Butterfly or man?

Unexpected places

Him: Are you alive, Logan?
Me: Biologically? Yes. I respirate, ambulate, defecate, urinate, and – occasionally – fornicate. But everything’s a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy again. (looking at my hand) And my goddamn hands won’t stop shaking.

This fella named Zhuangzi once wrote that he had a dream that he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

For the rest of his life, he wondered if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or whether he was a butterfly, dreaming he was a man.

Between that story and the that line about everything being a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy is how I’d describe functioning recently.

I use “functioning” loosely. Dunno what real and what’s for sale.

The last two months have been rough but the last week has been absolutely surreal. I’ll tell you about what I can when I can.

However, some things are clearer in my head than they’ve been in a while, which I think is probably a good thing.

I once said that all of your life’s problems can be divided up into health, wealth, and relationships.

If one goes south, you’re a wreck. Two, you need to stop everything and right the ship. Three…you need help.

All three came down on me in the past 10 days in unexpected ways. Very unexpected ways.

But help comes from unexpected places too.

Fiction

Him: Here. (hands me cash)
Me: That’s a lot more than the gig required. Honestly, the kid coulda handled it himself. (thinking) If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying give me some pity scratch.
Him: (slight smile)That doesn’t sound like me. But I do think I owe you like $5K.
Me: That you earned. (thinking) Someone’s been breaking into alla my accounts. Is it you?
Him: I’m old school. You know I don’t do tech. (shaking head) I’m a businessman now. For everything you think of me…. Look, we were kids. I’m sorry.
Me: A chick I met at a party once told me that I hurt people and I laughed and said, “If I’m honest, how can I hurt anyone?” But I get it now. Everyone’s sorry for the awful things they do to others. I know I am. (laughing) You know, at this point in time, you may be the only friend that knows who I really am and stuck around?
Him: What’re you saying?
Me: I’m saying I  hope this isn’t a long con, man. I’m rough. I need sleep. I need scratch. I just wanna forget everyone and everything but the boy.
Him: You already got fucked by the world. For what it’s worth, I betrayed you when you were up. You have rules? I have fucking rules too. I don’t kick a man when he’s down. And you – friend – are the most down motherfucker I know. Like you said, it’s all just time and chance. We’re not kids anymore, hustling nickels and dimes. (sighing) Keep the money. Get some sleep, Logan.

/Fiction

Location: nightmareland, still
Mood: so exhausted
Music: It couldn’t be a dream, cause too real it all seems

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Blogarama - Observations Blogs

Taking a shower with a Mouse

All Cast of Amontillado-like

It was my anniversary recently.

Gymgirl: I’m sorry, it must be bittersweet.
Me: No, just bitter.

It sucked. That’s all I have to say about it.

There’s a mouse in my house.

The last time there was a mouse here, it was almost a decade ago. At the time, I’d trapped it in my bathroom and told Alison about it afterward. I remember that moment well.

This time, heard something in my utility closet and opened it to find that it chewed through every single thing it could in my pantry. I easily threw out $100 worth of food and there was sugar everywhere because it went through a huge bag of baking supplies.

We didn’t find it so, after spending most of the night looking for it, I decided to just call it and take a shower.

And while taking said shower, looked looked up at my shower curtain (which is made of a dimpled cloth) and there was the mouse looking right at me.

Right. At. Me. Eye level.

Mouse! I yelled and the Gymgirl came running over.

I told her to seal up the door with packaging tape to trap it and myself in the bathroom (they can easily slip under doors).

I then proceeded to chase it around my tiny, tiny bathroom with a rolled-up magazine.

The problem is my damn busted arm; I couldn’t move fast enough to get it and the mouse snuck into the space between my sink cabinet and the wall. So I sealed it up, all Cast of Amontillado-like.

It gets crazier; the Gymgirl noticed its tail sticking out from the side of the cabinet so we taped it there – but after a day, we felt bad and released its tail.

As far as we know, it’s still stuck behind the cabinet.

We set up what we hope is a one way tunnel out through a trap. Fingers crossed it works.

Me: Well, this has been quite a night.
Her: Do you want a drink?
Me: (nodding) Sheyeah.

Location: yesterday and tonight, stuck in my tiny bathroom with mice
Mood: discomforted
Music: take it for what it is. Go on and take it, for what it isn’t
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Still waiting for my real life to begin

More funny, more smart

Me: I think I’m the more funny one.
Her: “More funny?” Well, you’re certainly not the “more smart” one of the two of us.

