Tag Archives: archival

The Regulars (part IV)

I was thinking about bringing up Nicole. I had decided that I shouldn’t let this rare opportunity pass. And since Jenny’s a girl, maybe she could give me some pointers on how best to approach a co-worker in a way that was charming and not harassing. Before I had the chance to say anything, the door flew open. As it closed, Mike straddled the seat next to our two person table.

“’Sup?” As he put his gloves and hat down, he sat up straight and tilted his head upwards to get the attention of one of the Wongs. When he did, he gave two quick pokes at the air with his chin. Mr. Wong nodded and gave a thumbs-up sign. Mike then looked at each of us in turn. “One super-power. And only one. What would you choose?”

“The Soviet Union,” I said, giving him a sideways glance.

“Ha ha. You know what I mean.”

I sighed and crinkled up my now-empty tinfoil into a little ball. Francis, the cat I’d had growing up, would have loved to bat it around. Shiny metal lumps always attracted him. “Haven’t we done this before?”

Mike seemed personally affronted. “What, like this isn’t a subject worthy of continued debate? Opinions can’t change? You only get one shot. One. You want to make sure you make the right choice. So what’s your super-power?”

I sighed. “It’s still flight.”

“That’s bullshit. Flight is an awful choice. I keep telling you: invisibility. You can sneak onto a plane if you’re invisible and fly anywhere you want. Free games at Shea, standing next to the guitars at shows, women’s showers. The possibilities are endless, brother.”

“I want to be able to fly. I think it would be a great release.”

“You’re an idiot. Jenny?”

She was looking down at her salad, picking out the jalapeños from the bottom with surgical precision and pushing them to the side of the plate. Without looking up from her operation, she answered immediately. “I want a tail.”

Mike and I looked at each other with brows furrowed, not entirely sure we had heard correctly. I leaned forward. “What? A tail?”

“Yeah, a tail.”

Mike looked around the restaurant as if something on the walls might explain this answer. “What the hell is that? What purpose would that serve?”

“It wouldn’t have a purpose.”

“Then why the hell would you waste your one chance at a paranormal ability on it if it doesn’t have a purpose?”

Jenny shook a pepper off her fork and looked over at him. “Do you know anyone who has a tail?”


“Well, that’s why I’d want one.”

The Regulars (part III)

Fresca Tortilla on Ditmars had the best Mexican food in Queens. Well, it probably wasn’t the best by any sort of strict culinary standard; but it was our favorite. The owners were Mr. and Mrs. Wong, a very jovial and welcoming couple that barely spoke English. (“Their English is better than my Chinese,” Mike would snap anytime someone dared to make a comment.) They used to run a regular Chinese restaurant that never really made any money. Then they closed for a month and reopened with a tortilla machine and a whole new food selection. Even though they couldn’t pronounce three-quarters of the menu, they quickly became one of the most successful restaurants in the neighborhood. None of us lived all that close, yet we ate here at least twice a week.

Jenny rapped her plastic fork and knife against the table as if keeping the beat on a big orange and brown drum, her hair bouncing slightly as she talked. “Frank still wants Mark to put in more money for Keyspan because of the space heater incident. There’s no way in hell Mark’s doing that. He’ll get another heater first. They should have known when they moved in there that this is how it’d shake down.”


“Mark and Frank. Two of the guys from Stern.”

“Oh.” I had no idea how Jenny got to know all these random people, but she seemed to be friends with about half of Brooklyn and a third of Manhattan.

“Number four. Extra Jack.” Mrs. Wong put my tray down and smiled. Her other hand slid a second tray between Jenny’s rhythmic utensils. “Salad, Taco.” As she bustled away, I removed the tinfoil from my quesadilla in my usual manner: in little circles as if peeling an onion. Jenny already had a forkful of lettuce in her mouth.

“Hey,” she mumbled around her food, “do you know that guy at your place, Nate S-something?”

“Nate Sampson, the project manager?”

“Yeah. What do you know about him?”

I chewed slowly, a piece of grilled chicken resting on my tongue. “He’s a good guy. Kind of quiet and ponderous. Really nice. A little too nice, actually. Like maybe he’s really a date rapist.”

“So you don’t endorse him?”

“I don’t not endorse him. I don’t know him all that well.” I chewed some more. “He’s probably not a date rapist.”

“But you never know.”

“Exactly.” I forked a piece of chicken out of its foil home and reached across the table to drop it on Jenny’s plate. On the way back, I scooped up some of the ground beef product sprinkled throughout her salad. “Why are you asking about him?”

“Oh, no reason. I know this girl, and he’s someone she might be interested in. But I wanted to ask about him before I said anything.”

I threw my hands up in mock outrage, splattering melted orange cheese across the next table. “Why don’t you ever ask about me?”

“I know all about you.”

The Regulars (part II)

(click here for part one)

Another Saturday night at McGinty’s. This time at least we had the pretense of celebrating the birthday of another esteemed patron at the bar. Although none of us could quite remember who this guy was or how we knew him. Jenny seemed to recall it was the college friend of someone she worked with two temp jobs ago. I didn’t really care – any excuse to leave the house and come here worked for me. I even wore a corduroy blazer to try to lure in a girl, only realizing once I had arrived that I had no idea why I thought that would be alluring. Was it something that came from the advice the fifty-something women who populated my office and told me what a catch I was? The bar had gotten warm after a couple of IPAs, so the coat had ended up crumpled on the floor. Still, I made sure to keep scanning the bar for prospects.

