Friday, October 21, 2016

Week in Seven Words #309

They're all in flames except for the destroyers. He hunts for mine, and I for his, across the war-torn grids.

He's assigned an essay on the Battle of Gettysburg, and chooses to write it the length of the Gettysburg Address, 272 words. It reads naturally, without too many adjectives thrown in for padding.

The cold rain has crawled into my socks.

We play to 100 points. As soon as we're both close, he lies on the floor, hands flailing, so that if I win, he can say that he let me.

The harpsichord music is fury and frayed nerves. Forked lightning kept in a crystal vial.

For the sake of inefficiency, they invite us to an in-person orientation. We spend fifteen minutes signing in, finding our seats, and picking up a thin packet of information we could have received via email. Following a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation chock-full of information already contained in the packets, the Q&A session begins. Crickets chirp. We leave.

Cuddling on the couch, because it can't already be time to say good night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Postmodern Jukebox Delights

Postmodern Jukebox does covers of contemporary pop songs in older styles.

For instance, Rihanna's "Umbrella" (ella, ella...) in a Singin' in the Rain style with tap-dancing.

And Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" in soul music style (and so beautiful, how it builds).

Other gems I've found so far: Radiohead's "Creep", Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance", and Beyonce's "Halo".

Friday, October 14, 2016

Week in Seven Words #308

Before he finally gets locked out of his account, he tries one password after another, probing at his unresponsive memory. Each time, he's convinced that he's only off by one character.

Through cracks in the window, the cold seeps in and curls around my hands and ankles.

Around my wrists, they've placed interlocking plastic chains - some in pastels, others in night-glowing neon.

Cloudy bins of candies in toxic colors line the cold, bright aisles.

His nose has puffed up like a sponge toy that expands in water.

Dark-haired and silver-haired, they play a violin duet in the dim light.

"Don't worry, don't worry," he pleads. He doesn't know what else to do. He only wishes she'd relax, even as his frantic voice communicates the uselessness of such a wish.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Week in Seven Words #307

As children they're learning the art of wearing different masks: the politely engaged one with their teachers, the unruffled, easygoing, coolly knowing one for their classmates.

He appears with a handlebar mustache on a Time Magazine cover. "Impressed?" he asks.

He compares my defense skills to a professional player's, in a game of basketball involving a small plastic hoop lodged above a closet door.

At the end of the week, a cold grips my throat and wrestles me down.

The words don't hurt so much as stick to me like random rubbish, a scrap of paper I've stepped on when it's raining out.

She likes to make each occasion more special with a handmade card. The thought and care she puts into her work creates closeness.

One of those awkward conversations where you feel as if you're surrounded by tripwires. Even a safe topic, taken slightly off course, is liable to lead to an explosion.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Labor Day Hike: Mostly Bronx

On Labor Day, I went on a roughly 20-mile hike that started in East Harlem and ended in the Bronx by the Whitestone Bridge. The hike almost didn't happen, because Hurricane Hermine menaced the city from afar for a while, but the weather turned out beautiful - sunny all day, no violent winds or flooding.

The hike was organized by Shorewalkers, a group I've walked with before, in and around NYC.

So here's the starting point, near the 6-train stop at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue.


We headed east and crossed the Triborough Bridge to Randall's Island, where part of our walk took us under the Hell Gate Bridge and Railroad Viaduct.


We were near some athletic fields, and the air off the water smelled clean and fresh, even though there's a waste treatment plant nearby (the winds were blowing favorably).

Randall's Island is located between Manhattan and Queens, with the Bronx to the north. Rikers Island, with its massive prison complex, is also in view, along with the smaller North and South Brother Islands.

North Brother Island was where officials twice confined Mary Mallon, nicknamed "Typhoid Mary." It's also where the steamboat, General Slocum, ultimately came to rest after catching fire, in a hideous maritime disaster that killed over 1,000 people.

As for that rail viaduct we walked under earlier, with the beautiful concrete arches? The original plan had been to use exposed steel for the bridge's piers (or supports), but there were concerns that mental asylum inmates on Randall's and Wards Islands would easily climb on those to escape. Reinforced concrete was the solution.

All of these darker bits of history we absorbed on a calm, sunny day with beautiful views of the East River.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Week in Seven Words #306

A Mustang parked outside a condemned brick home. Its front left tire is poised on the edge of a scum puddle.

His conversation - mostly heavy sighs and talk of how everything is ending.

They stand on the edge of an empty fountain and embrace.

She stages her skilled, frenetic dance in the narrow aisle between two bookshelves.

Their need for a scapegoat outweighs anything good she does.

People's image of themselves can act as their greatest obstacle. They didn't work alone in constructing that self-image. If they ever want to tear parts of it down, they'll need help, perseverance, and tolerance for pain.

Scooping gobs of warm, wet clothes from the washing machine.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Week in Seven Words #305

The dog, tied up outside, whines low and long over all the things she can smell but not jump on and lick.

I'm reminded of what it's like to play tag in a house. Ducking behind a door and waiting for the pursuer to run past into a different room. At the end, getting caught with a fierce hug.

Cold, clean air, a muddy lawn, leaves, a swing set at dusk.

He tells me about the relationship between manatees and elephants, and hippos and whales - just some of the topics we migrate through, using books, toy animals, and YouTube videos as supplements.

They show me a video of what at first looks like a skittering punctuation mark: a pygmy shrew, among soil and rocks and exploratory human fingers.

We cram ourselves onto a gondola swing. It creaks in protest, lurching under our weight.

This time, she finds a wound in me that she can tear open wider. My responding anger is so strong. It collects in my throat and chest, and I'm close to letting it fly. Like a snake that's reared back and spread its hood.