Friday, December 28, 2007

We observed a couple arguing, from above. In a balcony café at Heathrow. She gestured with her cell phone and indicated it to him a few times. Like it was part of the issue. He barely said a word the whole time, just hovered, facing her. Sometimes retreating a step or two, sometimes coming closer to her face. We speculated, something with another woman. It seemed to be a bit more dire than you were late. Sometimes it seemed she became depleted and spun around as though to walk away. But where would she go without him? They were together. Finally she walked to the departures board, for no real reason but to go where he was not. He waited a few beats, too proud to follow her like a dog. But then he did, and they walked off together where we couldn't see.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Can a pot appear incongruous on a stove?

On the way to Paris I awoke all contorted, my face pressed to the flimsy plastic around the window. I tried to assess how I felt on all counts. Little sleep, bad food, booze, cold medicine. Echoes of a half-watched movie heard through tinny headphones. I decided I felt quite bad. I found that my forehead bore a film of cold sweat. I thought I was about to puke on a plane for the first time since I was a kid. I thought a while about this, whether it was likely to occur. I contemplated the scope of my misery and the consequences of losing control. There were no airsickness bags. I considered the terrible prospect of erupting helplessly into a convulsion, coughing and choking bile and airplane food onto my lap, my shirt, the floor, the seat in front of me. The humiliation. It’d be substantial. Less if I had something better to puke into than my hands. But this would require acknowledging the degree of my malaise, and so make it more real. Finally I turned and asked Sara for something to vomit into, and she produced a small and then – as if on second thought – a much larger Ziploc bag. Immediately I felt better, gripping it loosely between my fingers and my knees. And suddenly I felt the soft jolt, and heard the groan, of tires meeting tarmac, and we were taxiing in, and I was alright. And an hour later as we sat and waited for our flight to London, I was hungry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I lay in bed last night begging for some rest, my head beginning to my body dream resisting. The sour presence of the grippe at the back of my throat, my nose leaking, breaths shallow and unsatisfying.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our windows were pelted last night by wave upon wave of sleet. It would ebb and flow, not like the tides but patchily, like the moods of an irascible child.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It was Jim R.’s last day today. “Not big on long goodbyes,” he proclaimed in his e-mail. It had a terse dignity I have to say. And of course there was the volley of effusive reply-all best wishes, exclamation marks everywhere, the whole nine. He made his rounds at closing time. We made small talk about I can stay on his farm in Ireland, he’ll put me to work, ha ha. There was the handshake. “Happy travels,” I declared lamely. “I’m not that big on long goodbyes,” he said as he walked away sideways. “Goodbye,” we said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saw two women on Fifth Avenue today. One was wearing a knee-length, black, North Face winter coat and I realized the other one was too. I was thinking that’s pretty weird, they’re wearing the same coats. And then I thought, they got the same eyelashes, too. The same pale skin and slightly round faces. And eyes. Same eyes. Same dark hair. And then I noticed they were wearing exactly the same navy pants and the same black leather boots. Must there be some mistake? They were adult identical twins, dressed exactly the same. It got me thinking about twins. At its extreme, it is two versions of the same person manifested in the world. One person with two bodies. You figure these two, they live together, probably sleep in the same bed.

This is quite a thought once you think on it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Down among the rats and roaches and the paper cups, the dusty, oily dark around the subway tracks, were strewn six or so compact disks, gleaming, holding unknown worlds of data. One of them was cracked.
I read with prurient interest the article in the Times about the kid who shot up the mall in Omaha – the article titled and positioned in such a manner so as not to appear to be catering to prurient interests. His suicide notes were perplexing and ultimately infuriating. They’re not reprinted in their entirety in the Times – the more profane passages I had to find elsewhere – but the first thing that struck me was their melodramatic quality. I love you momma, I love you dad. I love my friends, you’re all the best friends ever. I’m so sorry. Sorry for being a burden. Remember the good times. He seems to want to end it all on a sort of conciliatory, salutary note, and he expresses this in the bland, clichéd terms one might employ in a greeting card, or a yearbook message to the kid in class you only ever pretended to like. Maybe he doesn’t have the literary faculties to write something more interesting or profound, but you might at least expect it to be honest. Man, you’re about to kill X number of people in a shopping mall. A highly radical act, not defensible by any stretch but explainable, at least in some sense, by the actor himself. Even if the explanation were that there is no explanation – that’d be a start. He could have said anything. He could have cited the inherent worthlessness of human beings. He could have said he hated their mall-going, shit-buying ways. He could have said he was doing this for no reason, or that he thought it might be fun, or that he wanted to be famous (he betrays this, actually, in one sentence to his friends). But mostly it’s all self-pitying, aw-I-love-you-all, I-just-have-to-do-this-now claptrap. The words are weak and the thinking is weak – which is weird because the act itself, of course, is strong. All we get by way of explanation for what’s to come is this: “I just want to take a few pieces of shit with me.” So the murderous rampage is an afterthought to the suicide, and the suicide note is a request for forgiveness before the fact. It’s all ass-backwards. Man, if you do love anyone, if you’re telling them you’re sorry, if you expect any kind of credit for your words of atonement – then don’t do it. It’s not complicated – just crumple up the note and head back to group therapy. And failing that – if you’re going to go be a mall killer no matter what I say – at least write something interesting in your final message to the world of the living. Is it because you hate us that much that you didn’t? Or is it because you hate yourself?

Friday, December 07, 2007

A poison cloud of paranoia swept over our little enterprise, recently acquired by the big enterprise. Our software application had requested from an end user a conversational interaction on the topic of oral sex, that was clear. How to explain how such a thing could occur? And how to credibly assert that it would never, ever occur again? We spent the better part of the day battening down the hatches, playing whack-a-mole with profane insults, lascivious vocabulary, insinuative digressions within the code.

The higher-ups had a degree of concern, and a blind, clumsy authority that could annihilate us all. The mucky-mucks.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

At the Channel 4 Pub on 48th Street they make a nice French dip. I’m in the mode of ordering it each time we go there from work for a semi-inebriated lunch. An echo of the career NBC men who probably did or maybe still do come here every single fucking day and order the exact same fucking sandwich from whichever Irish waitress is floating in from JFK that month plus three scotches on the rockses. It’s a no-fucking-around type place, workmanlike, with Arsenal and Aston Villa on the tube. When you order a bottle of wine, you don’t order the bottle but the varietal. Today we had the cab.

On the walk back John noted that a woman was trying to cross the street coming our way. A box-blocking cabbie deterred her and she turned on her heels and walked straight up Sixth Avenue in the opposite direction. Her life will now be completely transformed.

A pang of paranoia shot through my former team today as reports surfaced in the UK that one of their online chat bots was propositioning one and all for oral sex. All a lexical mistake, of course. Glitch in the code. But it had the project manager in question fearful for his job. He absented himself today with a quizzical e-mail to the entire floor. But the sky’s not really falling on anyone’s head, not yet, at least. I think.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Patriots won again tonight, goddammit, but the thing about winning all the time is this: all’s there’s left to do is lose. I thought I’d say this poignant thing cuz they lost tonight but instead I’m saying it cuz they won.

Who was that drug-running dictator, Noriega? The wide, pockmarked face. The impassive air, subtly tinged with menace. He fixes salad at the salad station below my work, now. Guy looks just like him. Is that why I don’t care for him much? More likely it’s the way he grips fistfuls of salad ingredients in his surgical-gloved hand, almost defiantly, like, Fuck off, I’m not using the tongs. Gringo. My brother got paid a dollar an hour to pick these tomatoes and I’m getting ten to pick ‘em back at you.

Which I appreciate. I’m a bourgeois yada yada. But when you put the corn, the bacon, the tofu and the chickpeas in your mitt like that it all acquires the same briny, sour savor. And here I am back upstairs under the fluorescent lights going, yuck. I’ll never eat from the salad station below my work again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Treats

I paused today before an array of leftover baked treats in the office and inhaled deeply its intriguing odor. It was a morning selection, cast by mysterious hands onto the long and wide credenza across from the main door, as usual, at the conclusion of some catered meeting. Muffins, granola, honey, yogurt, bagel halves of various types and their cream cheese accompaniments: a ludicrous boat of chive-flavored on a bed of lettuce leaves, ornamented by wan tomato slices, and a bowl of individual Philadelphia brand portions which some reptilian part of me considered stealing a handful from to bring home and populate the top shelf of our refrigerator door until God knows when or what.

But I did not.

The odor: a sticky, sickly sweetness with a trace of something sour. I breathed deep, contemplating it and the place it put me, in the middle of the sixth floor of this Midtown office building, beside a gray sea of cubicles, one of which I could call my own.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I went outside and I saw a helicopter.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I muttered fuck all the way to work and realized all I was really saying was kvuh.

Kvuh, kvuh, kvuh, kvuh, kvuh.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

There were pockets of bad traffic on the ride home and I spent the better part of such helpless, agonizing minutes fantasizing about not letting anyone into my lane. It was the type of ride, the Stones were shuffling on the iPod and I was growing amazed at what a terrible band they were. We stopped at a McDonald’s rest stop on I-95. An older, white man in a cap and bad sneakers got out of his pickup truck beside us and trudged toward the entrance. Why is everyone at a McDonald’s on I-95 always an older, white man in a cap and bad sneakers? We regained the clotted highway and I looked around for cars to hate. It was good to get back to the City.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The strident and explosive buffoonery on the sidelines and JumboTron were occassionally interrupted for a few seconds of solemn, nearly ritualistic activity: the football game. The quarterback emerging from below center, the clack of helmet upon helmet, quarterback dropping back, dropping back; his linemen endeavoring breathlessly to block without holding, more clacks and dull thuds as some level their assignments to the turf, a wobbly screen pass and then - some linebacker meets him with his uneasy embrace; a safety comes to his assistance, and it's over.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Our seats were on the north side of the stadium and we found ourselves half blinded in hot, yellow sun. I sensed it searing my forehead as we scrutinized the field, awash in golden haze, and tried to discern the movements of the shadowy figures upon it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An old woman so old womanly, progressing through the entrance to the 72nd Street subway station. Her respiration discernible only by seismometer. She still knew, somehow, to place one foot against the earth and press. And then the next. She had a severe hunch, giving her head the appearance that it had somehow retreated into her chest. Thoughts of, this is a human being. This is what occurs after some time. I thought, maybe she's in the process of living forever.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We live in a sea of serial numbers, tracking numbers, radio frequency IDs. Of things reduced to the purest abstraction. The closest we can come to effectively representing an object is via an obscure and breathless spray of digits and letters, beyond math, beyond language.

