Friday, July 26, 2019

 I got a magical bit of time after my crazy dentist screwed my implant in again and before I had to go play with the guys at the Navy Yard so I went to our old haunt Nancy Whiskey, unchanged from the early 21st century, tin ceiling, Irish flag, full of people who don’t belong in TriBeCa but are there anyway: old black guys, young black women, construction workers playing shuffle board and shouting curses. And me. “Gone Daddy Gone” by the Violent Femmes is playing and maybe that’s the only song everybody can agree on.

One of the construction workers spies a local crossing the square outside, a pretty young thing with a halter top, and proclaims, “Number 10 with a bullet right there!” A guy at the bar says, “But they never come in do they?” I guess you can see why.

Actually no one gives a fuck about the music most of the time. Except when something suspect for its softness and obscurity plays. You can be soft and universal, like “Maybe I’m Amazed.” But otherwise someone’s gonna shout a profane complaint.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

U

I accidentally named this document “U.” It’s the letter my finger found when it was looking for none. U, like what? Fuck u comes to mind of course. Or Nothing Compares 2 U. Or both.

I left work and walked up Carmine waiting for something to happen. For something to remember and to read about. I peered at the faces of passersby. A little desperately. They looked the way they always looked. Wan. Preoccupied.

I turned the corner and approached the West 4th Street entrance. There was a minor commotion—two cops had been to see a homeless guy, or crazy, or something, sitting on the stoop in front of the Korean pastry shop. They turned away, apparently satisfied, and stepped into a yellow cab that was idling, unattended, at a diagonal to the curb. One got in the driver side, one got in the passenger side, and they drove away.

U.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

There’s a turnstile at Houston Street where the readout is gobbledygook, just an unbroken string of near-alphabetical symbols like from some Nordic language. I’m often behind someone who balks at the sight of it, their MetroCard prone above the slot, then zags into the correctly functioning one at left. I go straight through and use it anyway. Nothing happens. Nothing doesn’t happen.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

I awoke to the strains of “Love and Marriage,” such a strange song, great music, weird lyrics—“you can’t have one, you can’t have none”—that it plunged me into a new reverie. We all know who Frank was, banging broads left and right, manufacturing his myth. But I wondered about the members of the Nelson Riddle orchestra, or whoever, it doesn’t matter; they are anonymous by design. Showing up for work at a studio in Los Angeles, having whatever inside their heads— a fight with their wife, or their kid, a new car, an afternoon at Santa Anita losing whatever they made on the last date betting on that sure thing. And here they are, in the string section. Second violin. Playing that curlicue lick that no one’ll ever forget. And going home to the only people who know who they are.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Call

The man stands at the intersection, waiting for the light to change. His phone vibrates in his pocket. He withdraws it and answers.

“Is this Bradley Allen?” says the voice.

“Yes. Brad. Brad Allen.”

“And you are survived by your wife Carolyn Ladd Allen, your son Jeremy and your daughter Cynthia.”

“Survived by?”

“They are your next of kin.”

“What do you mean? I mean, yes. But what do you mean?”

“Do you feel that you are receiving this telephone call in error?”

“Why am I receiving this telephone call?”

“Standard call, sir. Standard procedure.”

“Procedure for what?”

“For the recently deceased.”

“Did I die?”

“Sir, our records clearly indicate.”

“How can I be dead?”


“No one expects what’s next, sir.”

“You mean all of a sudden I’m dead, and now I’m talking to you?”

“There’s no accounting for one’s experience of the passage.”

“Everybody gets a phone call when they’re dead?”

“Well that’s not all they get. And not everybody.”

“So why me?”

“You’re in the database for a call, sir. That’s all I’m at liberty to say.”

“Then what happens?”

“That’s entirely up to you. I just need a moment of your time.”

“I don’t have any time. I’m dead.”

“It’s just an expression, sir.”

“Well get on with it.”

“That will be all.”

“That will be all what?”

“That will be all, sir. Thank you for your time.”

“What did you need my time for?”

“As I mentioned sir, you were in our database to receive a call.”

“For what? To do what?”

“There’s no action item attached. None that I can see.”

“So what did you do that you needed my time to do?”

“Well, I made a notation. Of course.”

“A notation for what?”

“For my records. For our records.”

“What does the notation say?”

The briefest silence.

“Oh, I beg your pardon sir. I understand. It’s not really a notation so much as—well, I guess we do call it a notation! I don’t want to get into semantics. I don’t want to take any more of your time. What I did was, I placed a tick mark by your name.”

“A what?”

“A tick, a check. Actually it’s more a radio button than a box. They’ve updated our interface.”

“A check mark for what.”

“To indicate a call was made.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s my job.”

“What for?”

“I’m not at liber—actually, I’m not aware. I can tell you that I’m not entirely aware.”

“Aware of what?”

“Of why we need to indicate that a call has been placed to you.”

“But what happens? What happens now?”

“Well, the database is updated and other parties are notified.”

“Other parties?”

“My colleagues. The database is in a workflow.”

“What do they do?”

“Oh I have absolutely no idea, sir.”

“Am I going to get another call?”

“Possibly. Possibly not. I’m not at liberty to say. Again, I’m actually quite unable to say.”

“But I’m dead?”

“According to what I’m seeing on my dashboard. Well, I can only surmise. You are in the database. The dashboard doesn’t really tell us much.”

“What does it tell you?”

“Your name. Your telephone number. Your next of kin.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s what’s visible to me.”

“Something else might be visible to someone else?”

“There are hidden fields. Which is to say, they’re hidden from me. But I have no idea whether those fields are populated. Or visible to someone else.”

“What literally happens when I hang up this call?”

“On my end sir? I submit your record for further review.”

“What about on mine?”

“That’s entirely your affair sir.”

“You don’t know what happens to people when they die?”

“All I know is that under certain circumstances they receive a telephone call from myself or one of my colleagues.”

“What circumstances?”

“That I’m unable to say. That’s not visible to me, sir. It’s not apparent.”

“So what do I do now?”

“There is nothing further required of you from my end.”

“I see.”

“Actually sir, that’s not entirely correct.”

“Yes?”

“Before you hang up, you will have the opportunity to take a survey regarding your level of satisfaction with this call.”

“Satisfaction?”

“My degree of professionalism. Of courtesy. My willingness to answer your questions to the best of my ability. That type of thing.”

“Right.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?”

A long pause.

“Sir? Sir? Sir?”

Monday, July 01, 2019

Two construction workers held another between them as they walked, his arms around their shoulders. Right around King Street in the beautiful, sunlit end of day. Was he drunk or had he fallen off a scaffold? It was impossible to tell.