Thursday, April 29, 2021

Baby Steps

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.

The Horror of Reincarnation

"It's for her Bat Mitzvah," the woman says, indicating her daughter, who regards me with a face devoid of expression save for a wide-eyed suspicion. My friendliest smile seems to only drive her further into the curve of her spine, where she hunches, all unformed and bristling with exposed nerve endings, like a clam without its shell. 

I find myself imagining myself at her age, likewise unformed and too-sensitive, and recoil at the thought. I would literally give anything, I think to myself as I slip her long, pale, foot into a shoe, to never have to be that young again.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Brooklyn Spring

The trees are rioting purple and pink and white flowers, while the ones without flowers shake brilliant new green leaves in the breeze. Beneath the cacophony of color, a man in stained jeans and a dirty mustard yellow puffer jacket crouches amidst a circle of trash bags bulging with his belongings, and he does not raise his eyes or greet me as I pass.

A plane glides across an ocean of blue over the Great Meadow in Prospect Park. I lie on my back and watch it pass while, over the trees bordering the Meadow to the east, a hawk hangs motionless on invisible thermals.

Thursday, April 22, 2021


Older couple of ladies, mother and daughter, both of them speaking at the same time, their words tumbling over each others', demanding shoes, arch support, quality leather, but support, you know? and a platform, but not too much of a platform, how do people even walk in those things? well they're not for me, no, not for us, we walk everywhere.

Finally I bring out a bunch of shoes for them, and the first pair they try on, oh my god, they're perfect, arch support, you can really feel the support, and the velcro, and they're cute, right? absolutely, and we'll definitely be able to walk everywhere in these, it is okay that we have the same shoes, hahahahaha, who cares, if they're the right shoes, right?

"If your wife asks," one of them says, in a rare moment when the other one isn't speaking simultaneously, "we'll tell her that you really listen."

"Oh, I think she knows," I say.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


As I'm walking into the shop, the black dog with the gray muzzle and the kind eyes noses my hand in a friendly sort of way on its way out of the shop, just in passing. 

"What a great dog," I say to his human, who turns as he reaches the door to give me a smile.

"This special guy is sixteen years and three months old," he says to me proudly.

"Let's go," he says to the dog, who has been patiently staring at the glass door, waiting for the man to open it, and when he does, they do.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

It's Different For Girls

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. 

Mr. Brightside

After a long, late day doing inventory for the store, the whole sales team rides down the escalator together to go home.

"You know, we're only leaving a little later than when we usually close," I say cheerfully.

"Great job seeing the bright side, Scott," one of co-workers replies, the sarcasm dripping from her voice, which only makes me laugh.

"It was the dead eyes that really made it," I tell her, and she looks slightly pleased with herself.

Monday, April 19, 2021


It's the first nice day in a while, and the child in the stroller is accompanied by three adults, two in cloaks and carrying wands, and one with a camera. While the child seems to be enjoying the Harry Potter themed fun, the adults seem to really be getting into things as they strike various spell-casting poses and pretend to magically duel in front of the fountain while the other one takes photos.

At the same time, a group of very fancy-dressed young women stalk the same area, with one of them taking photos of another while the ones not being photographed shout encouragement and suggest poses reminiscent of the models they see on Instagram. "Every time you hear the click of the camera you change poses," one tells the next subject, demonstrating the head-tilt, the hand-to-chin, the look-away, "and you gotta unpurse your lips."

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Red and Purple, with White Cow Skulls

"That scooter's gonna give you a bad back if you try to ride it," I say to the mom whose daughter has scampered away, leaving her to carry said (very short) scooter. 

She gives this a small laugh, about what it deserves, but when her daughter comes back, she says, "The man said that I would hurt my back, because he was pretending I was going to ride your scooter."

This elicits a satisfying giggle from the girl, and I say, grinning, "That's what they call a dad joke!"

Later, the daughter comes up to me and, with a very serious expression, informs me, "I like your socks."

Friday, April 16, 2021


"And I brought out these shoes as a replacement for your sneakers," I continue.

For some reason, this seems to offend her. "What I liked about the pandemic," she starts in a thick Russian accent, "is that I could shop in peace, and no one would bother me, I'm sorry, I know you have to bring me things, but, I'm just tired of it, talking and selling, I'm sorry."

I fix her with my most blankly benign stare, the one I reserve for people who have really overstepped themselves. "Why would you be sorry?" I say mildly, but my eyes are like a stone wall.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Rusty Nail

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.

Getting Back To It

"This is the first time I've been out shopping in over a year," she says, eyes wide over the pale blue line of her mask. I smile and nod.

"Well, thanks for choosing us," I reply, my tone (in my head) somewhat perfunctory, but she ignores it.

