Saturday, June 19, 2021
Friday, June 18, 2021
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Monday, June 14, 2021
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Friday, June 11, 2021
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Monday, June 7, 2021
Sunday, June 6, 2021
Guy rummages through the rustling plastic bags and trash with which he's filled his backpack until finally, at the peak of his frenzy, he announces, "Shit!" loudly enough for the entire train to turn his direction, then punches the bench next to him hard, making a resounding crack.
He catches a woman a few seats down watching him and this enrages him for some reason. "What?" he demands, ready for an attack, an argument, a fight, hoping for someone upon whom to vent his rage.
She shakes her head then looks away, and he contents himself with muttering "Shit," over and over under his breath in a disappointed voice.
Saturday, June 5, 2021
Friday, June 4, 2021
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Monday, May 31, 2021
Note: Katie’s feelings of loathing and disdain for Woodrow Wilson are well known.
“I always get irritated when people get Memorial Day wrong by thanking veterans for their service - that’s Veteran’s Day!” I tell Katie as she works in her studio.
“Also, you know how Woodrow Wilson was instrumental in establishing Veteran’s Day?” I ask mischievously.
“Would you like to wind me up, or should I just do it myself?” Katie asks, after doing a slow take at the mere mention of his name.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
Friday, May 28, 2021
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
The fluorescent lights don't hum, and as far as I know I don't have a "brain cloud," but the lunchroom at work is definitely getting to me. I'm sitting at my usual table, having finished my usual lunch (microwaved pesto tortellini, which is honestly pretty delicious), about to read a little in the book I'm currently reading (Italo Calvino's The Baron in The Trees - have I read it before? I don't remember any of the plot, but maybe? Why wouldn't I have? I've read everything else by him) and I'm so tired, just so wiped out, that when the thought occurs to me that I maybe should go outside to the park in the [checks clock] forty-five minutes I have left to me before I have to go back out on that floor and sell another shoe, I feel actual resentment, toward myself, for even suggesting that I exert myself on my own behalf.
Which means, of course, that I have to do it.
I haul myself to my feet, trudge down the hall to the exit, and climb the seemingly endless flights of stairs required to actually exit the building to the street, where, with each step, I find my tread growing lighter, my vision clearer, my breaths deeper, until I arrive in the park and lay on the grass, and the weight that I have been unknowingly carrying around is laid to rest on the earth, and I stare up into the trees and watch the wind spin and shake the leaves while pigeons mill around trying to get laid, and the clip-clip-clop-clip-clip-clop of the carriage horses sounds like techno beats fading in and out, and then I smile.
Monday, May 24, 2021
Saturday, May 22, 2021
Friday, May 21, 2021
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Trash on the floor of the stockroom, don't stop, gotta get back on the floor, gotta sell, doesn't matter, nobody cares, just leave it, already past it: stop.
Out loud, "Goddamit."
I turn around, walk the five paces back to the spot, reach down, pick it up, throw the trash in the bin.
It's never automatic; every time I have to choose.
The mask of white spreading down from eyes to muzzle makes the dog look old and worried, and his owner, herself in mask and turban, with a gray sweatshirt that announces in all block-caps “CANCER CHEMO YEAH IT SUCKS”, seems to have worries of her own. We speak briefly, long enough for me to greet her dog with outstretched knuckles before wishing her the best and dashing off to sell another woman shoes.
Later, a DJ begins spinning in an effort to give Saturday’s mad shopping rush a party atmosphere, but the initial volume is too high, and an assault of pop music rumbles and shrieks through the store, drowning out conversation and rational thought. Shoppers and salespeople alike grimace and shake their heads, shouting to be heard above the din, while the dog sits next to his person on the couch, head buried in her side as she pats his back consolingly.
Saturday, May 15, 2021
Thursday, May 13, 2021
"The CDC says we don't need masks inside anymore," my co-worker says, his eyes wide. "NBA finals coming up, graduations coming up, they're gonna do this now?"
Later, riding the train home, I find myself eyeing my fellow commuters warily, wondering: if they've heard the news, if they've been vaccinated, if anyone might be brave (or foolish) enough to take their mask down, or sit next to a stranger - but nothing seems to have changed. We all ignore each other, sit with empty seats between us, keep our masks up, as if we're not all going to have to adjust to another "normal" yet again, one where we have to decide who to trust, with no simple rules, and nothing certain.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
I grab the bananas from the shopping basket to weigh them, and discover the tip of one of them has gone black and split, with a stringy, sunken texture and a few tiny patches of off-white fuzz.
I look at it, then at the woman helping with the self-checkout area, who is looking at me. "I think I'm gonna get some better ones," I say, and she gives a sort of shrugging nod.
