Friday, June 21, 2024

Fine, Then. Leave It There.

I find a seat on the train and sit down with a sigh. The guy across from me is a middle-aged latino fellow with a gym bag and sweats on, headphones in, and right next to him on the bench is a single folded dollar bill.


I do the raised chin thing with eye contact, try to get his attention to tell him about the money, but he narrows his eyes to almost slits, like he’s squinting at something outside the train, and refuses to meet my eye. 


I raise my chin again and he, still not meeting my eye, shakes his head, so I shrug and go back to writing.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Be Prepared

The processor sets up her station at the DMV while I wait - counting money, setting her keyboard and chair exactly where she wants it, getting the printer and scanner up and running - and then pulls out a clear vinyl bag with a zipper at the top, about the size of a medium clutch bag. This bag is full almost to bursting with pens: highlighters in various day-glow shades; ball point pens - capped and clickable, in blue, black and red; markers in a variety of widths; plus some hand sanitizers, a couple pencils, paperclips, and other sundries.

When I mention how much I like the bag, she says matter-of-factly, “Oh, yeah, I take that thing everywhere.”

She extracts, after some consideration, a red pen, a yellow highlighter, a black clicky ballpoint, and a Sharpie from the bag, and, placing them equidistant from each other in a tight rectangle, adds, “You never know when you’re gonna need a pen."

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This Is Why

I see a former employee of mine on the subway platform at Union Square as I’m on my way to a physical therapy appointment, and I walk past without him seeing me, make my way further down the platform, and stand waiting for the train.

It’s mostly because I don’t want to have to explain my cane, what I’ve been up to, the whole thing that has been this past year, but this guy was a pretty neat guy when I knew him, and we had a good rapport, so I turn back up the platform and walk until he sees me, whereupon he gives me a surprised, friendly wave.

“Wait,” he says after we greet, indicating the cane, “last time I saw you you were this big strong guy!”

“Hey, I’m still plenty strong,” I say, eyes narrowing, smile still firmly in place.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sometimes, You Need To Move

As we’re finishing lunch with our friend for her birthday, in the middle of the conversation, her husband who hasn’t been feeling well stands up with a silent grimace and abruptly walks outside.

“Well, goodbye,” she says to his back with a mild exasperation, but I’m not offended. I know that expression, the sudden stab of pain that short circuits thought, making any position sitting still a torture, when you can either walk or writhe.

“No big deal,” I say, and we continue as if nothing happened.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Lucky Me

The receptionist at the hospital is doing her best, since the automatic check-in machines that dot the airy, two-story, white stone lobby seem not to be working, and while the line is pretty long, it’s moving at a good clip.

When I finally get to the front at her enormous desk, she, all professional, asks the usual, name, date of birth, phone, but after a moment, her bored countenance shifts and she looks up at me apologetically.

“Your appointment is for... July seventeenth,” she says, hesitantly, as if expecting me to blow up at her.

A beat, then I give her a smile and say, “Ah, well I guess you just freed up my morning, didn’t you?"

Dogs Just Know

The old man walks a little way past the dog tied up outside the grocery store, then backs up a couple steps, and starts talking in a low, gentle voice. It’s clear that he is not the dog’s owner - he could be, I suppose, but somehow you can tell this is just a random encounter - but the dog is wagging, not in the frantic, attention starved way of some high-strung dogs, and not in a submissive, frightened way, but in the slow, calm, friendly way that dogs have when they’re relaxed and happy.

The man is kneeling now, directly in front of the dog, his wrinkled face inches from the dog’s, and the dog is gazing into this man’s eyes with understanding and boundless love, as if he’s been waiting for this conversation all day. 

When I come out of the store later, a young man, tall, good-looking, with impeccable hair and tastefully expensive-looking clothes is standing holding the dog’s leash, with a statuesque woman, equally outfitted, flanking him on the other side of the dog, and the dog’s eyes are staring off into nothing, the three of them out of some kind of central casting version of an ideal couple and their beautiful accessory dog.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

I Wouldn’t Have Done Much Better

We’ve set up our blanket on the soft grass on the hill above the baseball diamond, where the game is just wrapping up.

As the left-fielder bobbles a high fly ball, allowing the opposing team to bring in two more runs and win the game, I remember the miserable spring I spent, an uncoordinated twelve-year-old, half-heartedly playing on the junior high baseball C-team (as opposed to ‘A-‘ or even ‘B-‘)  to please my parents while I waited for swim season to start, barely able to throw a ball with any accuracy, let alone hit.

Some kids playing catch behind us miss, and the ball they’re using sails just over my head to land right in the middle of our blanket with a resounding thud.

“You’re gonna have to get better at catch if you wanna do that,” I tell the kid who comes to fetch it, and he apologizes, grabs the ball, and runs off to do it again a few minutes later.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Monsoon-ish

The sky quickly transitions from unsettled, to glowering, to livid, to apocalyptic, followed by hammering, angry rain, the kind of downpour that wants to tear a sinkhole in your front yard and pull down a hillside on your house, but who cares? The pizza was ordered two hurricane stages ago, and it doesn’t look like letting up, so I slip on the grey Hunter rain booties and the teal and pink reversible rain poncho over my t-shirt and shorts, and step out into the gale.

Two blocks later, when I push past the delivery drivers huddled under the awning to squelch into the pizza place, it is still bucketing, and an older woman sheltering from the deluge looks my bedraggled ass up and down and asks with a sardonic grin, “Did that cape help?”

I do a little Marilyn Monroe wiggle while grabbing the poncho, and tell her, “It blew right up my skirt,” and she gives me a cackle. 

Check, Please

I put my card in the little tray they give you with the receipt in it and space out looking around this cute Chinese restaurant. The neon characters in the window are rainbow hued, but individually, like one’s blue, one’s red, one’s orange - you get it.

A guy comes up with one of those hand held devices to run my card, and as he picks up my card I see that he has two thumbs on his one hand, one on top of the other, next to four normal fingers, and each of his thumbs has a perfect, immaculately manicured nail. 

I am a man of the world, so I don’t stare or react in any way whatsoever, because that would be rude, and unkind, but I will admit to you, dear reader, that I did take a moment, internally, and confirm to myself that I was not in fact hallucinating, because for just a second that seemed, not just possible, but likely.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

I’m Not Picky

The house manager of the Broadway show we’re attending has taken a shine to us, and after the show ends finds us to say goodbye. 

We joke about the wood-fire pizza places in Brooklyn Katie recommended, and then he gives us each a hug before we leave. 

Seeing the cane I’ve been walking with, after hugging me he fixes me with an intense look, and grabbing my shoulder with his bony hand, says, “Be whole and healed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I take a beat to process this, then, with a smile, say, “Hey, I’ll take whatever help I can get!"

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Tuppence A Bag

On the weekends, Grand Army Plaza at the north end of Prospect Park fills with white tents for the greenmarket, like mushrooms that appear after a storm. They make a miniature city, with little streets that fill up with shoppers and their dogs, their bikes, their strollers, all milling about, buying apples and cheese and bread and cabbages, arms full of flowers and potted plants.

Today, though, walking through the plaza on my way to the library, the plaza is empty, a vast expanse up the sky, criss-crossed by bicyclists streaking through the void, with a lone woman down by Eastern Parkway feeding a mob of pigeons.

The pigeons revolve around her, like worshipers around a shrine, or groupies around a pop star, circling as a single organism, parts of them breaking off and rousing up in a flurry of wings to settle on her shoulders and outstretched arms before diving back to the ground where she scatters sheets of seed for them to eat, and as I walk past I avert my eyes, somehow embarrassed by this naked display of adoration, the birds for the food, the woman for the birds. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Matthew 5:41

“You have to seek out the thing that makes you tired,” my mother tells me over the phone, “and just keep doing it.”

“Yes, I get it.”

“If you have one set of stairs to go up, you go up them twice. That’s how I’ve managed to live so long."

Sunday, June 9, 2024

If Music Be The Food...

 “Oooh, who’s this?” Katie asks as the music curls from the kitchen speakers like the scent of onions and garlic cooking in the pan, drums popping, horns all spicy. The fried rice she’s making sizzles like high-hat cymbals, umami like bass.

I do a half-assed quick-stepping dance across the tiles, then perch on the stool, phone in hand. “Buena Vista Social Club,” I say proudly, checking the playlist. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

A Different Kind of Joy

You take the bag, that’s what it essentially is - a big, impermeable bag - and you run with it, holding it open to the wind you’re creating by running, until it fills up, and then you kind of twist it closed with this buckle thing, and you end up with what looks like an enormous split top hot dog bun, only you are the hot dog, and the bun is a remarkably comfortable couch/hammock kind of thing. 

Katie bought one of these magical treasures today and brought it to the park, and after she tried it out, she let me have a go, and let me tell you, it was worth looking like a big ol’ dork running with this bag-thing  to lie down on a literal pillow made of air and textile science.

