A Train between Broadway-Nassau and Canal Street

Two middle-aged ladies–one Eileen Fisher, one Ann Taylor–headed home on the crowded train.  Work friends.

Eileen Fisher Lady: It’s allowed to sleep at the opera.

Ann Taylor Lady: Oh, really?

Eileen Fisher Lady: Of course.

Ann Taylor Lady: You sleep at the opera?

Eileen Fisher Lady: Not always.  Not so much anymore but I used to do it invariably.  During one performance of Fidelio when I was in high school I had the greatest nap of my adolescence.

Ann Taylor Lady: Really.  I feel bad about it, I guess.

Eileen Fisher Lady: Oh no, you can’t feel bad.  Sometimes it’s just too much.

Ann Taylor Lady: One time I fell asleep in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, but the problem was we were right in the first row, right on top of the actors.  I felt so bad.

Eileen Fisher Lady: My mother always sleeps at the theater.  Well, my mother can sleep anywhere.

Ann Taylor Lady: My mother, too!  She sleeps everywhere.  She slept through The Passion of the Christ.

Eileen Fisher Lady: The Mel Gibson movie?  Good for her.  Good for her.

Ann Taylor Lady: And snored.

Eileen Fisher Lady: Terrible movie.  Terrible movie.  I didn’t see it.

Ann Taylor Lady: The past ten years she’s developed this weird snore with a gurgle sound and a sort of chicken noise in it.  My nickname for her is gurgle chicken.  But she won’t admit it.  She’ll fall asleep on the phone with you and if you tell her she did she’ll yell at you.

Eileen Fisher Lady: The thing my mother does that’s annoying–one of the things she does that’s annoying–is she’ll come to visit me and she’ll want to stay up and watch things on David Letterman.  Now I used to watch David Letterman, I used to be a normal person, but now when I watch it I just feel like I’m on fire.  I hate it.

Ann Taylor Lady: It is awful.

Eileen Fisher Lady: It’s the most awful thing on television!  Ugh, the audience laughter, and those jokes?  And that Paul Schaffer?  I mean, I’ve always hated him but now if I met him I’d kill him with my bare hands.  I hate him that much.

Published in: on May 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm  Comments (1)  

A Train between Chambers Street and Hoyt-Schermerhorn

Tiny Sparkplug Lady–cherry-red lipstick, aqua pashmina,  giant gypsy earrings–crammed in next to Big Butch Lady–sunglasses, Mets cap, Polartec vest over button-down Oxford shirt–commiserating at top volume on a packed rush-hour train.

Butch Lady: He doesn’t understand right from wrong.

Tiny Lady: No he doesn’t.  No he does not.  Now my mother raised me with consequences.  She said, You made your bed?  Bitch you’re gonna lie in it.  But he doesn’t understand consequences.  He doesn’t understand that for every action–

Butch Lady: There’s  a reaction.

Tiny Lady: That’s right.  That’s Einstein.  E equals MC squared.  But he doesn’t understand that.  What does he do?  He practically dislocates my shoulder.  On my fiftieth birthday.  Do I need that?

Butch Lady: No you don’t.

Tiny Lady: I do not need that on my fiftieth birthday.  But I’m stupid about him.

Butch Lady: Yes you are.

Tiny Lady: I am, I’m stupid.  You know how we met?

Butch Lady: No.

Tiny Lady: In high school, we were in high school together.  In ninth grade they let me in the fashion show, I was advanced for my age and they let me walk in this fashion show and he was in eleventh grade at the time and they took a picture of the two of us on stage together.  And nineteen years later I saw him on Ocean Avenue and I had that feeling, you know that feeling when you see someone and you think you know them?

Butch Lady: Uh-hunh.

Tiny Lady: I had that feeling so I walked right up to him, I said, Do you know who I am? I said, You come to my house I will show you a picture of yourself with an afro you are not gonna believe.  I still had that picture in my house like new, no creases in it or anything.  I thought it was a sign.  I thought I was a cosmic chicken.  Now I got a sheet cake this big in my fridge, no bites in it.  I could not touch that cake, my fiftieth birthday cake.  You asked me how my birthday was?

Butch Lady: Yeah?

Tiny Lady: People asking me how was my birthday, what did I do on my fiftieth birthday?  I say I kept my sanity.  That’s what I did.  That’s all anybody needs to know.

Published in: on April 9, 2010 at 6:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Domestic Arrivals, Dulles International Airport, Washington DC

Bored five-year-old boy, his bored four-year-old sister, and bored dad, leaning all over each other out of boredom waiting for their mom to walk through the Domestic Arrivals doors, 10:30 p.m.

