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.