Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The wave coming in appears deceptively benign in videos. The occasional towering wave that collapses on the shore just like the rest. But this one kept coming and kept coming and soon enveloped trees and houses and flooded the road, breaching the untalked-about barrier between what's ours and what's the sea's.

I can't fathom that a drop of water, like one that runs down the outside of my whiskey glass, is the same element that this is made of. I can't reconcile the ocean with the drop.

In Puerto Rico we went body surfing on the first full day, tipsy from rum punch. I waded to my hips in the warm Atlantic and took a blissful piss. Waves came every five or ten seconds, cresting at my shoulder or neck. I turned around and body surfed pitiably, not getting tossed around in a cloud of sand like you're supposed to but getting pinned to the shore anyway. I'd get up and try again, and again.

Then I noticed I'd drifted into a clutch of rocks that stuck a foot or so out of the water, chest-high. A wave slammed me up against them. I tried to grip one but its surface was slick with moss and my hands slipped off as the undertow sucked me away. Then another wave. Slammed up on the rocks. Pulled away. Slammed. Pulled. I found myself growing tired, losing my footing with the ceaseless, rhythmic push and tug. In a moment I realized I had to act so I hoisted myself up on the rock, clambering up on my torso, heaving arms and a knee to the other side. There I waded in the calmer water and negotiated the other rocks on hands and knees, finally reaching shore.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The steam pipe's reassuring hiss, signaling heat and everything it means.

Today was cold, damn cold, fucking cold. On our way down Canal to the deli I drew stiff as a board against the Hudson gusts. Saw myself as a cartoon man, gloved hands outstretched. All you could do is pretend you weren't real.

I stopped at the liquor store on Lenox and 111th after work and a man said, Got a quarter? I'm short, and another said, Got a dime? I fished around the bottom of my bag as the earth ground to a creaking halt upon its axis. Finally I found them quarters and they were gracious as they bought their nippers.

The news is pictures of men and women palsied by grief, bent and twisted as loved ones are laid to rest behind them or cast unknowably deep and far into the sea. Now one listens to the tamped earth of a fresh grave, arms splayed out and palms up.

The wave rolling at five hundred miles an hour across the Indian Ocean. O you blameless wave.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I got on the 5th Avenue bus and he was already talking, across from me in the front seats facing in. He had a white beard, a kindly face. Decent pants and shoes but a bum's telltale posture, hunched and jerky. He was telling a young black woman, androgynous in a North Face coat and knit wool hat, about black music.

"See, black people make the best music," he asserted solemnly, nodding and watching for her reaction, drawing assent from her. She nodded almost imperceptibly. "They always did make the best music." He lifted his chin and gazed off in a professorial pose. "The Cadillacs," he said. "The Eldorados," he added confidently.

The girl nodded, bored, patronizing. She got up at the next stop. He said, "Oh you're getting off?" and wished her well and told her, "You're very beautiful," just to hook her into more talk. And she said, "You're beautiful too," just to shut him up.

Then he shuffled around the bus, looking for someone else.

"Mind if I sit here?" he asked a middle aged black man.

"You can sit anywhere you want. I'm, but I'm. I'm not in a very talkative mood right now."

The old man moved on, settling in the middle of the bus, where he eventually drove two white women away with who knows what he said. I wondered what he'd do next and by what unfathomable logic.

After a few quiet minutes he sprang up at a stop in the 60s. "Got to get off... this train..." he mumbled as he opened the door and stepped down uneasy. He stood on the sidewalk a moment as though he were trying to remember why he left the bus. And then he walked up to the wall and pissed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Absence is a gesture of power. If you want to be revered, idolized, mythologized, don't show your face. Operate mysteriously in your lair, unknowable twists and turns afar.

But then – and maybe only then – there is the tremendous power of presence. A great athlete or mythic coach; actor, politician, rock star: There is the compelling fact of being there, on two legs and feet. Hobbled by constraining gravity and framed by the impediments of immediate truth. A stage, a rug, a wire. A chair. The ground we tread upon and our shared air.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Puerto Rico where we were, in Condado, had a vague look of distress. Everything was clean and safe for the tourists but there seemed to be a weariness from the decades of catering to them. On Saturday night at the El San Juan half the crowd was up in a throng watching a boxing match on TVs suspended from the ceiling. The room was ornate and old and retained some of the grandeur of another age when you had to wear formal clothes to gamble. The dealers were aloof, even rude. I sat down at a blackjack table and in between hands the woman to my left lit a cigarette, and the dealer waved off the air before her with a sour look. I rose in protest. Elsewhere dealers were grim and humorless; the cashier girl said neither thank you nor good night.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Cars on Lenox Ave., cars on Hudson Street. Racing through the intersection expecting deference. Twin morning worries on my way to work.

Drank at Cedar's tonight, to see Stephanie back from Canada. Sean, George, Mike H., Michele and Henry, Jake and Lis, Christina. A little clutch of sexy young people stared at us from the middle of the room until we realized they were staring at the photo exhibit on the wall. Right by Mike's head: the torso and legs of a beautiful woman clad in a leopard-skin bikini. Her taut flesh revealed cartilage and tendons. She made me think of Donna, who I'll never see again and that's just fine. Donna had a muscular physique. Donna had a sadomasochistic streak I never got to see.

