Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The other night Aimee and Jeff and I went to a swanky French restaurant on 20th Street and, flush and giddy with the uniqueness of the occasion, ordered the six-course tasting menu and its accompanying wines. It was great – for some reason much better than my recent experiences at other fancy restaurants where you get some exquisite appetizer but by the time the main dish comes you've lost interest somehow, not full so much as mentally depleted by the arduous tasting you've already done. They bring out those lukewarm medallions of meat with the squiggles of dipping sauce and the dollops of pureed vegetables and you think Jesus Christ, I have to eat this now? Wine always helps.

But here each dish was smallish and unique and though the main course was the weakest the entire experience left me energized.

And as I try to remember what was memorable I think of Al Pacino playing the real estate salesman in "Glen Garry, Glen Ross" seducing his mark in the Chinese place, saying "What does a life consist of? What do you remember in life? A good meal?" Spitting the words, getting ready to open that glossy green pamphlet of worthless tracts and go in for the kill. And so I try to actually remember a good meal after all, every now and then. And what I remember about this one is the solitary scallop in a bowl of buttery, frothy cream sauce in which swam several thick blades of some wonderful waxy-chewy thing. I have no idea it was but its texture as well as its delicate taste was familiar in some deeply comforting way. It felt good between the teeth, a vividly sensuous experience.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Yesterday I remembered a hill climb I went to in France with my dad and brother when I was about eight. We had a beautiful view of the side of the hill where cars came from the left, ascended in front of us and made a hairpin turn to climb higher to the right, like marbles going the wrong way up a staggered chute. And like marbles the cars were pretty blues and reds and yellows.

They tore up the road urgently, angrily, engines snarling and snorting with every gear shift.

One car  fishtailed out of the hairpin and lost control, toppling like a toy down the side of the hill.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

I've had two strange experiences with time lately. The other day I awoke to my alarm maybe the second or third time after hitting snooze and I remember looking at the minute hand on the ten, nine-ten it said, or maybe nine-nine, and I fell into a reverie, a half-sleep that seemed like it could have lasted an hour or more – it was rich with wild ideas and jumbled dream narrative and when I finally awoke again, faintly worried at how late it must have got, I looked at the clock and it said nine-ten. I scrutinized the second hand to see if it had stopped and at first – during its momentary pause of course – I thought it might have but no: It ticked.

Then I was killing time before seeing a movie – it was five o'clock and I had till 5:55 so I walked back and forth down the block, thought about going to a bar, thought better of it, thought about a different bar, hated the chain-restaurant look of it, tried to find another, wondered at buildings and people and shops and retraced my steps a few times before hopefully looking at my watch. Only five minutes had passed.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Deena came out of the bedroom wiping her nose on a ten dollar bill.


Spent Christmas at G. and C.'s playing poker and drinking beer and I developed this weird metallic taste in my mouth, in the right side of my mouth, like a filling was rusted there. I first noticed it swigging beer and now I can taste it right on my tongue. A dark iron taste a bit like blood.

We talked about the first times we ever got drunk and C.'s sexy sister A. said it was on Jack Daniel's when she was sixteen, bike riding into Chicago with her friend and hanging out at her friend's boyfriend's apartment with nothing but a mattress in it while they made out. I told the story of us driving up to Squam Lake when I was ten and how when we got there Uncle Dale said what do you want to drink.

"What do you got?" I said.

"Juice, milk, soda, beer," he said.

"I'll have a beer," I said. It was one of those times you say something but you can't quite believe you said it. You hear yourself saying it and it's a bit of a surprise.

He gave me a can of Budweiser beer and I sat with the others in the screened-in porch and everyone had their beers or whatever and no one paid me any mind. I took a sip and the first taste was strong and yeasty like liquid bread. By the time I got to the bottom of the can I felt a glorious elation come upon me, on the ottoman by the coffee table, and it occurred to me: this is what it means to be drunk.

I am drunk.

Feeling like a ghost I got up, slid the door open and escaped outside. Then I ran around in circles in the yard, making myself dizzy under the darkening sky and falling down from time to time.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I moved to Los Angeles to become nobody. I was an extra on a variety of shoots, occasionally a stand-in. I aspired to become a double and honed my physique accordingly, observing cultish Hollywood diets and spa regimens. Occasionally I was employed for the neutrality and mutability of the back of my head, an attribute treasured among assistant directors. On awards nights I was a seat filler, nice work if you can get it. I was a professional cipher.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Went to work and felt full of life and vigor for some reason. Even outside walking with Jim to buy lunch along the same gray path: the monthly parking lots, the service doors, the storage, the construction site with the temporary sidewalk moling through the scaffold, the green light and the red light and the little man.

It felt cold and it felt good.


Went to Christina's to watch football and try to finish her beers. We talked about dreams. Recurring dreams – flying, floating, swimming underwater. Mine about the horror movies. We decided to go to Paris.

