The woman at the vaccination site was from Jamaica, originally, but moved to Queens when she was two, which explained her lack of accent. She went to college in Georgia and then worked in Oklahoma. Boy, you're a real cosmopolitan, I said and we laughed. When she moved on down the line, I saw the informative tag on the back of her vest: Emotional Support Staff. A professional conversationalist.
I texted Helga today to see if she performed tax returns. She replied that she didn’t but asked me to call her later to discuss. She might know some one. When I got home, there was a package for her by the mailboxes so I brought it up and we discussed my LLC. For a while she misunderstood me to mean that I was freelancing. No, I said. I paid people. I’d created a few jobs last January.
A text from M. Hope you’re well. No invitation to conversation. I echoed the tone. Hope the projects are coming along. Egad, what a miserable game.
Eli invited me to play percussion on a score for a film that he’s mixing. We set up a bunch of pots and pans to sketch out the ideas and get them on tape. A fun, nostalgic afternoon.
I hadn’t heard the news when I popped next door for a quick visit with the neighbors, but they were glued to the T.V. A coup, Kailin said. Intent aside, the images struck an ancient chord in me. Burn it all down! Were these not the very images once conjured up by my beloved punk songs? I had to wonder: What part of me is still capable of such idiocy?
A friend of a friend of Colin and Kailin invited herself up to my apartment to pee last night, an obvious and misguided attempt to try to get laid after an evening downtown. Fortunately, I had a phone call to make and she got the hint without being insulted. Unfortunately, the phone call was to M., who wanted to talk about where we stood. Specifically, she wanted to express her enduring doubts in the face of another year apart. I said what I could, but felt like I was repeating myself, so ended the call with a brainless anecdote.
A mark of loneliness: Eli brought four bottles of wine for five people. Not that I can cast judgement; I spent the past twenty-four hours making food enough for twenty.
Not until I got to the subway platform did I realize that I'd left my suitcase on the train. I suffered a strange sensation of sudden panic even though nothing in the case was irreplaceable or all that expensive. I ran the length of Penn Station, hoping that the train hadn’t pulled out yet, but a clerk at the Amtrak counter assured me that it had and gave me instructions for filing out a report. The wine will be okay of course, but what about the cheese?
Nora didn’t visit our parents this year, so I visited her. We walked circles in the small cemetery near where she now lives with her new husband in his childhood home. When conversation stalled (which it did quite a bit) I filled the air by pointing out the names and dates on the ancient tombstones. All in all a depressing affair.
We ate breakfast at my brother’s today. Pancakes with a side of cinnamon rolls, and an ad-hoc frittata (for some semblance of nutrition, my mother’s request). The kids played with Legos and explained what they were building, mostly characters from cartoons that I’d never seen nor heard of. While admiring the diligence and concentration that my niece and nephew exerted executing the instructions, I couldn’t help but reflect on the days when Legos were building blocks for imagination, not build-your-own brand-loyal toys, and felt miserably old.
I started reading Sean’s dissertation on the train up to Lowell. He’s looking to collaborate on a little edition. I texted him with a general idea that the introduction inspired and he responded with an emoji. I look forward to the project less for the labor than for the chance to revive a friendship.
A shot of tequila, a yearly tradition, with the new team at work before closing down until the new year.
I watched two young italian men order and eat two sandwiches each while waiting on Eli. From the cut of their clothes and lack of masks, I gathered that they were the sort of wealthy cosmopolitans that believe themselves immune. Later, as Eli and I finished our dark hot chocolates and slices of cake, I wondered what judgments the odd passers-by were casting on us.
Nikoleta met me for a cup of coffee at noon. We walked out on Riverbank Park in the bitter gray cold, discussing god, atheism, and the existence of China. All in all a lot of ground covered for such a short visit.
Colin had left me forty dollars for cat food, knowing that the current bag would run out at some point and this morning it did. I bought the new bag on my way home from the office. Not knowing the hours of the pet store, I'd say I was riding the edge.
During a nine mile walk downtown today, I overheard snippets of myriad divergent conversations. Strangely, at least three included the names of historical figures: Robert E. Lee, Eisenhower, and Greta Garbo.
Colin texted to ask if I were around this weekend to watch the cats. Kailin’s father unexpectedly died so he needed to get her in Alberta and bring her to Ohio. Of course, I wrote back.
Chris called at 9:30am with what he said was great news. “They’ve agreed to seventeen-thousand even,” he said, as I’d expected he’d say. “I’ll have to think about that,” I said and hung up. I’ll give it until the new year.
I took the train and a bus to New Jersey today to see about a car. Meaning to simply test drive a car, I was surprised to find myself negotiating for four hours with a salesman named Chris. Young guy, still learning the ropes. I came to my senses at some point and walked out of the showroom as carless as I came, to Chris's chagrin.