Friday, December 03, 2004

There is a demented girl who hangs ou...

There is a demented girl who hangs out at Rocky Sullivan's who nobody wants to fuck. She leans in on conversations, makes herself plainly available, unappealing. And people who've befriended her report she's crazy, enraged with lustful spite for Daddy. Among other things.

So tonight there was a woman the whole time I thought it was her, but then maybe not. She had a placid countenance, a lucid smile, but other aspects of her face were the same. Eyes. Was it her, somehow sane now?

Steve spoke to Laura for an hour in an invisible corner so we imagined he was making it happen. We went to the Indian place across Lex, Bollywood posters in the foyer, a narrow space in front of the counter, the glass case with pans of goat, spinach, cabbage, chick peas, biryani rice; all of it oily with ghee. Chicken tikka, tandoori chicken and a tray of brittle fried samosas on the shelf. We left and saw Steve and Laura emerge with Andy and Lissette across the street and go their separate ways.

On the cab ride home PC and I discussed the prevalence of infidelity which led us to Hispanic women – their fury at their macho men who cheat but their eventual resignation. And then the Catholic Church and boy fucking, the boy fucking question.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Two women in high heels trotted down 56th Street in a beginning rain, trying to run. This is what they mean when they say you can't run in high heels. They were trying to run, click click click, and it was strange how stiffly hobbled they were. It's a persistent anachronism the high-heeled shoe, like if women still wore corsets.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Blarney Stone on Third Avenue is an unhappy little bar, dark and disordered and infected with the sick-smell of beer rot. This is where PC and Lis and I met for drinks on Saturday. Lis couldn't decide what to drink, was unhappy with everything, two different beers and then a scotch, and so she left with a sigh and PC and I went to Paddy's.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I e-mailed Alexandra to say what the hell, I know it's last minute but what are you doing tonight? And she replied: Crying my eyes out.

Spent the day and night with Kathryn. She said she was thinking of moving. Not sure where. Just moving. Putting the kids in boarding school, moving somewhere alone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

As George and I sat at the sidewalk table to play chess in the evening chill a pudgy, middle-aged Asian man stopped to leer at us. He rocked back and forth on his heels, giggling, brandishing a cigarette. I thought maybe he just wanted a light but it was lit and shedding ash. We didn't address him and George did a particularly good job of continuing our conversation unperturbed. The man rocked and giggled for a few more seconds and walked away.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The date sits over these babbling half-formed thoughts in silent, cool reproach.

She wants this and-a she wants that. Electric, she's a feral cat.



Hobbling across Second Avenue and cross Third. Beyond all glowering cab lights – immune to the mute testimony of the paper box, the overflowing pail; the essentially distressing street.

Waited at Park Avenue with my elbow on the pole. And then I looked and saw: 2:22 next bus, 2:22. And it was 1:36.

So then I headed underground.

The shadowing, creeping blimp, the Goodyear Blimp.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Played on Friday night with George and Joe, at the studio where Joe writes jingles all day. The picture window gave out on 17th Street, the upper limbs and leaves of a tree trembled and shook in the wind.

Saturday at the gym, suds streaming from a shower stall formed a cloudy skull against the tile.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I think I had a dream about Henry Kissinger recently. He wore an Arab headdress like Yasir Arafat, and now I think I was thinking of Arafat too. But it was Kissinger, and he was laughing, nodding and laughing heartily, like he was a little fucked up at a party and just heard a great joke.

As I walked down 56th today I saw a garbage man with a soft, open gaze, waiting for something, and I saw that it was a garage door opening hydraulically, vault-like, descending to reveal, to reveal a room of wheeled canvas bins, bins of insulation in candy pink and yellow tufts.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I had a big dresser in the closet of my room growing up, it was pine or cedar, some kind of redolent wood, or maybe it was the varnish or the stain but the thing had a remarkable floral, musty, acrid smell. It was the smell of its brass handles beating on their stops upon release. It was the smell of the sound they made. The smell of the sight. The face it made when a shirtsleeve protruded from the bottom drawer. It was the smell of the living beast called furniture. It stood watch in the dark as I made mountains of the bedding with my knees, seeing roads and rivers form by moonlight from the foothills to the peaks.
After weeks of no contact I guiltily e-mailed Stephanie and said, you know, sorry, would you like to have a drink? And sure enough she wrote back yeah and then a day later she wrote again, you know what, a drink is not in the cards, so to speak. She said so to speak, as though the cards were a pun. Not in the cards.

The dreary listing of a doomed and idle coupling, sure to run aground but when and how?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

People are wringing their hands over this election. Blaming Kerry. Don't fucking blame Kerry. People are tempted to see in losses sorry, self-evident conclusions when it's really just a fucking loss. Even after the fact we struggle to assert some kind of control over the event, as though we could reverse the outcome by explaining it away. He lost because he wasn't aggressive enough. He lost because he wasn't inspiring. He failed to make a case for himself.