I leave the remainder of my groceries and walk back to the produce aisle with a strangely proud feeling, like I somehow stood up for myself, even though I didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
"We party like Post Malone," I sing the refrain of the pop song as I'm undressing for bed.
"You know, he wanted to touch a dybbuk," Katie says [ed. note: a DYBBUK is a creature from Jewish folklore believed to be the unquiet soul of a malicious dead person], "but he freaked out so his friend did it, and then something bad happened to both of them."
"Well, like I always say, those things can only hurt you if you believe in them," I reply primly.
"Just like bitcoin!" she adds.
Monday, May 10, 2021
I'm standing under the construction scaffolding, trying to get my umbrella to work, when the top of it just pops right of, and I'm left standing holding a metal stick and a spindly, deflated orange umbrella top that looks like a dead bat.
"Got your umbrella?" a co-worker asks as she passes by me into the rain. She's not being mean, just making a joke, but I resent her a little anyway.
"Sort of the opposite of an umbrella, but yeah," I reply as I attempt to get the two pieces reattached.
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Monday, May 3, 2021
Sunday, May 2, 2021
Saturday, May 1, 2021
Thursday, April 29, 2021
The CDC has advised us that it's okay to be outside without a mask on, so tonight, on the way home from work, I decide to lower my mask while walking from the subway stop on Flatbush to my home.
I smell the wet air from today's earlier rainstorm, and the scent of clean sidewalks; the trees all seem to be breathing fresh oxygen just for me, and the caress of their exhalations is gentle on my cheeks, like a soft kiss.
Then I spot, coming up the street toward me, a couple of people, one of whom is wearing a mask, and I begin to feel uncomfortable. By the time they reach me, my mask is firmly back in place, and I give them a wide berth as I pass.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
The customer service rep at the bank is busy, so we sit playing on our phones in the sun by the floor-to-ceiling windows on large bolsters the same green as the corporate logo. The lady security guard stares past us with a practiced expression that leaves some doubt as to whether or not she is eyeing us suspiciously, but after a while we just ignore her.
Another customer comes into the bank and is directed to have a seat, and, instead of finding a spot literally anywhere else in the rather sizable lobby, she comes and sits down on another corporate green bolster mere inches from where I'm sitting.
"So much for social distancing," Katie says with a wry grin as I sigh and move away from the woman's offending back.
Monday, April 26, 2021
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
My friend at work, a black woman, needs to go home - it's the end of her shift, she opened, and it's been a long week - but this woman she's helping isn't being very nice. She wants a different shoe, a better shoe, this one hurts, that one's too expensive, she hates the look of this one - so when my friend asks me to take over, I do so gladly.
I am, once again, completely non-reactive to her emotional shenanigans, and once she sees she's getting no reaction, she settles down, and we have a fine interaction. It may be in part due to my not playing her game, but I suspect it also has to do with my being a man, and women sometimes treat other women badly because they can get away with it.
Monday, April 19, 2021
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Friday, April 16, 2021
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
I drop off the van and walk home, leaving behind the grittier environs around the U-Haul place and strolling through the brownstones of Park Slope. Golden light from the setting sun illuminates the buildings and the blooming cherry and magnolia trees.
A woman walks by going in the opposite direction from me, wearing a t-shirt with a old-looking picture of a young woman on it and a range of years under the picture.
I pickup an old square nail, rusty and bent, from off the ground, and carry it home with me, tossing it in the air to feel its weight and flipping it from hand to hand to feel the texture of the rough rust on my palms.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Sunday, April 11, 2021
After the doors on the train open and close for the fourth time and we continue to sit in the station, people really start to get wise to the fact that something is going wrong, and the guy sitting across from me starts to mutter and curse, his apparently already bad mood threatening to sour into something more generally poisonous.
Take it easy man, no need to take it personally, I think, sort of to him, but mostly to myself.
"Don't worry, it happens to me too, man," a skinny white guy says with a resigned smile to the angry fellow. "That means it's not personal."
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Friday, April 9, 2021
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
Saturday, April 3, 2021
My knee gives a small, sharp complaint with every step as we walk a few blocks to pick up a mid-century modern coffee table we've been gifted, but I ignore its protests and continue explaining this morning's existential musings.
"So I don't believe in reincarnation, but someday these cells will be a part of somebody or something that achieves consciousness, and I'll have to go through all of it again, all of the suffering of growing up and growing old, and that just sounds awful," I tell her.
"Yeah, everybody will, but you won't remember, and you're pretty happy now, aren't you?" Katie asks.
After a pause, I say, "That's a good point."