This is how we get closer to God.

You have to reason your way through the question out loud, they told the contestant before the show. You have to think out loud.
At the Halloween parade, as puppets swung over the heads of the crowd, people climbed up on the traffic light posts and entwined their arms around the fixtures for the walk/don't walk signs. To get a better purchase. To get a better view. Their faces would glow red awhile, and then bluish white. Men and women in skeleton body suits. Figures from the comics page and figures from the screen.

I came home to watch some of the "The War" on PBS. It occurred to me for the first time that the 9/11 bombers were nothing more – nothing less – than kamikaze pilots. This was nothing new. Nothing no one'd faced before, you think about it. They're vested with the curious, solemn authority of the sacrificial rite, all the more daunting as they're sprung from another civilization, another, more ancient, mode of thinking. But in the end it's just a pile of ashes and debris to sweep into a pile and a dead body, or a few, that you need not mourn.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The outside walls and columns of 30th Street Station extended high into an abnormally hot and blue October sky. I wondered what terrific and earnest work must have been involved in their erection. Italian stonecutters and laborers of every breed. If you removed a column, would the stone canopy above us fall? It didn't seem so. What if you removed them all? Even then. Everything seemed fixed in place by some immutable, ethereal force. It was stronger than a building: it was an idea. Below it cabs of various colors, many two-tone, drove in and out to pick up fares.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I decided to watch the last quarter of the Eagles game at our new bar, Dive 75. Beside me sat a couple, seemed like regulars. Someone else joined them and asked the obligatory questions, what've you done this weekend.

"I had the twelve-hour flu," the guy said. "You've heard of the twenty-four-hour flu. I had the twelve-hour flu."

He seemed all right to me. Prolly fully recovered. Did seem a tiny bit jaundiced though. Had that salty-eye look we've all been cultivating, what with the bars we frequent and the happenstance foods.

The Eagles stood up on defense, unlike last week. Last week is a story for tomorrow.

I left my tip and left a bit furtively, out to the crisp, fall air around the street.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I'm coming down with affluenza.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Day the World Turned Upside Down - 2

He shuffled to the window and stood up to it, terrified by what might have darkened the morning. He looked up at what he thought would be the sky and saw a ceiling of grass, ornamented with bands of cement and wider ones of tar. Trees and bushes hung down, their leaves and branches reaching toward the dark.

He looked down. There was an immense chasm, a vast, gray maw; it made a sound everywhere like a great inhalation.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Just a Fucking Thing That Happened

Funny thing about mutation, natural selection and evolution: Even the most rational, science minded among us want to believe it's all pointing somewhere, that there's some kind of irreproachable merit to the process, some kind of reason if not design. Funny thing is, there isn't. A mutation - a generally unhappy thing - occurs by accident. And because accidents are governed by chance, very occasionally it's not unhappy. Others fail to reproduce and we have evolution. But there's it's neither here nor there. It's just a fucking thing that happened.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

One day shortly after I moved in in a pile of dark debris materialized on our roof deck. Old iron ladder fragments, trapezoids of bent, heavy grating. Elements of the roof itself, it seemed, fixtures of the building itself, regurgitated before us. In the middle of it all, a twisted and weatherworn deck chair, pressed into two dimensions.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Day the World Turned Upside Down - 1

There was some kind of parade going on outside.

"What is it?" she said.

A muffled cacophony of whistles, drums and tubas.

"I don't know. Italian Day?"

"There's no such thing as Italian Day."

"I was only joking."

From their perspective on the bed they saw the Star-Spangled Banner floating by. A little jumpily so you could tell someone was holding it up.

"There goes the American flag anyway," she said.

A moment passed.

"Should we check it out?" he said.

"I can't move," she said. "I'm full to bursting with banana pancake."

Another moment. Then –

"Do you think –" he said, but then and there they were plunged toward the ceiling that they had for many months beheld together; they fell heavily upon it, the plaster cool and hard beneath their naked flesh, and the futon and frame bounced once on their backs, and came to a smothering rest upon them. He hit his nose and mouth, unable in his bewilderment to put his arms before his face. She fell a bit more on her shoulder, as she'd been facing him a little in their bed, her hand on his chest. They thrashed and cursed beneath their burden.



They managed to crawl out either side and face each other above the bottom of the frame. A deep murmur of dismay and terror emerged within her and rolled into a moan. The sound of someone sliding over a precipice.

"What the fuck just happened?!" she said.

He got up on his knees without an answer. She crawled around the mattress to him and was momentarily distracted from her dread by the sight of blood dripping down his chin and falling in rich drops upon the milky white ceiling, wispy with webs.

"Are you OK, baby?"

"Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah."

"Baby," she said, "we're upside down."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Waiting in Line at the Post Office

One postal worker stopped cold in the middle of the sun-bleached lobby, behind where we stood in line. He barked something that to me was incomprehensible. I could see now that he was facing a man at the end of our line. He jabbed his finger vaguely at him, then turned around. Another worker was walking up behind him. He, too, addressed the man in line. "Don't make me come over there!" The man did not appear to respond. I scrutinized him. He was a thin man of about thirty, clean shaven, with strong, angular facial features and somewhat unkempt hair. "Are you going to behave?" This time he responded with a quick, compliant nod. "You not gonna bother nobody?" Another nod. The worker turned and went on his way. Few others in line seemed to notice or care. A couple minutes later the man suddenly jutted his right arm into the air and snapped his fingers loudly, twice, accompanying this with a faint, gulping vocalism, and I realized he was a Tourette's sufferer, known to the staff of this post office.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I saw by far the strangest-dressed people I've ever seen before, three of them, sitting apart on the other side of the subway and quite unaware of each other. A woman with a jeweled black tank top over a white blouse, tuxedo-style black pants and bright white sneakers. A man with the navy sweat shorts of some school's athletic department, a pinstriped navy blue Oxford shirt, gray socks and worn, brown Oxford shoes. A man in a fine gray suit and white dress shirt, the jacket well-tailored. Except. His pants reached only to mid-calf. He wore some standard businessman's dress shoes. He wore no socks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The chlorinated atmosphere of the swimming pool was suddenly suffused with the aroma of fresh angel's food cake. Sweet, warm and yellow as the sun. A man who resembled Ben Kingsley and was stretching by the locker room door spoke.

"That smells delicious."

From my labors in the wet I raised my head. He was addressing the lifeguard, a young light-skinned black guy, kind of husky and hunched over a cardboard box at his table. I thought I perceived a golden crumb or two upon his chin but maybe, who knows.

He laughed, and said something. And then his countenance turned neutral once again, like a light turned off, and he bent his head to continue eating cake.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The warmth and faint viscosity of late-summer lakewater.

The dry pine needles and hot, hot gravel underfoot.

A ride in the car, to town, to buy some beer and corn.

The raft, or what do you call it, the float. The cold and probably murky water underneath, forbidding, like the space below the bed, you were a kid.

The profusion of tin foil. Enfolding unappealing charred and gray leftovers off the grill.

The sunset and later, stars.

Thin plywood walls to keep separate the cabin's drowsy inhabitants from the mosquitos and the dew.

The loons with their nearly human cry.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Precipitously it became Friday and I tried to reconstruct the week.

Tuesday night I went downtown.

John and I were going to see Badly Drawn Boy at some tent or something at the South Street Seaport so we got in a cab and disembarked on those cobblestoned and narrow streets, narrowed further by the burrowing ConEd crews and scaffolds; that other city down there.

There's a mall down there you go into, a cheap one. A perfunctory place. Beyond terraced tourist traps along the boardwalk. And empty, like no one ever goes there, or maybe it was just too late, but what's the difference. The true Mall of America.

We walked through, lost. Zoltar the Seer stood frozen in his booth beside a grove of hardy atrium plants.

He looked like my older brother's ceramic Ringo Starr piggy bank from way back then.

Just then an older black man leaned over the balcony on the floor above. The tent is that way, he said.

The show was very good and their lead singer seemed a little crazy.

A strange and sparse crowd, in this peculiar, circular, circus tent, a bar and tables around its perimeter. One guy, straighter than you could believe, a suit and tie, shave and a haircut, two bits. He had a woman with him, tonguing his ear. Or was it a woman? Clutching his neck. Was it a man? She pawed his tailored-pantsed ass. A monster? Replicant? She'd lift her nyloned leg and hug his trunk a little in her knee.

Was she a building? Or a tree?

A motorcycle.

There was in fact some babbly debate about her. What she was. Some had it that she was a whore. And the debate reverberated until it seemed one person, one guy.

John wanted to kick some guy's ass.

He said something to the effect and I nodded and smiled noncommittally and sucked a piece of ice from the bottom of my whiskey.

We left before the second encore.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What's really in the Dibs ice cream bonbons container that the bag-burdened woman sitting beside me on the train was holding and then placed on the seat between us?

Probably a live scarab.

A woman across from me has a big, black leather bag and tall leather boots and she reminds me of PC's friend Sean, an animal rights vegetarian in a void, wearing pleather shoes and quietly forgoing the boiled and fried meats that we'd routinely jam into our drunken maws before the crépuscule. He'd have lots of plain pizza I guess, so lived no more healthily than us.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I heard the crack of the impact of heavy raindrops on the air conditioning unit outside the window early this morning and as usual I had a hard time believing it was rain. I remember thinking through my half-sleep, That can't be the rain. But then there was a flash of lightning that shone through the blinds and a mighty boom and so I knew it was.