Friday, December 12, 2003

I made eye contact with a heavyset middle-aged woman at the Union Square bus stop and I could tell by the way she looked back I was gonna hear it. It started with when's the bus coming, oh I saw one not too long ago. How long? Two minutes. But that was the 3, maybe the 2 will come. Then she said she'd been at the Blue Water Grill for a holiday dinner and she didn't really want to go because she had a church activity but her boss said please go, I'd very much appreciate it, so she went and the food was terrible, just terrible, but the people there were so nice, they made up for it by being so nice, someone ordered the cold seafood platter and it came with lobster on top but the lobster was waterlogged, from the ice you know, I'm a bit of a foodie, so she ordered sushi and it was not good but they were so nice, she didn't really want to go and her boss had asked her why not and she said she had a church activity and he said why would you rather go to that and she said because it's a church activity.

Of course, I nodded, of course.

He said I'd really like it if you came. She doesn't get along with her coworkers, they're all so young besides they don't really seem to like her, they don't really talk to her but for some reason people were very nice tonight she said, very very nice.

Warm, I said.

On the bus now. She in the seat in front of me.

She told me she likes to travel, have you been to France? And I had to say yes, she said where, I said mostly Paris, she said I was back in Paris five days, I was there in March, I like it alright, I really prefer the country myself. I was in Lyons. Do you know Toulouse? Have you been to Perpignan? Annecy? I had the most delightful time there, swans on the canals, it was Christmastime, the people were so nice. Aix-en-Provence? Yes, I said. Her eyes widened. Then she went to Geneve, they were jousting in the old town.

I don't like the bullet train!

You like to look out the window.

I miss it going by so fast.

Where else have you been in the world? I have friends in India they say come stay, you won't pay for a thing, of course I would pay I would not go over and just not pay but still. They tell me stay here. You could teach. You could teach English to the kids and she held her hand out flat to indicate "kids." I would go except the plane, I don't know what I would do, if I could break up the trip in half.

You could probably do that.

I can't sleep on the plane. I'm up the whole time. At home in my bed, one two three. On the plane I drink water, I'm very careful with the jet lag. I walk up and down the aisle drinking water, up and down the aisle. In Paris I was exhausted. At three o'clock the concierge at the hotel said you better not fall asleep, don't fall asleep. She wags her finger. But I fell asleep and the next day I was fine.

Are you Irish? What's that accent, it sounds like an Irish brogue. Have you been to Ireland? Have you been to Spain? Barthelona. It was so nice. You can take a bus into the Pyrenees! Little towns, they call them pueblos. In a little town I went to mass the mass was in English, Espagnol, Italian… French! Spanish. German!

I wondered if she'd list a few more languages, why not. Maybe Esperanto. Maybe invent one too. She said when I went to Denmark I studied with a tutor every day after work, I wanted to say hello and goodbye and thank you, they were so surprised!

So surprised when you spoke.

So surprised! Danish is the strangest language. But the strangest of all is Finnish.

There was a mad gleam in her eye from time to time and an odd, mincing way she said some words. Like nice. And she said them with the trace of a sigh too.

"Are you a writer?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. "That's… um, that's quite a… lucky guess."

"I wasn't guessing!" she said.

Do you write on the computer, she asked. She said she used to edit herself as she wrote but now she writes first and edits later. One bad habit she got rid of, she said. On to the next one! she said. I love Pennsylvania she said. Bethlehem. This time of year. They have a little trolley train you take, you get on, you get off, it's free. You go to the tent of Pennsylvania Dutch arts and crafts. They have a star.

She tells me about her favorite Japanese tea room.

You get the rice with the adzuki beans.

She tells me about the café she loves, Le Gamin, where it's always hugs and kisses and the café au lait is better than Paris. They're so nice. She tells me about her favorite sushi.

"I can tell you're a real writer. This is being imprinted in your brain. You don't have to write anything down, you remember."

"I try."

She laughed.

"All anyone can do is try."

And finally we were at 86th Street. She shook my hand and left.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

BE unconscious BE unconscious BE unconscious BE.

On the subway home from Rudy's I remembered with a start Aimee describing her sister Judy's death. The cancer had spread from her breasts and ravaged her stomach and spine, she had grown bloated and jaundiced – apparently a symptom of the late stages. In spite of this she'd been OK, moving around, talking. Then they prescribed Oxycontin in an unusually high dose and within a couple of days she became disoriented and panicky, ill at ease, not knowing what was going on. At the very end, Aimee said, she was frightened, wide-eyed and in distress. As her nephew Brian held her hand her heart and lungs failed for good; she experienced some sort of systemic capillary release and blood streamed out of her eye sockets.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

In my moment of exquisite humiliation the somber face of New Jersey Nets coach Byron Scott peered at me from the TV.

There is a quietude on the subway that deters drama, even action of any kind, even thought. When there is a commotion everyone refuses to be perturbed by it. Their stubborn calm in its choppy wake produces an absurd, theatrical incongruity.

A few years ago I was going to work on the Broadway local and it was crowded, every seat taken and people shoulder to shoulder and back to back, trying to ignore this enforced intimacy. A young black man, perfectly well dressed, who was sitting down and had been completely quiet the whole trip suddenly cried out, "Why can't I get the good pussy!? All I ever get is the ugly ass black pussy! Why can't I get the good white pussy?!" He seemed genuinely distressed, uncomprehending, intent not on shocking or dismaying anyone so much as venting a legitimate grievance to the world. "Why do I always get the ugly black pussy!"

