Thursday, September 30, 2021


Katie's cousin stands with his lady and a friend they've pressed into service as an officiant in a courtyard beneath an enormous beech tree. The air is cool beneath a fitfully overcast sky, but the bride wears a golden rayed headdress that, along with the glow of her nuptials, seems to make her a perfect stand-in for the absent sun.

We all watch as they exchange rings and vows, and even with the relatively non-traditional ceremony, I can feel something happening, something to do with the weight of our attention and the fervor of their intention. In a moment they are married, and the closest thing to magic anyone ever experiences happens right in front of our eyes, in the mingling and binding of two souls, and then we all sit down and eat cake.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Final Cut

“Tell me you were a depressed kid in high school without telling me you were a depressed kid in high school,” I say to Katie as she makes dinner. “I’ll go first. My favorite Pink Floyd album was....”

“That’s it,” she says.

Friday, September 24, 2021


The subway car erupts with the wail of “Greensleeves,” but only the first verse, played at maximum volume on violin by a stringy, deeply tanned man with greasy, thinning hair.

When he reaches the end of the verse, rather than the song lifting into the soaring chorus, he simply starts over in a loop. He has some feel for music, it seems, holding certain notes longer in tension and speeding up as if tumbling down a hill in the descending phrases, but his overall ineptitude leaves the ends of notes trailing off, fraying out of tune, and the repetition begins to grate almost immediately.

His eyes are closed in (real or feigned) rapture, and the tendons on his skinny arms that protrude from the gaping sleeves of his dirty black oversized t-shirt strain with the emotion he is trying to convey through this one half-remembered phrase from an ancient song, until finally he stops for one blessed moment, before splitting the silence again with a ramshackle version of the theme from “The Godfather.”

Monday, September 20, 2021


She comes shyly into the kitchen wearing a pretty dress to show me. "Oh," I exclaim, "how lovely."

She accepts my compliment then, her eyes narrowing, asks, "What's wrong?"

I insist that everything is fine, but she says, unconvinced, "Maybe you just don't know it yet."

The Stick

"The Stick" is a physical therapy tool - a semi-rigid plastic stick with green handles mounted on either end and spools of hard white plastic threaded on it. You use it like a rolling pin to knead tired and sore muscles, separating and relaxing the fasciae and working out knots and trigger points that are causing problems.

I'm watching TV on the couch and using it on my left upper thigh, which feels terrible. It's working when I feel the muscles get tired, like I've been exercising in a gym.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Anniversary Adventure at the Feast of St. Gennaro

We leave the restaurant in that perfect state of sated and lightly tipsy, where the world has just a touch of sparkle around the edges, and you have no particular reason to say "no" to things, so you say "yes."

"Are we going the right way?" I ask, knowing we are, but wanting to see if Katie might have a better way. 

"If we're going toward that we are," she replies, pointing at the multi-colored flashing lights spoking the ferris wheel a few blocks away in Little Italy.

Later, at the top of the same ferris wheel, as we look west across the island, with the crowds and noise and traffic far below us I remark, "Look, you can see America from here."


"The problem with normalizing the so-called midlife crisis," I type into my phone, "is that by doing so, it is made banal. The overwhelming sense of meaninglessness is exacerbated by the fact that your despair lacks even the dignity of being unique."

A few hours later, I learn that a co-worker's brother was shot three times in a random act of violence. He'll probably live, thank goodness, but I bet he's not worried if his life is meaningless.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Wedding Bell Blues

At my physical therapy appointment, I explain my various pains that have cropped up over the last week - cramps and pain in my knees and hips, better than they were but still not great, and not helped by the fact that I'm on my feet 10-12 hours a day working. 

We talk a little about the exercises that I've been doing to mitigate things, and then there's a pause, and I ask, "So, how are you doing?"

She stares for a minute, looking at me but not really seeing, and I have time to see the circles under her eyes, the lines that weren't there two weeks ago, the sort of mildly traumatized glaze of a person who's seen some shit.

"Oh, you know, getting ready for the wedding," she says after a pause, and I nod knowingly.

Old Queens

The ancient pug in the dog stroller is promenaded about like a pudgy child emperor, her eyes half-slits of boredom, while her owner shops for shoes and occasionally harangues the salespeople. There is nothing in this world that can harm her in any way, that she knows of, and she is master of all she surveys.

"What's her name?" I ask solicitously, scratching this furry, undercooked soup dumpling behind the ears.

