Monthly Archives: May 2013

dog day fever dream, 1987.

it’s quarter to noon on a wednesday in 1987 and i’m not in a car careening down olympic boulevard behind a cascade of beamers and lexii with california plates. no. i’m on a brick sidewalk, so i must be in harvard square, and i must be on my way to the taang! records store, or mystery train, or in your ear, or newbury comics. or maybe i’m leaving the square, headed down oxford street behind the harvard divinity school, looking for a sandwich shop between here and porter. either way, it’s 1987 and the song i’m hearing is “i burn today” by frank black. it won’t be written or recorded for another 15 years or so.

the $10 bill in my pocket is marked for disaster: after the record shops i’ll scour the basement at the harvard book store and later today i’ll have a beer at the middle east with mark sandman to try to convince him to start mixing in a saxophone with his doom-and-gloom bass lines. it’ll be midnight and the dog day heat of summer will be traded in for a sporadic nighttime breeze while i saunter in a barely perceptible zig-zag down mass ave.

i’ll be headed for inman square in the wrong direction but there’s a strong chance that i might keep on walking. through harvard. through porter. behind davis. down past ringe. arlington, dry town.

i might not stop until i reach lexington. it’ll be 2am. i’ll have to sleep here on the green until the sun rises on a forgiving thursday morning.

i won’t be able to call anyone to pick me up. there’s no such thing as a cell phone.


I got nothing. It captures your essence?
It takes you in like an orphan and years
later you find you’ve changed for the better
or not. Sometimes it ignores you, keeps you
off to the periphery, so no one
knows you were ever there, or really cares,
or ever will unless another takes
you in, and hopefully this time you won’t
be ignored, abhorred, almost aborted,
tossed on the cutting room floor. We can dream
our actions might be cherished for all of
eternity, but realistically,
everything you do will someday fade
yellow at the edges, warp and decay.

Valdez > Anchorage > Seattle > Boston


Huh? Wha? Where am I? What time is it? I don’t even *thunk*


Borrowed Nostalgia

In ninth grade I was in a production of Bye Bye Birdie and I was particularly
proud of the fact that the Pendleton plaid skirt I was wearing was my mother’s, a skirt she’d actually worn in the Fifties, and as I waited on the front steps, waited for her to take me to Opening Night, I thought:

What are people going to be wearing twenty years from now at 80s parties?

Pinstripe jeans, maybe. That’s as far as I got. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to dress like me.


He is survived by his wife, two children,
and his millions of fans around the globe,
as if his life were intensely tragic,
a natural disaster that unfurled
upon an unsuspecting world, and all
his victims will be reeling from this mad
attack for the rest of their lives, until
they die, leaving their own survivors. It
is nice to know a man made an impact,
but one should feel as though the planet is
greater through a life well lived; don’t instead
sound like a massive crater, like the world
will never be the same because some great
meteor burned a hole in these poor souls.

The Girl With The Starbucks Tattoo

It was a beacon of hope, always shining green through the long, hard winter, a steaming oasis rising through the endless snow to thaw her small town heart out. Before the store moved into the old downtown square, she hardly even knew that their could be anything more than the cracking, empty streets, a broken fossil of a faded industry. The idea of somehow leaving town, or doing anything but following in her family’s frozen footsteps, seemed as foreign to her as the rest of the country did, some thousand miles away. These were things she’d only seen on — television when the reception was good and they could still get channels, anyway.

When it finally appeared — when that sign went up, signaling its coming — it heralded an out. She believed herself to be the mermaid, that rare, majestic beauty, a literal and lonely creature lost upon the shore, surrounded instead by an ocean of snow, vast and cold, which numbed the lives around her. But she never even knew that she had fins, that she could swim away, not until she saw that sign rising in the distancer. She was 13 years old then, the loneliest of ages, and as soon as she saw it, she started to study, teaching herself the differences, the meaning of a macchiato, americano, cold press versus hot, and as soon as she turned 16, she strolled into the store, filled out an application, and submitted it on the spot. She hardly ever touched the money that she made. Instead, she saved it, every cent, building up a base for her escape.

She put in a transfer request when she was 18, and the day she finished high school, she hitched a ride in her cousin’s 18-wheeler and changed her life, a bright young mermaid escaping to the greater sea: Anchorage.

Her cousin dropped her off downtown, but before she even found a place to sleep that night, she slipped inside the first tattoo parlor on the strip. She’d never actually seen a shop like that before, not in real life, anyway. When she stepped inside, she was greeted by a league of fantastical creatures not unlike herself, exotic breeds who’d wandered from their native tribes and made themselves a brand new home. Endangered species, just like her. And so she wanted a symbol, to brand her scar her skin to show her small-town struggle and begin the transformation, taking that which was within and projecting it without. She thought back to that day when she first saw the sign, before she truly understood what it meant, what it would come to mean, and she rolled up her sleeve and offered up the first sacrifice from her savings account and the man with the oversized earlobes pulled out his magic pen, buzzing with the vitriol of a billion angry bees, and painted that green mermaid on her skin and when he finished she could finally feel her fins begin to grow.

Brooklyn Bridge Is Falling Down

If she drops off her child wearing inorganic rubber-soled shoes, they will notice. If she feeds him one fewer leaf of kale, they will notice. If she comes one minute later than she did yesterday, they will notice that, too, because they stand around before yoga and watch her, and they will notice how Manhattan she looks while doing it all.

She does not fit here.

A few miles over the bridge, Nick promised Melinda a lot of things. That was years ago, and the things that she wanted to grow grew: their relationship, his bankroll, her stomach. And then there were three. Polka-dot bordered stationary with a blue bundle of joy cartoon.

The great migration. It was Nick’s idea.

Gavin’s getting big, he said, and Melinda nodded, mostly because he was. She heard the tapping of her heels on the slanted floorboards in their Upper East Side walkup as she did. She kicked one of Gavin’s toys under the couch, where it stopped, lodged there until the day they moved.

In the Brooklyn Brownstone, everything changed. They spread out. Nick suggested they learn how to cook, which meant Melinda would have to learn how to cook. Nick bought a set of golf clubs. They had space. And they had enough spare rooms for a twenty-four-seven nanny to live in.

Did you know they make those? They’re new, like the next iPhone or something, Melinda marveled from behind her desk with the view of Fifth Avenue. She still put on her heels every morning, and walked her pencil-skirted-size-two-self to train each morning before Gavin was old enough for school.

But when Nick suggested—no, said—the nanny would go upon Gavin entering Kindergarten, Melinda nearly had a fit. In her heels, of course. Outside of the natural food store, of course. Nearly, because on the side of the bridge, people don’t have fits, of course.

At home, she spread out.

And now, every day she is on the wrong side of the bridge. It’s late, and she’s thinking about what to wear tomorrow. She steps away from her closet, puts her glasses down on the nightstand, and comes downstairs.

Nick, she says, you take him tomorrow.

I can’t, he calls from the basement, where he has set up a putting strip.

Yes, she says. You can.