Saturday, June 28, 2008

My small talk with Emilio deteriorated to the point where he was mumbling and staring straight ahead. He was carrying three big, flat boxes of various sizes, piggybacked with packing tape and with a packing tape handle so he could carry them like a briefcase. Beyond the picture window, tourists gathered 'round the mini Statue of Liberty all done up in St. Louis Cardinals red.

Emilio has one of the best shots in foosball; a violent, wrist-snapping event that usually sends the ball down the gullet with a nasty bang. When it doesn't, the ball ricochets crazily about the table and Emilio says, "Good block, good block!" with a jovial sigh.

Friday, June 27, 2008

We went to the Summerstage show tonight. In the long lulls between acts they played music on the PA, much of it from live recordings. The special guest Rufus Wainwright was introduced at a certain point, provoking furrowed expressions throughout the throng that had stretched out upon the AstroTurf before the slowly setting sun. A lot of crowd noises of another crowd; a phantom, unseen, rival crowd taunting us from the dark beyond which is inhabited by all such artifacts, be they records, films or photographs; from the mysterious world of mirror, from anti-place and anti-time.
I was thinking of a statement, a sentence, you said it without a comma it sounded very different. What was it? I thought I could use it to investigate the nature of language. Gave me the idea to talk that way more.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Foosball is our surrogate purpose, the counterproduct of our workdays. Wouldn't it be interesting if, during the course of our employ, we happened to become tournament-level foosball players, reducing this tavern game to a dreary science with our expert moves and ripostes, scoring only by chance again, as though we were gripping the handles for the first time and smacking the ball willy-nilly. You come full circle in life.

It'd be a way to go.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The other night I tossed and turned with ideas for a dubious business swimming in my mind. I pawed around for my bedside pocket notebook and wrote in it in the dark, not knowing whether I was overwriting some previous thought, some great inspiration perhaps, and pausing to think and then not remembering what letter I was at in the word I was in.

We'd seen "Get Smart" at our local megaplex, the AMC Theater near Lincoln Center, which has a casino-like decor and quality - big fake plants, a perilous escalator, textured walls and tesselated carpets. The faint, not readily explainable stench of chlorine. The theater was warm - don't people see these movies in the summer just to be refrigerated for awhile? - and completely packed. I was thirsty and foul-tempered at first. I wondered if it would be OK to get up and get something to drink. I decided fuck it. People get up from movies, don't they? I made my way gingerly down the row but failed to avoid a woman's toes - I didn't step down on them but brushed them with my heel.

"Toes!" she said.

When I returned - with my Diet Coke, like some sad, fat fuck - I tried again my best to wind my way between the chair backs and the knees.

"Again with the toes!" the woman said.

I peered at her sinisterly - but uselessly, in the faint and inconsistent glow - as I sat back down. I muttered "damn you" and I don't know if she heard. But I felt much better and had a pretty good time after all.



Friday, June 20, 2008

The Steely Dan show at the Beacon Theater last Saturday night proceeded pleasantly, like a fever dream. I was drunk and happy. I barked out some lyrics, usually the right ones. There was a sense of bonhomie in our quadrant of the orchestra.

We left and I always love leaving the Beacon; the throng slows your procession so you're forced to admire the halls, the walls and ceilings. And you never really know where you're getting out, which rain-slicked avenue or street. After we emerged, we darted into the street to circumnavigate the crowded sidewalk. We walked around a black SUV and I thought nothing of it till we reached the other side and I saw the crowd was even tighter; there was a bodyguard facing them down. I stood behind him, innocently enough, and suddenly I was face to face with Walter Becker. I reached out my hand and said, "Hey Walter!" He shook it, smiling, and then some unseen handler collapsed him into the backseat.
As we leaned over the foosball table, lost in our exertions, Dave Song came by and told us hollowly that he'd hit a woman on his bicycle the day before, thought he was going to die. Thought he was gonna go end over end. She was on rollerblades and he thought she saw him; she turned to cross his path and he hit her full speed. She was OK, more or less, and so is he. A couple days later he was called to the reception desk over the intercom and then I saw him escorting a purposeful-looking young black man with a backpack to his desk. He was an ergonomics specialist there to install Dave's special chair. Between bursts of his power drill he spoke into his cell phone in a Jamaican accent.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I love the long, long track, passing by odd artifacts of French countryside: methodical rows of high-branched trees, lush green knolls and ditches, little stone and tile structures to which there seems to be no access.

I went to Le Mans in 1975 and 1977. The memories blur but I remember the beautiful baby blue and orange Gulf Mirage that Derek Bell and Jacky Ickx drove to victory. I remember it was number 11 because I was fixated on the numbers too; the colors and the words and numbers. Blue, orange, Gulf, 11.

Dawn broke with cold gray skies and rain. We went over to the pits and I remember peering over and seeing the Gulf car from above. There were also blue Ligiers in the race, done up in the design of Gitanes cigarettes, with the silhouetted woman on the hood.

I remember telling my dad and brother that I was hungry enough to eat a horse but I don't know what we ate. At night the cars' headlights got mixed up with the lights from the ferris wheel and the fair.

In 1977 it was all about Porsche 936s with white, black and red Martini colors. Jacky Ickx won again. I remember sitting in the sun on the lawn to the right of the track after the first corner, waiting for hours, it seemed, for the race to start. In my memory the winning car crept to the finish line, stricken, moving a few miles an hour and held together with wires and tape.




Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I've been watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans about an hour and a half at a time, over the course of the last week and a half. The race signals the true beginning of summer to me. It's miraculous; it persists into the night and again into the morning as if the sun had never set. Don't tell me who won, I don't know who won it yet. I'm pulling for Jacques Villeneuve, who got drummed out of Formula One and is trying to become among the very few who've won Indy, the F1 Championship and Le Mans.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jim's Windows-powered mobile device buzzes incessantly, from its perch on his desk, the counter by the foosball table, the soft bottom of his knapsack, a conference room table in the dark. Calls coming in, voicemails, e-mails, Outlook meeting reminders. He rarely flinches or budges to even acknowledge the thing. Its abrupt, demanding snore goes unrequited and then it ends.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We went to Englewood, New Jersey, today, to see Sara's cousin Przemec and his fiancée. Przemec took us for a walk around town, to see the quaint main street with the cars parked perpendicular, the sake martini lounge, the high-end ice cream shop people come from miles around, his office where he designs steel infrastructure for condominiums, train stations and parking garages.

We rounded a corner and there was the Englewood Public Library, a beautiful, modern building on a little hill with exactly the correct number of trees. There was a marquee sign planted out front, like a church might have for Sunday's sermon. I thought to myself before I read it that I'd probably be pretty amused by what it said. So I read it. And here's what it said:

June 14 - RAGTIME CONCERT
June 21 - HOLOCAUST POETRY

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Streak - 1

Yankees third baseman Evan Benjaminson stood on the west side of Fifth Avenue around the 90s, up by where the park wall's about chest-high and there's that field, whatever it's called. An elderly black man on a nearby bench who appeared to be wearing red lipstick called him Toby.

"Toby, you said you was gonna call me!"

Evan turned around slowly and examined the familiar parade of city traffic: buses, vans, yellow cabs and black sedans.

"I knew you was not listenin' to me! Stop lookin' at dem cars, Toby!"

It was twilight in July in New York City, limestone glowing rosy in the sun. Earlier, the Yankees lost their second of four against the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and Evan was looking for a way to forget that now. He ducked into some Irish bar on Lex, a cookie-cutter dark-wood pub, and tried in vain not to glimpse a reference to his team's travails on the screen. But sure enough, the crawl insinuated itself into his consciousness: "Yanks lose 24 straight - any end in sight?" He had two scotches on the rocks and slouched into the men's room; when he emerged, he tiptoed around some animated conversation at one end of the bar about Jim Bosworth, the Yankees' manager. Of the should he be fired right away or sooner variety.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Work and Play

At work it feels like something ineffable, some unmeasurable yet crucial essence, is evaporating by the minute. Our boss's boss sent an e-mail about the reorg in our group.

Is it a group, really? Might be more of a department. Could be a sector, or a division. Not too sure.

It was four or five breathless paragraphs long, a stammering plea to not worry about potential consequences, not that there might be any, but just the same, don't worry. He signed off with a strange and backhanded cheer: Thanks for continuing to make our product the huge success we all know it can be!

Smiley face.

At work we play at work. We lean back and forth in our chairs, facing down the shifting screen, scrutinizing it again and again as though at any moment it may finally enter some terminal state of resolution, at which point we could swivel around and begin to live.

We leap up and play foosball. The game is the abstraction of our rage, frustration and desires. It's also a surrogate activity to indulge long-dormant athletic aspirations, reawakened by the emphatic clank of well-struck balls in the back of the table's metal throats.

There's a guy Sumit, his name's pronounced Sumeet but we call him Summit, and he's the best player of all. He gathers up and controls the ball with the matter-of-fact determination of a child gathering sand to build a castle. Then a flick of the wrist and the ball is down the goal like a bullet. It provokes anguished gasps from the opposite side, and nervous laughter. But he never smiles or makes a sound.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I awoke mourning the dissipation of my dreams. Something about school, a building, people.

Now I'm about to step out on the deck into the full light and heat of the sun.
I awoke at 12:25, late for the Yankee game, and besides it was a million degrees outside and we had deck furniture to assemble. So I stayed home and we watched it on TV, lazily, and it was an incredible game with the Yankees coming from behind three times and winning 11-10.

I was sweating like crazy with the chaise longue. There's one bolt missing, I dunno if it came in the little plastic pouch in the first place and I let it roll through a gap between the boards, into that nameless underworld oblivion to which all the spaces between the things you stand on lead. Or maybe they fucked me with one less bolt.

I shall have to contact West Elm's customer service department.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Strange picture accompanying an article about Obama in the Times today. Two supporters, one young, black and male; the other older, white, female, and wearing what appears to be a thorny crown of tricolor stars; claw at a cutout of the man. The caption says "Shelley Diment and Anthony Brown secured a Barack Obama cut-out," which I suppose means they're securing it to something, perhaps helping to keep a chaotic campaign scene tidy. But it seems like they may be securing it for themselves, covetously; Shelley's mouth is agape with adoration as she stretches to grip the silhouette by the neck and shoulder. Also, the cardboard seems bent and worn, like it might have just been retrieved from the trash; this, combined with the zany look of the woman and the zeal in her gestures, gives the scene an air of offbeat righteousness, like a freegan dumpster crawl.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I slept fitfully last night, the pillow soaked with sweat, specks of goose down sticking maddeningly to my nose and cheeks. In the meantime, I had a complex dream about Bob Dylan and Howard Stern. They were hanging out the way the rich and famous sometimes do, with a bond borne of an unspoken understanding of each others' unconventional burdens.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The gob of spit arced serenely from the lips of the enraged woman, over Christina - its intended target - and onto the sleeve of my leather jacket, a foamy insult in the dingy bar light. The woman writhed and gesticulated maniacally towards Christina as two friends of hers, who had exited in anticipation of the fracas, came back in to drag her by the arm and out the door.