Thursday, March 8, 2018

These Books Carry Me

I have concerns. I’ve exhausted reputable online resources. I’ve exhausted less than reputable online resources.

Talking to people who know more than me helps. But it’s not what you think. Nobody knows everything. People don’t learn things just for the hell of it. You educate yourself on what you need. These people don’t know the answers because they haven’t needed to know the answers.

Talking with other people tells me something. They don’t know what I need to know.

Once again, it’s time for me to be the expert.

When the going gets tough, the tough get reading.

There’s history there.

Long ago, a phone call threatens to floor me. Except that being floored isn’t an option. Time doesn’t stand still because I’d like a mental health day.

There’s a book I know about but hope I will never need to read. I recognize when the jig is up. I need the book now. I needed it yesterday.

It’s a Friday. I make my way to kid number one’s school. The afternoon lays itself out expansively and I get to the neighborhood early.

I know the locations of every New York Public Library in every area I frequent. This East Side branch is a good one. I feel a mixture of hope and trepidation.

The book I need is on the shelf. Someone, somewhere is looking out for me. The universe is kind today. I hold this book in my hands with reverence. I sign it out.

I read the book while waiting for kid number one. I read the book on the bus, the subway, and while waiting for kid number two. The kids go to different schools so waiting time is important.

I read it on the subway ride home. I take breaks to talk with my children and ask about their days. I make myself available for questions and hand holding. But I still get a lot of reading done.

I read myself to sleep. I carve out time from my weekend to read the book. Having read - consumed - this book, it is now part of me. I reread the sections I like the most.

The book propels me and a cascade of activity follows. I hit the ground running on Monday.

I hold onto the book for dear life.

Some books stay for a short time. Some for longer. A few, forever. They all leave their indelible mark. The ship that passed in the night. The dog eared one still on my shelf.

By the time I’ve renewed the book twice, things are in a different place. The book helped bring me there and I brought other people along for the ride. I no longer have to have it on my person.

There have been other books. It’s time for the next one.

Not all concerns are emergencies. I have a little lead time on this. I get to do some clever matchmaking between myself and a book.

My initial Amazon search leads to ample results addressing my concern. I do a bit of sorting and get the number of possibilities down to 25.

I then go through, one by one, reading bits of chapters, looking at indexes, skimming reviews.

I need the book to tell me things I don’t already know. It needs to understand me. It should tell me it’s going to be okay.

Since my concern is already effortful, it needs to be a page turner. Most importantly, the book shouldn’t be a downer. It shouldn’t have a strident voice. It shouldn’t assume I’m an idiot either.

It’s a tall order, but when I see it I know. I’ve found my book.

I download it on the Kindle app. I start reading. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s more than the sum of its parts.

Dr. Spock said that you know more than you think you know.

I say a silent thanks to all of the books that have come before. I thank the books still to be written. The books I will read that I don’t yet know I will need. I will be able to find a book when something new comes up.

I thank the book I’m holding now. The book that is holding me.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

I Stand In Judgement

A train pulls into the station. I'm standing on the platform. I take stock of the cars closest to me. Crowded.

I step aside. I watch as Type A people get on. I wait while impulsive people, aggressive people and tardy people with poor time management skills shove their way on to the subway car.

People who hate their jobs push onto the train. There's laundry to do and dinner to fix at home so it won't be any picnic there. They're not thinking about that now. Get me out of here. Take this job and shove it. Except I need the job so I'll be back here tomorrow doing the same thing over again.

I watch entitled people and people without proper boundaries get on the train. I watch people who cannot delay gratification get on the train.

The icing on the cake is when a morbidly obese, sweaty man runs down the stairs and pushes himself forcibly on the train. For the love of god! He's literally throwing his weight around!

Step aside to let the people off the train the announcement says. All of these people ignore it. In their defense, the people exiting the train could step livelier.

Almost everyone gets on the train.

A small crowd assembles to catch the next train. An express train stops and people join me on the local side. More people come down the stairs and wait. The crowd swells. People crane their necks. Some lean ever so slightly over the platform to see if the train is coming.

The train pulls in. Acceptable. The air conditioner is going full throttle.

I won't get a seat for another two stops but this train is much more civilized than the last one. The last one was so full of desperate people that the folks standing in the doorway kept brushing against the closing doors which would cause the doors to open and close again and again. Sad.

One of our cohort from the platform gets a seat right away. There's not actually room for her in the seat because they are designed only for tiny people. So she does that thing that women do when it's seat but not really a seat. She sits at the very edge of the seat.

The ride is uneventful. Everybody gets along. Nobody smells bad. Nobody asks for money.  Nobody does Show Time. Nobody plays Mariachi.

A few minutes later I get a seat that the lady sitting at the very end of the seat, like a sparrow on a branch only much larger, could have gotten if only she'd waited. There's two slim people flanking me, so we all sit In relative comfort, our backs upright against the seat, our butts where they should be. As God himself intended.

From the archives:
Radio Silence

Chicken Scratch
This Shit Got Real

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Five Minutes

This is the worst thing that's ever going to happen to me. I sit with that knowledge for a while.

I'm 36 years old and this is my one cross to bear. Everybody gets a tragedy.

