Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Worth A Shot

While I stand at the window waiting for my takeout, I hear my brother-in-law (visiting from out of town) behind me. “That looks delicious,” he says to one of the people in the group who just came up. 

“With all this covid shit, I can’t even ask for a bite,” he adds ruefully after she agrees that whatever she is eating is, in fact, delicious.

“I mean, this is New York,” I say over my shoulder, “so would you have even gotten a bite before covid?"

House Cat

“So what are you doing after this?” I ask her as I fit the shoe on her foot.

“I gotta get ready for the ball drop, see, I don’t wanna do nuthin’ but go from the couch, to the kitchen, get some more champagne, go back to the couch.”

“So you basically want to just go from one room to the other. You want to be a domesticated house cat, right?"

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Between The Lines

She goes off to use the bathroom, leaving her mother and I at the register with her shoes. “She’s a genius,” her mother says, and I nod agreeably.

“She seems pretty together,” I say, because she does.

“I would buy her anything she wanted,” she replies, but what she’s really saying is, I would die for her.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Battery Low

I swerve my new electric scooter around piles of leaves, branches strewn in the bike lane. My heart is beating quickly, and I consciously have to relax my grip on the handlebars - I’m headed downhill, fast, and I’m not entirely convinced I know how to stop.

The battery indicator begins to blink, and I realize that the single battery light I thought meant I had plenty of power actually meant nothing of the kind. The scooter slows down to a gentle walking speed on its own, and I begin to make my way home.

For The ‘Gram

I walk out of work, exhausted, and head down the block to the subway, pulling the collar of my jacket closed against the late-December wind that’s kicking up the trash up and down the street. 

I only see her, at first: dark hair in a fetching up-do, short, shimmery, form-fitting skirt, make-up flawless (no mask, natch), legs bare despite the bitter cold, standing at the curb with her hip cocked like she’s waiting for a cab or a movie producer. She’s posed before a beautifully lit plaza, and although the whole thing makes for a lovely tableau, I cannot for the life of me figure out what the situation is: is she coming out of an event, or waiting to go to one, and if so, what event, and where?

Then I notice the guy kneeling by the curb, taking her picture on a small camera, and I realize I’m probably seeing some sort of Instagram thing, just the two of them, maybe her with her boyfriend, having him take her picture to recreate some sort of facsimile of glamour from which she can gain some internet notoriety, maybe some likes, and who knows - maybe it’ll go viral.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Wake Up, It’s Christmas

Christmas comes under a yellowish-grey sky, bringing rain that washes the slush from the streets. We chat over piles of food and Christmas carols twinkling out of bluetooth speakers, talking about politics and family members we don’t get to see this year. It’s been a weird year, but there’s nothing too off about this Christmas, right?

Outside, a warming wind blows.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Eve - Retail Version

 I toss the shoebox back on the shelf in the storeroom where it belongs and pause, leaning my head against the cool metal frame and feeling my chest rise and fall with my breath. I look at my phone and scroll absent-mindedly through a couple of pictures before my manager walks in.

She gasps when she sees me, then says in a shocked voice, “Scott, there are people out there!"

I do not startle, and my face does not change expression when I deeply and reply, “I just need a minute."

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

It’s still technically the middle of a pandemic, but it’s also the day before Christmas Eve, so the streets are packed. The red and green of the traffic lights echo the season. Roads are clogged with traffic, cars impatiently lined up at every stop light and back to the previous one, exhausts grumbling at the delay.

A car booms Christmas carols from blown speakers, rattling its own windows with flabby bass, and the rest of the cars edge forward and stop, forward and stop, forward and stop.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2020 At A Glance

Several signs on the church door says “no loitering on the church steps”; someone has scrawled “WWJD” on all of them.

A dog catches sight of itself in a mirror, and begins to snarl and bark viciously, then immediately forgets what he was doing when a treat is tossed in front of him.

A dirty sidewalk, recently cleared - the path forward seems clear, but filthy ice and snow sulks in long, heavy piles on either side.

Dozens of discarded lotto tickets lie scattered along an almost empty subway platform; when the train roars into the station, they flutter weakly like wounded birds, then stop.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Views of Brooklyn

An ancient-looking Jew, identifiable by his full black suit and tall slightly conical fur hat, stands in the loading dock fronting Third Avenue stroking his white beard and watches attentively as a portly man in overalls unloads giant blue plastic barrels from a hand truck.

Through an open rolling gate I can see school buses standing idle like herds of snow-covered sheep in an otherwise empty lot.

Trucks creep heavily over an elevated section of the BQE, silhouetted dark against a soot-grey sky the exact color of the slush that chokes the gutters. 

A tall, heavy-shouldered black guy standing on the corner in a long, elegant black fur coat and unnecessary sunglasses makes a joke, and his friends fall over themselves laughing.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Morning Sounds

Shuffling sounds in the apartment above, like a ghost sifting through piles of old memories.

Someone outside (or maybe in the apartment building next door, shoved up against our building) is singing an old Radiohead song from 24 years ago. His voice is passable, and he gets most of the long, lonesome high notes on the chorus, but he can’t quite nail the tricky melody changes in the verse. 

Somebody drags a shopping cart without wheels down the entire length of the sidewalk in front of our building, creating the scraping equivalent of a drone, counterpointed by the rhythmic beeping of a truck backing up.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Six Feet

 The train is getting a little crowded, but I bury my face in my book and ignore it as best I can.

Then a voice cuts the quiet. “SIX FEET SIX FEET SIX FEET SIX FEET!”

A family - mother pushing baby carriage with baby, father, unmasked child of about eleven or so - hustle past me down the train, speaking Russian in quiet, offended tones, while the rest of the train behind them watches them in silent judgement.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Rage Vomit

The cat has long lost patience with our late-night work schedule, as it interferes terribly with her feeding schedule: we don’t feed her until we go to bed, and since we’re up late into the evening working to prepare for the next day’s work at Katie’s booth, she might not get fed until 2 or later in the morning.

This is, of course, an intolerable affront to her, and she makes a good case by coming in periodically to announce that she has, by god, had enough of our shenanigans.

Katie and I are both bent over our work when we hear, from back towards the kitchen, a swollen yowling rising up from the kitchen where the cat has waited long enough for her dinner.

Katie jumps up and rushes back to the kitchen where, sure enough, the cat has decided to express her rage at our neglect by throwing up on something.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Worst “Showtime” Ever

He starts quietly enough, but insistently, like a dripping faucet in a quiet house. “The CDC was originally created by Nazis in 1947, Nazi scientists that the US brought over from Germany after the war to help create Operation Lockstep, look it up, it’s still going,” he says, his nasal voice filling the subway car.

He wears no mask to cover his thin, pubic beard, he makes no eye contact, remains seated staring at his phone as he talks, headphones on, and yet he becomes increasingly aggressive as he picks up steam. “They make you wear a mask to control you, and their agenda is obvious when you realize that the virus and the vaccine both originated in China and was financed by Israel and Bill Gates!"

Snow Storm

There’s a tipping point in each snow storm, a moment when the world goes from slick, dirty sidewalks and wet slush squelching down all thick and flabby, to something else. The snow begins to accumulate, first in furry patches on the streets and trees, then in large swaths that cover whole avenues in white silence. 

Then the light changes, and the air grows luminous from the reflected glow of all that blowing ice. It blooms from the ground up into the sky, the mirror of cloud above and icy expanse below magnifying one another, the street lamps, the Christmas lights, the warm glows of brownstone living rooms and apartment building security floodlights, traffic lights and drugstore signs, all reverberating and amplifying in the ever-expanding storm of crystals until the entire city is filled with unearthly, swirling light.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Wasn’t Being Funny

“What are you doing?” she says, coming around the corner into the stockroom where I’m typing numbers into one computer and writing the descriptions of shoes that come up into a spreadsheet on another computer, an activity that really gives me a chance to think about the choices I’ve made in life that led me to this point.

“The reject report - I own it now,” I say.

“Oh, I love Scott. He has such a dry sense of humor,” she says, laughing to another co-worker as she walks away.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Chinese Delivery During A Pandemic

The voice on the other end of the phone says, in thickly accented English, "Your food is on its way."

I throw on a mask, grab my keys, and run downstairs. I can see, through the gauzy curtain that covers the window on the inside door, an asian man on an electric bicycle watching my food on the stoop from under the brim of his helmet. He suspiciously eyes a person walking by, and then nods curtly when I wave to him as I open the door to grab my food, and speeds away.

Getting There Early

I get to the line outside the clinic a little after seven, to find only a few people already waiting: a single man staring at his phone, a couple sitting on the sidewalk rapt in conversation, a woman reading a book. The day is hazy and gray, a featureless, unfocused sky above turning the buildings and streets the same gray. 

I step into line, six feet away from woman and her book in front of me, and sit down to read my book, since the clinic doesn’t open for another two hours. Above the buildings and the streets and the people waiting in line and the traffic that periodically booms Christmas carols from rattling car windows as it races nowhere in particular as fast as it can up and down Flatbush, a single gull floats in complete unconcern to the chaos below, then changes direction into the wind and flies south, toward Coney Island and the sea.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

No Chewing

“You ever had a lemonade that’s, like, mostly pulp?” he asks.

“Is it good?” his friend replies.

“No, man, it’s straight trash,” he says, laughing. “Like, chewy."

Friday, December 11, 2020

Home is Where

I spend very little time outside, these days, things being what they are. A walk to the train on my way to work, a couple of blocks to the park to sit in the booth where we sell Katie’s butterfly sculptures to holiday shoppers, a trip down our street in Brooklyn to the glowing fluorescent lit aisles of the grocery store to pick up cat food: these are what passes for outdoor activities in the late capitalist morass of a pandemic in America.

But sometimes, leaving the light of the subway station for the dark residential streets of Park Slope where the only illumination comes from the dim glow of darkened living rooms in brownstones that seem too large to hold so few people, sometimes I’ll look up, wind will scour my face, a plane will fly across the face of the moon, lonely blue and red lights blinking out its destination in code, and I will think, “I’m going home. I didn’t go very far today, but I’m going back to the only place that matters.”

