Monday, February 19, 2018

I made a mental note of something to write about, something about vacation itself, something slightly vexing, where you hit a sort of wall. Was it something that happens in the pool?

It’s that excruciating moment when you enter the cold water. You know you’ll be fine a second later. But the shock and the dread of it are real. You stand one step deep and stare at the limpid ripples on that cold water and you almost wish you were back home in bed.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Don’t even really want to hear about it. What is there to say about this guy? He loves guns and he hates people.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Why do I have the disco hit “Ring My Bell” playing incessantly in my head?

Maybe ‘cause it stopped raining today.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Mom didn’t follow sports but she loved sports. The folklore of it, the mythology, traditions. The idea that people could get so happy about nothing at all. Or get so sad.

For the Super Bowl in 1979 we were at our neighbors up the street, the kid I’d been friends with all my life, Henry. The parents were having proper pre-dinner cocktails in the living room while Henry and I watched the game at the kitchen table. That was what went down in a house in a little college town with four grownups who didn’t give a fuck about football.

At a certain point my mom walked in and asked us who was playing. She didn’t even know who was playing on the goddamned day of the game.

“Cowboys and Steelers,” I said, with some idiotic pride, like I was in the know.

Without the slightest hesitation she said: “GO STEELERS.”

She knew, instinctively or through some convoluted experience, that the Dallas Cowboys were despicable and the Pittsburgh Steelers were worthy of love and support.

Until that moment I had no real idea of my own. I’d grown up without TV because this is how my parents chose to express themselves. To take their stand against vulgar American commercialism and conformity, dragging their children up alongside them. So today I was happy enough to watch any kind of flickering pixels on a screen, be they white and silver or black and gold.

But the moment my mom said that I knew she was right. One team is obviously, always, fundamentally, morally superior to the other. Cowboys suck.

So I rooted for the Steelers and they won.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

This morning as I walked from the school to the train, I perceived in the corner of my eye a man prone on the street. A team of EMTs were huddled around him. One held a bandage against his brow. I wanted to look, so I turned away. I knew it wouldn’t be right somehow. I crossed the street and navigated a little crowd of people who’d stopped and turned around. I looked at them. Their expressions were unconcerned, unalarmed. Maybe the guy was alive, alert. Maybe he was going to be OK. Or maybe that’s just the way humans appear when they’re watching someone die.

I thought of that day in London with my dad. A cloudburst had come and the sidewalks and streets were suddenly slick. We approached a group of people who seemed to be standing still for no good reason. Then I saw between them a tall, dapper, dark-haired man who had fallen and cracked his skull. His dark crimson blood flowed over the slate-gray pavement and mingled with rivulets of rain. Someone was on a knee beside him, doing what he could, I guess, while help was on its way. My dad gripped my hand a little harder and we walked past.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

None of This Matters

I was temping at Heublein, the giant booze company, in Hartford in the early ‘90s. I was assigned to some senior marketing guy, a balding, paunchy man in his late forties. I sat at a desk right outside his office, punching numbers into spreadsheets, gathering printouts, dicking around with PowerPoint decks.

He was in charge of product for all of South America, or maybe parts of South America. He had a trip coming up to Ecuador, Chile, some other places. Figuring out what the fuck they wanted to drink down there. Selling it to them. That was his task.

One of the company’s bargain brands had just rolled out a mint chocolate chip liqueur. A bottle sat on his desk, wrapped in its pale green label. I considered whether this was what he was currently pushing on the upwardly mobile people of Quito. For centuries they got drunk on cane liquor, maybe potions of it flavored with indigenous herbs and flowers. Now they were supposed to drink this goddamned sweet green shit.

One day I was struggling with an assignment, I don’t know what. Numbers weren’t adding up and a deadline loomed. I figured I had to make it right. Here I was on the 27th floor of a grand old building in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, wearing a belt and tie. Walking out the elevator every morning, past the water cooler and the mission statement framed and hung up on the wall. It was my role to get it right.

I must have sighed audibly in frustration and dismay. The guy shouted from his office: “Pat, come in here for a minute.”

I walked in apprehensively. He peered at me from behind his desk, from behind the mint chocolate schnapps. He seemed like a man perfectly in his place, confident, at ease. Every self-doubt I’d ever had he’d never had, or rooted out many years ago. In my nervousness I beheld him with a sort of wonder.

“Let me tell you something.”


“None of this matters. Do you understand? None of this—this, everything—” he made a little sweeping gesture with his hand—“matters at all. Not at all. Do you know what I mean?”

I nodded slowly.

“It doesn’t matter at all. Don’t worry about it. Take my word for it—I’m serious. Nothing, none of it, nothing here, nothing you’re doing, nothing I’m doing. None of it matters.”


“At all.”


“OK. OK?”


“OK. Don’t you forget it,” he said, and turned his head back down to the documents on his desk, signaling for me to turn around and leave.

As I hung my head in my morning reverie, sitting on the 2 Train, my nostrils filled with a familiar smell, airy and a little bit sharp. I realized the man sitting next to me had just put a menthol cough drop in his mouth.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

I had a very intense dream last night that I had driven a car into someone’s house—maybe backed it into their house. And the way they reacted, and the way I did, and everything that happened next—which was unclear—formed the basis of a great novel, beautiful and meaningful and profound.

When I awoke in the middle of the night I thought I should take notes about it for the morning, to make sure I didn’t forget. But I lazily tried to fix it in my mind instead. I still thought it would be something beautiful that I could carry into the world.

And now this is all I have. Or is it?

Monday, February 05, 2018

As I sat in my boss’s office I noticed that the windows in the building across the way reflected our windows, but bowed them like fun house mirrors so they all looked like giant eyeballs peering back at us.

I leaned against the train window as we went express from Jay Street to Seventh. Tired.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Outside the Coney Island haunted house the operator, a big guy about forty, leaned on a rail and spoke to a couple of ticket takers, high school guys on summer jobs.

The cars were mostly empty. Here and there a mother and daughter, a father and son, darted around the corner to be plunged into the black portal, grimacing with apprehension.

“Open a checking account and a savings account,” the man said.

The boys nodded.

“Start a credit card. Open a line of credit and buy some shit.”

A few moments passed and a few more empty cars rattled past the gates of the inferno.

“Don’t buy too much shit. You’re establishin’ credit.”

One of the boys murmured something I could not hear.

“One-fifty, one-fifty. One-fifty in checking an’ one-fifty in savings.”

The group fell silent. All the cars were gone now. The stretch of track that ran out front, past the turnstile, glinted in the August sun.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

We thought we were all so clever defying the man, doubting reality. Denying the existence of moral absolutes. Look atcha. Like a rolling stone.

This is what we get and I still don’t know what to do.

Friday, February 02, 2018

The cough is back. Dormant for hours sometimes, other times spasmodic to the point where I wonder what will happen if I don’t stop. I see myself pounding on our bedroom door, rousing Sara and wordlessly directing her to dial 911. But this has all happened before, and before, and before.