In the morning getting up, as usual. Sara had left already and called to say the trains weren't running. When I went out the world was sunny, hot, and the air was thick, and swarms of people drifted lazily into each others' way like bees drunk on nectar. I walked two blocks east and then back again to take a cab to work.

I noticed a corner of Madison Square Garden is named after Joe Louis and I wondered how I'd never noticed it before. There was his name white on blue.

You could forget about the bus.

A barker was giving away free papers. Two cops walked by smiling. New York cops seem to like it when things are just a bit fucked up.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I awoke and paused until my dreams had settled like a dew.

I'll work backwards, gingerly. Delving careful. First there was a moment, just passed. And then my drowsy evening. And with its lazy reading. I'll progress to the ride back home from work, but first honor digression.

It's funny that the Jazz Age has become a symbol of the old. Anytime anyone on TV or anywhere wants to evoke old-fashionedness, old-timeyness, and all the rest of it, well, it's flappers flappin' and big, ol' cars splashin' through the streets, honking horns; people walkin' herky-jerky, speeded-up like Keystone Cops, antlike & funny at the feet of a looming Art Deco monolith. You see that and your button's been pushed: You recognize the old. But of course it should represent the new. Is there anything newer, in fact, than that era, in which we were catapulted most vigorously and unambiguously into the future? In which life really did accelerate, and society changed down to its every recess, transforming art, religion, politics and sex? And yet we see a grainy, shaky newsreel from back then, its stentorian narrator relating some catastrophic disaster at sea plus lawn tennis results – the birth of our absurdity – and we think, Aw, how quaint, the old. Really, the old should be, say, 1840. I mean, take your pick, of course, yesterday is yesterday. But why not a time before industry, before mass media, before emancipation and before trains? Not just before the war; before the wars. Now that's fucking old. But the reason we aim squarely for the new when we think "old" is very simple. The early 20th century was the first period to be recorded by that automatic metaphor we all adore: the movies. Film changed the way we saw and thought about the world, the way we experienced time and history, and thereby started it anew. And this world was so new it must now be consigned to antiquity. The timeline's been redrawn to its right. It is the new antiquity, the new Year Zero, the new Genesis. In the beginning was the lights, camera, action.

I gave a young woman directions to Little Italy before I went down to the train. I hope I didn't get her lost. She was standing there in her glasses, and her little sister there beside her, with her glasses too, and I couldn't decide which one to look at for a moment.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I like to wonder at the motivations of the characters in my dreams.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It Will All Be Over Presently

What we have now with this Tivo, with this DVR, what you want to call it: We have these new, strange interludes in life. When we're pushing the fast-forward through the ads. It's preferable to watching the ads, of course – well, I suppose. But sometimes there you are for quite some time. Thing pointed to the screen and thumb depressing. Litanies of images flash by: A cliff. A face. A dog. A car. And all in silence. And if you have a companion, there you are both.

It will all be over presently, but still.
I awoke and raked up the scattered leaves of dreams. There was a rat-tat-tat outside the blinds and I wondered, could this be the rain? I kind of wanted it to be the rain but I could not be sure it wasn't the sporadic rattle of the air conditioner. Sometimes it did that and you had to whap it.

I arose in darkness.

I performed my ablutions thinking all the time, Performing my ablutions.

It was only when I went online that I knew the weather: heavy rain. So now I know about the sound, I thought. And I went downstairs without a hat or coat, with no umbrella. John was at the desk.

"Hi John."

He waited half a beat as usual. "Good morning, sir." His mumble took me out the door, into the vestibule. Soon I would be soaked through to the skin.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The toothpaste fell off the shelf and glanced off the tumbler with the toothbrushes and clattered down around the toilet.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

To consider that for months and months, years I suppose, the pressure built up in a pipe under Lexington Avenue. As we all walked blithely by. Going to the glasses place, the nails place. Going to the train. Going to work and going home. Then boom.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fuck You

My dad was telling me about old Uncle Austin. He was a painter and ceramicist of some talent. Tiles. Mosaics.

"He was a character," he said.


"Once when they were living in France and we were living in Switzerland they came to visit. It was nice they came so far away. We had tea. And cakes. It was a lovely time. He took out his wallet and I tried to stop him. They were our guests, after all. And he just said, Fuck you."
I just kept staring at the upside-down people in her glass. Bodies distended, bubbles of bloat running up, down their bodies, depending on where they stood.

In the airport waiting room they're babbling senseless things over the PA, nobody gives a fuck.

I felt a terrible malaise come over me in the plane, a visceral unhappiness with the food I'd eaten, with my position in the seat, the cold air blowing in my face. I was happy to sleep on the long, long cab ride into town. Raising, lowering the window at the midday heat. Traffic jams. Hip hop blaring from some truck. I landed in my hotel bed and had six long hours of jetlag sleep, tossing and turning from dreams.

Later I struggled up and out to see Weezie. Table on the sidewalk. Not feeling so good. Waiter told us his boyfriend came from Iowa.

"Middle, middle..." he said.

"Midwest?" I offered.

"Middle of nowhere."

I strained to drink an entire Belgian white beer with its lime hidden in the foam. I ordered a plate of crudités and picked at it glumly, contemplating with some revulsion its drizzle of thick vinaigrette and occasionally winding a strand of cabbage around the fork and placing it in the mouth for chewing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dave had a formidable orthodontic contraption around his face. I seem to remember wire extending out either side of his mouth, giving him a perpetual lunatic smile; a web of gauzy, elastic material holding everything from behind his head and tousling his hair; an elaborate system of metal braces, wax and fleshy plastic retainers, all lathered in spit, embedded in his mouth like some long-entrenched parasite.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dinner in the Bronx

Welcome to Yankee Stadium. An establishment founded a hundred years or so ago by Mr. George Ruth. Legendary gastronome. Peerless bon vivant.

May I interest you in some appetizers this evening? We're featuring a firm corn tortilla, presented in artful shards and accompanied by a distinctive, lukewarm sauce. It is a cheese sauce, to be frank. But it is a subtle sauce, evocative of myriad things, not least the shifting savors of the kitchen, shall we say. I mean, we like to say. It's our chef's first foray into Mexican-American fusion cuisine and I happen to be of the opinion that mere words can't describe it.

Yes, it's a favorite.

Heading East! If you're in the mood for something simpler though no less substantial, allow me to recommend a savory pastry of Austrian origin. We take a dense dough. We roll it and form it into a whimsical knot. Then I think we boil it or something, but anyway, it's great. Hmm? Oh, cold. It's served cold. Like revenge.

Fucking Sox.


It's seasoned with a generous coating of rock salt, if you think that might float yer boat.

Many aficionados favor a mustard topping. If you are so inclined, might I recommend the Gulden's? Spicy brown? Not the French's, for Christ's Jesus sake. We're in New York. Deli style, baby.

Perhaps you're in the mood for something a little lighter, for the table? In that case let me draw your attention to a perennial classic of the carte. Peanuts, in a word. That's right. Peanuts in the shell from our fine, fine nut purveyor, Bazzini Nuts of Downtown Manhattan, founded in eighteen-God-knows-what. They are dusted with a fine and silty layer of salt. You heard me right.

At this juncture in time I feel it is incumbent upon me to signal to you that these peanuts may have been processed and packaged in a facility that processes and packages peanuts. Just to say. This is the allergy era, after all. I do not want to have to stick no one with no goddamn EpiPen, motherfucker. Please. Thank you. Alright.

And for the main course! I need not tell you that the specialty of the house is the frankfurter sausage. Your choices are: Hebrew National, Empire Kosher, Glatt Kosher, Imperial Hebrew, Glatt National, National Imperial, Empire Glatt, Glatt Glatt, Kosher Emperor, Kosher Hebrew, Glatt Emperor, Empire Nation – wait, that's not one, sorry – Hebrew Empire, Kosher Nation, Grand Imperial Wizard and Nathan's.

Again, please – the Gulden's.

Sauer-? Sorry, no. Sorry, I must insist. No. We don't – shh! – we don't have. No. In fact – I'm sorry – we don't ever, we don't breathe that word here. Ever. Rules of the house.

We do seek to honor the immigrants who have made this country great. First off, the Italians. Let me tell you, they do a thing with a flat piece of dough and a little bit of red sauce and some cheese. It's of an unmatched succulence. We entertained bids from scores of thousands of contractors and decided – well, "decided" might not quite be the word – it was prevailed upon us to select the fine family of Famiglia family restaurants to present to our diners a monumental accomplishment of tri-state area ethnic culture: the slice. I beg your pardon? No, that's not a typo. Thirteen dollars and seventy-five cents.

Let's not forget the Chinese and their foods that are saturated in glory. You know right away when you order something from our Wok 'n' Roll menu that you're going to get something old and something new. Something clean and something dirty. I think they call it "yang" and "yin." It's like, opposites attract. Salt and sugar. Animal and vegetable. Mineral, artificial. And when I say they, I mean them. You know. The Chinese. The lo mein in that steam tray is the product of a civilization that's thousands of years old. Gives me the chills, frankly.

Shall we discuss some beer pairings? Wonderful! The discriminating connoisseur will be delighted to see that we have a selection of beers from – are you ready for this? – around the world! You heard me correctly. Let's see we, they, our selection includes choices from... uh... England. That's one. Germany, Holland... Belgium, I think. And... Mexico. That's correct. And there's one from one of those fucking ex-commie countries too, like maybe Poland or France. And Australia too, and I think China or Japan. One or the other. That's around the world, right?

If you're in a patriotic mood we are offering a slop bucket brimming with Miller Lite and lidded in tin foil.