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Sheltering Sky

The hard blue sky of the desert is like god: perfect, remote, its gaze elsewhere. The water evaporates from a small animal, or a car burns lonely between nowhere and nowhere on the side of an empty highway, its thin transparent flames adding nothing to the heat of a merciless sun; the sky sees nothing, and cares less than that.

But here, New York - grey, stony New York - the sky is close and homey. Whether whited out in fast running snow, or dark and mordant with rain, or even cheerful blue on a fall day, it sees us and has reference to us; we contend with it in the language of skyscrapers and bridges, it with us in lightning and storm, but the city has a sky that knows us, as close as the roof of a world we can call home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Forced Out

Only two people are allowed to sit at the larger tables in the lunch room, since people take their masks off to eat and that’s a great way to get people sick. People ignore that pretty frequently, though.

So when four people are seated at a table next to me, I start to feel uncomfortable, but I finished my lunch a while ago, so I just put my mask back on and go back to reading quietly, but when yet another person comes up to sit there, she thankfully stops because there are too many people already at the table, saying, “Oh, I can’t sit there.”

She then pulls up a chair, sitting directly behind me, breathing down my neck, and without a word I close my book, stand up, and leave.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Then And Now

Before the pandemic, disputes and mayhem used to arise on the trains with some frequency: everyone pushing everyone else in a packed car, sweating and angry to the point of complete interpenetrabilty, people trying to sit in already occupied seats, whole generations of boys and young men for whom gravity was more suggestion than law, twisting themselves into rhythmic, bounding waveforms to the accompaniment of terrible techno for spare change from the bored, captive audiences of the Q train as we trundled over the bridge. 

Sometimes I would pay attention, but more often not, if I could help it. I didn’t want the hassle of feeling responsible for what was going on in the world around me: if people wanted to get heated and start shit, well, that was their business, but please leave me out of it, thanks.

Now other than the occasional mask-shaming, people are mostly silent, and under my mask, I’m free to look at whomever I want: the drowsy workers in all black, the guys in headphones nodding along to thundering beats like davening Jews at prayer, the couple chatting quietly to each other, heads leaning together, telling their infatuation through their eyes.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Smells Like Irresponsibility

Today, after Katie finishes her shift, I meet her at a local craft market, and we go shopping for Christmas gifts.

One of the stores, a soap and candle and beauty supplies store, isn’t too full, so we go in and take a look around at shelves full of soft, matte spheres and ovals of soap, egg-shaped bath bombs in tasteful shades of lavender and off-white that foam when you drop them in hot water, candles squatting in decoratively rustic ceramic cradles, and wide, open-ended glass cylinders full of fragrant herbs.

The woman behind the counter leans over and casually says, “You can take your mask down to smell anything, of course.”

I give Katie a look, and we beat a hasty retreat.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Everyone Knows It’s Windy

The wind whirls around to snatch umbrellas from the hands of the unwary. Like a fullback, faking a run down the field only to switch directions to grab a pass out of thin air, it blows northerly, then cuts back to abruptly pluck your umbrella like a giant, bright orange dandelion seed lofted into the air to sail down the street and crash into the filthy gutters.

If you are crafty enough to hold onto it, revenge will be exacted in the form of a destroyed, inverted umbrella, popped by a sudden gust into a useless satellite dish fit only to receive rainwater. The best thing to do is dance with the push and pull of the wind as it leads you in a waltz down the street, lifting and swooping your umbrella in leaps and arcs to a tune that sounds like a mournful sigh.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Falling Asleep On The Train

The last thing you see when you fall asleep on the train is the book you’re reading. You don’t even really see the book in the way you normally see stuff when you’re not falling asleep on the train. You’re looking at the book, eyes sliding across the page like you’re putting words in your brain, but you’re not actually reading, not in any meaningful sense, and then you’re thinking of something else, dreaming it, actually, and your eyes have closed without you even being aware of it. 

If you’re lucky, the book almost falls out of your hands and your eyes snap open in a blind panic a few moments before you pull into the station, and you stumble off the train and back out into the world.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Crossword With A Pen

An old woman in pink plastic Birkenstock-style sandals over grey and black socks sits on the train working a crossword with a pen, next to a pushcart covered in a blue partly-translucent bag. The cart, one of the folding wire ones favored by old ladies on their way to the laundry, seems to be appropriately full of clothes, along with various, smaller plastic bags of the type favored by take-out places. 

As the train tilts around corners and into stations, the unsecured cart rolls away from her, and she’s forced to reach up a claw to snatch it back to her side before it escapes. This happens several times before she finally shoves a sandaled foot in front of the back wheel of the cart as a brake, and she settles back in to her crossword again.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Way Out In Brooklyn

I don’t even see him until I get off the B Train at my stop: white guy, skinny, wearing a red MAGA hat. 

At least he’s wearing a mask. I’ve never seen one in the wild, either the hat or a person who would be so brazen as to wear one, so I check him and it out through the window as I’m leaving, but neither of them are interesting enough to bear much description, except for the slight pallor to his skin and the unhealthy blue ghost of stubble that shadows the flesh of his neck.

When I tell Katie about him later, she says, “Oh, he’s getting off the train in like twenty more stops."

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Deck The Halls

Our Christmas decorating has ground to a halt as I attempt to festoon a series of hooks in the ceiling with silver garland while Katie and my roommate John offer various less-than-encouraging critiques.

Part of the problem is that the hooks are a remnant of the time when this room, now the family room, was an art studio for Katie, so the hooks are placed in formerly useful, but not necessarily aesthetically pleasing, locations.

Finally, after a few attempts and a lot of pained sighing from Katie, I give up and take it down, to the relief of all.

When a different arrangement is found for hanging garland from the ceiling, Katie says, “Well, hanging it from those hooks took years off my life, so this is a lot better."

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Feeling Bad Is Extra

She knows she’s being difficult, and she apologizes, but that doesn’t keep her from asking for more, and being more obnoxious about it: more shoes, different shoes, no I don’t like that, I told you so, why did you bring that, etc. 

She knows, but she does it anyway, which either means she’s apologizing, but she doesn’t really mean it (entirely plausible), or she knows, does feel sorry, and simply can’t help it.

I find myself wondering, as we go upstairs to find an umbrella to replace the one she literally just left somewhere in the store, which it is. Where do I screw up, know I’m screwing up, do it anyway, but still feel bad about it?

Monday, November 30, 2020

Wishful Thinking

As I clear the shoe boxes from my most recent sale, the incessant jingling refrains of pop Christmas music that fill the store suddenly go quiet, and an eerie silence descends.

I search the floor expecting others to be looking up in dazed bewilderment, like a scene out of the movie Independence Day where the giant spaceships move into position over major metropolitan areas, but no one seems fazed, so I go back in the stockroom with my boxes. 

I remark in passing to a co-worker, “What does it mean when the music stops?”

“That Christmas is over?” he says wistfully.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

This Is Just A Tribute

“I told you a story earlier today,” I tell Katie as she comes in the room from her shower. 

She sleepily considers this for a bit. “A story?” she finally asks.

“Yeah, a funny one, and I thought, ‘This would be perfect for my four each day,’ but now I can’t remember it,” I finish sadly.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Cat Dreams

There’s a sound like a grumbling whine. “Is that the cat?” Katie asks.

“I think it was your stomach,” I say, looking up from my phone.

“No, I think she’s having a dream,” she insists, getting up, which wakes the cat, who begins licking her fur forcefully as if to chase away the phantoms.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Dress For The Job You Want To Have

After some hemming and hawing, she finally answers my "what do you do for a living question," by saying, "Well, I'm a political strategist currently working on helping indigenous and marginalized populations get access to the coronavirus vaccine."

I love answers like this, and we chat about her job (which today involved her being on a lot of Zoom calls with Biden's transition team) but then her jacket falls open a little and I pause for a moment.

"So, are you wearing a Christmas sweater with dinosaurs on it?" I ask, and she blushes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Ending A Conversation

"I love these boots," she says in her thick Eastern European accent, "but there is something that bothers me about them, and I cannot explain it."

I don't miss a beat as I start packing up the half-dozen or so shoes I've brought her. "Well, I'm sorry I wasn't able to help you find what you needed today," I say, which is my favorite way to end an interaction while making it sound like they're the ones ending it. 

"You are very patient, very kind," she says apologetically as she's leaving, almost as if I'm not the one who sent her on her way

Monday, November 23, 2020

Among The Redwoods

"What was your favorite part of camping this summer?" I ask the young women I'm fitting for combat boots.

"The redwoods," she answers without hesitation.

"You can really feel the fairies among the redwoods," her mother continues, and the young woman seems to accept this as a completely normal thing to say. The dog lying at her mother's feet does not look at me, but he sighs deeply, and puts his head on his paws.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


"No one was bad," Katie says of the people she met today. "They were all just so... forgettable."

I think back on my day, and find a similar theme: no one said anything that surprised me, or enlightened me, or told me anything I didn't already know, or that I really needed to hear.

I wonder if it was them, or if it was me?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Basic Elements

Katie comes out of her studio as I'm cooking dinner.

"The house smells so good!" she shouts down the hall toward the kitchen.

"You know what you have to cook to make people think something delicious is cooking...," I say as I chop broccoli.

"GARLIC AND ONIONS!" she yells.

Friday, November 20, 2020

And She’d Have Won

We’re watching random music videos on YouTube, because it’s that kind of night. HAIM does a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” there’s a mashup up of thirty or so songs from the year 1979 strung together in a single video by a group called The Hood Internet. Then, I see a video for Prince doing a live cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and I immediately click.

“I would have bet every dollar I had that you wouldn’t be able to pass that video without watching it,” Katie says.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Dr. Wife

A restless night with what feels like a pulled hamstring leads to me lying in bed for longer than usual after I awaken.

I’m thumbing through my phone when Katie comes in with a thoughtful look on her face. “Let me see your knees,” she says.

I obligingly throw off the covers and she examines my legs for a minute before she points at my left knee, pronouncing, “No, that ones definitely bigger."

