Saturday, July 31, 2021

Yam Cult

"You read the thing about the yam cult?" I ask Katie as we walk through the Pacific Islander room at the American Museum of Natural History. 

"I will now!" Katie says, making a fast u-turn back to the display case full of woven masks and pictures of surprisingly curvaceous yams decorated with feathers and reeds.

We read about how sexual activity is considered to be bad for the yam crop while I pretend to rub suggestively against her, and she shoves me away. "Don't piss off the yams!" she scolds.

Slack MF

"Yeah, I'm pretty much done," he says after I ask him how the straightening up of the displays is going.

I already checked, of course, and he's nowhere near done, but rather than say that, I just say, "Cool! Let's go meet by the far wall and go through it together."

And he doesn't say, "Oh, wait, let me check that," or "Was I supposed to do that too?" (which I would have accepted as self-preservation, even though it's still a little sneaky), but just meets me where I said, where I proceed to show him all of the things that still need doing, to which he responds with slow, sullen indifference.


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Non-Euclidean Rain

The umbrella is far too small for this level of precipitation, so my boots, my bag, my arms, my ankles, my shoulders, are all getting soaked.

It's like it's raining in three dimensions says my brain, which, of course it is, but I sort of half grasp the point my addled, slightly soggy brain is making. Like, it's not just raining down, but it's also raining up, and forward, and backward, and left to right.

All directions at once is like it's a non-dimensional point, adds my brain, and I shake my head in irritation and walk faster. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


Headphones in on the train home - pretty familiar scenario - listening to music that sounds like my teenage years (synthesizers, guitars, drum machines, ethereal vocals singing about vampires and flying and passion and graveyards) even though it was made this century; but somehow it doesn't take me back.

The world doesn't mean anything: it's our job, as humans, to make things meaningful. I used to drown in significance - everything meant so much, and I expected it to - but now it doesn't.

But I get home, and my wife and cat are there, and that's all the meaning I seem to need.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Butt Dial

The gentle burble of my phone informs me that my mom would like to add me to a FaceTime call. We've been in pretty close touch in the past few weeks since my dad died, and there's been quite a bit of back-and-forth with the mortuary today, so I figure it has something to do with that and pick up.

But instead of my mom's smiling face, I see, through the mesh netting of the basket on the front of her walker, the walk up to the front door of her house.

"Mom, pick up!" I yell at the phone.

The Conversationalist

"Scott was just in Maui," my co-worker tells the new bartender, who just moved here from Oahu.

"Oh, they must have hated you," he says, completely serious. 

I know that he's referring to the recent water shortages in Maui because of a glut of tourists, but I still give him a look.

"That's an interesting way to start off a conversation with a stranger, but okay," I say, smiling.

Sunday, July 25, 2021


I sit down at the table in the break room with a heavy sigh, take off my mask, and rub my face with both hands.

No one is looking at me, but I'm suddenly self-conscious - I don't want anyone to think I'm acting tired. 

I am tired, of course - exhausted, run down, burnt - but I don't want people to think it's some kind of performance or something.

I stir my pasta with veggies, open up my phone to Twitter, take a deep breath, and start counting the moments until I go back on the selling floor.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Firing The Customer

"No, I don't like that one," she says with a dismissive shake of her head to the fifth or sixth choice I show her. "It's too expensive," she says, leaving aside that the others I showed her she called "cheap."

Without glancing at my watch, I know it's about five minutes from the end of my shift, and I fix my smile. "Well, I'm sorry we couldn't find you what you needed today," I say brightly.

Friday, July 23, 2021

You Know Better

"My mom said, 'We can't buy a shoe after the store closes!' But I work in retail too, and I said I'm pretty sure they're not going to kick us out," she says, sliding her card back in to her wallet.

I hold my tongue from saying, "So you know better," and instead just say, "Hmmm. Well, thank you, and good night."

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Give Or Take

"I don't know how much a slice costs," Katie says about the nice pizza joint down the street that frequently gives us free stuff. "It can be four slices, or nine slices, but all I know is it costs us about fifteen bucks."

But when we get there to grab some slices, we don't know anybody behind the counter or at the oven. We get four slices (arrabbiata, a white slice with spinach, an upside-down slice (cheese on the bottom, sauce on top), and a regular slice with pepperoni), and it costs us... about fifteen bucks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Uncoordinated Discipline

We sat on a cheerful red bench outside of the taco place while they prepared our order. It was the perfect time to watch Park Slope walk its dogs, and the specimens we witnessed were particularly good.

A giant fluffy dog that looked a little like a dude in a dog suit walked by dragging behind him a distracted young man gazing hypnotized into the depths of his phone. The dog, following his nose, found something delicious under a curbside table, with his checked-out owner only noticing when the dog started chewing, which caused the owner to yank back on the leach hard, which succeeded only in banging the dog's head on the underside of the table, bothering the dog not at all, and so they continued on their way, the dog still chewing contentedly on whatever it was.