When he burst into his rant a faint current of shock jolted the cabin almost imperceptibly, for the briefest moment, then every face returned to its neutral, unconcerned demeanor.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I gathered my groceries and got off the bus in a hurry, the heavy double plastic bags twisting from the handles, one perilously half-gripped. When I hit the sidewalk the wind blew the receipts out of the unfastened bag. Suddenly animate, they flew end over end into Madison Avenue, given over to queer forces that kept them intertwined even as they followed a butterfly course. I walked up the east side of the street and kept my eye on them in the middle.

For some reason I felt that without any particular effort I would soon cross their path again and pick them right back up.

I jaywalked across 104th Street as the receipts continued their halting progress. They darted left halfway up the block and emerged between two parked cars onto the sidewalk ahead of me. A gust lifted them up and blew them against the shuttered Checks Cashed place. They fell by the wall for a moment then drifted again away from me. Each time they rested I gained on them and just before the bodega I caught up.

I bent over, picked them up, crumpled them into a ball and dropped them in the trash can on the corner.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I feel my face and note its increasing distension, below the eyes and between the eyebrows.

Went out for a drink and a movie and more drinks with Eevin and we wound up talking about cocksucking and fucking and pussies and pussy eating.

What else is there after all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Emmett was drunk, he got picked up by a drunk driver. Her name was Claire and she was 41.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Yesterday Jim and I traveled to Princeton, New Jersey to train an ad agency to use our software except it wasn't really Princeton but a place called Cranbury which was just industrial parks by the side of the highway. I remembered keenly this awful landscape: the main road divided by the pointless grassy strip, low-lying buildings behind uniform walls of shrubbery, endless mazes of interconnected, half-filled parking lots. Building 7. Building 9.

Monday, November 24, 2003

I ordered a martini.

I sat hunched over reading the Voice, realizing I looked tired or lazy or something this way, the paper on the stool beside me. There was absolutely no one else there but the bartender. She came out from behind the bar and sat on a stool at the far end. She joined her hands on the bar as though in prayer and stared straight ahead for quite some time.

Finally a few other people came in and I was relieved for some dumb reason – I didn't want Mona to come into the cavernous room with no music playing and not a soul but me huddled over the paper.

The gin was getting warm.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

It rained a full day and a full night.

When I came home yesterday I considered my apartment building and how unfamiliar certain aspects of it remain: what's behind it exactly? Where is that half-roof I see from our kitchen window with the door to another building, that strange suspended space from a city of fantasy or myth? That's where I watch the rain beat onto puddles and how I know it's raining hard. Where's the overgrown and trash-strewn courtyard below our living room where we beat out rugs? After four years it's still disorienting, mysterious; only the brick face and identical red awnings tell me it's my home.

On Saturday I waited for Mona at Double Happiness. The bartender looked like Jacqueline Bisset and she was brusque and a little nervous and she said just so you know, we have a private party at nine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

When he died he remembered with a start the names of so many things he'd never know again. But they were just words now, finally separated from the world and lingering in space: crash pad, envelope, turquoise, biscuit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

As I rest at night electricity pours into my various prone electronic devices: phone, camera, MP3 player, PDA. And as the electrons buzz toward their new nest I feel a wave of comfort, everything being renewed.

Friday, November 07, 2003

One night Barbara and I were walking to my place arm-in-arm, drunk, talking about nothing and thinking about sex, and when I put my foot down I felt a soft, spongy, shaking thing where I'd expected concrete. I jerked my foot up and released a terrified rat that sped away into 103rd Street.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

When I lived and Connecticut thoughts of moving to the City expanded in my mind until it seemed inevitable and once it did I had one dark vision: slogging up a sidewalk at night after work, looking for a street sign to mark the yawning black path to my anonymous home around the corner. And I was struck with depression at the thought of it and I figured whatever came, I'd have to fight that off, and it's true, I'd better.

This morning I walked to the subway on Central Park North on the beautiful wet sidewalk, matted with pale gold leaves and what appeared to be crushed, soggy yellow chalk. A panhandler approached me, Can I get sum breakfast?, and feeling guilty for having turned homeless Jeff away the other day I reached into my bag and pulled out I mournful little palmful of pennies, dimes and nickels. I placed it in the man's hand, must have been like thirty-seven cents, and he stared at it with some distaste.

Monday, November 03, 2003

There's a show on TV called "The Reality of Reality."

A man, overcome with lust, fornicates a cold puddle of mud.

Friday, October 24, 2003

The guy Mark who runs the little ad agency we sublet part of our office to, I never really met him officially so the first time he called my name I was startled.

"Bye Pat!" on the way out.

He's frequently on the phone, schmoozing in his blustery adman's voice, sometimes saying fuck.

He's noticed I'm into the baseball playoffs so he has fixated on this as a subject of small talk but I can't for the life of me figure out where he's coming from. I think I heard him on the phone tell someone go Red Sox. And before Game 3 against the Marlins he wandered over and said, "Do you think they can come back tonight?" even though it was 1-1 so his question made no sense whatsoever.

"I… Do I? Yes!" I found myself saying idiotically.

I suppose good salesmen do this, they get you to say shit you have no idea what it is you're saying. Or why.

