Sunday, December 25, 2016

We Spirits of Christmas

I’ll be packing extra tissues today.

It’s Christmas and I’m off to my sister’s house for great food, fabulous company and lots of weeping and wailing as we enjoy our favorite holiday movies.

The two biggies are Scrooge, the very best adaption of the Charles Dickens classic and The Mousehole Cat, a beautiful animated story that puts me around the bend no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

I've watched these movies many times over the years—particulary Scrooge- and it’s impossible not to think of my parents and, thus, it’s impossible not to cry.

In addition, I’ll be having plenty of wine, pretty much guaranteeing that the tears will flow like the mighty Mississippi.

During last year’s movie event I got a little lubricated, nodded off, and woke up just in time to start crying at some tender scene in Scrooge.

“Go back to sleep!” my sister said and promptly threw a tissue at me.

Ah, family, that’s what the holidays are all about.

I keep telling myself that it doesn’t feel like Christmas, something I do every year. I’m always surprised by how Christmas keeps coming around, like some kind of stealth holiday, but all you have to do is keep an eye on the calendar.

I’m happy to say that I made it to confession yesterday after weeks (months?) of being away from the booth.

The church was nearly empty and it was all decorated for Christmas, just waiting for people to fill the aisles.

I told the priest that I’m still struggling with the anger and resentment burdens that take up far too much of my life.

Christmas Eve You’ll Find Me…

“Forgiveness is one the most difficult things Jesus asked us to do,” he told me. “And, remember, when He was on the cross, He said ‘forgive them, they know not what they do.’”

Yes, well, God knows I’m a long way from that state of mind, but there’s nothing like unburdening to get you back on the right path.

I came out of the confessional feeling emotionally better and physically lighter.

And I made a point of walking around the church and reminding myself how lucky I am to have my family with me at this time of the year, when so many other people are suffering.

Yes, the world is in sorry shape. Yes, we’re still senselessly killing each other. And yes, the election didn’t go the way I wanted it to. But I still have my family.

I’m particularly thankful this year since I got my book published and I regained my job in October after losing it in August. So, yes, I’m quite thankful.

One of my favorite moments in Scrooge happens when the Ghost of Christmas Present explains to Ebenezer just how things work.

“Mortal,” he says. “We Spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred and sixty-five. So is it true of the Child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts one day of the year, but in all days of the year.”

And that’s the best description of the Christmas spirit you'll ever hear.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Lost Family

I met them back in the summer and I still don’t know who they are.

Sometime in August I did a walk around the Central Park Reservoir with a Meet-up group I had just joined a few days earlier.

It was a nice summer day, the people were cool, and the walk was excellent. By the end of the second—or was it the third?—revolution, I was ready for rest, food, beverage.

We walked over to a bar on the West Side and sat down for what I thought would be good food and stimulating conversation.

Well, the food was passable, but the conversation quickly went south when some people within the group started chattering among themselves and left me and a few other stragglers lingering in social limbo.

I’m not sure how this happened and I guess I have to shoulder some of the blame for slipping into the void—it’s happened before--but it seemed like the stream of talk that came so easily during the reservoir walk dried up as soon as our butts hit the chairs.

Whatever the reason, I decided it was time to bounce, so I rolled down Broadway to a nearby New York Sports Club facility at 80th Street for a sauna and a shower to clear the physical and emotional grime.

And that’s when I saw it: a pile of photographs spread out in the street like so much trash.

I got a little closer and saw they were family photos, and they included a Polaroid profile of a smiling man in a suit and tie and a stained picture a baby waving at the camera.

Photo Finish

It was disturbing seeing these intimate images exposed and discarded. Yes, they were strangers to me, but these people were somebody’s loved ones. How did they end up like this?

I wondered if someone in one of the nearby apartment buildings had moved and dropped the pictures unknowingly. But there were so many, it’s a little hard to believe someone didn’t notice their absence.

Perhaps an elderly resident had died and their treasured memories had been callously hurled to gutter by a barracuda landlord looking to clear the place out and jack up the rent.

I feel a connection to these people even though, of course, none exists. I want to know everything about them, where they lived, what they did on the holidays. Where are they now?

And how did they fall into the void?

There could be a very rational and quite boring explanation for all this, but I just can’t imagine anyone willingly parting with these photos.

I shot a few pictures with my smartphone and left the photos right there. I supposed I could’ve tried to track down the rightful owners, but I didn’t see any labels or name tags that could identify these people.

And I’ve brought strangers’ photos home before and I didn’t want any additional drama.

But now I regret it.

I know nothing lasts forever and that for all the effort we put into making our mark in this world, most of us will be forgotten and our treasures will be regarded as refuse by the next generation.

Still this sight was unnerving and it reminds me of the need to connect with people in the here and now.

And if they don’t want to talk with you, then keep on walking until you find someone who does.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Angel Voices

In 1843, the parish priest in the French town of Roquemaure asked a local a wine merchant and poet named Placide Cappeau to write a Christmas poem to celebrate the renovation of the church organ.

Cappeau was seemingly an odd choice for this task, as he had never shown any interest in religion. But he obliged and wrote the poem “Minuit Chrétien" during a stagecoach ride to Paris.

A short time later the composer Adolphe Adam set the poem to music and the song became “O Holy Night,” one of my very favorite Christmas carols.

When done properly this song can bring tears to my eyes.

And that’s exactly what happened last week when my sister and I took the train out to Long Island to meet up with our cousin Chris and her husband Art at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho.

In the past we’ve had our Thanksgiving dinner with them at this historic spot, but we decided to take it easy this year and meet up the following week.

It was nice sitting down for a meal at this place when it wasn’t packed to the rafters.

After hours of great food and fabulous company, we decided to take a stroll around the shops that make up the Milleridge Village before getting the train back to New York.

The place was all done up for Christmas and this included a trio of lovely women who sang carols on a small stage.

They had just finished “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” when I showed up. One of the women asked for any requests and when no one said anything, I asked if they knew “O Holy Night.”

“Of course,” one of the women responded, and they promptly did their thing.

It was so delightful to hear these women sing those beautiful words.

In Sin and Error Pining…

I know that the idea of me coming to tears is hardly earth-shattering news, but, honestly, this was really something special this time (as opposed to all those other times).

A number of people in the crowd had walked away by then so it felt like they were singing just for me.

I got all weepy telling Fred the Shrink about it on Tuesday. Being Jewish, he didn’t know the song and asked me to fill him in. So I recited a few lines.

“…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”


“So it’s a song about hope?” he asked.

Yes, indeed, and I think that’s why I get so emotional when I hear it.

Christmas can be a heart-wrenching time of the year when we remember the loved ones we’ve lost and look back on our own lives.

Hope can be in awful short supply right about now so the thought of new and glorious morns can do wonders for a battered soul.

Like many beautiful things, “O Holy Night” must be handled with great care and I’ve have heard the song abused something fierce by singers who mistake shouting for emotion.

For years, Paul Shaffer, the bandleader on the David Letterman Show, mercilessly mocked Cher’s rendition of the carol.

My favorite version is by Nat King Cole, who is also one of my favorite singers. When this man says fall on your knees, it’s awfully hard not to genuflect right on the spot.

I always swore I would never listen to anyone else sing it.

