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.