49 Russian miners trapped as water enters mine.b

Could there conceivably be a more ominous headline? It's worse than Asteroid races toward earth for crying out loud.

First, the number: 49. So sinister. Not prime but odd and angly, as though it were chosen by some cruel consciousness. And what a great number of people to be suddenly shut out of the world: we imagine a cooped-up, agitated gaggle of men, hardworking men, vodka-drinking Russian toughs breaking down. There are 49 of them. Any lower number would somehow seem much more tolerable – and seven or eight, well, if they were lost their number would at least suggest a noble band of brothers, a family. We might fantasize that their last hours were dignified and we'd elevate them each in grief. But 49!

Second: water enters mine. Has nature ever sounded so malevolent? It's like monster enters bedroom. Water enters mine and does what it will, and we all know what it will do. Water! The situation is utterly, irretrievably dire.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Why'd I have to go and pick the Chiefs and the over. The over?! Players crossed the line like yuppie mountaineers popping Mt. Everest in a hailstorm. And by that I mean few. And far between.

The over!


The cabbie fucked up and didn't cut across the avenue to turn left on 105th so he left me off on the far side of Mad and I grumbled and he apologized. On my short walk home I came upon a driver, drunker than me, staggering out of his town car toward his door. His uneasy gait, expensive shoes padding on the pavement out of time, betrayed his inebriation.

Once inside my building I charged down the hall like a toy soldier, I don't know why. Chin up, barrel chest, arms swinging. I checked the mailbox for no particular reason at all, with complete conviction that it would be empty. And it was. I closed it swiftly yet methodically, making a game of formalized gestures. I stomped up the stairs full of conviction but by my landing I was panting and frail, all too human.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Went to the Yankees-Red Sox playoff game, the stadium packed and a lone helmeted sniper visible above the lip of the roof, perched in some forbidding place beside a row of lights.

Foul balls arced swiftly into the soft fleshy surface of the crowd, to be absorbed like grains of salt on a thirsty tongue.

Friday, October 10, 2003

The tattoo between her milky shoulder blades said "passion." In some archaic font, which was all italics, where the esses looked like efs. Paffion. I looked down from the Yankee game on TV and there she was backlit in its glow, limbs akimbo, her tank top hanging just below: paf…?!

Passion.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

A very tall man cut into the bar, his profile regal, elevated. He was thin, oblivious. Then gone.

We were watching Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Shouts and taunts, bordering on the cruel. The Yankees lost a hopeless charge, down five-nothing then up to five to two when they ran out of outs.

C. and I walked east and ducked into a wine bar off Sixth Avenue and shared a bottle of Spanish wine, talking about failed relationships. I told her about B. from Milford or was it Guilford, the all-American blonde daughter of the airline pilot and the alcoholic wife. I went there for dinner and her mother got so hammered she slurred the word goodnight.

Then me and B., we fucked on her daddy's chair. His precious TV chair no one else was permitted to so much as sit on. This I didn't tell Christina but I'm saying it now. We fucked on his big black leather armchair in front of the TV. He'd be stricken with horror if he knew – and anger, God knows – so this lent the circumstance a particularly erotic charge. She faced me, kneeling uneasily between the arms, and we had at it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

A smell like Ovaltine filled my nostrils on the train. It warmed the air around us in its cocoa glow. And I became aware of a faintly sticky sloshiness at my feet; I lifted my shoe and let it drop again and sure enough it splatted in something: a shallow river of milky hot chocolate. The source was an overturned Starbucks cup – a young woman was fussily, pointlessly righting it after spilling its entire contents at her feet. A short, stout Columbian man with a hoop earring stood nearby, acting like he didn't notice. The Red Sox won the American League Division Series tonight and are due to play the Yankees on Wednesday. I watched the game at a bar with Christina and she was delirious with excitement, nervousness, alcohol, finally joy. "The Red Sox won! The Red Sox won!" she screamed, punching me in the ribs, jostling drink all over my shirt. "Easy." "The Red Sox won the championship I mean the division series!" The moment of the final strikeout, Boston up 4-3, Oakland batting, men on second and third. Christina leapt to her feet screaming and yelling and Jason and I exchanged a rueful little Yankee-fan toast: here's to our friend, her team. After I dropped her off in the cab I was listening to the Kinks' "Victoria": from the West to the East; let her sun never set on croquet lawns, village greens; sex is bad and obscene; Though I am poor I am free, land of hope and gloria, ‘toria fucked them all.

Friday, September 26, 2003

The Dalai Lama Was in Central Park

On Sunday night I waited for Mona in a bar on Avenue A where it was happy hour and the bartender called me hon. A drunk biker beside me tried to impress her with his wire sculptures. He laid them all out on the bar, each one some evocation of fantasy formed from a single strand of copper: a pterodactyl-looking thing with green bauble eyes, a dragon with a sword, a half beast-half flying machine with batty wings.

A college boy sat on the other side and expressed the sort of forced admiration you only hear among unacquainted men in bars.

"Those things are really cool, man. You made those?"

"Yep."

"Wow. How long does it like take you to make one?"

