Thursday, September 23, 2021

Week in Seven Words #553

This covers the week of 8/23/20 - 8/29/20.

The man moves like a jumping electric wire. He's tormented to the roots of himself. Staggering up and down the street, he raves about how the industry used to want differences but now wants sameness. Homogeneity in opinions, looks, and creative ideas. I don't know which industry he's talking about. His description fits more than one. In his creased suit, and with his briefcase swinging and shuddering, he belongs to no workplace now.

I've walked down this street a bunch of times without knowing that its name alludes to three activists from the Civil Rights Movement who were killed while helping register black voters in the South.

I stay in bed later than usual, grateful for several hours of uninterrupted sleep.

An old man whispers to the young man working at the pharmacy, "You're at this job to land rich widows." When the young man splutters, the old one says, "No shame in that."

Sparrows in an ecstasy of puddles.

Rain nips at us at the end of our walk, a drizzle after all the breathless warnings about a major storm.

She chides me for eating too much chocolate. Then she offers me chocolate.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Week in Seven Words #552

This covers the week of 8/16/20 - 8/22/20.

Two young men are having a conversation on a stoop. "To be honest," one of them says, when an old man walking past them interrupts by shouting, "Don't be honest. Deny everything!" He shakes his cane and cackles.

The Scrabble game is like a scene from a French film full of existential dread. ("Mes mots sont horribles. Je veux une cigarette.")

We walk past shells of restaurants and "Coming Soon" signs that have failed in their promise. The city is showing its ribs. In Times Square, it's easy to keep a quick pace. There are no crowds to push through. We do see one sign of liveliness, though: The Naked Cowboy, in all his cowboy-hatted, tighty-whitie-wearing magnificence. As long as he's there, things can't be too bad. Like a canary in a coal mine – if he isn't singing, it may be an alarming sign of the city's decline.

On the green surface of the lake, small rapidly vanishing white circles show that it's raining. The rain steadily thickens, until I'm squishing around in my shoes.

It's pointed out to me that I'm judging someone with leniency, which is true. I don't have all the facts, and why assume the worst? 

In a dim, piney place, there are no children on the swing sets, only a couple of adults enjoying the gentle back-and-forth, the toes kicked up to the sky.

On a cool gray evening, beside a fountain crowned by the statue of an angel, a man sings "Lean on Me." Close by, a middle-aged couple dance slowly with goofy, self-conscious smiles. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Week in Seven Words #551

This covers the week of 8/9/20 - 8/15/20.

The moment has arrived: We're getting pizza from a restaurant. A milestone during a year like this. As we wait outside the pizza place for our order, we stare into a neighboring window display with a sign that advertises psychic readings. A woman comes up to us and warns us not to see the psychic. "They went to jail for stealing people's fortunes!" Her voice is harsh, her eyes hard and bright. I wonder if she's one of the psychic's victims. Or maybe the pandemic has pushed her into the borderlands between sanity and madness.

From our bench on a high point in the park, the view is only tree canopies, thick with summer growth. Layers of leaves, subtly shifting shades of green.

The less I'm exposed to the contents of their brains, the more faith I have in humanity. 

After a morning of heavy rain and thunder, the sun emerges like yolk from a cracked shell.

They snipe at each other, sometimes viciously, but I think it's a strange comfort to them, to get tangled up together in long text threads.
On one side of the street, there's a stretch of restaurants with lively outdoor seating, people crammed around tables on the sidewalk as pedestrians and dogs ease past them. On the other side of the street, there's a stretch of shuttered businesses and homeless people asleep under construction scaffolding.

On its way to the lake, the stream tumbles over rocks. Dogs dip into the running water and shake the droplets away.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Week in Seven Words #550

This covers the week of 8/2/20 - 8/8/20.

I love looking at photos of her holding a frog. I wonder if, like me, she'll have a terrarium in her room at some point.

After a storm, the paths are crunchy and slick. The air is also cleaner. It's much less humid; it doesn't cling to your nostrils or stick to your throat. On a hill, in the soft evening light, two people are perched on boulders, their eyes closed as they breathe.

I draw a wonderful fork. A well-proportioned fork that's recognizably a fork. As for faces... I can draw the same face three times, and it will look like three different people (and not as some kind of intentional artistic statement). Some face variations are interesting and have more character than others.

The pier is dotted with ducks. They quack against a backdrop of creaking boats.