But I’m willing to amend that opinion now and tip my hat to three lovely ladies in Jericho.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunrise in Paris

I looked anxiously out the cab window as I rode with a friend through the streets of Paris on our way to catch a train.

This was during my European vacation in the summer of 1982. The sun was coming up and there seemed to be no one around this most wonderful city.

I was so tired and stressed about making the train that I don’t think I fully appreciated that beautiful morning. (And we did catch the train.)

Sunrise will be at 8:25AM in Paris tomorrow morning. I only know this because my smart phone offered to share this bit of information with me when I hit a button and didn’t make my original request fast enough.

This was one of a series of queries or tasks that my phone suggested, which included the score of the Giants game (I don’t follow football) and sending an email to Brian, whoever he is.

Smart phones didn’t exist back in 1982, so I wasn’t carpal-tunneling my thumbs into numbness on Twitter or photographing the back of the driver’s head or shooting a video of the passing scenery. And I sure as hell didn’t send an email to Brian or anybody else.

I just looked out the window while the sun rose over the City of Light.

There was no Internet back then, of course, so if you wanted to know the height of the Eiffel Tour (984 feet), you couldn’t ask your phone and get an instant answer. You had to check a guidebook or go to the library.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but obviously it is. I took pictures on that trip, but with a film camera and I didn’t photograph my breakfast croissant or snap a selfie with a wheel of camembert.

You couldn’t store your pictures in your phone or computer, so I have absolutely no idea whatever became of those photos.

The Last Time I Saw Paris

I always swore I’d never turn into my parents, but it looks like I have.

I talk about the good old days, tell techno-deprived war stories about how back in my day we didn’t have Facebook or Instagram. If you wanted friends you had to go out and get them.

I’m sure young people in the vicinity of my ravings must be shaking their heads and thinking “get a load of this fossil.”

But if humanity doesn’t destroy itself in the near future, millennials will experience the same irritated amazement at the next generation’s marvelous machinery.

I asked my phone to give me that list of questions again only this time it—she?—handed me a link to some website that listed the 50 most important questions and I tried answering a few.

What does happiness mean? Can you define real happiness? Still working on that one.

If you had to move to a distant land without your friends and family would you do it? I have a desire to spend some time in Australia, especially since the recent election. But it would hurt like hell to move so far from my family and friends.

What are your thoughts on Karma and do you believe in it? A shrink once asked me that and after some dodging I had to finally admit that while it sounds good, karma or fate don’t seem at all possible in this world.

Does the Universe have a fence or boundary around it? What the fuck are you talking about?

We’re in the midst of yet another holiday season and I recall the words of Robert Duvall who once said that when you’re old it seems like it’s always Christmastime. I laughed at the time, but not so much now.

After Christmas comes the dead of winter, my least favorite time of year, where I swear once again that I’m moving to Los Angeles. Or maybe Australia.

But I’d even settle for a cab ride through Paris at sunrise. I’ll think I email Brian and ask him to join me.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A World Without Collisions

I did my best to keep it together, but I finally had to reach for the tissues.

I’m a world famous weeper and I make no attempt to hold back the waterworks when I’m in the privacy of my home, where I can wail to the rafters and nobody’s the wiser.

However, on this particular occasion I was at the Signature Theatre on 42nd Street in Manhattan taking in a performance of Athol Fugard’s Master Harold…and the Boys.

But I couldn’t keep from crying, despite the crowd, as this is simply one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful plays I’ve ever seen.

The language is fabulous and the emotions so raw that I never had a chance. I don’t know what the man sitting next to me was thinking when I start sobbing and after a few seconds I didn’t care.

This was the third time I’ve seen Master Harold since 1982 when my oldest brother and I saw it with James Earl Jones and a young Danny Glover.

I saw it again in 2006 with my sister and our late father and this time Danny Glover was playing the older character Sam. I didn’t cry during either production, but when I went this latest time with my sister and auntie I pretty much fell apart.

I guess it’s because I’m older now. Our father is gone; I’ve witnessed how short and fragile life is and I’ve seen how people—myself included--can lash out at the ones they love the most.

What is so brilliant about the play is that despite being set in South Africa nearly 70 years ago, it still resonates today by addressing so many important themes about love, family, race, and friendship.

The story takes place on one rainy after in 1950 in a tearoom in Port Elizabeth. Apartheid is the law of the land and the play gives us a very personal view of just how destructive this hateful system was.

‘Nobody Knows the Steps

Hally, a 17 year old white boy, whose parents own the tearoom, is working on a paper for school while Sam and Willie, two black employees, are setting up the chairs and tables.

These people care for each other very much and Sam is more of a father to Hally than the young man’s real dad ever was.

Sam and Willie tell the teenager about an upcoming ballroom dance contest and when Hally asks what happens when couples collide with each other on the dance floor, the two men laugh at the absurdity of such an occurrence.
“There are no collisions out there,” Sam says. “Nobody trips or stumbles or bumps into anybody else. That's what that moment is all about. To be one of those finalists on that dance floor is like . . . like being in a dream about a world in which accidents don't happen.”

The real world tragically crashes into the dream, though, when Hally learns that his alcoholic father is coming home early from yet another stint in the hospital.

Filled with helpless rage, Hally brutally turns on Sam, using him as a target for the anger he really feels toward his father. These scenes are so terrible to watch and you can’t take your eyes away from them.

“Nobody knows the steps,” Hally angrily declares, “there's no music, the cripples are also out there tripping up everybody and trying to get into the act, and it's all called the All-Comers-How-to-Make-a-Mess-of-Life-Championships.”

Lately, it seems like this world has nothing to offer but collisions and I don’t think it’s going to get better anytime soon.

I’m going to keep on going to see Master Harold for as long as producers keep putting it on stage. I’ll keep the tissues handy and hope someday that the world without collisions will extend beyond the dance floor.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Ends

I think I’m getting better at this.

I had two book signings this week for my novel Born Speaking Lies and I’m starting to get this whole author thing down.

On Wednesday I had a book launch party at the Mysterious Book Shop on Warren Street in Manhattan, where I’ve attended many readings. Now it was my turn.

For years I’ve dreamed of standing in front of a group of people and reading from my work, but when I first arrived I saw nothing but empty seats. The list of attendees wasn’t that long to begin with and I had four cancellations before I even walked through the door.

“It might be just the three of us,” I told my dear auntie and sister when they arrived.

I was trying to chalk it up to experience; this was my first book, people have busy lives, and the old standby, shit happens.

But none of that took away from the numbing sadness that had gathered around my heart.

This was going to suck.

When a UPS driver showed up to make a delivery I half-jokingly suggested we make him stay. A body is a body, after all.

My lovely sister tried to get some poor schlub browsing around the shelves to stick around—something I didn’t have the guts to do—but the guy hit the bricks.

In the Beginning...

And then slowly people started trickling in. For every cancellation it seemed there was a surprise guest. My sister had announced the event on her Facebook page and at least two folks showed up as a result.

A dear friend from my writing class, a buddy from the gym, and one of the original members of a Brooklyn blogging group all cheerfully showed up to support yours truly.

Hey, somebody untie the UPS guy!

I read a section of the book, and, to be honest, I could’ve gone slower and made more eye contact, but at least there weren’t any outrageous screw-ups like I had been experiencing during my rehearsals.