I have absolutely no fucking idea.

May I outline the desserts? The first one's more of a palate cleanser – enjoy it between courses! Soft, frozen, lemonade. Never did Bacchus feast on finer ambrosia. It's like someone took a delightfully refreshing summer drink and said, "It should be thicker." Genius works in mysterious ways.

Speaking of genius, let me draw your attention to what is perhaps the pièce de résistance of our entire menu. It is – oh boy, what to say, what to say. It represents a stupendous technological achievement and you can see that I'm quite breathless just trying to describe it.

Ladies and gentlemen, let Adria play with his foam – we have the future of ice cream. That's correct. Small, hyperfrozen pellets, at first glance fit for guinea pigs or hamsters. But no. No, no, no, no, no! They're for people. Yes. The ice cream of the future for the people of the present – I ask you, is there no bass-drum-beating tail to the parade of wonders that grace our age? Consider yourselves the luckiest diners in the world.

And plus you get it in a little helmet.

We stop at nothing. Nothing!

And, oh yeah – enjoy the game.

I Hate the All-Star Game

I hate the All-Star Game and all its dreary preambles. This midyear puncture in the illusion that a team is a team, a rivalry might be for real, or that the outcome of a game might be like dying. Who are these smug, slack players in their unfamiliar stripes? Who says we need a respite from the exquisite escapism of the sport itself? Any such event only serves to undermine our suspension of disbelief, to defy our faith that the balls and strikes and runs and outs are all that matter. Home run derby my ass. Good for Bonds for not participating. Worse than everything is the air of lazy bonhomie. It's like we had a baseball season and then a corporate team-building exercise broke out. Stop patting each other's asses, Yankee and Red Sock. We all know it's all a game, but do we need to have that fact be dunked in candy and swung hypnotically before our eyes?
I swam lazily today, like Mao swam in the Yangtze, my corpulence made discreet and graceful by the water's buoyant prism. Head stuck straight up like some proud and unselfconscious bird. The timid breast stroke, in all its glory.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Through the night I had tossed and turned the sheet into a ball which now lay by my side. In between my dreams I thought, My deconstructed bed. Here I am in my deconstructed bed.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Car after car would appear, one at a time in quick succession, or spread apart so you didn't know when one'd magically appear again. Once they appeared almost paired, attached – when Fisichella looked like he was on top of Coulthard's car and Coulthard was the one found to be unfairly blocking. It was like having a car heaved towards your lap.

I had hot sensations about my face. The excitement and the beer, surely.

We saw Kimi poke his nose out of Rascasse and stop abruptly, weirdly, short of the wall. A funny echo of Schumacher's move the year before, when you think about it. Schumacher, that unrepentant motherfucker, pretended to lose control and parked it, expertly, a few centimeters from the wall in exactly the same spot, drawing out the yellow flags and ruining Fernando Alonso's last gasp at pole. "Who me, what?" he protested disingenuously, grotesquely. It was pure, sinister brio, an example of beautiful failure in the service of success. Fail, but fail by just the right degree and you succeed ten times. Counterintuitive genius. But in fact he paid a price – he was penalized to the back of the grid for his ruse yet, irony upon irony, struggled valiantly to fifth place. A performance somehow more commendable because he'd been given his medicine for being so arrogant, and had choked on it, yet performed brilliantly with its taste still in his mouth. And so here's Schumi's replacement, Kimi Raikkonen, to try to fill those big, lead shoes. Everyone wondered: Now that Kimi's got Schumacher's car, will he finally prove himself to be just as good? Or better? And instead he struggled – he won his first race but then he disappointed, frequently qualifying and starting a bit worse than you'd expect. And today, in a moment of sublime symmetry, he tagged the Ferrari's brittle suspension against a wall and lost it slowly, and for good, in exactly the spot where Schumacher exercised his deliberate, devious mischief. Kimi's car emerged sidewise, pointed perpendicular to the wall. He somehow managed to lurch it into reverse and create a path for his teammate, Felipe Massa, to pass a few moments later. That hard-won and unremarkable accomplishment was practically his only one that weekend – also, from sixteenth and he clawed his way back to eighth for a single point, yet another faint echo of his predecessor.

At the end of qualifying I looked and Sara and noticed she had a few dark specks on her cheek and forehead.

"You have something on your face," she said.

"You do too," I said.

It was burning oil from the backs of race cars.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A moth got in the subway car somehow and its incongruous presence caused some alarm in the large, black woman seated to my left. Batting at the air around the flitting thing. Then a strange, strange thing happened. A Latino junkie across the way fell into his nod at the very moment the moth flew at him, slowly sliding off his seat, but it awoke him on its way by like it was a pinch of fairy dust. He sat upright, squinting straight ahead. The man beside him said, "Where you goin'?" and the junkie mumbled Bronx.

"This don't go to the Bronx," the man said. We were approaching 125th now and the man got up. "It go to... two-hundred seventh."

"Two-hundred seventh," echoed the other black woman to the other side of me.

The junkie grunted and made a small, dismissive gesture of the hand. Like, don't worry 'bout me.

"If you wanna go to the Bronx, you gotta get out here," the man insisted, standing at the door now. "Take the one."

No response.

"Be careful, man. You in Harlem."
Then another car erupted into its agonized whine. It was David Coulthard's car. We heard it wind its way around the track, echoey. As we sat at the last corner I kept expecting it to emerge when in fact it had a longer ways to go. Then suddenly it came 'round Rascasse and raced before us with an urgency. All navy blue and red and yellow. Zigzagging a little as it turned away from us, backfiring, backfiring into the distance.

Ahead of me in line at the Duane Reade, a teacher buying boxes upon boxes of chalk and a pack of Pall Malls; I thought school was out.

The thing about the Grateful Dead is either you really, really love 'em or you really, really hate 'em. You can't say the same of, let's say, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Can you? Or Dire Straits. The Cars? OK, Fleetwood Mac. Forgive me if I've named a band you really, really love. That'll happen. Or you really, really hate. But I think you know what I mean – whether you really, really love the Dead or really, really hate 'em. You know who you are. No other band has such a dynamic sweep in the public's perceptions. No band is so polarizing. And that's neither a good thing nor a bad thing, of course, but permit me to assert that it's interesting.

The truth is the Dead have a fundamental weakness and I know what it is. When you ask someone who hates the Dead what they hate they might say, "I hate the jamming."

Fair enough. "Do you hate jazz?"

"No, I love jazz."

"Well, jazz is jamming."

"You're right. It's not the jamming, it's the... it's the... it's the... aimless jamming. It's the noodling. I fucking hate it."

Now we're getting somewhere. The Dead's jams are aimless and they do noodle. And here's why.

Jerry Garcia was strongly, philosophically, disinclined to assert a theme. This was so deeply ingrained, evidently, in his personal philosophy and his musical philosophy that it is practically inescapable in either, and his considerable charisma in both realms ensured that others would adapt their strategies to his (forget everything you ever heard him say about the Dead being a "leaderless" band or how a drummer might lead them – that's yet more evidence of his aversion to assertion. But in that way, he asserted.). So whereas a great jazz improviser – Herbie Hancock let's say, or John Coltrane, or a thousand others – might stumble upon a theme and grab it by the balls, play it for all it was worth, play it hungrily, like it was the last musical notion they'd ever get again; when Jerry or anyone else in the Dead for that matter would cross paths with a theme they would leave it alone. They would curiously, agonizingly almost, yield to the imaginary space it occupied; they might indicate it; perhaps allude to it; but they would just about never seize it. The Grateful Dead's music, their improvisation that is (it being the aspect of their music that is most recognizably theirs) is a chronicle of frustrations, of incompletion, of allusion. Of metaphor. My fondest moments of the Dead's music are characterized by an ineffable, bittersweet melancholy: they are brief, they die upon the threshold of the ear; they describe a huge longing, a space far greater in every dimension than we have ever perceived, but they don't and can't quite take us there, because to take us there would be the end of everything. They flirt and tease, agonizingly; they tickle the itch. Where other improvisers hold a lamp and the best among them are a lighthouse, Jerry Garcia is a firefly, unpredictably aflame and never alighting anywhere.

This I love, love, love, love, love and others hate.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

As we walked along the streets and past the barricades to our section of the track the din of engines ebbed into the whine of a solitary car, more poignant still as you could discern its progress around the slower turns and down the straightaways, its sound bouncing off of buildings and the rock beneath the Palace. And by the time we reached our seats the track was silent; that last car had since gone in from practice and we were left with mystery, like do the cars exist?
It seemed like not bad an idea to strip naked and run crazy down the street, banging the windows of passing cars, or to get a grilled chicken sandwich from the dark deli.

"I'm obsessed with them," said Britt.

"OK," I said.

The prices on the daily sandwich special signs taped to the deli case were drawn to look like the numbers on a calculator. Someone had painstakingly. Those blocky numbers, with the segments. At the bottom of these sloppy signs.

Britt had said it was unclear how much they'd charge you for the sandwich.

"They charge me four dollars and thirty-six cents," she said. "But they charge Tom three dollars and sixty-five cents."

They charged me four eighty-eight.

It was a hot day, hot fucking hot. And the AC in our office went out awhile and there was some issue with the door alarm so that it went "WEEEEEEEEEEEEE" and you just had to, you had to cover your ears. All day John pacing in the cramped confines of his cubicle proclaiming the energy in the office to be strange.

Out West there were developments afoot, an entire group being welcomed below our umbrella of products and services or is it just products or is it just services. Or a single product or a service. An entire, new group being subsumed that frankly seemed vaster than our own. That seemed a superset of the set it entered. "Welcome, welcome!" Higher-ups writing those five-paragraph e-mails. Thinkin' they're rallying the troops. One of them cocksuckers wrote something like, "Let's continue to have fun with what we do," with the bold and the italics, and it was about as convincing as a cuckolded husband saying please continue to love me with your body, baby.