Mike, on the other hand, had spent the first part of the evening grousing about outsiders intruding on our turf, going into a full snarl whenever anyone had leaned around his sizable frame to try to get a bartender’s attention. He would have preferred to buy the bar and close it to the public so the three of us could drink there in peace.

As we continued to tease out scenarios of our intricate debate, a girl with a frilly purple shirt, black librarian glasses, and the stench of over-priced perfume giggled her way up to the bar. She seemed very outgoing, leaning in to our conversation without provocation. After a few moments, she wrinkled her nose and bore her teeth with disgust. “Why would you want to talk about hurting nine-year-olds?”

Mike locked his eyes on hers. “Why wouldn’t we?”

I leaned over a little, trying to get her up to speed while making sincere eye contact. “They’re attacking us. It’s self defense.”

“Why are nine-year-olds attacking you?” She shifted so her left foot was facing away from us, ready to bolt at any moment.

Mike sighed, exasperated that this needed explication. “I don’t know. Because we kidnapped their parents. And their little sisters, if they have any.”


“What about their brothers? Why do they care more about sisters?” Jenny had slammed a few shots back to catch up and was already slurring.

Our librarian intruder persisted. “Are they attacking you all at once or one at a time?”

Before Jenny or I could say “all at once,” Mike roared, “One at a time? Shit, if it’s one at a time I’ll take all those fuckers down with one hand and smoke a joint with the other.” We were too busy laughing to notice the girl slink away. I hadn’t even caught her name.

The Regulars (part I)


“Yeah, nine-year-olds. How many?” Mike tapped his index finger on the bar, as if that would hasten my answer. He sat perched on the stool, hunched like a gargoyle, craning his ear so none of my response would be lost in the growing din of a Saturday night.

“I don’t know. Seven?”

“Seven? No way. You’re selling yourself short, brother. Seven? You could take at least twelve. At least. You’ve got a streak.”

Before I could inquire about my so-called streak, Jenny appeared between us, peeling a dark green scarf off her neck disgustedly. “Fuckin’ N train. Sometimes I really hate this city.”

Mike turned to her. “How many nine-year-olds could you take in a fight?”

“What, like a street brawl?”

“No, in a ring, Royal Rumble style. An infinite number of nine-year-olds swarm you. How many can you bring down they take you out?”

Jenny’s pupils rolled around her sockets. She slowly took off her black coat and draped it over the stool in front of her. She always had a cute way of sticking the tip of her tongue out the side of her mouth when she contemplated something. “Uhhhh… probably about thirteen.”

Mike slapped his hand down, causing the glasses on the bar to jump and clink. “Now we’re talkin’. Tommy here said seven.”

“Seven?” She raised an eyebrow at me accusingly.

I put my hands up, showing my palms. “I’m just saying, nine-year-olds can be pretty tenacious, and I got a bad knee.”

Mike shook his head forcefully, his tight shaggy curls knocking against each other. He pointed at one of his bushy black eyebrows. “You gotta think. They all come after you, but you take that first one out, bam, punch to the nose. When he drops, the rest of them are gonna pause. They take a step back. Then you take down two or three more before they even think to regroup, and it’s off to the races.”

Jenny sipped at the Jack and Coke the bartender had put in front of her. At this point, she didn’t even need to order it. “You could use the body of the first one as a club,” she mused. “Or maybe a shield.”

“See? Somebody’s thinkin’.”

(continued in part two)

Nine Years, Three Hundred & Sixty-Four Days

(These are the last 410 words of the 2,079 word email I wrote from 14th Street in NYC at 11:41am on September 11, 2011. Apologies for typos; I was a little distracted.)

Around Houston, I turned around and only saw a huge
cloud.  Maybe the fire was really bad and the tower
was just behind it.  But then I heard someone say “The
second one collapsed.”  I can’t remember if it was
even there when I left (that’s why I said “I think”
the lone tower was still there when I walked out; I
don’t know anymore).  But now it was gone.  A guy came
running out of this community recreation center and
said “Holy fucking shit, they’re gone?”  A woman
walking by told him they had collapsed.  He went
across the street, yelling, “Fuck!  Holy fuck!”  A few
blocks later, I heard this guy in front of my telling
his dad he was OK.  I looked up and saw he was covered
in ash and dust, as were his friends.

I got to my girlfriend’s apartment building, still
trying to not think about any biological weapons.  I
got in the elevator with four guys, one of whom had
been walking his dog.  One man said, “A bunch of
animals.”  They chatted.  The man with the dog said,
“I went out and the tower was there, and now it’s
gone.”  I guess somber was the best word.

I’ve been here for a little more than three hours.
I’ve been watching CNN.  Giulani has been on, telling
people north of Canal St. to stay put and not panic.
They had Tom Clancy on, I guess during a down time
when they needed to talk to someone, anyone to keep
reporting.  More shit has gone down in D.C. and
somewhere in Pennsylvania.  I emailed friends to let
them know I was safe, and heard there was panic in
Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia.  I fielded calls
from my girlfriend’s friends and family, letting them
know what the deal was.  I talked to my mother. We
found out that her cousin was safe and accounted for.
I wonder about some of my friends who work for
financial companies, and I worry.  Smoke is covering a
good chunk of the sky here, about 30 blocks away.  The
shit has gone down, and gone down hard.  I’m not sure
I can fathom what has happened or what it all means.
I’m just in a numb daze.  I will go and donate blood,
and I will get the hell out of town.  I want to get
away from this shit.  But I don’t think I’ll ever be
able to.