Sunday, February 28, 2021

Worth It

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

Shut Up, Brain

I haul three full, heavy bags of trash and a big pallet of taped together cardboard boxes downstairs to the curb, all the while thinking too myself, “Yeah, I’m pretty strong, pretty in shape.” I imagine my muscles bulging beneath my t-shirt and figure I look pretty cool, maybe even sexy, especially for being, like, almost 50 years old.

And then I imagine my life force as a limited thing that might allow me to live to be very old, like my grandfather who lived to be 102. 

But, I then think, what if I used up a chunk of that vital life force, of which I have only a limited quantity, beating cancer, and now I’m only going to live to be, say, 80 or something, and right then my knee throbs and I realize I’m tired, and it’s time to go to bed.

New Music In The Pandemic

"So, since you're a music supervisor for a living, I have to ask: what have you been listening to?"

My customer pauses to think, then answers, "You know, I haven't been really able to listen to new music, except if it's to get a song for a show, but then it's....."

"It's work," I interject.

"Exactly, and everybody who's sort of in this business that I talk to has been saying the same thing - we keep going back to the old stuff, the comfort stuff, because we don't have the focus to listen to new music."

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Almost Normal

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

Long Way To Go

"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."

Do What You're Good At

A fellow employee occasionally uses me to ring up purchases he makes for his wife, which often helps makes up for the days (like today) when the weather, or a still occasionally rampant pandemic, slows traffic into the store. When I thank him for it, he says, "Well, you're always pretty cheerful and optimistic, and I wanted to show appreciation for you."

"You know, I'd do that for free," I confide.

"We frequently do."

Monday, February 22, 2021

My Excessive Enthusiasm Occasionally Alienates

"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

Being A Woman

“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


The slushy snow on the ground slips beneath my boots, so I deliberately trudge on my way home from the subway, planting each foot heavily on the sidewalk as I go. Some places that have salted have only wet patches, but others are straight up snow fields, lined with paths packed down by numerous booted feet.

It's probably going to be quite cold tonight. I'm not particularly worried about falling right now, but going to work tomorrow will probably be treacherous. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Use Of the Mute Function

After a night of unsettling dreams (long, empty rooms with doorways leading into menacing darkness; realizing I had done something to hurt Katie's feelings; going outside without a mask and being unable to enter a nice restaurant while people walk by and glare), I wake up to a Facebook thread of two people I know from high school arguing.

He's a white guy, angry about something that happened when they were teenagers, and she's a black woman, angry about him being a white guy and accusing her of that thing that she claims she doesn't remember. I don't know either of them at all these days, but I do remember her being kind of mean when we were kids (I'd certainly never mess with her!), while he and I have kind of fallen out lately. 

The whole thing is like a long, angry car wreck, and even though I have no idea what happened, and reading it makes me feel like I drank battery acid, I can't look away.

Personal Space

Everyone in line with me on the sidewalk to get into the post office seems to have their own interpretations of what "six feet social distance" entails, but we're all outside and everybody is masked, so I figure it's not a super huge deal.

Except this tall white guy in line behind me, wearing his Strand Bookstore beanie, his face buried in his phone. He keeps creeping up on me, getting closer and closer, to the point that, where a normal person would stand on the opposite side of the store front door I have just passed, this guy has decided that directly in front of the door is the best place to park his carcass, and everybody trying to go in and out of said store can just squeeze around his oblivious ass. 

"Not sure that's the best place for you to stand - you might get knocked down by folks going in there," I tell him as directly as possible, but he just sort of looks at me and I turn away in exasperation to ignore him for the rest of my time here. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

What Did He See?

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

Changing The Subject

“How are you doing?” I ask my customer. 

When I ask this, I try to be as sincere as possible - just let them know that I know times are weird, and I really am interested in how they’re doing, with everything.

“Well, the guy I was supposed to be here on a date with today called me up at four in the morning to call me a ‘fucking bitch,’” she replies, much less bitterly that her words might suggest.

“Okay, well, you’re not, so we’re gonna talk about something else right now, like shoes,” I say firmly.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


My customer and I are getting along famously, and she confides in me some things about her mother, then, realizing what she just said, looks a bit embarrassed.