If I survive this, I will not be waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is no other shoe.

I feel a measure of what seems a little like comfort. I hold on. I can just about do this. This is what passes for okay news now.

Except that it takes me almost no time to realize that the floor underneath me is fake.

There is no one in charge here. There is no one doling out trouble, one per person, one at a time, only what that person can handle.

There is no universe that owes me a damn thing. Shit is random. Nobody is organizing it. Nobody is making sure anything is fair.

Years later, this is still my greatest tragedy but I'm no stranger to bad news. I'm that person who walks into eyes of hurricanes. I don't look away. I'd do that for you. You wouldn't even have to ask.

Not everything is bad. Some people died. Others survived. The survivors are here with me now. They turn up at the most opportune times. They say wise things. The kindness of other people!

I laugh so hard I almost forget to breathe. I see beauty in rubbish and sidewalk cracks.

With everything bitter there is some sweet. I still don't know what's going to happen, though.

Bring it on, I say to all of it.

From the archives:
Hospital Corridor 

All of the roads they did lead here
The very second you lost me

Friday, February 2, 2018


I wake up miserable. It has no home. It just is. 
I don’t want to feel this way. I try negotiating. It stays put.

A while later I say okay, remember this. Part of life is being able to tolerate these emotions. I forgot this for a little while. I’ve been working on it but it isn’t second nature yet.

I feel better. But I also feel tired from all this work.

Then a third possibility emerges. I’m on the subway when that happens. If it weren’t for iPads I’d have a notebook and pen to write it all down.

Stay open. All emotions ebb and flow whether I work with them or just sit there doing nothing. Let the rest of whatever the day has in store lift me. 

Yes, there’s a chance it could put me lower. It’s possible that the misery is a premonition. Or that random bad things happen. But I can still have an eye toward the horizon. An unexpected kindness, an exchange.

Be a satellite. Let the day do its thing. It could end very differently than it began.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Picture Edit

It’s good. I can see that.

The lines are there. So are the composition, saturated palette and light. The filmy Christmas lights hung on the awning add a bit of whimsy - I could go as far as to say light irony - to the photograph. This keeps it from being too precious, too conventional, too full of itself. The rest of it is just the right kind of majestic.

Everything that years of working, failing, then trying again and succeeding are there.

This could be a welcome addition to my series.

I don’t feel the way I should about it. There’s no quickened heartbeat, crack of the bat against the ball and powerful arc signaling a home run. There’s no thrill in having captured it.

Like everybody, I spend my days in compromise. Maybe I cut a corner here, stay longer than I want, say yes when I mean no, exert willpower. My life is good. None of it is over my head. Not really.

But with photography, I’ve got to be all the way in. It gets to have my whole heart. If there is exactitude with love then here is where that is.

With this I get to have the orchestra, the breathlessness, the purity.

So I go ahead and delete it. I don’t regret it. Soon after, I don’t think about this image anymore. It’s stunning how quickly that happens.

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Monday, January 15, 2018


I ask you a question.

Your reply is short. You smile politely. It is clear you consider this query answered. It’s a curt sentence, but a sentence nonetheless. I have to admit that.

The air is thin in here now.

Dismissive, I say to myself.

I watch you thinking. Then you decide to elaborate.

You say some more. You become animated. It’s like you went from black and white to color. I feel my own color returning.

Not dismissive, I say to myself.

From the archives:
Yes, Please

The High Cost Of Being Me
The Best Thing Someone Never Said to Me

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I make it there eventually

I’m on the subway and in spite of being a seasoned New Yorker, I make a rookie mistake. I get on the train at the wrong platform and now I’m going downtown instead of uptown. Furthermore, I’m in such a daydreamy, contemplative fantasy land that I don’t realize the error until I’m good and far from where I wanted to be. Instead of progress I’ve gone backwards. Negative progress.

I correct things and get on the right train. I spend a minute or two berating myself for possible undiagnosed and under-treated ADD, then catch myself and get negative about that.

I spot a friend who I haven’t seen in a long time. People who don’t live in NYC think that we never run into people here. What are the chances? But the truth is we do. All the time.

The friend has to get off in three stops so we have a micro interaction. A lot gets exchanged though.

He doesn’t recognize me initially. I’ve been worried about this very scenario lately. I’m wearing some newish clothes that flatter me, makeup that fits with a makeup-no makeup trend I’ve been following and in spite of needing a trim, I’m having a good hair day.

You look so good! He says. This is an entirely new look for you. Maybe he was being polite but I take him at face value. I liked what I saw in the mirror this morning.

I think about saying something to him. I’m eating now. I’m eating enough and that accounts for how I look. I decide not to. It’s enough that I connected it and said it to myself.

We catch up a little about him.

He gets off. If I hadn’t gotten on the wrong train I wouldn’t be on this one, running into a friend and talking with him about this and that. He leads an interesting life and is a wonderful person.

It’s stunning how slowly the train is moving. Now with nobody to talk to, I notice it.

As impatience starts forming around the edges, I negotiate with myself. You’re looking for time to write poetry and prose. You love to make art. So now you have some time. Make art.

So I get out my phone and I make art.

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