Monday, June 25, 2007

We went up to see Shakespeare last night, at Boscobel, across the river from West Point. We could sit , plastic glasses of fine wine in our hands, and contemplate from our picnic chairs the lair of the brutally disciplined cadets where not a month ago the spectral Dick Cheney did deliver a commencement address. And it was not altogether irrelevant to the matter at hand, the fate of one Richard the Third.

There's a quote in this play that immediately struck me and released some poison in me from its spike. At one point later in the play the widow of the king, the king whose throne shall soon be usurped by Richard through his devious machinations, says, "So now prosperity begins to mellow, and drop into the rotten mouth of death." The metaphor is of fruit on the vine. Something ripe, something full of sugar and overripe, in fact; something past its prime. What happens? It falls, inevitably, from its weight; its fullness of pulp and syrupy nectar. It falls into the void. Where? Into putrefaction, into death. This is more than just a description of the sad and ironic cycle of life. That we all know. It's a frightening reproach to cozy complacency. Literally in the play, prosperity is the bounteous opportunity afforded all by Edward's death. Someone shall be King, and someone shall be his wife, and so on and so on. And that prosperity is "mellowed," in other words ripened, aged – here the term takes back its perhaps original negative connotations, those that point towards decay rather than the graceful burnishing of a fine old jewel, say, or the complex improvement of a wine or spirit. No, here "mellow" means "weaken." The way a fruit does before it loses hold of life and succumbs to gravity, then decay, then death. The way a serendipitous event is twisted and corrupted by egotism, selfishness, envy and spite. And we may apply a more contemporary negative connotation of the word "mellow" too – our tendency to soften, to betray our youthful passions, to rationalize, to accommodate. That, too, points to death. And it is when we are prosperous, glad of ourselves, sedate and sated, that we succumb most easily to this easy thinking. We mellow and we drop – before our time – into the rotten mouth of death. To fall into the mouth of death, after all, is not exactly to die. But once we do we are promised to it, and life is finished. It is a process she describes – prosperity begins to mellow, it hasn't already mellowed. So there still is hope, as of course there is hope for the characters in this play that in fact ends well. It's Shakespeare's version of Dylan Thomas raving, "Don't go gentle into that good night." It's Shakespeare saying, "Rage against the dying of the light."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The one guy, they call him by his last name. They all do. He had a strange and absent look about him. Pale hair above a numb and ghostly face. He seemed to be struggling a bit to pay attention and I almost felt sorry for him somehow, but of course this was really because he'd been all day drinking – Evan said he got promoted at his job and took Friday and Monday off to bookend a nice, lost weekend – but that didn't occur to me right away, so much as his awful and bleak persona.

We sat down in the theater. It was a pan-cultural drumming show, lots of leaping. Music made with the unlikeliest of tools.

Last Name Guy belched loudly and not for the first time. The woman in the seat in front of him turned around and said, "Would you stop it with the burping?" Almost immediately, as though he'd expected her to say this, he replied with "My bad." The effect of this was somewhat dismissive and perhaps mocking but for the moment it was accepted and everyone let their eyes drift to the stage.

I tried to relax and pay attention to the performers. They were wearing a confusion of scant, outlandish outfits, suggesting mythic Middle Eastern harems and the extras in "Mad Max." They were really quite good and the music, even, was not in the least offensive.

A peal of chatter erupted to the right of me. Evan and Last Name Guy, and maybe Lauren too. I don't know what they were fucking talking about. Then Last Name Guy burped good and loud this time and the woman turned around and, quite a bit more spitefully, said, "Will you STOP with the TALKING and the FUCKING BURPING?" and immediately there was a confused commotion farther down the aisle. Others in the woman's row had turned around and evidently someone else had spoken, perhaps gestured, and Lauren was saying, "They have to leave!" and Evan was up on his feet and – swinging! – connection on his punches, holding the guy in front of him with his left hand and hitting him furiously with his right fist, again and again and again and again. I perceived an almost soundless gasp rise collectively from the crowd about us, thinning out the atmosphere as in a storm.

I noticed that the players were still playing upon their stage. Pictures of professionalism. Every other neck was turned our way, though. I felt mildly hypnotized by the commotion; even as Evan was swinging and Last Name Guy was trying to dart into the fray I felt quite safe. Sara had to lean over to remind me to get out of there and I said oh yeah, and we slinked away to empty seats in the back row. It took a strangely long time for the staff to descend upon the scene, to understand it and order the transgressors out. This seemed to be done silently, by the way, with emphatic pointing, perhaps in deference to the performance still underway. But the clipped shouts, pushing, punching – this seemed to go on for a surprisingly long time, let's say a minute.

And finally it did end and Evan, Lauren and Last Name Guy walked past us, out, and we watched the rest of the show, happy for its pantomimes of violence, its slapstick drama.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A young man on the train, to his friend: "I'm gonna dead it. I take her out, I spend mad dough on her yo. She can't be... treatin' me like that. I'm deadin' it."
We arrived in Monaco after a stint shrouded in mountainous tunnels. Arrived in its clean station, underground. Or in the ground. In the mountain, still, it would appear. We thought about which way to go and then we went there, along the shiny platform. Uniformed persons ushered us further, down the stairs, toward our eventual exit. We rounded a couple corners, curiously makeshift, or in the midst of renovations, and then we were out in the open.

It seemed like it might start to rain.

There was a howling, moaning din out in the distance, reverberating upon the hillsides, in the trees. But in the distance. The sound seemed to present an alternate reality; a strange juxtaposition with mere people in their clothes and shoes, with shops, sidewalks, street lamps and earthy knolls.

The sound haunted us. Got softer and then louder. It was evidence of a fierce intelligence at play out there, unseen, but in our midst. I could not wait to get nearer it.
You can't wear shorts, the state decrees so. You can not play music publicly on portable music-playing devices. You may not be intoxicated from spirits nor from herbs. You may not. Not. You may not contradict this sentence.

The book depository. Books upon books upon books upon dusty shelves of books. Books are important. Our children need books to read.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Accident & Its Prolonged Aftermath

The accident happened and we laughed at it from on high. Was hard not to. All that metal bent now. Two cars prone, at odd angles in the intersection. Took a while for the drivers to get out but they got out. Presently there was a siren sound. An undercover on the scene. As he got out and walked to one car, a guy on a bike and two pedestrians approached the scene in a deliberate and somewhat stately manner like the three goddamn wise men come to see a birth. And our attentions drifted and we went back to work and the accident's aftermath progressed in its oddly languorous way, the drivers out of their cars now, one standing nearby smoking. And later on two uniformed cops took charge. Somehow the cars had been moved to opposite curbs. And a great rain fell, and veiled the scene from sight, and the sun shone for a thousand years without a trace of night, and the city fell to rubble all around; and a finer, more glorious city was built and stood for 10,000 years; and women and men grew to be strange and awful beasts, and perished in a calamitous famine; and finally a fine white silt settled upon every surface; but through it all still stood the dented cars, the two cops watching, the one driver smoking but the other one gone.
Anthony Bourdain narrates his show in loud commas. "That night COMMA we ate COMMA we drank COMMA and we drank again until the sun came up."

An elderly Hasid on the train, with his felt hat wrapped in plastic against the rain. Reading the Torah for the hundred thousandth time. Strange that there could be reason to plumb any text like that. But in fact there is for any text. He could just as easily be gleaning new insights from a tattered old TV Guide. It's the mystery of language, the leap of faith of words.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

There was a sharp, dark shout on the Grand Street platform as the D pulled in. I turned around.

I spied nothing but that placid Chinese couple, an older white man - a tourist? - trotting in his sandals after his wife who'd gotten on the car behind him.

Sad that jazz players, for all their wily chops, don't change up their game a bit. Clean, suit-wearing mothafuckas. Introducing Mr. This and Mr. That, this tune by the great Mr. So-and-so. Christian McBride motherfuckers.

Someone vandalized the graffiti museum.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I felt so old and tired at that club on Friday night. The way you feel when you're patronized by children. But they were all quite kind. Putting my bag in a safe place behind the bar and pointing me to it when I turned around to find it gone, and panicked, and pretended not to panic.

I spoke to Rumana and her friend about Little Italy, where they'd been to see the Italy-France World Cup final and where I'd just been with Sara to have a dinner at a tourist trap that was not so bad mind you. The waiter said salud after he poured our wine.

Of course.

Rumana said an African worker at the place they went tried to wear a France journey, I mean jersey, but I'm honoring my mistake as somehow significant, a France journey, the journey you take to France as an African immigrant, a journey you're compelled to wear on your back.

He was told at once by his boss to take it off, which is interesting, but not surprising in the least. Nor is it controversial, nor should it be, but it's interesting.

I spoke to Jim about his twin uncles, one of whom once was a monk and married a woman who once was a nun.

Imagine that.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The din in the club, a nuisance if you're working there, a pleasure if you're there at play.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

On the Boardwalk there were two birds fucking. Up on top of a pylon. The one was shrieking and flapping his wings and staring out to sea from behind her. Precipitously, she flew away.

Also we saw a man kneeling on the shady seat of his rickshaw, prostrate, facing Mecca for his midday prayers. Seemed he might have been facing north but what do we know. He oughta know.

A lot of the rickshaw guys seemed to have nothing to do. They'd park in rows along the side of the Boardwalk and sleep or watch the world go by.

An old couple riding in one, the man looked angry. He ashed his cigarette out the side, low to the ground.

We played that claw game. In a long and narrow and empty arcade. Luna dropped the claw right on a bear and it clutched feebly, gaining no purchase, and just as quickly withdrew to the machine's roof.

We kept along down the arcade and drove the go-karts. There was a view of the Atlantic Ocean, checkered flags fluttering in the breeze. You could keep it flat out around the track.

Ed's senior show at FIT consisted of toothy monster heads growing out of craggly trees.

