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.