When I was young, I felt my epiphanies in my gut, right below the solar plexus, with this sort of crazy, wild energy that would shoot through my stomach and down into my crotch, and it was half-way between lust and rage, and it would feel good but also kind of scary.

Today I lay in the Hot Dog Bun Of Perpetual Indulgence and I swear to you, as the tension left my body and I relaxed into the warm Brooklyn afternoon, I felt my heart open up with joy and something like love, and thought “Ah, I am no longer a young man."

Trash Day

My knee hurts, my hip hurts, and I’m tired, but the garbage needs to go out.

Walking down the stairs is just as hard as walking up, so I grip the handrail with each step, the recycling in my other hand. 

I look at the stairwell down to the front door, and I’m struck by the idea that I am alive, in this moment, and pain is part of this moment, and so too is the satisfaction of just moving through air, being in a building, the cool air outside, the satisfying thump of the door being pulled to, the trash bagged by the curb, the cop car with its flashing lights slowly following the ambulance down the street toward the hospital, in no hurry with whomever might be inside, and on and on and on, the entire world surrounding me and my tiny little body, every part touching every other part, all the way out into space.

I remind myself to take Advil when I get upstairs, and then forget again as soon as I go back inside.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Babies Don’t See Color

The sudden torrential downpour drove all the stroller-moms in from the streets, rapidly filling up the small cafe in which my friend and I chose to meet, and one of the babies has taken quite a shine to my friend, staring with intense, un-baby-like concentration.

“Ooooh, he must be an ‘old soul,’” my friend says, waggling his fingers at the fascinated child. I’m always embarrassed to make too much eye-contact with babies I haven’t been formally introduced to, but I smile gamely.

“Or,” he says, considering, “maybe he’s just never seen a black person before."

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Living On Top Of Each Other

 “We gotta just get the same amount of juice on each plate,” I tell the cats as I divide the can of rendered chicken between them for their dinner. “Don’t want either of you terrorists getting weird about it.”

I see some movement out the open window I’m standing next to, and look down to find our downstairs neighbor out on her deck, sweeping up the fallen flowers that have dusted it all in yellow, and she looks up at me.

“Hey there!” I say with a smile, knowing that she heard every word of the preceding. and she looks up with a smile of her own and waves.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Riding Home

There’s a part of my journey home from Katie’s studio, when I cross over the parkway and into my neighborhood-proper, when the character of things changes.

The trees have sheltered these streets for forty or fifty years, the houses have been here way longer than that. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s sunset, and I’m going downhill, slipping through traffic while the cars sit fuming at stoplights, idling murderously. 

I find myself praying in that sort of inarticulate way that sometimes happens, wordlessly grateful for the road, the tires, the traffic, the trees, leaves like stained glass, for standing, for moving through the world, like everything around me is a church, a temple, a shrine. 

Monday, June 3, 2024

Do Not Engage

“You got any change?” he asks, hoisting a blue plastic IKEA bag up on one shoulder. 

I start to say “Sorry, I don’t have anything on me,” but he’s already groaning angrily before I begin. “’Sorry’ doesn’t cut it, man - I need money!”

I keep walking, saying, “What can you do?”

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Make A Wish

I lean out over the rail of the 19th floor rooftop deck and look down to feel the nauseated thrill of gravity. To my left, the tall buildings shoulder their way up the coast of Manhattan to vanish in the shallows of the Bronx, while directly below me, scatterings of people play in the park or relax on the lawn as twilight creeps in from the east, shadowing the sun across the water into New Jersey.

Like the stars we never see, the buildings begin their glitter seemingly all at once, but sprinkled across the skyline so you couldn’t know which one you saw first to wish on.

Katie comes up behind me, puts her hand on my back, I turn and see her smiling, and I put my hand out to stroke her hair, smiling too.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Spare

Everyone and their dog came to the park today, and this guy brought his corgi. He decides he’s gotta check on something, and the corgi is like, “Absolutely, my man, let’s go,” but the guy tells him to stay with the group, he’ll be right back, points him back to where the group is sitting in the shade, with the fat bees humming under the shady trees and all the food is there, and it’s great. 

The corgi considers this for a bit, his head cocked to one side, and decides, nah, I should definitely tag along, just in case things get weird or whatever, runs after him, and the guy stops, tries to send him back, corgi isn’t having it, and this goes on for a couple rounds, with him walking away repeatedly, pursued by a small, willful dog, until finally the guy shouts to his friend/partner, asks him to call the dog, who, called by another person who has some authority, goes back to the group, albeit reluctantly and with deep misgivings as to the wisdom of this course of action.

Wonder how that second guy feels, knowing he’s definitely the spare human?

Thursday, May 30, 2024

School’s (Almost) Out

The playground for the “Hellenic Classical School” is a half-block of 18th street between Fifth and Fourth Avenues that they’ve cordoned off with matte steel crowd-control fences, and since we seem to have arrived at recess, we have to get off our scooters and walk them on the sidewalk beside where the kids are playing.

The street is riotous with kids being kids: a game of baseball has spilled onto the sidewalk and we almost get beaned as we pass; several simultaneous games of what might be tag, but could also just be girls chasing boys to try to get the boys to chase them, roil across the blacktop; two long-haired girls huddle in the shade, their knees folded up to their chests, their faces pale and grave as they discuss whatever solemnities grade-school girls discuss. 

Another scrum of children tumble onto the sidewalk, and a lone woman, sturdy and blonde and harried looking, yells at them to stay in the street. “You’re doing a good job,” Katie says to her, and the woman smiles a defeated, slightly feral smile before putting her attention back on the chaos in front of her.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Pick That Up

“If you like that one, she’s got a shorter book called Ceremony that’s supposed to be very good, but I haven’t read it,” I tell Katie.

“It is good,” a voice in the hall outside her studio calls, and I stick my head out to see a young woman, another artist, sitting on the floor a few doors down. 

“Yeah, I haven’t read it,” I repeat, “but I have been to a party at the author’s house,” I continue, realizing as I say it what a schmuck I sound like.

As she makes a la-di-DA kind of face, I quickly bend over and mime picking something up, adding, “Oh, hey, dropped that name, let me just grab it, there.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Bricks

Katie’s alma mater has this weird connection to bricks which I’m not going to go into here - it’s long and not very interesting - but suffice to say that it’s one of those bits of information that sort of sticks in one’s brain, to the point that I think about it whenever I see buildings made of brick.

Because you don’t see buildings made of bricks very much these days, since it’s easier to make them out of steel frames and concrete, cheaper too.

So as I’m sitting in the courtyard of the building where Katie has her studio, enjoying the sun and watching the planes overhead glide down the sky on their approach to LaGuardia, I saw starlings and sparrows flying up into little nests where the bricks on the facade had fallen away. And I couldn’t help thinking about what this buliding used to be, back when they made entire buildings out of brick - maybe a factory, or an office building - and what will happen in the future, when we’re all gone, and the birds take the place over, and the planes are gone, and the vines start pulling the bricks down, one by one.


Monday, May 27, 2024

Manifesting

“I’d like to order a thunderstorm,” Katie says plaintively. The light from the front windows is gray and sallow.

“Sure, you can ask for whatever you want, but maybe don’t be too attached to the outcome, you know?” I reply, and she does her best not to pout.

Not five minutes later, the little home assistant lights up with an alert: “The national weather service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for Park Slope, beginning...,” and Katie turns to me with a look of triumph and joy, her arms raised in victory above her head. 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Truth Of Sports

A boy with a rugby ball throws it underhand, granny-style, straight up into the blue sky over the park, putting a spin on it as he does, and catches it as it comes down. He does this over and over, trying to get it to go higher with each throw, showing no signs of boredom or weariness.

I get why people like to watch other people play sports. There is something so pure in the concentration, so completely unaffected and authentic, that it becomes like seeing a person’s soul, in a way that they would never let you see it otherwise.

One Wing To Rule Them All

“It’s like Sam and Frodo going to Mordor,” I say looking at the sky. This is not a new thought, though maybe the first time I’ve shared it with Katie, about the way the sky looks when it’s overcast in a particular way - it’s the way I’ve always described it to myself, ever since I was a kid.

Katie’s face is carefully composed, betraying nothing, but she knows when an info dump is coming, and, graciously playing her part, she says, “What’s that?”

“Well, the sky, it sort looks the way I imagine the sky looked over..., oh what is that place..., Ithilien, right after Faramir lets Sam and Frodo go on toward Mordor after he catches Gollum at the forbidden pool, you remember the forbidden pool?” I begin, and we’re off, cheerfully striding on our own quest down the Brooklyn streets to pick up Buffalo Wings for dinner.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The BQE

We’re standing outside Katie’s studio, waiting for the car to come pick us up and take us to our storage locker. A couple blocks uphill from us, I can see the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, one of Robert Moses’s great monuments to his vision of car culture for the city - a huge elevated expressway that cuts through the heart of the boroughs, with almost no regard for the neighborhoods that subsist underneath it.