Friday, April 2, 2021
I press my hand against the cold window to feel an intimation of the outside air. After a week of balmy spring sunshine and not-too-cold rainy days, the temperature crashing feels like someone pulling the rug out from under us.
"Will my plant be okay?" Katie asks, looking at a delicate trailing one hanging in the window. After a moment's consideration, I take it from its hook and place it on the table, before Katie (with a look of concern) lifts it from the table and hangs it on another hook far enough from the front window to be safe from the cold, where its tendrils are free to dangle in peace.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
On screen, an enormous nuclear-powered dinosaur trades blows with an enormous, ax-wielding ape across the cityscape of Hong Kong while Katie and I eat sushi (in honor of the lizard’s homeland) and drink banana-based cocktails (in honor of the ape).
The architectural carnage (not to mention the actual carnage, which must be substantial, but is hardly ever shown) is catastrophic - buildings are used as weapons, as backstops from which devastating attacks are launched, as objects against which one’s opponent is smooshed.
As yet another neighborhood is demolished, I say matter-of-factly, “The global economy must be in shambles.
“I was thinking the exact same thing!” Katie exclaims, while in on screen Hong Kong, the power inexplicably stays on.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Saturday, March 27, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Friday, March 19, 2021
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Monday, March 15, 2021
Sunday, March 14, 2021
Saturday, March 13, 2021
Friday, March 12, 2021
Thursday, March 11, 2021
"What's blue curaçao anyway?" the guy at the liquor store asks.
This taps right into my genetic predisposition to explain everything to anybody who asks (and many who don't). My parents and my sister either currently are, or once were, teachers, so I guess it's in my blood.
"It's just regular orange curaçao, but dyed blue, for some reason," I say, trying to play it off like it's not a big deal to know stuff, even though I'm secretly delighted.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
The tub has been draining slowly, lately, turning showers into wading pools. It seemed to happen overnight, working well one day and then suddenly not, but of course it must have been a process of some kind - the gradual accumulation in the pipes of hair and soap, the buildup, maybe over years, of shampoo scum and dirt until, finally, the water could no longer pass.
I find myself imagining growing older as I think about this. Errors in the DNA proliferating, wear and tear accruing to joints and ligaments, the whole system running down until, one day, seemingly out of nowhere (while actually quite predictable, a bill long due) the system loses integrity, and either is put back together, or fails.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Sunday, March 7, 2021
"Where are you from?" she asks. presumably in response to some regionalism I dropped in my speech.
"Oh, I've been her since 1996," I reply airily.
"You look far too young for that!" her eyes widening in shock.
"If my wife were here, she might think you were flirting with me," I tease, and the laugh-lines around her eyes deepen with her smile.
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Friday, March 5, 2021
"We've done both trainings," my co-worker tells our manager when she asks, as he gives me a significant look.
"Actually, I still need to do the first part," I say, and my co-worker rolls his eyes at my blowing his attempt to help me. There's no point in telling him that I'm not super great at lying, so I don't usually bother since it tends to be more trouble than it's worth, and easier to just do what I said I was gonna do.
"Sorry, I didn't know the play," I tell him later as a way to patch things up, but he doesn't seem to mind one way or the other, so it's fine.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
I've only got a few minutes before we have to leave to meet our friend, so I make my trip to the grocery store brief: a few frozen meals for lunches at work, a couple of energy bars, a quick self-checkout, and I'm on my way.
But here, at the exit, I am blocked. A tall, middle-aged, blond man stands outside in front of the automatic door, talking earnestly into his wrist, triggering the sensor so that the door will not open outward from my side and kill him, as I would so dearly like to do at this moment.
I tap sharply on the glass, and he startles, surprised at the presence of other human beings in his world, before he moves off to one side with a partly sheepish, partly annoyed expression so I can leave.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
"Mail for you," our roommate sings, tossing the envelopes on the table.
"For me?" I exclaim in mock-delight.
"Well, mostly for Katie."
"This one says 'New York Resident,' so that's me," picking up one of the envelopes and waving it at him.
Monday, March 1, 2021
Sunday, February 28, 2021
After a fight on the subway between an unmasked idiot and an idiot wearing only a face-shield escalates into one of the idiots pulling the emergency brake not once, but twice....
And after I sprint to the other side of the Atlantic Avenue Station to try and catch a different train (since the one I was on was stuck in the station while the police came to investigate the maskless idiot fight), only to realize that I left my shoes for work back on the train I had originally been on....
And after walking all the way to the East River in Manhattan in the rain, waiting in three lines for a couple hours, and signing a ton of paperwork....
I finally got my first Covid-19 vaccination shot today!
