Thursday, July 31, 2008

I frittered away a little time trying to balance the coaster that's on my desk on end.

When I was outside on the deck there was a warm, enveloping mist. I was surprised by a raindrop. At that moment I'd forgotten that it sometimes starts to rain at night.

There's always this one light on in a window in the back of a building behind us. The window's open and there's a single curtain swaying in the breeze.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Streak - 6

"This is Jupiter," Kyle said.

Evan thought this was an unusual thing for Kyle to say. Witty. Uncharacteristically incisive; oddly emphatic. Sober, even. His mind was prowling for a suitable rejoinder when he realized Kyle's outstretched hand was indicating the stripper to his right, a curly brunette with a glo-stick belly piercing and a hot pink G-string.

"Juniper!" she protested, swatting Kyle on the shoulder in mock outrage.

"Juniper! Juniper! Juniper!" barked Kyle. "For Christ's fucking sakes. Let's have another drink. Jupiter, Mars and Pluto over here."

They all sat down on the leather banquette, Juniper to Evan's left, then Kyle, then the other stripper. Evan understood that Kyle had introduced him to Juniper because he'd selected the other one as his own. He also understood that there would be no verbal communication nor any other interaction between himself and the other girl, nor would there be further dialog between Kyle and Juniper. Among teammates, this was an unspoken tenet of stip-club protocol. Evan permitted himself a perverse glance at the other stripper's face. She was a curly-haired blonde with thin lips and thinner eyebrows, a diamonique stud in her nose. When their eyes met she looked away shyly like they were chaste teenagers at church, stealing glances over the pews.

Kyle poured Krug for everyone. "A toast!" he declared, raising his glass.

"To baseball!" cried Juniper.

Kyle face froze and he theatrically planted his forehead on the glass table before them. A few seconds passed, the others still holding their flutes aloft. There was Kyle with his face down, his gelled hair faintly aglow from the spotlit stage a ways behind them. Boom-boom-boom went the music.

"Did I say something wrong?" asked Juniper.

Suddenly Kyle rocketed out of his reverie, head up, glass held high.

"To BASEBALL!" he exclaimed, and they all laughed, and they clinked and drank.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I had to go to the little hardware store on 72nd to buy a string of deck lights for the party. A great old, jumbled-up neighborhood place. Too many people working, prices a little high. Every available inch with some tool or paste or fastener.

I presented my purchase to the girl behind the counter. Young, pretty white girl. Seemed vaguely Eastern European.

"Do you know who else hates your sister?" she said absently as she swiped my card.

"Who?" said her coworker. Black guy, late twenties.

"Pizza place guy," she said.

"Thanks," I said, putting the receipt in the bag.

"Have a good day."

Her voice trailed off behind me as I swung open the door:

"Yeah, he..."

Friday, July 25, 2008

I shifted through my morning rituals as though in a haze, my mind pleasantly blank and idiotic.

Next to nothing occurred at work. An interteam meeting of some animated discussion punctuated by drowsy pauses.

We played foosball with the giggly guy from downstairs who doesn't play so well. Swings at the ball lightly and giggles at his maladroitness.

We had dinner with Jan from San Fran. Later we sat on the roof deck and observed a plume of smoke erupt from the side of the San Remo, the black cloud spreading upon the dark blue sky.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Streak - 5

Kyle snapped out of his nod. The sight of Evan between the asses of the strippers was like a glimpse of the cold, blue sea down a dirty city street. "Bro!" He got up and greeted Evan with an elaborate handshake, a hip bump, two consecutive lo-fives, a hi-five and finally a terse hug, as though what had just transpired were a ritual fight programmed to conclude in a gesture of conciliation. This is how they greeted each other in the dugout when someone hit a home run or a sac fly or whatever, not that they'd had many of those lately. The girls stood awkwardly to the side, shifting in their heels, smiles at the ready.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Sword of Damocles

We sat out among cicadas and mosquitoes. Feet up, drinking, smoking. From time to time beyond the fence a train would rattle by and howl.

Just past the fence there was a tree with a cracked branch dangling over the swing set by its ropey, splintered pulp; the sword of Damocles.

Cicadas sound faster than crickets.
In Verdi Square there was a beggar speaking of himself in the third person and requesting not one dollar but two.