Who's to say that the very qualities we now reproach him for are not qualities that earned him votes, not cost him votes? To a certain degree, for better or for worse, he certainly presented himself as the anti-Bush. Actually fuck that, he didn't just present himself that way, he is that way. Thoughtful and introspective where Bush is impulsive and brash. Intellectual and well-read where Bush is incurious and famously ill-read. Versed in the minutiae of policy where Bush paints broad strokes. The advocate of nuanced and complex views where Bush will hit you in the face with a fucking idiot sledgehammer. Isn't this who we fucking wanted? Didn't the anti-Bush voters want to vote for the anti-Bush? Of course we fucking did. Had he won – had, say, fewer votes in black districts been thrown out in Florida and Ohio, or lines had been shorter in these same districts – you better believe we'd all be fucking crowing about how he had been the ideal candidate. We're so lucky Kerry came along to capitalize on the anti-Bush sentiment, we'd be saying. Wasn't he just perfect? Aren't we fucking delighted that our great country woke up and realized we need a smart, reasonable man in the White House and not a fucking moron? Hurray! This is SUCH A WONDERFUL TIME TO BE AN AMERICAN.

You better fucking believe we'd all be saying that. 150,000 votes in Ohio. But now that he lost we have to fucking cry about it and go blaming Kerry.

It is a sad truth of human psychology that we accentuate the positive and accentuate the negative. When something goes right we trick ourselves into imagining that God Himself is shining a fucking light up our asses. When something goes wrong we enter paroxysms of petty blame and self-loathing. Let's remove the inconvenient factor of subjective human perception for a moment and examine the truth: Kerry lost a very close election to a fucking flag-waving Jesus-talking moralizing prick of a wartime president. Bush basically handed a big fucking lollipop to every single voter who: is insecure and possibly even hypocritical on the topic of morality and craves reassurance that they are morally superior; dislikes gays without quite knowing how to articulate why – just fucking dislikes them; kinda feels the same way about – shh! – black people; thinks America is like, the greatest, and doesn't understand why those who are enemies of freedom seek to do us harm; and perhaps most importantly, resents, fears and dislikes smart city folks.

Turns out there are some people out there like that. Call it the oppression of the many by the many.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

There was a conservative Jewish woman on the train, I could tell from her gray skirt and her knobby knees and the little black bows on her little black shoes. At least I think. She had an unhappy face, her mouth twisted in a perpetual pout, yet it was easy to imagine those same lips in contortions of ecstasy, those watery eyes alive with lust. I watched her fidget with a perforated sheet, some sort of bill or invoice. She had an iPod and as she turned its wheel with a thumb's caress I tried to imagine with what it filled her head.

Arbitrary Ambiguous Film Noir Scene

"I don't think I can."

"You don't think?"

"Get the money."

"You are looking at a man who doesn't care."



"I'm what?"

"You're looking," he walks closer. "At a man."

"Who what?"



"Doesn't care."

Monday, November 15, 2004

I was sick the day after the Yankees lost, trembling and uneasy at work, hung over and food poisoned or just plain poisoned. Haunted by the thought of the Stadium's dank, infernal halls, the floor and walls glowing that medicinal green from neon and fluorescence. So I proceeded gingerly through the day, sipping little spoonfuls of soup, quiet and resolute with regard to work and shuffling to the toilet to shit ropes of black, acid shit. 

Tonight we watched the Ron Jeremy documentary on TV with little interest, which seemed to mirror Jeremy's own view of himself and of his life. What an odd figure – vaguely pathetic in his short, fat unsexiness and his naive conviction he'd be a real actor someday yet also weirdly neutral, disengaged and adolescent; he's got the blank stare and drowsy speech of an onanistic boy returning to the world from his exertions.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

When the legless man comes through the subway car, clomping that tin cup before him to draw forward and signal the solemn fact of his existence. When he clambers through that silver divide to be born in our midst. When he is there. I know he approaches, soon to pass me by; my heart tightens up as though in tune with his odd Doppler effect. I can't breathe when he draws even. There he is. There he goes.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

On the way home tonight on the train. A Hispanic girl, must have been six or so. Sat on the bench across from me, right near the rail, unaccompanied. She grimly withdrew a comic book from her backpack, a pink backpack, Hello Kitty. And she began to read.

I kept my eye on her, amazed.

She had dark crescents beneath her eyes. She looked to the right with exasperated kinship upon a family, all dead tired. Her mother a young bleached blond thing with a brood beyond her grasp. She braced one wheel of the baby carriage against her foot and lifted her head straight up to sleep hungrily, mouth agape. And the girl across from me saw her mother and leaned against the rail for a moment's sympathetic slumber. Then she awoke, as did her mother, and we were shaking into the station, and then again the mother leaned back, mouth opening horse-like, and the girl scurried between her haughty brothers to her mother's side.