Friday, February 26, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
A man sits on the base of a statue playing guitar, with a jar filled with dollar bills in front of him on the wet pavement. Listening in a half-circle around him are children and their mothers - the children playing with one another, the mothers chatting - while he plays and sings, mellow tunes on an unseasonably warm day.
Groups of people walk by, their boots muddy from the melting snow, and dogs on leashes, their bellies muddy too, kids on scooters and teenagers laughing, out enjoying an afternoon, and, aside from the masks, it could be any day in early spring.
“It almost feels normal,” I say to Katie, and she tilts her smiling face up into the sun.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
"I just got my second dose of the vaccine," she says shyly. Her old, blind dog stares past me with milky blue eyes and dubiously sniffs my outstretched hand before finally commencing a tired but friendly wag and pressing the bony length of his body into my legs.
"That must make things so much better for you!" I exclaim as I scratch her dog's flat head.
"Yes, it's better," she says, looking around, "but everything is still the same."
Monday, February 22, 2021
"Okay," I say to the increasingly uncomfortable man whose girlfriend told me she was having trouble convincing him to go to Disney World. "Are you a Star Wars fan?"
"I like Star Wars," he admits reluctantly, looking like he very much regrets his decision to accompany her into the store to buy shoes today.
"I'm not as big a fan as some people," I continue as my unintentional harangue really starts to hit its stride, "but when I saw the full-size Millennium Falcon, I cried a little."
Saturday, February 20, 2021
“That’s pretty much how I handled manicures in college. You could really just dip your fingertips in nail polish, wait for them to dry, and then wash the nail polish off your skin, leaving your nails with a perfect manicure!”
She goes back to showering while I shake my head and laugh. “There’s so much I don’t understand about being a woman,” I say.
The silica gel packets ("DO NOT EAT") in the shoe boxes, along with the seasonably chilly weather, seem to be drying my hands out quite badly this winter. No matter how much I slather them with lotion, my palms crack, and touching anything only serves to remind me how destroyed they are.
Katie's hands are often a similar wreck after months of making many thousands of her pieces, and I say, "My hands look like this," raising my work-roughened hands, "so hers can also look like this." We laugh.
Friday, February 19, 2021
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
I round the corner, only to find the sidewalk, not exactly blocked, but certainly obstructed, by a pretty big dude. He's standing between a pile of snow that extends the length of the curb covering a wide strip of the sidewalk, and the wall of the building, the corner of which I have just rounded, and he is staring, loose-jawed and blank-eyed, at something disconcertingly over my shoulder.
I turn to look at whatever has arrested his attention, but the only thing I see is a delivery guy on a moped, adjusting his helmet in the intersection.
I hug the wall and sidle past this behemoth, my nervous heart going a little faster, but he doesn't even move, or indeed even seem to notice me at all, and I continue on my way with him still staring at that intersection, even after the guy on the moped has ridden away.
Monday, February 15, 2021
Sunday, February 14, 2021
Friday, February 12, 2021
Thursday, February 11, 2021
We spot each other at about the same time: both of us carrying packages, both of us heading in the same direction towards the post office about forty-five minutes before closing.
We both know the long lines that typically occur around this time at our local post office, so when she quickens her pace as we cross the street about a block from our destination, I do too. We're roughly parallel to one another, but my legs are longer, and as we stride between a couple of socially-distanced people having a conversation she clearly panics and, abandoning all semblance of decorum or dignity, begins to run.
I start laughing, because I know exactly why she's running, but when she arrives (only a few steps ahead of me), she sees the extensive length of the line, her shoulders slump in defeat, and she turns around and walks away, while I, still laughing, get in line, dead last, and wait my turn.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Monday, February 8, 2021
"Can you give me two dollars?" the guy without a mask asks me for the second time. The entire train car has already turned him down once, but I guess he's figuring that another pass through might change his luck.
Now he's standing at the door, shaking his head incredulously as I watch him out of the corner of my eye. "It's not working!" he says to himself in disbelief before coming down the train yet a third time to see if the first two times were a mistake.
Sunday, February 7, 2021
Saturday, February 6, 2021
The graffiti on the subway door, written in small letters at a little over head height, reads “Trump forever.”
On seeing it, I bark a single, sardonic laugh, and then look around guiltily to see if anybody heard me, because laughing in public for no apparent reason, especially laughing like that, is sort of creepy. Afterwards, I sit staring at the offending graffiti, fantasizing about writing “sucks” between the first and second word, like I’m a child, only to decide that doing so would only add more nonsense for somebody to have to clean up.