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


“Oh, he’s not very friendly,” she says when I ask to meet her dog.

“Fair enough,” I say, carefully avoiding eye contact with the dog and projecting my calmest demeanor.

Later, when we’re sitting down and she trying on shoes, the dog climbs into her lap, barks once, and then settles down to watch me with a calm expression.

“He’s being very good,” she says with surprise, but I know it’s because I’m projecting calmness.

Tricking Myself Into Productivity

I gave myself permission to do nothing today, my day off. Which is why I now find myself on my knees wearing heavy blue rubber gloves, scrubbing at the sides of the tub with an old kitchen sponge while the smell of bleach and cleaning supplies filters through my mask.

I tel l myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be better than it was, which takes some of the pressure that I put on myself off. I used to be paralyzed by the thought of all the work that needed to be done on any given task, but now, I just do what I can in the time that I have, and don’t worry about if it’s perfect, or even if it’s done, and that seems to get more done than anything else.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Too Long

‘I’ll be one minute,” I tell my manager as I head down the escalator.

One minute?” he asks sarcastically, and I roll my eyes.

“Are you going to be like this the rest of my life?” I say in exasperation.

“Well, for sure the rest of my life,” he replies cheerfully.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

You Can Tell By The Way I Walk

The DJ they brought into the store for the weekend is bumping some BIG tunes, and as I ring up my customers, I absent-mindedly shimmy a little.

“My manager hates it when I dance,” I lie self-deprecatingly, just to get them to laugh, which they do.

“We’ll tell him we forced you to!” one of them cries.

“Oh, there’s no way he’ll believe that,” I say, boogieing, and they join in.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Falling For The Big Apple

“It was mid-December, I was on the Upper West Side in a cafe with a women I thought I was in love with,” I tell my customer. "It was about midnight, and it started to snow, those huge, slow flakes coming down, and I looked out the window into the night and just thought, ‘I love New York.’”

“It’s funny you should say that,” she replies, her eyes shining. “Because I met a guy I thought I loved when I first moved here, and we did all the New York-y things you do, and I thought ‘Ooooh, I’m falling in love with him,’ but really, I realized I was falling in love with the city!"

Friday, November 13, 2020


The guy sitting across from me on the train is wearing a mask, but it’s still rather alarming when he abruptly sneezes without covering his mouth.

“Bless you,” I say reflexively, and look up as he goes back to scrolling through his phone.

He sneezes again, this time, at least, into the crook of his elbow, as all good New Yorkers are taught to do in the literature they leave for us to read when we move in to our first apartment.

Without speaking, I stand up and walk down to the opposite end of the car, away from this sneezing maniac.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Existential Hunger?

On the train after a slow, rainy day. Everyone staring at their phones or reading books.

But how many days do we have left, how many hours have we spent reading, looking away from the world, staring at glass bricks and processed hunks of wood and hallucinating?

(this seemed really profound when I thought of it on the train, but I think I might have just been hungry)

Real Genius

A lot of people lately are buying running shoes. I ask them, “Oh, are you a runner?”

“No,” they usually say, “I just want to walk more.”

“That’s okay,” I tell them, “I only run when chased."

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


In lieu of the usual tongue-clicking sound I make to get the cat’s attention, I wiggle my fingers against each other in her general direction. 

This sound, the sort of flip-flip-flip sound that my fingers makes, seems to alarm the cat, and she repeatedly startles as I do it.

To make sure I’m the one that’s doing it, I do it again, and she startles again, only more so.

I apologize to her profusely and pet her until she settles back down into her spot on the couch, and her eyes slit back towards sleep.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Belt And Suspenders

“The receipt you have there for Customer Owned Goods is all you need to reclaim your shoes after they’ve been stretched,” I tell her.

“Could you please bring me the original receipt anyway?” she asks apologetically.

After I’ve fetched it and given it to her, I brush aside her apologies, saying, “I appreciate people who plan ahead and like to have contingency plans, like my wife. I sometimes say that she likes to wear belt and suspenders."

Sunday, November 8, 2020

It’s Over

I’m standing watching the escalator for customers when my friend Ben taps me on the shoulder. He’s holding up his phone, screen towards me, and it reads “Biden: 279,” as he says, “It’s over.”

My knees get kinda week and I lean over, palms down on the table, tears in my eyes. He kindly pats me on the back and walks away.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Handcuffs And Death

The guy who has been across the street from our apartment yelling incoherently most of the night has disappeared by the time I take the garbage down to the curb for pickup. The night is cool but not cold, and I pause on the top step in front of my building while a couple passes walking their dog, who sniffs the pile of trash with evident interest before being pulled away.

Later, the shouting man has returned, and Katie and I turn off the light in our front room overlooking the street to watch him. Though his shouting seems aggressive, and I certain wouldn’t like to meet him in his current state, he doesn’t seem to be harming anyone, so we stand in the window while he stalks up and down the sidewalk, yelling aggrievedly about handcuffs and death.

Friday, November 6, 2020

A Second Opinion

I lean over, bending at the waist in a sideways motion, to pick up my guitar and move it so I can vacuum, when something in my side and back contracts and spasms unpleasantly, and I gingerly lower the guitar and stand up straight, resigned in my heart to an afternoon, and possibly an evening, of being uncomfortable and moving slowly.

Later that night, as I'm explaining to Katie what happened, I muse, "I'm a little worried it might be a kidney stone."

"With the amount of water you drink?" she asks incredulously. "No, forty-nine years old, you picked something up, pulled something - you're old!"

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Protecting Our Stuff

While the businesses surrounding the winter market are boarding up in an excess of caution as we count votes in the presidential election, another vendor comes up to ask about whether we feel safe leaving our inventory in the booth.

“I’m sure it will be fine,” I tell her. “There won’t be, like, real unrest unless Trump tries to steal the election, plus, not that I like cops, but there are plenty of police around.”

She looks confused, and I worry I may have overstepped, so I add, “You know, there are just a lot of cops around, so people probably won’t try anything."

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Wizard

“The most messed up I’ve ever been was, god, years ago,” I tell Ben during a lull between customers. “I was at a party, drinking tequila, and I smoked up. The party ended with me hiding under the kitchen table, scared because I knew this guy I didn’t get along with was a wizard casting curses on me.”

“Isn’t it amazing how sometimes we need substances to show what’s really going on?” he deadpans.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Rescued From The Tracks

What started as “well I might be a little late to work” has rapidly become “oh I am definitely going to be very late,” because here we are, all of us on this Q train, stopped on the Manhattan Bridge.

I am sitting at the very front of the train, in the seat right next to the conductor’s cabin, where a sign on the door admonishes me to “Keep your distance,” though I have no idea where I would go, when I hear, from inside the cabin, a loud disturbance.

Then the door to the conductor’s cabin opens and out of it, like a clown car, come numerous hard-hatted, safety-vested track workers, way more that should fit into such a small space, all carrying various pieces of equipment and joking with one another in a sort of relieved way about how they’re glad that’s over.

Finally, the last one comes out and says to the others, “Okay, ready to do it again?"

Sunday, November 1, 2020

No One Dies Inside Disneyworld

My friend at work stops in the middle of our conversation, points at the ground, and says, matter-of-factly, “Stinkbug.”

Thus ensues a bit of running around which culminates in me carrying said stink bug, who is now very confused, in a plastic cup up the elevator and out the front door of the store to the curb, where he is dumped unceremoniously in the rain.

There is some discussion on my return to the shoe floor as to whether we really saved him, per se, but we all finally agree that, though he’ll probably die outside, at least he’ll die in his “natural” habitat.

When I relate this story to Katie later that night, she muses, “You should have compared it to Disneyworld."

I Am Not Feeling Festive

“Have any Halloween plans?” I ask the couple I’m selling to, hoping that the answer is “no.”

“We’re going out to dinner with some friends, having some drinks,” she answers while he continues to look at his phone. I successfully conceal my wince, and I know they’re not technically doing anything wrong.

“It’s hard to feel like it’s Halloween when I’m pretty sure it’s still March,” I say, and they laugh.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Special Occasion

We’re almost at the pizza place when we see the two older people, a man and a woman, bidding each other farewell on the sidewalk. 

“Well, let’s hope it’s not so long until next time,” he says, giving her a gentle fist bump.

“Oh, you’re gonna make me cry,” she replies, hand to her chest.

“Hey, that’s why I had the sambuca with the coffee beans - it was a special occasion,” he says.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

New Normal

 I drop off the truck at U-Haul after an exhausting day, only to realize that I left home without a mask.

It’s early Tuesday evening in Brooklyn, so the streets aren’t too too filled, but I find myself checking a full block ahead to see if anyone is approaching, walking out into the street to give folks plenty of space, and just generally feeling deeply uncomfortable.

I don’t know how people do it, walking around with their whole face hanging out like its normal. When I finally got home I was so relieved. 


Loading the truck full of Katie’s art and displays takes several trips, and on one of them I come down to find a gentleman parking his bike in front of our apartment building. He takes off his helmet to reveal curly brown hair and a long face, partially concealed behind a mask.

He pulls a paper bag out of his backpack, then leans down and unties a garbage bag sitting on the curb, which, it turns out, is full of what appear to be day-old bagels from the bagel shop next door.

He carefully goes through the bag as I continue to load the truck, pulling out ones he likes the look of and throwing the rest back in, until his paper bag is full, and he and I do not speak the entire time, even though I pass him more than once, because I figure he’s doing nothing wrong, so why make a fuss?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sometimes You Can Just Tell

We step out of the apartment into the overcast fall day, Katie in her new, brightly hued sweater dress and leather jacket and me in a hooded t-shirt and army green button down, fresh-faced and ready to go vote and the first thing I hear is two young women eating under the tent for the bagel place next door, discussing politics.

“Like, don’t act like you’re all virtuous just because you’re voting and I’m not...,” one says to the other in this nasal, aggrieved tone before I pass out of earshot.

“Man, I hated everything about that conversation,” I tell Katie.

