Monday, December 25, 2017

You enter a new realm when you walk down that jetway to the plane. From the unhappy bustle of the terminal, the lines for bad food, the flatscreen watching over all to remind them of the even greater misery outside, to the hush of the carpeted, windowless, downward slope, reeking of jet fuel suddenly, an uncivilized odor—no one would ever tolerate it for more than a minute but it’s intoxicating—to the independent nation of the plane, where there’s an otherworldly hum and colored lights glow from nowhere, and you can’t get reception now for some reason, and there’s a Muzak version of “Every Breath You Take” playing soft and low.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


No way they’re paying admission, so they’re either tunneling in or coming in over the retaining wall.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A rat scurried along the far wall at Canal Street station, looking like the shadow of my train pulling out.

We spend our lives avoiding taking care of others and then no one’s there to take care of us.

The red light signaling a new message on the phone on the empty desk in the vacant cubicle.

And here comes the snow.


“Sir, Professor Oda is still on the premises here, of course,” said

Thursday, December 14, 2017

As good a time as any.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


this was how long she could hold it. But this half minute

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

You're Not Funny

Overheard on the Houston Street platform, a woman on the phone, walking through the turnstile and past me:

“You’re not funny. You’re not funny. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Lemme tell you something. You’re not funny. You’re not funny. You’re not funny. You’re not funny.”

And on and on into the distance.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


However, as small as the actual number of wrongdoers might be, they can have an outsized effect on the economy—

Into the Mouth Again

When I was in fourth grade at Northwest Elementary School there was some event when old people came to visit. They must have been from a nursing home nearby. Were they invited to tell us their stories growing up, about schools and teachers long ago? Or were we meant to entertain them, to lift their spirits on their long, dull slog towards death? All I can remember is lunchtime, when they joined us in the cafeteria. They sat segregated from us—for their comfort, or for ours, I don’t know.

The menu that day was grilled cheese sandwiches. For dessert, canned peaches in syrup. I stared at a sclerotic man with unkempt white hair. He wore a tan windbreaker. Why didn’t he bother to take it off? His spotted face hung low over his food, as though he were scrutinizing something unfamiliar. Like the others he ate silently, mirthlessly, paying no attention to his tablemates.

He speared a peach wedge and lifted it out of its pleated paper cup. Luscious drops of golden syrup ran down along the edges of the technicolor fruit, and down the white tines of his plastic fork, and onto the institutional pale-green tray. He placed it into his mouth and chewed. The sight was jarring. An old man eating little kids’ food. Accepting something designed for juvenile appetites. Was it humiliating? He didn’t care. Was it delicious? No. But I’ll never forget his air of duty, of determination. Into the mouth. Chew, chew, chew. Into the mouth again.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


—one of those the locals called a harbinger—pushed off from its icy eyrie and floated in the thin air,

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The tedious progression through the day, the sitting down, the getting up, the walking past strangers in the hall, the yanking of paper towels crookedly from the men’s room dispenser. The afternoon punctuated by another active shooter, on time like a clock.

In the kitchen, a man was telling another about some work trip he’d been on, where he’d expensed a crazy tasting menu.

“One of the dishes was like, this truffle jelly with a straw,” he said. “I was like, what the fuck is this?”

“Ha ha,” said the other.

“But it was fucking awesome,” he continued as I turned my back and walked away.

Monday, November 06, 2017


What did old Eva mean by you watched? How could she help seeing it?

Sunday, November 05, 2017


The Third World becomes a reflecting pool that gives a Western Narcissus back his own pale reflection.

Remember those days when all we had to worry about was whether the musicians in that Buena Vista Social Club movie were getting properly recognized for their efforts?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

By the pool we lay our towels under trees with compact spheres of branches and leaves, the kinds of trees you look up at and you're afraid a snake’ll fall out onto your face, or at least I am. But they shed only dead leaves, now and again.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Awoke with a new tune in my head, “it's all right” repeated over a one-five progression.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Woke up with “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” playing in my head.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Spain is florid with graffiti. It’s on the walls along the railroad tracks of course, but also on the trains, even encroaching on the windows. At the station in our little beachside town the tunnel under the tracks was completely covered with tags and messages: All police are bastards, Welcome to Altaganja.

