Thursday, April 23, 2009

Top 10 Stories

Hey everyone. Thanks for checking back, been awhile. I’ve just added a list of my top ten stories. So check out the sidebar. If you’re new, it’s the place to start. And if you’ve been here before, dig these again. And of course, thanks for reading my stuff.


Monday, March 9, 2009

A Blog Post

Fifty-two pieces in fifty-two weeks. It's been a whole year. I'm taking a break. Not from writing, just from this blog. Just for a while. I have some other things I'm working on. Please check back from time to time for updates. Maybe more stories. And thank you for reading my stuff. Hate to get soft, but it means a lot to me. Take it easy.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Can You Hear The Singing? Sounds Like Gold

There he was, smoking a cigarette in the cold. Thirty five degrees but with the wind chill, something like seventeen. No jacket, no sweater. No coat. Only a long-sleeved flannel shirt, rolled to the elbows. And he flicked closed the rusted, wick lighter and he blew smoke out his nose.

“That’s him. Aw shit. That’s totally him.”

“Who? Where?”

“Right there, smoking. Oh man, that’s him.” I was losing my shit.

He looked around. No eye contact with anyone, barely anyone for eye contact. And then, she wasn’t standing next to me. She was right in front of him. Shaking hands. He gave her a cigarette. She walked right over and bummed a cigarette. From him. Like asking Bill Gates to spare a dime. Like asking God to give a damn.

In the dark, I watched. I waited. My tickets in hand.

* * *

A casual music fan, I am not. When dropping coin enough to see a show—and in the age of Stub-Hub legalized scalping, that can be several coins—I expect a show. What I don’t expect, listening to a crew of drunks run their mouths—this is not a bar. Listening to a couple poseurs chat it up, just here for bragging rights. Listening to a few kids who don’t know shit about rock and roll as they talk through a set. Their mommies—holding car keys—gossip in the row behind. I am not a casual music fan. And casual music fans I do not suffer.

Cell phones sounding off.

Grooving hippy dancers. Feeling vibes.

That prick yelling, “Play Free Bird!”

At one show, a mother held her baby’s arms—barely old enough to stand—and danced around the pit. This until security interrupted. Said she’d have to pop some ear plugs in the kiddie. My thought: If you can afford concert tickets, you can afford a babysitter. Me, I can’t afford distraction.

* * *

Onstage later, he wore the same flannel shirt from the alleyway. I had asked for the cigarette butt she’d bummed. She called me disgusting. I had reached down to grab his butt. Her look froze me and caused second thoughts. But later, in the concert hall, what did that matter.

A few power chords before the drums kicked in, steady behind. Until the first chorus when the bass and lead guitar joined and the keyboardist started messing around. That was when I grabbed my pipe.

One hit, deep and held onto. A quick spark of my disposable lighter. Exhaled upward and I pass it to her.

And from thin air. Like how a near-death experience must look. I see nothing but brightness.

Right there, flashlight in my eyes, a black-shirted security guard. Myself, hands in the air, like don’t shoot. The goon stares me down for a few beats too long. He looks hard. I look high.

And this at a rock show. A full-grown man can’t smoke a bowl. Because somewhere, there’s a baby with earplugs.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Day In Haiku

7:05 am
Between toes it seeps.
Like oatmeal with hair: cat sick.
Me, more a dog guy.

9:12 am
Coffee pot near dry.
Office rules: Kill it, fill it.
Have a smoke instead.

1:47 pm
A scotch with my lunch.
Many—a lunch with my scotch.
Next,fake productive.

5:20 pm
Cars for days, rush hour.
Springsteen on the radio.
Tramps like me, stillborn.

10:02 pm
Wife says she’s on rag.
Same excuse was used last week.
Jerk in sink, goodnight.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blossoming All Over

Legs or breasts, he asked me.

And I said, you mean like dark meat or white?

No, he said, what I mean is, are you a dude who digs the strong thighs, solid calves? Or a full set of titties? Every guy, he said, every guy is one or the other.

And I said, neither. Really, have to pick something, guess I’m an ass man. Yeah, I like a nice round ass.

No good, he said. Can’t count it. We’re all ass men. The ass, that’s what leg guys and breast guys agree on. Either the climax of the thighs or another set of round, meaty bumps. Both ways, it’s a point of compromise.

So I thought. And after a beat or two, okay, mark me down for boobs. But a great butt can get me into trouble.