“Oh yeah, even though I couldn’t hear what they said,” she agrees.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

To Make Himself Smile

He stands up after finishing his lunch to go back to work. At other tables in the lunch room, people are chatting, watching videos on their phones, eating, one guy is clearly asleep, with his head under his arm to shade his eyes from the fluorescent lights. 

As he leaves, he shoots his trash into the garbage can with an unfancy fade away shot, nothing but net, no one saw but me. “Kobe,” he says softly to himself, and heads out with a small smile.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Arriving At Home

I sit at the dinner table - in front of me, an empty plate that previously held a grilled cheese sandwich, and a bowl that had held vegetable soup. Across from me sits my wife, thumbing through her phone, a smaller empty plate in front of her.

I take a sip of wine, red and full-bodied and delicious, and a tension I wasn’t aware I had been carrying around in my shoulders and chest relaxes. I take a deep breath, and smile.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Just a Normal Conversation With A Customer

“It reminds me of a line from the Gospel of Thomas,” I tell the woman I am helping find shoes (after a long discussion of her work as a therapist and counselor) as she takes off the too tight Ugg slippers. “‘If you bring forth what is within in, what you bring forth will save you, but if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.’”

This seems to excite the psychologist side of her. “I would add to that,” she says, “that if you bring forth and name what is within you, it will save you."

Monday, October 19, 2020

Chaos Boys

Milo and his friend look to be about ten or eleven, and certainly act like it, with each daring the other to jump into the murky water at Dog Beach while the park slowly winds down toward the end of a cool fall Sunday afternoon.

Finally they hit upon a plan to upend a sizable stump that people have been using as a seat. Working together, they heave it up and over and into the pond with a sad, heavy splash.

Not content with simply spoiling a good place to sit, they eagerly grab a long branch and push it out further into the water, where it floats uselessly, and then, finished with their task, they stand on the rocks overlooking the pond until Milo says, “I dare you to take off your pants."

Sunday, October 18, 2020

In On The Joke

“Do you guys want some water while you’re waiting?” I ask the mother/daughter duo to whom I’m currently selling shoes, before I run into the stockroom in another attempt to find them what they're looking for.

“I don’t think you have anything strong enough for me,” the mother replies jokingly.

“Well, unless you’re looking for heroin, I think we can oblige,” I say, indicating the actual bar with booze we have behind her in the middle of the shoe floor, and her face goes stony.

There’s a moment, right after you make a joke that may have landed wrong, where the world seems to hold its breath, but the daughter must have seen the bar on the way in, even though the mother clearly hadn’t, and she laughingly points it out to her, while relief floods through my body.

Saturday, October 17, 2020


Shoes left after a customer has concluded the transaction (either by buying something or not) are traditionally called “wood,” and it’s part of the job of the salesman to clean up their wood to keep the sales floor tidy. 

This pile of wood is something else, though: three different sizes of three different shoes, plus a couple random shoes for good measure, strewn about the floor surrounded by piles of the paper and cardboard and plastic bags that are used to pack the shoes.

I’ve seen this sort of thing before - the desperate attempts to engage the customer who doesn’t know exactly what she wants, or even what size, only that she doesn’t want whatever it is you brought out for her, but maybe if you bring out one more thing, she’ll finally decide....

As I pass the guy to whom the wood belongs, he laments, “Man, I’m not making any money today."

Thursday, October 15, 2020

We Must Take Sides

“I’m not going to vote,” my customer says. I manage to hold my tongue as she continues in an aggrieved tone, “Trump supporters don’t seem to care when I say that, but people who oppose him get really nasty with me."

I take a deep breath as I loosen the laces on the boot she’s about to try on. “They don’t get mad at you because silence favors the oppressor,” I finally say, as casually as I can.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

An Hour For Lunch

Yeah, that’s a good idea, I think as I sit down for lunch. I should totally do that.

I watch a few minutes of a show on my phone, and then realize that I do not remember the thing that I thought I should do.

I stare at the paused image on my screen, wracking my brain for it, but nothing comes to mind, and eventually I just give up and unpause the show.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Guilt Is A Useless Emotion

The boots that I suggested Katie purchase last year specifically because they were waterproof seem to be no match for today’s rain. 

“Yeah, there are wet spots on my socks,” she says looking down at her soaked toes as we enter the grocery store.

“Man, I feel like I really let you down,” I say.

“Don’t make this about you,” she replies mildly.


The mini Australian Shepherd startles as I approach, then proceeds to make this huffing noise that is, almost, but not quite a bark.

“We’re trying to socialize him again,” his owner says apologetically as I kneel with my knuckles held loosely toward the dog. “He was fine before lockdown, but he seems to have forgotten how to be around people.”

“Yeah, that seems to be going around,” I say, as the dog huffs again.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Still A Little Ways To The Robot Uprising

“We moved a piece of furniture, and there were all these dust bunnies underneath it,” my father tells me on our phone call. “So we watched the robot vacuum cleaner go past it once, twice. On the third time, it got it.”

 “This is what passes for entertainment in lockdown, right?” I reply.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Everyone’s A Comedian

Being outside for so many hours yesterday (while wearing a mask, and with my hair falling over one side of my face) has left me with a rather peculiar sunburn, covering most of the left side of my face down my cheek to a line right above my nose, and leaving the right side of my face relatively unaffiliated.

Today, I wore a new pair of shoes that matched nicely with my pale-pink pants and a crisp white button-down shirt.

“Oh, I like those pants,” says my friend Ben. “They go so well with your face!"

Friday, October 9, 2020

Do The Math

The sky is what I like to call “anime blue”: a clear, intense, friendly blue, characteristic of a warm spring or early fall, that seems to promise a bit of adventure and fun. I’m standing on an asphalt playground at a school on the Lower East Side, helping fit kids for shoes that the company I’m working for is giving away.

“So what’s your favorite subject?” I ask the boy sitting in front of me while I unbox a new pair of sneakers.

He looks very serious under his mask, thinks for a moment and then says, “I think I like math best."

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Mars In Retrograde

On the walk home from the subway, I wonder if the guy who made eye contact with me as I walked up the stairs is following me home and hoping I turn down a side street so he can rob me. I find myself eyeing the small plots of earth where they planted trees along 7th Avenue, searching for rocks or pieces of trash that I can pick up to beat somebody over the head.

There’s an empty beer bottle, standing in front of a shuttered store front that might do the trick.

They say if you think everybody hates you, you need to take a nap, and if you hate everyone, you need to eat something, but what’s the solution when you find yourself imagining violent ways of murdering somebody with objects found on the street?

Monday, October 5, 2020

Play By Play

The thin black woman with the young doberman pinscher and the enormous pit bull picks up the waterlogged branch and throws it into the water yet again. The doberman, all giant paws and gangly legs, splashes awkwardly into the water to retrieve it while the pit hangs back on the shore.

A young and impetuous yellow lab named, awkwardly, “Jeff” tries to horn in on the stick action in a tug-of-war when the doberman comes out of the water, and then, when that doesn’t work, tries to hump both other dogs. 

The woman, seeing that Jeff’s owner (a young, diffident man in Birkenstocks and socks at a pond no less) is unable or unwilling to pull him off of her dogs, very calmly walks over, hauls Jeff up in the air by the collar, and says, gently admonishing, “Now, no humping."

Saturday, October 3, 2020

New York City Cops

After Katie’s run in with the cops earlier in the evening, I’m surprised they have the audacity to still be in our neighborhood, but walking to the store, I have to pass three police vans, with their occupants (unmasked, natch) hanging out in front of the Old First Church.

I do not make eye contact, and I do not speak to them, on my way there or back from the store.

A Black man is crossing the street going in the direction of the cops and I want to say something to him, tell him to be careful, but really, what would I say? He’s not doing anything, not that that matters.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Belgian Shepherd

I walked home from the subway, and saw a man with a shaggy german shepherd. I thought to myself, “Is that dog called a Malinois, or am I just making that word up?”

Later, at dinner, Katie mentioned seeing a man walking a dog, a shaggy sort of german shepherd, and I wondered, is she talking about the same dog?

A few minutes ago, I looked up the word Malinois, and it turns out I wasn’t making up the word at all.

Williamsburg and Points North

The bike ride to my friend’s house, one of the first rides I’ve taken in months, is easy and smooth up the coast of Brooklyn into Greenpoint. I keep having to put my ego in check to stop killing myself to try and pass people, and to stop getting mad when people pass me.

After I park my bike, we go for a walk, back down the way I just came, and we pause to admire the peculiar view this part of Brooklyn affords us, with the Chrysler Building and the Empire State and all the other icons of the city jostling up against one another.

“You’re used to Manhattan being spread out along the horizon, but here, it’s like it’s all compressed into a flattened, weird perspective,” I observe, and my friend wisely let’s this remark pass without comment.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Adults Are Talking

Two old white men walk on to a stage. There’s a kiddie pool filled with shit between them, and one of the men begins to splash around in it, flinging handfuls of the stinking, runny stuff at the audience, at the other man, at the curtains and walls. The other man does his best not to get hit, but he’s so used to the smell that he doesn’t try that hard to get out of it.

I watch this on TV until it ends, and afterwards, various people talk about what a mess it was; outside, a short squall rattles the windows and pounds ringing raindrops onto the metal hull of the air conditioner before subsiding back into the night.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


I found a pair of Timberland boots on the street several years ago - old and a bit worse for wear, but serviceable. 

A campfire during a recent camping trip melted the soles right off of them, and so, after many years of good use, I put them out on the stoop for the tide of material goods that routinely takes boxes of books and other objects off our hands to carry them away.

Three days later, they are still there.

“Nobody wants your boots, Scott,” Katie says with finality as we come home from the grocery store to find them, still perched where I left them.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

No Thanks

The thin old woman is bent beneath an enormous backpack half the size of her body as she gets on the train. She peers nearsightedly at the empty seats peeking out between socially-distancing riders but seems averse to sitting so close to others.

When I see that she doesn’t have a place to sit, I count to five silently to see if anyone will give her a seat, and when no seat seems forthcoming, I stand and, gesturing, offer her mine.

