Friday, March 31, 2017

Vignette City 12.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

It is raining again today. It has been hard for me to get used to the rain since I moved here. It seals me in. I started to wonder a couple weeks ago if my skin was getting enough sun, since the sun is almost never actually out here. I don’t know how much sun the skin needs. I don’t know anyone in this city to ask. Surely someone here must know that answer. How much sun it takes to keep human skin from going gray and molting off the bones. The way it does when you die.

Today I started going through my books, because books are like old friends.

When I moved in here I’d organized them by author’s last name, because that is the best way to organize one’s home library, or so I thought. After these months here though, I started to think differently. I pulled all the books from their shelves and I began to sort them into piles from oldest to newest. Not by copyright date or publishing date either. Rather I sorted them according to my own autobiography.

This one I have had all my life.

This one from my mother, on her last Easter.

This one that I bought for my mother’s mother when she was in the hospital, but which I never got to take to her.

This one from my first college course.

This one that I bought on my first date with Hannah, years before her wreck.

This one that Cynthia gave to me for our anniversary, before she got sick.

This one from Wallace, who loaned it to me before the deployment he never returned from.

This one from Elliott, the only man I’ve ever really kissed. Who wrote on the inside of the cover: Ultimately our bodies betray us all, enjoy your body while you have it. He’d grown morose and bitter like that, near the end.

In one I found a near perfect receipt from March 22, 1999, pressed like a pale flower between two stiff pages which apparently had not be separated even once this entire millennia. It took me several very long moments of counting on my fingers to recall the number of people I have known who were alive on that day, and who are not now.




Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vignette City 11.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

The Mayor held a press conference, but he did not take any questions from the press. We just sort of sat there jittery in our seats while he talked at us. Our hands would all always shoot up in unison, all of our lips a little parted with variations of the same question, but he never called on any of us. Our arms waving back and forth. A room of eager school children. Eager for attention. Eager, each of us, for our chance to shine on the world stage. Each of us eager to stand up. Metaphorically, or course.

“And another thing!” The Mayor was moving into hour two and was weaving in and out of a yelling, ranty, circuitous diatribe-y stream-of-consciousness monologue that moved with the grace of an epileptic, schizophrenic tango dancers in Maine. “No more butterflies! What do they even do?”

This press conference had been called so The Mayor could roll out his new city budget.

“And crossing guards. Why should we pay for that? We have lights. We have lots of them. We have the best lights in this city, or we did. Not anymore. We let them all burn out. Maybe that’s why we needed the crossing guards. But not anymore, because I’m not going to pay for that? Is it working? Show me results that it is working!”

Our hands, in an audible wrestling of all of our shirt sleeves, shoot up in a unity of fabric thunder.

“You can’t!” The Mayor said. “See? You can not do it. It can not be done, because it’s not real folks. It just isn’t real. Who ever has even heard of a thing? Crossing guards I’m supposed to pay for now? I don’t know why. I know a lot of things. Some pretty good things folks. And I don’t need a crossing guard. I cross whatever street I want. That’s how our city should be. A big beautiful city.”




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vignette City 10.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

My hand is killing me.

Who busts up a barber’s hand?

I told them even, “I’m a barber.” But they didn’t care. Already had my wallet, my watch. What did they need my hand for?

This cast too. I don’t like this cast. That man nurse wrapped it all up in orange tape. Makes me look like an idiot. What kind of man wants to be a nurse? If any of my boys wanted to be a nurse, well I don’t know. Bad enough they didn’t want to be barbers. I could’ve used the help though. Lucky break I got Fabrizio. He’s a good kid. Quiet. Cuts hair okay. Pretty good with the straight razor. Hasn’t nicked anybody’s neck, so far anyway. Worst thing for a barber’s reputation, you nick a guy during a shave. Even a little bit of blood on a man’s collar just messes up everybody’s day. Yeah, without Fabrizio though I’d be shut down right now, with my hand like this. In a thousand pieces of bone. My left had too! How many left-handed barbers are there? One less now I guess. For now anyway. I asked that man nurse, “Will I ever cut hair again?” and he just said, “Only time will tell.” What kind of man says that? Imagine if I said that. Can you take a little off the top? somebody might ask and I say, Only time will tell. How much business will I have after that? None. That’s how much.