Today I did another reading at the Bookmark Shoppe on my home turf in Bay Ridge and things started off the same way with me looking morosely at a herd of empty seats.

Only this time it was a hell of a lot colder outside and I was wearing a pair of drug store spectacles after losing my regular glasses during an evening out with my family the night before.

And there were no UPS guys in sight.

But once again, the trickle in theory came into play as my writing class buddies, my sister’s friend, and two honest-to-God strangers starting filling the vacant chairs.

This time I read a little bit slower and I added more flair to the narration. I’m still working on the eye contact thing, but I’ll get there soon enough. I just want to do more of these.

It’ll be Thanksgiving in a few days but I feel like I got a jumpstart on the holiday with all the support I received at these two events.

Now I have to order a new set of eyeglasses and hope the UPS guy doesn’t freak out when I answer the door.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Simian’s Rainbow

Thank God for the theater.

My sister, auntie, and I saw Finian’s Rainbow at the Irish Repertory Theater today and we enjoyed a wonderful show filled with beautiful songs, fine acting and no Donald Trump.

It was the closet thing to a remedy from Tuesday’s nightmare scenario that has one of the country’s largest KKK groups planning a parade next month to celebrate Trump’s election.

Racist attacks have skyrocketed around America since Trump's victory so we shouldn’t be surprised that the boys in the white sheets have decided to come out of the closet.

Trump claimed that he wasn’t aware of the incidents (was he in a fucking missile silo?), said there was only a small amount and told people to “stop it.”

It seems fitting that there’s a character in Finian’s Rainbow who is an avowed racist--until he’s magically turned into an African-American. He learns pretty quickly what oppression is really like and amends his bigoted ways.

Where’s a leprechaun when you need one?

Trump scrounged his way into the spotlight with his racist attacks on President Obama’s citizenship and used that and other equally despicable lies to claw his way into the Oval Office.

He labeled undocumented Mexicans as rapists, threatened to ban Muslims from America, and peddled this pathetic fantasy about building a wall along the border and sticking Mexico with the bill, which, of course, they’re already backing away from.

The Idle Rich

Maybe if the Donald walked a mile in a Mexican’s shoes he’d sing a different song.

Or perhaps we could turn President Pussy Grabber into a woman for a day, so he could see how it feels to be groped, degraded, and threatened. Who says you can’t teach an old pervert new tricks?

Mike Pence, our vice-president-elect, has made a career out of persecuting gay people, going so far as to propose cutting funds for AIDS and using the money for bogus “conversion therapy” programs.

I have gay friends who were absolutely heartsick after the election and were it in my power to somehow transfer their pain into the people who voted for Trump I would do it in the blink of an eye.
Then they would know firsthand what it’s like to be called “faggot” and “dyke;” they’d know how it feels to literally fear for their lives just for being who they are.

I was looking over the photos from a Halloween party my sister and I attended and the gay couple who threw the affair look so happy.

It seems like such a long time ago, but it was only a week or so before Election Day. My friends aren’t smiling anymore.

The names being bandied around for the new administration sound like something from a DC-version of The Walking Dead.

Newt Gingrich and St. Rudy of 9/11 are two of the more appalling candidates with many more to follow. Maybe we could try conversion therapy on them.

There are going to be some very difficult days ahead and we’d best keep looking to the rainbow until things improve.

How are things in Glocca Morra? Better than here, that’s for goddamn sure.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Upon This Rock

My Halloween costume this year was painfully appropriate.

I had made a last minute decision to buy an old time prisoner outfit, complete with striped shirt, pants, and cap.

I didn’t think much of it, at first; it was just a standard issue costume intended to get me through the holiday. But it got a lot of positive responses, especially from total strangers.

“I know you,” one young man said to me as my sister and I rode the F train. “We did time together in Alcatraz.”

We were going to our friends’ apartment in lower Manhattan and we had a wonderful time, starting with the doorman who threatened to call the cops the moment he saw me.

Our outfits were a big hit (my sister was a nun), we met some great people, and ate too damn much.

When we left our friends’ apartment, I started running for a bus, prompting a man walking his dog to point at me and say to my sister, “he’s getting away!”

Everything was fine, at first, but then the evening suddenly morphed from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. And I morphed right along with it.

Apparently the entire New York subway system was possessed by an evil spirit, as we had to contend with closed stations, rerouted lines, and one train that hid in the tunnel like a frightened gerbil just outside the Canal Street platform and refused to come out for several excruciating minutes.

I tried to keep my temper in check, honestly, but as the misfortune piled up I got angrier and angrier, and by the time we got to Brooklyn I was bouncing off the four walls.

Even when we tried to get car service to go home, some stumblebum with a shopping car managed to get into the place ahead of us and snaked the last car. It sucked something fierce.

But it didn’t end there. The following night my sister, auntie, and myself went out on one of our theater escapades and after dinner we called car service to come pick us up.

Ocean of Sins

And then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. The car, which was supposed to be a few minutes away, was nowhere to be seen. It was raining cats and dogs and elephants, and baboons and still there was no sign of a car.

I wasn’t wearing the convict outfit, but I was a prisoner nonetheless, held captive by volatile emotions.

I’ve written so many posts about my anger issues, how I can’t stand living this way, how I’m going to change my ways. And then I freak out all over again.

It’s been almost a year since I went to confession during my Hawaiian vacation and finally admitted my problem. I remember how the priest told me not to get discouraged if things don't change immediately.

I tried going to confession Saturday, but apparently Charles Manson was in the booth ahead and seeking mercy for every sin he’s committed since birth.

As I waited, I felt the anger starting to rise in me once again…until I realized that losing one’s temper while waiting to confess to the sin of losing one’s temper seemed especially ironic.

I waited a few moments and not only did I calm down, but I felt empathy for whoever was in that confessional.

He or she must be hurting pretty badly to be spending so much time with the priest; maybe they were hurting even more than I was. I’ll go back this week.

Now one thing about Catholicism is that there’s a patron saint for anything that ails you.

A quick Google search revealed that Peter is the patron saint of anger management and so I’m asking for his help with this runaway rage of mine.

Peter is an excellent choice, as he is the apostle who denied Jesus three times but still became a saint and holds the keys to the gates of Heaven.

One of the prayers to St. Peter asks him to “lift me from the ocean of my sins,” a very powerful image to me since losing my temper feels an awful lot like drowning in the middle of some very hostile waters.

I’m not making any more sweeping promises to change because that only leads to sweeping disappointments. Like any other addict I have to confront my demons one day a time.

But the only day I want to be a prisoner is on Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sir Rob of Dallas

I got the text shortly after 5pm last Sunday night.

Hello, Sir Rob,” it said. “How are you?

It was a message from the cab driver who would be taking me back to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport two days hence, and I got such a kick out of being called “Sir Rob” that I think I’ll start signing my checks that way.

My driver, a Bangladeshi man who has lived in Dallas for 17 years, was a real hustler.

I was in the Lone Star State on business so I didn’t get a chance to see the sites, and since my hotel was on a street with virtually nothing but other hotels I can’t tell you much about the third largest city in Texas.

I did get to visit the George Bush Presidential Library on my last night in town, and, well, let’s just say that fantasy is best left to the folks at Disney. At least they try to be entertaining when they make shit up.