It’s been one of the coolest summers I can recall – which is a blessing for a guy like me.

But at the tail end, the heat decided to return and rear its ugly head. I’ve been moving at quarter speed since Friday.

Speaking of which, it was a holiday, hence my not posting the other day. Didn’t do much except for catch up on some personal reading and some work here and there.

I have friends that are constantly doing…stuff. They’re traveling places, seeing shows, having parties – doing stuff.

In the summer, even the cool one we just had, find it hard to motivate myself to be as active.

Suppose that’s why I can’t wait for fall to come, because I think I’m my real self. My year begins in September.

Which reminds me of something I wrote years ago; I’m 41 and still waiting for my real life to begin.

I wonder if one ever feels like it actually has.

Or will I wake up and old(er) man, blink, and realize I’ve missed it all?

Angel at Columbus Circle, NYC

Location: middle of my life
Mood: hopeful
Music: On a clear day I can see, see for a long way
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The broken and the baked

A tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, broken things, and deep fried foods


Headed out to Queens yesterday to see another doctor.

Ended up grabbing lunch with my brother, who’s in town for the week. The thing about the two of us, and my sister, is that we have pretty strong stomachs, which I think is direct result of us growing up poor. My parents tried their best to give us a rounded diet but we essentially ate anything we could get our hands on.

Him: (picking at fish) This is terrible. Do you want to try it?
Me: No! (thinking) On second thought…

There’re all these dishes that are the result of poor people taking scraps and making something amazing out of them: oxtail soup, collard greens, liverwurst, broiled bone marrow, and fried rotten tofu (as seen above).

People are no different from the food they make.

In Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister says, I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things.

I think I’m similar, for similar reasons.

Some of the most broken things in the world aren’t easily seen as such. A good tailored suit can cover up almost anything.

But I suppose that if you had some device that could look and see what we look like on the inside, I’d be a patchwork of duct tape, splints, and glue. All baked in steady childhood of beans, canned tuna, caned ham, white rice, and slightly stale bread.

I have a tender spot for those of people patched together and baked in a similar way.

My brother’s a doctor and I’m a lawyer, but there are few things that give us as much simple pleasure as eating at a local dive.

If I meet people like us in the world, I’ll ask if they want to grab a $5 meal at the local dive around the way.

And if they’re members of my tribe, they’ll have no problem sitting down to a meal complete with plastic forks and sticky condiment bottles.

Me: We probably shouldn’t have eaten all that.
Him: Yep. (standing up) I’m going to get some caffeine.
Me: Good call.

Location: snowed in again
Mood: full
Music: I can’t be free from all of the things that I used to be
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Hoping we don’t go back to the good old days

Anyone missing the old NYC didn’t live in the old NYC

Me: Do you want me to slice that for you?
Her: Why?
Me: Cutting bagels are the among the most dangerous household activities.
Her: (getting knife) You’re the clumsiest person I know.
Me: This is true.

Finished up a slate of projects for a client recently and immediately got more work in. There’s no real happy balance with my type of work, it’s either feast or famine.

The professor was in town but we each only had an hour or so, so we caught up in basement of Grand Central.

Me: Y’know, I have no childhood reference for this place. I figured if I came here back then, I’d get shanked.
Him: Yeah.

The people that dream of the good old days of NYC never had to live here back then. I have the feeling they’re the same people that like to rubberneck at car wrecks or watch nature shows when the impala gets killed by the lioness.

Great entertainment if you’re the lioness or the one in a safe car. Not so much if you’re the impala.

Running down my list of friends who were born and raised here, the professor is in Pittsburgh, another buddy is in Hawaii, another one in Cali, another one in Connecticut.

The City takes its toll on you over a lifetime.

I bring this up because I was concerned about our new mayor. The last time we had a mayor like him, the city was a cesspool.

But his recent choice of our old Chief Bratton has allayed my fears, somewhat. Only somewhat.

For me, I can only wait.

Because there really isn’t anywhere like New York.

 

Location: in front of all these computer screens
Mood: tired
Music: I know, I know, I know you ain’t the one to play the game.
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From the Archives: Safe, Grace, and Mercy

Sal, a letter, and the difference between Grace and Mercy


My best friend’s granddad is a fella named Sal. He and his family have always been kind to me. I remember we once discussed Dean Martin. Good ole Dino. Good ole Sal.

