Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What I Remember from the 1977 Guinness Book of World Records


There was some miser, Hetty Green? Meanest woman in the world. She parlayed two scraps of soap into an incalculable fortune; a sum to rival any captain of industry's.

There she was walking across the gunmetal cobblestones of some Manhattan alley. Corseted and severe. Her grim and unforgiving mouth curled by the faintest trace of terror.

What was a miser, in fact? I had no idea.

She seemed to know she was despised. Yet in her pride she could not fathom why.


A man in the shade of a fairground tent hung his head over a paper plate splattered with ropes of spaghetti. He ate more of it in 21 seconds, or something, than any man before him.

His head hung like a penitent's, or like a hajji's, finally arrived. Bowing tremulously to pray.

Beside the plate was a paper cup bearing the Coca-Cola ribbon. I imagined the sweet, cold and dark liquid flowing over my tongue. Soaking my thirsty throat in prickly bubbles.


A tiny man on a massive rock formed like a bridge, somewhere in the West.


The fattest man in the world who had to be buried in a piano case. Three questions nagged me:

What did he do before he died?

Who came to the funeral?

What did they do with the piano?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Jury Duty - 2

I was trying to read the New Yorker with my head propped on my hand, my elbow on the arm of the chair. I felt melatonin seep gently into my brain.

Before you knew it there was some kind of announcement regarding lunch.

I explored the strangely timewarped environs of the court. I walked east, I think, yes, east. No – west. I walked west. Toward Broadway and everything. All the stores were old stores, discount stores with corrugated faces, cigar shops, luncheonettes. The very streetlights and lamps took on the aspect of mid-20th-century modernity, the days we all said wow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In the living room my roommates are unconscious on the La-Z-Boy and the sofa respectively, or maybe dead.

What noxious spirit hath permeated this space?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jury Duty - 1

Downtown where the courts are the doors are tall. I saw iron gates and columns, and steps and steps and steps. Of extraordinary breadth. Steps whose breadth will make you comatose. Whose breadth suggests the world is without purpose. And that the world is flat. That you'll fall off it one fine day.

We crowded into the juror's waiting room and awaited further instruction. Finally we were instructed to wait.

Friday, May 12, 2006

There's some news story on the TV, I've never heard of it and can't even fathom:


It might as well have been invented by a child. Were it not so knowing, so taunting in its electronic urgency. Is that a word? A name? It is a thing, now that it's been lobbed into the living room like a radioactive ball. Guess I'll put it under my pillow and go to bed.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My dentist of indeterminate North African origin.

My sexy dentist.

She pried off my temporary crown and I yelped from not so much the pain as shock the wrenching force and - suddenly - razed tooth laid bare.

The temporary crown. The false crown.

It sat on the tip of my tongue before I spat it out upon my aquamarine bib.

She was contrite. I was OK. I said, I'm OK.

Sorry, she said. With that dark and throaty voice, the accent, yes?

The precisely not quite sure how do you say.

I suppose I love her, but she hurts me so.
Every time the sun sets it's like it's never set before. Every time it rises.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I came so close to dying today.

I walked out of the office and headed east on desolate Canal Street to the terrifying intersection of Hudson and Watts and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. At night I don't think so much about it, maybe 'cause I'm tired and it's dark and the whole world seems somehow less perilous, softened in the gloom.

I got the light and I walked.

My ears plugged with earbuds and Donald Fagen cooing in his Jersey know-it-all, adenoidal snarl.

A car raced around another heading west on Canal and abruptly cut across. In the space of about half a second I formed the following distinct thoughts, apprehensible as gradual stages in some deliberate process of realization or at least of coming to terms:

1. That car can't possibly be coming at me.
2. Can it?
3. Is that car coming right at me?
4. I mean, right at me?
5. At full speed?

I broke into an awkward, loping gallop, three steps maybe, just enough for the demon car to squeal past my back, not slowing nor swerving nor honking nor giving the least indication.

I exploded into motion, it occurs to me now, the way they said that new defensive tackle the Eagles drafted, the way they like him for his explosiveness, and I thought at the time, what a dumb football cliché, explosiveness.

To explode into motion. All the requisite muscles suddenly and completely given to the task of displacement at the instigation of a subconscious or superconscious thought.

When it was over and I reached the other side of the street, I thought, What now?