Friday, October 15, 2004

A jackoff Yankee fan was mouthing off to a Red Sox fan at Game 1, taunting from four rows above, doing the gesture of the fingers off the chin. The Red Sox fan scoffed and tried to ignore but then things were said. A flurry of peanut shells. Shower of foamy specks of beer. The Red Sox fan clambered over of his seat in a bullish burst, catching his shoe on the armrest and falling awkwardly astraddle, his tubesocked foot dangling over the chairback. A picture of frustration and fury. The Yankee fan leaned in, emboldened by his rival's prone condition. The Red Sox fan made a  last valiant effort to rise and lunge but by then he was being held back, somewhat protectively, by a more sensible Yankee fan who kept the first one at bay by clutching his cap and pointing to the NY and nodding, see, see?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The football game on the TV, the reason it looks bigger, more real, more alive than real life is simply the presence of the frame. The frame eliminates chaotic chaff. Guiding eyes and minds according to accepted aesthetic constructs. The frame adds life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

We arrived at the track on Saturday at around one, at the start of qualifying, after riding with Michael's friend Michael and his son David and Eric and Michael and Andrea, and meeting them in the parking lot of the Marriott where we didn't know, did we have the right place? We had wandered inside where breakfast was just being cleared and the doormen were changing shifts, exchanging chummy words, and when we walked back out Michael, that is Michael's friend Michael, Canadian Michael, was standing by the open sliding door to his van. Waving.

The night before we'd gone out to a party Sylvie had for former coworkers at one of the courtyard beer gardens that are all over Budapest, accessible from inconspicuous residential-looking doorways and a couple turns around cobblestoned alleys. CK and I had drunk wine at Sylvie's then we drank wine at the party and more wine and then whiskey and someone bought a round of Unicum, the bitter, bitter traditional liqueur that is now drunk only as a ritual gesture of festive self-punishment. And I talked to Janet who was married to Eric whose name I thought was Nick. We talked about the importance of proper sun protection for terribly fair-skinned people like us. Someone bought a round of polinka, the traditional spirit that is now drunk with pleasure and relief that no one decided to buy Unicum instead.

Writing this in Paris, the waiter just walked by me holding his serving tray lazily at his side like a sheaf of papers and then stopped and said, "Putain, mon gratin!" which means, "Fuck, my gratin!" and he turned on his heels to retrieve it from the kitchen and serve it to some long-suffering tourist. And I lit a cigarette.

Sylvie got everyone together and said let's go to Buddha Beach which is not in Buda but in Pest, right beside the Danube. Buddha Beach is a dance club in the open around a big golden Buddha. We snaked into the crowd and danced for hours to American hip hop and English pop, drunk on booze, sure, but maybe really pure kinetics. Everyone moved in a big roiling mass.     There was this German woman Kirsten. She had long dirty blond hair in a pony tail and perfect arms out a sleeveless black dress. She did this funny dance with lots of moving her arms in formal gestures, rigorous movements, not out of time or graceless by any stretch but deliberate. Categorical.

We all danced in our spot with the leaves of some tree brushing our heads. All the Hungarians knew all the lyrics to the American tunes better than me.

I got in line for the bathroom out by the river and I noticed a young woman behind me in line and I guess I gave her a good look before turning back around. A few moments and she tapped on my shoulder.


"Szia. Hello. I'm American, I don't speak Hungarian." I shook her hand. She said OK. She introduced me to two bashful friends standing behind her who emerged out of the line to greet me.

Now as I write this, a day after I started, there's a violent cloudburst and though I'm protected by the awning, mists of rain blow in my face and dot these pages with water.

My notebook. Mon cahier. That woman last summer at the cafe on Republique, the waitress, she said she liked my notebook. My ordinary all-American black-and-white Mead composition pad. That says "square deal" in a square inside the cover. I told her thanks. Where did I get it? In the U.S. And I knew not what else to say so I smilingly turned away and saw her again only when she emerged to watch the parade of striking cops chanting a protest of their own. She shook her hips and waved her arms in the air, waved them like she just don't care. Reflexively a sister to those who shout and sing in the street.

I told the young Hungarian chick I was from New York and she asked am I here alone. No, my friends are in there somewhere, I said, indicating the bobbing throng. I told her I loved Budapest and was having a great time and then we were at the head of the line and I let her go first and when another stall opened I went in; when I emerged I wandered away, wondering if I should wait. Went to the bar for beer. Rejoined the others. Periodically scanned the crowd, in vain, for her shortish red-brown hair and freckled nose.

Somebody bought a round of sweet syrupy Jagermeister and we all gathered in a gleeful circle and took the small glasses and toasted but there was not one for the older woman who was with us, the dark haired woman who had been an accountant at the company, and she danced beside us like it didn't matter but it seemed terrible.

Eventually we all wound our way back out the crowd.

If nothing is to be excluded from this writing then I write about Sylvie's hands on my shoulders on our way out, and the fact that we had danced, and she was dancing sexy, unrestrained,  and how odd because since I'd arrived she had seemed remote and abstracted, unfriendly even. And so I felt her hands and I thought, let her hands rest there and don't shake them off.