"This one took me eight hours. Check this out." He held one, a sort of kangaroo monstrosity, and tugged at its rabbitlike foot. "It's ful-ly reticulated, man. That means it has a leg that ac-tually works." He pulled and pushed the leg some more and left it a little askew and when he set the thing back on the bar it pitched backwards on its tail, the bent foot sticking uselessly in the air.

Mona was driving in from Brooklyn and she was stuck in murderous traffic uptown. I called her for periodic updates.

"I'm on Lexington and 69th Street!" she'd say, then "I'm on Third Avenue and the light just turned red and then it turned green and I couldn't move and then it turned red again."

"When that happens that sucks."

"What the hell's going on today anyway?"

"The Dalai Lama was in Central Park."

Later she called to say she ditched the car and was proceeding down Third Avenue by foot. Could we meet halfway?

I finished my whiskey and left my tip and split.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Adam and I reached Lafayette and Houston or so, or maybe Prince, and he was talking about some party he was supposed to go to and do I want to come. I said sure but I wondered what it meant to make good on plans laid before the lights went out across the East. He made a call or two and it was decided we'd meet people on a stoop near Union Square.

We came upon the dark maw of a subway, suddenly neglected by the world, a safety orange ribbon stretched across its entrance.

"Let's go in," said Adam genially.

"OK."

It was hot down there, and quiet. Deathly quiet, deafeningly quiet the way only a noisy thing can ever become. Somewhere dripping water echoed deep.

And it was dark too, very dark, but for a faint green glow: by some pointless quirk of backup power the green circles with the yellow arrows beside each turnstile were lit and pointing.

I took out my Metrocard and held it aloft in the pale light. I looked at Adam  for one significant beat. And I swiped it through the slot like any other day.

BING!

GO.

It was like a punch line with no joke. We laughed like idiots and Adam went through and ran yelling out onto the pitch-black platform to wake the dead.


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

On the subway on the way back home there were puddles of water in the shallow dips of two caddy-corner seats, trails of droplets over the seats adjacent. Although some seats were mostly dry I decided not to sit; neither did others who got on after me. They'd make a move to one of the seats, see it, pause, think, turn away. Then a man leaning on one of the poles suddenly examined his sleeves with puzzlement and dismay. The surface of the pole was smeared with what appeared to be raspberry jam. Others glanced at him, offering a fraction of a second of mute sympathy, of solemn deference to the stricken before hiding again in their papers and books. I looked at the other pole and it too had been lashed with the mysterious sticky matter.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Roofs

I like to look down at roofs, their dull concrete or tar floors blanketing the hazy vista so there's nothing to see but ducts and tanks and chimneys. Blockish air-conditioning units, utterly, preposterously unremarkable. The imagination is strained by the effort to discern pattern and form in this drab mosaic of white on white, white on gray, gray on white. The heaven-facing other side of the world. Then somewhere there's the green flash of a rooftop garden, the glint of sliding penthouse doors.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Intoxication. INTOXICATION. Intoxication.

J. L.  said he dreamt about A. H. last night and so did I, but I couldn't remember what. He said they were flirting, making out, conspiring to connect. Very erotic. Me I don't know.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Adam and I walked drunk up through Manhattan in the blackout after dropping Jim off at the ferry. In Battery Park a woman sat on the lawn reading a paperback by the light of a backup-powered searchlight. It's as though she'd been transplanted directly from her living room. In TriBeCa we walked past packs of kitchen staff disemboweled from fancy restaurants to play cards and drink by candlelight. Cars drove slowly, deferentially, with what might only be described as personality. Every vehicle seemed aware of every other, and of nakedly vulnerable pedestrians most of all. In my drunken state I suggested that we had evolved past traffic lights as a race; humans had been so conditioned to the red-yellow-green that they had internalized its cold rhythms into a collective, emphatic wisdom. Yield.

There certainly seemed to be no incidents nor threats thereof.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

The most arresting images of all from 9/11 were the telephoto shots of people perched on the toothy edges of blown out windows above the smoking gashes. In the haze they seemed to have the attitudes of benignly mischievous boys, sitting insolently in a tree or on some scaffold. You can't get me. They reminded me of the Tifosi, the Italian Ferrari fans who trespass spectacularly at race tracks for better views of their beloved cars. A chance to wave the flag.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The asphalt.

I hiccup to my home, to my room, staggering in the yellow light. And I can only hope everything's gonna be alright.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

What I remember now about O.J. and Nicole is the ice cream. There was a half-melted dish of ice cream in her apartment, hurriedly cast in an odd, inappropriate place like a bookshelf or mantel so as to soon be retrieved.

Hours later gloved forensic experts examined its degree of meltedness to deduce her approximate time of death.

Friday, August 01, 2003

In a cab on the way home, on the corner of 97th and Park, I had my headphones on and I was listening to an old Duke Ellington number as I watched a man peek into a garbage can. He bobbed a little, hesitated, retreated and reapproached as the band swung and syncopated in his shadow.

He found something he wanted and pried it out by fingertips. Then the clarinet played an ostinato and the light turned green.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

We leaned over the railing and looked down at the parking lot, Grand Avenue and the desolate, graffitied brick across the way. I told her of my fear of heights, not so much a fear anymore as an unease. When I looked down at the pavement five stories below I felt gravity itself grow unstable, as though I might be loosed from the roof and float over the railing like an inflatable doll. Yet my drink felt heavy in my hand, as though some malicious spirit within it wanted to shoot it down and shatter it magnificently on the tarmac.