What a luxury it is to sit before the blank screen, with nothing to write, the front door open and the sound of a lawnmower in the distance. Nothing to do in the future but swim in the pool and bob for hours in the gentle waves of the Mediterranean.

I recognized the streets, the walls, the contours of town from Google Maps. Everything was in place. As we crossed the bridge over the tracks I looked for something—anything—unexpected. Maybe the blotchy pattern of plaster on the wall of the building down there. But it was only a matter of time before Google cataloged that as well. When will their project be complete? When every paint chip, every cobweb, every blade of glass is documented—and its growth and decay in real time as well. Then the universe will finally be demystified and we can all go back to sleep.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The First Time I Heard About the Disaster of '55

We sat at a round dining table covered in lace, somewhere in the middle of France. These were friends of my parents—was it the family my mom had stayed with as a student? Or someone else they’d met along the way? We were forever criss-crossing the country: Paris, the south, Provence, the Alps, Brittany, the Pyrenees. Who the fuck knew who these people were. I can’t remember.

They were older—older than my parents—which befit the exquisitely bourgeois surroundings. The fine china displayed in cabinets along the wall, the flowered wallpaper, the Louis chairs. There must have been a grandfather clock somewhere.

We were there to eat cake. A classic French cake with meringue and cream and lavender. It was not very good, in my opinion, as it contained no chocolate. But it was sweet, so I ate it. I don’t know why we didn’t eat lunch. Just cake. Maybe we’d arrived too late, stuck in traffic on the autoroute.

Someone mentioned the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The man wistfully recalled the race in ‘55. A car slowed on the track and Pierre Levegh struck it. His Mercedes took flight and tumbled along the stands, disintegrating as it crushed and tore asunder dozens of human beings.

I gripped the silver fork and thrust it into the violet icing. The meringue resisted a little bit—you had to press hard. When it broke, the layers shifted willy nilly. Soon, crumbs and cream covered the floral pattern along the perimeter of the plate. I was afraid I was not elegant enough for this.


He slashed again and I was forced to jump onto dry land.

Friday, August 04, 2017

It poured rain this morning and then a venomous, vengeful sun came out all afternoon. Sodden trash along the sidewalk shocked in its rays.

Thursday, August 03, 2017


These rumors were all nonsense—definitively false—as established by the medical examiner.

This morning I sat beside a young man on the train. He was asleep, or half asleep, his upper body listing from side to side. Occasionally his head landed on my shoulder. I shrugged it away a couple of times, but thought: he’s just a tired person on the train. Let him touch you. It doesn’t matter. But it was hard not to reject the intrusion into my space. I pushed him away more gently the next time. He never did open his eyes. Then the seat on the other side opened and I slid over. I looked back at the man and he was now slowly waking up.
Did I dream that I saw the tallest man I'd ever seen the other day? Or did it really happen? I honestly can't remember. He seemed to be a foot taller than anyone else I'd seen. I was with someone—Sara?—and I said something about him, but she didn't seem to notice, or didn't hear me.

Today I saw the very tall man on Carmine Street, smiling under an umbrella. He had a neck tattoo and his daughter trailed behind. At least I thought it was him.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

And I watched a homeless man walk across the middle of the intersection of Bleecker and LaGuardia, shopping cart in tow. He ambled through heedlessly, with no regard for oncoming traffic or the color of the crossing light. Like: I own the street, motherfucker. I live here. This is my living room. It’s like he was walking from the kitchen to the couch.

Friday, July 28, 2017

It's a library-themed bar but no one here has ever read a book.