“Hey Fabrizio!” I holler to the back, “Bring out one of those new blades, the Boss is coming in.” It’s noon and he comes in at noon every Friday for a nice clean shave. He likes his clubs, always has. Thirty years and every Friday he hits his clubs. What a life the Boss has. Even now. A hundred extra pounds on him now after thirty years and still all the cigars and dancing girls every Friday night. How’s a man manage that? A wife at home, she used to be so pretty. A hundred extra pounds on her now too.

I see him coming. One of those nice Friday suits. Starched collar, tie pin. A hell of a snappy dresser, the Boss.

“Fabrizio! Hurry up!”

The Boss walks on in, like he always does, his shoes freshly polished. “Franky!”

“How’s it going Boss?”

“What can I say? I got a good life.”

We shake. He puts his hand on my shoulder. I give him his envelope. Thirty years we’ve been doing this. It used to bother me. Used to get under my skin back when we were both young and filled with piss. But thirty years and I’ve had no problems.

“You’re a good man Franky.” He said and it made me feel good because when the boss talks, he says what he means. “Franky! What happened to your hand?”

“It got busted.”

“How did that happen?”

“A couple of kids last night. Mugged me. Smashed my hand with a tire iron.”


“They did.”

“That’s terrible. Where did that happen?”

“Right outside my building.”

“No. In my neighborhood this happened?”

I felt bad to say so, because the Boss looked so genuine. Like he was feeling my pain. Like it was his hand that got smashed. “It did. I’m sorry to say.”

“Well look Franky, this is not acceptable,” the Boss said, sitting down in the chair like always. “I am going to get to the bottom of it. We will get this sorted out real fast. These boys will get what’s coming to them. You call Julian after this, you give him all the details. Don’t leave any of the details out. Julian will put one of the boys onto it. My boys will sniff this out. Damn shame. Them shits don’t know the hurt that have coming. I promise you that Franky.”

“Thanks Boss. That means a lot.” I start putting the cape on him, real careful over his suit.

“Why did you get an orange cast Franky?”

I’m so embarrassed, “That’s just what they gave me. It was a man nurse that did it.”

“A man nurse? What kind of man wants to be a nurse?”

“That’s what I said. Exactly. Fabrizio!”

Finally he appears from the back, a fresh straight razor in his hand. Such a tall kid. He looked a little nervous. I guess I would be nervous too, shaving the Boss for the first time.

I stepped off to the side as the Boss settled back.

“A man nurse!” The Boss laughed, his eyes already closed.

Fabrizio stepped in behind. I don’t know why he’s got the blade out already. He hasn’t whipped up the cream yet. “The cream, Fabrizio.”

The Boss opened his eyes, looked right up at Fabrizio. “What the hell is this?!”

“What do you mean, Boss?”

The Boss shot straight up to his feet, ripped the cape off and messed up his own collar by pulling it off. “What are you trying to pull Franky? Who the fuck is this kid?”

“That’s Fabrizio, Boss. You’ve met him. He’s been helping me out a couple weeks now. He’s a good kid.”

“I don’t know him.” The Boss pointed his finger right into Fabrizio’s face. “I don’t know you you little rat fucker.”

The Boss stepped to the door, “I don’t like this Franky. You cut my hair. You shave me. That is how we do business.”

“But Boss, my hand is busted.”

“Well maybe that’s because you’re sloppy. Maybe you had it coming. Don’t piss me off Franky.”

“It’s in a million pieces Boss!”