"He's had a rough year," Sara remarked.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My apartment has nice, thick old Manhattan walls, walls that sound when you tap them, like the side of a cliff.

And a wide-eyed lady down the hall with a yapping little dog.

And no one else, it seems, practically, on my entire floor. Either that or spectral figures, gliding in and out of their doors at exactly the times when I'm not. Very, very rarely I've shared the elevator with someone who pushes number 3. And they'll go the other way down the hall, away from my corner of the world after all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We are, in fact, fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. What we are actually doing is sacrificing the lives of two or three young American soldiers (not to mention Iraqis; I'll play the ol' American interests game for now) each day so that we don't have to "fight them here." There's no progress we can point to over there, no measurable weakening of our enemy. On the contrary, they have thrived on the growing public outrage against us, on our botched and aimless measures, on our grief; they are gleeful to see us waist-deep in the mire of our pride. In fact we are feeding them with our own flesh and blood. Or more specifically, the flesh and blood of generally less privileged members of our society, often minorities, whose limited opportunities make this dirty work a decent option. We are, every day, leading a couple of them to the slaughter, simple as that. Virgins to be offered to the gods of terror so that we may carry on playing Xbox, leasing cars and watching "Lost." We'll feed the monster as long as we've got willing, wide-eyed sacrifices – consider them our martyrs if you will, our not-so-willing suicide bombers, sent down the gullet of that dark and hungry volcano. But their mission is really to appease, not to disrupt. Never mind whether this can or should sit well with us today. What will happen later, when we run out of other peoples' sons and daughters and the gods are hungrier and angrier than ever?

Monday, May 14, 2007

We went to the Highline Ballroom the other night to see the notorious Amy Winehouse. The place is a slick new nightclub with a stage and it seems to be run by Israeli secret service. Bald, thin guys with sharp suits and earpieces. Half-whispering to each other, guardedly, their eyes scanning the room. One escorted us upstairs to consider seats at a shared table on the mezzanine. It felt like a cop was tying my shoe.

We settled at a corner of the stage and I went for drinks. As I lifted them off the bar I got a sad and sickening feeling I'd never felt before – they lacked the heft I'd come to expect over thousands upon thousands of repetitions of this sacrosanct act. They were light. And by that I don't mean light in booze. I mean the glasses – a perfectly normal-shaped small rocks glass and highball glass – were made of plastic.

The very strange Patrick Wolf opened up. He seemed to be in the vanguard of some invisible '80s nostalgia trip, coming off as a Boy George sort of Adam Ant kind of Peter Pan. He wore shorts with suspenders and knee-high black socks and blue patent-leather shoes and something was up with his hair. Some of his songs sounded like Shriekback and others like the Fairport Convention. I found his performance dully unappealing yet also oddly terrifying. And then the stage was cleared.

A gray-haired old roadie soundchecked all the instruments, each a beautiful vintage axe with its accompanying priceless amp. He played the bassline from Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues" over and over, lazily playing an utterly false note at the end of the phrase each and every time. I cringed and lifted my featherweight drink to my lips.

He set Amy up with orange juice mixed with Jack Daniel's right at the base of her mic stand.

Finally she came out and took stuttery steps across the stage, looking down, but not demurely, and grabbed the microphone with an insolent and condescending air as her crack band, all sharp in suits but no ties (to suggest a touch of dissolution) fell into an immaculate groove, her backup singing men dancing in big unison movements beside her, and she swiveled her hips ever so slightly, exaggeratedly little in fact, and took tiny steps in place before the microphone, to the beat – her backup singers dancing widely, warmly – then swung her knees in turn, feet together, within a tight and measured space, mincingly. Her. And she held the mic out in her hand like she was handing you the phone. Then when she put it to her mouth to sing a remarkable thing came out, belying her tiny frame. A golden moan, molasses-rich and plaintive; disenchanted and weary too. A voice that's beautiful in spite of her, and all the more beautiful for that fact.

She seemed to observe some degree of amused contempt for her audience and the proceedings generally.

She's a perfect star.

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 9, 2007 at Yankee Stadium

I trained a wary eye upon the batter's box. We were sitting a couple dozen rows back, behind first base, in those good, good Union seats. I was juggling peanuts and their shells but keeping an eye out for dear life. Watch out, foul balls. Robinson Cano was up.

Sure enough he cracked one our way, sweetly struck, if early. It arced up to fifteen feet or so then curved sinisterly to the right, so that it appeared at first to be missing us to one side, then not at all, and then – it seemed to glance off someone's shoulder, perhaps, to our left, and then it flew toward us with a terrible, and I mean, velocity. It missed our heads by five feet or so and smacked into the railing behind our row with an awful, staccato ding. Ding. It.


And then it rolled upon the ground amidst the peanut shells for the fat old man across the aisle to fetch.
Todd's suicide note was the most embarrassing piece of drivel they'd ever read. Full of extravagant declarations of self-loathing; laughable, elegiac paeans to lost and unrequited love; dressed-up petty digs at made-up nemeses and pompous, maudlin pronouncements upon our sad and bellicose world; it read like a wicked satire of some stupid sap's self-important self-negation.

Except it was real.

And he pulled through.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

John is our taciturn doorman although, or perhaps for this very reason, he's pretty good. He seems to have aged beyond his years – bent back, misshapen feet. Slack and hopeless countenance, put upon; the look of a man who's opened a hundred thousand doors without ever stepping through one once.
The train from San Francisco to the Valley is the double-decker CalTrain, a whimsical configuration accentuated by the rows of single, privileged seats above, although CalTrain makes you think of cattle train and so do the tall, ungainly wagons. On the first morning I put my feet up on the seat across from me and sure enough was scolded by the conductor, I knew it, shoulda known. And it's outta the reverie to examine the world pass by outside: sunny towns, drowsy towns. Houses, sheds and muscle cars, stucco.

We arrived in Mountain View to find the air honeyed with sun. It was one of those days as though we'd drift into a dream and awake to face some unnameable beast with nought but our wits to protect us.

Instead we got aboard the company shuttle and crossed the bridge above the highway.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

There's that tired phrase we hear from time to time from Bush and his supporters: We have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here.

I propose that what's really happening is a grotesque twist on that pat phrase: They're not fighting us here because they can already fight us there.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I wondered what sort of society this would be if we weren't the least bit reserved about sexual images. That's right, pornography everywhere. An entirely licentious atmosphere, in the media, on the streets. Blowjobs, pussy, big cocks all around: on billboards, on TV. Shop windows. Government buildings. Anal.

First I considered the consequences: Would we become numb to it all? Would our behaviors and mores break down to reflect this new world, eroticized wide open? Then I chastened myself for even idly contemplating this: It can't happen, I thought, of course. But then I thought: Why can't it happen? And I realized: Not because we're prudish, or puritan, or ashamed. On the contrary. It's because we cherish the taboo erotic image – we value it commercially and myriad other ways – so we preserve its prurience by hiding it all away.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The campus had maps below our feet, in brass plaques set in the path's concrete, like memorials to itself. We were told that the buildings were arranged in the shape of the company logo but this was difficult to ascertain.

One of our meetings was in the building where they make software for Macs. The walls were covered with "Think Different" posters and celebrations of the latest Mac wizardry. There seemed to be no one around, like a scene of neutron bomb devastation.

Remember the neutron bomb?

Taken By Self

The language of the mass killer. Has anyone studied this? I'm wondering if there are commonalities. I'm struck by the theme and tone of Seung-Hui Cho's self-videotaped rants. There's a lot of second-person accusation, which I suppose stands to reason, but I'm intrigued by the theme of entrapment, of being cornered, of being left no choice. And then he contradicts himself: "I didn't have to do this," he says. "I could have left, I could have fled."

What does he mean?

Then he says no, he can no longer run away. He suggests this is a means of facing the truth finally, of confronting a problem that demands to be resolved. Here he lapses drowsily into predictable martyr-speak, how he's doing this on behalf of some imaginary family of kindred and similarly marginalized souls, his "children" (an interesting term – is he anticipating copycats in the near or distant future?), his "brothers and sisters" whom, he adds venomously, "you fucked." In the moment he says "fucked" his face flashes with malevolent life. He capitalizes on the hardness and violence of the word to give his accusation a mysterious ring of truth.

What is he talking about?

Whatever it is, he means it.

The title of one of the countless video clips on YouTube of Cho's videos is "Video of Cho Seung-Hui, Virginia Tech Killer, Taken by Self," which is interesting because it could be read two ways. At least.

"You decided to spill my blood," he says. He spilled his own blood of course – he was taken by self – so this is in one sense an interesting interpretation of the suicidal urge. We generally believe that urge to be voluntary – a willful, if irrational, reaction to hopelessness from within. But Cho thinks we did it. We forced him to do this. Perhaps other suicides, depressive suicides, the more common ones I suppose, never forfeit the social contract and, finding themselves ill-equipped or no longer willing to keep up their end, direct their nihilistic urge inward to the ultimate point. It appears that Cho never bought into any of it, freeing him to narcissistically direct his outward, to make an explosive statement of redemptive extroversion.

And of course, that's why he gave us his video artifact. Self-glorifying, self-serving, self-centered. Taken by self.

Out of this fucking life, I suppose, you gotta take something.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Tale of One City

As I walked up 9th Avenue in the late afternoon of a lazy, sunny Sunday. As I walked up and the bodegas and shuttered-up stores. A woman stood before me on the corner and wandered a little ways into the street.

"What are you doing?" she said, shaking her head at the traffic coming across 37th Street. "What? What are you doing?"

I looked to my left. She was talking to a car. A car, there, rolling slowly through the intersection and toward the southeast corner. A little like a listing ship.

"What?" she said at it, again. "What, what are you doing?"

The car very slowly and gradually came to a stop. Right there in the intersection, pretty much, still. Its shadowy occupants seemed to me to be wide-eyed and at a loss. But then again.