I mean, seriously, people—“Bush,” “Presidential” and “Library”—those are three words that don’t belong together under any circumstances.

I also managed to work myself up into a serious case of the heebie-jeebies for absolutely no reason, which really isn’t news given the way I’ve chosen to live my life.

I was worried about missing the plane. I was worried about not missing the plane. I was worried about losing my luggage, losing my laptop and losing my job.

The only thing I wasn’t worried about losing was my mind as I had already said, “Vaya con Dios” to anything vaguely resembling sanity a long time ago.

One of the highlights of the trip occurred at my hotel’s health club as I stumbled on one of the treadmills early Tuesday morning.

The treadmill is one of my least favorite exercise routines. I much prefer my boxing class where I work hard with a bunch of great people, as opposed to going nowhere fast all by myself. That’s just a little too close to life for my taste.

All Hat

My mind was in about a dozen different places, as usual, but I finally got hold of enough of the present moment to notice a white-haired lady chugging away two treadmills down.

She wasn’t moving very fast, but she was determined and methodical. She must’ve been at it for at least a half-hour and when she finally stopped I just had to speak with her.

“I’m impressed,” I said as she wiped down the machine.
“I’m 68 years old,” she told me, “and I like to stay active.”

“I’m going to be 60 in May,” I said. “So life goes on?”

“Oh, sure,” she said. “No problem.”

She told me she was from Iowa, wished me well, and then she was gone.

We only spoke for about 30 seconds, but I’m so happy I met this woman. She was the best thing that happened to me in Dallas—even better than the George Bush Library.

My driver picked up right on time on Tuesday afternoon and gently chided me for not visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, which wasn’t far from my hotel.

The museum examines the life of John Kennedy and given my father’s undying adoration of JFK, I wish I had checked the place out. Another time, perhaps, when I’m traveling on my own dime.

“Are you married or single, sir?” my driver asked.

“Single.”

“Oh, you should’ve told me,” he said. “I would’ve taken you to some clubs.”

See? I told you he was a hustler. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness, but noted that my clubbing days are well behind me.

So now I’m back in Brooklyn and none of the things I worried about actually happened. I have no immediate travel plans, but I’m thinking that I’d like to visit Iowa some day and see what makes the people there so happy.

Sir Rob needs to get off the treadmill.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Climbing the Stairs

I stood at the top of the stairs and watched my father emerge from the basement carrying a stack of presents.

This was Christmas Eve, God alone knows how many years ago, and I had gotten out of bed to investigate the sounds I heard coming from downstairs.

We lived on the second floor of our house back then, and the stairs leading to the cellar had a medieval dungeon look to them, disappearing quickly into a critical shade of blackness that seemed to defy the strongest beams of light.

Our cellar was something of an underground junkyard. We put just about everything down there—old clothes, furniture, books--even a couple of refrigerators. Why the hell we didn’t just go ahead and throw this crap out I can’t rightly say.

At the bottom stairs was this small storeroom and one of my brother’s had scrawled “Frankenstein Lives Here” across the room’s green wooden door in an attempt to frighten me. I maintained I wasn’t scared at all, but I avoided that room until I was a teenager.

I kept watching my dad climb the stairs until he looked up and saw me.

“Get back to bed!” he snapped and I quickly did what I was told.

This may have been Christmas, but my dad had a rough temper and could connect with his inner Frankenstein with alarming speed.

Strangely, this was not the night that I suddenly realized that there was no Santa, no elves, and no eight tiny reindeer.

Yes, Virginia…

No, my illusion wasn’t shattered on this particular holiday.

I kept a firm grip on my loyalty to Kris Kringle and reasoned that Santa must have left the presents in our cellar—we didn’t have a fireplace—so my father could bring them upstairs and put them under the tree when he was ready.

Santa was real, I decided, and Dad’s just helping him out.

I was so committed to the fantasy that I refused to believe what I was seeing with my own eyes: a hard-working, flawed man lugging a pile of brightly wrapped presents that he probably couldn’t afford.
I didn’t tell my siblings about seeing Dad on the stairs because in my mind there was no news to report.

Christmas happened as it always did and my faith in Santa Claus and all the surrounding mythology was as solid as the tree standing in our living room.

I believed in Santa for a few more years until the magic of Christmas gave way to the reality of shopping in crowded stores, wrapping presents and eating too much.

I live alone now in a third-floor walkup and the only person who climbs the stairs on Christmas Eve, or any other night, is me. I don’t put up a tree or any decorations, but I’m thinking now maybe I should try and make the apartment look more festive.

But I still remember the little boy standing so high over the gloom, so devoted the man who sees you when you’re sleeping, who knows when you’re awake.

We all have a bit of a Saint Nick and a bit of the monster inside us. We’re all balanced on the brink of darkness, waiting to see which one is climbing up the stairs.



(I'm posting a little early this week as I have to fly to Dallas tomorrow on business. Take care, one and all)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Web Slinger

Now I’ll have to write something else.

My author’s website is finally up and running and it looks so funky I can’t believe it’s about me.

The site is an online marketing tool for my novel Born Speaking Lies and I'm just crazy about it.

The amazing Ed Velandria, the web designer who somehow made sense out of all my gibberish, put together this slick film noir site complete with review copy, a synopsis of the novel, some eerie images, and a mug shot of yours truly.

There are also links to Amazon and Fomite Press, my publisher, for easy ordering. (No pressure)

Ed handed me the reins to the site on Friday, an evening that came so close to being a fiasco of epic proportions that I’m still shuddering at the memory.

We had planned to meet at the Wholefoods in Park Slope at 3rd Third Street and Third Avenue.

On Friday afternoon Ed sent me an email requesting a change in time, but I completely misread the message and mistakenly believed we were going to meet on Saturday, the following day.

At least that’s what I believed until Friday night when I got a text from Ed telling me that he was at the Wholefoods and gently asking just where the hell I was. Oh, shit…

I let Ed know I was on the way and called car service. The first outfit had a 20-minute wait, which was totally out of the question, but the next company told me they’d send someone over in five minutes.

The car arrived, I jumped in, and prayed we wouldn’t hit traffic. And then, as we got onto the BQE, everything took a sharp turn down Freak Street.

Fare is Foul and Foul is Fare

“How much they say to charge you?” my driver, a rather bulky Middle Easter man, asked while fumbling with his phone.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I forgot to ask.”

“They tell me $16,” the driver said. “That’s too much. You call dispatcher and ask why he charge that.”

Me? I’m the passenger and I wasn’t complaining. Why is he getting upset? But I did as I was told, calling the front office and politely inquiring about the fare.

“That’s what it says on the map,” the dispatcher replied, sounding almost as confused as I was. “Why is he dragging you into the middle of it?”

“I’m not sure.”
We rang off and then, as we flew down the highway, my driver made some calls and became speaking excitedly in Arabic.

Meanwhile I sat quietly looking out the window and wondering how badly I'd get hurt if I opened the door and jumped out of the car.

“Dispatcher won’t take my call,” the driver said. “So I call owner and he said to charge you $13, not $16.”

“Well, thank you,” I said, stunned but relieved. “I really appreciate your efforts.”

Now I don’t want to be all self-centered and paranoid and say that shit like this only happens to me…but shit like this only happens to me!