It does have its drunk at the corner of the bar though. I ordered from the empty space beside him and as he got up to get out his smokes he said excuse me unnecessarily and a little too loud, the way drinkers do. Never hurts to get a jump on Step 8 I guess. As I took my beer away he seemed to be complaining to the bartender that he wanted merlot; she gave him pinot noir. That's the type of drunk and that's the type of bar.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everyone’s gotta make it home from the office party. That means people who hooked up and find themselves in weird apartments in Astoria, just unlucky drunks who have to wait for the PATH, the numbers or the alphabet, Uber, Lyft. Everyone’s gotta make their sad way home.

When I stepped onto the platform at South Ferry I smelled that deep underground New York summer subway smell and I knew I was on the right way home.

We stood in wonder at 20-something people singing the lyrics to 30-something tunes. It never goes the other way. Old people don't sing young songs.

I imagined the music of Stereolab, the High Llamas and the Clientele, all mixed up together. What is it about that music? It makes you feel like you're high on drugs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


The Third World becomes a reflecting pool that gives a Western Narcissus back his own pale reflection.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I sometimes lie awake at night wondering what’s the secret. And then I think, it’s obvious: there’s no secret at all. He is just what he is. Dimwitted, narcissistic, oblivious. These are the magic ingredients that somehow add up to revolutionary American success. You can think a lot about that, or a little, and maybe reach the same conclusions.

Still, tonight I thought this: he has absolutely no respect for authority of any kind. This is both what makes him compelling to his base and what makes him toxic and terrifying. He doesn’t care about laws or institutions. About structures of power, checks and balances. Civility. The social contract. God. He completely dismisses it all—is contemptuous, in fact.

What the fuck is going to stop him?

Monday, July 24, 2017

I wondered briefly tonight whether “The Americans” was an allegory for the opioid epidemic. A middle-class family on a suburban street. Everything looks OK. But the parents are absent unpredictably. Sometimes they return home bruised, maybe missing a tooth. They go to great lengths to explain it all away. And when one day their child sees a crack in reality, and confronts them, they turn it into a family secret. Us versus them. You can’t tell anyone. But the child knows: there’s something Mommy and Daddy love more than me.

How many people live in homes where the sound of jet airplanes routinely pierces the silence, interrupting conversation, requiring the brief rewinding of video programming? A lot, I bet. I really noticed them tonight. Flight paths might have been low on account of the rain. But I like it. Imagining all those people up there, on their way—somewhere, or home.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed.

Friday, June 23, 2017


She grinned. “Do you know what I realize every time I see you? That we're very much alike.”

Thursday, June 15, 2017


When Reverend Powell went back downstairs for the whiskey,

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


marketing possibilities to older men, children, and especially women.

Monday, May 29, 2017

We went to the graveyard today. Jackie running up the hills to peer into the crypts. I was fascinated by the years on the tombstones. People died young in the 1800s. But every now and again there’d be a woman who lived a long, lonely life, into her late nineties, long after her husband, her siblings, even her kids were gone. It was hard to know whether to envy her or them.

A bugler stood up on a hill and played taps for all the fallen soldiers. Then a children’s orchestra played a program of works by composers who were buried on the premises. Their music, wobbly and a little out of time, drifted through the faint drizzle to fall upon the living and the dead.

Good ones borrow; great ones steal.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day weekend means the start of something new. Everyone finally emerging from social hibernation to be outside with beers in their fists. I associate the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix with this feeling, but for no special reason besides that they happen then I guess. It all makes me feel like anything is possible, like there’s a wide open space just around the corner, and then another just around the next. We used to go to the Memorial Day races at Lime Rock when I was a kid. The squawking of the announcer through the PA, periodically drowned by the roaring cars; the smell of burning oil, grass and grill smoke—this represented a liberation from winter, from home, from school. It was almost June after all, and forget it, school’s out in June. You can just count the days.

In fact any time of the year can have the same significance. September when football starts, when there’s new things on TV. Then the birth of Christ if you’re so inclined, or at least of the appearance of light in the darkness. Then the new year, then the thawing of the ground and the new buds on the trees in spring. And you can go on and on about them all. But fuck it, now’s Memorial Day.