From where we’re standing I can see - high above the broken down cars and graffitied garages, above the piles of trash and broken sidewalks - rivers of cars flowing up and down the BQE, turgid and slow one direction, swift and streaming the other, both ways shining and flashing in the sun. 

“You know, we can see them up there, but they don’t even think about us down here at all,” I say, and Katie looks up at them flying by, and nods.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Getting Up To Watch The Storm Come In

An alert glows ghostly on the smart-home assistant, but the dark room this late in the morning when I awake tells me all I need to know: storm’s coming.

I wake Katie in the eerie darkness, knowing she won’t want to miss the thunder and lightning when it arrives. She comes out of sleep groggy and disheveled, pulls the leopard-print eye mask over her tangled locks, and sits blinking on the side of the bed.

I explain the coming weather encouragingly, and after a couple minutes, she takes a deep breath, stands, and trudges to the kitchen to make coffee.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Losing Confidence

“You seem like you know which one is best,” he says in lightly accented english. We’re both standing in front of the decongestants, looking at the little cards they make you take up to the pharmacist in place of boxes since people use the good stuff (pseudoephedrine) to make meth.

I explain to him that the stuff that you can buy off the shelf (phenylephrine HCL) has been shown in recent studies to be about as effective as a placebo, but then, in the middle of my explanation, I become suddenly shy - like, what if I’m misremembering the studies, or what if he’s allergic to pseudoephedrine and him buying the real stuff actually kills him?

“...which is why I buy it, anyway, but, you know, your mileage may vary,” I trail off lamely, even as he continues to nod enthusiastically.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Missing It

Six P.M. means it’s time to feed the cats, so I get up from the couch where I’m watching Rick and Morty because Katie is out for the evening so I can watch stuff she doesn’t like, and head to the kitchen.

The cats have pretty much cleaned their plates from this morning’s feeding, so I could just open up a can, plop half down on each plate, and get back to watching TV - cats wouldn’t care, no big deal.

But then I think, why am I in such a rush to get back to my life?

Now I’m talking to myself as I pick up the plates and start washing them, saying, “Man, this is your life, right here, and you’re missing it.” 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Good Luck

“I don’t get as much traffic when you’re with me,” Katie says as we’re stopped on our scooters at the light on the way home from her studio, and she’s right - the streets seem quiet and empty for a Monday evening. “You’re my good luck commuting buddy!”

I feel a sudden pang of anxiety: what if mentioning it breaks the spell, and in typical parable style now, instead of being a good luck charm, I become an albatross, attracting all the cars in increasingly dangerous and malevolent ways.

“Yeah, it’s like when we’re taking airplanes,” I laugh, concealing my nerves, knowing that the only way to keep God on His toes is to pretend he doesn’t scare me. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Take Up Thy Bed and Dance

I get tired more easily than before, these days, but I’m learning to take more rest instead of pushing myself and paying for it later, so we’re sitting on a bench in the shade as the vendors for the street fair finish setting up. The smells of roasting corn and grilling sausage mix in a delicious aroma, a familiar smell that reminds me of running around carnivals and fairs when I was a kid, and I close my eyes, inhaling, and remember.

Behind us, on the playground, a band starts playing a jazzy, upbeat tune that sounds a bit like the music they play at a funeral in New Orleans - snare drum, trombone, saxophone, and a tuba holding down the bass. The music gets louder and louder, until the players march out of the gate, followed by costumed adults dressed as fish and other undersea creatures, and then a whole bouquet of children carrying enormous paper flowers on tall wire stems, and Katie and I are smiling as the group marches out into the street; my weariness lifts, and I can almost imagine getting up and dancing along.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Gang Activity II

“What’s going on with those two birds and that hawk?” Katie asks, pointing over the trees toward the park exit. High in the sky, two, then three birds are whirling around a hawk soaring lazily above the treetops, swooping in and attacking the hawk’s tail or pecking at its head.

When we get underneath them, we can hear the screeches of the birds, now five, as they harass the hawk in order to protect a nest, or maybe just to be territorial assholes, and I say to Katie, “How are other people not seeing this?”

We stand under the battle, our necks craned, watching the birds press their assault until finally the hawk gives up on whatever it was hoping to accomplish and flies off, and the birds go back to whatever peaceful things they were doing on a lovely spring day.  

Friday, May 17, 2024

Pizza Bridges Divides

It’s early evening, I guess, but the cloud cover, an unsettled gray that leaves the air cool but clammy, makes it hard to tell just what time it might be. The slices of pizza we’re taking home smell heavenly, and Katie offers me the box to huff.

I take a huge whiff, and as i’m doing so, a woman comes out of her brownstone and we happen to lock eyes for an awkward moment as I’m nose deep in a pizza box in front of her stoop.

After a few frozen seconds, she gives us a big smile, waves hello, and we smile back and continue on our way, just two kids snorting pizza in the Brooklyn dusk.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Life In The Old Bones Yet

“The crowd seems really… young,” my friend Rick says. We’ve found a place to perch while the band continues pummeling the audience, me resting my knees and hips, Rick resting his feet.

“Guess we should get used to it,” I say, and then the band hits a blistering climax, rising up in a crescendo fit to lift the rafters. Something in my heart that does not know my age pushes me to my feet, and I’m back out on the floor, swaying in the waves of sound, feeling the bass drum rearrange the rhythms of my heart. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

“The movie theater I used to work at was razed to the ground,” Katie says, slashing with her hand like she’s chopping down a tree.

“Oh yeah,” our friend John says, “mine was just abandoned, so....”

They continue regaling each other with horror stories of teenage labor, but my mind leaps ahead, far into the future, imagines the places we worked like dogs, or played as kids, the buildings we used to dream and eat in, the churches we sat in on Sundays, bored and far from transcendent, the schools we escaped or hid in, all the places that shaped us with their constrictions or carved us with their sharp edges, all of them decaying, empty, built over, or simply gone to grass in an empty field as if they never were.

A cold wind blows through me as I come back to myself, sitting on the couch in my cluttered, happy home, returning from a world I will never see.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

As Others See Us

I’m thumbing through my phone in search of a photo to give the hairdresser that might show her the way to correct the mop I’m currently carrying around on my head. I’ve worn my hair long for most of my life, but with the white coming in and the coarseness of it all, the length serves only to make me look kind of old.

Katie holds up her phone, a picture of me from a wedding a couple years ago on the screen, saying, “You’re very handsome in this one.” 

It’s not bad - the five-head, the crows feet, the crooked grin, all look like me, but like a seriously uncool version - but I suddenly realize that what I consider the cool version of me may not be the one she actually fell in love with, or married, and may have been seriously overrated (by me).


Monday, May 13, 2024

My Dad’s Love Language

My father, who died three years ago, used to give gifts of tech on major holidays, some practical (a printer, a laptop) and some whimsical gifts he probably would have bought for himself, like a battery powered wine aerator he got us after he took a wine class.

When the printer he got us finally gave up the ghost, light on the front blinking a yellow warning, screen banded angry red, tumbling thunks shaking the interior, we tried various means to revive it, to no avail.

I knew he wouldn’t be gifting us another printer, so we bought a new one, and that’s okay.

Every day, remnants of ourselves disappear from the world, but if we’re lucky, someone remembers.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Degrees Of Batman

The drizzle isn’t enough to keep up indoors, but it makes for a dreary walk to the subway.

“I think I slept wrong,” I tell Katie, attempting (and failing) to turn my head to demonstrate as we trod down the wet streets.

“Feel like you’re looking around like Batman?” she asks.

“Yeah, but it’s only George Clooney Batman, not like Val Kilmer Batman.” I reply. 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Drugstore

“Now you know I’m not trying to work you as soon as you come in,” the manager of the drugstore is saying to one of her employees in the next aisle, and although I can’t see his face, I can feel his expression. “But I am out of people,” she continues, “and I got too much to do.”

They’re playing “(I Had) The Time Of My Life” over the speakers and the guy in front of me in line at the register seems to be grooving along, dancing and really getting into it. Then I notice that he’s got little white headphones sticking out of his ears. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

You Take What You Can Get

Katie and I are grabbing lunch from the frozen food section in the dollar store near her art studio. The pickings are slim, but we find a couple of items ($1.25 a piece!) and stand in the only open register line, waiting to pay.

“Whoa, they got kombucha at the dollar store?” a man behind me in the drinks aisle says.

After a moment he continues, “Well, it probably ain’t good kombucha, but I’m getting it.” 

Thursday, May 9, 2024

The Youth Do Not See Us

The couple sitting across the car clearly thought that this end of the subway would be a good private place to have their argument, and her body vibrates like a spring with barely suppressed tension.

“It’s just, no let me finish, just why do you feel the need for me to be small around your friends?” she seethes, and Katie tightens her grip on my arm while we conscientiously direct our eyes to anywhere but them.

Later, as we’re walking home from the subway, I remark, “It’s like we weren’t even there.”

“And by the way, congrats to us on becoming invisibly middle-aged,” Katie adds, high-fiving me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

“Mid” In More Than Just Size

As we scoot down 6th Avenue, we pass an utterly unremarkable parked white car. Imagine a sedan - it looks exactly like that, bulbous, thick and heavy, boring and mildly ostentatious, only remarkable in one detail: it’s a Jaguar.