Boy: Dad, when you were a kid, were gingersnaps even invented?

Dad: Yes.

Boy: Were…movies?

Dad: Yes.

Boy: Were aliens?

Dad: There’s no such things as aliens.

Boy: Yes there is!  (re: his sister’s snack) That’s an alien yogurt!  (sighs) I wish my birthday was tomorrow.

Girl: (hushed, dramatic) How about this? What if it was every day?

Dad: If your birthday was every day you’d be dead by now.

Boy: I wish it was every day but we never died and we never got old and we always looked awesome and we never got tired!


Girl: Daddy I’m tired.

Dad: Let’s play the silent game.

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

18th Street between 10th Avenue and the West Side Highway

Bus driver with reading glasses and Yankee cap, addressing the smattering of passengers on his M14D bus over his shoulder and through his rearview mirror.

Bus Driver: I always say, This is not Planet Earth, it’s Planet Dirt.  And everything on this planet is made of dirt.  And everything sooner or later returns to dirt.  And what goes up?  Sooner or later must get torn down.  This?  This?  (He gestures to the buildings out the bus windows.) All torn down.  So I say to you all, Welcome.  Welcome to Planet Dirt!

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Q train over the Manhattan Bridge

Nebbishy dad–gray beard, jacket over hoodie over sweater, wearing both his and his kid’s backpacks–and painfully dorky eight-year-old boy–adenoidal, sticky, tiny, pre-orthodontia–riding home on the Q.  Kid sitting, dad standing.

Dad: So how was the rest of your day?

Kid: Ummmm.  B+.  We did family tree stuff.  We were allowed to include whatever kinds of beasts or creatures we wanted, even imaginary.  Rachel did the whole Simpsons.  She had some really obscure Simpsons characters like Herb Powell, remember him he’s Homer’s long-lost brother, but she forgot Maggie.  The smartest member of the Simpsons family.  Maggie’s even smarter than Lisa because Lisa has an attitude.

Dad: Attitude doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence.  Although a bad attitude is sometimes a byproduct of having too much confidence in your intelligence.

Dad takes out his iPhone.

Kid:  Right.  I think all the characters on the Simpsons are pretty solid.  (gesturing to a bag of barbeuce potato chips inside a Gristede’s bag his dad’s holding) Can I have some more?

Dad: (absent, on his iPhone) Yes.

Kid: Why don’t I hold them, that way I can have them whenever I want them.

Dad: (distracted) Okay.

Dad hands Kid the Gristede’s bag.

Kid: You do what you need to do, and I’ll do what I need to do.

Kid eats chips by the handful for a while, breathing noisily through his nose, pausing sometimes to make quiet robot fighting noises and explosion noises to himself.

Kid: (thoughtful) I think that organized crime family should watch a few episodes of the Simpsons.  I think that would be a good idea for them.

He chortles sardonically to himself: “Good one.”

Kid: I almost cried because these are so spicy.

Dad: Hey how many of those have you eaten?  Now you’re going to be extremely thirsty, what are you going to do about that?  Do you have water in your bag because I don’t.

Kid: No.

Dad: What are you going to do when you’re so thirsty you can’t stand it anymore?

Kid: Suffer!

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 5:01 am  Comments (1)  

Bowery and Bleecker

Sweet-voiced, sweet-faced 21-year-old boy and sharp-voiced, sharp-faced 21-year-old girl doctoring their coffees.

Boy: You know why human beings survive?  And prosper?  Running.  It’s the truth.  There are other animals that can run faster but none that can run for a longer period of time.

Girl: This doesn’t look good, what I’ve done.

Boy: Why?  What happened?

Girl: Too much milk.

Boy: That’s how we conquered them.  Animals would run away and we would chase them, run away and we would chase them, and eventually they’d get tired and we’d spear them.

Girl: That’s not true.

Boy: I know, I was surprised that we could outlast like a cheetah.

Girl: We don’t eat cheetah.

Boy: We eat wild boar.

Girl: You don’t chase down a wild boar.

Boy: You could.  Or a cow.

Girl: Cows don’t run at all.

Boy: Chickens–I mean turkeys, turkeys have a very high capacity to run away.  Every time I eat one of them I think, my goodness, long ago we would really have had to work to get our hands on this guy.

She shakes her sugar packet up by her ear, tears into it.

Boy: The music of the sugar packet.  Not to be confused with the racket of the tea bag.  (sighs) So yeah, I’m turned on by theater.  Theater, what’s so hard about that?

They go.

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

36 Bus, N Broadway and Addison, Chicago

Halloween night, 10:30 p.m.