"I probably shouldn't have told you that. Bit of an overshare," she admits.

"Look, do I seem like the type of person whose uncomfortable with oversharing?" I reply.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Scritches Induced Narcolepsy

The dog ignores my proffered hand (palm in, knuckles curved and slightly relaxed, of course) and just sort of saunters by me, only to stop with his back to me, within touching distance.

"Oooooh, he dissed you!" his owner says, a little shocked. 

I, however, see the situation a little differently, and take the opportunity to reach out and scratch him right behind the ears, whereupon he sits down, and falls asleep sitting up while I continue to scratch.

"He falls asleep so much we call him 'Stinky, the narcoleptic piggy,'" his owner elaborates, and I smile.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Media Vita in Morte Sumus

I'm walking out of the stock room at work, out into the omnidirectional light of the sales floor - I'm tired after a long day, and I take a deep breath, noting with a certain stoicism the parts of my body that are starting to feel worn down: knees, back, feet, wrists, etc., etc., etc. 

It occurs to me that, at some point, parts of me will stop working entirely, and then more parts, and eventually the day will come when I will close my eyes and they will simply never again reopen, and "I" will be no more.

This is not news, of course, but for the first time in a while I find my self feeling the fact of my eventual non-existence, and it thrills through me with the anticipation of going up a roller coaster - a thin thread of fear knotted right in my belly with a sort of wonder and amazement. I can almost see the darkness that is right on the other side of life, but as soon as I do, the part of me that is alive and demands that I continue to be so thrusts the thought away with both hands, and I am back in the waking world, holding a box of shoes, walking on the tile floor, doing my job, getting through the day, happy to be here, but a little disappointed, as if I almost remembered something, then forgot it again.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

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

Missed Connections

The dog on the corner looks exactly like my late dog Coco - a black and tan Shiba Inu with a foxy face, alert eyes. and a very curly tail. I look at her and say "Hi!" very excitedly, like you do with all cute dogs. But she's a Shiba Inu, so she doesn't give a shit about me - I'm not her person, or related tangentially to her person in any way, so I effectively don't exist, and she ignores me.

The light changes, she crosses the street with her owners without a backward glance, and she's gone.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Third Times A Charm

"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

Putting On The Ritz

The women in the office downstairs are a little tense, and I ask why. "Oh, they think there's a mouse in the cabinet where they keep their snacks," one of them says, opening the drawer of the small filing cabinet.

Sure enough, in the drawer, next to the (slightly chewed) sleeve of Ritz crackers, sits a very startled mouse, who books it as soon as he realizes he's been discovered.  

Bedlam ensues, with screams, people jumping on furniture, papers flying everywhere, the whole 50s cartoon mouse schtick, and I feel lucky to have witnessed it.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

I Know Why The Caged Bird Tweets

Some unknown event occurs in the middle of the night, and my phone loses its charge and shuts down.

I somehow manage to wake up approximately near the right time (my alarm was on my phone, of course), and spend most of the morning trying to get my formerly useful brick of metal and glass to come back to life.

After it finally gets a charge, I tell Katie, "I was actually starting to feel sort of good without a phone, like I was free."

"Back in your cage, songbird," she says wistfully. 

Nothing Is Forever

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 Real B-Word

"You've been very nice," her mother says after I hand her the receipt for her shoes. "We asked the man at Bloomingdales for his card so we could contact him about sales, and he ignored us, like we didn't even say anything! He didn't want to help us at all."

"Oh, we don't use the B-word around here," I tell her conspiratorially, and she laughs.


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

Sisyphean Snowstorm

Though the phrase is "whiteout," the better term might be "greyout," as the snowstorm from last night continues into the afternoon, and turns all of Brooklyn into static.

As far as I know, the law says that you don't have to shovel the sidewalk in front of your business until after it stops snowing, and it hasn't stopped snowing all day, so the sidewalks are mostly treacherous, narrow footpaths where the few people out have tamped things down with their boots, banked on either side by humped, unclimbed slopes. Nevertheless, a few intrepid folks are out with broad, rectangular shovels, attempting to stay ahead of the rapidly accumulating snow piling up in front of their houses.

When I thank one of them for clearing the way, he replies ruefully, "Thanks, but I think it's a losing effort," and then digs back in.