On the walk along the Danube it was me and CK and Gerzson arm in arm talking about sex somehow, and the conversation ended on some non-sequitur I can't imagine let alone describe.

We walked to some cafe, a lonely beacon on a darkened avenue, and ordered beer and I was talking to Kirsten and I think I made fun of her for being German and I comically declared to everyone around the table that I'd have a similar thing to say to each one of them just you wait and see. And it was good and we all were laughing and then the guy across from me leaned over and said he wanted to talk about September 11th. The United States has never really suffered he said, wasn't it about time for the U.S. to suffer? You needed to learn to suffer. And I was protesting drunkenly and I don't know quite what I said but I remember we were inevitably interrupted by the boisterous cheer about us and I declared civilly that this was an interesting discussion and I'd like to resume it. I'm not sure why I said I wanted to resume it. I think what I meant was I'd like to end it.

How many other people's pictures are we in? Japanese family videos. We hover spectrally in the back somewhere or walk furtively through the foreground. Unknowingly replicated again and again, bit players in countless narratives.

Kirsten was gonna drive back to Vienna in her tiny car. Put that car on the train to go home to Hamburg the next day and so she needed to leave and like an idiot I'm trying to get her to stay.

"Stay!" I said.

"I have to leave!"

So she left and I grandly poured the rest of her beer into each of our remaining glasses.

They were playing "Born in the USA" at the Paris Cafe I'm at and that's funny. On the occasion if you think about it of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. And now it's "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes and I guess that's funny too.

We staggered home finally, me and CK and Sylvie and that guy who said the thing about 9/11. We sat on Sylvie's bed and he rolled a joint. I sat there saying nothing. He said you're awful quiet and I said well I'm fucked up. He seemed to me a faintly Satanic presence, this guy who'd tested me with anti-American talk and here he was with dope and obviously designs on the women. But fuck it, they're not my women, and maybe he's right after all and that's why I had nothing to say. I got high and went over to my couch in the living room and passed out face first.

For sure the Hungarians have suffered.

A man just left the cafe, a young slender man, speaking in some vaguely Euro accent to his sort of frumpy, short-haired female companion: Two years ago they started the Euro.

God you feel like you can do anything when you're a little bit drunk. You can peer into the eyes of passersby.

So I went off to bed and last thing I knew it was 6:30 so it was maybe 7 I passed out. And then I feel a tug on my toe, a terrible delicate tug that is full of meaning and implication. Awakened to the awful present. It's CK coiled at the foot of the bed and she's saying it's 10:30 and do I want to get up and go to the qualifying. And through a veil of confusion and still-drunk grief at the light of day I balked a moment but said yes.

A man with clothes the color of the street.

I drag hands across my weary body in the shower.

We got in the cab unsteady yet resolute. That shameguilt pulse that drives you forward at times like these. Arrived at Marriott. Funny there's shit like a Marriott everywhere in the world. You go to the ends of the earth and there's a Marriott. Marriott, Marriott, Marriott.

We saw Michael then we sat on the terrace and ordered coffee and water and things were better somehow. Then Drea showed up with a McDonald's fried chicken wing and I ate it with surprising desire and I was amazed how good the world already was. Something I was afraid was dead had been revived inside me. CK and I walked to McDonald's and I had to order the Royale with Cheese.

Children have to play all the time. It's not merely a psychological preoccupation, the preference of idle and unlearned minds. They're physically compelled. To fidget or fuss or beat two sticks together. Working their new bodies into tune.

We met everyone back at the car, Michael and David and other Michael and Drea and Eric. And we got in the family van and drove out to the track. We drove around and around looking for our parking lot, past stands of bullshit merchandise, beer tents, Ferrari fans, Raikonnen fans with blue painted faces, Ferrari fans, impromptu strip joints and bloody seas of Ferrari fans. A curious pageant of macho Euro-weirdness.

We went around twice and finally stopped in a vast field, Hungarian agrarian glory just about to the horizon, a foreground full of cars. We heard the solitary, strident whine of a race car circling the track and I knew it had begun.

We walked down toward the track with the first corner in our sight, at the bottom of the hill, and then suddenly a car emerged and swung around, a blue and yellow Renault, black tires tracing that ribbon of storm cloud asphalt, showing its shadowy engine with the solitary brake light. My head swam with pleasure.

We entered the gate and tromped up the little hill to our grandstands, plain rickety grandstands in the sun. We climbed the wooden stairs and found our seats. And the Renault came ‘round again. Fernando Alonso. If that's not the name of a race car driver. The car howled down the front straight at 190 miles an hour, you could see it in a quick glint. And then I heard and felt something I was not prepared for, perhaps did not remember from my childhood forays to the races. It was this: the engine's complaint as it downshifted for the turn. Traversing the staccato path from seventh gear to second in about a second and a half, from 20,000 to 1,500 RPM, the engine voiced its agony in a series of bestial yelps as each successive gear fell fast upon the shaft. But it was more than bestial – it was humanesque, eerily intelligent. It was the sound, I'm not kidding. It was the sound of a human being experiencing torture. You're tempted to call it the sound of a beast, that's the obvious and perhaps less troubling analogy. But it was closer to the sound of a human in agony from multiple blows and frightening climaxes of grief. And because it was coming from a car I'm not sure I've heard anything more beautiful. Eeow! Yow! OW! UNGG! it said. ANGG! Oww, OW! Syllables of extreme and poignant urgency signifying absolutely nothing. Other cars passed with variations upon this strangled cry. And maybe backfired pop! pop! pop! or loosed a breath of smoke from heated brakes.