I tell Katie about it at the next stop light, and she says, “If you’re going to pay that much for a car that says ‘Jaguar,’ it should actually look like a Jaguar!”

“It looks like a Taurus!” I reply.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Keep Trying

The meditation must be working I think to myself as I read. I can really feel myself able to concentrate and understand what I’m reading, without that annoying drifting off I always do.

You know, soon I’m going to be able to read and think even more clearly, and cogently - it’s really like that movie, what was his name, that guy, he was in that other movie with Lady Gaga, did he sing on the song with her? I think he did, but really she was carrying him, for sure, I wonder what it was like working with her, like was she nice, I feel like she wouldn’t be nice, exactly, no one gets to a place of power like that by being nice, like people who have money, they know it, and they....

I’ve read the same two lines over and over without having any idea what they mean.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Paraphrase

LL Cool J drives the computer animated beer train in the commercial, bringing frigid winds and a rime of ice to everything he passes before hurtling the train through the wall of this nice man’s house in a hail of rubble with a silly quip and an enormous, cheesy grin - deeply uncool.

“I always think of Shakespeare, Benedict in Much Ado, when I see rappers selling out like this,” I tell Katie, who’s on her phone, studiously ignoring the ad. “’When I said I would die a gangster, I did not think I should live to be so old!’”

“Or so rich!” she adds.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Progress

I’m in the kitchen, washing up after dinner, listening to my new favorite song. It gets to the bridge, his voice rises from a desultory baritone up into soaring, heart-rending heights, and I want Katie, who’s also in the kitchen, to hear it.

I had a friend, years ago, who didn’t care all that much about music, always talking over the best parts, or worse, just ignoring some songs altogether, so I got into the bad habit of pointing out my favorite parts to get his attention, which often led to me talking over the good parts.

Today I just turn off the water so I can hear better, and the good part fills the room - her ears work, so why make a big deal out of it?

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Indigestion

I’ve been reading too much lately, and not writing enough.

Eating too much, and not cooking.

Talking too much, not listening.

So I made ice cream from scratch, which took hours, just to feel like I accomplished something; it was delicious.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Mother’s Day Is Coming

The brownstones on either side are staid and respectable, but in the middle of the block, constructed in the same style, stands an entirely different beast altogether.

A padlocked high fence encircles an overgrown front yard, and all the windows stare out on this residential Brooklyn street with blind, boarded-up eyes, but it’s really the facade that sets this seemingly uninhabited three-story building apart. Back in what looks like the nineties, to judge by the artwork, someone, or several someones, covered the entire front of this building in graffiti - flowers transforming into tessellated birds, into abstract line art the color of the patina on the Statue of Liberty.

On the top floor, almost invisible from where i’m standing on the street, there is a portrait the height of the entire floor of a woman in a tank top, smiling a little awkwardly, and I can’t help but think she might be the one referred to in the small heart by the door on the first floor, inside of which is written the word “Mom.”

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Waves Come In, Waves Go Out

Some kids on the Long Meadow are playing Ultimate Frisbee, 3-on-3, not pros or anything, just for fun, and one of them makes a decent catch.

Some older kids walking past start clapping, making a big deal about the catch, and it takes me a few seconds (because of the way my brain works, or doesn’t) to realize they’re being sarcastic.

So now my sense of justice is engaged, and I’m furious, absolutely livid, and I spend the next fifteen minutes walking through a gorgeous day, blue sky, new spring leaves, yadda-yadda, just fuming, rehearsing all the things I’d say, ruminating over the terrible things people have said to me, suddenly I’m thinking about videos of people having fights on subways and outside bars, and I arrive at Dog Beach without having seen anything of the intervening walk.

I sit in the sun, I read, I watch a dog that doesn’t like getting wet overcome her fear and go in up to her chest to retrieve a ball, my breathing slows, I take a sip of water, then another.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

She’s The Boss

Even with a cane, I’m still moving pretty well down the stairs at the theater, but the official-looking woman carrying the orchid doesn’t seem to think so - she bounds impatiently past us, down the wrong side, and disappears into the office.

The line to the ladies room is pretty long, and takes up most of the lobby, but here’s orchid lady to boss everyone around. “Okay everybody, move to the right, doing great, move to the right, move to the right, doing great, doing great,” she says patronizingly. 

I try to imagine what it’s like to feel such ownership over a place that you can see the people for whom it’s made as an annoying hinderance to its smooth function, but when I watch how slowly most of the people move, how some of them stand around in the middle of things, uncomprehending, I guess I kind of get it.


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Red White and Bluetooth

The couple lounging across the bench beside Dog Beach aren’t making any friends this afternoon. Their enormous Bluetooth speaker might not offend quite so badly, were they not blaring the early 2000s greatest-jingoistic-country hits, violating the peace of Prospect Park with lyrics promising to put the proverbial boot up Saddam Hussein’s ass.


As the music reiterates how proud they are to be Americans insofar as that relates to the country’s continued military dominance in the name of a rather vaguely defined “freedom,” one part of the couple leans awkwardly out over the muddy pond, taking a picture of something out on the water.  


As she extends her phone unsteadily, her partner laces his fingers in a handful of her t-shirt, bracing his feet on the slick paving stones to counterbalance her considerable bulk until, satisfied, they climb aboard their mini scooter and they and their music mercifully recede into the late afternoon sun.

Monday, April 29, 2024

A Transitional Season

A haze covers Brooklyn today, nudging the temperature up and disguising everything under a glare, so when we walk to the park I decide to wear sunglasses.

Normally, I avoid sunglasses because I have this weird sense, when I wear them, that I’ve put this barrier between me and the world - I feel dissociated from everything, like it’s no longer real, and while I look like I’m walking around like a normal person, I’m actually hidden inside, peering out from behind my glasses where no one can find me. Not only that, but when I look at things, the colors, the depth, everything is different, leaving me feeling even more separate and alienated.

But lying on the grass, wearing sunglasses, staring up at the sky through the branches of a tree, I find myself noticing the edges of each individual leaf, the depth of the sky, the clouds that pass overhead, their texture and weight, and I’m glad I’m not blinded by the glare, that I feel like I’m part of the day. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Gang Activity

The rum they gave us at the Hawaiian pop-up market smelled of fermenting bananas and chemicals, and of course I drank too much of it too fast. Not a lot, but I’m a lightweight these days, so it swirls around in my body like an oil projector for a good while afterward, distracting me from the words I’m trying to read. We lie on the grass in Washington Square Park, Katie napping in the dappled shade of the new blooming trees, me failing to make any progress in my book, finally giving up and watching the beautiful people walking in the sun.

A group of young men glide swiftly by on skateboards, weaving in and out of the Sunday strollers, their narrow, wiry torsos defiantly bare, and one of them, in an incongruous Army helmet, turns and gives me a grin as he speeds past, as if daring me to stop him when he’s already gone. 

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Bookstore Day

The shelves gape like open mouths, shoved full of words, each book a tooth, gritting against the texts. 

You can look for years, searching every mouth for the magic words to set yourself free - philosophy or fiction, theology, poetry, the mystics, words, words, words.  

A wave of dizziness passes through me, reading the titles on the spines, so much time wasted looking for something to solve my problems in bookstores, libraries, universities. 

“I think I need to eat something,” I tell Katie, and she nods solemnly. 


Friday, April 26, 2024

How to Write A Four Each Day

Pick up a cut nail from the sidewalk beneath a construction shed on Union Street. Note the shape: ancient, wedged, and blunt. Think of Jesus if you’re so inclined, of carpenters, of wood and built things. Slip the nail into your pocket, along with the rest of the poem, and continue your walk home.


Thursday, April 25, 2024

Have Mercy On The Hypnic Jerk

I drag through the day at half-speed, lethargic even after a full night’s sleep. When Katie comes home after her appointments, I’ve managed to vacuum a couple rooms and sweep up a little, and we lie down for a nap before we have to go out again for the night.

I settle down on my side, slow my breathing, and gradually relax, and I’m almost able to fall into sleep when the relaxation snaps with a sudden spasm, a muscle in my legs contracting, as if a spring that had been held in place by tension is loosed and kicks out at random, and I have to start the process all over again. Maybe this is how you know that you’ve relaxed enough - when the governor switches off and the body gets rid of all the weird seizures it’s been repressing all day acting normal. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Feeling The Illinoise

Writing about music, the cliche goes, is about as useful as dancing about architecture. 

But we saw a dance show today which included in its subjects The Sears Tower in Chicago (which is now called the Willis Tower for reasons), and it made me cry. The dancers blazed across the stage, their bodies beautiful and mobile, pumping their limbs and leaping into the air, lifted by emotion and each other, and I don’t know how to speak of them without resorting to sentimental platitudes.

And to be fair, they weren’t dancing about architecture, but I’m still the one here, failing the words, seeing them hours later when I close my eyes, hoping I make one thing in my life as beautiful as what I saw today.