Hold Music

I added up the amount of time I spent on the phone with the IRS today, and it worked out to a little over three-and-a-half hours. While I was on hold, I thought about all the things I could be doing: reading a book, making a song, writing something (I keep thinking about writing the response to obituary I wrote for my father, something that more clearly shows the relationship we had, but I haven't written it yet) - but I was glad to just stay on hold, listening to the banal hold music which only exists to obscure the passage of time with its repetition. Something about a task where my only obligation was to stay with it, to not hang up, was comforting. I didn't have to do anything, I only had to not give up, to stay on the line, to be ready to say, "Hi!" when the person on the other end decided to interrupt the musical purgatory I was in and actually do some work.

Saturday, July 17, 2021


It's the day after I arrive home from helping my family after my dad died. I'm undressing to get in the shower, lifting my shirt over my head, when my hand knocks the glass globe covering the bathroom light off of its mounting.

I almost catch it before it bounces on the toilet and into the already occupied shower, where it shatters into thousand little pieces with a crash. I stand there, dumbstruck, trying to figure out what to address first: the razor shards of glass threatening my beloved's feet, or the blood welling from the cuts on my hands from where I tried to catch the damn thing.

Sunday, July 11, 2021


The fluffy white dog with whom I made a love connection at a distance on the shoe floor, lo and behold, is now up here on the fifth floor of my store.

Never one to miss an opportunity, I ask, politely, "Can I say hi to your dog?"

The dog, however, is already on his way to me, tail wagging and ears back. 

"He just got groomed," his owner says, with only the faintest hint of impatience, as if she knows that she is only an accessory to this beautiful creature, and not the other way around, and indeed, Dandy (for that is his name, she informs me) has been groomed, because he is the softest thing on this earth, and when he curls up at my feet, I know that I am truly blessed.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Storm's Coming


The delivery guy, like us, has figured out that the sky is about to totally open up, and he's struggling to drag his bike into the restaurant while talking in rapid, clipped Chinese into his phone. 

I grab the door to help him out and he flashes me a grateful thumbs up, without stopping, or indeed even slowing, his conversation. 

"Looks like it's starting to rain," I announce in a big midwestern voice to the woman packing up our food behind the counter, and she grabs a plastic bag in which to put the paper bag full of vegetarian hunan chicken and spareribs.

"Stay dry," Katie calls over her shoulder as we dash into the increasingly swift descending rain.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Beating Stick

Katie informs me that our roommate won't be home tonight, "So anyone who comes in to the apartment, beat them with your beating stick!"

I realize I haven't seen my beating stick in a while, so I look around the room from my prone position on the bed, only to find it leaning against the wall, within arms reach, behind my bedside table.

It's a thick, old tree branch, sawed off at an angle on each end, about two-and-a-half inches in diameter and a little longer than a yard long - lightweight, easy to swing, and perfect for cracking skulls.

I lift it up, feeling its balance and heft in my hand with satisfaction, then put it carefully back in its place.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

What's Your Hurry?

Did my box get dropped off at the PO today?

Going now!

I throw on my "THIS BODY WILL BE A CORPSE" t-shirt and rush down the stairs, cursing myself for having forgotten, then speed walk down 7th Avenue towards the post office with the box under my arm, only to be accosted by a gauntlet of earnest young people in t-shirts reading "Child International."

He reads my shirt, then gives me a grin, saying, "Well not too soon, am I right?" as I rush past, ignoring him. 

How To Cut Up A Pineapple

First, slice off the leafy green crown and the cute, round butt, releasing an even stronger aroma of pineapple than has been permeating the kitchen since we arrived back from vacation.

Next, slice off the hull - stripping the hard brown and green nubs to reveal the sunny yellow flesh.

(At this point you must resist the urge to pick the thing up in juicy wet hands and eat it like an enormous corn-on-the-cob)

Finally, slice it into quarters, and cut out the tough core, until there is nothing left but pure, sweet joy: touch your tongue to it, and let memories that are already a part of your bones well up inside you, and bring you peace.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Nakalele Means "The Leaning"

A few hours to kill before the airport, so we drive up the coast to a place called the Nakalele Blowhole along a road that twists and turns, like most of the roads on the north side of the island, through shaded green residential streets and magnificent vistas that look out over a windy blue sea. Not everyone is happy we're there, however: we see many upside down Hawaiian flags (a symbol of the Hawaiian separatist movement), and a sign at one prominent curve reads, "We are NOT Americans."

We hike down from parking to the blowhole, which is a natural fountain created by a lava tube that funnels the tides hammering the cliffs below up into a furious waterspout surrounded by a basin of black rock. It's slippery in a few spots, but we scramble to the cliffs to spend an hour watching the water shoot up dozens of feet in the air, where it disapates in a pillar of mist like a ghost spinning itself out of existence.

Thursday, July 1, 2021


“Never turn your back on the ocean,” reads the signs leading down to the beach, but with the help of a mask and snorkel, my trepidation gives way to a meditative calm. Katie and I drift over the reef, watching the fish nibble on algae, all of us surging in and out with the surf.

On the way back in to shore, as the clear waters further offshore give way to sandy churn, out of the murk appears a wizened face, then a shell, and his eyes peer into mine as he swims by.

When I come up to tell Katie, another couple is already floating on the surface, and the woman says to the man, “I told you there was a turtle.”