Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunset (Bitter)

Going over the bridge on the Q train, the sunset burns the color of a Venetian Spritz (golden white wine, bloody red Campari, sparkling water). The Statue of Liberty stands small and defiant beneath, dwarfed by the immensity of the everyday.

Just then, as we pass apogee, the short guy with the acoustic guitar who's been lurking by the door steps into the center of the train and begins to sing a sad, quiet song in Spanish. His voice is resigned and melancholy, and the train goes silent for a moment after he's finished, before we fall from the sky down the parabola of steel, rushing back beneath the earth of Brooklyn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Healthy Eating (Salt)

Wine poured, grilled cheese sandwiches cut in half, roasted veggies on the side. We sit on the couch and chow down in front of the TV.

"I didn't salt any of the food," Katie says as the theme from The Walking Dead starts up. "I figured the fake bacon and butter would take care of it."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Antique Shop (Umami)

There are skulls and skeletons everywhere: in the display cases (human skulls, animal skulls, an articulated lemur skeleton perched fetchingly on a tree branch), next to the taxidermied deer parts, on shelves and bureaus, stenciled on helmets and warning of poison on antique bottles. Books leer with the faces of devils and remonstrate with disapproving angels. Esoteric symbols that no one remembers peek out from mugs and on china patterns of which this example may be the last remaining.

And over all of it, over the ouija boards and the marionettes, the diaries from long dead spinsters and toys played with by children who are now long dead, is a savor of time, dust, the flavor of years that have passed and gone, and we are time travelers, picking up the pieces of the past, putting them down again.


The apple pie contest is in full swing, people sampling the various cinnamon and apple pastries and casting their votes, and the air smells warm and delicious. It's all in good fun, except for the one older woman with the purple streak in her hair and the mean streak in her heart, who seems to be taking it all VERY seriously. She's brought two pies, and she seems to think that it's really important that she win... something, though no one is quite sure what it is she thinks she's going to win.

Katie laughs and jokes with the judges and the other contestants, saying, "When the stakes are this low, the only thing to do is make friends," but the lady with the purple streak in her hair is clearly not here to do anything of the sort, and keeps throwing dirty looks Katie's way like she wishes she were throwing grenades.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Metaphor For So-Called Post-Racial Discourse in America

The old man getting off the train has to watch where he puts his feet, deliberately stepping forward, minding the gap between the platform and the car, each stride considered. His gait is slow and awkward, and he trembles a little with the effort of not falling, of just walking.

I imagine how it must gall him to have to work so hard and be so deliberate. When he was young, he could just walk, wherever he pleased, without thinking about it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Another World

At the top of the park, on the benches where the people nobody seems to want hang out, the three guys are convening their meeting around a joint that scents the overhanging trees with a piney, musty smell. Their clothes, like the skin of their faces, are rumpled and dirty, and hang loosely, shirts and pants overlarge by at least a couple sizes, but they seem to have found a species of contentment in the gradually graying air of dusk as they puff-puff-pass, puff-puff-pass.

Another guy, maybe somebody they know, another denizen of the streets, shuffles by in sweatpants and sneakers, his fuzzy hair tied back in a top knot, and they say something I can't catch to him that makes him turn around, a beatific, vacant smile splitting his face.

They do not notice me, because I am wearing a tie and stride with purpose through the fringes of their existence, as they relax and smoke on the fringes of mine, but I wonder how easy it might be to step across that dividing line between us, settle on a bench in another world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Closing Time

"Hey, we're on a schedule here," Mario says as I run up. He's joking, but I still feel bad as his boss unlocks the store, resets the security system (after first accidentally setting it off), and goes to the back to retrieve the packages he's been holding for my wife and me.

Mario's holding the chain that brings down the security gate, swinging it back and forth in his fist absent-mindedly, ready to close up for the night. Most places in the neighborhood don't even have the rolling metal shutters anymore, those reminders of the bad old days when Park Slope wasn't the bastion of money and mommies that it is today.