We got downtown without any further weirdness, I met up with Ed and promptly fell in love with my site.

I’m currently looking to set up a book launch party and some bookstore signings, and yes, I’ve started work on a new project.

I’ll probably have another meeting with Ed when my next work comes out to update the site, but this time I think I’ll take the bus.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Rube Tube

I finally entered the 21st Century last week and my metacarpals couldn’t be happier.

For the last several months I have been living (suffering) with a hopelessly outdated TV that has been in our family since the 1990s.

It was a good set back when Bill Clinton was president and I must say that it did hang in there for a very long time.

But recently the picture tube started to go seriously bad. The image would shut down to a single straight line across the screen before snapping back to normal. Then it got worse.

That line would be the first thing I saw when I turned the set on and I had to apply some “percussive maintenance” just to get a picture, which is to say that I smacked the living bejesus out of the thing to keep it from turning into a radio.

I felt like a character from some kitchen-sink drama or a lifelong trailer park inhabitant. All I needed was a sleeveless t-shirt.

Naturally this behavior did wonders for my mental health. I’d finish my morning meditation and qigong sessions, feeling all mellow and spiritual only to turn around and rock my chakras from pillar to post as I fumed, cursed, and bashed the ailing appliance into submission.

It got so bad toward the end that I actually cracked the top of the set—and severely injured my wrist in the process.

Yes, obviously I had to get a new TV, but you’re talking to someone who dodges the obvious the way Count Dracula avoids garlic.

On top of this I have an irrational fear of modern devices, convinced that I’ll never be able to figure them out. And I proceed to confirm that dread by studiously refusing to educate myself about their usage. Vicious cycle, anyone?

Better Living Through Television

I was certain I would waste a pile of money on the “wrong” TV—whatever the hell that means.

I also have this propensity for staying in lousy situations much longer than necessary. Jobs, relationships, you know name it. If it sucks, I’ll pitch a tent right in the middle of it all and put out the welcome mat.

This year’s lack of job security didn’t help matters any, of course, so when I landed my old gig back again, my sister very kindly drove me to Best Buy where we picked out a dandy Samsung flat screen.
Now I should’ve researched this a little better, given the size of the investment.

There were more complex—and expensive—models available, but I got jittery about that “wrong TV” thing and went for the low maintenance machine.

And it will do just fine.

We sprinted over to Costco to get a new DVD player and I was ready to join the machine age.

My new TV is such a blast. I can get YouTube, NetFlix and other great stations without dope-slapping the thing all over the living room. I feel like Flash Gordon.

I don’t have the dread in the pit of my stomach when I reach for the remote now and I can stop terrorizing the neighbors with my low rent Stanley Kowalski impersonation.

Now when the time comes for this TV to go to that big appliance store in the sky, I will act quickly and decisively to get a replacement.

My wrists can’t take any more abuse.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Moses Supposes

Moses is American Express.

He’s not Visa, he’s not Mastercard, and he’s sure as hell ain’t no Discover Card. No, Moses is most definitely American Express.

I have no idea what this means, but I have it on good authority from a raving psychotic who accosted me on Broadway far too early one morning last week.

I remember when Karl Malden did a series of commercials for the American Express card back in the Seventies that ended with the line “don’t leave home without it,” but he never said anything about Moses.

Anyway, this strange little incident happened on one of my gym days in lower Manhattan where I’m up and on the road before the sun has even brushed its teeth.

I was walking up Broadway to the New York Sport Club’s City Hall gym for my 7am boxing class. It was cold, dark, and windy, and I had my hood pulled up over my head and my eyes aimed down at the sidewalk.

I sensed someone behind me as I walked by St. Paul’s Chapel and then I heard a voice coming from over my shoulder.

“Moses is not who you think!”

Moses is not who I think? No offense, but I honestly don’t think about Moses much during the course of the day.

It’s nothing personal. It’s just that I have a lot of things to do and pondering over a man who wandered the desert 3000 years ago isn’t high on my list of priorities.

I slowed down and moved to my right to let this fellow get ahead of me. He was young with some kind of colorful skullcap and fairly decent clothes, so I don’t think he was homeless. Nuts, yes, but not homeless.

He continued ranting about something I didn’t quite understand and I thought this would be an excellent time for us to part company.

Roll the Credits

As I moved toward my left for a detour down Vesey Street, my new companion moved in front of me and I got the distinct feeling he was trying to block my way.

Broadway was eerily devoid of life at that time of the morning, a striking contrast to the bustling scene it would be in just an hour or so when the sun would be up and these empty streets would be crammed with people and traffic.

At that moment, though, I was very much on my own.

The fellow kept rambling and throwing looks over his shoulder, directing his gibberish in my direction. The gym was a few doors away and, as I got closer, he started moving toward me, jabbering the whole time.

I was getting a littler nervous. I love my boxing class but I certainly wasn’t itching for a street brawl. It was unnerving the way he seemed to single me out, as if I had wronged him in some way.

Where’s Karl Malden when you need him?

And I mistakenly tried to apply logic to the situation, wondering what I had done to him. But he wasn’t thinking logically. He wasn’t thinking at all.

“Moses is American Express,” he suddenly shouted as if he had discovered the meaning of life. “Moses is American Express!”

He made some kind of gesture at me and marched up Broadway while I checked into my gym and tried to put him out of my mind.

I accept the fact that roving lunatics are a part of big city life and even Mayberry has its share of nutbags. But its unnerving to be the target of some freak’s random rage.

I need to be more aware of my surroundings, especially at that time of the morning. Moses can take care of himself.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Making Book

My novel, Born Speaking Lies, is going to be published on Saturday.

That sounds so strange to me. After all the time, energy, and grief I put into the manuscript it’s a little hard to believe it’s actually going to be a book.

I’ve racked up an untold amount of rejections, and I got awfully close to a deal with one publisher a few years ago, but they turned me down because they don't do crime fiction.

Finally the lovely people at Fomite Press in Burlington, Vermont agreed to publish my story about a bunch of Brooklyn gangsters who raise a whole lot of hell between here and the Poconos.

And so here we go.

I started writing this book on a typewriter back when my parents were still alive, my two nieces had yet to be born, and Reagan was president.

Now I can’t honestly say I’ve worked on the book for all those years—not even close. I’d put it aside, take up some other project that I was certain would pay off handsomely, only to see that effort come up empty.

Take it from one who knows, multitasking is the biggest scam of the century. All you get for your misguided efforts is a pile of half-finished projects and a whole lot of frustration.

And I’d rewrite and revise, over and over. Something wouldn’t look right and I’d tear it up and start all over again. In one sense I’ve actually written several books.

In that time I moved from Brooklyn to Pennsylvania to Connecticut and then back to Brooklyn, taking various versions of the story with me from place to place.

I rejoiced in becoming an uncle twice, changed jobs God alone knows how many times, saw my parents grow and die, and bid farewell to our family home.

Chapter and Verse

All the while the book was looming in the background someplace waiting for the next rewrite.

I have to ask myself did I really want to finish it or did I just want to keep on revising the manuscript until I traded my keyboard for a harp.

The thing about constant rewriting is that you can tell yourself how great your work is going to be when it’s finished without ever having to produce the goods.

