history lesson

Cleaning out
is history research,
an archeological dig,
each layer revealing
moments from the past
weeks,
then months,
then years,
—what mattered at the time.

While cleaning out the garage
I found a wad of bread
some creature had stashed
between summer cushions
with dust, leaves, twigs
—an abandoned nest
built upon the boxes
we brought with us
intending to repair
an even more
ancient
past.

 

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discombobulated

I woke completely confused, an hour before the alarm this morning. Although I’m already a week into my new job, I startled from my sleep unsure of what day my new employers were expecting me to start working.

This came after two busy days in Rhode Island helping Bob get the house closer to ready for sale, bookended by two three-and-a-half-hour train rides (which explain why we didn’t visit New York as often as we had intended when we moved to Providence), plus the added hour subways between Penn Station and Bed-Sty.

I was discombobulated much of the weekend in Providence. As I was falling asleep on Saturday night, back in my own bed with Bob and our dog Marcello by my side, I had been scrolling through Manhattan apartment listings on my phone. For a few seconds I wondered if I could make an open house or two before I met my train the next day. I had to remind myself that I was in Providence currently, and wouldn’t be back in New York until after my train.

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missed connections: losing my iphone as i leave new york

“How is that phone even working?” The fourteen-year-old son of our friend in Paris asked, staring across the bistro table at my iPhone with the kind of casual disdain that French teenagers have perfected.

He was right, of course (as all those French teenagers usually are). My iPhone’s battery had overheated and expanded, pushing up against the screen, which had detached around the edges along the top. It being a work phone, I could have turned it in for a replacement, but knowing I would be leaving the university in six weeks, I didn’t want to go through the hassle, despite risking the loss of all service and connection while on vacation in Europe.

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quiet sadness on the pope’s visit

As a person who cares deeply about ending poverty and its systemic causes, as well as reversing the disastrous consequences of climate change, I know I should remain silent.

I should tuck my personal feelings into my vest pocket, keep a low-profile, and roundly support the lovefest that has been unfolding here in the United States for Pope Francis during his visit.

But I’m conflicted.

And I’m tired.

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this is what you get: life after plasma tv

Our 12-year-old 52″ Fujitsu plasma TV would still be displaying beautifully and brightly had our movers not killed it.

After a decade of walking into Best Buy’s home theater departments and backing right out again, horrified by how bad the LED HD displays looked compared to our plasma, Bob and I are now forced against our will to consider the new generation of TVs—and to deal with a generation of salespeople who don’t know that film wasn’t “analog” and that movies on movie theater screens before 1990 didn’t look like old VHS tapes or a low def cable broadcast.

One young salesman actually tried to tell me my eyes just “didn’t know any better back then” enough to recognize that movie images were all jagged digits and blurry bits like the lower resolution broadcast of Peter Weir “Witness” that we were watching on the 75-inch 4K TV display in front of us.

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où est la guerre?

We arrived in France for the first time on Bastille Day.

After three weeks in Italy, where I had been in charge of the map and the language, Bob emerged from the overnight train to Nice suddenly totally responsible for our well being.

As he spoke first to the cab driver and then to the hotel clerk, he held is head as if it was painful to produce the sounds he was making. And the locals stared at him as though he were a giant misérable wearing a bloody head bandage.

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time capsule to my teenaged self

Dear Jim, Hello from 2015.

I’ll bet that sounds downright Jetsonian to you as a 17-year-old in 1975.

So I’ll settle one big question at the outset: we do not have flying cars.

There is, come to think of it, something called a personal computer that I know you’ll appreciate for at least a couple of its features in particular: it will check your spelling for you. Hold your tears. I know you’ll love that.

And then there’s the Internet, which is also hard to describe, but it will eliminate the need for the family’s old Encyclopedia Britannica. And there’s a whole lot of, well, anything you might ever want (publicly or secretly) on the Internet, such as movies and music and travel guides. And, umm, well, let me just say, kids your age today aren’t even thinking about agonizing over how to convince the sales clerk at the 7-Eleven to sell them a copy of Playgirl.

Yeah, I know about your secret Playgirl stash.

See, I’m you, grown old. I’m you 40 years from now.

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love saves the day

Since yesterday’s explosion on Second Avenue at Seventh Street in the East Village, I’ve been thinking about this photograph.

I took it about a month ago while sitting at a window table in San Marzano restaurant, looking up Second, during one of our February snow storms.

The building on the left, the former home of the quintessential East Village vintage clothing and novelty shop Love Saves The Day, is one of the buildings that collapsed. The woman with the white umbrella is passing in front of the restaurant that was the source of the explosion.

I’ve also been thinking about the staff at Pomme Frites, Sushi Park, Paul’s Burger, San Marzano and the other shops along this avenue. And especially about the residents who lost their homes. We’re anxious to check on acquaintances who work at the restaurants.

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howdy valentine…i wish i could quit you

Hi There, Pardner! I wish I could quit you.

Valentine’s Day was always troubling for me as a gay grade schooler.

I was expected to share giggly little messages of love with my classmates—that is, of course, girl classmates.

The messages were corny puns and all about the boy-meets-girl romances of the 1950s and ’60s.

It was indeed a confusing exercise in futility.

I have wondered what it would have been like to hand a valentine to a boy I had liked back then, or even now in this brave new world where children are supported by loving parents who encourage them to express their feelings.

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sidewalks of new york

a field guide for taming the wild pedestrian

When I arrived in New York 25 years ago, there was a shared sense on the street that if you didn’t follow the rules you could get hurt.

Figuring out the correct side of the sidewalk and how to navigate taxis, bike messengers, and loose mental patients was part of survival in this tough City. It was also part of being a good fellow New Yorker. You felt proud of yourself as you accomplished the ways of the City. Similar to stepping confidently onto a “people mover” at the airport, you learned what “regular coffee” really meant at a street cart, how to fold your Times so as not to annoy fellow subway passengers, how brief a question needed to be for a New Yorker to answer it, and that you always stayed to the right and moved attentively on the sidewalk.

True New Yorkers knew these things. New New Yorkers wanted to learn them quickly. Visitors wanted to know so as not to draw attention to themselves. We were all in it together. And if you hadn’t figured that out yet, you quickly did, or risked being run off the curb. Continue reading “sidewalks of new york”