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.