What stops us from crossing the path is a thick, unrelenting stream of bicyclists. They yield to no one, and they can barely manage the intense pressure, the high volume. One of them flies out of the stream when his bike hits a fallen branch. He lands hard on the grass and stands up, shaking, half a minute later.

For the first time in months, I set foot in a library. I half expect it to be a momentous visit. Maybe trumpets will sound from the speaker system. But it's anticlimactic. I grab a couple of books that have already been checked out for me. The librarians are located behind masks and a layer of plexiglass. A security guard, looking supremely bored, sits on a stool by the door.

One fountain spits and crackles. Another one drips. To the west, a stream makes thick, quiet noise. I realize I'm following it correctly when I don't emerge onto a baseball field, but instead spot a pool coated in algae.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Week in Seven Words #549

This covers the week of 7/26/20 - 8/1/20.

Before the fast begins, my stomach feels like a water balloon.

Social distancing is a handy excuse to avoid people whose company is undesirable under normal circumstances.

Feathery white flowers beside a riverside path. Five geese on a sward by the rocky bank.

The dancing skaters are back. I love watching their meetup in the park, where anyone with rhythm and a pair of skates can join in (I have one but not the other). Most of them wear masks, and one balances a bottle of water on his head as he flies around in figure eights. 

A walk transforms profound disquiet into new ideas, and I feel somewhat hopeful.

The little girl chases her dog across a sunny field. They end up under a tree, in the shade. After catching her breath, she orders the dog to chase her. She runs away from the tree and waves her arms. Her parents urge the dog to run after her. But he's a smart dog. He isn't trading the relief of the shade for the mercilessness of the sunshine.

Wearing the night guard makes me sound like a boxer (the athlete, not the dog).

Friday, July 30, 2021

Week in Seven Words #548

This covers the week of 7/19/20 - 7/25/20.

The side doors to a vacant hotel are barred with luggage carts.

I wish I were used to these feelings of foreboding by now, the way they stalk through my psyche and claw at my attention.

We notice a duck with blue, black, and white coloring on its wings. It reminds me of a flag. Estonia's flag, maybe? To check, we don't need to consult an atlas or a search engine. All he does is type Estonia into a text message on his phone. He receives a suggested flag emoji for Estonia, and yes, those are the same colors on the duck.

The documentary about the park is less about information and more about celebration. I'm fine with that, especially because the park has been a refuge when so many other places remain closed. Let's be happy that it exists.

Joggers glistening and puffing in the morning. Drops of sweat shivering on shirtless basketball players.

A visit to the dentist is much as it ever was, except for the air filters in every room, the mandatory masks, and the empty chairs between patients in the waiting room. This time, along with the x-rays and cleaning, I get fitted for a night guard, an attempt to protect my teeth from the unconscious grinding I subject them to when I sleep.

Three rows of stout old people working out with wooden swords. Their instructor, a senior himself, walks among them and corrects their form. I pretend that what I'm looking at isn't an exercise group but a training session for elderly assassins. (They're effective because most people don't consider them a threat... until it's too late.)

Friday, July 23, 2021

Week in Seven Words #547

This covers the week of 7/12/20 - 7/18/20.

The barber works outdoors on a path by the lake. At his station: a chair, a radio, a case of supplies, and scraps of hair softening the ground.

The air above the water is glittering with dragonflies. They swoop around in taut ellipses. They also bring to mind a faint memory, one that remains unrealized: that the word "dragonfly" once stood as a code for something, when I was a kid.

Humidity settles in like a rude, sweaty man arriving late to a concert, filling the seat next to you with body heat and sticky elbows and the moistness of the breath he expels through his mouth. 

People pose before the words Black Lives Matter, which have been painted in large yellow letters on the street. When they're done taking selfies and group photos, they walk past a bus stop where two black homeless men are curled up on the ground (#noeyecontact #nocomment #quicksteps).

A shuttered museum, the garden behind the gates still beautifully tended.

Small businesses are evaporating, though some restaurants stay afloat with outdoor seating. For pedestrians, there remains a narrow path between tables arranged on sidewalks. Near one cafe, a homeless man sleeps on a discarded sofa, about a dozen feet from diners who can finally say they're eating out.

The funniest joke I hear this week is the one about the cost of different streaming services. The most expensive one is Harvard, at roughly $50,000 a year.