They were giving out free Q’arans in Union Square today, so I took one. The fellow asked me if I were muslim. When I told him I wasn’t he asked me why not. It’s a very good question. I’ll be interested to find out if I have been all along.
Later, Bo, a shadow-boxer with yellow gloves, asked me for a dollar. I gave him the one I’d found on the ground and asked him if he trained. He said he’d love to but there wasn’t much work at the moment and then showed me a few maneuvers. It’s all about momentum, he said. And follow-through. No great insight there.
Walking home today, I found a dollar on the ground where the off-duty bus drivers take their breaks.
The pumpkin I bought to use in a soup turned out to be a dominican varietal and not the hubbard I assumed it was. Rather starchy and more akin to a yucca or yam, it produced a soup that somehow tasted dry. Fortunately I alone had to suffer it.
Walking along Riverside Drive this morning, I overtook a man and his dog. The dog was pulling on his leash enthusiastically, chasing what turned out to be a plane in the sky. I've told him a million times, the man said. He ain't gonna catch it. And yet every time. Every time...
Last night, I was surprised to learn that neurosurgeons will send you home with a hole in your skull and a helmet after they remove your a tumor. Apparently they need a few weeks to 3-D print the polymer plate that will serve as your skull. Howie described what it felt like over the phone. Jell-O, he said. It wasn’t the best way to catch up with him after almost two years, but I’m glad we caught up.
I called a few car dealers about maybe setting up a test drive this weekend. Quickly realized that I was no match for them.
Made the grave mistake of finding Dawson's Creek on Netflix and re-watching some episodes. A nostalgia fit.
He's going through a break-up, I explained when I ordered a liter of wine at Kiki's. The waiter said he totally understood. This pandemic, he said. His girlfriend had apparently recently left him as well. Eli and I spent over two hours eating and drinking. When we got our check, his shift had ended but he'd bought us the wine. We found him at a bar nearby and thanked him again and he again assured us he understood. In fact, he said, I'm on Tinder right now.
The Honda Fit's so-called magic seats are really something, I was telling Colin today during our walk, going on and on about how much better my life would be with a car. Have you tried Tinder? he asked. As if fucking were any substitute for mobility.
Eli Returned from his upstate retreat. He and Maddie are having a rough go of it at the moment. She fled to Ohio in a hurry, he says. We made plans to hang out this weekend.
Insane though it may be, I've decided to purchase a car. Research saps a fair amount of my free time. No doubt it's a symptom of a clinical condition.
It's unclear if the owner of Exclusive Pizza recognizes me or not. We don't make small talk when, as tonight, I don't want to cook and order a pie for pick-up.
Helga says that she's stopped smoking. Well, at least she's cut back to maybe two a day. We don't catch each other in stairs as much as we used to, but when we do, I still get the updates.
I decided to finish the mushrooms today, this time just chewing them up with a bit of chocolate. The first hour was a pretty heavy panic attack. When I went to pee, I was alarmed by what the adrenaline had done to the size of my penis. I hadn't seen it that small in over thirty years. After that was okay, but still, I don't think I care to do psychadelics again.
I met Forrest, the neighbors' cat-sitter today. I didn't catch his story because I was busy when Kailin knocked on the door to invite me with them for a family walk. Seemed a decent fellow.
I ran into Brian on the street in front of the building. We talked about his new car for a bit and his film. I didn't realize that it was as yet unshot. We made plans to share a bourbon on the roof soon. Male bonding.
After pancakes, Luci and I drew together while Remi played with the girl next door in their yard. At a point, I had to explain to her that skin is not a color, even if the crayon company says it is. It's much more complex than that. I felt it would be useful to know not only as a young artist but as a person.
When John, the owner of the car rental company showed up with a jumper box, he was incredulous and no doubt a bit embarrassed. I suggested it might be the alternator, trying not only to be helpful but also to impress him with my knowledge of cars. He let me keep the jumper box for my trip. I didn't have to use it again.
They're putting up scaffolding all over. Re-pointing the buildings, according to Marco. He, for his part, is rather happy about it. The scaffolding protects the sidwalk from snow, he explained. Less for him to shovel. I, for my part, can't stand the racket. The constant bang bang bang.
A baby black bear digging through the trash behind the Phoenecian Diner received a lot of attention. Nobody was mauled.
I don't want to have to slit your throat if we get in an accident and Jonny dies, Colin had said when we were negotiating who would drive the rental car upstate today. He didn't have to slit my throat.
Robocall telemarketers have found my number again. I used to take the time to fuck with them, keeping the scammer on the line as long as possible, but, for whatever reason, my heart isn't in it any more.
I took more mushrooms today, edging up against a full-on trip. Turns out , I still don't really like being high.
Sean's dissertation defence, though I have yet to read the actual text, introduced me to the word dehiscience.