* * *

Along with many of the best ass kickings, this one was dealt in a piece of shit dive. Where the mugs were chipped and not a damn person had any ice in their drink. Where the exposed brick wasn’t a bit trendy. Where vomit pocked the gravel parking lot. Between shots of well whiskey and pints of draft beer, I was working on a broad. Oh, and she had an ass like two kegs of Pabst.

What I sat through was an hour and a half of bitching. First about her husband, to whom she was on-and-off separated. Then kids, three of them, all sounding like little jerk offs. Finally, her boss and coworkers, everyone taking advantage. Her making them rich. And throughout I followed. Every worthless anecdote, registered despite being so shitty my eyes kept trying to touch my nose.

That was it. Finished waxing pathetic and up she stood. Off to shoot pool with some prick in a denim shirt. And denim vest. And jeans. For shit’s sake. And I held it down at the bar awhile. Another shot. Another pint. Another shot. Then watching her bend over the green felt, ass in the air like two hills waiting on a yodeler. I walked right over. Smacked her hard on the rear. And made a b-line for the parking lot.

But before I could think about dodging puke, I was off the ground. Not going anywhere. My eyes saw red then my upper body cracked then I’m screaming. Right here, I was kicking my feet, eight inches from the floor. The bouncer, a pony-tailed Tongan or some such, he had me by the collarbone. Raised to eye-level. Fuck’s the matter with you, he said. Ahhhhhhhhhh, I said.

Dropped and I landed hard. My shoulder was jutting at a fucked angle, the collar bone disconnected and almost stabbing through the tent of flesh. Why shouldn’t I fuck you up, he said. Ahhhhhhhhhh, I persuaded. Then the heel of his boot was up. Then down. I slept pretty solid for a pretty long time.

* * *

What he asked me was, flowers or chocolates? So I shrugged and didn’t say a thing. Flowers or chocolates, again, you know dude, like for a chick. Like for Valentine’s Day.

So I said, both, I guess. Cover all bases.

He clucked his tongue. He said, for the sake of argument dude, pick one. Are you a flowers guy? Are you a chocolates guy?

I went with chocolates. This, I said, because if I had to receive one. That’s what I’d prefer.

Very selfish rationale, he said. And wrong. Correct answer: flowers.

Didn’t know I could be wrong. I told him as much.

Listen, flowers are the perfect gift. So beautiful for a couple days and dead. Then, buy her more. On and on without end. A perfect gift for the woman who has lots. And the woman who has little.

Chocolates, I say, they come and go too. Perishable too.

Totally not the same. Chocolates grow tiresome. No, what’s palatable to the eye endures far longer than what’s palatable to the…well the palate.

* * *

Dark wood, the color of coffee without milk. Whittled, chip by chip, into human shapes. One, a man, sombrero pulled low, accordion on his lap. The other, a man, head back laughing, holding a drink with a thin wire straw. Both, on the bottom, green felt. Bookends, handcrafted and pretty damn fine.

Placed in a bag with scrunched, pink tissue. The handles tied tight by ribbons. Scotched taped to the side, a construction paper heart and written in Sharpie: Happy Valentine’s Day Babe.

When presented she started to tear. Blinked it out and said, so heavy. I can’t imagine…

And then the heart was torn off. The ribbon snapped. The tissue paper flung by wads. The bag itself ripped in two. Left behind in the mess, in the wrecked cocoon of wrapping: two carved, lacquered, pretty damned exceptional bookends. Really, the only bookends she would ever need. The finest bookends she could ever hope for.

Oh, she said. Aren’t those interesting. Beautiful.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fever Dream

Something like being buried alive. Cold earth everywhere. Damn cold. Over my lips so breathing comes only in dirty, shallow sucks. Eyes pulsing with the beat of my heart and so hard I can feel it in the back of my skull. My head. Like I was smacked with a shovel.

Not moving for maybe hours or years or maybe minutes. The ridge around my nostrils fills with yellow sweat. So too my forehead. My eyelids. Something like darkness, eventually it gives way.

Skyscrapers made of tree branches made of Styrofoam. And inside the elevators move back and forth—never up or down—but that does not matter. Security guards at the front desk remove my coat and underneath I have nothing. No jacket, no sweater, no shirt. No skin, no muscles, no bones. Nothing.

“You’re looking for the twenty-second floor,” says nobody in particular.