And the colors and the words, the colors and the words. Red and white, yellow and black, Vodafone. West. Green and blue, Shell, made up words and real words. Mild Seven. Green and red and white. Allianz, Petronas. Black and silver, IMG. Blue and white. Yellow, Marlboro and blue. Black and white, HP. Red.

On planes we're not just infantilized; we're like patients, enfeebled. We must return to our seats and be fastened, officious men and women doing rounds to check on us.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Another morning under the invented menace of Level Orange Alert.

Or is it Alert: Level Orange?

Orange Level Alert.

Level level alert level orange alert level level orange alert orange level orange level alert alert level orange orange orange alert level orange alert orange level level alert level alert alert orange level.

Played chess again with George in the heavy sidewalk air. He beat me but good in one game and I came back and won the second, my pawns marching inexorably, two abreast, toward the scared-out king.

There's a picture of B's cunt on my computer and I see the tiny thumbnail for it when I start up or shut down. It's there in a folder of other miscellanea: my password for eBay, frequent-flier codes, an address for a long-lost friend. I took it on her digital camera one night. The following day she titled it "Close Up" and e-mailed it to me. Though it's tiny the image is incongruous, conveying rosy voluptuousness in the dreary list of icons for plain text files.

She was raised in Christian Science.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

M. got laid off and wanted to take me to the Indian casino overnight. Like nothing, out of nowhere: in the spirit of spontaneity, that word we batted around when we made our first date last year as winter's feral freeze spied distantly upon torpid August. In a burst I imagined us marching arm in arm, aglow, down the turquoise and lavender carpet between rows and rows of roulette tables and blackjack and pai-gow. We'd laugh the impervious, giddy laugh of losers with nothing to lose.

Maybe catch a show.

Drink, gamble, inhale the heady, judiciously modulated atmosphere of pure oxygen and chlorine. And awake to our senses, we'd retire for two or three hours of fucking, the intensity and erotic thrill of which I am not likely to ever experience again in all my dwindling days.

"I can't make it," I said. "I have to work."

Friday, July 30, 2004

I noted the moon hanging above the brownstone backdrop looking down Amsterdam. It was big and bright but appeared ponderous and glum.

Some girl talked about her roommate getting hit on by gay guys and she was picking out tunes on the jukebox, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I went over to help her select. She was bursting out of her halter top. Then there was the predictable back and forth but then we left.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Optimized charging – optimized charging – optimized charging.

I spent the first part of the week in the grip of a subtle and infernal nausea – never quite so bad that it made me vomit but not mild enough to ignore. It started on Sunday when I was sort of hung over I suppose and what did I do the night before... what did I do... Oh I went out with Stephanie and I fucked her and we slept a long long time and then I got up at eleven or so and went home, went to the gym all late and everything, only time for a draining schwitz. And then empty and dehydrated I met Geoff and Claudia at that Brazilian place on Houston and Claudia said the rice and beans are great, really great, she went on at some length about the deliciousness of it and of the hearts of palm they put on top and the boiled bitter-green leafy things on the side. She described it all with the extravagant effusiveness of certain kinds of vegetarians, who, like anorexics, veil their anxious disappetite by claiming that they love a particular thing they happen to tolerate a great deal because it's so delicious.

So I ordered it.

And it seemed OK but really bland and I tried in vain to make eye contact with that sexy beautymarked waitress so she could rescue me with Tabasco. So I gamely forked it all in the old foodhole. And what's more Claudia went on about the chocolate bread pudding and how delicious and she was going to have one and before you know it Geoff and I were ordering it too. And it came and it was about half a cup of melted butter mixed with custard and buttersaturated bread. And I ate it all.

The memory of the gummy, mealy mouthfuls and the heavy, bland tastes repulses me still and provokes in me the visceral dread of a food-poisoning sufferer.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Played chess with George in the heavy air outside the chess club on Thompson with air conditioner raindrops falling on the board. I won an early advantage but he clambered back for a draw. The carnage  was complete: only our kings remained. As we walked away we talked about how it's good to get our heads in that space; we can't think straight most times, can't read without our minds flitting about like butterflies – and chess sharpens the attention, forces it upon the abstract pieces and the black-and-white. We agreed we needed practice thinking like that.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

M. rode in on a gust and ordered a martini and before she sat down she accused me of a strange mood and she was right. I had intended to pose as circumspect, aloof, but had succeeded only in appearing abstracted. We talked about how she passed the bar exam and how that was and what a mindfuck and everything. We wandered out into the Chinatown cold and she stopped to buy handfuls of bootleg CDs and DVDs from a Chinese girl at a table, REM and "Finding Nemo."