I finally used the beets from Brian and Helena to make a borsch. Despite what Eliza, a Pole, says, I prefer a hearty ukranian style borsch. Give me chunks or go home, I say. Colin came by late to try it with me. Kailin stayed home with Jonny.
Everyone suggested putting on some so-called good tunes while on mushrooms, so I queued up an eclectic mix and locked the door. I didn't take enough to have anything like an ego trip, but did end up weeping a bit when Chelsea Hotel No. 2 came on and spent two hours trying to sing and play it.
The roasted tomato salsa I made was better than I expected it to be. I brought a pint to Colin and Kailin. There was a lot of discussion about whether or not Kailin ought have any given the fact of how spicy it was and that she's still breastfeeding. In the end, she played it safe and had only a half-dip.
Brian dropped off a cabbage and an exorbitant amount of beets last week, a surfiet from his and Helena's CSA take. Helena being away, I invited him to another cappuccino on the roof with me this morning, a humble thanks for the food. He talked about the connection between the occult and architecture and a video project that he'd been working on before we both had to head back downstairs and start our workdays.
I drove M. to the airport today and returned to Brooklyn to meet up with Eli, whom I'd not seen in some time. We had lunch and he gave me a container of mushrooms that he'd grown. I accepted them, but told him that I didn't enjoy LSD when I took it, so we'll see. He's been, like several of my friends, moving toward Shamanism and psychadelics in much the same way my sister has moved towards Christianity. I find myself wondering what these two movements are a symptom of. It may perhaps be time to reread William James' Varieties of Religious Experience.
I've been powdering my feet every day since mid July. A tremendous improvement.
M. and I found a pristine desolate swimming hole off of the Taconic. There were myriad well-camouflaged spiders snoozing on the rocks, which gave me the heebie-jeebies. I went in first, slowly. Damnded cold. M. jumped from a low precipice. Had it been hotter we might have stayed, but autumn was in the air and the sun was behind some clouds.
I drove up to Hudson with M. today. We're staying downtown in an old house that we found on AirBnB. Perusing the few open shops, hoping, in part, to find a gem of an Earl, we were accosted by a woman named Elizabeth. I like your shorts, she said to M. Where did you get them? She was moving to Germany, we learned, with her german engineer husband (though she didn't know German), explaining how they'd survived two years apart while he was away. She lived in Kinderhook and came to town to see what was what from time to time. I asked if she knew the Scibelli's and she said: Aaron? I think I went to school with her. Unfortunately the Aaron Scibelli from Kinderhook that I know is a man, so I suspect that Elizabeth was mistaken or insane.
Strangely, since the start of quarantine, I've been painting a bit. Not simply more portaits for my Assistants piece – which, despite my best efforts, no one (least of all artists) accepts as anything but set of technically proficient likenesses – but painterly paintings. Today, for example, I worked on three separate canvases, skipping lunch in the process.
M. went away for the weekend with friends. We've been seeing each other a bit. At worst, a better goodbye, is how I put it.
I called Joel to wish him happy birthday today. To my surprise, it being the middle of a workday, he answered. We talked, as one must with him, about abstract things. The notion of birthdays. How they don't matter in the grand scheme of things. Etc. True, I agreed, but that didn't stop me from calling and trying to express my appreciation of him, how lucky I am to have him as a brother. Odd, I thought, how hard it is to say such things, my voice having faltered on a rising lump in my throat. Fortunately, Joel didn't hear my voice crack, or at least pretended not to.
Colin called from the hospital. In his excitement, he'd forgotten to pack his tobacco pouches. Could I, he wanted to know, grab them for him when I fed the cats and bring them down? He'd pay for an Uber. I preferred to use Via. Whatever, he said. Thinking it an amusing situation, I explained to Clement, the driver, when he showed up, that it was their first baby. His response, a noncommittal grunt, suggested that he didn't know English or didn't much care. Polite and pleasant enough, however, I tipped him two dollars. Colin gave me far too much money for the cost of the ride but insisted I take it. A lifesaver, he called me. Addiction's a bitch. When I booked the next Via, I was surprised to find I'd booked Clement again. When I got in his car, instead of the customary confirmation and curt hello, we laughed and laughed.
The second session of mandatory racial sensitivity training went well enough this afternoon. At least none of my colleagues dropped the n-word.
I rejuvenated the remains of a frozen sourdough rye in the oven for lunch today and ate it with hummus. Not a terribly nutritious lunch.
On my way to the subway, I saw Will, the hardware store clerk who installed my air-conditioner last month. He didn't recognize me, or, because he was with a customer, he didn't say hi. When he was in my apartment he saw my portrait of Najah and asked if I were a painter. I told him not really and made the joke that if he needed a portrait or something to let me know, we could work something out. He thought for a second before saying that he did have a photo of him and his daughter that he might like to have done and asked for my number. I gave it to him but secretly hoped he was just being polite since, thinking about the labor and materials involved, I suspected that A) he wouldn't be able to afford such a painting, or B) I'd earn about three dollars an hour or less on the thing.