I thought about giving up, too, going on to a different story. But now that I’ve held the book in my hands, seen my name on the cover and read my words on the pages, I’m very glad and thankful that I kept going.

Now I have to publicize the book, which feels uncomfortable after all of these years as a reporter. I’m used to PR people pitching ideas to me; it’s weird contacting reporters and trying to get some ink.

I’m terrified that people will hate the book, that it’s not good enough, that I’ve deluded myself into thinking I could write a novel.

But that’s just more negativity that I don’t need. I have to remind myself that I’ve done something that millions of people have promised to do but never delivered: I’ve written a book.

I’ll be starting up on the next book soon and this time I’m going to organize my thoughts better and cut down on the rewrites. This time I’m going to take less time.

I dedicated the book to my parents, though I know my mother would not have approved of the salty language that appears throughout the story. (Sorry, Mom)

I simply say to them “wish you were here.” And those are the truest words I’ve ever written.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Most Peculiar Man

He lived all alone, within a house, within a room, within himself, a most peculiar man. — Simon & Garfunkel

So what was that all about?

I recently ran into a former coworker while walking up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which is pretty amazing given the size and population of this city.

But what I find even more intriguing was the strange relationship—if that’s even the right word for it—that I had with this man while we working together.

Most of the time we’d pass each other in the hall and this guy would cast his eyes to the floor and walk by me as if I were invisible.

But every so often this very same man, who took such great pains to avoid eye contact with me most days of the year, would suddenly start a lengthy and enthusiastic conversation with me.

He’d talk about movies or something that was happening at work as if we were old friends.

And then the very next day this fellow would jump right back into his old routine of refusing to acknowledge my existence. It was like working with Hailey’s Comet.

I’m notoriously thin-skinned and I can take offense faster than a speeding email, but for some reason this dude’s behavior didn’t upset me. I was more fascinated than annoyed by his actions.

I didn’t see him as rude or standoffish; he just had a different way of doing things. And while this may be hard to believe, there are actually some people who think I’m a little strange. Shocking, no?

I didn’t pester the guy and try to force him into a conversation because I knew that approach would fail. The man would talk when and if he was ready.

And He Wasn't Like Them...

I just wonder what made him drop the silent treatment on those rare occasions and start speaking with me.

Was it the changing of the seasons, the cycles of the moon, the alignment of the stars? Why did he become so talkative after months of silence?

Usually people at the office speak to you or they don’t. I prefer some semblance of civility on the job—even if it’s just a quick nod—as opposed to the straight ahead zombie stare, but not all people are like that.

I’ve made some great friends on various jobs—people I still keep in contact with to this day—but I’ve also been surprised by former coworkers who abruptly delete me from their lives as soon as one of us gets a new gig.

It’s like you cease to exist in their minds the second you clear out your desk. It has been very disappointing, but, once again, you can’t force anyone to be your friend.

I have since left that job and started another, only to have that position yanked out from underneath me in August when the publication shut down.

But now—big news!--the magazine is being revived under new management and I’ve been offered my old job back. So the bears didn’t get me after all.

Naturally I am thankful and quite relieved as I have some big bills heading my way. Under the new arrangement I’ll be working from my home, something I’ve wanted to do for years.

I hate commuting with a passion. It’s time wasted and that’s on a good day. On a bad day it’s a blueprint for mass murder. So now I won’t be dealing with traffic, office cafeterias, or coworkers—talkative or otherwise.

My family has warned me about being isolated in this new arrangement and I will do my best to get out and away from my desk. And I have to clean up my computer room because I’m going to spend a lot of time in here.

I never did get to speak with my former coworker when I saw him that day on Fifth Avenue.

Our eyes met for a second and I know I saw a flash of recognition before he looked away and kept on walking. And so did I.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Endless Day

I climbed up the steps of Liberty Plaza on Thursday morning and looked for the spot where I was standing when the planes hit the World Trade Center 15 years ago.

I was a little early this year, making my annual pilgrimage to the place outside the Brooks Brothers store a few days ahead of today’s memorial services.

My sister and I are going to the theater this afternoon, so I wanted to make sure I stopped by Ground Zero to say my prayers for those we lost and give thanks that I survived that day.

It all looks so different now. The Freedom Tower complex is rising from the location where the Twin Towers once stood before they were destroyed and turned into a mass graveyard by a handful of psychotics in two hijacked jet liners.

While I was taking photos a couple of fire engines came flying up the street with their sirens blaring and I almost jumped out of my skin. Sirens provided the soundtrack for 9/11.

It’s been 15 years since I stood here in a crowd watching the North Tower burn; 15 years since the South Tower exploded right before our eyes as the second plane struck the building, and we all began running, screaming, and praying to God.

Fifteen years since the normally easy commute home to Bay Ridge became the longest day of my life.

It was my father’s 80th birthday and my mother was in the hospital suffering from the lung disease that would take her from us less than a year later. The staff at Lutheran Medical Center had moved her out of Intensive Care in anticipation of receiving thousands of casualties from the falling towers.

But those injured people never arrived because you either got out of the Trade Center alive on 9/11 or you didn’t get out at all.

Please don’t ask me if I feel we’ve learned anything from this atrocity because other than getting accustomed to long lines at the airport, I don’t think we learned a goddamn thing.

Since 9/11 we’ve had the war in Iraq, “Mission Accomplished,” terrorist attacks all over the world, and nonsensical rants about mass deportations and building walls along the Mexican border.

Our response to all the hatred and insanity that we witnessed on September 11 appears to be more hatred and more insanity.

“A Better World Shall Emerge…”

And I don’t excuse myself from this harsh assessment. After the towers fell and then the air finally cleared, I joined the thousands of people walking over the Manhattan Bridge.

I remember telling a woman I had befriended that I was done complaining about every single thing, that I was quite content with the life I had and that I didn’t have to be rich and famous in order to be happy.

But time passes, you forget how terrified you were that morning, and you start to piss and moan about the most meaningless crap.
As I write this I’ve got the TV on and I’m listening to the names of the victims being read at Ground Zero by their family members. It brings tears to my eyes, but it’s something we all need to hear.

When I went to Hawaii last December I took a tour of the USS Missouri where Japan formally surrendered and ended World War II.

"It is my earnest hope,” General Douglas McArthur said on the morning of September 2, 1945, “indeed the hope of all mankind—that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice."

During the war, a kamikaze pilot crashed into the Missouri, but he only succeeded in killing himself. Historians believe the pilot was Setsuo Ishino, who was 19 years old at the time.

There are photos of the pilot as a young man, looking so serious, but there’s also a picture of him as a little boy posing with his family and holding a toy airplane in his hand. (The irony is astounding.)

He’s about five years old in the photo and I wonder what happened to him, how did his mind get so warped in such a relatively short amount of time that he willingly destroyed himself in an attempt to kill other young men.

What happened to that little boy with the toy airplane?

I wonder about the 9/11 hijackers and all the other suicide attackers who imagine that mass slaughter is some kind of holy cause. How did they get so twisted, so depraved, and how the hell can we stop it?

Yes, I’m disappointed that we haven’t learned much from 9/11, but when I’m feeling really depressed, I recall those who gave so much on that day—the firefighters, police, and EMTs.

