Saturday, February 26, 2005

It was a minor insight and it's gone now.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Gates make sounds. I was walking through them late last night and was startled to hear a weary creak, as of a porch screen door on a rundown house in the middle of the muddy Delta. With a Big Wheel on the lawn and laundry strung from fence to wall. A floral sheet and baby clothes. It was a venerable creak, belying the brand newness of these edifices. And it came from the joint where the orange metal leg met the slate-gray foot. When the wind picked up the Gates creaked and their fabric snapped and twisted.

Matters of fact.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I returned home from Rocky's with PC. It was a decent night; we won the drunken Irish trivia contest and discussed sickening American jingoism in his mother's car up Mad. I sank into the faux Eames and switched between CNN and ESPN. The oblivious, fickle manner in which CNN will transition from a story of deep tragedy and disaster to one of mundane, idiotic human interest – cute pets, let's say – is debilitatingly surreal, disturbing and depressing. This is saying something. It's exceedingly bad, utterly symptomatic of the American condition of the early 21st century and a key to why we are reviled as a society and deserve to be reviled.

The Gates are going up in the park, earnest men and women of all ages wearing their Christo & Jeanne Claude vests and hoisting and steadying frighteningly heavy poles. Like the intrepid settlers of the Old West. Building a home or a work of art, but really an abstract barrier against chaos.

It's going to be incredible, the Gates, I already know it. The saffron color is utterly surprising against the wet gray trees and sky. It evokes candy, sun, pleasure, comic books. And the incongruously happy hue of industrial machinery sometimes: bulldozers, backhoes and cherry pickers. It unites the worlds of childish sensual delight and grim adult labor.

At least it will, I think.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I did not realize the row of waiting cars on North Broome had been loosed by the light just as I'd stepped onto the street. So I stopped and doubled back as they streamed past me, and again I cursed my inattention.

At the dentist all hell was breaking loose. Hygienists were wandering from room to room, attending multiple patients. On this my second visit I noticed the "Forgive our appearance, we're under renovations" sign. They all seemed harried, short-staffed. The sexy dentist from the first time was nowhere to be seen. Instead I was treated by a man who introduced himself and shook my hand as I lay prone in the chair. He wore a ridiculous clear plastic germ guard resembling a flea-infested dog's head protector.

"You're here to get fillings," he stated. But with the faintest question mark at the end.


"Do you know where?" he asked, unbelievably. I told him lower left and he consented, verifying my chart. I had an unnerving feeling he'd been hired for the day, like a cop on the beach in summer. He excused himself precipitously, saying he had a cleaning down the hall.

When they were at work over my face, the dentist and the hygienist bumped arms and made jerky motions suggesting they had not established the division of labor. He seemed competent enough, and I admired the effort he made to maintain a quasi-normal interaction and to avoid referring to the surrounding catastrophe.

The thing slipped and sucked my cheek and she said Oops!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I Don't Care What You're Thinkin'

Played chess again with George inside the chess club this time, no kind of weather to be on the street. It was good, we each won a game, and I felt less adrift than usual.

There were guys playing backgammon, regular guys for sure, who were making a racket, especially one guy. He had some edgy game with a guy who eventually left pissed off, and then he was playing some new guy but he was still wound up from the game before.

"I don't care what you're thinkin', I don't care what you're drinkin', but if you get outta line I'm gonna set your ass on fire," he said, apparently by way of explanation to the new guy of what had transpired before. The new guy grunted in vague agreement. And then he said it again. "I don't care what you're thinkin', I don't care what you're drinkin', but if you get outta line I'm gonna set your ass on fire." And then again. He said it again and again. And silence. And then he said it again. Sometimes he'd flip around the thinkin' and the drinkin'. "I don't care what you're drinkin', I don't care what you're thinkin', but if you get outta line I'm gonna set your ass on fire." He said it again and again and again. It took on semi-comic overtones, then seemed to reach the status of mystical incantation. The rhythm always the same, the accents on the same places. A sermon-like cadence. It got to be where it stopped making any kind of sense at all, and then it got to be where you were pretty sure this was the only utterance that any human being would ever need to make, ever.

"I don't care what you're thinkin', I don't care what you're drinkin', but if you get outta line I'm gonna set your ass on fire."

Eventually the new guy grew a little bit irritated, not so much at this ceaseless, carping chant but with something in the game or something else about the guy in general. Things were said like fuck off. Other people came in, voices alternating quickly in mood and tone. Like no one could sustain ill will for longer than a breath or two.

And then the rolling of the dice.
At the gym pool tonight I perceived that the lifeguard was doubled over in his chair, asleep face-first in a tabloid paper. He didn't even seem to be on duty; he was wearing street clothes and had a knapsack beside him like he'd just dropped by, exhausted and seeking a few minutes' respite in the course of some unfathomably long journey. He was a young black guy with a matching baggy gray-and-black outfit. I got out of the hot tub and walked by him. The paper was open to a double-page article bearing a headline in huge type. His head covered the second half but the first half said:

GIRL, 14,

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Let me tell you something, and trust me: The sound of a City pigeon cooing is exactly the same as the sound of a Duane Reade bag full of boxes of things scraping against the back of a chair on an uptown bus.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I was contemplating my mortality and deteriorating flesh when the bottle of Listerine seemed to spring from its perch atop the mirror and fell into my hands, blue fluid sloshing foamily inside.