And they are right, of course. Though this is the first I’ve heard of it. But in the elevator there is no button for the twenty-second floor. So all I do is hit the button for the second floor twice. Very fast. And hope for the best.

Metal doors part and this is not the twenty-second floor. And this is not the building. But this is where I am so this is where I should be.

“C’mon. If we don’t get out soon, the fish won’t be much for biting,” says a man who looks nothing like my father but is my father. I don’t even question, I follow.

At the pond, there are no fish. So I dive in, swim five yards down, I bite my own line and I reel myself in. I fillet myself. Marinate in lemon and butter and pepper. I light a wood fire under a portable grill, and I cook myself until I am no longer pink in the middle. Then I dine and I am good.

My back is twisted into knots that are twisted into knots all the way down to the base of my spine.

Eyeballs throbbing so hard, I peel the lids open with two fingers. They are gummy and wet. The ceiling is white. Please be sweat. I’ve soaked all through the sheets.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Short One

Two bottles of red wine between us and my tongue is black. The buzz nice, but inefficient. Anyways, it makes this whole lame exercise a little more fun.

Overall the process is not complex. A few cords plugged into a few slots. Run the disc. Setting up the router is straight forward. Still, I’ve never been too handy.

She yells to hurry up. I shake an empty bottle at her, stick out my black tongue. Give me time, I say.

And what does it matter? Today, pretty much a throwaway. A paid holiday. There is no wrong way to live it. Sleep until noon. Drink too much wine. Set up the wireless. All this is fine.

What to name the network, I ask. Ask again. But she is asleep, sprawled across the bed and snoring through deep maroon lips.

So the network named and a third bottle opened. On the bed, she’s still crashed out. On the couch, I slug wine. My laptop connected. All this is fine.

Times are good. A day with no work but full salary. Connected beyond six inches from my desk. In the living room. On the shitter.

Ah, what America’s about. Casual drinking and money for nothing and wireless internet. Freedom, what an abstract idea that is. To spread its gospel around the globe, difficult to get behind. By contrast, had it been Operation Iraqi Paid Holiday—if these were the principles to diffuse—maybe the public heart would be won more readily.

All this is fine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts Before Passing Out

Given a choice, I’ll opt for the bus over the subway. True, this may increase travel time—as much as twenty minutes additional. But what’s lost in efficiency, it’s more than made up by scenery. Once—out the window of the M103—I caught two bums, the first urinating on the second. The second, of course, sleeping hard. At the light, corner of Fourteenth and Third, I saw even steam rising off the hot flow. I guessed, when bum number two woke, he’d find himself stuck. Glued to the sidewalk by frozen piss.

Contrast that scene, if you will, with the regular view from the Six Train. Black tunnels interrupted by cement platforms. Nothing really. I don’t mean vagrants avoid the subway, far from it. The subterraneans, though, tend toward a couple flavors. First, the two dollar hotel guests, sleeping on the train—often stirring but never waking. Their sandaled feet caked in shit. Second, the folk intent to sing, tell stories, bemoan. Panhandlers really. To cope with these, I recommend headphones.

Now, I’m reminded of a particular ride. Into Brooklyn on the L Train. Somewhere between First Avenue and Bedford, passing underwater—no escape—one passenger rose and addressed the crowded car. Dressed well enough, this man, probably not homeless. He kept on, orating all through the tunnel and three stops into the BK. Of what he spoke, I don’t know—I was grooving to Journey on my iPod. But his arms flailed and he made eye contact with near everyone. Finished, he collected—not linty change—but dollar bills. A fist full of moist cash. I offered nothing—but thought about donating a five-shot if he’d run through his story again. So affecting I imagined it. I didn’t, but it was a good idea. I’m full of good ideas.

On the subject of good ideas, here’s another. Fights with the wife, they’re unavoidable. Mainly because of the drinking. Not about the drinking. But because of the drinking. Like how last month I might have let the C-word slip in reference to her mother. Might have. Don’t remember. Based on hearsay really. That, and the fact I woke on the couch. So much I remember. And my point: when she decrees a night on the sofa my fate—and it happens man, it happens. What I tell the kids is, Daddy’s got a cold. Daddy doesn’t want to make Mommy sick. Daddy will be a good boy and sleep on the couch. This, it saves the little guys some worry. And bonus: come morning, with a major hangover, faking ill ain’t all too hard.