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A Smile For Leaving

“Be careful,” she says as I adjust the chin strap on my helmet and click the little dial in the back that makes it tight around the back of my head.

“I will,” I reply, wheeling my scooter out into the hall. She’s standing in the doorway to the kitchen, watching me leave, her brow furrowed a little.

“Seriously, be careful,” she says again, and her face clears, a decision she’s making, and she gives me a smile before I go. 


Monday, April 22, 2024

Monday In The Park

We hike the Long Meadow, my backpack bouncing on my back, stepping across divots and over hillocks where memories of winter’s rain and cold have heaved up the ground in uneven patches of thick green grass and exposed earth. Today, the sun is shining life into the world, and every tree that isn’t fat with blossoms is covered in a fuzzy new green halo to try and capture their share.

We set up shop in the sunshine on a slight rise with a view up and down the park, spreading out a blanket and lying down to watch the people and read. Katie pulls her hat over her eyes and falls asleep, while I stare at the line between the tree tops and the deepest indigo sky I’ve ever seen, and the tiny planes on their way to Europe pass far, far overhead, halfway between us and God. 


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Who Are We To Argue With Darwin?

“God, what is that?” Katie says looking over my shoulder. Towering over the heads of the crowd, deeper into the heart of darkness that is Times Square, we see a man wearing an enormous panda suit, lumbering through the masses. Many people work the hordes of travelers dressed in dirty, tattered costumes as low-rent versions of Spider-Man, Batman, Mickey or Minnie Mouse, Elmo, Grover, Deadpool, posing for pictures with the tourists and then shaking them down for tips after the fact, but this panda suit is at least nine feet tall, and mildly terrifying.

“It’s the next stage of evolution for the costume guys,” I tell Katie, loud enough so that hopefully other people will hear, and she smiles indulgently and only rolls her eyes a little. 


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Democracy In “Action”

The man with the clipboard steps in front of us as we’re about to cross the street. “Are you a registered voter in Brooklyn?”

He wants us to sign his petition to get a candidate on the ballot, but when we see who it is (an extreme left-wing candidate whose presence will serve only to split the vote and allow for a greater chance of a right-wing win) we almost hand him the clipboard back, but we give each other a look and sigh.

“Everybody gets a chance,” Katie mutters, signing, and I do the same. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Dad Jokes

The very professional and only slightly harried phlebotomist apologizes for not being allowed to insert an IV. “We’re a little short on nurses today.”

Are you familiar with the phenomenon of possession? Reader, with all sincerity I tell you I heard issue from my own mouth, unbidden but impossible to arrest, the voice of my father, dead lo these almost three years, saying, “Oh, I’d say you’re plenty tall.”

She laughed politely, and Katie, bless her, forced a laugh to cover my shame (contractually obligated as she is to laugh at moments like these), but all I could do was mutter, “Thank you for laughing at my dumb joke” as she slid the needle in.


Thursday, April 18, 2024

Watch The Time

Despite the cold, despite carrying a cane, my hair too long and much more grey than when I first haunted these streets, I still glow with a mild, pleasant frisson when I walk down by NYU. 

I can see the ghosts of the weed guys patrolling the entrances to Washington Square Park (“Green? Trees? Smoke-smoke-smoke”), outlaws rendered superfluous by the dull respectability of law. And across the park squats the staid old brick nunnery where an ex-girlfriend exiled herself in despair after we broke up, before she transformed herself into a photographer and disappeared for years. 

And all around, in the present, the students: insecure and absolutely certain, loudly pronouncing their loves and opinions to impress one another, feeling their awkward incompleteness and yet more graceful and full of life than they may ever be again in their lives, walking these streets like lions or children, greeting each other with joy, arm in arm, lonely, anxious, suicidal, foolish, radiant, brilliant, beautiful, not knowing or caring how wonderful it is to be young, how fast it goes away.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

After School Special

The kids, freshly sprung from the incarceration of the school day, infiltrate the aisles of the bodega like a herd of sheep - skittish, unpredictable, and faster than one might think. They move like a river, jostling one another and pouring around obstacles, dragging chocolate bars and coke cans and Little Debbie cakes in their wake. 

Once they’ve selected their snacks, they mill about in front of the register in chattering clumps of 3 and 4, self-segregated by sex, until, through some sort of teenage brownian motion, then manage to reach the cashier and pay, almost always in small change.

i finally get my turn in front of the harried man behind the counter and joke, “Making all your money at once, huh?” and he laughs, but his laugh has an edge. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Don’t Start Nothing, Won’t Be Nothing

The woman standing ahead of me in line for the unisex bathroom stalls in the Whole Foods has all the trappings of a tourist: the leggings and puffer vest, the baseball cap, the Fanny pack around her waist instead of as a crossbody. 

“Is there a ladies room?” she asks me.

My hackles raise a little, since there are obvious signs that prominently show symbols for both men and women, but maybe she’s just worried, and NOT making some kind of political statement, so I ignore the implications of what she said, and just address the content.

“You’re fine,” I reply, attempting in my tone to convey both a casual familiarity with unisex bathrooms, and also a friendly, relaxed demeanor to let her know that she doesn’t need to worry about being around men in a bathroom, unless she says something weird about gender or something.


Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Once And Future Badass

“It’s too long for me, but you should try it on,” Katie says about the denim duster our friend is selling at the flea market. It’s pretty amazing, but a glance in the mirror reveals that, in order to pull this jacket off sartorially, I would need to restructure, not just today’s outfit, but my whole wardrobe and possibly my entire lifestyle.

“Yeah, it’s cool,” I tell our friend, “but I kinda felt like the jacket was wearing me, you know?”

“Maybe once the apocalypse hits you can be trenchcoat guy,” he replies, nodding, “let ‘em know you’re not to be fucked with.”

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Confused But Friendly

A friend of ours is getting rid of some things from her apartment, and we’re carrying some bags and boxes and bins full of fun items home.

A woman stops Katie as she’s adjusting the weight on the bin in her arms to say, “Oh, was Manhattan Vintage good, because we’re on our way there now!”

Confused, but friendly, we start to answer, until we realize that the logo on one of the canvas totes Katie has over her shoulder says “I ❤️ Manhattan Vintage.”

After we’ve cleared up the confusion (we’re not coming from Manhattan Vintage, even though it looks like we just bought some really fun vintage items) and are continuing our journey home, Katie remarks, “Forgot what bag I was carrying.”


Friday, April 12, 2024

This Old Thing?

I finally look up from my phone to notice that almost forty-five minutes have passed since the doctor said he’d be “right back.”

With a sigh, I slip my sneakers on. The rest of my outfit consists of a t-shirt, thin, elastic-banded, disposable shorts that the nurse provided because my jeans didn’t roll up enough to give the doctor access to my knee, and some “fun” yellow socks I wore under my jeans that with everything else make me look a little like I might be on my first day of homelessness.

I approach the nurses station, ignoring the looks I’m getting, and gently ask, “Hey, did somebody forget about me?”


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Different Ways Of Being Angry

She taps lightly on the back of the car blocking the crosswalk as we maneuver around it. The driver calls out angrily, “Why you touching my car?”

“Because you are in people’s way!” Katie fires back.

She resumes chatting with me, completely unconcerned, as we continue walking to the library, but it’s about a block before I’m able to listen again, because a piece of me is still back at that crosswalk, waiting for that guy to get out of his car, and going over various methods for knocking him down if he did, like I know how to fight or something. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Do Your Best

I run my hands along the wall of the new tattoo parlor opening in my neighborhood. The color scheme is dark blues and neon purples and gold, and the wallpaper is a swirled, cloudy black and blue. 

“Are you seeing all my fuckups?” one of the new owners asks, which of course that’s all the person who did it sees after they’ve finished - all the places where they could have done better, the little errors they made, the places where it just wasn’t perfect. 

But all I could see was the way the seams on the sheets matched up, the smooth texture, the monumental amount of work, and even if it wasn’t perfect, it was still pretty amazing, which isn’t profound, but it felt like it was important, and maybe somebody working on something who’s reading this needs to hear that. 


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Might As Well

 Katie lying down on the grass with her eyes closed while I grab my phone. “If you hear some bells, don’t worry about it,” I tell her.

“You going to meditate?” she asks, without opening her eyes.

“Might as well,” I reply, as the birds continue to sing, and some kids play up on the hill, and the earth remains solid and supporting us, and the sun beams gently down, and I take a breath, then another, then another.


Monday, April 8, 2024

Looking At The Sun

The viewing area is full, but we’ve found a spot, put our eclipse viewing glasses on, and are ready for the show.

The sun goes from disc, to crescent, to sliver, to a few seconds of absence. The terrace outside the Natural History Museum goes silvery-gray, and a cheer goes up as darkness descends. 

I don’t know if it’s the beauty of an astronomical event, the fleeting moment of togetherness with millions of people, or just the fact that most of the people here will never see something like this again, but regardless, I’m crying as the sun slides back into view, and I keep my glasses on so I don’t have to explain.