“Then heal faster.” The Boss stormed out, slamming the door behind him. The little bell shook so hard it was like an alarm. I was happy he didn’t break the glass in my door. I’d never seen the Boss get that angry before. I knew the stories, but I’d never seen it. I felt so bad.

I turned back around to say to Fabrizio, Don’t worry kid, he’s just a real important man, and you know how it is. He has to be worried about people. There are always people trying to push in on him. He’s gotta worry about his security. His safety. A lot of people want what he has. Only I didn’t say any of that. When I turned to Fabrizio, he was gone.


I looked for him in back, but he was gone. The back door into the alley was hanging open.


I never saw the kid again.




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Vignette City 9.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

There is a new family of them.

Where do they all come from?

They moved in down the hall. I saw them. They moved in at night. That seems strange. Who would do that? What don’t they want us to see? I’m going to bring this up at the next building meeting. I just hope they aren’t there. They won’t be they probably won’t even go because they don’t care. People who look like that don’t care about anything.

I called Edith about it right after I saw them moving. I went to the kitchen and called her and she said that she could see their rented moving truck out her window. Edith lives two floors up and she has her phone in her kitchen just like me and so she was two floors up right above me and she said that she heard from Bonnie that they speak Greek. Or something that sounds like Greek. “It sure sounded like Greek,” Edith said that Bonnie had said.

“I’ve seen people like them on the nightly news,” I said, because I had. They move into this city where we have been working all our lives to make it a good city and they don’t care.

“I think they are cooking already,” Edith said, “I can smell something weird already.”

“I heard on the news,” I said, “that they are cannibals in their religion.” I whispered that word ‘cannibals’ because who wants to say that word out loud? I don’t.

“Well Bonnie said that in their religion they worship a zombie. A zombie! What are we going to do if more of them show up? What if they take over our building?”

“They drink blood,” that is what I said, because that’s what I had heard around. “They drink the blood and they eat the body. It’s what they do at church! That is what was said on the television.”

“Bonnie says that her daughter lives next door to some. You remember Bonnie’s daughter? The one with all the teeth? Well Bonnie’s daughter says that the ones that live next door to her all wear this jewelry around their necks …”

“On the television I heard they anonymously whisper all their sins to each other. They tell each other all the bad things they have done. In the dark in a little closet or something. That’s what the news said.”

“The necklaces,” Edith said, “have some kind of torture device on them. And they worship it! That is what Bonnie’s daughter says. Can you believe that? Who has ever heard of such a thing?”

“I don’t like this,” I said, because I love people, but I just don’t trust these new ones. They don’t even look like us. “It makes me miss my Tom. He never would have let this happen. He was a good man that way.”

“Yes he sure was,” Edith said. She had always been a little sweet on Tom and I knew it, but what does it matter now.

“I’m going to say something at the next building meeting,” I said.

“You should,” Edith said. “Somebody has to.”


Monday, March 27, 2017

Vignette City 8.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

Avi has a very long beard. He started growing his beard when he started to become serious finally about his religion, which was about the time that Daniel was born. Having his first child made Avi reflect on his own father, a hard man, with such a big beard. Avi’s earliest memories were of that beard. A father has a beard, he thought back then, and hadn’t shaved it since.

Avi unlocked the door into the narrow lobby and made sure it fell closed behind him. He was a cautious man. He stepped to the mail bosses on the wall, jangling his big key ring from his jacket pocket. It took him a few seconds to get the little key into the little mail box lock. His fingers did not work as good anymore. It had been getting worse. The rain and the cold the last few weeks had made it worse.

Avi had been wearing the same circular pair of eyeglasses for a decade. He bought them just before Daniel’s bar Mitzvah, so he would look nice. So he would look like a father should: Learned, proud. Avi’s own father had worn a similar pair all of his life. Avi had to squint behind the lenses, because they did not work as well as they used to. He squinted tighter and tighter as he sorted through the mail. Ads. Ads. Bills. Bills. A nice glossy flier from the neighborhood Korean church. Then he found the postcard.