"I usually don't like shopping, but you made this fun!"

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Too Mainstream

"I was such a snob when I was a kid," I mutter. We're getting ready for bed after watching a short video about the band Pearl Jam. 

"This girl I knew once said the band I was in sounded like Pearl Jam, and I was so mad," I continue, "because I thought they were too mainstream."

"I mean, so did they," Katie replies.

Sunday, April 11, 2021


"Things getting back to normal?" is the typical question, after we've established that customer is fine, I'm fine, we're all fine, and yes, things are super weird. 

And usually what I'll do is say that, yes, in fact, things are getting better - I'm making more money, selling more shoes, the days get busier, the floor is full of customers.

But that also means longer hours, longer days, more of the day-to-day difficulties of being in retail, which is both something that I really like to do and, sometimes, a little draining.

So, yes, things are getting back to normal, and we're still figuring out what that means, and if we want it to.

Saying What I'm Thinking

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


I'm carrying the trash to the curb when I see the flashing lights of the first police SUV pulling up. It is quickly followed by a second, then a third one, and then a Fire Department ambulance, lights spinning, but no sirens, parking in front of the bank.

The police get out, purposefully but without any sense of urgency, and walk into the bank, and I head upstairs to find Katie in the kitchen washing dishes, where I tell her, "Cops are downstairs at the bank."

She's already heading for the door before I finish saying it.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Keep It To Yourself

"There's something cool about walking in the city at night," I say after returning from a late evening walk to the drugstore a few blocks away to get the cat her nightly meal.

"Especially since we live in the suburbs now, apparently, and nobody is on the streets," Katie agrees.

"Yeah, it's like, somewhere there's a spot where there's no more sidewalk, and beyond that there's just the emptiness of the continent, and in spite of all the millions of people between you and that point, there's a place where there's just no one."

"That's not something I want to hear right before bed," Katie replies.

Thursday, April 8, 2021


"What's going on?" Katie asks. I guess I must have sworn out loud.

"I was working on some formulas in this spreadsheet, and the computer just restarted before I had a chance to save it, but like, for the third time," I explain as the Apple logo appears yet again on the screen.

"Maybe it's time to start saving after every entry?" she says, only slightly sarcastic, patting me on the shoulder.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Saying Goodnight

The cat yowled about the cold all last night, so tonight before we go to bed, Katie asks me to shut the window at the front of the house, and to say goodnight to her plants. 

After I've closed the window and locked it, I dutifully go to each of the plants, saying goodnight to them individually, by name if I know it.

"Goodnight cane palm, swiss cheese plant, snake tongue, James Dean, fan palm, Wandering Dude, dolphin plant, Clooney. little palm tree, other little palm tree, guy on the hanging shelf."

Then, as I'm heading back to my bedroom, I call, over my shoulder as sort of any afterthought, "Alexa, goodnight," and all the lights turn off.

Psalms 19:1

Many years ago, when I was much more depressed than I am now, I thought that a good job for me would be to become an Episcopal Priest (since they could get married, have kids, work in a relatively liberal church, have housing, the whole thing).

For any number of perfectly good reasons, that's no longer a career path for me, but when you're an optimistic, enthusiastic sort, it's hard to get out of the habit of preaching to a non-existent congregation.

A beautiful day like today, with gentle breezes and fine, cheerful blue skies, with sunshine beaming down on freshly budding dogwood trees and daffodils, well, that could get anybody thinking kindly about a benevolent universe. Just walking down the street puts me in mind of singing a hymn, even just to myself.

Sunday, April 4, 2021


We lie on the grass in the riverside park beneath the mountainous bridge and a blue spring sky. My jacket is spread out under us to keep the new mud and grass from staining our clothes, and Katie lies back with my head resting on her side.

I stare up at the bridge, and I can feel the weight of it, the long-spanning tension of the cables that hoist up the roadway and distribute the load onto the towers looming above us. A train lumbers across the river and Katie remarks, "Something that heavy on it, and the bridge doesn't even move."

Aqua Reef, Bear Glove, Wolfthorn

The older woman standing at the counter when we walk into the drugstore hears us come in. It's a small store, and a straight shot from the front to the back where she's standing, so when she turns she can see us, and we can see her.

Katie doesn't seem to notice the woman, but something about her gaze, and the fact that she looks at me for a little longer than seems strictly necessary, unnerves me. While Katie walks up to the counter to pick up her prescription, I suddenly become fascinated by the names of Old Spice deodorants on the next aisle over and I casually sidestep over to read them more carefully, blocking myself from her view.

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

April Fools

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

Deeply Resilient Infrastructure

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.