And other good ideas too. Bottles worth. When the days move slow and the nights are alive. And each day gives birth to wilted promise. Bottles worth. Each night I can taste something fresh. Even if it won’t digest. And, if I may be candid, that is my story: I drink. And for a handful of fuzzy moments, dreams cease to be dreams. I am the splendor. The fulfillment of the unfulfilled. Bottles’ worth. And I forget, not just who I am, but the evolution I always expect. I can enjoy triumph unearned. I have so many idas.

Monday, January 19, 2009

...But You Can't Come Back All The Way

She is a distinguished looking woman. Deep lines in her face, like swaths of permanent marker. Hair pulled tight into a bun, save a few stray wisps. A beige parka, fake fur collar, to protect against the cold. And her purse, compact and solid and tube-shaped, it sits beside her on the park bench.

She looks solemn, this woman. Her posture straight. Her eyes focus ahead, always. For hours. For days. On the concrete wall at the park’s edge. Children play handball against a mural of chipped and faded paint. For weeks. For months. The cold is no bother. Nor the snow, so easy it is to brush off her parka. Rain is another matter. And sleet, that’s worst. Like a terrible milk shake poured from the sky. Cold as snow, piercing like the rain. But somehow heavier than either.

She is a serious woman. Rarely does she speak, but instead smokes cigarettes at a steady interval. Thin, brown ones she keeps in a chrome case. Keeps in her purse. The smoke she takes in deep and thoughtful drags. And lets go in directed plumes. Filters, yellow with nicotine, gather at her feet and on pleasant days birds peck them and carry them off. When the weather is not so fine, they are buried in the snow. Or torn apart by the rain.

She is troubled, this woman. The steady eyes. The cigarettes, sucked to nothing in three puffs. The routine, unbroken. Rarely she speaks but when she does, she speaks of the mural. Laid it down, she says, stroke by stroke, her own brush. This was decades ago, she says. Somewhere between three and four. By now everyone has forgotten this, her work. The children playing handball, even they do not see it.

* * *

This was years ago. People look back and say the neighborhood was much better. They say it was clean and safe. A young girl could walk home after dark. All by herself and without worry. That, and never have to step over a littered soda bottle or fast-food container. People look back and say these things, the good old days. But they are wrong. The only change is this: then they were young. And now they are old.

A lifetime ago, that’s when this was. When everyone was an artist or a poet. And sleeping on mattresses without bed frames was cause to brag. Sharing food and drugs and beds. An odd moment, a sepia snapshot of history. When they judged one another not by the sum of their assets but by the sum of their dreams. Tomorrow? Never.

This was a world ago. The day she went down to the park with her paints and her brushes. On the concrete divider, a safe partition between the basketball court and four lanes of traffic just beyond, she sketched first with white chalk. Women blending into mountains dissolving into clouds. And every day she would paint. The old men playing chess made foolish moves when she bent over to exchange brushes. And every day she would paint. Until all she could add were the most diminutive details. And still, every day.

A dream, that’s when this was. Before the artists and poets became addicts and nobodies. Before they realized the sum of their dreams could not buy even a cup of coffee. And one by one the old men stopped showing up to play chess. Replaced, one by one, with men not quite so old. And she gave up adding details. She let the mural be.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The World and Winston

The Usual

This is the sum of forty-seven years on earth. My great achievement. Proof of my existence. Are you ready? Payoff for a life lived. My high water mark. Check it out: I enter Pinnacle Deli, approach the counter, I say, “The usual.” Nothing more.

Like setting off a Rube Goldberg machine, these two words have feet sliding and arms twisting and eggs landing on the skillet, a hiss. Toasters toasting and coffee pouring. The end result: an everything bagel topped with two eggs over easy (yolk runny enough to moisten the bread, not so thin it’s dripping down my fingers) and a large coffee (light, two sugars). But only, “The usual.”

Here I peak. God bless these folk. Who’ve set aside a small piece of their memory (a chunk of brain that could hold football statistics or their daughter’s imaginary friend’s favorite color) for this poor fool’s breakfast.

So if I leave no other footprint upon departure from this sticky planet, let that be my legacy. And when other men dine with wives, families, remember: their meals may be spoiled by argument, or worse, silence. But Winston’s is always perfect at only two words.