"All he wants is two dollars! Two dollars! Two dollars is all he wants!"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Coming Back from Long Island

The rest of the Slurpee melted into a frothy pink soup and I wedged the cup between the seat and the door. We got caught in a throng of rubberneckers, lusting for a glimpse of carnage perhaps, but when we passed the accident on the other side it appeared unspectacular. Suddenly the cars spread apart to reveal Manhattan: an array of gray glyphs on a page of sky.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why Is the Dalai Lama Lying?

The Dalai Lama was at Radio City today. At the corner of 51st and 6th Avenue I was greeted by a monk's outstretched hand bearing some anti-Dalai Lama tract. A businesswoman in a skirtsuit took one and opened it up while we waited for the light. I peered over her shoulder to glimpse this heading in the middle of a page: Why is the Dalai Lama lying? Rumana and Devika paid someone $100 apiece for tickets, and I think that was less than face value. It's like Aerosmith was in town.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Streak - 4

Evan did something backwards again. He opened the cab door while the cab was moving, while it was a few feet away from the curb. Then he reached for his wallet to pay.

"Whoa my friend!" the cabbie exclaimed.

Evan apologized and pulled the door till it was almost shut. To shut it would have been too complete a concession, too plain an admission of error to the other man. Evan wasn't wired for contrition. But he did feel a chill of shame, or more accurately of bewildered self-reproach. What was wrong with him these days? He'd made similarly bizarre cognitive mistakes recently, like a man half in a dream, like the time in Tampa: He'd ordered a screwdriver at the hotel bar. When it arrived it was pale and fizzy. He took a sip anyway, and spat it right back in the glass. He gestured to the bartender and asked him, "What is this?"

"Vodka and ginger ale."

"I ordered a screwdriver."

"No you didn't. You ordered a vodka and ginger ale."

"There's no way I would ever order that!"

A man sitting a couple of stools over turned to Evan and fixed him with a weary, jaundiced gaze. Some road warrior who's seen it all; a permanent part of the scenery.

"I heard what you ordered. You ordered a vodka and ginger ale," he declared, in a measured tone that contained the faintest trace of threat. Don't dare defy the alcoholic truth.

Things like that had begun to make Evan nervous. Like he was losing his mind or some shit. But as he stepped out of the cab he took an inventory of his physical, mental and emotional state: drunk. A bit depressed. But kind of hungry. Kind of horny. That meant there'd be something to live for.

Evan was ushered through the VIP entrance by a black man in a gray suit and a turtleneck who murmured into his walkie-talkie and didn't look him in the eyes. He walked into the darkness, where there were tables segregated from the sea of damned civilians by chrome railings and ropes. At the farthest one he perceived the silhouettes of modified women's bodies surrounding Kyle's enormous head and spiky hair.

Illustration by Louise Asherson

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The subject of Italians came up the other day. Jim had read some book some guy gave him that said Italians have a negative birthrate and their culture and race is in danger of extinction. Their precious open and democratic society, corroded though it may be by corruption and hypocrisy.

Also their government colludes with their mothers to infantilize them well into their 20s and 30s. Who will beat back the black wave of immigration? seemed to be the question posed.

Today I saw Italians in the elevator of the Excelsior Plaza King's Queen Hotel, where I have my gym and go to swim. All I can say is this: They have stupendous eyewear. A young woman with wore blue frames, wide on the sides, with some sort of gold logo affixed. A young man with dark frames, split along the sides, adorned with a swirly, baroque emblem.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My nights lately have been muddled at the start by anxiety that I'm not falling asleep and at the end by guilt that I'm sleeping too long. These preoccupations manifest themselves in dreams.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Streak - 3

Evan woozily perceived the video screen between his knees. It was all lit up with bullshit such as stock quotes and ads for fucking Italian restaurants for fucking tourists. Then there was a nauseating video of the city skyline playing on one side and a column of news headlines on the other. The first one he might have known. But he read it sourly all the same:

    Will Yanks ever win again?

The next one shook him in a way he had not imagined was possible:

    Mick Jagger dies at age 65

He scrutinized this text for a minute or so, contemplating the dark pixels that formed each letter upon a lime-green background: M-i-c-k J-a-g-g-e-r d-i-e-s. He thought for a moment that if he got sufficiently lost within the words, within the curves and serifs of their very letters, so that they no longer seemed to have a meaning, the truth they represented might evaporate as well.

How could Mick Jagger die?