Sal just passed yesterday so I’ve got to dust off my black suit and say goodbye. I’m sad, not so much for him, because he lived a good and long life, but for those he left behind.

After all, A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

I wanted to write more but I think I said it best already in the two posts below.

Safe
I thought of my own grandma when I heard the news. We were close because she lived in Taiwan and I’m an insomniac. When I was up at 3AM, I had someone to speak to. After she passed, when  3AM rolled around, found myself just sitting in the dark by my lonely. So I wrote her this letter.

 

Grace and Mercy
And in that entry, talked about the difference between grace and mercy. One is when you get the good things you don’t deserve; the other is when you don’t get the bad things you do deserve. You can read which one is which here.

Back on Monday.

Location: in front of my closet
Mood: sad
Music: don’t remind me to forget
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Remembering the Northeast Blackout of 2003

10 years since the East Coast Blackout

Me: Today’s the 10 year anniversary of the 2003 East Coast Blackout.
Her: Really? Wow. 10 years. Time goes by so fast.

I remember what I was doing that day/night well since it happened just under a year since the 9/11 attacks.

Was actually in a real estate closing when I realized that I was missing a check. So I made a mad dash to my office to get it.

On the train ride back to the meeting, the train got stuck in the tunnel. Was already panicked as this was only my third real estate closing so I remember that when the AC shut off in the subway car, I was already a sweaty mess. I also remember the subway car windows steaming up because of the humidity.

Hours later, the car doors opened in the middle of the tunnel and we worked our way in the dark to the station – we used our mobile phones for light. When I finally got out, I was a mile or so from the closing so I ran there with the check.

Was so absorbed in getting to the meeting that I barely noticed that there were no lights.

Arriving, I banged the door repeatedly when the building manager finally came and opened the door. “I’m…here…for the closing. Checks.” I said, breathlessly.

People walking in New York City during the bla...
People walking in New York City during the blackout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Closing?” he said, “There’s a ___ing blackout. There’s no closing.” And the slammed the door in my face. Only then did I look up and think, Well, that’s weird.

Eventually, I made it over to Rain’s apartment where we ended up BBQing on his roof since his fridge was stocked. I remember sitting on his roof ledge in a rumpled suit, dirty from my tunnel run.

Hours later in the dark, finally managed to grab a $80 cab ride back to my pad. We went at like three miles an hour up to the Upper West Side because of all the pedestrians and lack of light.

When I got home, found my sister waiting for me since she couldn’t make it to her home. Back then I had a car so I lent it to a buddy to go check up on his mom in Philly. End up eating everything out of my fridge for a late dinner.

Two things happened that day:

  1. I have a checklist for closings now so I never forget another check.
  2. Got this here story to tell people now.

All education’s expensive. Some, though, come with worthwhile memories.

Location: enjoying the strangely cool August weather at my desk
Mood: nostalgic
Music: It’s been a long night in New York City
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Goodbye Big Nick’s, you’ll be missed

Change is the only constant in life


I first moved into my neighborhood 17 years ago.

Back then it was kinda dive-y but I was younger and stupider then. Back then, the legendary P&G Bar – which you might know from the Runaway Bride or any number of other films – and the Yogi’s Bar were typical for the neighborhood.

Al Pachino’s Needle Park took place just a few blocks from my doorstep and the film the Warriors had shots all over my hood including the 95th Street Station exterior shots.

The Panic in Needle Park
The Panic in Needle Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Trump moved into the area and fixed up the pier and they installed the new subway station at West 73rd Street, the place really took off.

As you know, I don’t lament the passing of old New York all that much; after all, no one that was born poor wants to stay poor.

But last week, my old haunt, Big Nicks closed. Their menu was as big as a book and if you wanted a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, and a side of gyro with chili at 2:34 AM, they had it. With a Fosters beer, for some strange reason.

As an insomniac, wrote a lot of stuff there; a lot of The Men Made of Stone was done in front of greasy plates there.

That leaves me with two dive bars left in the UWS.

There’s this poem in Chinese I like that goes:

shao xiao li jia lao da hui, xiang yin wu gai bin mao shuai.
er tong xiang jian bu xiang shi ,xiao wen ke cong he chu lai.
少 小 离 家 老 大 回, 乡 音 无 改 鬓 毛 衰.
儿 童 相 见 不 相 识, 笑 问 客 从 何 处 来?