She looks at where I was sitting, then back at me, and declines with a dismissive gesture before going to sit between a woman and two teenagers, while I shrug and return to my seat.

A Vibe, A Mood

She likes the shoes, but they are a little flashy for her. Her sister, with whom she’s been speaking English and Arabic all night, says, by way of advice, “Well, if you want practical shoes, get those,” indicating a different pair she was looking at, "but if you’re here for mazag, well....”

“Wait, what does that word mean?” I ask.

“After all the Arabic we’ve been speaking, you pick out the best word,” she replies, smiling.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

All Night Long

I place the last bag of trash on the curb in the cool night air, and when I stand up, cheers rise from the direction of the park like the sound of an approaching parade: joyful and raucous. 

Then, a flight of bicycles, dozens of them, flashes through the intersection in a noisy mob, laughing and calling to each other, chased by the whizz of gears spinning and the hoot of sirens.

A compatriot of theirs holds back the meager traffic while they pass, then pedals hard after, followed by a police car, then a paddy wagon, and then an ambulance, lights flashing in annoyance at it all.

Upstairs afterward, I find myself humming a Lionel Richie song as I brush my teeth - everyone you meet, they’re jamming in the streets, all night looooong....

Friday, September 25, 2020

Dog Beach At Dusk

The light fades from the sky above the park, but we can still make out a haze of mosquitoes over what they call “Dog Beach.” The small doggy swimming hole, sectioned off from the larger pond by a low chain-link fence, is mostly empty except for what looks like a black-and-white pitbull-and-something mix who stands motionless in the water, staring at nothing.

He stays like that, ears forward, eyes fixed, for a few minutes until a ripple in the water hooks his attention and he quickly turns, making this new patch of pond the focus.

“Turtles,” a woman holding a leash explains, and we watch him for a while until a family, sans masks and loudly speaking Russian, invades the beach to take pictures, and we head out.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Hiding the Smells

“Does it smell like... perfume to you guys?” our downstairs neighbor asks as we meet downstairs to put the trash on the curb.

I inhale deeply. “Yeah, sorta?”

“I think [our landlord] sprayed deodorant down here to cover the smell of the garbage,” she says ruefully.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

What I’ve Been Thinking About Today (from an email to a friend)

"Business is slow, but picking up gradually. 

I often come home too tired to work on music or write, as it’s physically and emotionally pretty demanding (selling involves being ON the entire time, and there’s quite a bit of running about fetching shoes, putting shoes back, standing up to go to the mirror with her to look at the shoes, sitting down to try on more shoes, getting different sized shoes, moving the bins of shoes to a different place to make room for more shoes, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad absurdum). I am, for obvious reasons, reminded of Rimbaud, though I would not say my earlier work showed as much promise, or that my diminished artistic output is quite as much of a loss. 

I feel lucky to have a job, and [the company] is honestly quite excellent - they’ve turned their offices into voter registration hubs, publicly and vocally support Black Lives Matter despite (or perhaps because of) substantial looting of stores during the recent protests as well as making some pretty dramatic structural changes to increase equality among employees and management, and paid for all furloughed employees health insurance for the duration."


The customer I sold a pair designer rainboots to last week texts me a video of her receiving them and unboxing. There’s the lifting of the lid and rustling of tissue paper, and then she squeals in delight as the well-made, very attractively designed boots are revealed.

I watch it three times in a row and then text her back. “Your sounds of delight truly made my day,” I write.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Surprising Indifference

“Oh my God,” Katie says, stopping suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk. “What is that?”

“That” is an enormous spider, posed very photogenically in the center of exactly what you would think of if somebody asked you to picture a spiderweb with an enormous, spooky spider in the middle.

We take some pictures of it, but I am surprised how few other people want to see the very large spider sitting in the middle of her web.

Monday, August 31, 2020

If You HAVE To

It’s a good day for it, if you have to stand out side a clinic to wait for a doctor’s assistant to shove a cotton swab up your nose. It’s overcast, not too hot, a light breeze blowing, and everybody seems content to stand in line six feet apart hugging the building while the impenetrable wall of cars roar down Flatbush a few yards away.

A guy rides his bike up the sidewalk, giving the line a wide berth, and normally I find such flouting of the laws and rules of the road despicable, but after a moment I shrug. If you have to ride down Flatbush on a bike (you don’t, of course, and you shouldn’t, but if you have to) I guess I’d rather you not die in the horrific traffic than obey the rules and put yourself in danger.

Unseasonably Cool

We make it to the park after work while the sun is still shining. The lawn is filled with families and friends, hundreds of people, dogs, folks playing volleyball or flying kites, a group dancing, another group playing music, plenty of room for all of us to be together while still staying far enough apart to be safe.

I suggest we sit in the sun at the edge of the shadow falling across the lawn from the sun setting, and we spread out our blanket, open a bottle of wine, and pull out slices of pizza.

By the time we’re finished doing that, the lawn is entirely in shadow, and Katie pulls a purple sweater out of her bag.

Saturday, August 29, 2020


She’s tried on seven pairs of Nikes already, and she doesn’t like any of them. “I just hate what covid has done,” she complains as I pull out pair number eight. “I had a membership at gyms, at Pinnacle Club, at Equinox, I had a pool I swam at, all gone.”

I sigh inaudibly beneath my mask as she continues, “I just can’t believe what’s happened to me!”

“What’s happened to you,” I say without inflection, looking her dead in the eye.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Lowered Expectations

 “So what are you doing for your bachelor party?” I ask my work friend.

“Well, first we were going to Vegas,” he says. “Then we were thinking maybe Chicago, but now it’s like, maybe we’ll just have some beers on somebody’s back porch?”

“That sums up 2020 pretty well,” I say, nodding.

Plot Twist!

After a few moments of trepidation, the dog jumps in the water to fetch the stick and swims bravely back to the rock where his owners await him with it clutched in his teeth. He drops the stick in the water in front of them and, his fears conquered, waits eagerly for them to throw it again.

He glances backward at the water from which he has emerged triumphant, and in doing so, misses the Australian Shepherd mix that slips in between him and his owners. The interloper grabs the stick and slips away, and it is several moments before our hero notices the theft and, after a moment’s shock, gives chase.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Evening Commute

The city skyline is a jagged sound wave, if we had the means to play it and a speaker the size of the world.

Pinnacles and spires lit from behind by the sun setting, each one a call to the next, a response to the last up and down the island.

She pulls down her mask to reveal a face better concealed and points her phone out the train window at the bridge passing south of us. Lights like jewels, like flecks of burning magnesium, evenly space the spans, and I turn up my headphones and close my eyes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Old Notebooks

The box from storage is full of old notebooks, both from high school and from college in Arizona. I pull out a few to look at them, and this one in particular is full of scribblings that look like a serial killer wrote it.

I’m super proud of the fact that I am not overwhelmed by nostalgia, but this one looks like what depression feels like. 

I put the books back in the box and shove the box back up in the storage space.

Somebody Never Watched “Sound Of Music"

“These shoes are from a German manufacturer,” I begin.

“German, wonder if they killed my ancestors,” she interrupts.

“Well, actually, they’re really Austrian.”

“Same difference."

Monday, August 24, 2020

Better Than Smart

“My son starts college next week,” my customer tells me.

Repressing the urge to ask Does he really, though? I simply ask, “Oh really?”

She catches my tone, regardless, and says, “Yes, I worry because he is so irresponsible!”

“Well, I myself have lived by the fact that it’s often better to be lucky than smart,” I tell her, and she nods forcefully in agreement.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Shelter From The Storm

The sheeting rain that drove everyone off the park lawn and under the shelter of these trees shows no sign of abating. Katie, while still keeping up her end of our conversation, continues to nonchalantly swing her fists back and forth around her in an effort to keep the non-mask-wearing park-goers at literal arms length.

Suddenly, from behind us around a bend in the path, comes a sound of several dozen people all screaming with dismay. We all look around in consternation, but we can’t determine the source of their trouble, until we hear the sound of the rain rise from a downpour to a deluge, and the wind begins to thrash the trees with serious intent, and even our temporary shelter isn’t enough to keep us from getting wet.

I Understand

A young guy on the train, skinny, pale scalp shining through his buzzcut hair, scratches at his acned cheek while staring moodily out the window at the lights flashing by outside. My initial paranoid rage at his lack of mask throbs like a supernova in my skull for a brief moment, then subsides into the usual resigned disgust.

But then, unexpectedly, from somewhere deep in my chest, a surprising sense of something like pity wells up. All us poor, stupid children, trying not to get sick, some of us retreating into safe routines, others pretending that if we don't acknowledge the danger it won't get us, some of us making dangerous, foolish decisions because we're scared, others trying not to feel the overwhelming burden of acting in the best interest of others when we don't even know how to do that for ourselves, hating others or ashamed of them or just trying to get by and yes I understand but I still get up and move down the car to get away from the maskless idiot.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Mechanical Animals

The light changes, and I stand at the corner, waiting for opposing traffic to cross. The driver in the car doesn't look at me, likely is only aware of me in a peripheral way, and her face is blank, expressionless but for a mask of what I can only assume is boredom.

None of this surprises me, or offends me, but it does get me thinking about how people outside the car only sort of exist when you're driving. And really, the converse is true, too: when you're walking, there's not really people in the cars - they're not really driven, as much as they're mechanical creatures that seem to move of their own volition.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Walk Away

 "One of the girls in that group was a bitch," my co-worker says after my customer has left.

"Oh yeah?" I say in my most neutral tone.

"Yeah, I was working with her, not the one you worked with, and we didn't have her size, but when I apologized she was like, 'I wasn't going to buy it from you anyways, I just wanted to try it on and then I was going to buy it online.' So I just walked away from them and didn't come back."

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Guest

“I love helping people find shoes for their wedding, and I take my responsibility very seriously,” I tell her as she goes to sit back down. 

“I suppose it would be pretty satisfying,” she says, unbuckling the shoe that she will end up taking home with her to wear when she gets married next month.

“I mean, I’m part of somebody’s memories forever, even if they don’t remember me,” I continue over her laughter, and I strike a pose and raise my voice a little. “I’m in your wedding,” I sing, dancing.

