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.