Monthly Archives: February 2012

Image Source: Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao

It was a dime a dream and a dozen to be had on those young nights, when we didn’t have anything to worry about and holding hands on the coaster was enough for the rest of our lives. Stifling F Train to Stillwell Ave and to Surf Ave and magical salt-breeze relief, and days that would stretch out with no end, until the night came and the lights danced and hearts soared.

Riding the wheel, Cyclone spins, scalding sand of the boardwalk too much to take. We shared ice cream cones and Cokes and hot dogs and laughs and dime store dreams, and the day and the city and the beach and the world was ours.

At the top of the tracks we gasped, the Verrazano and the Manhattan towers close enough to grab and keep and the force of gravity about to take away our breath. Back on solid ground we hugged for stability and for love, the kind that only the young can know.

We dipped our toes in the protean sea, crystalline blue far ashore, churning green at our feet, and dove in, and hosed off and sweat suntan lotion. We rolled in the sand and nuzzled and whispered vows of love and meant them and the next day and the next year and the next decade didn’t exist.

We had everything and gave away nothing. We were young and in love at the seashore.

It was all we knew and all we needed and all I want…

Image Source: Brian Ulrich

The autopsy reports never made it into the paper, so nobody knew exactly how a 5 ½ ft. tall, insanely heavy bucket of KFC came to rest on a weed-strewn sidewalk far from its sign pole. But since there weren’t any jobs in or under the bucket, nobody cared much, either. It was a curiosity for a while; something to speculate about while walking quickly to somewhere else. After a while it became a non-sequitur part of the landscape: Pop-art without the art, or the pop.

For Judd and Sonia, it was a place to make out on their way to or from drinking until her parents got home from work. And on the Valentine’s Day of their junior year, it became the spot where they officially became a couple.

Judd was a nervous wreck all day as he held the promise ring he swiped from Spencer’s in his sweaty palm. He knew everything would go well, but he just wanted to get the romance out of the way so they could get back to messing around, as a for-real couple. He practiced his lines internally all day during class. Finally school let out.

Judd and Sonia met up and started along the path to her house. When they got to the bucket, he pulled them over.

“Um…uh, Sonia?” Judd said. “Uh…there’s something I’ve wa..wanted to ask you.”

Sonia gasped, feeling the air rush out of her stomach. Judd got down on his right knee and pulled out the ring.

“I was wondering if…if you’d….y’know…go out with m-me?” Judd said, sliding the ring on with his shaking, boiling hand.

“Of course!” Sonia said. She pulled Judd up off the sidewalk, shoved him against the old rotating chicken bucket and planted a kiss on her new man that shook rust flakes off the lid. After she let Judd surface for air, Sonia gave Judd her class ring, which he put on his necklace. He then pulled out a slightly melted Hershey’s Kiss and gave it to his new girl. Formalities out of the way, they continued to her house, stopping off at Durgin’s Market first to swipe a few 40s.

Romantic? Not really. But romance is what you make of it, and the KFC bucket proved to be just romantic enough. It was not in the city plan, and it wasn’t around long enough to be a permanent installment. But for a few weeks one winter, a fallen piece of fast food advertising became a landmark along the path to young love.

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Image Source: Vivian Maier

“Ah Christ, there’s that bum again,” Harry said. “I see him here all’a time, passed out on the beach. What a drunken loser.”

He and Melinda were walking the beach in the morning, having cut class for an end-of-semester R&R day. The sun was up and already hard at work, and the man on the sand was starting to turn pink on the exposed right side of his face.

“Oh, don’t be so quick to judge, Harry,” Melinda said. “He’s sick. We should be helping him.”

Harry stopped in his tracks. “Sick?!? What, does he have the sniffles? How, exactly, is that no-good drunken bum sick?”

“From everything I’ve read in class, I can say that addiction is an illness,” Melinda said. “Just like schizophrenia or any other sickness. And I’ve talked to many recovering addicts, and I’ll guarantee you that none of them would have chosen to be addicted.”