One night in my dorm room at UConn I needed to throw out a two-gallon 7-Up bottle full of flat keg beer left over from a party. The open dumpster was directly below the window, four floors down, and Mark and I had been in the habit of throwing garbage into it as though it were our very own enormous trash bin. Food wrappers, empty cans.

I leaned out, aimed as carefully as I could, and heaved the bottle toward the dumpster's maw. It spun a couple of times in the air, gracefully, like an object cast adrift in outer space.

I missed.

The far lip of the dumpster perfectly bisected the turgid bottle, compressed it in a moment as brief as the beat before the big bang and shot it through the first-floor windowpane with stupefying, elastic power. I could only imagine the broken-glass, beer-spewing havoc my missile had wreaked in the study room downstairs.

I walked down the hall to a friend's room and hid out awhile, shaky from adrenaline and guilt like some hit-and-run drunk. No one ever said a word about it, no one was hurt, and there was a new pane of glass in place the following day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Went to Fort Greene to see Deena last Friday, halfheartedly, lusting just enough to lift my feet in her distant, complicated direction: the myriad trains, the walk down Washington to Myrtle. We sat on her roof and drank vodka with lemonade and stared west at the bereft skyline. She talked and talked, her ex-boyfriend in Denmark, her dad and the Mob, this guy she's seeing. My spirits wilted in the heat of her relentlessness digressions. There were times when I imagined this was some sort of strange test, that I had to be up to it, to pay attention. That if I could summon the will to talk about myself in exactly the same way then suddenly faults unknown in the world would be righted.

I had to amuse myself somehow.

But when she finally paused I surprised myself, hearing myself animated and candid, talking about family, I don't know what. It was such a relief that she was quiet.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Grandmother died yesterday. Or perhaps it was the day before, I can't be too sure.

My brother sent me the message in a brief e-mail and noted that this was "no doubt a blessing" as she was "certainly getting worse and worse."

The things you say when people die.

Then he said he was "a little concerned about our Mom, because she has such strong emotions about her mother." I was intrigued by his use of "our," as though "Mom" by itself weren't descriptive enough. Otherwise he's right, though who doesn't have strong emotions about their mother? Well not everyone smashes every dish in her mother's kitchen, crying and screaming, as her children sit shuddering in horror in the living room. I remember Grandma drifted in and sat beside us on the couch, eerily calm amid the din, and said banal things like I don't know what's wrong with your mother, she seems upset.

Grandma saw a shrink, Doctor Peterson, every week or maybe twice a week for untold years.

Where was Dad when the plates were smashed? Can't remember, though I imagine he was in the kitchen trying to reason. He loathed his mother-in-law but has one thing in common with her: obliviousness.

I experienced a faint pang of sorrow at the news. But frankly, no distress.

This morning on the way to the kitchen I fixed a loose picture in a frame and thought of Tom Waits singing, "Ever since I put your picture in a frame," and I remembered with regret Aimee's framed pictures she gave me, one for the bedside and one for the dresser. Then I saw the shadow of a bird on the wall outside shrugging and twitching its wings.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Deena called tonight as I approached Eighth Avenue with Geoff. She sounded distant and congested, as though she'd been crying.

"I'm in bed reading," she said.

"I wish I were in bed reading. I'm out on the street."

We talked about getting together sometime. She said she'd been way busy with class.

"And thing is, I'm sort of seeing someone now," she said.

"Oh OK."

"I'm not sure how it's working out. He has a six-year-old girl."

"Oh."

She told me this and that, she was ambivalent, he was always spending time with his kid. And plus she had drawing class all summer and it was a bitch.

"We can still get together and just talk about whatever, you know. Hang out and talk."

"That would be cool. I want the opinion of a third party," she said. She sniffled.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah, just you know, a heavy day."

"Nothing really bad heavy?"

"No no. Not at all. Just my drawing class is so hard. And it occurred to me: I'm going to have to be dealing with this all my life."

I said yeah I know, though it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea what she meant. What was this?

We said goodbye.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

When I saw Mom at one point we talked about Henry, how my childhood friend had found himself adrift, wandering Europe unhappily with his green card-seeking bride. Years of expensive art school had left him a stubborn mediocrity, handing out nondescript paintings like calling cards and saying things like, "To be an artist nowadays you have to have a concept."

I remembered one day in the sixth grade, in English class, it was slate-gray and stormy out and suddenly a tremendous flash of orange burst in the window. The transformer out on the lawn had just exploded.

Henry had been positioned in the classroom in such a way that he was sort of facing the window, perhaps staring out distractedly as we learned the word of the week. He had seen the burst directly, and in the tumult and excitement afterward, kids racing to the sill, he sat limply in his seat. A minute later he complained of nausea and was led down the hall to the nurse. I was struck by how this electrical event had seemed to extinguish something in him and now I wondered if perhaps it had been the source of all his troubles.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Hurray, the morning. Hurray, the stairs, the gray sky's glare. Paper trash underfoot, soddened into pulp. Misty rain invisible in the air.

