Thursday, October 31, 2019

Some Questions Are Stupid

“Would you like to see a video I found?” I ask Katie as she comes out of her studio.

“I have polyurethane all over my hands right now,” she says, holding up her hands, which are exactly as described, “so I can’t right now.”

Later, after she has scrubbed her hands in mineral spirits and then soap and water, and shown me her still-stained cuticles with a certain amount of chagrin, I ask, “Now, would you like to watch an English Bulldog snore?”

“Of course I would,” she says, with a look that implies that, although she loves me, she thinks the questions that I sometimes ask are pretty dumb.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Face of a God

The fountain at Grand Army Plaza geysers water high into the air despite the gray, overcast, misty day. I walk past it from the arch at the top of Prospect Park towards Flatbush and the bust of JFK that they put up the year he died.

The fountain is a weird modernist/classic hybrid behemoth, all greenish brass and gods cavorting in water, that reminds me of the uber-pagan stuff they have at Rockefeller Center. Especially the Neptune they’ve got facing the park: he’s fat, but he’s somehow still got a six-pack, and his face is a rictus of awful good cheer that I find myself imagining providing small children nightmares for many past generations, and for many generations to come.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

What’s In A Name?

This enormous German Shepard walking into the ATM vestibule of the bank is remarkable for any number of reasons - his size, his floof, his missing eye that makes him look like he’s winking - but most of all for what he’s carrying.

He’s displays, clenched in his mouth, a full-sized orange traffic cone, and a well-loved one at that, from the looks of it. 

Katie and I coo and fuss over him, and he rewards our attention by walking over and dropping the drool-covered cone at our feet and looking up expectantly.

“Oh, Romeo loves to play tug of war with his toy,” his owner says helpfully, as Katie picks up the only toy big enough for a dog this big, and Romeo grabs the other end and growls happily.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Mark 6:4

If someone leaves a shoe in a section of the stockroom where it doesn’t belong, it’s called a “ditch.” A ditch means that the shoe in question could not have been found, if it was needed, by anybody else, because it was not in the place where it was supposed to be, and the only reason that it wasn’t in the right spot was because somebody was too lazy to find the spot where it belonged, and just put it any old place.

A ditch in my area caused me rage today, and so I shouted out, “Ditches get stitches!”

There were a bunch of people within earshot who heard this, I’m sure, but none of them laughed.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Fewer Stories Lately

I open up the “Health” app on my phone and throw it on the bed. It reads “16,833 steps/34 floors.”

Katie smiles wryly. “That’s 13 stories less than yesterday,” she says.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


The rally of employees for the opening of the new store is in full swing, music far too loud for such an early hour, and there are too many people around me, so I step around the crowd and walk over to the floor-to-ceiling windows and look out.

The roar of the music and noise of people, only a few feet away, fades considerably, and I stare down to the ground. I feel a small moment of peace after so many weeks of hard work.

I step back into the melee, the DJ starts playing “Poison” by Bell, Biv, Devoe, and the crowd goes nuts.

Duck Season (Rabbit Season)

This lady is contrary - if I suggest a trend, she likes it, but not that way; sure she likes block heels, but not those block heels. 

Finally she says she wants exactly those shoes, and I run to the stockroom to grab them, but on my way there, I see another pair of shoes, similar, but not exactly the same, when suddenly a strategy comes to mind.

“Listen,” I say, sitting down with her after showing her the exact one she asked for and having her reject it, “I don’t think you’re going to like this next one, but I thought I’d show it to you, just in case.”

“Oh!” she says, as I pull it out of the box, “that’s actually pretty cute!"

Monday, October 21, 2019

Golden Retriever

The fifteen minute break is over, and one of the Assistant Managers grabs me and a couple of other people to go bring some display fixtures up from a car parked downstairs.

As we’re crossing the street, we see a group of my co-workers coming back from a restaurant - very, very late.

The manager gives them the stink eye, but one of the group perks up as he sees us, like a golden retriever seeing somebody grab a leash.

“Hey, guys, where are we going?” he asks happily, oblivious.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Remembering the Dog

A cold, driving rain, harder than when we left the house, greets us as we leave the grocery store, and Katie and I pull our hoodies down lower to cover our faces. My glasses fleck up with droplets that scatter the streetlights into sparks across my eyes.

I find myself thinking of having to walk the dog in weather like this: the reluctance of a smart, stubborn, slightly demented dog to get wet, the ages that she would take to pee while I stood, soggy and bored, waiting for her to figure out the exact spot on which she wanted to do her business.

It’s only been a little over a year, and still I’m amazed at how so little time has passed, and how far away she seems, and how I miss her.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Take the Compliment

The guy sitting by the train door when I get on has goth game for days: from the soles of his spiky leather booths, right up through his black jeans, on through his black denim jacket covered in band patches from Sisters of Mercy and Ministry, right to the top of his pentagrammed top hat.