Monday, August 17, 2020

“Do You Want A Picture Together?"

We stood on the path where it passed over the deep gully and listened to the waterfall while leaves fell lazily into the stream. 

The father-and-son duo we passed on our way into this part of the park caught up with us, and we scooted to one side so the little boy could see over the big rocks and down to the water below.

The father took his son’s picture with the waterfall in the background, and told him to “look up, look up,” so he would be facing the camera.

Katie offered to take their picture together, but he declined, and they got back on their little scooter and continued up the path, while we stayed behind, and Katie found a spider web spun between two rocks, glistening in the sun.

How Much?

 (editors note: “Wood” in this usage refers to the extra shoes shown to a customer remaining after the customer has chosen which shoe(s) she will purchase, and “running” refers to the act of returning said “wood" to their respective places in the stock room)

“Hey,” I tell my manager, “I’m finished, just need to run my wood.”

“Cool, just come her, lemee ask you,” he says seriously, motioning me over, “uh, how much wood would a woodchuck run if a woodchuck could run wood?”

Without a word, I turn and walk away from him in feigned disgust, while he calls after me, “But I had you going for a second, right?"

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Our Dog, The Gardener

Some of the plants in New York City that grow during the summer resemble prehistoric throwbacks: enormous, elephantine leaves, thick, meaty stems, and brazen, flamboyant flowers that seem like they’d be more at home in a Cretaceous-era jungle than in a concrete jungle.

We pass a stand of huge, reddish plants on our block that have grown so large that they’ve fallen beneath their own weight, and I remark on them to Katie.

“It’s because [our dead dog] Coco wasn’t here to take care of them,” Katie observes. “She wasn’t around to sniff them and chew on them and pee on them to keep them small enough to not fall over."

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Wrong Word

I’m so annoyed to see the woman who wasn’t wearing a mask get off the train at the same stop as me that I mutter, “Where’s your mask you stupid whore?” under my breath as I’m going up the stairs behind her.

Except that the loudness of the music in my headphones, combined with the lateness of the hour after a long day at work and a mask over my mouth that makes me a bit careless with my inside-vs.-outside-voice distinction may have caused me to say that louder than I intended it, as she clearly startles, looks back at me fearfully, and increases her pace.

Now, I feel bad about her being afraid, of course, knowing that she’s scared because I used the wrong word to describe her - i.e., I should have called her an asshole. I don’t want her to feel bad because she’s worried that some jerk is going to sexually assault her - I want her to feel bad because she’s an inconsiderate, selfish, possibly murderous jerk. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020


 “Well, they don’t have vanilla chocolate chip ice cream, so I’ll just have to put this,” I hold up the bag of chocolate chips, “into this,” indicating a tub of vanilla ice cream.

I grab the ice cream and we pass the other freezers where they keep the fancy ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s, Van Leeuwen, some kind of frozen thing made with coconut milk or something, and there is a guy in freezer. The door is open, and this otherwise normal looking guy is climbing up the shelves to reach something in the back on the top shelf, his body wedged entirely up in the Haagen-Daz ice cream bars and jars of artisanal gelato.

“Sure you don’t want to check the rest of the ice creams, just in case?” Katie asks me sarcastically.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

It Is At LEAST An Hour From BX to BK

We’re waiting in the subway station for the guy who’s going to buy a set of shelves we don’t need anymore. 

We took it apart (thanks IKEA!), loaded up the heavy glass shelves and the metal bits on a dolly, wheeled it down to the subway station (after confirming and re-confirming over the past hour what line he was taking down from the Bronx), even went so far as to bump the dolly down the subway station stairs one at a time so that he wouldn’t have to haul it down himself, and arrived at the station right at 1:00, like we agreed. 

Then Katie gets a text.

“He says, ‘Leaving the house now,’” she says, looking up from her phone.


 “You and I, we have the same,” she says, pointing at her eyebrow. She's indicating the way that one of her eyebrows grew so that it appeared as if she were arching it in disbelief, and how I have the same.

“People used to tell me to pluck it or comb it down, but I like it,” I reply.

“Well, during pandemic I just sort of...,” she waves her hands in the universally accepted gesture for *gives up*.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Smooth Jazz

Katie has been systematically rearranging the house for the past few weeks, and one of the side-effects of this is that we have a dining table again, after months in quarantine with the two of us eating dinner on the couch.

“I like this new way of eating dinner,” I tell Katie as we sip wine and eat to the sounds of smooth jazz playing on our smart speaker.

“Me too.”

“We gotta teach Alexa to play better music though,” I add.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Two Olivers

“I’m obligated to report every single dog I encounter at work to my wife, including breed, name, and disposition,” I say with my most serious tone to the initially bemused couple walking their quite sizable dog by the shoes.

But they quickly figure out the game and play along. “Oh, yes, of course, this is Oliver, and he’s a Labradoodle.”

“That’s my dog’s name too!” exclaims another couple with a much smaller poodle walking by, while both the Olivers strain at their respective leashes to try to sniff one another.

For Your Safety

 “What do you mean ‘for my safety’?” the older woman with the Russian accent says when I ask her, yet again, to please put her mask back on while we’re finding her shoes.

“Well, I don’t want you to get sick,” I explain.

“Why would I get sick?” she asks.

“Ma’am,” I say after a few seconds of boggling silence, “that is a loaded question."

Saturday, August 8, 2020


I haven’t been outside all day, but for some reason I’m surprised to find it’s raining when I get off work. Rather than pause to put on my rainboots, though, I decide to risk it and walk in my shoes to the subway station.

At the end of the block, as I turn the corner to walk under the scaffolding that protects the outdoor diners that crowd the sidewalk, I step on the metal subway vents with rain-slick shoes and my feet slip right out from under me, landing me with a painful jolt on my hip.

I sit there for a moment, assessing the damage while the diners all stare at me blankly, then stand as steadily as I can, and a man seated with his family grins at me in a way I can’t quite interpret.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Music Of Horror

 “You know, today is the anniversary of bombing Hiroshima,” I tell Katie over the dulcet tones of the 80s light jazz we inadvertently asked our smart speaker to play during dinner.

And,” Katie adds, “it’s the date of the first execution by electrocution.”

“Kinda weird talking about this stuff with this playing,” I say, indicating the music.

“No, it scans."

Surrealist Maps

I see faces in the subway map. 
The East River wears a stovepipe hat and laughs toward Brooklyn
While Riker's Island and LaGuardia stare out at me with suspicion
And the frog of Jamaica Bay thinks about swallowing JFK.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


The storm must have stopped a few hours ago, because the streets are almost completely dry. Clouds shred and tumble across the blue, chased by strong, warm winds.

A couple who aren't wearing masks cross my path, he's squinting into the wind, her hair is blowing. 

The wind is so strong, there's no way I could get sick, I think, but I adjust my mask anyway.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


"I just think that we should measure it." I try to explain again, desperation creeping into my voice. 

"And I am telling you," Katie says, clearly trying to control her frustration, "that there are no right angles in this apartment."

"Okay, what about this - what if we hang the shelves from the top and then measure the other places to attach them once they're on?" I say, thinking I'm compromising, but then I see Katie's eyes widen.

"Are you telling me you want to do my original plan, the one you shouted down?" she says through gritted teeth.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Accusing Pout

Though I often give the impression of being one of those simultaneously admired and loathed people known as a "Morning Person," I am, in fact, just stubborn enough to give myself enough time to wake up so that, by the time I come into contact with others, I have been awake for sufficient hours to actually be awake. 

But when I am actually getting up, I am as bleary-eyed and stumbling as any other pre-caffeinated  sleepyhead who can't seem to rouse themselves to do anything but turn on the coffee machine and try not to kill the first person who speaks to them.

So when I was setting up my yoga mat for my morning rituals, the cat might have known better than to weave between my legs (whether in affection or an attempt to get me to feed her more), because that is precisely the moment when I stepped on her little front paw, causing her to yowl pitifully and run off into the next room.

I did my initial breathing exercises under the shadow of her accusing pout, and spent the rest of my morning being roundly ignored.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A 2020 Horror Short

The woman speaking Russian to her companion and English to me decides to buy the shoes. Her one good eye, brown and hard, watches me carefully as I ring her up while the other eye, milky blue and completely occluded, stares off into it's own dimensions, seeing what I cannot imagine.

As she's putting her card into the reader, she turns away to cough, once, twice, hard, dry coughs, and despite myself and the masks we both wear, I cringe. I finish the transaction, thank her, and then, after she has gone, excuse myself from the selling floor to wash my hands and change my mask.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Dan Brown Is Getting Lazy

"The way I usually pay," she says, picking up the pair of flip-flops, "is that I have access to the Vatican 'copter."

"...'copter?" I say hesitantly in reply to this apparent non-sequitur. 

"The Vatican helicopter, yes," she says patiently, as if I am a particularly slow child. "My work rescuing the children gives me access to the Vatican accounts, and people who help me buy supplies, I then deposit thousands into their accounts, as a thank you," she continues as I begin to slowly back away.

Friday, July 31, 2020


I sit down outside the grocery store to wait for Katie next to the dog who is tied up out there, and the dog, smelling the two slices of pizza I'm carrying, becomes very friendly. 

His muzzle makes him less than effective at stealing slices, though, so we sit in companionable silence for a while, me scratching his ears and stroking his fur, and he seems content with that.

His owner comes out of the store after a bit and her expression seems mildly irritated to see the two of us, her dog and me, hanging out peacefully. 

"I suppose you didn't notice the muzzle," she asks sardonically, and I shrug and smile.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Not The Cute Side

I finish my phone call with my newly expatriate friend whose recent marriage allowed him to move to Italy, and go the to kitchen where Katie sits at the table, drinking her coffee.

"When are we moving to Europe?" I ask.

"As soon as we get wives," she says, looking up from her phone. "We can't even get to the cute side of Niagara, right now," she adds.

Behind The Mask

We’re getting a rundown of all the new items that will be available for fall at the store - it’s a lot of information, but I’m doing my best to take it all in.