The lady at the laundromat smiled.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

There were no downtown trains on the 1 and 9 from Grand Central so I took the C and when I got to Canal Street there was a crowd around the 1-9 station: cops, firemen, fire trucks, all manner of medics with wireless devices, an empty stretcher on the sidewalk; we had to walk a wide arc into the street to get around the police-taped scene. Some people stood and stared, most walked by blankly. Inexplicably, water gushed from an open spout on the street side of the hook and ladder, gurgling and splattering on Canal. I mostly averted my eyes but when I didn't I noticed all carnage was conspicuously absent. It's like they held an accident but the victims didn't show up.

Later Amanda instant messaged me and asked me if I was on the train with the poison scare. She sent me a link to an article about the incident. Someone had reported a white substance under a subway seat that resembled "wet sugar."

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Went out with Mari tonight, she's the girl Lis told me about, the one who's the daughter of some fashion writer Lis deals with. She was a summer associate at a law firm, with frosty lip gloss, and she was friendly but weirdly formal: she asked questions all in a row, without reacting to the previous answer. "And what do you do?" "Uh huh, and do you like what you do?" "And so where are you from?" Her eyes darted around the room while we spoke and though that terrible habit subsided over the course of our meeting I knew this was not going to be anything, not anything at all. I walked her to the supermarket, a peck on the cheek.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Our office is five floors above the corner of Greenwich and Canal and in the afternoon we hear the gathering honks as rush hour approaches and traffic backs up from the Holland Tunnel. Then traffic cops come and bellow things out of megaphones like "You! Pull over!" Today I heard one say this, nothing more, nothing less:

"I don't care."

And then the horns went still a while.

I marveled briefly today at the fact that my little sister and I are both grownups. We have jobs, city lives, a predilection for wine. We have American Express® Membership Rewards™ points.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Up all night after the Fete de la Musique, because I've got a morning plane, losing my mind a bit from being tired and there's a periodic hollow throbbing sound coming from somewhere and I can't tell if it's the hot water in the pipes or if I'm hearing a rave still going on, echoing down the streets.

I love the good will in the airport waiting room, the young couple still in love and their two little kids, the hiss of espresso and the tear of Velcro.

I went in the duty-store and found I wanted nothing but I lingered because I loved the easy rapport among the all-American stewardesses trying the perfume, looking at makeup, talking.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

I returned to Paris from the country on Wednesday to find that the hotel I'd wanted in the Latin Quarter had booked my room so they shuttled me across town in a taxi to their other hotel, trois etoiles, monsieur, she assured me. All the way there was traffic, traffic, traffic and the cabbie played horrible French easy listening on the radio. There were cops too, cutting through in their little French cop cars, and I wondered where they were going but there was always something wasn't there.

I got to the hotel, a ludicrous tourist trap by the Champs-Elysees with a tumble of faux Louis furniture in the lobby and a tapestry behind the desk. In the room I put the TV on at once, and it was the news, and today people had set themselves on fire in the streets of Paris and there it was on the screen. Hysterical Iranian mujahideen expatriates were protesting the capture of their leader and one, then another, then another set themselves ablaze. The first rose to her feet after others had smothered her. Her burns made her face appear ashen and otherworldly; she extended her arms and fixed the camera with a haunting, vaguely recriminating gaze. One of the immolators died the following day, maybe her, I don't know. The footage of the others showed only angry flashes of scarlet and then police furiously dousing them with clouds of extinguisher. The next day there were more protests, here and in other cities, and this time there was a man racing down the street, on fire from head to foot.

I wondered, Where is he going?

There is a medieval quality to these self-immolations that makes them seem almost appropriate to Paris, as appropriate as they possibly could be I suppose. They are consistent with my view of Paris as alternately refined and savage, precious and perilous. It is a beautiful city and the statistics might show that crime is low but I never feel safe here. There's an aura of menace everywhere; it's as though Parisians are more accustomed to a certain level of risk or pain than are New Yorkers. Here catastrophe is integrated into life whereas in New York we repel it with all our psychic might. We don't want to believe in it. I still think of the story Eliane told years ago about the pedestrian who was decapitated by a car in the nasty intersection in front of their apartment – not just of the story itself but of the way she told it: brusquely, with a little shrug. C'est la vie. This is a city where the blood has never really been washed from the streets.

I was in a phone booth on the Boulevard Magenta, on the phone with my sister, when a young guy, he looked like a young Arab guy, walked up and rapped on the glass door.

I was all annoyed and I acted like it too. I opened the door.

"Je n'vous demande pas d'argent, j'vous demande une unité," he said. He didn't want my money, he wanted to borrow my phone card.

He was gnawing on a piece of bread.

I felt helpless and a little stupid, inside with the phone in my hand, him outside. But annoyed, really.

"Je suis au telephone," I told him. I'm on the phone. I felt like an idiot, like maybe I really did owe him something but I was denying it.

"Pas la peine de vous ennerver, merde!" he said. No reason to get all worked up.

"Vous m'avez interrompu," I insisted. You interrupted me.

He slammed the door shut and, looking to his left, took an angry bite of bread and walked away.