I think of those wonderful people who were waiting for us on the other side of the Manhattan Bridge, who offered us bottles of water and the use of their cell phones.

I think of that fabulous man who drove down Fourth Avenue in his SUV when the subways shut down and helped me and so many others get home to our families.

I remember all those people and I think maybe a better world shall emerge after all.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Holy Angel

Daniel Fitzpatrick and I had a lot in common.

We both went to the same grammar school, which was called Our Lady of Angels in my day, but is now called Holy Angels Catholic Academy.

And we were both bullied in the seventh grade. The only difference is that I made it out of grammar school alive while Daniel didn’t.

Daniel Fitzpatrick hanged himself last month inside his family’s Staten Island home. His 17-year-old sister found him in the attic with a belt wrapped around his neck.

In a letter documenting his abuse, Daniel said that he was bullied by a group of five boys at the school.

“They did it constantly,” he wrote. “I ended up fighting (one boy) and got a fractured pinkie…I wanted to get out. I begged and pleaded.”

Reading about Daniel’s experiences brought back some ugly memories of my time in Catholic school, which was pretty much a nightmare from beginning to end.

My seventh year was particularly rough as there was this one fat bastard in my class who took an instant dislike to me for reasons I never did understand.

There was always some insult every time I came into class. Maybe he took his self-loathing out on me or maybe he had been bullied because of his weight and he was paying the misery forward.

But to be brutally honest I really don’t give a shit about him or his problems. All I know is that he made my life a living hell.

This was the year I started getting sick, where I would come home from school, collapse in my bed and sleep for hours.

The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and they finally decided to put me in Lutheran Medical Center for 10 days so they could do all sorts of tests under one roof.

Looking back, I realize how frightened my parents must’ve been since my symptoms matched up with a lot of serious diseases.

The children’s ward was a cesspool back then with peeling images of Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters on the wall and my parents had the hospital put me in a room with three men who seemed ancient to me at the time, though they were probably younger than I am today.

No Exit

In the end the doctors decided I was suffering from what was then called growing pains and I was discharged from the hospital on the first Earth Day, April 22 1970.

But now I have to wonder if my sickness was in any way related to the relentless bullying I had to endure.

I might have been legitimately ill, but then maybe my subconscious mind was making me sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school and face the fat bastard. It’s hard to say.

I’d like to tell you that I had stood up to the bully; that I met up with him after school, beat the living crap out of him and taught him a lesson he would never forget--just like the movies.

But that didn’t happen. I just took all his shit and quite possibly made myself sick.

Daniel Fitzpatrick fought with one of his tormentors and all he got for his trouble was a broken pinkie. And the bullying continued.

And unlike me, he reported his abuse, though his family maintains the school did nothing about it. A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn/Queens Diocese told the New York Daily News that “we take the issue of bullying very seriously and address every incident that is brought to our attention.”

I didn’t tell anyone, even though my father asked me at one point if someone at school was picking on me.

But I said no because I was ashamed and I didn’t want to be called a squealer, or a faggot, or a pussy, or any of those other colorful terms that kids use.

I eventually got through 7th grade and by the next year the fat bastard had lost interest in me.

I try to forgive my tormenter for my own good, but I confess there’s a black corner of my heart that hopes—even after all this time—that someone put him through the same kind of grief that he inflicted upon me.

I’m horrified that someone as young as Daniel was driven to kill himself. But in a child’s mind there is no future, everything is right now and it’s nearly impossible to believe things will ever get better.

I’ve had personal experience with suicidal thoughts and I know that once the self-destruct countdown begins it’s very difficult to abort. You shut off all rational arguments and possibilities as you fixate on ending all your suffering.

I wish I could’ve met Daniel. I would’ve told him to hold on, that childhood may seem long, but it’s really so incredibly brief, and that there are so many good things to be experienced in this life.

I would’ve told him that there are more good people than bad people and that those who loved him are far more important than those few classmates who were talking trash about him.

I never knew Daniel Fitzpatrick but I know the world is a darker place without him. Rest in peace.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Double Eclipse

I keep reaching for my ID card.

I’ve been out of work for about three weeks now, but I’m so used to clipping my company ID card to my belt each morning that it feels weird leaving home without it.

The photo of me is atrocious and that little piece of plastic makes me feel like an animal that’s been sedated, tagged, and released back into the wild, but now I must admit that it’s a little scary not having one.

My sister-in-law is into astrology and I asked her to do a chart for me—yes, I’m that loopy—and she tells me that September will be marked by not one, but two eclipses, which in the zodiac world are signs of great change.

What kind of change, whether good or bad, is not specified and we don’t have any say in the matter anyway.

It’s just that I’ve had a big change already in seeing my magazine shutdown and the eclipses ain’t even here yet.

My sister-in-law tells me that these events are important for the mutable signs, like Gemini, which covers yours truly. The people in this group are supposed to be highly adaptable, flexible and communicative, which will come in handy on job interviews.

I’ve been following up leads when I can and I’ve turn to some of my own writing projects, but it feels strange not showing up for work at my building five days a week. And I keep reaching for that damn ID tag.

This is the second job to go south on me this year, and to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one job may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.

I had only been at Crain’s for four months before the end came without warning or so much as a howdy-do. I was working in midtown near Grand Central and I was just getting familiar with the neighborhood.

Ahora Ocupando

I already had a few morning regulars that I’d greet as I walked down from the bus stop on Fifth Avenue to my office.

There was a cashier at Duane Reade on 42nd Street who was trying to teach me Spanish.

It started one morning when I walked in there and greeted her with a hearty “hola!” which is about the only Spanish I know.

But she was determined to change that and she’d converse with me in her native language, kindly translating when I was completely confoso.
We’d end our encounters by saying “mañana!” and I always had a smile on my face whenever I walked out of there, no matter how much grief was waiting for me at the office.

But now that’s all over; yes, we have no mañanas.

Then there’s Mike, an elderly African-American man who sits outside St. Agnes Church on 43rd Street with a cup by his side and a massive edition of the Bible in his hands.

Every morning I’d drop a dollar into his cup and Mike would say “how you doing, brother?” It was a nice morning ritual and it's a shame I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to either one of these nice people.

In my darker moments, when hope is eclipsed by fear, I worry that I’ll be sitting next to Mike on the church steps with my own plastic cup. Dios ayúdame…

But we shall not speak of such things. I have supportive friends and family, a reasonably good attitude, and a firm belief that there is more to life—and to me--than just a plastic ID card.

Let the eclipse begin.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

System Failure

I need to see an exorcist.

I finally got my computer back, but I paid a heavy price in the form of time, money and what’s left of my sanity.

On Friday morning I want to the repair place on Seventh Street expecting to pick up my machine two weeks after it croaked on me, and then zip on back home to write, blog, screw around on YouTube, and look for work.

Well, that all went merrily straight to Hell in a hatbox as I had to wait nearly an hour before I got the goddamn thing, only to bring it home—via car service—to find that there was some kind of glitch with the email.

So I called the repair place. Their solution? Bring the computer back to downtown Brooklyn—via car service again.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I finally had the machine back home and now I had to do an about-face?

So back downtown I go, and the techies fiddled with it while I burned for a total of five minutes before clearing up the problem—which they somehow couldn’t do over the phone.

And then I had to call car service yet again and lug the computer home--again.