A large black man gets up and stands in front of the door, waiting for the train to pull into the next station, and I watch him carefully, to observe his reaction to such obvious fuckery, but he doesn’t even appear to see it, and the doors slide open, disappearing the words, so he can get off the train and go about his totally normal day.
Thursday, February 4, 2021
The grocery store is playing the usual medley of "oldies" over the sound system, and tonight, that means songs from more than twenty years ago, otherwise known as the greatest hits of the nineties.
An earnest young man from the increasingly distant past sings about rain falling angry on the tin roof, and I find myself thinking about recording a cover of the song at the request of my sister as a gift, and I sing along walking down the produce aisle.
A guy looking about my age is stocking the end cap with bags of Tostitos tortilla chips, and he's singing along too, which makes me smile.
About midway down the juice aisle, another guy with a little gray at the temples pushes a cart past bottles of apple and prune juice, and he's humming along to the chorus, and my smile grows a little rueful, knowing us all as I do.
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
The old man with the cane is avoiding the dangers of the only partially cleared sidewalks by walking in the streets, and the cars are just sort of going around him as he shuffles along.
Finally, though, he seems to need to get up off the street, and so he makes his way to a crosswalk to get on a corner.
"Careful, it's really deep right there," I point out as he's about to surmount a small snowbank down to a deep slush-puddle.
But apparently he doesn't hear me, because his next step dunks his canvas-sneaker-covered feet into icy curb slush, and he makes a small noise of distress before pulling himself out and moving on.
Monday, February 1, 2021
Sunday, January 31, 2021
Saturday, January 30, 2021
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
The electric scooter is buzzing along, and I am having a great time, dropping down into the center of gravity that allows me to thumb the accelerator all the way down and swing my hips to weave through traffic.
Until I hit the long downhill stretch at the bottom of the park, and as I accelerate suddenly I find myself tightening up, gripping the handlebars too hard, trying to slow down, wobbling as my momentum fades, losing all my mojo. I'm reminded of when I was learning how to ski, the panic that sucked the life out of me, and how old I felt as agoraphobia gripped me and I imagined myself falling forever up into the sky.
I consciously slow my breathing, bend my knees, relax my hands, look down at the speedometer for a second to realize I'm not going much faster than a brisk walk, and then hit the accelerator and speed myself down the road.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
"You know how they say pepper is black?" I ask Katie as I storm into the bedroom from the kitchen. "But when it's ground up it's actually black and white!"
While I stand there, rapturous in the light of my revelation, Katie says, "Well, when pepper is whole it's black, which is probably where it comes from. Are you going to be okay today?" she adds.
Monday, January 25, 2021
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Friday, January 22, 2021
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
A red light and a couple of passing cars prevent me from crossing the intersection, but it's my lifelong tendency toward distraction that has me staring up into the sky when I see them: two enormous pigeons wheeling and soaring in the pale January sky above the brownstones.
But they're far too large to be pigeons; as my brain, which expects to see pigeons, starts to take in what's actually in the sky, I realize that one, with the muscular body and white underwings, is one of the hawks who lives over in Prospect Park a few blocks away, and the other, jet black with extended pinions like fingers grabbing the air, is a raven or a crow.
Almost as soon as I am able to process this, I lose sight of them behind the rooftops, the light changes to green, and I am tempted to wait there on the corner, mouth agape, staring at the sky to see if they come back.
I do not wait, but I am late for my train, regardless.
Sunday, January 17, 2021
The sun streaming through the front window refracts into multicolored light through the bottles on the bar cart. I write at my computer while the cat sleeps in her perch.
Outside, a baby screams its displeasure all the way down our block. The cat meows in irritation at the noise, stretches out a single paw that ends in vicious claws, then settles back into her slumber, tail wrapped around her nose.
Saturday, January 16, 2021
Friday, January 15, 2021
The small brown dog looks up expectantly at the young girl. Her attention is elsewhere, but his is entirely on her.
She gestures using her hat which she has been holding in one hand on this particularly mild evening, and the dog attempts to grab it with his mouth. Failing this, he circles her twice, then, when she moves on, he follows her, head high, happy to know he did his part to keep the pack intact.
Thursday, January 14, 2021
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Monday, January 11, 2021
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Saturday, January 9, 2021
Thursday, January 7, 2021
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Sunday, January 3, 2021
Saturday, January 2, 2021
“What’s its name?” I ask the owner of the severe underbite attached to the face of a chunky English Bulldog in a baby carriage.
“His name is Juno,” she says proudly.
“Juno?” I ask, making sure I heard correctly.
She affirms that the dog is named Juno, which is a female goddess’s name, but I decide not to point that out, because Juno seems happy, and the owner is happy, and what the hell do I care?