Jackie found a rose petal somewhere on our walk back out of the park.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

There was a lanky man on the couch at the kids’ birthday party. I noticed him for some reason. No special reason. He sprang up and addressed us: were we involved in the sciences at all? He had an idea for an invention, helium-filled balloons that were only half-filled, so they’d hover in the air, immobile. They didn’t even have to be balloons—they could be objects. Ornaments. He wondered why that didn’t exist yet. I agreed. I was supportive. From time to time he spat out a fragment of the corn chips or Cheetos or whatever it was he’d been eating from the snack table. He’d wipe his mouth momentarily, but not self-consciously, and continue. And what about ketchup packets? Why were they so messy? So inefficient? You tear it open, ketchup gets on your fingers. You squeeze it, squeeze it till you’re sick and tired and still there’s a little bit left. A tiny pocket of wasted ketchup. Multiplied by billions. Consider the wasted food. He had a point. Finally there was a lull and I wished him luck and slipped away.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

My F train arrived at 7th Ave on the G side just as a G came in on the F side. No explanation. But people desperately ran out from one train to catch the other, just in case it all meant something.

Everything is settling back into quiet now.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Though these perceptions of cultural history bring us to the

Friday, April 28, 2017


They may have joined the human pack thousands of years ago.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Everything that happens happens underground.

The world is falling away.

Some people walk against the light, right out into traffic almost. You find yourself following them for a second. Thin guys with baseball caps. Untied shoes.

They put a couple of speed bumps on our block this week, one right out our window. A couple days later, giant white letters appeared on the street before it:


Saturday, April 15, 2017

As I gave our address to the guy at the appliance store he began to laugh. He turned away from the receiver and I could hear him laughing, coughing, laughing. When he got back on I expected an apology or something. Nothing. As I recited my ZIP code to him I could hear in his murmurs of acknowledgment the spasms of another fit. But he thanked me and we said our goodbyes.

There was a tremendously tall man on the subway today. It seemed depressing that he was so tall. Depressing to him, depressing to me. Though he was young and handsome he wore a vexed and weary expression. The laces of his boots were loosely fastened, like it was too much of a chore to lean down to tie them. What a ceaseless string of travails life is after all.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The ganja dealers always walk awhile on the beach with their marks, or their johns, or whatever you call a drug tourist customer. A paunchy white American and a young, fit Jamaican, walking side by side: It’s not a gay couple down from Baltimore. You could see the white man trying to play it cool. Listening and nodding and laughing a little too hard at the dealer in the middle of his habitual rap, not even thinking. Then the dealer would nod toward an alleyway or a parking lot and the pot would appear out of the trunk of a car or the hand of an accomplice, or maybe it was just rolled up in the guy’s shorts the whole time anyway. What was the purpose of this runaround, in a land where the sale of marijuana had to be considered an essential part of the economy? Maybe the theatre of it was essential. Make the buyer feel like he’s engaging in an illicit or even risky act. Where we going? Who’s that over there? Make scoring feel like a personal victory. They won’t even think about the price. The dealers seemed to know they were selling ritual, not just product. A ritual of connection and belonging, of peril and survival.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

On opening weekend at Coney Island everything was already like it always was. An empty hot dog box and a handful of napkins blowing along the ground ‘cause their owners didn’t give a fuck. A gimpy old man shaped like an S, walking along Stillwell Ave. You can’t imagine where he’s going in but he’s in just the right place. After exiting the men’s room at Nathan’s I observed a man in a gray track suit and ludicrous blue-and-white high-tops as he stood eating curly fries with the tiny little plastic fork. He seemed determined and cheerless, like someone taking nourishment before some kind of travail. The little kids and the trannies and everyone else was out already on this glorious day. I walked over to the edge of the Boardwalk. I watched the waves slam down raucously on the empty beach. At least something wasn’t ready yet.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

On the train to Coney Island today I hoped I’d see something memorable on the streets or through the windows. Something in between the weird businesses in Borough Park, the weedy lots and alleyways, the graveyard and the playgrounds, the misspelled signs and school bus depots. It was all beautiful but nothing caught my eye. Then, among the debris on a windowsill on the top floor of a dilapidated rowhouse, I saw a trophy. A modest one. Maybe wings sculpted at the top, I don’t know. Who had won it? What had they won it for? Who had put it on display.