The woman, young woman, handed to the person in the passenger seat a neatly folded pair of pants.

Blue jeans.

And this transaction I spied over my shoulder as I made my way across the street.

I was looking for a grocery store.

Then I crossed 9th Avenue, an achievement of some inspiration and ingenuity.

Moments later a puzzled and fearful man. Faced me from across the sidewalk. And gazed upon me with wide, uncomprehending eyes, and he was walking right at me, quite deliberately, though his body betrayed some strange and stiff reluctance.

Out from behind him sprang Eevin. She'd been pushing him in my direction. Him, her fiancé, Carl.

We all said some things for a while. Then I asked her if there was a grocery store nearby. She said go to the Food Emporium on 42nd Street. She said this as though she were saying, "Go to Yellowstone" or "Go to the Guggenheim Bilbao."

So I went to the Food Emporium on 42nd Street, where for some unnamed but doubtless catastrophic reason the freezer section was entirely denuded of ice cream, leaving a cluster of
the forlorn to mill about and murmur perplexedly.

I got my things and got out.

Taking Eev's advice I walked back on Dyer. Dyer's a half-avenue, half-exit ramp that leads right up to my window from where I hear trucks roar at night from outta the Lincoln Tunnel, delivering foodstuffs and other goods of every imaginable variety into Manhattan and don't kid
yourself, it's a greedy city.

I walked down the narrow sidewalk and it disappeared; I had to make my way along the undemarcated and perilous path between the traffic and the street's edge.

There was a lot of pigeon shit and I didn't know why. I mean, I knew why, but I didn't really know why. You know?

The street narrowed and wound around a concrete-walled bend. I wasn't sure I was supposed to be here.

Traffic coming into the city was at a crawl and some folks were nice enough to let me through.

I stepped on and off that narrow concrete lip between the lanes of the tunnel exit ramp, traversing that strange space that's not meant for human beings.

The springtime sun in all its glory beat down upon the concrete walls and cement pavement that form this valley and keep for a minute longer the city out of reach of the grasping hands of
intruding interlopers – tourists, merchants, thrill-seekers and hedonists – courtesy of Robert Moses.

I was lost for days and nights and days and nights and then was found, the end.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I awoke with the impression that my dreams had been narrated, or facilitated, by some disembodied personage.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Spoiler Alert

Everybody dies.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The other day at the gym, as I rounded the puddled poolside and approached the ladder in, I saw the light beat off the limpid, chlorinated water in such a way that I was instantly reminded of my deepest terrors as a child. I remembered those Wednesday afternoons, 31 years ago, when my class at Mont-Saint-Aignan, the dull suburban French town perched on a hill above Rouen, would exit school and proceed in twin rows down the orange cement sidewalks and past the neatly tailored shrubs and the little plaza with the laundromat and bakery and between the housing projects and their well-tended parks and to the epicenter of my distress: the swimming pool.

The instructor, in Speedos and plastic sandals, would bark at us to sit along the edge and face him. One by one, he'd push us roughly back like some sadistic baptist, shouting commands made immediately abstract and alien underwater. Was he telling us to swim? I didn't know. To somersault? I'd get a dose of acrid water up my nose, splash desperately, try to find my bearings, grasp at the granite edge and breathe again.

I could not swim and in my shame I felt it was absolutely out of the question to say so.

One day he had us line up in the water, on one side of the pool. At the sound of his whistle we were to swim across. I'd never seen a chasm so perilous and vast. But when the whistle sounded I knew I had to move. I lunged away from the edge and at once began thrashing madly, trying vainly to beat down the enveloping deep. I could not imagine how I'd keep from drowning. The other kids were proceeding purposefully, quite comfortably somehow. They'd been blessed, I guess; they possessed some power I not only lacked but could not even conceive.

I was drowning. I was going to die.

About a third of the way across a panic gripped me and I decided to cast aside all restraint and save myself. I grabbed the swimmer to the right of me for life, shamefully judging that dragging her down, too, was worth the risk. She was a black girl with a red two-piece swimsuit and I grabbed at her smooth, brown belly and back which slipped in my grip like some strange creature I'd never touched before. She twisted around and protested with a howl, her face fixed with such a curious mixture of alarm, outrage, fear and derision that I let go of her at once.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I was a Private in the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944. With the 29th Infantry, Omaha Beach.

Bert was a medic and bad at poker. He had a habit of paying his debts in dope. So the night before, we played, the last game of condemned men you might say, in the barracks back at Portsmouth. I bluffed him in the last hand of this last game and told him this: Keep me high enough so I don't care if I live or I die tomorrow and we're square.

So the morning, in that infernal landing craft. We was bobbing up and down in the spray, doughboys moaning to the left of me and to the right, all pukin' and prayin' to Jesus.

I was high as a kite. Earlier, Bert stuck me with a syringe of morphine in the soft, pristine flesh of the web of my right big toe. I knew the only anguish I'd have to face, ever, from here on out, was the stab of that thick, cold needle into me. That awful, awful momentary incongruity – and then – oh. Oh, oh, oh.

"Give it all to me, you cheap, lousy-card-playing cunt," I groaned.

Bert grunted and didn't withdraw until every last gummy drop was plugged into my vein.

A couple times I junk-puked over the lip of the heaving bucket and everyone figured I was scared sick just like them. But in reality I was happy, happier than a man could ever be.

I gazed above us at the baleful, yawning sky, still half-merged by dawn with land and sea. It was extremely beautiful and fabulously moving and as my comrades muttered and cursed and shivered I considered: June 6th, 1944. June. 6th. Such a sweet melody of a date. I felt honestly that no circumstance could possibly better embody the serenity and glory of this day and date and place, no combination of sights and sounds and smells, than what I saw above and beside me and before me with the gray and ocean green and froth of surf and frightened seasick boys and up ahead the gray band of the Old World shore.

I thanked Christ and my mother and His besides that I was high.

There was a bit of commotion that I had to respond to in my reverie and I deduced that we were running aground. The craft opened and belched us at the beach and I was up to my balls in cold, cold water – and OK, this is OK – I waded – do I have my rifle? – whistles everywhere. Whistle, whistle – ahead of me men were falling and at first I didn't in my ecstasy quite perceive why. But they'd been pierced by bullets. Evidently – I didn't see but – that guy – might have been Davy – he got turned around and I saw his jaw fall apart in a curious mash of bloody sinew. Mostly guys flopped backwards into the surf as though on cue. (Did they know just what to do?) I waded forward, tranquil. I imagined if I took a whistling bullet in the brain it might somehow make me higher in the moment that I died. Surely it'd coalesce all my pleasure into a sulfurous bead of – wow, wow! A bullet grazed my right hand; my blood sprayed in the water, the water rose and fell and stirred and eddied, troubled. I trudged forward, I saw others fall before me, some stayed up, I walked some more and then the water went away and I was stepping in the sand and then it came back 'round my ankles and I remembered waves, tides, swimming on the beach on Martha's Vineyard as a kid, running down the beach to tease the foaming edge of waves, of this enormous, hungry sea that wants to take me, then running back to safety once again.

I felt heavier now that I was out of the water. Soaked through and through. I had no idea where I was or who was in charge. My CO was supposed to be Corporal Popovic and I'd last seen him rollin' a cigarette in the boat, I don't know. Some guys waved at me from behind a dune. All hell was breaking loose and I do mean hell. There was blood and gore and mayhem, arms and legs and cries of grief, mortar, grenade, all in a smoky, salty mist and I ran and hunkered down beside these men I don't know I'd ever seen before.

I was in that part of the high you're very relaxed, you're not too high no more and you know you'll come down sometime, but not just yet and that's just fine.

There was some discussion what to do with the German gun blaring down on us from up above. I had an idea. I looked at the guys. All dirty-faced and worried.

"Cover me and follow when you – who's in charge?" I said.

They shook their heads, dumbfounded.

"Follow me when you can, boys," I said.

I stepped up from behind the sand and stood right up and I can tell you I never once felt freer. I felt some sandy grass below my feet – oh God, hardy tufts of seashore grass – and I loved this grass, and I loved the field off in the distance. There was a field, there seemed to be a stream. Certainly there was a road. I ran. I pointed my rifle into the dark slit from where the machine-gun turret was spinning and shooting, choking on its ammo belt, and I shot, and shot, and shot, and I saw the smoke and the trees and, far away, a road behind a row of trees, and behind the road another field and a wood and by the wood I spied a house and I wondered who might live there and if – a bullet tore through my shoulder and I felt a good, hot burn, a terrible, good burn through the muscle of my shoulder and I could no longer hold my gun, I couldn't do it, I absolutely could not hold and lift and shoot my gun no more so there it went, bouncing soundlessly upon the sandy grass and then I – I – I felt a huge, huge feeling in my face and eye and in my head – do you understand? A huge feeling - and I fell backward, absolutely conceding to the attraction of the earth.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Slapstick Death

Gilles Villeneuve's crash is also worth a mention. It's an extravagant, absolutely ludicrously violent, cartoonish accident. His Ferrari seems to modestly, even coyly, tap the rear wheel of Jochen Mass's car ahead of it. Immediately it shoots up off the track like an airplane, flips backwards, pounds itself top-first into the ground, bounces, flips, flips, bounces, flips again, pouring parts off with every gyration. It flies through the air – it ain't over! – and flips and bounces and flips, and finally it smacks down to the ground again, the chassis half-denuded now, with a – dare I say – comically emphatic thud.


It's a slapstick death, frankly. Resolutely spectacular and over the top. Clownish in the best way. In the way a clown will offer body and soul on the altar of our childish and kingly wants. It's the sort of death that Buster Keaton would've envied. And to tell you the truth, the way Gilles drove, it was absolutely fitting and he oughta be proud of it to.

U.S. Comedy Teams

Amos 'n Andy. Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis. Burns and Allen, Nichols and May.

Hamilton and Burr.