As best I can figure, the difference between laws and rules is this: laws apply always. Rules need only be followed in public. Murder is never appropriate, regardless of forum. But letting rip an outrageous fart—acceptable when seated alone on your couch, of immeasurably poor taste on a jam-packed bus. Here is my problem: so many people don’t get the between-the-lines nature of rules.

On the stoop, I watch my breath and I watch dog piss slowly freeze into hazardous ice slicks. Who walks by is this 20-something with a sharp pea coat and a pair of white Velcro shoes. Exactly what I mean. In your private residence, go on and get your kicks. But among the general population, Velcro shoes: kosher only on those under seven or over seventy. Take some pride in yourself. Try not to slip.

Rules, I’ve gone far to abide. Never, not even in childhood, was I to make a disturbance, a scene, a splash. If, in addition to most athletic and most likely to succeed, my senior class had voted on most anonymous, I’d have been a shoe-in. Unless, maybe I’d kept too low a profile.


When typing smack over internet checkers, I follow two rules: first, keep the salty language in check (“fool” not “fucker”). Second, never threaten an opponent’s person (Yahoo! will involve authorities). That said, WinningWinnie61 doesn’t suffer fools.

I will jump and double jump. Sacrifice pieces, set up shots. Triple jump. Blockade. And throughout, a running commentary at screen’s bottom. Your collapse, play-by-play. Sometimes, no response. But you read. Sometimes, a curt reply. You’re fuming. Sometimes, I might just bring out the best in you.

WinningWinnie61: What could you hope to accomplish with that move buddy?

FlyingKingFaLife : strategy

WinningWinnie61: Gotcha. Hey, can I ask you a question?

FlyingKingFaLife: ?

WinningWinnie61: Faux hawks and you?

FlyingKingFaLife: dude. what’s your issue?

WinningWinnie61: Wait for it…

WinningWinnie61: …you’re both over!

FlyingKingFaLife: damnit

WinningWinnie61: Disappointing effort buddy.

FlyingKingFaLife: whatever man. i gotta go take my lady friend out for dinner

WinningWinnie61: Remember, you need at least a basic skill set before calling your moves a “strategy.” And review my play. You cross a talent this caliber but almost never.

FlyingKingFaLife has signed off

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sketches of Suburbia

Out of the concrete island, three lanes on either side, grows a weeping willow. Drooped branches, hanging just above traffic, brushed by the none-too-rare SUV. In the winter’s lack of sunlight, the foliage atrophies to banana yellow. Such is the contrast between milky sky and cartoonish leaves, that one could almost expect the Lorax to appear. To speak for the tree. To decry the Hummers and their bastard barber jobs.

Until five years ago, a locally owned hardware store operated on Piccolo Street. It was replaced by a juice bar. Replaced by a pizza joint. Need a claw hammer, now you’ll have to drive a mile down the highway. Home Depot. Admittedly, their selection is every bit as extensive. Better even. Up till last month, day laborers lined the fence at the property’s edge. But with the economy crushed the work dried up and most of those men—plaid shirted and mustachioed—traveled back to Mexico. More opportunity to be had.

The bartender laughs and jokes. In the restaurant behind, families eat quesadillas and cheeseburgers. The bar and grill. A kid, flat brimmed baseball cap, hooded sweatshirt, goatee on chin only, he says, “My man, get me a glass of water. But make it seem to be a real drink, would ya? I don’t wanna look like a pussy.” So the bartender hands him a short tumbler. Ice, a wedge of lime, two thin black straws. And back with his crowd, the bro impresses all by how quickly he drains the vodka tonic.

Night falls and neon lights up. No more highchair crowd dining but the barroom is shoulder to shoulder. Most early-twenties and lost. Some early-thirties and sad. They bullshit and argue and piss on the bathroom floor. They tell the bartender he doesn’t deserve a tip, all he did was pop a beer. Outside, cigarettes are bummed and smoked and bummed again and the men and man-children stare into darkness at the town which is, by turns, their kingdom and their purgatory. Exchanging stories of girls whose asses they were this close to pulling. Guys whose asses they were this close to kicking. This close, always.

Christmas lights twist around the willow’s limbs. Ensuring its unearthly appearance is not missed in the late hours. One thing so bright and obscene even a drunk driver could not hit it. Unless, of course, on purpose. This is suburbia. An artificial small town. Ornate and comfortable. Where the paper is delivered every morning, the mail every afternoon. Safe and stable. This is suburbia.