Colin texted at 6:53am to take a walk. I was on the toilet, so told him to give me a few minutes. We hadn't been out for a walk in over a week. Things at home were stressful for him what with him being in the thick of distribution negotiations for his latest film and Kailin fretting over the contractions she'd been having. Any day now, we think, he said. I brought up the topic of aspect ratios and at some point I realzed that I was out of breath from ranting and raving. I tried to shut up, but, that early in the morning, my mind is a revving engine.
I went in to the office today to tend to a few things and was pleased to see, when I used the restroom, that they've replaced the faucets with touchless systems. Merv and Carlos rang my office intercom, at a certain point, to ask about a package that Hazel, the security guard, had for me. Hazel was on speakerphone, but I couldn't make out what she was saying, but Merv quickly deduced that it wasn't for me. It was for my colleagues on the fifth floor. A common mistake. With that squared away, we caught up a bit before returning to work. As the door hissed shut, it struck me that, of all the things that working remotely deprived me of, I miss shooting the breeze with Carlos and Merv the most.
M. returned. We made plans to have a coffee and take a walk. The song Mathilde by Jacques Brel kept running through my head leading up to it. Although, yes, I admit, it wasn't Brel's version, but rather Scott Walker's, so the song was actually in english, not French.
Today was the last day of my first acting class. Whether or not I have a knack, I really can't say, but I did learn a lot. The scene I was in required me to be topless. Lucky for me I've been doing push-ups during quarantine.
There is bird shit on my bedroom window. How on earth a bird managed to defecate (while flying!) at such a trajectory that it would hit a vertical pane of glass, I'm sure I don't know, but I find myself duly impressed.
I opened what I thought to be an under-ripe banana this morning only to discover it half-rotten inside. Because I couldn't make the smoothie I inteded to make with half of a banana, I opened a second. This one too was half-rotten. As I cut away the rotten flesh and tossed the good halves in my blender, I recalled something an old flame of mine had said at some point, that in twenty years bananas, as we know them, would be extinct. That was twenty years ago now. Was this, I thought, the beginning of the end at last?
In the scene I performed for Scene Study class yesterday, my character was supposed to iron a shirt, but because I have never owned an iron nor ironing board, I substituted this action and de-linted the shirt with a roll of tape instead. The effect might have come off well had I known my lines better, but because I didn't, I ended up fussing with the lint gag too long, vamping for time as I dredged the lines from the back of my head. Naturally the teacher noticed. You have to be done with the shirt business by the time he says "You told me your parents were dead", he said.
Jay butt-dialed me mid-week. I probably hadn't heard from him in over a year. He's still painting circles, although it sounds like he might be at the end of that cycle. Who knows. We talked about the police and coming up punk, which somehow seguéd into cranial-sacral work, deep massage, and my ineligibility for either thanks to pseudoaneurysms.
I've been wearing shorts. For decades I refused to wear them, having gotten used to pants as protection against pesticides when I fertilized lawns and against pedals when I rode bmx, two activities that I will likely never enjoy again. I must be getting old.
Dinner last night consisted of quinoi with caramelized fennel, roasted beets, mint, and goat cheese topped off with a fried egg. It was both satisfying and delicious. I felt proud of the ad-hoc concoction. As I ate, I streamed an episode of Parks and Recreation.
I woke before dawn today. The bananas I'd bought only two days before were already rotten.
I shared a coffee on the roof with Helena and Brian this morning. They'd given me a bag of CSA beets and fennel that they didn't think they could possibly use before it went bad and I wanted to thank them with a couple of my signature cortados. I was glad of the company. I've known them for seven years now and we've only just recently become better acquainted. We sat on folding chairs in the shade of the stair enclosure until the shade disappeared.
The bug guy came yesterday. We talked cameras. He'd recently started an entertainment company with friends called You're Welcome Entertainment. Concerts and events and that sort of thing. Music videos too, I think he said.
They're repainting the hallway. Prison gray as Colin put it. The fumes remind me of my grandfather, my childhood. The builing managment hired the same painter they'd hired to re-plaster my ceiling the summer before, a dominican man with bright flashing eyes. We said hi in the hall, mutually amused by our unshared language. For some reason, he was compelled to ask if I lived alone. No girlfriend? No. Alone? Yes. The conversation could only go so far of course. In an effort to satisfy his curiosity, I showed him the Polaroid of M. and me that a stranger had taken when we were in Hudson. Mi amore, I said, making a vague gesture of departure. No more, I said, to which he said, Ah.