"Jezebel," her owner says proudly, and Jezebel lets out a phlegmy wheeze.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

He's Friendly

The enormous English Bulldog sprawled at her feet spots me and shoves his way to his feet like an avalanche in reverse, all rolling solidity. 

"Oh my god," I say reverently, "what is his name?"

Her eyes twinkle mischievously - she's used to this, and so glad I asked.

"Muscles," she says as a velvet sack full of boulders shoves his head into my knee and almost knocks me down.

Friday, September 10, 2021


I briefly consider feeling grateful for all the living beings on this train, and I feel a small wash of happiness at having had the impulse, even if I can’t actually conjure up the gratitude itself.

All the people who made this bridge upon which I cross the East River, the train, the clothes I wear, the shoes on my sore, weary feet, the music I pipe into my tired ears: none of them are on this train, but maybe I can let the people on this train stand in for the ones who have given something of themselves toward my comfort and pleasure. Maybe that’s how I puncture the swollen blister of my resentment I made at work today.

A very small girl with pigtails sitting in a stroller grins a messy grin around a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and shakes her head in amused annoyance at something her daddy just said to her, and I guess that will have to be enough.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

A Worthy Sacrifice

I can't hear as well out of my left ear as I used to, and it bothers me. It feels stuffed up, and I keep having to ask people on that side of me to repeat themselves (which is embarrassing), but I assume it comes from listening to music at ridiculous volumes, going to ear-splitting rock shows in college, and playing in bands that were actually louder than jet engines (true story!), so I really only have myself to blame.

I'm walking home from the subway when one of my favorite songs comes on. I shove my headphones deeper into my ears until I can hear all the little details in the mix (while carefully avoiding turning up the volume, even though it's just under maximum), and stride on in rhythm to the drums pounding in my head.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Letting Go

We are returning the cat food we purchased last week when our cat was still alive - a couple of pouches, a can, some treats that we bought to try to get her to eat when she was wasting away - but something is wrong with the registers.

The guy behind the counter stares numbly at the screen while we gather the returns on the counter, until finally he asks for and enters my phone number and then scans each piece one at a time, pausing interminably between each scan as the computer grinds away.

After a few moments of this, he takes us to another computer, and this one seems to work better, even though he has to re-enter my phone number two more times.

Finally, when we seem to be arriving at the merciful end of our transaction, he goes to print out the receipt and even that is broken, out of paper, so he steals a roll out of the register we were just at, prints it, and releases us into the humid late summer afternoon.

The Lost Habit of Ecstasy

The man on stage with the guitar sweats and struggles, the instrument rigid in his writhing hands as he bangs his head and grimaces in joy. I know these songs, the songs of my not-too-distant late youth, and I can recall the radiant shocks of pleasure they once conjured in my gut that were in direct proportion to the desire I felt to escape what was once an almost constant depression.

That depression is gone now, and I watch the concert with a sort of detached contentment, a focused and alert enjoyment that does not seek to escape anything, but simply observes. I am sort of leery of this feeling, and wonder if this is what getting healthy feels like, or if it's just getting old - but then I look around at all the middle-aged men in the venue, and decide to just relax. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Holiday In The Park

Lying on our backs in the shade, soft grass beneath us, breezes cool and gentle. The park murmurs to itself with the voices of children playing frisbee, with the meaningless whispers of couples breathing one another, with dogs barking, with music from countless speakers dancing over the lawn, while in the distance, the festive boom of a sound system beats out a playful, rhythmic bass.

"Two drinks at brunch and we're homeless in the park," Katie, eyes closed, mutters to no one. I watch the clouds dissolve in a blue sky, and a hawk soars overhead into the trees.

She Told On Herself

"It's a really great program that helps local kids, like I've personally helped measure the kids for shoes, and just ten dollars gets a kid a pair of shoes that fit. Would you like to help out?"

"Oh," she says, laughing, "no, I still have some shopping to do today, so I'll pass."

"Okay!" I say brightly, with just the slightest edge to my voice as I snap open her shopping bag with a flick of my wrist.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021


"I'm not gonna talk about my cat, because I refuse to cry at work...,"

"No, yeah, cool cool cool, I totally get it," she says, waving her hand and shaking her head. "So why did the chicken cross the road?"


"Scott, I don't know either," she says, cracking herself up as she says it, which makes me smile my first genuine smile of the day.