“Sick, my foot!” Harry said. “If he didn’t want to be ‘sick’ all the time, he shouldn’t have started drinking. And now he should stop!”

“Yes, but how?” Melinda said. “How do you just stop? It’s not just as easy as that.”

“How do you stop?” Harry said. “Permit me to demonstrate!” He took a long pull from his Budweiser and threw the bottle deep into the water. “There! I stopped!”

“There are other factors, Harry!” Melinda said. “Biology, and family and environment and…mental components that we don’t even understand! Why would anybody choose to pass out on a beach? But why couldn’t he stop himself from doing so?”

I was out drinking until 2:00 this morning!” Harry said. “Do you see me passed out on a beach like a bum?”

“Well!” Melinda said. “I’m glad your internal wiring is so perfect! And that you’re perfect enough to judge others. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get the lifeguard!”

Harry walked away in disgust while Melinda flagged down help. She went over to the man, turned him on his back, and gently woke him. He could only mumble, and all he could say was “thank you, young lady” and “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry.” Over and over, “thank you, young lady” and “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry,” with tears streaming down his scorched, sand-encrusted cheeks. Melinda watched as the man was wheeled into an ambulance and taken off, and for both of them, the morning continued…

Dedicated to those that know the sickness. Strength to those that are fighting it, and peace to those that didn’t make it.

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Image Source: The Name Inspector

“Damn! What am I going to do with myself on Sunday?” It was the Friday after the Super Bowl and Mick and Hannah were escaping their apartment office for an espresso at the Victrola on 15th.

“I think you’ll be okay, Tiger,” Hannah said.

“I know I’ll be okay,” Mick said. “But…but…’s no more football! No more ritual! No more reading the Times sports section first! No more Mike Tanier and his hilarious game day analysis! No more appropriately selected rounds of snacks! No more lounging wear with rotating home and road jersey! No more!”

“Yeah, there’s Zoloft for that,” Hannah said.

“Hey! You know my OCD!” Mick said.

“You down with OCD?!?” Hannah sang, while raising the roof.

Mick rolled his eyes and gave her a swat with a rolled up copy of The Stranger. “That will be fine,” he said. “Jeeesus, I can’t take you anywhere.”

“Rituals are made for adjustment,” Hannah said. “You adjusted from a 1:00 PM east coast kickoff to a 10:00 AM west coast kickoff, right? And 60 Minutes seen at its regularly scheduled time, rather than being delayed by overtime. And so you shall again.”

“And I also adjusted from my game-day ritual of drinking insane quantities of American macro-swill!” Mick said.

“See?!?” Hannah said. “There you go. So what do you want to do on this, the first Sunday without football until September?”

Mick thought about it for a few seconds.

“Hmm…you know what we haven’t done in a while? We haven’t walked Green Lake. Good exercise and a good time killer. Whatcha think?”

“Sounds like a plan, Stanley!” Hannah said. “Maybe after I’ll jump your bones and buy you an ice cream cone!”

“Hah!” Mick said. “Maybe I’ll let you! Unless my OCD kicks in and I start counting my steps around the lake.”

“You down with OCD?!?” Hannah sang again.

“Shiiiit,” Mick said. “One of these days I’m going to trade you in for two twenties! Come on…”

They got up, bussed their mugs and headed back out into the Seattle afternoon. On the way back to their apartment office they took a walk around Capitol Hill, picked up a few groceries at QFC and made a stop at the bedroom. Then they knocked off work early for the weekend.


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Image Source: Projekt

Rick, Aaron and Kendra called themselves The Rats: partly after the long-gone Boston club The Rathskeller, and partly because it sounded really cool. The band had been together for about six months, and they were starting to get some buzz. Their debut at the Middle East Upstairs room in Cambridge was a huge “we’ve arrived” moment. Next stop: the much larger Middle East Downstairs room, and then world domination.