Emily is describing the kids’ shoes that will be available (“walkers can have either flexible or non-flexible soles,” she tells us) when it suddenly occurs to me that we’re all wearing masks. Some are the masks issued by the store for us to wear, some are black or colorful masks from home, but as her mouth opens and closes to let the words come out all I can see are her eyes and the working of her jaw behind the cloth.

I think about veils, and burqas, and how quickly the strange and unusual becomes commonplace, boring even.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Heat Wave

“I hope you don’t mind,” my customer says. Her mask sucks against her nostrils and mouth as she breathes hard. “I think the heat got to me, and I just need to sit here for a minute.”

“You need me to get you some water?” I ask as gently as I can.

Time For More Fashion

"You seemed a little upset the other day," I tell my co-worker. "Everything work out?"

"What was I wearing?" she finally asks, after a moment's confusion. "I don't remember days, but I remember outfits."

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Making Noise

I put the saxophone down and listen to the playback. Later on, when Katie listens to it too, she says it has a real "Miami Vice vibe." I was going for more M83, but the drums sound like Nine Inch Nails.

The music and the thrill of making something still singing so loud in my head that I'm vibrating, I walk out of my room to the living room to lie on the couch, where my roommate looks up from the puzzle he's working on to smile and say, "Hello."

Turn To The Left

"So she bought an Alexander Wang tuxedo suit, and yeah, it's for a wedding thing and she loves it so I'm definitely keeping my mouth shut, but I think about the, like, whole consumerist thing and it bums me out a little," my friend behind the bar at work tells me.

"I get that," I reply, "but it's a lot easier to think about fashion, especially with the designer items that aren't covered in labels and stuff, as art."

"Yeah, I get that," he says.

"And since art is, in the end, a form of communication, the question then becomes, with fashion, what is being communicated?"

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Read The Room, Man

The subway car isn't empty, but it's about full for what ever passes for a normal Thursday night in pandemic-time. People are sitting appropriately distanced, and everybody is wearing masks.

An older gentleman (wearing a mask, thank god) steps on the train, and, unprovoked, sits down next to me, like that's something he can just do.

I don't look at him, I don't react verbally, I don't flinch, I just stand up and go sit in another part of the train, which he could have done, if he wasn't a socially clueless idiot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Breathing Problems

"I'm so sorry to ask you, again," I say, using my best 'customer service voice' so that the emphasis only barely shows. "But, just for your own safety, could you please pull your mask up?"

The clearly buzzed woman who has been flitting around the sales floor with her mask around her neck like a not-very-attractive scarf looks at me balefully and then pulls it up over her face. "I have a hard time breathing when I wear it," she says petulantly, and I just nod and reply, "Uh-huh."

Monday, July 13, 2020

Oprah's Book Club Nominee (nonexistent category)

"Did you read 'The Lemonade Year'?" my manager asks me during a slow period at work

"No, who wrote it?" I reply.

He gives me a strange look, and then repeats himself, enunciating to be understood from under his mask, saying, "Have you tried the lemonade here?"

"Though, to be fair," he continues thoughtfully, "that does sound like a pretty good book."

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Nothing To Be Sorry About

The woman in the flowered turquoise muumuu is standing directly in front of the washing machine where my clothes are waiting, looking at her phone.

"Hi," I say, pointing at the machine. "I'm gonna just go right where you're standing, and then I'll be outta your way."

She startles and apologizes, starts to move out of the way, and I tell her, "Nope, you're fine, nothing to be sorry about."

Four Sentences

"What was your Four Each Day about?" she asks as we prepare to go to bed (and watch videos until we fall asleep).

"I didn't write one," I say, a bit defensively.

"It's not that I ddn't have anything to write about, it's just," I continue after she gently asks what I think about that, "I just didn't feel like writing one."

"That sounds like four sentences," she says after I'm finished.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

U See This?

Aaron at U-Haul goes looking for my rental truck, then saunters without urgency back to where I'm standing. My truck (for which I have gotten out of bed early, to come here early, to pick my truck up early, so we can load all of Katie's sculptures and displays early, so we can arrive at the market early enough to get a good parking space and not drive all over God's creation looking for one) is conspicuous in its absence.

He makes a "wait here" sort of motion with his hands, so I do, and then he comes out, ten minutes later, with a new set of keys and still no sense of urgency (I must be feeling stressed for both of us) and walks to get me another truck, since the last one apparently "wouldn't start."

I feel a certain amount of relief when he drives up with my truck, only to have my hopes dashed by the sight of, in the back of the truck, where all the stuff is supposed to go, a half-an-inch of standing, soapy water, and I call Aaron back over with, "Hey, take a look at this for me, would you?"

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

I Don't Listen To Enough Murder Podcasts

Katie rushes excitedly into the kitchen and shows me the foot upon which she dropped the computer a few days ago. The bruise just above her instep sulks with purple and green and pale yellow. "I have lividity!" she yells with delight.

She explains that lividity occurs when a person has been dead in one position for a long time, and the blood in the body pools in one area, and when I seem less than enthusiastic, she seems incredibly disappointed in me.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Keep Walking

The guy with the messy hair and the enormous, dirty backpack passes us from behind as we're walking down the sidewalk. He's not wearing a mask, but we let it slide because we're outside, it's a nice day, and sometimes you just can't be bothered to fight every battle.

Then he stops up short in front of a house and, pointing to the "Black Lives Matter" sign in the window, says to the person in the yard, "You know, Black Lives Matter doesn't have anything to do with the death of George Floyd...."

Whatever he had to say next is lost, though, as Katie and I walk up and Katie, with an imperious shoo-ing gesture, says to him, simply, "Keep walking," and, with a startled look, after quickly pulling up his mask, he does.

Friday, July 3, 2020

To Vibe Or Not To Vibe

"You see, I knew we were both Cancers," my customer says after I tell her that my birthday was a few days before hers. "That's why we're vibing so hard."

Just then, behind her, a large, floofy white dog, with an intelligent, carefree expression and perky ears, gets off the elevator, and wishing to share my good fortune at seeing such a creature with my new friend, I ask, "So how do you feel about dogs?"

"They're okay," she says, shrugging, and I know for a fact that we are not, remotely, vibing, at all.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Empty-A (say it out loud)

The subway is pretty empty, even for a Wednesday evening in what is still, arguably, a partial quarantine. We ride along underground for a while, me reading my book, until the train climbs up the bridge and heads out over the water.

Another train runs parallel to this one, dark beneath the shadowing trestles of Manhattan Bridge, while behind it the city still sits in the dying light of the end of day. I watch the train for a while, and turn back to my book.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Distance

The grass is still wet from the earlier rainstorm when we walk through the park, but the clouds are quickly clearing.

"Looks like we've got the place to ourselves," I tell Katie. 

"Yeah, I booked the entire park for your birthday," she replies, surveying with satisfaction the meadow, empty as it is except for the birds meticulously combing the grass for grubs and worms. "I think the nearest person is at least a tenth-of-a-mile away," she adds as she points to tiny, distant children playing with bubbles on the hill, and they might even be further than that.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020 Weather is On-Brand

My work keeps me below street level, one floor down, with limited access to windows, for most of the daylight hours. 

So when I come out of work this evening, the gust of wind and spray of water in my face are my only foreshadowing to the absolute deluge in progress in Manhattan. The sky has that yellowish, sickly pallor or a bad storm, while the wind vents its spleen on the construction site just down the street by ripping up pressboard barriers and hurtling them across the sidewalk. 

A security guard at the construction site and I alternate between taking video of the sheets of rain and nodding to one another until, in a howl of fury from the sky, it starts to hail, and I can't help but laugh.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Why You'd Want To Live There

"We just moved to New York from L.A. this week so I could start my residency in radiology," she says as she slips her feet into the sensible black pumps I chose for her.

"Wow! Seems like a good move," I say, but her expression quickly shows me I've made a misstep.

"I mean, a good lateral move," I backtrack, and she seems to accept that. 

Cloudy Skies

"Finally I have a dog to report!" I exclaim to the confused looking lady with a small white dog in her purse.

After I explain to her that I am under obligation to compile a report of every dog I see on the shoe floor while I'm at work, she allows me to approach.

When I offer my hand, palm down, knuckles first, for the dog to smell, she says, "Oh, he can't see, and his nose doesn't really work, either."

The dog, white with a few pink, bald spots peeping through on his scalp, stares off into nothing with eyes the color of a stormy ocean sky, clouded grey with white whorls, and when I draw my ignored hand away, he yawns.

Friday, June 26, 2020


"Sorry to interrupt," begins the litany of the beggar on the train, and it continues in a monotone drone during which I continue to read. 

He finishes his recitation, and shuffles down the car, intoning "Can you help?" at intervals, all according to script so far, when I remember the powerbar I neglected to eat for a snack today. I hand it to him, and he accepts it, and then he sits down two seats away from me, which is, of course, entirely too close for social distancing, and so I, without fuss, rise and move away to stand in the doorway.

He sits there for a while, sorting through his haul for the car, while I continue to read, until I've almost forgotten about him, whereupon he gets off at the next stop, and I look down to see that he's left the food I gave him on the seat, uneaten.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Another Day In The Park

A huge dragonfly hovers and darts above us in Prospect Park meadow, and then disappears as the breeze kicks up a little. The blue sky is rough with thin clouds, and the guy twenty feet away has finally ended his conference call, so he and his dog are just sitting quietly, enjoying the shade.

Katie sighs, "I can finally smell the trees!" A hawk climbs a circling thermal higher and higher, and then he, too, disappears.


"I'm just happy to be out shopping," my first customer in three months says. "Back in March I caught Covid-19 and was in the hospital for ten days." 

Beneath my mask I try to smile encouragingly. "Well, I'm glad you're here today," I tell her.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

It Is So Choice

"You going home to vote?" I ask my co-worker as we walk downstairs from the stockroom.

"Yeah, I got my absentee ballot but I forgot to fill it out," she sighs.

"Oh, Katie and I voted absentee - it's awesome. I highly recommend it if you have the means."