I thought of something great to write about the other day. Some episode from my distant past I think. A weird drama I was witness to, involving someone’s reckless behavior, I think. I remember thinking, that seems like a nothing story, but I can make something of it. That thing happened—that funny thing. So telling, when you think about. Revealing about the protagonist. Revealing about the supporting players. Revealing about the writer himself, and so revealing about the world. The universe. But I can’t remember what it was to save my soul.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

It never feels quite as cold as when Spring starts and the heat won’t come on anymore.

Someone managed to spam my dream blog. A robot evidently, that somehow guessed the address to post by email. It reminded me of checking my mom’s email account in her apartment, after she died. Her inbox was contaminated with spam, like flies or vultures on carrion. Here and there were signals from the living—an old friend, a bit worried that they hadn’t heard back. Something related to work. The stream goes on and on forever I suppose.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Motor Oil Memories

I took a sip of my cold coffee at work today and the taste of it gave me a powerful memory of motor oil. I was at the garage in Storrs, Connecticut with my dad getting the oil changed on our VW Bug. There it was up on the lift. The wheels, relieved of their burden at last, hung down on the axles. Now the mysterious bottom was revealed. You could see the weight of this thing. The potential danger. And yet the mechanic strolled around under the car, unconcerned. He rolled up the waste oil drum, unscrewed the plug from the pan. A stream of thick, black liquid arced into the funnel as he wandered away. All there was for a while was that smell.

I took another sip of coffee and it didn’t taste the same.

Thursday, April 06, 2017


“It's been a while, Your Majesty,” I said, which was simply all I could think of to say.

Friday, March 31, 2017

You're a Fucking Asshole

There’s a little heart someone drew on the grout between the tiles on the wall of the men’s room, right at eye level when you’re taking a piss. It’s disconcerting. Creepy. Sort of mocking.

That’s the view I had yesterday morning as I heard the telltale ding of a text message notification. It came from the stall. A few moments passed. And then I heard the occupant emit a little sigh.

“You’re a fucking asshole, man,” he declared.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


It was almost too easy to dramatize this weird trick of the mind.

Monday, March 20, 2017


“Those birds sing all day long,” said the girl

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I almost had a good time today at the sad people’s store, wandering the aisles in search of spaghetti and tonic. In from the cold rain for just a minute or two.

As I did the dishes two great movies were on at the same time: “Office Space” and “School of Rock.” Each one a sparkling affirmation of humanity, a blow against the forces of evil and oppression. I’d watch one until it broke for commercials, switch to the other, switch back. Then they were both on commercials at the same time, pills, dish soap, whatever. Got to serve the man I guess.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


The wind is a crude excavator. It has all the finesse of a pickax.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


He's really very generous. Aren't you, Robert?”

Thursday, February 23, 2017


getting clearer, circling and homing in, until he was close enough to touch it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

As always, the preamble is the unnerving part. You’re not sure if you got ripped off, but OK, now the guys in the motorboat are whistling for you from just offshore. Right away they’re shouting: Don’ go near da blade! Step in quick, put on a lifejacket, put it on quick. Now! Don’ sit dere! Sit dere! When they passed us off to the parasailing boat the experience took on the air of a rescue operation. Turn around! Turn around and sit on da boat! Put this on and sit down dere, you first! There seemed to be an undue amount of process and gear. Why can’t we just be tied to the thing and spirited into the air? But then suddenly we were looking down at the shadow of our parachute on the turquoise waves. And suddenly it was over, too.