They were killing time before soundcheck in the Corner section, noshing on falafel and nursing bottles of Warsteiner. Rick was playing power chords on an unplugged Les Paul Junior.

“So what was the greatest show you ever saw?” Rick asked.

“I was actually there for that show,” Aaron said, pointing at a picture on the wall. “Hüsker Dü at the Channel, May, 1985, when I was twelve. See, you can see the South Station Post Office in that shot? The Channel was right across the Fort Point Channel from there. They always had amazing Sunday all-ages matinees. That whole show is just a blur of buzzsaw guitar and getting kicked by stage divers, but it was great! What a blast. How about you, Rick?”

“Ramones at the Palladium in New York, 1978,” Rick said. He was at least ten years older than his band mates, and a veteran of the Boston scene, although he grew up in suburban New Jersey. “‘Rocket to Russia’ tour. They were just back from England and blazing. I used to see Television all the time at CBGB’s, also. They were amazing. Most musically together punk band ever.”

Aaron and Rick simultaneously jerked their heads toward Kendra. She blushed a little.

“You’re gonna love this,” she said. “New Kids on the Block!”

Aaron and Rick looked at each other and started howling.

“It was the ‘Magic Summer’ tour at Saratoga, 1990!” Kendra said. ”Sponsored by Coke! My mom took me and my sister. I wanted to marry Jordan!”

All three were in hysterics now.

“But wait, you wanna know the best part?” Kendra asked. “This was the show when Donnie fell through the trap door after he jumped off the riser! I was there for that!”

“Winner!” Aaron and Rick yelled simultaneously at Kendra.

They were three friends in a band, swapping war stories and clicking on all levels. They finished their snacks and beers and headed through the restaurant, through the door of the Upstairs room, and humped their gear onto the stage for soundcheck. The Ramones, Hüskers and yes, even the New Kids, had paved the way for The Rats. Now it was their turn.


Image Source: Meredith Kleiber

I’m doing okay, you know? I ain’t no millionaire, but I’m working steady, staying out of trouble. I can take care of my daughter, at least, and that’s everything to me.

It’s not a job where you want to look down, that’s for sure! I’m not too scared, but I don’t spend too much time sightseeing, either. Some of the rookies, it really gets to them their first few times up. But you get used to it.

And it’s really interesting. Working this high up, you get to see all the big-wigs at work, ya know? Some of them, they got offices like you wouldn’t believe. All gold and crazy paintings and signed baseballs and jerseys and everything. I can’t imagine working in an office like that!

I see lots of people playing computer games and stuff at work. And once I saw a guy and his secretary…well, let’s just say they were really enjoying their lunch.

I like my office, though. It’s a little cooler on the hot days this high up, and I get a little spray from the water blowing in the breeze. Sucks when you get a breeze full of soapy water, but it’s still better than being cooped inside an office.

I’m not much for bragging, but since you asked, I’m pulling in around $100 a day, depending on the building. That’s middle of the road pay. I’d like to stay on ‘till I can pull in around $250 a day, just so I can put a little more aside for my daughter. I only get to see her every other weekend, but she’s why I’m up here, you know?

When I first started out, I used to use a bosun’s chair, but I gave it up. Those things are scary! It’s like riding a swing set 400 feet up! I like being on the scaffolding crew. We all go up together, get on together, lower ourselves together. And it’s a lot more secure. You gotta watch out for soapy spots, but I’ll take that over the feeling of swinging by myself that high up.

So like I said, I’m definitely not going to be retiring anytime soon. But I’m doing okay. Covering my rent, taking care of my baby, got a little left over to grab a few rounds after work…it’s not bad. I’m definitely in the 99%. But I’m doing okay.

Image Source: Ashley Noelle

Somewhere in Oklahoma
7:00 AM

Downpour on the roads.