Avi studied it closely. It was an idyllic picture of a beach somewhere faraway.

Avi could not remember the last time he had gotten a postcard, much less a postcard with a picture of a beach on it. He had not even seen a beach like that - baked and shimmering gold - since his own father had taken him. Avi had been a boy. A few years later his father would move the family west and Avi had not been back east since.

Avi turned the postcard over and examined the blue handwriting. He recognized immediately the big round swirls of Daniel’s penmanship. It was big and loud just like Daniel’s mother’s had been.

Avi squinted hard and held the postcard very close to his face. He read what it said:

Dearest Father,

Sadly, I will not be joining you in the cheese business after all. I feel that my life has a different purpose.

Despondent, but certain ...

Your loving son,



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Vignette City 7.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

I read in the newspaper this morning that last night the city council passed a resolution stating that all new concrete poured within the city limits may contain no more than 16% pulverized human bone. The resolution passed by a voice vote of 3 to 2.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Vignette City 6.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

Danny came by my cubicle right as I got back with my mug of super hot water for my tea and was dipping the tea bag in and moving it up and down, which is something that I really like to do in the mornings and he just started talking without even saying hello, but that’s how he is, and he asked if I had any of the kittens left. So I opened the top drawer of my desk and all eight of them were in there just mewing and doing those adorable little fluff ball somersaults that they do and I just pointed at the drawer, but Danny was doing that thing he does where he doesn’t look you in the eye when he talks, or really even look at you at all. He always looks kind of up and away, like there’s a car crash or something that just happened in the middle distance and it’s really annoying because it makes me nervous.

“Because I have been thinking about it a lot,” he was saying, “and I think that I would like to have a kitten.” And for me that was good, because kittens don’t stay kittens very long and my desk isn’t very big, but part of me was a little sad because I was just thinking about what is life going to be like for this poor little kitten, living in whatever weird Rain Man kind of clean room Danny lives in. He’s probably a germaphobe and germaphobes aren’t actually afraid of germs, they’re usually afraid of something else. So what is Danny going to do about the litter box or cat hair on everything? He doesn’t seem like a cat guy to me. He’s one of those people who should have a lizard or a really fancy fish tank or something That would be more his style.

“So do you have any left?” He asked again because he hadn’t looked down at them, I guess.

So I said, “Yes Danny.”

And he paid in cash, which was great because I was afraid he was going to want to write a check, because he just seems like that kind of guy, but he gave me cash and I just grabbed one of the kittens and he took it and put it in the pocket of his shirt and he didn’t say thank you or anything, he just said, “Okay” and then turned around and walked off.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Vignette City 5.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

Today is the day! I’m getting my new Gibbons today and I’m so excited! The Gibbon enclosure has been pretty sad since Miller and Henry mauled each other to death last month. Gibbons aren’t usually that violent, but their teeth are just so intense, you know? Once they get started it’s just munch, thrash, blood, shriek, snap, and rip, you know?

Lenny let me borrow a couple of his Macaques, which was really sweet of him, I should do something nice for him once this all gets sorted out. The thing is though that nobody who’s really paying attention would ever confuse a Macaque for a Gibbon. The arms are all wrong, and the tails, and the hands. I moved the food to the back corner of the enclosure, behind the bushes, that way people can kind of see something moving around back there, but can’t really make anything out. That seems to be doing the trick for now. I’ll just be happy when all this is over, you know?