I lean over and say to him, “I love your hat.”

Instantly, his face falls, and I realize that receiving a compliment on his fashion sense from a guy who dresses like me (a green button down, comfortable pants, Frye work-boots) might not have complimented him as much as I thought.

“Thanks,” he says, without changing expression..


The sirens and flashing lights down the block have attracted all sorts of people, including us, out into the chill fall air, and the fire trucks have cordoned off the block. We watch with concern as lights play on the outside of the building where smoke poured out only a few minutes before, and a few brave fire-fighters have climbed up to the window and begun to smash out the windows.

A woman and a man walk out of the building with a dog each, and another woman starts crying when she sees them, and yet another woman looks at us and see’s our delight and says, “There were actually two dogs in there.”

When we point out that two dogs came out of the building this very moment, she turns, looks, sees the other dog, and her face lights up with joy.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

An Apple, A Day

Footsore and weary after a long day of work, on my way to pick up some fruit and vegetables, I make it halfway across the intersection before the light changes, and I’m forced to pause on the median.

I stare up Atlantic Avenue as the traffic files by, their lights illuminating the dusk, and a cold wind pushes at me. I squint into the wind, and realize that it’s actually kind of cold, and that I’ve become like some sort of animal who has no emotional response to its own discomfort, but merely accepts it as a fact, like darkness or hunger.

Later, after getting the food, I walk down the street eating an apple, and it is so sweet and tart and delicious that I find myself giving thanks for the mere fact of being alive.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Exit Strategy

I pride myself on being able to chart the shortest route from the subway station to where I’m going, especially if I use the station in question frequently to get to a destination I go to often.

So when I get off the train to go to work, and see a woman I work with going up the stairs ahead of me, I fully expect her to go the way I’m planning on going.

Instead, when she exits the turnstile, instead of taking a left, and exiting a little less than a block away, she goes right, to an exit that I know will let her out on the other side of the street, adding at least a minute to her walk.

Which just seems perverse to me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

High Holy Days

“Excuse me, are you Jewish?” the kid with the scraggly beard and the shofar asks as I walk by.

I’m always pleased when the Jews are out for their holidays trying to find secular Jews and they ask me, like the fact they can’t tell whether or not I’m Jewish means that I have a little of that air of holiness and otherworldliness that the orthodox Jews always seem to carry with them. 

“No,” I say with a big smile. “Have a nice day."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Breakfast Orphan

We’ve both been working pretty hard, and sleeping maybe less than we should, so Katie and I are both a little punchy as we head down the frozen food aisle to the checkout with frozen waffles, causing her to exclaim, “Says here on the box they have nine vitamins!"

“Nine!” I say in mock admiration.

“Are you a breakfast orphan, with no who loves you enough to make you a nourishing meal? Here’s your waffle!"

Pattern Of Behavior

“Okay, get on your bike and ride to mommy,” the man tells his small son as he finishes petting the tawny French bulldog. “And don’t hit anyone,” he shouts after him as the kid barrels down the sidewalk.

The kid rides a few feet past his mom, who is standing waiting on the next corner, and when the dad gets to them, he explains, “He had to stop and pet a dog.”

“You have to tell us if you’re going to keep doing that,” she says to her son in a mildly scolding tone, but he’s already ridden off again.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


He’s so large that his enormous bald head almost hits some of the pendants hanging over the entrance to the booth as he comes in. His face is a visage of longing and grief as he surveys Katie’s art.

“You want to capture them all!” he says in a thick German accent.

When I assure him that we don’t capture butterflies he replies, shaking his head, “I mean that when you see them [meaning the butterflies] on the street, they are so beautiful you want to capture them forever, and this you have done!"

Saturday, October 12, 2019


“I’m a very social person,” my co-worker says as we walk to the train, “and I don’t have a person at home, so I usually see my friends all the time.”

“But this job has me so tired that once I get off work, I only have energy to go home, eat some dinner, watch a little TV, and then go to bed,” she continues. “Although,” she adds, thoughtfully, "I do have plans tomorrow night, and Sunday night..., and Monday.”

“That’s more people than I’ve seen in two months,” I reply as we head down the steps into the station.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Salvage Rights

“Hi! You look lost,” I say to the unfamiliar guy in the stock room.

We establish that he’s from another department looking for some shoes to outfit a mannequin, and he adds, “I’m glad you came along, or I might have been wandering around here forever.”

“Well, the cool thing is, any bodies we find back here we get to go through their pockets and pilfer their clothes,” I say as I lead him to his shoes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I Walk Weird

I’m walking down 7th Avenue home from the subway, about to pass a woman walking a bit slower than me, when I suddenly realize I don’t know how to walk.