Lila split last night. Came back to the apartment after work; nothing left. I didn’t have much of anything of my own there, so I left a check for two months rent, grabbed my clothes and split myself. Can’t stand the thought of hanging around Austin by myself.

Christ, I’m a cliché now. I’m pulled over at some abandoned gas station in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, having driven all night, riding out a cloudburst writing obnoxious sap in a journal. But damn, this sucks.

Someone leaves you, they don’t just take themselves and end a relationship. They take an entire time-frame. It’s everything. Everything that was on the radio, every place you ate at, all your mutual friends, all your plans, everything. And all of that stays, but it’s not yours anymore. Like someone steals your car and offers you a ride in it.

And I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but…

And I don’t hate her, but…

So I’m writing this now at 24 and dumb. I wonder if I’ll read this when I’m 40. I wonder if it will be like seeing 15 year old film of the guy who does the weather report, when he was thinner, darker hair, fewer lines and creases, different wardrobe. I wonder if I’ll even remember who she was or what was on the radio or what that restaurant was.

I can’t wait to get there, because it hurts like hell now.

Photo Source: Craige Moore

I am the music. I am the etude in the interlude of your commute. I am the soaring arpeggios that connect your trains as you transfer. I am the sound of your morning.

You know me from the E Train platform at 34th St. My cello resonates through the ten seconds it takes to go from your train to the stairs. I am the Bach Cello Suites you hear in the background as you head for your office.

I have studied and absorbed the Casals recordings, and I bring the passion to my studies uptown and to my busking downtown. I practice the suites all morning as you, my audience, comes and goes, over and over again, and again. An audience of 1,000 every 90 seconds. An audience of 120,000 for the three hours I play every morning. An audience of 120,000 that stays for ten seconds. You are not here for me, but I am here for you with the music that lifts your spirit for the day ahead.

You pass me by. You walk by, hurried and harried. You sometimes acknowledge, sometimes dropping change in my case. Mostly you walk by, occupied by other thoughts. But you hear and recognize. The magnificence of Suite No. 1 in G Major greets you as the doors of your train open. You have heard it so many times before, and now you hear it on the platform on the way to Point B. You pause for a split second, recognize the melody and move on as the music passes on to you. You are not aware of me at all, but you have received my morning gift.

You are not aware of me, but I am the music of your morning.

Image Source: MSNBC

So, are you all happy now? I saw my shadow! Wheeee, six more weeks of winter! Like you couldn’t have figured that out already. It’s the BEGINNING OF FEBRUARY! Do you honestly think that had I NOT seen my shadow the world would have shifted instantly to summer, like flipping channels? Really? You all must be dumber than I already think, and trust me, that’s saying a LOT.

And believe me when I say that I’m not pooh-poohing fun and games and tradition and all, no matter
how dumb-ass it all gets. I still get a bang out of all that stuff too. But come on. I mean, I’m sleeping
peacefully in my nice, warm, winter hidey-hole, and then I’m yanked out by some daft, elderly wanker in a top hat and held up in front of a mob of screaming kids and noise and flashy things. That shit is scary! You know that feeling of being yanked out of sleep by a phone call or a knock at the door? Well, imagine going from that to being carted onto a stage and expected to tap dance for the world! Try it sometime! You think I enJOY that action? I do not! Hell, I almost gave old top hat a nice little shower today! And I wouldn’t have been one bit sorry if I had…

Look, all I’m saying is …hey, can I get another Guinness? This is on your expense account, right? Anyway, all I’m saying is that I ain’t no freak show. I mean, I’m just Phil. Don’t even call me Punxsutawney, okay? I hate that. Like I want to be associated with this nowheresville. Hanging a damn circus name on me doesn’t help anything. Okay? So don’t. I’m glad you had your fun, and now you can take your little recorders and your little notepads and just piss off for another year, okay? Seriously, I’m done. No I’m NOT trying to be a crank, but I think you’ve gotten what you need for the year, right? So I’m done! Good night, sleep tight and kiss my ass, too…

Image Source: New York Times

“Swear to Christ, some days I just wish you would drive us off the bridge an’ into the drink, Ed.” Vinny and Easy Ed were on Rt. 4 in Paramus, heading into the city to cop. The Empire State Building and the World Trade Center poked above the Palisades, framing their destination, which was St. Marks & 3rd. Ed was at the wheel of a new Dodge, which they had just liberated from a space at the Garden State Plaza.