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Louder Than Words

Before we leave Dog Beach, Katie approaches the man who has been tirelessly throwing a stick into the water for his (also tireless) border collie to fetch for the last half-hour, 

She compliments his gentle, intuitive way with the dog, the way that the two of them seemed to understand each other completely, and he graciously thanks her, adding that his connection with his pet is “non-verbal.”

After we’re on our way, I say, “I’m glad you went up to him. If I had done it, I would have told him I loved him, and that I hoped he was happy every day for the rest of his life.”


Saturday, April 6, 2024

Portrait, Terminal 1, LAS

Golden sun on the high white girders, sunrise reflecting off the planes lurking at the gates outside.

The same useless gear - t-shirts with winking slogans, shot glasses covered in facsimiles of playing cards, casino branded boxes of chocolates - at dozens of differently named, but otherwise identical, stores.

Four Starbucks, at least (let’s go to the good one - no not that one, the other one).

Slot machines burbling their electronic come-ons at every gate, promising endless distraction, perhaps a payday, while the sun comes up over the desert, out where the silence lives.

Friday, April 5, 2024

What Are You Gonna Do If It Isn’t?

She herds the gaggle of children into the movie theater around the 15 minute mark of previews, a good dozen or so of all boys, all around 10 years old, maybe 11. They cross in front of our seats, not terribly loud or annoying, just regular kids being kids.

It takes her a few minutes to get everybody in the right seats and settled, again, not a huge problem, but more hassle than I would have wanted to deal with. 

THEN, in a moment of near-silence, she asks of no one in particular, “Is this the theater for Ghostbusters?”


Thursday, April 4, 2024

The House Always Wins

Names of streets near Las Vegas, NV (a literal desert town) specifically in the subdivision in which my mother lives: Sandpiper Village Way, Crystal Stream, Gentle Spring, Aqua, Tadpole, Marlin Cove, Bamboo Bay. There are others. 

Las Vegas is the ultimate destination for magical thinking - even if there isn’t water, if we invoke it enough in our street names and just keep building, it might not matter.

Even though the house always wins, if we keep trying, maybe our luck will turn, maybe the right card will turn, and we will finally, finally be free. 


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Suburban Jungle

Opening the backdoor to the patio sets off the burglar alarm, which mom has set to arm automatically, and the sound is apocalyptic. A strident, screaming klaxon, it sends the dog into a howling, barking frenzy until I can get to the keypad in the laundry room and turn it off.

After I apologize to my mother, the dog, and my racing heart, I take the recycling out to the bins in back that sulk in the dim light of a street lamp.

Something about the dark, the quiet, and the suburban isolation, along with the shriek of the alarm still echoing in my head, leaves me deeply uneasy, and more nervous than I’ve ever been in a big city surrounded by arguably greater danger and more people.


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Beauty is Inconvenient

“These hallways used to be beautiful,” my mother says as we walk down plain white corridors to the elevator after her dentist appointment. “Like the chandeliers,” she adds, pointing the graceful glass hanging in sheets surround the lights out over the foyer.

“Why do you think they changed it?” I ask. 

The modern elevator beeps gratingly before the cheap metal doors slide open, and she says, “Oh, people were bumping into the artwork that hung on the walls, and it was easier to just get rid of it.”


Monday, April 1, 2024

Trying To Be Nice

“How’d you do today?” I ask after he presses the button for our floor in the casino parking garage.

“Well, it’s a new ball,” he replies, indicating the swirled-red and black bowling ball he’s go balanced on the top of his rolling luggage, “so I’m still trying to get the hang of it. 175 averaged over 3 games, but the other day I did 187 over five games.”

“Sounds like progress to me!” I say nonsensically. 


Sunday, March 31, 2024

Cosplay

My mother insists that I go to the grocery store and buy myself some food for the duration of my visit. She herself barely eats, subsisting mostly on protein shakes, cashews, and energy drinks, which means that her refrigerator has slim pickings for a middle-aged vegetarian.

As I turn onto the main road from her subdivision, I realize I probably could have walked as easily as driven in her car, though I love driving, and don’t get to do it much back in Brooklyn. On the other hand, even though the distances are about the same as (or maybe even less than) a good walk in New York, the lack of buildings and regular city blocks make it seem like a lot further, and besides, when am I gonna get another chance to cosplay a wealthy suburbanite?

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Pendulums are the Pits

“To be honest, I don’t really even care about the healing part,” he says after seeing that this line of discussion isn’t really getting the response he’s hoping for. “I really started getting into pendulums to make money. There are all these classes to take and seminars and books to buy, it’s amazing!”

“Looks like you’re not the only one to think of making money from pendulums,” I say with as much wide-eyed innocence as I can muster.


Friday, March 29, 2024

Blame It On The Boogie

This is what they call a “kid friendly” kinda place, and lots of families have clearly heard that the rumors about this restaurant are true, with little ones running around, yelling, and having a good time generally being kids. 

One child has clearly had enough of his parent’s shenanigans, though, and in the middle of The Beastie Boys’ remarkably sexist single “Girls”, his face screws up in rage and he literally launches himself into the air and throws himself down on the ground.

“Whoa!” exclaims the friendly server who has been running the entire floor like a top-tier warship, and, after checking that the tantrum-er is safe, he begins to boogie to the music. 

Soon, he has both the child, and several other children, and their parents, and most of the restaurant, boogieing all together, and the tantrum is forgotten in a blaze of goodwill.  

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Servant’s Entrance

“They said I could leave it with the doorman,” I tell the three uniformed gentlemen at the Upper East Side building where I’m dropping off the delivery of one of Katie’s artworks.

“Take him to the delivery room,” the most senior looking one tells the youngest, who nods officiously and sets off, with me trailing behind.

From the lush and warmly lit lobby we wind our way through sparer and more utilitarian halls, each lit more clinically than the last, until we come to a fluorescent light and tile hallway that looks straight out of a sanatorium, where another young man in a tiny room filled with shelves takes my package and waves me even further toward the back.

I pass through a series of automatic doors that look like they belong in some Olde English Tavern, then I’m spit back out on the street far from the lobby, next to a collection of delivery guys on bikes, faces in the dark illuminated as they stare into their phones. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

I Feel Seen

“I’m going to research your question,” says the HR representative on the phone. “And I’m known around here as being very tenacious, so I will definitely get to the bottom of this.”

“So our number starts with either 844 or 877,” she continues, “so when you see that number when I call you back later today, pick up, okay?”

And for some reason, that makes me feel even more confident that she’s going to take care of things, because anybody who says something like that, who knows that she has to tell me to pick up a number that I don’t recognize, well she really understands me, you know? 


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Keeping It To Myself

The guy sitting next to me at the show opens up a notebook before the lights go down and starts scribbling in terrible handwriting. I’m polite so I don’t try to read over his shoulder, but the brief glance I get tells me he’s doing something technical.

The show begins, and is amazing, marred only slightly by a noise up by the lighting rig at the top of the balcony, and when someone in another row complains to their neighbor about it during intermission, he leans over and lets them know he’s the sound designer for the show we’re watching, and they’re gonna fix it.

As he continues, explaining that he sits in various seats every show, making sure the sound is excellent everywhere in the house, I keep repeating to myself, “he knows the mix was a little muddy in the opener, you don’t have to tell him, he knows the mix was a little muddy in the opener, you don’t have to tell him, he knows the mix was a little muddy....” 


Monday, March 25, 2024

A Particular Set Of Skills

The woman behind the counter at the pharmacy repeats my request to her diminutive co-worker, who dutifully heads to the back to retrieve it. “Can you reach it?” she adds to her retreating back, not unkindly, but with a little smirk.

“Let me know if I need to help out,” I ask, stretching my arm up to demonstrate my ability. ““My wife pimps me out to short people at the grocery store all the time to get stuff off the top shelf.”


Sunday, March 24, 2024

Two Types Of Trains

The train in: somewhat crowded, but we manage to find a seat.

An argument breaks out at the other end of the car, and when we pull into the station, it spills out onto the platform and turns violent - one woman beating the hell out of another (earbuds flying, hair being pulled, tearing clothes off each other) while a third tries to stop it (?) or help the beating (?) - until the doors close, leaving the three of them there still working out their differences in their own ways.

The train back home: packed, no seats to be had, until a young man, seeing my cane, graciously offers me a seat, which I gratefully accept. 

Later I mutter something to Katie about wishing I didn’t look like I needed help, and she, with a mildly reproving look, replies, “Scott, just let people be nice to you.”

Saturday, March 23, 2024

A Race Against Time

I put the next batch of cookies in the oven, and turn to find Katie nibbling on another spoonful of cookie dough, one that she has carefully constructed out of just dough - no chocolate chips. 

“I think my four each day should be about how, in this house, baking cookies is a race against time,” I say.

“Mmhmm,” she says with a shrug around a mouthful of spoon. “The world needs to know.”


