Friday, March 30, 2012


A dense thicket of brambles
Certain older women regress to infancy in their style of dress. Soft, stretchy blue pants with giant pink flowers; blouses adorned with pretty little filigrees or teddy bears, puppy dogs or flowers. It’s as though they are signaling to the world their return to innocence, their abandonment of adult sexuality, and foreshadowing their eventual senility and dependence—the opposite of motherhood.
I had just reached the bus stop on 42nd Street and Bryant Park when a cacophonous throng of high school kids marched by. Then there seemed to be two groups—the first headed east, the other west. Maybe a larger group had just divided. They were laughing, jostling each other, gossiping without restraint—it was a parade of raw, exuberant youth; beautiful, unself-aware. I peered at them, trying to understand where they came from and where they might be going.

A thick-set man in his late forties paced jerkily at the stop. His patchy, long, blond curls were matted to the side of his head. He wore a multicolored leather jacket.

“Pack a fuckin’ assholes!” he shouted.

The boys and girls continued to stream by, oblivious. The man turned on his heels and stomped around by the curb, looking over his shoulder.

“That’s a pack a fuckin’ assholes!”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Enterprise - 38

The ax fell along the lines of seniority for the most part. Jared the IT guy, ingenuous, assiduously business casual, was out on his ass after a tenure of two weeks. Hippie Allison was gone. Newspaper Lisa. My department lost Dave, the assistant graphic artist. He had recently purchased a top-of-the-line Mac PowerBook G4, all sleek aluminum, sinking an entire paycheck and the better part of another, and today he folded the thing back up, gathered up his earbuds and skulked away with a queasy look on his face.

I was among the lucky ones.

The following day Sam drifted in at around noon bearing a large cardboard box which he plonked down on one of the recently vacated polished-steel desks in the middle of the room.

“Everyone gather ‘round, OK? Everyone take a break from what they’re doing for a minute? Please?”

We assembled, bleary-eyed but curious.

“I just want to let everyone here know something, OK? This is the group,” Sam declared, and let his statement hang in the air a moment.

This is the group! You guys are the guys I want to take into battle We’ve come a long way. We still have a long, long way to go. Clearly we have a ways to go,” he continued, smiling broadly. “But this is the group that’s going to get there. I can feel it!”

Some smiled, a bit sheepishly. It was tempting to believe what Sam was saying. A cough or two were heard from among the throng. I stood with my arms crossed, shifting foot-to-foot.

“And I want to mark this occasion with a gift. From me to each of you,” he continued, cutting open the box with a scissors blade. He lifted the flaps and reached in to retrieve two T-shirts off the top, which he then held aloft.

“Everyone gets a shirt!” Sam exclaimed triumphantly.

We gazed at the silkscreened design and text, each of us seeing, reading, trying to understand. There was a picture of our beloved robot, the Product’s avatar, the very same one Bob had drawn for the blastoff site and for all our marketing materials since, our support site, the brochures and the leave-behinds, the novelty stickers, the downloadable wallpaper, the coffee mugs and shot glasses and messenger bags and all the other merchandise that had been produced and distributed to employees and had found its way to their boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers and fathers. In this version he—he always seemed to be a he—bore three stripes of face paint, a feather in his hair, and a rudimentary spear in his hand. He stood on an unmolested, paradisiacal beach, palm trees heavy with coconuts. The text curved below him in a sort of Polynesian tiki-bar font. It read:


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Time Report

Each week someone from HR sends out a mass email listing all those who have not submitted their billable hours in a timely fashion. If you’ve been on the list two weeks in a row, your name goes up in red.

I scan the email for names of people I might know. For my own name. Even though I haven’t been delinquent. You see a list with names on it in red, you check for yours.

It’s long enough so you have to scroll—maybe fifty or sixty names, from practically every department of every agency. The red ones glow with shame. What dramas lie behind them? What pathologies, what turmoil? What does it take to put a name up on the list in red? Divorce? Mental breakdown? Drug addiction?

Probably nothing. But you never know.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You’ve done nothing wrong. A vehicle follows you. A man with a gun gets out and chases you, shouting. He does not seem to have any official authority but he acts as though he does. You try to escape, but he’s got you cornered. As you cry out for help he shoots you dead. When they arrive, the police do not arrest him.

Is this Kafka, Orwell, or Florida? It is certainly a vision of thuggish, oppressive dystopia. Isn’t this exactly the sort of nightmare that gun-loving Tea Partiers are constantly warning us about?

Conference Call

Ashley always looks like her hair’s a little wet, like she got out of the shower in Paterson, New Jersey 15 minutes ago and somehow now she’s here, in this venerable Midtown office building distantly overlooking the East River. She wears jeans and jogging sneakers and form-fitting shirts. She had to have been a field hockey player.

She leans across the conference-room table and types a number from a printed-out email, which contains a message advising the reader to consider the environment before printing this email, into the Polycom speakerphone. Everyone is here. Everyone is watching.

“You have entered an invalid access code,” the voice intones again. This happens all the time.

“Fuck,” Ashley mutters. She checks the number and tries again.

“You have entered an—”

“Dammit. This happens all the time.”

Outside the window, sixteen floors down and across the street, Occupy Wall Street protesters are clamoring in front of the world headquarters of a very important pharmaceutical manufacturer, this agency’s biggest client. Police form a loose periphery on horseback and on foot.

“You have en—”

“Dammit, dammit, dammit,” she says, and tries again.

This time it works.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I read over the shoulder, some girl on the West Fourth Street platform, her pamphlet on how to market your iPhone app. Funny it was on paper. One sentence stuck out, on the topic of keeping it simple: "Remember: this is an impulse buy the likes of which the world has never known."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The other day as I was out getting lunch a flatbed truck bearing an enormous clasical bronze statue rounded the corner from 42nd Street and proceeded gingerly up Third Avenue, its warning ribbons flitting in the breeze. Passersby held up their phones to take pictures, without thinking, without interrupting their conversations with each other.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


In the vast lobby of the Art Deco building where I work there’s a giant globe on the left, seated in a backlit, hemispheric cavity in the floor that’s ringed with steps whose purpose seems to be to allow the janitor, at eight o’clock each night, to sweep them with a dust mop, one after the other, as the benighted half of the world looms over his crouching form.

On the right, two security clerks sit about fifteen feet apart behind an enormous, U-shaped marble desk. One morning I walked in to hear one speaking to the other.

“James Coburn,” he said. “James Coburn was a student of Bruce Lee. OK?”