“Don’t it get to you sometimes?” Vinny said. “Look at this dump. This whole stretch, it’s like the Valley of the Power Line. Paramus is nothin’ but goddamn outlet stores an’ power lines, an’ the rest is nothin’ but a big fuckin’ toxic swamp. An’ there’s the city, teasin’ us. Only we ain’t goin’ in for drinks an’ dancin’ at the Rainbow Room.”

Vinny had stuffed a few cassettes into his jean jacket for their “test drives”. The Ramones, Dead Boys and Richard Hell, along with a tape of Vin Scelsa’s show on K-Rock. He was in the passenger seat, sweating like crazy, jonesing for a hit and irritated at Ed’s navigating.

“Why you gotta take the GW all’a time?!” Vinny said. “It’s quicker to take the Lincoln Tunnel, I keep tellin’ ya! They been taking down what’s left of the West Side Highway for fifteen years, an’ it’s still a mess with all the detours over to 12th Ave. Why ya gotta do this every time?!?”

Ed wasn’t feeling all that great himself, and he didn’t feel like getting into a big argument. “I just like the view from the bridge, is all,” he said, approaching the tolls at the end of New Jersey. “An’ drivin’ along the river. It’s a beauteeful drive, ain’t it?”

“Ohhh, it’s a beauteeful drive, ain’t it?!?” Vinny said, affecting a grandma voice. “Well, ain’t that grand! Ya think I’m going into town to SIGHTSEE?!? Did you get us tickets for the ballet while you’re at it?!? An’ a reservation for the Russian Tea Room?!? Jeeeesus, ya fuckin’ mook!”

“I just thought you might like a little fresh air, is all!” Ed said. “I know when I’m feelin’ junk sick I like drivin’ along the Hudson with the window dow…”

“Ah, BALLS!” Vinny said. “Yeah, this is gonna be deLIGHTful, drivin’ around the ruins of the elevated highway! Twenty minutes longer than it would’ve taken had we just gone down to the tunnel, when I’m sick as shit without a fix! GREAT idea!”

They were on the upper deck of the great bridge now, driving through the Hudson murk. Just ahead and slightly south, the Empire State stood like a majestic sentinel, and the Twin Towers, steely and slate-like in the overcast afternoon, held up the island at the tip. Ed, as always, felt his stomach flip with pride. “I mean, c’mon, man! Look at that view! No way you’d see that in the tunnel!”

Vinny curled up against the door, sweating and shaking, and wanting nothing more than to hand his bills over to The Deuce, get the magic bag and slam the spike. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You owe me a steak, ya mook bastid!”

Easy Ed cracked up at this request. “Man, you are somethin’ else, Vin. Most people want a steak in New York, they wanna go to Sparks. You, on the other hand, keep gettin’ them slabs of charcoaled gristle at Tad’s Broiled Steaks! An’ a paper napkin an’ a Coke in a paper cup to go! Jeez, you’re a cheap date!”

Vinny curled into a ball in the passenger seat, dismissing Ed with a wave of the hand. Ed realized that his friend would be out for a bit, so he took advantage of the situation, and the power windows in their ride. He pulled over on the side of 12th, rolled down the windows and put Vinny’s jacket over him. Then he pulled back into traffic, breeze blowing in, dreaming of real steaks at Sparks, a penthouse on Central Park West, retiring to a farm upstate and, before any of that could happen, kicking, somehow. Sometime after their current date with the needle…


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