I mean, I continue walking, in that I am putting one foot in front of the other and not falling down, but the mechanics of it, how fast I do it, all that, seems weird and forced and entirely unnatural.

I pass her on the left, acutely aware of the way my hips sort of bobble back and forth as I walk, feeling the incipient pain as I almost over-extend my left knee with every step, and I decide to just forget about and relax.

And suddenly everything comes back into focus, and I can feel the earth passing swiftly underneath my feet as I pass this woman and speed off into the dusk.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Afternoon Tea

I leave the group of guys I was eating lunch with, and the loud restaurant where we were eating, and head out to the park by myself. I genuinely love people, but I’ve been around too many people today for my taste, and I need a recharge.

I sit on a rock on a cloudy day, looking down the hill to a road where bicyclists and horse-drawn carriages slowly make their way uphill as they wind through the park. A pigeon wings across a gray sky before landing on a branch high above, and I sip my tea, and think about very, very little.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Good Dog

Many of the people I’m working with lately have a lot of tattoos - a lot of tattoos, all up and down their forearms and sneaking up their necks from under their collars, peeking out from behind shirts or unexpectedly delivering quotes from mediocre poets on an ankle or a bicep.

But the better ones are really something to admire, actual works of art on a canvas of skin, and I occasionally think about adding to my one tattoo on my chest, like today as I was riding home on the train.

But the only thing I would really decorate in that way that would have meaning for me is a long spindly scar running up my right thigh, and when I thought of tattooing that, I cringed in sympathy at the already traumatized flesh having to endure any more suffering at my hand, whether for art or not.

I stood on the train, imagining my body as a large, faithful dog, doing its best to comply with my sometimes irrational demands, and my heart flooded with affection for the loyal, foolish thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Maybe Not Everything

I take the ceramic Virgin Mary planter (complete with ceramic rosary!) downstairs and place it on the stoop next to the painted white rattan spice rack.

When I get back upstairs I tell Katie, “You know, it’s nice to know that there’s this whole economy of people leaving stuff out on their stoops, knowing that some other people will take it, no matter what it is. It’s like this energy of stuff flowing through the city.”

When I go back downstairs the planter is gone, but the spice rack is still there.


While we’re stopped at the bus stop, the driver seems to be obsessively rubbing the upper edge of the little plastic door/shield that encloses his seat at the front of the bus. I watch him run his hand up and down the top edge, and then he does it again and rubs the side of the fare collection box, then the steering wheel.

I find his actions mystifying for a few seconds, but then, I smell it. Wafting back to me is the alcoholic scent of of hand sanitizer, and what looked strange is now obviously an act of self-preservation.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Not Mad

Someone put the boxes in the storage room in the wrong order, which means we have to take them all out and put them back in the correct order, which is not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but it’s still pretty annoying.

“I’m not mad, I’m just mad,” I say to no one in particular.

“I think I’m gonna start saying things like that,” says the soft spoken southern man I work with, overhearing me. “Like, ‘I’m not mad, I just hate you.’”

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Happier Than Most

A bunch of us are in the storage room at my new job, moving boxes of shoes around the shelves, but we’re taking a quick break. I start dancing for no good reason, mostly because keeping still is irritating, and dancing feels good.

“You’re always happy,” one of my co-workers says, watching me contemplatively as I absentmindedly boogie.

“That’s not true,” I say, because it’s not, but I do know what she means.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Forgotten Umbrella

The sky is forebodingly dark, and I hesitate outside the subway station for a moment: do I continue on to the library as planned, knowing that it’s going to rain (nay, deluge) shortly, or do I head home and avoid the whole mess?

When I arrive at the library the ground is still dry, and the fountains outside burble contentedly, blissfully unaware of the thunderclouds hovering just overhead. I feel the faintest prickles of rain as I head inside.

When I have dropped off my returns and picked up my books, I head back to the door, and on my way there pass several drenched and bedraggled folks staggering in, while outside the library what looks like an impenetrable wall of water buckets down on the plaza.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tired, Hangry

The guy standing riding next to me on the subway is holding the bar above his head with both hands, but he’s got this weird slouch with his hip cocked out that rests his elbow on the vertical bar that I’m holding. What this means, in terms that may be more easy to visualize for those who don’t spend hours out of their days commuting on a subway train, is this guy keeps bumping my hand with his elbow when the train starts and stops.

It’s a light tap, probably barely worth noting any other time, but today I am livid as it happens again and again, until I am ready to swing my elbow around and knock this guy in the head.

I blink, shake my head, and realize that unless I get home soon, eat something, and maybe go to bed early, I will do something that, while probably not as extreme as actually striking someone, will probably get me in more trouble than I want to deal with.