Friday, March 22, 2024

We Shall Not Pass This Way Again

Earlier, we were watching a movie about a rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes Mountains, all of them dying and cold and hungry, and I looked over at my wife sitting on the couch, the cats on the other side of the room, curled on their respective chairs in the way that they do (small and white and perfectly whorled in still little vortices of fur and pink skin), and I realized, or remembered, that this exact moment will never happen again, both of us warm here, relatively healthy, fiercely in love and still learning how to live. There may be other moments like this one, but this moment is here, now, and I am lucky, lucky, lucky to be here for it, with her hand on my knee and her love like a bright little coal, burning in my chest. 

So now Katie’s in the shower, washing the day off of her, while I sit at the screen and think about dying. Not in a morbid way, bemoaning my fate, waiting for the inevitable veil of endless night to descend or whatever, but in a sort of curious way, the way a person on a high hill might watch a storm approach from (hopefully) a long way off.  

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Dogs and Ducks and Sticks

The black and white harlequin Great Dane laps the water at the pond’s edge while the smaller dog, all ears and bantam confidence, dances nearby. A cold breeze ripples the surface further out, and the ducks hunch down, then exuberantly splash and flap their wings before diving and coming out to do it all again. 

The small dog, tired of waiting for something to happen, finally breaks for the hill nearby and races up with his owner calling after him, when he suddenly skids to a halt, arrested by a stick longer than he is and almost as thick.

He struggles to lift it, then drops it without regret and sprints away, whereupon the Dane, who has followed him up with two strides, grabs the stick, and with graceful movement and the leverage of an enormous paw, tilts one end up to his jaw and proceeds to gnaw it with gusto. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Only Way Out Is Through

“We’ll decide at the entrance to the park,” I say, “and if it’s still raining we can go home.”

The clouds above us move fast, swiftly shifting from deep gloom to patchy blue and back, so that by the time we get to the statue of Lafayette, the rain has let up enough for us to risk it, and we turn left into the park to continue our walk.

But the vagaries of meteorology play havoc with us, and by the time we’re halfway to the pond, the rain has returned, cold, splattery, and uncomfortable.

Katie is being a trooper, even though she’s clearly not having a good time, but when I apologize and offer to head home, she smiles grimly, striding forward, and says, ““This is the way home.”


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Punisher

“The fashion duo is here!” he says as we are trying to get back to our seats before the show starts.

We’re dressed pretty nicely, so we laugh, smile, think that’ll be the end of it, but he continues, unprompted: “I’m here to see [the woman playing the lead in the Broadway show we’re seeing], you know, during COVID I took some voice lessons with her, and I was in the chorus of a concert she did recently....”

He’s still talking, but we’re already out the door, and I call over my shoulder, “Wow, really? That’s great, gotta go!” 

 

Monday, March 18, 2024

The Gift Economy

After we get off the elevator, we look up and down the hallway trying to figure out which way to go. 

“Hiiiii!” the woman we’ve come to meet trills from off to our left at the end of the hallway. In one hand she’s holding the sweater she’s gifting us that we’ve come to pick up, and in the other, balanced on her hip in the time-honored stance familiar to any woman in the history of the earth who’s ever held a baby while trying to do stuff, is a baby.

We thank her profusely for the beautiful, handmade sweater, and the baby, who has a full head of hair and exactly zero teeth, gives us the most gorgeous, genuine smile.  


Sunday, March 17, 2024

We Remember What We Love

 “It’s really amazing, how much he loves the pieces he buys,” the sales assistant says. He’s referring to the owner of the vintage clothing shop where we’ve been trying on clothes this morning. 

“I can ask him about any piece, hundreds of them, and he knows exactly where it is, or if it’s been sold, and I don’t really know how he memorizes them all!” he continues with a smile and shake of his head. 

“It’s just like someone memorizing a lover’s face, you don’t really have to try to remember the things you really love, right?” I say. 


Saturday, March 16, 2024

Not Greedy

It looks like they’ve got an event coming up at the vintage store we’re shopping - there’s a velvet rope-type-thing, and a bouncer, and somebody is setting up a barbecue under a tent right by the entrance. 

As we’re going in, the bouncer stops us, saying, “You know there’s a fee for entering: a fist bump.”

Katie gives him one, and he gives her a big smile, and I give him one, and then ask if he needs a two-fisted bump. 

“Nah, one’s fine, I’m not greedy,” he says. 


Friday, March 15, 2024

Memento Mori (yet again)

The Bone Museum does almost exactly what it says on the box - a museum, very scientific, about bones, but specifically human bones: lots of full skeletons, dozens of human skulls, a whole wall of spinal columns. 

I think of myself as having a fairly strong constitution, but for just a second as we enter, my stomach flips, then settles. Some of the bones are from people who were not in the best health - vicious bone spurs, lace-like decay from infections and cancers, gnarled  knots where breaks healed improperly, coral blooms of arthritis - and some quite healthy, though it didn’t seem to matter much now, either way. 

They hand us a small rib and a section of a femur to hold, and I find myself thinking kindly about these people that once were, and about how lucky I am to still be wandering the earth, messing around and looking at bones. 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Where’s Your Ball?

The woman throws the ball, and the black and white corgi tears off after it with furious, surprising speed, his tiny legs a frantic blur through the park underbrush.

Ball retrieved, he starts back toward his family, head high with pride, only to be distracted by a grey squirrel who doesn’t know enough to just keep still, and the ball is forgotten in a sudden, mad pursuit back into the bushes.

The squirrel is, of course, smarter than the corgi in the ways of the forest, and on its home turf, so the dog doesn’t stand a chance, especially when the squirrel races up a tree, leaving a momentarily frustrated pursuer to bark on the ground.

But eventually, the corgi, ears up and eyes bright, trots back to its family, unconcerned about his failure to catch the squirrel, and the woman sighs and trudges through the fresh mud to begin looking for the lost ball. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

A Magic Place

The new-ish bookstore in our neighborhood is neat and well-organized, with wide aisles and a selection that speaks to a thoughtful and interesting mind, and Katie and I both quickly enter that sort-of-somnambulism with which frequent denizens of bookstores are quite familiar - drifting from shelf to overstuffed shelf, pulling interesting titles and leafing through them with deep concentration, only to replace them and repeat in long periods of silent, rapturous reverie.  

The young man and his son at the front counter are wrapping up their visit with the purchase of a couple of books from the dollar shelves, and the man asks, “Okay if I pay with a card?”

The total is only a couple bucks, and the proprietor asks him if he lives in the neighborhood, which he does, so he shrugs and replies with a smile, “Eh, just take ’em and come back later when you’ve got some cash.” 

Katie, upon hearing this exchange, catches my eye and whispers, “Okay, officially best bookstore ever.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

School’s Out

“Holy shit!” I hear behind me, followed quickly by two laughing teenage girls running down the sidewalk, weaving through the crowds as they go.

They sprint past the elementary school, which is also getting out on an unseasonably warm late winter afternoon. Sunshine beams down on a sea of tiny Brooklyn children aimlessly milling around wearing backpacks as large as they are. 

The teenagers raise cups of bubble tea up to clear the waist-high hordes, cross against the light, and, still laughing, pelt off into the freedom of the rest of their day.


Monday, March 11, 2024

Giving Strangers Something To Discuss

The tree was so tall that, after it fell, it blocked the entire park roadway, and wide enough that it was impossible to climb over or under, so the parks department had apparently just strung up caution tape across the road on all sides of the fallen beast, and left it there until they figured out what to do next. The ground had softened in the downpours this weekend, and that, coupled with the early morning’s heavy winds, had proved to much for the shallow roots, now exposed and dangling in the clear afternoon sun.

We stood in the road and gawked for awhile, then continued our walk turning further in to the park, when a man jogged by. “Biggest fallen tree I’ve ever seen,” he said breathlessly as he pounded past and disappeared around the corner of the path.


Friday, March 8, 2024

The Better Part Of Valor

“Be careful,” Katie says before I ride my scooter to my doctor’s appointment. “It’s Friday and people drive crazy.”

Her words echo in my head as I ride past schools just getting out, and the yellow school buses jockey for position with black SUVs filled with parents picking up kids while the delivery trucks double park in the middle of the street.

I swerve around the traffic, turn down a side street and gun it, and as soon as I’m close enough to home, I just get off my scooter and walk. 


Thursday, March 7, 2024

Just In Time

The elevator dings in the lobby, and I haul myself off the bench to go up to my doctor’s appointment.

The older woman who is in the elevator hits the button for her floor, as do I, and then the door just sorta... doesn’t close.

We can hear, before we see her, another woman approaching the elevator bank having an animated conversation on her phone in a grating, nasal voice (“Well, I didn’t know she was going to show up, and I thought that if I was in her position then I would have kept going...,”). 

Seconds pass, the doors refusing to shut, the tension rising as that voice gets closer, and closer, until, “Jesus,” says the older woman, stabbing the >|< button repeatedly, and the doors close on the startled woman’s face just as she’s about to get on, still talking.