Basically, this dude leaves his hometown and comes back an old man for the first time in decades. He sees children playing and laughing – like he did with his childhood friends – but they’re not him, and they’re not his friends.

But they’re just like him and them when they were kids.

And they call out to him: Hello stranger! And it’s nostalgic and sad in the sense that he’s now a stranger in his own hometown – it doesn’t recognize him and he doesn’t recognize it.

I think one day I’ll leave here and everything will have changed and be like I remember it, but not.

Suppose that’s true anywhere.

More practically: Dammit, there’s no place else now to get a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, a side of gyro,  with chili and a Fosters Beer at 2:34 AM.

I wish some things stayed the same.

Not all. Just some.

In other news, went to see the folks last night. It looked and felt like spring.

Location: the UWS that’s changing too fast for me
Mood: busy
Music: Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
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Scytales On the Dark Side

Imagine if we could send messages to ourselves

Him: It’s funny, isn’t it? How something like a song can snap you back to a time in your life?
Me: I don’t think I’ve heard that song in decades.

A scytale’s just a stick that’s of a certain thickness.

A scytale
A scytale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you took, say, a belt, and wrapped it around a stick and then proceeded to write across it, it would make a rudimentary code. While wrapped around the stick, you could read it normally but unwrap it and it would just be a jumble of letters unless you had a stick of the same diameter.

Spartans and the Athenians use to write to each other in this code. Somehow got onto the topic of codes with my wife.

Me: I used to write these coded letters to myself.
Her: Why yourself?
Me: (laughing) No one’d ever play with me as a kid. No one ever wants to play with the really fat minority nerd. So I just wrote them to myself.
Her: (patting me on the head) It’s hard being a kid.

This all came about because my brother called me to talk about that song above and our childhood in general. It was rough for both of us but for different reasons.

However, my one saving grace may have been my insomnia. Because it’s all very hazy. I just remember being lonely a lot but not really discrete things about it. I wonder if he had such a buffer.

In any case, I think my wife feels sorry for that version of me. And in a weird way, I do too. Because he’s me but he is not I.

But I remember that version of me sitting and listening to that song and wishing he could sing.

Sorry kid, 28 years later, we still can’t.

But we can do things I never dreamt I’d be able to do. And have the most amazing life.

Still, while I am very grateful for everything I have, I did wonder what it would be like if I could send a coded message to my younger self. After all, listening to that message was like him talking to me.

I’d send two, actually:

  • One would tell him that everything would be fine: Everything is the same but different. The acne would clear up, the fat would go away, and sheer terror of life would stop. Just stop.
  • Of course, the other would tell him to buy Apple stock when it was $7 a share like there was no tomorrow.

I’m no sentimental fool.

Location: on my way to other latitudes
Mood: pleased
Music: like a dream, make me feel crazy
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It’s been a decade since 9/11

Midtown West of New York City from the river

Causea the vacation last month, plus the hurricane and Labor Day, things have been slow. Actually, all of summer’s traditionally slow for me so it’s when I map out my trajectory for following year.

As I said, all businesses are comprised of three parts so I like the use the downtime to concentrate on the other two (sales/marketing & research/development). More on that some other time.

Yesterday, though, was running around Staten Island for work. Stopped by the Brooklyn Ikea on the way home to pick up some cabinets; HG’s a lot neater than me so I feel I’ve got to step up and get my stuff in order. Spent far more time yesterday pounding together funny flat boxes than reasonable.

Evidently, there’s this theory that obesity is contagious, which I could have told you – your friends’re mirrors to yourself so if you’ve got friends that love to pound food, chances are you do as well, or will. Think that HG’s a good influence on me in a number of aspects, neatness being just onea of those things.

Part of the reason you cut friends is to make room for the one’s that’re better for you.

Other friends you keep around for years, decades, even.

Speakinga decades, Sunday’s September 11th. Ten years, it’s been. There’re all these memorials and constant news clips whatnot. Which I understand, especially for those that were too young to not know what happened.

Thing is that I remember every goddamned minute of that goddamned morning. Suspect mosta my fellow New Yorkers do as well.

Ten years. Man, it feels like it was yesterday.

This video was shot on 9/7/2011.

Location: getting dressed for a meeting
Mood: pensive
Music: I’ll always love you though New York, New York, New York
YASYCTAI: Meet up with an old friend for coffee. (60 mins/0.5 pts)
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