But just as I was struggling up the steps with the computer, a terrible sick feeling washed over me--and a quick search of the computer box confirmed my fears.

The techie had removed the power cord from the computer but neglected to put it back. So I had a computer but no way to switch on the son-of-a-bitch.

“Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do…”

The repair store agreed to deliver the cord to my house and once it arrived I figured my troubles were over.

Oh, hell no. I tried to use Microsoft Word, but it seems I needed some kind of number to reactivate the software and, of course, I had no such number.

Okay, this is where when I went berserk.

There’s no other way to say this. I cursed, I fumed, and I must have terrified the neighbors and probably the commuters on the Staten Island ferry.

What stopped anyone in the immediate vicinity from calling the police or Animal Control, I don’t know. But I’m truly ashamed of myself and I’m wondering if I should work nights so I won’t have to show my face to anyone.

Maybe I could drive for a car service.

Part of the problem is that I am so incredibly clueless about computers that I feel totally stranded when they go kaput. If I had a little more knowledge—and if I kept better records—I’d be a lot happier.

But, of course, I pretty much guarantee these temper tantrums are going to happen because I don’t take the time to learn about these devices that control so much of our lives.

Right now I’m like a caveman with stereo. I like the pretty music but if the sound dies I start banging my chest and swinging my club.

I had to call Microsoft twice before I could finally get the number and get back on line.

Now all I need is a job.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bear Market

I'll keep this short and sour.

My computer is still on the fritz and I'm hunting and pecking this post on my I-phone.
But wait there's more.

I am also out of work, unemployed, and about to go back on the dole. The job I accepted just four short months ago has gone belly-up. It seems the publication I hired on to had been losing money for a while and could not be salvaged.

I learned this appalling news on Tuesday during a conference call from the Chicago office. I actually thought it was a joke and I was ready to say "knock it off; it ain't funny."

Only it was no joke. And it still ain't funny.

I have to be honest: the shock has not worn off yet.

So now it's back to searching the want ads, applying for openings, going out on interviews and hoping from hell to breakfast that I find something pretty damn quick.

I go back to my dad's motto: scared money never won. I know he was right but it's hard not be scared at a time like this. But that will only make things worse.

Last night I went down to Pier 1 to see the New York Classical Theater's production of "A Winter's Tale." The location is beautiful, the actors were fabulous--especially that poor bastard who had to wear a bear suit in this hideously hot weather--and it was free, which is very important right now.

After the show I walked down to the river and looked out at Manhattan's beautiful lights. This city can make you feel like a mite and a monarch simultaneously. I felt insignificant with one breath and invincible in the next.

Now I'm being chased by the bear. I can let him devour me or I can skin the son-of-a-bitch and have him for supper.

Does anyone know any recipes for bear stew?

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Summer Clearance

Well, at least I cleaned out the closet.

That’s about the only good thing I can say about Friday, a two-ton, four-alarm fiasco of a day--except of course, for the fact that I got through it alive and managed to stay out of the loony bin.

Yes, it really was that bad.

It started early in the morning when my faithful Apple computer up and croaked on me after years of dedicated service. I pressed the On button, heard the familiar baritone beat, and looked at a shockingly blank screen.

I hit a few buttons, did the on and off routine, and nothing happened.

I felt panic surging through me, but I tried my best to keep my nutsy behavior in check. Check it tonight after work, I told myself, and if it’s still on the fritz bring it to the repair shop. And then I asked, please God, let this be the worst thing to happen me today.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Absolutely everything I put my hand to promptly went belly-up. I was making stupid mistakes at work. I just could not get a single thing to go right for me.

In The Bag

Naturally my nasty little mind tied all these events into one grand conspiracy, so when that ambulance that pulled alongside of me on Fifth Avenue while I was talking to my auntie on the phone, naturally it was blaring it sirens just to harass me—as opposed to getting some poor sick person to the hospital as quickly as possible.

When the day finally ended I hightailed it home to see if my computer had miraculously come to life, but it was still in a coma. And that’s when I decided to clean out my closet…sort of.

I needed to get the box the computer came in so I could get the serial number and give it to the tech support person at Apple. But there was so much crap in my closet I wasn’t even sure if the box was still there.

That tiny little space was bursting with plastic shopping bags that I keep for garbage and other uses.

For years I just tossed them into the closet without looking. Well, on Friday night I finally looked and was horrified to hell and back. How in God’s holy name did this happen?

It happens when you don’t pay attention, when you let stuff pile up and pretend everything’s okay, when it really isn’t. It was time for a change. I filled two big trash bags with those little plastic buggers and I’m throwing the hell out of my house and my life. And I found my computer box.

Apple couldn’t help me, even though they forced me to listen to 20 minutes of seriously atrocious music. My sister very kindly gave me a lift to the local repair place on Saturday and I’m hoping for some good news from the technician while I write this post on a borrowed laptop.

I think of the junk I keep piled up in my head, all the worries, fears, resentments and other toxic material. It’s time for another cleanup.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunset Ridge

I traveled more than 2,000 miles this week and yet I’m still sitting on a park bench in Brooklyn.

I discovered the beauty and tranquility of a sunset recently and now I’m wondering what the hell took me so long.

It was a Saturday night, I hadn’t made any plans, and I was feeling crabby, hemmed in by the desire to just chill at mi casa and the pressure to do something, anything to make the weekend more exciting.

I’m trying to get out of the house more, especially now that it’s warm out.

There will be plenty of reasons to stay the hell home when the temperature starts to drop, but right now I want to get away from the TV and enjoy life.

I live right near the Narrows and after dinner I made an impromptu decision to go to the nearby 69th Street pier and take in the sunset.

I can’t remember the last time I did this—if I've ever done it at all.

I have a vague memory of watching the sun go down during a visit to the Grand Canyon nearly 18 years ago, but clearly it didn’t make much of an impression. (Though the canyon sure as hell did.)

I’m usually too busy thinking 20 different thoughts at once and I end up completely ignoring this spectacular nightly miracle.

So on this night I stood at the end of the pier absorbing the rays of the summer sun. Then I walked up to nearby Bliss Park, sat down on a park bench overlooking the Narrows and let the sunset pass right through me.

Palm City

Bliss Park really lived up to its name.

It may sound weird and new age-ish, but I forgot all my problems, dropped the chronic need to be somewhere else, and just enjoyed the damn moment.

The day was coming to an end in my neck of the woods, but it was rising in somebody else’s part of the world and I felt like we were connected.

The moment was so special that I actually said the Our Father and a couple of Hail Marys. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
I went back home feeling like I had accomplished something and took it easy for the rest of the night.

On Tuesday I flew down to Naples, Fla. to attend a conference for work.

I met some great people and stayed at a fabulous hotel, but I was only there until Thursday and now the whole experience that I had worried about for weeks feels like a dream.

Still it was nice to get out of town and see someplace new.

And I got a chance to look out my hotel window and see the sun go down in the Gulf of Mexico. It was beautiful, of course, but it didn’t match the feeling I got sitting on that bench in Bay Ridge.

Summer is flying by and already I can see the days growing shorter. Pretty soon the sun will start going down in the afternoon and it’ll be dark before I even leave my office.

And that’s all the more reason to enjoy the sunset while I can.