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Tearjerker

Katie retreats back into the row to put her jacket on at the end of the show, while the rest of the audience piles down the stairs and out into the night. We’ve just seen a Broadway musical theater version of the tearjerker “The Notebook.” 

I’m standing by an usher, pushed up against the wall as the press of humanity squeezes by, watching the crowd as they go.

“Lotta clear eyes tonight,” the usher exclaims, “that’s unusual.”


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Broadcasting Vibes

“Don’t park there,” the woman in the pink mask at the bus stop says to the car as it slowly comes to a halt right where the bus would pick us up. Her brow furrows in disappointment as the car then proceeds to do exactly that.

We roll our eyes at the audacity of this driver in solidarity with our speaker, who seems to have become our spokesman against all the rude nonsense pedestrians have to put up with from drivers.

But as soon as the bus comes into sight, the car pulls away, and I say, “He must have heard the vibes we were beaming at him.”


Monday, March 4, 2024

Lovely Day To Talk To Strangers

They both have enormous lenses on their cameras, telephoto things like hungry mouths gobbling up the light, and they’re pointing them out over the pond at the raft of ducks patrolling the water.

We start up a conversation with the gentleman with the wavy salt-and-pepper hair and the string of prayer beads wrapped around his wrist, confirming his status as a bird photographer. He seems pretty knowledgeable, so I ask him if it’s possible I might have seen an actual bald eagle in Prospect Park, and with a cheeky grin he suggests we check out his Instagram.

When Katie and I both obligingly fish out our phones to follow him, he protests jokingly, “I was just being an asshole!” 


Sunday, March 3, 2024

The New New York

We’re standing on the corner of Minetta Lane and 6th Avenue in Manhattan after a show, and the earlier blue sky of an unseasonably warm day is now mottled with thin grey clouds. A glass skyscraper lofting above the low buildings way downtown perfectly reflects the sky in such a way as to make itself almost invisible, and we pause to admire it before crossing the street.

The new-looking shops across the street alternate between cute little cafes and smoke shops and boarded up, vacant store-fronts, and when I point this out to Katie she agrees.

“It used to be:” she says, pointing left to right as she recites, “good pizza, porn shop, porn shop, smoke shop, porn shop, IFC theater.”


Saturday, March 2, 2024

Disco For A Rainy Day

The sidewalk shed at the corner gives us a brief respite from the pummeling rain while we wait for the light to change.

We hear it before we see it: someone blasting Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ for everyone on Union Street to hear, and singing loud enough to carry over the car stereo. 

We peer in the side window of the white SUV to see a gentleman boogieing in his seat as hard as he possibly can, singing along for all he’s worth, and Katie breaks into an impromptu disco session in solidarity with him.

The light changes and he speeds off without acknowledging our tribute, but she and I agree that crappy weather occasionally demands a disco to raise your spirits.


Thursday, February 29, 2024

Not Drag Racing

I pull out into traffic on my electric scooter to avoid ramming the car that has decided to park in the bike lane, but as I do, an SUV honks at me and revs its engine until I pull back in, then speeds past, windows down, heavy industrial music blasting.

I catch up with him a few minutes later where he’s stopped at a red light and slip past him, and pause only to check for traffic before going through the intersection. 

This apparently doesn’t sit well with him, as he roars past me again, a little too close, music still blasting, and tailgates another car until he’s able to run a red light a couple of streets down and speed away.

But with my constant top speed of about fifteen miles per hour, and my ability to glide through red lights after checking for oncoming cars, I catch up with him again, where he’s seething behind a truck at another red light, so I walk my scooter past him with what I hope is the appropriate amount of arrogance, and zip off into the night.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Caught

The weather tonight calls for a steep temperature drop, and the cats are freaking out, running around the house and generally wreaking havoc.

I settle in to write, and they circle the chair like sleek, furry sharks. One butts her head against my leg while the other chirps plaintively and hip checks the chair leg until I pick her up, and she immediately settles into my lap, all tension gone, closes her eyes, and begins to purr, just as Katie comes around the corner.

“Oh, excuse me,” she says, seeing them draped all over me, and one of the cats, hearing her voice, digs its claws into my leg.


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Rain Walk

The rain starts up again just as soon as we leave the grocery store, huge, fast-falling drops that spray upwards on impact with the sidewalk. Katie and I pull our hoods over our heads and quicken our pace.

It’s less than two blocks home, so there’s no real concern. The church across the street from the store looms dark and indifferent under the grey sky, and the rain glitters in the headlights.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

We See What We Want To See

 I shield my eyes from the glare of the sun reflecting off the pond and point to the branch extending out over the water while Katie, nodding, fishes her phone out of her pocket and moves quietly toward the water’s edge. The object of our attention: a heron, perched on one leg, stands on the branch, contemplating the cold late afternoon. He is gray and stolid, his orange beak, slightly open, pointing out over the water as the wind ruffles his feathers and stirs the waters beneath him.

While we’re stalking our prey, attempting to get a good shot of it, off to our left, a man, bent and silent in a wheelchair, sits beneath an umbrella that’s been wedged in the crook of a tree to keep the sun off of him, and a woman, presumably his caretaker, has parked herself on a rock by the shore as she chats on the phone, oblivious to the scene.

Friday, February 23, 2024

A Critique

 The tall, older black man with the plastic shopping bags and the khaki vest stops and watches me as I wheel my scooter up the sidewalk towards him. The sidewalk narrows right there, so I assume he’s waiting for me to pass, and I make eye contact and give him a smile as I do.

“Damn, you’re a grown man!” he finally exclaims as I pass him, eyeing my helmet, my scooter, my sweats, my whole... thing with evident disgust. “Join the military or something!”


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Hospital

After the ritual recitations of intake with the friendly receptionist (“Name? And could you tell me your date of birth? Any new cough or fever? Exposure to anyone with COVID in the last fourteen days? Any international travel?”), and after having given the appropriate responses, I am admitted to the waiting area.

The un-color beige of the carpeting is soothing, and makes no impression whatsoever, save to create the understanding of a space where a floor should be, on which to strategically place long, comfy  couches and low, easy-to-get-out-of chairs. Almost every couch has a couple on it, one member of whom is closed-eyes or napping, head fallen back in the abandon of exhaustion, while the other taps on their phone, lines of habitual worry or concentration unconsciously furrowing their brow.

The hospital leaves out large, clear plastic bins filled with single-serving packets of graham crackers, because they soothe the stomachs of chemo patients, and I grab a small handful of them to nibble on while I’m waiting, even though they aren’t really for me


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The View From Up Here

 Thankfully, the bus driver chose to see me hobbling across the street in front of him, and he holds the door open until I can clamber on board. “Thanks,” I tell him with a big smile.

The view down 7th Avenue is different from up here, from the high vantage of the front of the bus surging like a whale through the jet stream of rush hour. The congestion, the traffic - both in the road and on the sidewalks, the seething cars jamming the intersections, pedestrians jostling by dog walkers and baby carriages, delivery drivers swarming the bike lanes with electric scooters and cigarette smoke - all of it seems to soften and meld together into a whole that nearly becomes a rhythm, a pattern I can almost decode before the stoplight goes red and I lose it again.


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Walking Home After the Reading

After a successful night out, the streets of Brooklyn seem charged with the magic that you always wished for when you first moved here. The simple sidewalks seem sturdy and important (you’ve walked them thousands of times before). The buildings bear witness to the great deeds you will do (their indifferent facades have ignored your despair on so many walks they’ve lost count).

The moon gleams incandescent white above as it grows toward full, the love of your life grabs your hand and calls you your favorite pet name, a text from a new friend buzzes in your pocket, and, for now, all is right with the world.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Airlock

I’m standing with Katie in the vestibule of our building, between the outer door, which opens out on the steps leading down the sidewalk, and the inner door, which leads to the stairs inside up to our apartment. The outside door swings in, and I’m carrying a large bag of groceries, so it’s easier to wait while she opens the inner door and goes in, then I can step in a little further, shut the outer door behind me, and go upstairs.

“Do you ever worry about opening the inner door with the outer door open?” I ask her as she pushes her key into the lock.

“Actually, it was really freaking me out that you were just holding it open like that,” she replies, with a look of mild panic. 


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Study In Monochrome

Katie stops to take a picture of the ducks huddled on the freezing pond, giving me an excuse to lean on the fence bordering the path to rest. I’ve foolishly left my cane at home to walk through the snowy park with the rest of Brooklyn after last night’s storm, and although I’m not regretting it yet, the faint but insistent clamoring of my knee and hip tells me I will be soon. 

The trees overhanging the path are covered in white, fluffy snow - the platonic ideal of snow, the kind of snow that they try to simulate in movies with flocking and chemicals they’re considering banning under the Geneva Convention - and the trees stand wet and black, stark against the white and grey around the perimeter of the pond.

The ducks ignore us in the quiet, paddling through the unfrozen, glossy water and cutting dark paths through the thin, matte ice that glazes the surface, and I look up to watch a plane push itself slowly across a matte grey sky.