It was stressful enough having to get rid of the bodies. Two wet, bloody, torn apart Gibbon corpse in the trunk of my car. I’m never going to get the carpet in there clean again. But today is the day. I’ll go pick up the new one’s on my lunch break and as long as I get them in from the employee parking lot without anybody seeing, I’ll be home free. That’s right, home free.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Vignette City 4.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

The news says The Mayor is upset again. Apparently his plan to build a wall around the city would cost more money than the city has. He posted a video in the middle of the night and he started by talking about the wall and how it would keep us safe, but partway through he seemed to get distracted by something and he started talking about a TV show and then he got up and went to his desk to get something, but then he seemed to forget what he was looking for and he just started cleaning dust off the pile of papers on his desk. And then he just pushed all the papers onto the floor and set them on fire. But the fire set off the smoke alarm and people rushed into his office and started blasting the pile with white jets from fire extinguishers and on the video I could hear him yelling, “What is this?! This is TERRIBLE! Somebody started a fire in here! Do you see this fire?” But by then the fire was out and I couldn’t really see anything on screen except for the gritty fogbanks of white extinguisher plumes floating around The Mayor’s office. “How am I supposed to get anything done in here?” The Mayor bellowed at someone, though it was unclear who.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Vignette City 3.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

If this weather keeps up I should take Sasha out to the riverfront park this weekend when her dad drops her off. Since he gets her all week, he has to deal with all the “parenting” stuff, which is fine by me because I was never any good at it anyway. Let Adam deal with all that. I’m the fun one anyway. That’s why I’m happy to have the weekends. I’ll maybe go get some food - bread and stuff - on Friday night and I’ll make some sandwiches and we’ll go sit and watch the river and maybe I can even tan a little That would be nice. To have warm skin for once. Sasha will like it. She can run after the ducks and geese and maybe I’ll meet one of those fit runners. There are always runners darting around down there on their tight skinny legs. I’ve never been with a man that fit before. How would you like that Adam? Me and my new runner man? See what good shape he’s in?
I could have taken Sasha down there last weekend, I guess. Or the weekend before, but the weather has been so dark for so long, and plus the dragons have been out lately. I hate it when those alerts go out because it makes my phone buzz in this super loud and crazy way. It woke me up the other day and scared me half to death.
What kind of peanut butter does Sasha like? I don’t think it has ever come up. Not to me anyway. Maybe I should get both kinds. Or that kind that already has the jelly mixed into it. But what kind of jelly? This is getting complicated already and it’s not even Friday yet.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Vignette City 2.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

I’ve been reading this book about Marco Polo and it turns out he wasn’t real. I was reading it on the train and got to the part where he said that he encountered these people who weren’t people-shaped. They were shaped like feet. Feet and an ankle I guess, but with faces and little arms sprouting off from the ankles and I was all like, “Well this seems not real”, so I flipped ahead in the book and it turns out that there’s no record of Marco Polo actually existing in Venice and he isn’t mentioned by any of the Chinese scribes who were famous for writing everything down, and that the book he wrote he didn’t even write, it was written by a guy named Rustichello da Pisa who basically only ever wrote legends of King Arthur and stuff like that. But then we got Downtown and it was my stop but I was kind of pissed, so I just left that book on the seat and I got off to head to work, but I mentally added him to the list I keep of fake people who were liars: Shakespeare, Betty Crocker, Jesus, Robin Hood, Homer, the Brontosaurus, Prester John. It’s amazing that anybody expects anybody to get anything done when so much is fake.    


Monday, March 20, 2017

The book I wrote for my artist-in-residency last year is finally live on Amazon! #writer #walden

via Instagram

Vignette City 1.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

The quality of light was really good this morning. A cold but cloudless day, which was a nice change.
In the dog park behind my apartment building there was a pretty, ornate silver stool with clear fake jewels studding the metal legs. Just crouching there in the wet grass like a lost crab. It had two muddy shoe prints on its fluffy top and there was a used hypodermic needle sticking out of it. I shooed Benny away from it and he darted off after a shadow.