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Meer seeps with scum, I can smell it as I cross Fifth Ave. I walk down the path past the kid on her scooter and a boy with his dog and the school group with all the same t-shirts that say something. Park employees in carts and pickup trucks navigate the path gingerly, giving a bump of the horn if you don't know they're coming.

The odor clogs the nostrils, like wheat grass or echinacea. It smells of life in its awfulest fecundity, teeming and unbound.

There's some kind of boat in the corner of the Meer, something like a Louisiana swamp boat, and there are two park employees in it, a man and a woman. There's a slanted conveyor belt dredging algae from a hole in the bottom and depositing it in great wet clumps at the fore. She sits beside it on a chair perched ludicrously high, like an African river queen athrone. I pass another worker on the path, shouting to the woman on the boat: "That all you want? A hot chocolate? HOT CHOCOLATE?"

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Just at the time that on the far track, from uptown, was the sad sound of an arriving train I could not take, someone peered down our tunnel and I figured it couldn't be, he's manifesting my most hopeless wishes, a light shone and it was the train come to get me.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Yet another incredibly beautiful woman on the subway the other day: a young thing with a practically shaved head, dark hair and olive skin, a wisp of feathery hair along her arms. She wore a pouting, faintly feral expression; the righteous insolence of emancipated urban youth. Her shirt bared a bit of convex brown belly, a gooseflesh expanse humming with sensuality and hinting at her hips and pelvis. She had a mole on her right cheek that Boticelli might have painted.

She was standing above me.

Friday, June 25, 2004

I lay recumbent in the faux Eames with a plate of cheese and crackers balanced on my belly and I was watching Nightline with that fucking inordinately cheerful guy Chris Bury and they showed the video of the Islamists with the Korean captive right before they cut his head off and there he was on his knees, the three ski-masked men behind him, and he was moaning and wailing for his life, I don't wanna die! I don't wanna die!

I don't wanna die.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Woke up this morning my mouth feeling cankerous.

D. at work yesterday had hiccups and they would not go away. He'd be over at someone's desk, talking to them, crouching, HOOP. And then he'd talk more in his deliberate, measured way, with his disconcertingly penetrating eye contact, HOOP. The hiccups sounded androgynous, animalistic, tinged by some vaguely foreign accent. And then it would be him again. HOOP. The old lesbians tittered at him. Some offered some fabled remedy or other and he'd politely – HOOP – listen and say I know, I've tried everything. It lasted all day long with virtually no interruption.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

D. grew sexier as time went by, though by time I mean minutes not years.

There were things she wouldn't talk about. Those eight days in Paris. Her last relationship and its impact on her family. She was writing about that and she told me she was writing about it but she wouldn't talk about it.

She was slender with round cheeks and a smart smirky mouth and she was nearly gorgeous but something in her very molecularity kept her plain.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

This morning there was yellow police tape across the entrance to the Park and a police car parked behind it. And silence, and nothing but beauty in the Park: the path around the Meer, florid; dewy swings and seesaws in the playground. I wondered what it all meant and peered pruriently over the old, low wall for signs of something strange and awful. All was utterly calm. At the corner more cop cars had gathered. A man surveyed the northeast corner of the Park through the lens of a Channel 5 news camera. Photographers wandered the sidewalk, their beige telephoto lenses bouncing on their haunches. A couple of cops were chatting with a young black man – could this be a witness, a suspect, some agent of the invisible, enfolding drama? But he said goodbye, reaching out his hand – they took it happily, eagerly, and he was on his way.

The perimeter ended. The perimeter ended with more yellow tape and more cars. More patrol cars where I turned to get on the train, Lennox. The train at Lennox Avenue.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Outside some alarm has gone off; at first I'd imagined a car alarm but it did not ring insistently. It bleated out a few loud tones in a babbling, singsong melody and stopped. Perhaps a police alarm gone haywire. It rang in oddly organic fits and starts – at one point I wondered whether it was the whooping of a lunatic, wandering off the avenue and into the darkened street to rattle the dozy citizenry.

It has stopped now.

The soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, it is said, filmed themselves, in the words of military officials, "acting inappropriately with a dead body."

Who knows what the fuck that means but it's worth noting in connection with our revulsion at how Iraqis in Fallujah tore apart the burned bodies of the ambushed Americans a few weeks ago. Even those among us who are critical of the U.S. surely felt a pang of racist, all-American disgust: Look at these animals. We're not like them.

Oh, but we are quite like them. And this leads me to a strangely, under the circumstances, reassuring realization: We are them and they are us.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I've been thirsty for months now, thirsty in the middle of the night, thirsty in the morning, thirsty now. That terrible choking rasp in my mouth, a thought bubble thick with crosshatching hanging over me. And the water, this thing with no savor is so curiously delicious: cold, frustratingly viscous at first but then exquisitely fluid. It shoots up into the center of my brain just as it enters my belly and I am saved.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The echoic, chlorine ambiance of the pool. The roiling foam in the Jacuzzi. The woman who stands in the steps to the shallow end and lifts her leg in the water again and again and again.