Three dudes, all friends, get on the bus: a corporate zombie, a corporate slasher victim, and a corporate robot with futuristic helmet pushed back on top of his head.  All in business suits.

First two dudes tap their cards uneventfully on the scanner.  Corporate Robot Dude can’t make his card read in the machine.  He dips the card once, twice, then loses it in the machine.  Corporate Robot Dude pitches a little fit and the driver waves him through.  He sits down across the aisle from his friends, agitated.

Corporate Robot Dude: Did you see that?  I just put five bucks on that thing like, recently.

Corporate Zombie Dude: You got a misread.  Sometimes you get a misread.  You gotta be ready to reswipe.

Corporate Robot Dude: I couldn’t reswipe, man, it ate my card.

Corporate Zombie Dude: It kept it?

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: What’s he saying?

Corporate Zombie Dude: He says it ate his card that had five bucks on it.

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: That’s bullshit.  He’s lying.  We should tell the driver on him.  He looks suspicious to me.

Corporate Zombie Dude: He does.

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: I’m pretty much suspicious of everyone on this bus right now,  but especially this guy.  What’s he supposed to be, a robot?

Corporate Robot Dude pulls his helmet down over his face.  It has a voice altering microphone that makes him sound like a futuristic robot when he talks.

Corporate Robot Dude: (robot voice) Fuck you man, I’m a robot.

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: Hey buddy leave us alone.

Corporate Zombie Dude: Stop harrassing us.

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: No man, you can’t borrow my cell phone.  Back off.


Corporate Robot Dude: (robot voice) It’s a local call.

Behind them a guy in a black unitard and black stocking cap with four limp black balloons stuck to his head stands up, catches Corporate Slasher Victim Dude’s attention.

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: (to Black Balloon-Head Guy) Sir, are you currants?

Black Balloon-Head Guy: What?

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: Are you black currants?

Black Balloon-Head Guy: No, I’m postmodern expressionism.

Corporate Slasher Victim Dude: Word.

Chicago Halloween


Published in: on November 1, 2009 at 4:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Waverly Place and Mercer Street

Two NYU juniors.  He: skinny jeans, thin cotton hoodie (hood up), hands shoved in pockets.  She: skinny jeans, two layered T-shirts, silver ballet flats, oversized sunglasses.

NYU Girl: No this whole place is unrecognizable.  The new freshmen come in and they’re like, You used to live in Hayden, where is there to go around here? and I’m like, Honestly?  I have no idea.  This whole place is completely different.

NYU Boy: Pizza Mercato’s still here.

NYU Girl: Yeah but that’s the only thing.

NYU Boy: I know, even St. Marks.

NYU Girl: Totally!

NYU Boy: It’s like St. Marks got bought out by a major label.

NYU Girl: God, I know.

NYU Boy: I mean, I guess if you like Japanese food…

NYU Girl: Yeah but if you don’t.

NYU Boy: St. Marks went from like gutter punk to like, Asian fusion in the past two years.

NYU Girl: I know.  It’s so sad.

Published in: on August 29, 2009 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lafayette and Broome; 5th and A; Trader Joe’s on 14th and 3rd

Three unrelated fragments from the past 48 hours.


Behind me, unseen, guy and girl walking.

Girl: Why are you walking so far ahead?

Guy: (icy) Because I’m upset.  And yes my knee is better, thank you for asking.


Fiftysomething dude, sun-leathered, in twentysomething surferwear and shades, on his cellphone, one foot on the curb and one in the gutter.

Surfer Dude: Nothing.  Chilling.  Oh that girl I lent money to ten years ago called me from Spain.  She was like, Are you still mad at me?  I was like, I’m not mad at you, I just lost all respect for you.  She was like, Cool.  So that.  Otherwise nothing.


Shaved-head guy with tiny gold hoop earrings behind me in line at the Trader Joe’s.   Picks up a can of Chunky Minestrone soup.

Shaved-Head Guy: (in disbelief) Chunky Milestone Soup?

He holds the can at arm’s length to squint at it–his forearm is ribboned with long, blurry tattoos of naked ladies.  Shakes his head in resignation, replaces the can on the shelf.

Shaved-Head Guy: Chunky Milestone Soup.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 1:53 pm  Comments (1)  

6th Street and 1st Avenue

Tree downed by the thunderstorm completely blocking the intersection–cop car, police tape, small crowd of onlookers.

Tall wiry guy standing next to me, loose lime green polo, wavy cartoon-electric-shock-victim gray hair, cigarette.  Jerks his head to get my attention.

Wiry guy: Hey.

Me: Hey.

Wiry guy: I did that. (takes a drag on his cigarette) With my mind.

Published in: on July 27, 2009 at 12:52 am  Leave a Comment