This is what Evan thought as the cab entered the comicbook realm of the Helmsley Hotel ramp, climbing up and curving 'round the venerable building and preparing to plunge him downtown.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two young girls, twenty or so, walking to the elevator with me at the Royal Crown Pallazzo Hotel after my swim. Dressed to kill. Tight brown dress on one of 'em, she has the body of a Barbie Doll. They're talking about their plans for the evening.

"I'm going to get soooo drunk. Omigod."

"Me too. I'm gonna really get drunk. Jesus."

"We don't have anything to do tomorrow except turn in our time sheets!"

They behold each other joyfully and just then the elevator we're waiting for opens and out spill the people. One man walks by, late-thirties-looking guy. He notices the girls on his way past.

"Hey! There they are!" he exclaims, still walking.

"Hey!" they say. "See you tomorrow. Be good!"

"We will!" one says.

"We will!" says the other.

We walk in the elevator and just as the doors begin to close the brown dress girl says, "Not."

Illustration by Louise Asherson

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

There's a phone by the pool at my gym, at the Hyatt King's Jewel Hotel on 49th and Broadway, some kind of special phone without a dial that's in a gunmetal box on the wall by the lifeguard. It's suggestive of the communications apparatus in a submarine in World War II - boxy, unfamiliar, fraught with urgent connotations. Why there's a phone I don't know, and why it ever rings I'll never know, but it rings sometimes, and when it rings it makes an eerie sound. Like a kettle all of a sudden on the boil. And it echoes off the steamed-up skylight, and off the walls and water. The lifeguard answers it: a thin Hispanic teenager with long hair, a bandanna and a goatee. When I get out and walk past to the locker room I wonder whether I should say goodnight, and sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Every time I do he says the same thing: "All right." With a slight accent on the "all." A pronunciation that seeks to reassure, or perhaps under other circumstances to contain, to arrest. "All right."

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Streak - 2

Evan felt a telltale vibration in his pants. He clutched the source of the sensation through the fabric of his jeans and repeatedly pinched its tapered tip, thereby forcing it to slide tortuously up and out his left front pocket. The whole procedure put him a little sideways on his barstool but now he had the thing in his hands, at last. He focused as best he could on the screen and deduced that someone was sending him a text. It said:

    wherefuck r u

It was from Kyle Boyce, a utility infielder and his best friend on the team. Evan couldn't be too sure whether he read that wrong or whether it really said what it said. So he read it again, carefully this time, with some solemnity. These are the words in the message. The message to me. If he did nothing else before darkness took him tonight he had to be sure of this, the true contents of the message. It said:

    wherefuck r u

It made Evan think of "wherefore art thou Romeo," and he thought that was funny. Painstakingly, he texted back:

    fucking your wife

It seemed funny to say "your wife," although in fact her name was Michelle and Evan knew her well and she was very nice and they all got along, and though he'd thought about it, just like he thinks about everything, he wouldn't ever fuck her, probably.

Soon an impatient reply arrived from Kyle:

    come to scores now

Evan sighed and put his phone away. He felt powerless to disobey this command, nor to impede the night as it took shape, to question the judgment of the fates. He settled up, staggered out into the glowing street, hailed a cab and rode down to the strip club to meet Kyle and God knows who or what.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

There's a new light in the ceiling over the foosball table and now everything is new fluorescent. Monday morning on my way to work there was a crosswalk light hanging sideways on its post like some beast with its head half-severed. It still worked and told you when to walk and when to stop.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I was back out in the world of trees and guard rails last weekend. To Cat and Rich's house on Saturday, on Long Island just past Queens. I forget the name of the town even though it was on the front of someone's shirt the whole afternoon. East something? It was the sort of place that got put on a T-shirt for people to laugh about or maybe not. It was a hometown.

It's a house with a car that crowds the driveway right beside it, and a porch and lawn in back, and fences.

There was a crashing thunderstorm in the late afternoon and everyone huddled around the table on the tented porch, around the chips and congealing meat. I leaned back on the rail to get drops on my face and shoulders. Some lightning must have come beside us; we didn't see it but there was a terrible bang and everyone was OK.

Planes flew low above us toward one or the other airport. Two engines, four engines. I tried to make out their designs. We drank the rest of the beer and Cat broke out some wine. We talked about baseball and Tom Waits and the planes seemed to get nearer and nearer as the night went on. WHOOOEEESH they went with blinking, blurring lights. We played games with the kids such as why are you hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself. And the planes got closer and louder and closer.
I had a dream the other day in which I thought to myself, "This is very dreamlike."