The Heat Miser and the Snow Miser. Huntley and Brinkley. Tweedly-Dee and Tweedly-Dum. Mason and Dixon.

Nixon and Kissinger.

Sacco and Vanzetti, peanut butter and Fluff.

M & M.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Today the sun was shining strong above the roofs and through the streets and thick, white snow fell upward.

I lowered the shade beside my desk and returned my attention to the inviolable world of my desktop: Internet, e-mail. Word.

Tonight there was a noise outside my apartment door as of an aged imbecile in slippers, open-mouthed, pawing at the wall. Or of a drunken teenage couple just in from the cold, locked in their halting exertions, hands brushing nylon.

John and Jim and I returned from lunch down Greenwich Street today and I was under the impression we'd be swept straight off the island by a gust of wind. I suddenly felt myself susceptible to flying debris such as gargoyle fragments, billboard buttresses, windowsill pies, stoplights, wrought-iron window gates, hubcaps and wrecking balls swung free of their chains. I half imagined a parking sign cartwheeling up the sidewalk to plant itself in the center of my brain. Instead a fat man walked around the corner with his barely earthbound dog.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

We went to the Ear Bar today for lunch and to scribble on the papered table in crayon.

I had the chili.

I love the Ear Bar, a New York City institution we take for granted because it's three or four steps from our office. It's one of those fucking bars that claims to be the oldest in Manhattan, founded in 1837 or some goddamn thing. Back when the Hudson shoreline came up to the plaque-commemorated mark right outside the door and a few feet to the left. Back when sailors would stagger off of ships on wobbly sea legs to drink whiskey, sing their chanteys, fuck whores and then be off to sea once more.

I love the Ear Bar but lately I've hated the food. The room has an oppressive stench, not unpleasant but inescapable, irremediable. It's the smell of 175 years of goddamn beer and whiskey, beer leaking out of tap lines to gently rot the bar wood till it wasn't rotten any more. Whiskey spilt in the cracks of the floor, blood let from lips and noses, falling richly on tables and chairs, vomit in the bathroom sinks, in the toilets, on the floors. Upstairs – whores, itinerant ne'er-do-wells and seamen sleeping, fucking, shitting. Performing their ablutions. Water pipes with rusted joints and cracked and peeling paint bearing their unspeakable filth to parts unknown.

And so it has a smell. A smell you cannot really describe, you can only faintly conjure in your mind when it's not there. It's the smell of the damp and of the stale. And of cheap spices and of grease, of salty grease. And beer and booze, detergent. Crayola crayons. The crayons they put in glasses on each table. Maybe that's what it is, mostly. Crayons.

And two centuries of puke and booze and blood.

So for whatever reason. I've been balking at the food. It's just not a place where it feels like you should chew on something. Seems like a place, you should be careful when you open your mouth. So I got a whiskey and a bowl of chili and I drew a picture on the table, and Jim and John got martinis and we were at the Ear Bar in the year 2007.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This morning late out the door and down the elly, past the doorman saying hello, out into the bright, bright cold and left to the weird street coming out the Lincoln Tunnel; there's a man there, standing in a scarf, muddy, brittle ice along the border of the sidewalk and the street and trucks and cars are stopped in the middle of the corner, caught as the light turned red, and now I walk among them and a car swings right before me, in from 34th Street, tires squealing, what the fuck.

I sat glumly on the E train. Passively, docilely. Obediently, even. We enter some station after a certain length of time and I look up and out the window just like anyone would and it says BROADW – Jesus Christ, this fucking train took me to Broadway-Lafayette.

A husky Hispanic man sidled up to me.

"Do you know why the train – "

"I have absolutely no idea."

Out on the platform a forlorn middle-aged black lady approached.

"Do you know how I can get back down to Spring Street?"

I wondered if there was anything in the world I could say or do to help.

"I have no idea. Sorry. I have no idea."

And so I got on that downtown 6 and to Canal and emerged amidst the throng of merchants and their dazed and wide-eyed marks.

Friday, February 16, 2007


I watched on YouTube a gruesome and probably inevitable video: a compilation of Formula One racing deaths. At first my interest was, in spite of better judgment, juvenile and prurient. Ooh, crashes.

And I remembered the excitement I felt as a kid going to races and hoping for a crash. And when a crash began, let's say in a race of modest, open-wheel Formula Fords, with one car seeming to slowly lose grip with the wet track on a sweeping left-hand turn, the rear giving way, and it's a yellow car, a beautiful raincoat yellow with a red-and-black-and-white Champion Spark Plugs sticker and a number 17, and what is going to happen to this bright and beautiful thing now that it's lost grip with the surface of the planet, this pretty, fragile, angry thing in the rain, with the white helmet of the sweating and bewildered man inside, struggling against chaos and fear; and behind him there's a car that's green and blue and it says Valvoline, and the yellow car has red wheel rims whose spinning ceases in the skid so now you see the lug nuts and the bright, white GOODYEAR on the tires and the green and blue car slams into it, the nose all crumpled now from this brusque, perverse encounter with the misshapen and delicate – intimate – parts in the rear – exhaust pipes, brake light, suspension and wing buttresses and now everything's fucked up and the yellow car has been jolted off its tenuous orbit around the corner and onto the wet, green grass and it's zigging and zagging, trying to cut across and rejoin that winding ribbon of asphalt where its adversary is limping along lamely, nosewing askew and engine whining for a lower gear.

I loved this. And it seemed so evidently to be essential to the appeal of car racing, at its very aesthetic foundation – control erupting into chaos, mystery mixed up in beauty – that I wasn't the least bit ashamed of it and one morning at the track declared to my dad that I couldn't wait to see some crashes.

He said nothing at first but fixed me with a withering stare. He raised his finger.

"We don't come to races to see crashes," he admonished. "We come to see racing. Crashes can be very serious and the drivers can get very hurt."

I hung my head to ponder my shame and what it all might mean.

I thought guiltily about the drivers. Like it was me who might hurt them just by wishing.

And tonight, watching the video, those early feelings were reawakened, the child's diabolical pleasure in destruction and then of course the guilt. And it struck me that you really can't parse it all out after all. It's a carnal sport. Awful, nauseating, poignant, beautiful. The colors and the wheels. Fire. The ferocious, howling cars. The swooping lines they follow; blood. Vomitous splatters of oil and gas, of extinguisher foam. Men in fire suits and helmets, tempting death. And crowds, standing, cheering, waving. Signs, words, Marlboro, Shell.

And the worst accident of all is there, in real time and in slow motion: the South African Grand Prix in 1977, Tom Pryce hitting a teenage track official who was scurrying across the track to aid a stricken car. Pryce's front wing clips the boy, whose body seems to disintegrate a bit and flips many times end over end, straight up about forty feet in the air. The fire extinguisher the boy was carrying hit Pryce in the head and partially decapitated him and then was sent flying who knows where. Pryce's car kept going, banging into a side rail, crossing the track and then exiting it, onto the grass, but not to get back on again.

The Interview, Pt. 1

Q. What's the importance of proper grammar?
A. Well... (shrugs and waves unlit cigarette with a slow, fatalistic flourish). Well, I don't think anyone should get carried away. But a writer has to learn his craft (leaning forward, finger raised and unlit cigarette gripped in fist). It's important. (Reclining, eyes closed. Softly tapping cigarette base on the box, held in the other hand, by lifting it by the thumb and forefinger and letting it fall.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

There. There! There... There was? There is.

There's this feeling you get out in San Francisco, of airiness and of isolation, of night falling only upon the bejeweled metropolis, of couching it on all sides with the dark.

This is the cool air you get. The never hot and never cold. Never the bitter Northeastern nor Midwestern gales. With their ice attaching everywhere, hanging off of roofs, of branches and car bumpers. Not on this insular peninsula. In San Francisco you're sheltered in the middle of the air.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I remember telling Vanessa I'd resolved to write every night. I was sitting in the middle chair in the living room in Sally and Jay's house, the one Sally would sit in if there was something she wanted to watch on TV. She was sitting on an ottoman I think. The TV flickered in the background like it always does. I told her there's no excuse for not writing every night if you want to write. You have writer's block, forget it, you write about what you did that day. There's always something to write about. Everyone has something to say. I woke up this morning and then what? You had a piece of toast. There's always something to write about.

She was nodding and smiling and seemed to agree.

One morning a few years later Noah made Vanessa breakfast and kissed her as she went out the door to work. But she never came back. That's it. I think she sent him a letter, or left him a note. Maybe in her dresser or under the pillow or some other quiet place where she knew he'd find it soon. It said, I never, ever want to see you or speak to you again. It said, I hate you very, very much and you have no friends because everyone else hates you too. It said, I'll never forgive you for the time I wasted with you.

Or words to the effect.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's so cold, people aren't showing up to work. To work in our drafty, semi-industrial space. Those who do huddle in their coats, maybe lucky enough to have a purring space heater at their feet, warming a zone about a foot or two around.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A curiously sad and fraught day. The day after the Super Bowl, figures. It's the only universally celebrated holiday, and just about the only one we don't get a day off for besides. It's inevitable that the half of our dreams that are dashed, or our prideful, whimsical bets that are lost, would combine ferociously with the beer and the chips and the beer and the whiskey and the pretzels and the beer to provoke dark mornings of self-loathing indeed, all across the land.

Tony Dungy said they proved they won it the Lord's way and I don't like that, I don't like it one bit.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I had the distinct impression tonight, the man swimming in the lane with me. He thought I was a simpleton. Me no goggles, swimming like Mao in the river, head straight up and out of the water, clunking my toes against the ladder. He'd wait at one end while I swam slowly halfway down before wearily diving into his crawl.

I Love To Brush My Teeth

I love to brush my teeth 'cause when I do I know that's what I'm doing. I'm not supposed to be doing something else.

Don't have to worry that I'm hurting nobody.

And then I walk back out with my mouth stinging of mint and I hear the squeal of truck brakes down outside my window.