When I got off the phone I thought of finding him and handing him my card, to fuck him up, to prove a point. He was nowhere.

Bless those who travel from the third world to the first I love them every one.

At the Chope du Chateau Rouge at the end of a burning hot day, the longest day of the year, the festival of music tho I haven't heard a lick of music yet. A drunk man just walked into the bar with a bag of celery and a roll of Euro coins.

The DJ came in and set up and after terrifying us with an accidental electric shriek he played some Indian hip hop thing and it lifted up the room and the sidewalk too, and even the old timers at the bar felt it and said go on, keep it up, after he turned it off.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Dad had formed bad habits long ago, which people must have noticed without alerting him to, which now haunted him into old age, like chewing with his mouth full and occasionally spitting a bit of food across the table.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

I've got to come back to life and it had better be now.

So far I have slept gluttonously, after flipping through hours of shitty, shitty European TV.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Suicide is masturbatory, the ultimate self-indulgent act. What more can you give yourself besides an orgasm? Death. The gift that keeps on giving. That's why we're so dumbfounded with shameful, prurient awe at death from autoerotic asphyxiation. The math isn't sex plus death – a heady sum already – but sex times sex. Masturbation squared, and escalating into the stars. Do we envy them, discovered dangling and enrapt?

There is a fundamental friction between the races in the United States which doesn't seem to exist in France. The source of it is obviously slavery, the blunt fact that whites owned blacks and that the presence of blacks in the country and their citizenship and their identity will forever be colored so to speak by this fact. It tends to leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Monday, June 09, 2003

I entered the mouth of Penn Station, the escalator going down, with an old vacationing couple, the woman had red espadrilles. Halfway down, on the stairs to the left, a homeless black man clung to the partition between us. He was howling something repetitively in a gasping, croaking voice. At first it seemed inarticulate, then not, then so. As we floated by I strained to understand it.

"Moon river!" he howled. "Moon river!"

That faint, singing hum, like a hint of tinnitus; the hot salty smell from the galley, woven with the scent of extraordinarily synthetic things; the anechoic, blood-drained cabin; but outside the roar of pure atmosphere, uh sounded together with oh, phasing gently into a melodious murmur like river rapids.

A little turbulence and the engine dances under the wing – the plane seems elastic, alive, made of cartilage and sinew.

Little stars of frost form on the window and here's what it says on the wing: no step, no step, no step, no step.

On the screen the red arrow has us well over the Bay of Maine, south of Bangor, east of Portland, west of the moon.

We get infantilized when we fly: put your seatbelt on, watch the safety video, put your bag under the seat, no, all the way in front of the seat in front of you. Maybe we like this? It's a ritual of regression, the chance to be helpless once again.


Sunday, June 08, 2003

When Janet bit her glass when we were all tripping on ecstasy and a perfect half moon of glass broke off in her mouth. We were all tripping but it wasn't very good, it was creepy, with Pete looking off into the distance, and he played guitar for Janet to sing that blues, what was it. She never did sing it well. She had a maniacal leer, she was thirsty and she had a glass of water that she kept up close to her chin, as though she craved reassurance that it wouldn't take more than a nod to quench her thirst. At times she had the glass in her mouth, without drinking, the rim wedged into her grin. And she just bit it, she bit the perfect shard into her mouth and she was not cut.

Sarah hid under the table and played with her cat.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

In the morning first thing I do is check my e-mail, have a look at the news to see what disasters befell us as I slumbered. Today: Congo clashes, Kabul blast, three shot dead.

Friday, June 06, 2003

At Zesty's on 95th and Third, drunk late last Saturday night, stumbling in the open double door and in line with the rest of the kids, I spied this behind the counter: a shelf full of grape jelly and Pam spray margarine. Alternating impeccably. Pam grape jelly Pam grape jelly Pam grape jelly Pam. It was so perfectly precious and surreal that I had the impression I was the butt of a very clever joke: you think this is funny don't you?

But the joke's always on us because what we see is real.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Oh those rare occasions when you're reacquainted with the floor, violent and unexpected. You might have clunked down drunkenly, too desperately miserable to seek a more civilized bed; you might be held anklewise by a brutish tormentor; you might have tripped on a roller skate. But it's a different world down there, always somehow new. The polish of the hard, hard wood. The film of dust both cosmic and human, tiny pebbly debris, maybe a long-forgotten object under a chair: blue cigarette lighter!

We are too alienated from the floor.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Out with C. K. at Paddy Maguire's, on a Wednesday night after the Yankees won, after Roger Clemens won his 299th game. We watched it at an Irish bar on second with her coworker, a cute tanned pretty thing who was such a Yankee fan, she could hardly breathe when they came to bat.

After, C. K. and I marched up Second, looking for a place to shoot pool. We stopped into Nightingale's after I told her about the manager Tom, how great he was, the tremendous leather-clad rail-thin drunk fairy, he loved us and we loved him; he had us play when he knew we'd not earn him a penny; the Chinese guy who owned the club made him replace all the beer he drank at the end of the night. On one of the last nights we played J. T. and I saw him at the deli down Second at about 4 o'clock in the morning, slurring, hobbling to the front with a case of Rolling Rock. We were there to buy beer to drink and he was there to buy beer he'd drunk.