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Good Time

We go around the circle at work, our manager calling on us as we raise our hands, and we tell the group how we identify racial, ethnically, culturally, or otherwise, and what pronouns we’d like to use.

It’s going pretty well, and a few of us raise our hands at the same time, but the manager calls on two Afro-Latino women before me, and they tell stories of racism in their communities.

“Scott had his hand up,” someone helpfully points out after they’re done.

“Oh, I think now is a good time for me to listen,” I reply, half-jokingly.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Street Books

I started going through my books, purging a little, getting things I hadn't read yet or had no intention of reading again out of the house. I managed to leave a small offering of books out for the streets on our stoop.

As Katie and I came back from a walk we saw an older couple going through the box, picking one and walking away, with the gentleman saying something to the lady he was with.

She must not have heard, because as he walked by he repeated in an irritated  tone, "I took it because I said I'd never read the second part of Angels in America."

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What Scares The Suburbs

"Is that harp music?" Katie asks. 

I sit up and look around the part of the park where we're sitting enjoying the sunshine. "I don't know," I say, "but that definitely sounds like singing."

Down the path in the direction I pointed comes a sizable, orderly group of protesters, chanting over and over, "Black lives matter!"

Friday, June 19, 2020

Pink and Blue

"So you're gonna need to separate the boy's and girl's clothes after you size them," my manager tells me, and she leaves me to it.

At first the whole idea kind of irritates me - they're clothes for babies, for God's sake. I thought we were past this sort of thing.

But it tuns out to be quite easy for me to separate out the boy's clothes from the girl's, and I'm done with my task in less than a half-hour.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

What Does That Mean?

"I trusted my boyfriend to shave the sides," he says, "but this front part is just going to curl until the barbershops open."

"Can't wait," I say, taking off my hat to let my hair spill out. "I mean, look at this," I add, shaking my long bangs down to cover my face.

"I'll be honest," one co-worker says, looking at my unruly mop, "I thought your hair was just like that."

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Telling On Myself

One of the managers is called out by a younger employee for wearing a Run DMC t-shirt.

"Yes," she admits proudly, "I saw them live. That's how old I am."

Later I tell her I saw them too, with the Sugar Hill Gang, and she looks shocked.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I've Got One Like You At Home

"Don't you stand over there, thinking you're taller than me," my co-worker calls across the mostly deserted sales floor to another male co-worker who is, clearly, taller than her.

"But I am taller than you," he explains calmly.

"No, you're not, you're not, because I feel taller," she retorts. "And neither are you!" she says, turning on me.

Monday, June 15, 2020


The dog pond in Prospect Park, an actual pond, with plants and wildlife and whatnot, contains two dogs and one small child when we arrive. The dogs splash about and collect sticks from the water to bring back to shore, and chase each other with reckless, doggy abandon, while the child, a kid of about four years or so, paddles and splashes as well, yelling at his mom, who is relaxed in her attentiveness and seems unconcerned by everything.

The dogs continue to paddle, but the kid, after some negotiations with his mom, comes back onto dry land, and promptly strips naked to get into dry clothes, and everybody just sort of ignores it. I notice the naked kid, which is momentarily startling, but then figure that if nobody else cares why should I, and go back to watching the dogs, who seem just as comfortable with not wearing clothes as the kid.

No Treats

We lie in the sun on the slope of the grassy hill, staring up at the leaves. A black and yellow Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly floats lazily by, while a cloud passes behind a radio tower in front of a deep blue sky.

A dog wanders to the end of its leash and, seeing us, begins making eyes. "Watch your treats," his owner says, like she's seen this sort of thing before.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Robot Is Productive

I prefer talking to people, working one-on-one with them to get them what they need, but in lieu of that, this solitary work will do nicely. I pull a small pile of boxes full of shoes off the shelves, scan their barcodes with a shimmering red laser, print out a new barcode and price on dark red stickers, slap that new barcode over the old one, and move on to the next. It is mindless, repetitive work, but it allows me to fall into a light trance, finding the exact number of moves needed to complete the task with minimal effort then, once that problem is solved to my satisfaction, to listen to music and make up songs in my head.

I argue with people who aren't there about how they wear their masks, I think about what I was doing a year ago, I make up lyrics to songs I haven't written yet, and then, when their cadence grows too insistent, I pause in my robotic productivity and write them in a note on my phone, as not to forget.

Friday, June 12, 2020


Dressing for work when your spouse is asleep, even if she’s okay with the lights being turned on, can be a dicey proposition. When it’s been a bit tough to do laundry, and you’re rushing, and you’ve maybe not been the most attentive to sartorial concerns because you barely left the house for three months. and you’re dressing in low light to be considerate of your sleeping partner, it can be downright risky.

So when I step out the door into the full light of a sunny June day and look down at my bag to make sure I have my keys, I notice the... is it maybe spatter from the time I made pancakes a few months ago, or what exactly is it? Regardless, these pants are in no way clean enough to be presentable for work, and the bus rumbles past as I run back upstairs to change.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Instant Regret

I'm working with the anti-theft sensors they put on clothes today. They consist of a piece that looks like a giant thumbtack that pierces the fabric, and a piece that then fits over the end of the pin part, locking it in place until it is removed with a powerful magnet by a bored cashier making minimum wage.

I'm trying to be efficient, so I pick up a huge handful of the thumbtack parts, only to realize as I'm doing so that something designed to pierce fabric is also, inadvertently, designed to pierce skin. 

I immediately regret picking up this handful of plastic cactus as one of the sharp points stabs my knuckle and another slips underneath my fingernail, and voice my regret with the universal signifyer, "Ow!"

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Right Bus

I jog across the street to the bus stop just in time to catch the bus, and settle into my seat breathing hard.

After I've calmed down a bit and we've traveled a few blocks, I look up from my book to notice we've stopped by the side of the road, and I realize that I was in such a hurry to get on that I can't remember which bus I actually got on.

When I get up to ask, though, the bus driver cuts me off, explaining, "I'm way ahead of schedule, so I'll have to stop here for a few minutes."

"That's fine, I just wanted to make sure I got on the right bus," I tell her

Monday, June 8, 2020


There's a few people on the street this early, mostly dog walkers and the occasional healthcare worker, identifiable by their scrubs. The sky is blue, the air (what I can taste and smell through my mask) is clean, and something about the morning reminds me of a normal day.

Even the sight of every person wearing a mask is welcome, and it occurs to me that, if that becomes "normal" I will be okay with it. It practically seems normal now.

Break Things

I pick up the bottle of Campari by the neck, and the weight of it in my hand feels... good. Like something that would be nice to smash on a wall or a chair, to swing at the head of an offensive person, to chuck at a window or a car.

"When you pick up a bottle, to you ever get the urge to just smash it?" I ask Katie as I place it back on the bar cart.

"I have to fight off the urge to break a bottle every time I pick one up," she replies with an intense grin.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

What Is The Law?

We walk past the Jewish day care on a warm Saturday afternoon. Ten or so kids play in the yard, banging on pans, throwing balls, chasing each other around the small fenced-in yard, and all overseen by two slightly harried looking younger women.

It's Saturday, the traditional Jewish day of rest when no work should be done, so I ask Katie, "Do you think it's possible for work to become play, or for play to become work?"

We go back and forth about it for awhile, but end up speculating whether or not the women watching the kids are considered under the law to be "working" even though they very clearly are.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

After Curfew

As I take the trash downstairs to the curb for pickup, a small but perceptible wave of anxiety blossoms in my gut. Although the likelihood of anyone, cops or otherwise, being outside this late on my very quiet Brooklyn block is vanishingly slim, the thought of being caught out after curfew makes me tap my front pocket to make sure my wallet with my ID is there.

I step down the stairs and drop off the bags, and take a quick look around. A light rain sparkles in the street lights and falls on the parked cars that line the road, but there isn't a soul around.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Ghost Rider

Legs pumping, heart pounding, every breath as deep as I can make it as we ride our bikes up the final hill in Prospect Park. I can taste my own breath in my mask, but I don't mind, because the sun and the air feel good on my skin, I'm outside, and despite everything happening in the world, I am grateful to be alive.

I coast down the other side waiting for Katie to catch up. "I am a ghost, because I just died going up that hill," she informs me as she rides up.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

King of Squirrels

We pause at the fence of the empty park, a few yards down from the padlocked gate, to watch a squirrel eat what looks like a muffin, maybe? or the remains of a bagel? He (or she) looks to be one of those elusive black squirrels, but a particularly fine specimen, with reddish tufts haloing the healthy dark fur of his back and haunches. He ignores us completely as we ooh and aah over his magnificence.

"No picture will do you justice," Katie says, even as she attempts to take a picture.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Other Way

Katie and I have had a few arguments today, but evening has come and we're calm, happy, and relaxed on the couch.

"I've been trying to be more assertive lately, not avoid conflict, say what I mean. That may be why," I tell her.

"You should go back to the other way," she says simply, taking a bite of her ice cream bar, and we both start laughing.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Nice Day For It

My work cut us loose early today over fears of nearby protests causing problems with people's commutes, so I ended up home a little after 1:00 PM. It was a lovely day, so I lay down on the back deck and stared up into the trees while the wind tossed the sunlight around.

A cardinal flitted into a tree, burbling happily about nothing, and I closed my eyes and listened to his song. Then I woke up and the sun had moved across the sky.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Trash Panda TV

I come in to the living room from playing piano, and Katie has The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on the TV in the background while she works on her phone, and I sit and watch it for a while until it's time to get ready for bed. She's fine with turning it off mid-movie, because she's watching it "for free" on Netflix, because, "I don't rent stuff to watch by myself! I can watch garbage and be perfectly content."

"You're like the raccoon of entertainment consumption," I say, kissing her on the forehead as she nods happily.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Distance

"Do you live in Brooklyn?" my new co-worker asks. She's standing a little too close, but I don't say anything, because maybe I've just gotten used to not being close to people I don't live with, and maybe I've got to unlearn some habits to be out in the world again.

"I live in Staten Island," she answers herself. When I express consternation at the distance she has to commute, she reassures me, "Oh, I have a car."