quietly works its way into me, and it is somehow, lying in bed with the air conditioning still on and a few weeks of summer still left to pass through, it is somehow fall, and the leaves in my mind are turning from green to gold and fire.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trompe L'Oeil

A trick of perspective turns the subway map 3D, stretching and flattering it out while simultaneously deepening the page. The farms and parks of Queens seem to extend out into the distance, while JFK and Coney Island curve down into Jamaica Bay.

Manhattan stays the same, though. Its obdurate grid floats on the Hudson, self assured as always, uncompromising, face-front to the world.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Katie works in her studio at the end of the house while I lie on the couch in the living room watching Bill Hader get interviewed on YouTube.

“Wow! Jimmy Fallon is getting fat!” I yell to her.

“Good!” she yells back.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

That Kind of Cat Person

“I don’t want to be one of those cat ladies,” the woman says, gesturing grandly. Nobody’s coming into the booth to buy stuff right now, so I don’t worry about it.

“Why not?” I ask. “If you like cats, and you’re not causing anybody trouble, why not just sort of lean into it?”

“Well,” she concedes, “maybe I just don’t want to end up on ‘Hoarders.’"

Monday, September 9, 2019

Pretty as a Picture

“Excuse me, who made this?” the patient asks, pointing to the blue and grey print up on the wall opposite my desk.

“Oh, that’s Matisse,” I say. “He was around in the middle of the twentieth century, and toward the end of his life he did a lot of work with cutout shapes that he arranged to look like people.” 

“May I take a picture of it?” she asks shyly.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Restless Soul

The DJ played a song I like while I was working at the market today, but I didn’t get to listen to it because I was talking to a customer, so while I’m walking to the subway after my shift I find it on my phone and hit play.

I stride past a woman who is looking down at her phone, past a couple holding hands, while the music sings of reincarnation and trying to get at least one life right. The music swells and smiles, grabs my heart and squeezes it with joy, and I feel myself starting to cry with longing for all the lives I don’t remember, that I probably never had.

I cover up my mouth to push the sob back down into my chest, but people just walk by, because this is New York, and if you want to cry on the street, nobody cares.

For Fun

“That’s new,” Katie says, pointing out the new electronic sign that let’s commuters at the entrance to the subway know how long until the next train arrives. “Now we don’t have to throw ourselves down the stairs.”

“Unless we want to,” I add. "You know, for fun,”

Friday, September 6, 2019

Head Inside

“Problems arising from the burial in the unconscious of material which is not in its province are partly caused by personal attitudes,” the book I’m reading says. “Frequently however the problems are caused by attitudes which seem built into our society rather than being a personal matter.”

A little boy with some older people runs ahead of them, leaping off the path and lifting up his head to yell up into the sky as he lets the low hanging needles of a pine tree graze his face.

The wind blows harder for a moment, and then the moisture in the air turns to a fine mist that speckles my khakis and my leather bag, and, not wanting to get rained on, I stand with a sigh and head inside.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Find My Friends

I couldn’t have been asleep long, could I? 

The house is almost dark, though, and Katie still isn’t home from her errands, so I check the app that I have that lets us find each other when we’re apart (which is seldom). Her little blue dot on the screen hasn’t moved from where I last saw it before I accidentally napped, and my mind conjures visions of her struck down crossing the street, lying hurt on the pavement, or just her phone abandoned downstairs while she herself is disappeared by some nefarious person who left it there to torment me.

Still groggy, I slip on my shoes and run downstairs only to find her, sitting on the stoop, chatting on the phone with her mother; when she hears me open the door behind her, she turns and smiles.

You Should Look Out The Window

The weather comes on every ten minutes on the TV at work to tell me that there’s a storm watch until six o’clock for Brooklyn, and I believe them.

It’s a few minutes before five and everybody’s wrapped up for the day, so I tell the boss, “Hey, if you don’t need me, I’m gonna split and get ahead of this storm.” 

Everybody looks at me weird, but I’m already out the door, so it’s fine.

Down on the street, the sidewalks are wet and the air smells and feels like a damp armpit, but the sun is out and the skies are clear, and I feel a little foolish.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Watch and Learn

She doesn’t even look at me as she comes into the booth, but makes a line straight for a piece of Katie’s art that contains a death’s head moth (the type of moth made famous for the outline of a skull on its back by the movie “Silence of the Lambs”) where she stands studying it, fascinated.

“I always like to see the people who go for that piece right away, because even though they don’t look alike, they’re definitely a type,” I say conversationally, and she (thankfully) smiles.

“I bet it’s interesting to guess what butterflies certain types of people go for, right?” she says, looking around.

“Nope, because if you try too hard to guess, you’ll miss what they actually do go for,” I say.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hard to Ignore

“So, how’s the business going,” I ask my friend after we’ve put in our lunch order.

But just as he begins speaking, an older man drunkenly stumbles through the door of the restaurant and demands to speak to a manager.

In a piercing, querulous voice, he details how he fell down outside the establishment yesterday, and he demands compensation, no not tomorrow, right now, dammit, no he won’t leave, he’ll stay right here until the manager comes (all the while waving a walking stick around like he has a mind to start braining people with it if he doesn’t start getting some answers).

Eventually he is talked outside, where he is left cursing at the facade of the restaurant, until finally I interrupt my friend, saying, “Listen, I’m really sorry, you’re going to have to repeat that, since I have no idea what you just said."

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Happens All The Time

She walks into the booth and doesn’t say anything for a long time. She just stares at the butterflies with tears in her eyes.

“My grandfather used to call me his butterfly,” she says finally, her voice choked. 

“I understand,” I say, and she turns and walks out of the booth.