Lying on the upside-down, translucent floatie in the pool, I saw the multilingual safety instructions on the front backwards. Every language made even more foreign than it is. Turkish, Arabic, Portuguese, God knows what. We really are all the same. Just trying to get our kids entertained for a few hours on vacation. We’re all ignoring the same warnings.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


“I still call him regularly and check up on him. You can't just cast aside family members because they seem uninterested in you

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The rasta in the West 4th Street station is playing a drum now, not a guitar. A single snare, strapped over his shoulders and resting on his belly. He plays it softly, near the edge. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat. No accents, no rhythm. Just quiet, mindless beats forever. The equivalent of the single, droning chord he used to strum. I wondered what was going on in his head. Did he just want to make a gesture toward music, without caring about it, so he’d be perceived as more than just a panhandler? Or is this what music is to him? Does he think he’s playing? Then I got to thinking about the phenomenon of New York City characters. Did he invent himself? Did he find an open space to occupy? Is he the rasta with the drum, or the Rasta With the Drum? Formerly the Rasta With the Guitar? Do people talk about him? Is someone else writing about him right now? Is he somebody?

Monday, February 13, 2017


no matter how much the people who elected them insist that it must be so.

Friday, February 10, 2017


Bill was very happy. He had made a lot of money on his last book, and was going to make a lot more.

Thursday, February 09, 2017


“I'll call you later,” I said and idly looked up hotel prices in Central London

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


In the apartment next door, the woman looked at a television set and spoke into a tape recorder.

Monday, February 06, 2017


He smiled and gave Robinson a friendly nod.

Friday, February 03, 2017


Two American presidents, several heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency,

Thursday, February 02, 2017


doctors will be giving the drug to real patients who are diagnosed with ‘flu-like symptoms’

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Five Minutes Chance

As a last resort we had lunch at an anonymous Italian place in Hammersmith, no music playing. A strange couple occupied the table by the door. It was hard to know whether they were married or mother and son. They were disheveled. Their body language said we ain’t payin’. Legs stretched out too far. Chairs not facing the table.

The proprietor was the only staff. He alternately waited on us courteously and engaged in a strange dispute with the others. At one point the woman shuffled outside, probably to have a smoke. “Why are you her puppy dog?!” he snapped at the man in his weird Italian-British accent. “Why are you her poodle?”

There never was a reply from the shabby man. It continued like this—the woman returning, the man getting up to pace outside awhile, the man coming back, the woman leaving again. The owner chiding them vaguely—maybe for loitering, maybe for something more. They didn’t seem related to him. They seemed stuck to him. Always leaving but always coming back. Were they waiting for money? Free food?

Finally they shuffled down the sidewalk but you knew it couldn’t be for long. The owner peered unhappily out the picture window. The police had arrived to ticket cars.

“It’s ridiculous!” he declared. “They hide ‘round the corner. They supposed to wait five minutes, five minutes!” He shook his head.

Outside a young cop had his pad out and was moving in for the kill.

“They supposed to give five minutes after the cars run out of time!” he went on. I made some polite, assenting rejoinders: Yes. It is ridiculous. He didn’t seem to hear. He kept looking out the window.

“They supposed to give five minutes chance for people! But they hide ‘round the corner. They hide in the bushes five minutes and they come out!”

He kept staring a few more seconds then turned around to get our check.

“And a double whiskey for the little girl?” the bartender said after I ordered the pints. It was a great pub for a cold and rainy night. Intimate, convivial, hidden away on a back street. Framed newspaper pages lined the walls on the way to the loo. One was of Hitler becoming chancellor upon the death of Hindenburg, 1934. Propaganda Minister Goebbels issued the requisite niceties. All appeared to proceed in the correct way. How is anyone to know. Another one was of John Lennon’s death, 1980. Yoko weeping in David Geffen’s arms. It was hard to know which event was more dire.


we put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the present rate, or an increased rate, or a decreased rate