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.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Week in Seven Words #546

This covers the week of 7/5/20 - 7/11/20.

A 12-year-old Samoyed dog is getting groomed in the park by his owner, who has brought along music that keeps the dog happy. ("Opera is his favorite!") As bits of his puffy white coat drift to the grass, the dog grins, even when an aria is anguished.

The water is dimpled by a toy sailboat. It's an optimistic sight. A bit of normal fun in the park, during a summer when so much is out of the ordinary and out of joint.

An egret stalks across the shallow end of a pond. Sometimes, it seems to trip forward, its beak plunging into the water. Maybe it's gobbling up tiny fish.

At the bookstore, a cashier bounces between the front register and the cafe counter. The cafe has no chairs and tables, and only one customer peeks into it. The front register sees little traffic too. As I explore the shelves, two other employees approach to ask if I need assistance. They need sales, desperately. 

Our infrequent meetings are a diversion. An hour of strolling, an hour of conversation on a bench with hopeful birds at our feet. The time we share is pleasant. It always is.

Dead fish bob on the river. Clumps of them befoul the marina. The wind sweeps away most of the sickening fish odor, but some of the stench clings.

A caterpillar that looks like creamy fluff crawls out from the grass and risks its life on the sunny path. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Week in Seven Words #545

This covers the week of 6/28/20 - 7/4/20.

These days, I'm playing more Scrabble than I have in years. In one game, my opponent creates four seven-letter words. In another game, a different opponent creates two. I'm playing against people who treat Scrabble as a serious pursuit. More than a mere game, it is, at times, a primal conflict.

I'm trying to find my way through a beautifully wooded part of the park. There aren't many paths, and I'm sure I know where I'm going, but each time I try to end the walk at a pond, I end up on the edges of a baseball field. The woods keep delivering me to baseball, and I don't even like the sport.

Dead-eyed people in dusty, faintly pretty parks. A small fountain protests the heat.

Throughout the day, there's little evidence of celebration. No flags in windows, and people aren't dressed in red, white, and blue. The one exception is a jogger in shorts that stretch the American flag across his posterior. The first time the day feels celebratory is at night, during a TV broadcast of fireworks – shimmering bursts of liquid color.

Our walk has earned us front-row seats to massive algae growth. 

For the first time in months, I set foot in a bookstore. The store is mostly empty, and I don't buy anything, but I like being able to walk around and touch the covers, read the jackets and blurbs. 

"You always think you're going to do something wrong," she tells me, and my reaction is torn between "Not always" and "Yeah, you have a point."

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Week in Seven Words #544

This covers the week of 6/21/20 - 6/27/20.

Now a regular part of our vocabulary.

The geese are fat brown pillows softening a rocky slope. 

Picnic tables, mulch paths, and rail fences. The scent of pine trees, heavy and delicious.

The dog is slow to warm up to the stranger but then reluctant to leave. He begins to welcome the goodness of those pats and scritches just as his owner starts tugging him away.

Among the many colors in the garden, the loveliest is the cerulean of the hydrangeas.

With only a slice of bread, a young boy brings a frothing mass of turtles to the side of the pond.

The sunset shifts colors. At one point, a bar of bright blue appears among duskier blues and oranges. The underside of the clouds are blushing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Week in Seven Words #543

This covers the week of 6/14/20 - 6/20/20.

The ducklings snap at dragonflies.

The perpetual cheeping of two chicks, one of them cupped in the careful hands of a preschooler.

I share one of my fears with them. Spoken aloud, it sounds ridiculous, overblown. There's a small chance of it becoming real, but I've taken those small odds and distorted them in my mental house of mirrors.

Fewer shops are boarded up, but Times Square is still barricaded. We stop to drink water near a couple of stone lions. They're guarding a library that admits no visitors now.

A distraught older woman tries to squeeze past a police barricade. Her doctor's office is on this street, and she has an appointment. The police don't let her pass. They give her convoluted directions for getting into the building from another street.

He looks like a poster for California tourism. Wearing swim shorts, a Hawaiian t-shirt, and reflective shades, he's sprawled out on a pool float shaped like an ice cream cone.

We've walked past this part of the park multiple times, and it's only now that we spot a small memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto. The heart of the memorial is a plaque flat on the ground.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Week in Seven Words #542

This covers the week of 6/7/20 - 6/13/20.

As protestors stream past and chant about defunding the police, two cops talk about their plans for the year. Thanksgiving comes up, and they wonder whether travel will be easier by then and whether restaurants will open up for indoor dining.

Two young women, both bony thin, compare notes on how they're hardly eating. They sound triumphant.

As we head deeper into the park, the chants from the protest fade and become a faint disturbance for the bike riders and people picnicking. 

A guy in a motorized chair travels on the twisting paths and wishes peace to everyone. Oldies play from a portable radio tucked by his shoulder.

The churn of turtles and fish in a dark pond. 

I'm in the grip of some chaotic feelings. They flood me.

On the way to a doctor's appointment. The subway still looks depleted. Streets usually churning with shoppers, tourists, and workers are mostly stripped of people. I spot a handful of pedestrians and a few security guards planted in front of buildings.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Week in Seven Words #541

This covers the week of 5/31/20 - 6/6/20.

Many stores are getting boarded up, including a book store. The displays of books disappear behind the extra layer of defense against looters. (I don't know if looters would go for a book store when it's surrounded by more likely targets, the ones full of clothes, jewelry, and electronics.) Some restaurants and bars are boarded up too; some may already be out of business. 

There's a curfew on the city, reminding residents that it's easy for authorities to curtail and control.

Reasons for dishonesty are varied. Sometimes, it's all about shame. Shame and self-protection. Not about trying to hurt anyone or take anything away from other people.

Two girls are playing in an artificial stream cut into concrete. They carry pails and pretend they're at a beach fringed by a forest, where ocean water mingles with fresh water among the tree roots.

They've settled in a field in the park, but even an open field is off-limits. A guy in a motorized cart enjoys the sound of his own voice, amplified with a megaphone, as he orders everyone to leave.

The cloudy day feels like a 24-hour twilight. In the part of the park that we're cutting through, the buildings are unseen, the paths unmarked.

An egret gliding like a white, unfolded napkin taken up by the wind.