Friday, May 07, 2004

A couple weekends ago I was sitting on the train on the way back from somewhere late at night, I don't know where. Had to have been the 2 or 3 ‘cause that's my train.

I think it was at 14th Street, the train stopped. Well of course it stops at 14th but it stopped a long time. The doors were just wide open there like nothing, like the end of the world had come and gone.

There was staticky babble on the intercom about a police action.

The passengers sat all New York impassive in the glow of their inebriation or the gloom of their late-shift blues.

A cop walked by on the platform, his gait urgent but two steps short of a jog. It's like he was in a hurry to get somewhere but not that much of a hurry when you think about it. Then another went by, and another. And another. And then cops in twos. And another. Then one with his hand on his holstered gun, snaking around like Pecos Bill. Then two with nightsticks in hand. More.

By this time the younger guys were leaning out the door to look. Some stood brazenly on the platform and tiptoed around. A guy returned to the train and told his girlfriend, I've never seen so many cops in my life.

I went out on the platform. Cross-current to the cops and curious stares, there walked an elderly, dignified man in tweed, expressionless.

Something incredibly bad is going on down there, said the girlfriend guy.

We could not see the end of the platform where the cops had disappeared. They just kept striding on down until you couldn't see them anymore and you got a sense that the dimensions of space itself were distended there and some vortex might be swallowing them up. For all we know the earth dropped off and they were tumbling without complaint into the void.

There was no shouting and there were no shots and you could not see a thing.

Then the conductor said next stop Penn Station and we got in and finally the doors closed.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

I've looked the way I change at you. I change at you differently now.

Heard a terrific industrial horn blast outside on some street somewhere, reverberating between the buildings, and it seemed to beckon me out into the city. The signal defined itself in the city spaces like foam in a mold. I heard it but I saw it too. And I want to be in that space.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Overheard cell phone conversation on 56th Street between 7th and 6th, a paunchy man standing still and facing the street: That is our modus operandi.
It's raining, it's boring.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Two white kids in the train, maybe from out of town, maybe 13. Their shirts hang a bit voluminously on their scrawny frames but otherwise they have not completely adopted ghetto chic. A black kid gets on, a bit older, accompanied by his girlfriend with a big round butt in tight jeans and a long dyed-blond perm. He looks very street, a baseball cap over a do-rag, a shirt with an airbrushed black cartoonlike figure on it. He's on the phone with the wireless earpiece in his ear, speaking brusquely and somewhat officiously to a friend: Where you at? I'm on the train. Where you at? Fourteenth? I'll be there in five minutes. I'm with my girl. I'll be there in five minutes.

The white boys have been watching him as I've been watching all of them. One white boy gives a nod to the black guy, that upward only nod, a complicated gesture meant to summon attention but also evincing tones of recognition and admiration.

"'at's… awesome!" the white boy says, and the other white boy nods and says, "Yeah!" self-consciously touching his fingertips to his chin.

The black kid plays it stone cool, acknowledging the others only by glancing at them momentarily and giving the ghost of a nod. Next stop the white kids get off and the couple remains, he scrolling through the numbers on his phone while she faces away and stares at the darkness out the window or perhaps her reflection in it. He puts his phone away and nuzzles into her leonine hair.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Before I became lost gazing at the burbling froth in the hot tub I had a drink from the water fountain and I thought: water fountain. There's practically nothing to think about when you think about a water fountain. But then there is. The one on the outside of the Middle School, on that huge, brick, south-facing wall. It was a beacon to those parched from playground exertions. All the way across the blacktop and down a little dirt path across the lawn and all for a sip of salty lukewarm water.

A fountain that frequently contained some kid's spat-out gum. Green, or pink, or white, clean and glistening among the silvery beads. Bearing the useless forensic truth of orthodontic tooth marks.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I emerged from the gym and headed east on 56th Street thinking about music, the oblivious woman at the desk, Delillo's tendency to omit prepositional phrases from the ends of sentences.

Leaving that glaring empty space.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

On the train in the café car the man looked like William H. Macy, those little beady eyes below the thick blonde brow in the creased, genial face. The thin lips around a wide, vaguely vulnerable mouth.

"What'll it be?" he asked genially.

I said I didn't know yet sorry. He helped the woman behind me as I continued to gaze upon the different-colored menus with the pictures of chips and nuts and beer.

"Have you decided yet?"

"I, well…"


That was exactly what I wanted. "You… Yes! That was uh, good."

He turned and got it as though it was nothing. Later I returned for more and he seemed to be in a trance, leaning against the inside of the side counter, arms folded. I waited.

"I, sorry, I must have…"


I ordered, paid, tipped. As I walked away I heard the transaction behind me: a woman ordered a cup of coffee.

"Nice!" he exclaimed ridiculously.

It occurred to me that perhaps he was some sort of modern mythic figure, heroically guarding his spirits against soul-killing tedium. A whistling Sisyphus.