I stood there looking down at the stool. A sharp edge of sunlight cut straight across the stool, bisecting it. What went on back here last night? Did someone ditch a stool back here? Then someone else came along and stood on it? Then someone else came along, decided it was a good place to shoot up, sat down, did their business, then moved on? Or did it all happen at once? Somebody carrying a stool, maybe the only thing they had left from the home they once lived in, shoved it down into the soft wet ground, stepped up on it, looked up at the warm yellow glow of my window last night while slipping the needle into their arm? Felt the bright sharp joy blast open their veins? Stumbled away, leaving their perch behind?

I called out to Benny, snapped his leash back on, and we walked away.


Vignette City: T - 1.


Today begins a new writing project for both you and I. For a long time I’ve wanted to use this blog as the delivery system for a large-scale piece of writing. I used to imagine some kind of Dickensian serialized novel, but that never seemed to work out.

Now I think I have figured out a plan!

Today we are kickinging off a project that (for now) I am calling Vignette City. The basic idea is that somewhere there exists a strange city. Each day we will hear from a different person in that city.

It is a city that exists on the knife edge of reality as we understand it. A city that exists in the bright glowing fog of weirdness.

For as long as I can make it work, or until it feels like this project has run its course, Vignette City will be at least one (tiny) story each day, plus a picture of the urban grab bag we call “a city”.

Use that box on the right to subscribe ----------->


Friday, March 17, 2017

Making the Internet Great Again.

I am very excited right now! Today the website that connects to this little blog has finally completed its transition through the weird digital universe of domain transfer! That means that it works again and I can finish rebuilding. Now I just need to learn how to do that. I guess.

If you’ve been here before on a computer then you might notice that things are already a little different looking.

If you’re reading this on a mobile device then (hopefully) you won’t notice much of a difference. Either way, go look at the menu and click on all the buttons and stuff. I MADE ALL OF THAT WORK! As far as knowing how the internet works, I’m basically Mark Zuckerberg now.

Hopefully by the end of the weekend I will have all the pages up and running and filled with stuff for you to read!

I know that no one reads this blog, but I am still very happy that it is working again. It is a tiny little fraction of your life, but it is a pretty big part of mine. That’s how life works I guess.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Time Delay!

It just occurred to me that it might be possible to schedule blog posts in advance. So .... 

>>> This is a test post! <<<

It is only a test.

I'm writing it Monday at about 9pm and I will schedule it to post Tuesday at 9am.

So let's see if this works! If it does then it means that my technical skill has finally caught up to like 1999!

Here goes nothing!


Sunday, March 5, 2017

What's Up With the New Stuff???

You may have noticed that the header and links that used to be up above are gone now. Not to worry! I'm in the process of migrating my domain between hosts. I know that sounds like something that happens in the movie Aliens, but it turns out that it is in fact not.

Basically I'm making some changes to how and where my site and this blog exist on the internet. It will take a week or so to get it all sorted out (but I've needed to do it for over a year). This blog won't be going anywhere, but everything else about the site is going to move over to Weebly's platform, which means I will actually be able to update things!

I'm in the process of building the beta version of that site now if you want to go look at it so far, but please do not bookmark it yet! The address will change once the domain transfers. Whatever the hell that means (Someone in tech support said it to me earlier today). I'm also going to figure out why the text of this blog only takes up half the screen. That started happening like two years ago, but I have just been really BUSY, okay?

You know what weirds me out most about all this? The previous incarnation of the site had been up since 2008! Without a single update! Right now though if you go type "" into your browser, there is nothing there! POOF! All gone in an instant. It makes me a little sad, you know? But it had become a necessity because so much of the old code was breaking and because it was time to pay the old hosts or find some new ones. 

All of that is probably more information than you require, but half the reason I haven't been writing here much lately is because I was secretly a little embarrassed about all the small things breaking down on the site and my inability to fix any of them. Soon we will be back up and running, pretty and new, though different, which will be strange.

I'm only half serious about using this picture here.
Also, I finally figured out how to caption pictures!


For some reason my lonely little blog was popular in France last month. Probably their hacking-bots appreciate my ennui.

via Instagram