New York Subway Scenes: The Days of Covid-19

Hassidic Elder: I hate these masks.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic: I hear you.

Hassidic Elder: In the street! Even in the street.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic: It will pass.

Hassidic Elder: Next they’ll be strip searching us.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic: All things will pass.

Hassidic Elder: I hate it.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic returns to reading his paper.

It’s a half-crowded train on the AM rush hour. Everyone wears a mask. The train pulls into Fulton Station where more people get on, masked except for a slight black woman. A policeman comes to door of train. She looks up, ready to argue. The policeman offers her a mask. “Would you like this?” She smiles sheepishly, takes it and puts it on.

Rosie Perez comes on the intercom as the train pulls out. Wearing a mask shows respect to others. And it’s the law. Come on, New York, we can do this.

Hairy Bug Adrift

I was in the bath, almost in that place between sleep and wakefulness, my book drooping close to the water, when the thing drifted into my periphery. I thought it was a clump of hair (a small one) and wondered where it had come from, but it wasn’t that. It was worse. It was a bug – a giant hairy bug.

I contorted away, dumping the book to the floor, thrust my hand in the water and watched in horror as it twirled around lazily, drifting deeper. It had to be dead. I waved at it from below, trying to get it to the surface, but it slid away, its hairy body grazing my fingertips. I was on the verge of losing it – my brain and the giant hairy bug – as I tried to catch until I had the thing and flipped it into the sink.

I tried to settle back into the half awake world and think about nothing, but there wasn’t anything but visions of that horrible hairy bug. I tried to read. I tried to play Fishdom, all in vain, and finally got out of the tub to examine the dead hairy thing. But it wasn’t there. It had vanished, back into the pipes, waiting for its next swim in my water.

Writing Jobs

Looking for writing work is a disappointing muddle. Posted positions are as follows: Digital Advertising Technical Writer, Principal Regulatory Writer, Direct Response Writer, Shoppable Content Business Writer, Security Technical Writer, Content Writer for Real Estate Professionals, Customs Entry Writer, Order Writer for Food Chain and Legislative Bill Writer.

In other words, no postings for novelist, screenwriter nor poet.

Friday Words XXII: Entropy

Entropy is defined as “lack of order or predictability, and hence a gradual decline into disorder.” In other words, entropy presents the disquieting idea that no matter what system is put into place, it will eventually disintegrate into chaos and randomness.

I hate entropy (even if it doesn’t care about being hated). I love order. Everything is about organization for me, not just in the streets and society, but in my home. I can’t focus on what I need to do unless my desk is in order, emails sent and a plan is set. Nothing is better than that.

And yet the forces are out there – discrimination, environmental decay, laziness, etc. – which underscore the impossibility of humanity ever working out. My goodness, we can’t even agree on pandemic protocols. What chance will we have when the stakes are raised? (Nil.)

Overlooked New York: 70 Pine

Surrounded by the tight streets and towering spires of Downtown Manhattan, it is more accurate to say that 70 Pine is under-looked. It is almost impossible to see it at close range.

As the plaque outside states, 70 Pine is an Art Deco building from the late 1920s and was, upon construction, the tallest in Downtown Manhattan and the third tallest in the world

The Art Deco details, prevalent inside and out, give residents of the 612 units with visual justification for their rent – ranging from $2,300 (studio) to $13,000 (three-bedroom).

This residential building also houses a couple of restaurants – Blue Park and Crown Shy – as well as a physical therapy studio where I am working on my new knees.

Sadly, the observation platform has been closed during the pandemic.

The Empty Spaces of “The Invisible Man”

It’s not that good a film. It’s unnecessarily gory, the fight scenes are comical and the jump scares predictable. But Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man film does succeed in one area: the use of empty space.

The justification for all of these shots is that the evil invisible man is probably there watching Elizabeth Moss and hence us, and that’s what works so well, what makes it so creepy. It’s akin to Hitchock’s shower scene in Psycho where the shower, the safest place of all, was made dangerous.

Whannell’s film makes every place dangerous – every room, hallway and corner of anywhere you can go. He might be there watching, ready to fuck with our heads.

Kudos to Princess Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds as well as Paul Simon’s one-time wife, landed the role that defined her life at 20 years of age: Princess Leia of The Star Wars Saga. Ms. Fisher’s is not however a remarkable actor, but rather has The Force in her brave and honest ability to self reflect and share her thoughts with others. She wrote seven autobiographical books, beginning with Postcards from the Edge, much of it delving into the stark issues of addiction and mental illness.

Ms. Fisher was born rich and famous. She had absolutely everything – wealth, intelligence, physical beauty and opportunity – and became conceited and vain because of it, which is what makes her willingness to expose her weaknesses so impressive. Much of this is documented in Shelia Weller’s biography A Life on the Edge.

Am I vulnerable? Unfortunately, yes. I can do wrong better than anyone. (6) Ms. Fisher reflected on her life with blunt humor, a self-examination that was honest and self-deprecating. I wish that I could leave myself alone. I wish that I could finally feel that I punished myself enough, let myself off the hook, drag myself off the rack, where I am both the torturer and tortured. (322) She was unrelenting, to her final days. I’m not happy about being older, except what are the options? I’ve been through a lot, and I could go through more, but I hope I don’t have to. I’m not going to enjoy dying, but there’s not much prep for that. (335)

I have been very tired as of late. More than tired. Maybe it is the smell of the mask. Maybe that is what sets me off. Or the couple walking toward me, happily chatting away, their masks at their chins. Or maybe it’s just everyone bitching on social media and then posting a picture of a baby or dog. It’s all of that unrelenting bullshit. And then I read Carrie Fisher’s biography and thought, well, so what? This is the superficial world I live in, and if I want to do something about that, then get to it. (Yes, let’s.)

Young Chronicles IX: Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island

I spent three days on Cavendish Beach, PEI in early June 1983, eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I wrote the following at the conclusion:

Solitude is a necessary state that all should experience for some extended period of time. It must also be noted that man should not be in this state for too long lest he lose his sanity. Man is an insecure beast. So be it. Not only is he dependent on other men but also on external imaginary forces. It is man’s brooding mind that entrances him upon such a state. .

The fact that we are aware of our existence does not prove our existence; it only clarifies our insecurities. Does a bird brood upon its existence? Nay. It is because it has no reason to, as it concentrates its attention on the day-to-day. Man, in his comfortable and unnatural state, is cursed with his awareness. He cannot enjoy life as it is because he worries for the future. And so do I.

This I write to my future wife. The skies may cloud, the seas roughen, the days grow dark, but we will walk upon the crimson dunes of time (sic) together with the swallow at the glimmer of first light. Let us dig in our footholds together.

Remember: I ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The Birth of Donny Dipstick

“Boys.” Mr. Meagher hung up the phone heavily. It was the middle of math class, and he had been talking in hushed tones for over a minute. “Boys, I have to leave you on your own for a few minutes.”

“What happened, Mr. Meagher?” Steve Ardill, a large, cherub-faced boy with straight black hair, was the smartest in the class. “Can I be of assistance?”

“What I need out of all of you is to settle down and do your problems.” Mr. Meagher spoke abruptly, his well-liked sense of humor gone. “Is that understood, Mr. Moreland?”

Moreland’s thick blonde hair dangled in his eyes. “Yes, sir.”

Mr. Meagher turned to the boy slumped in the back row, his legs sprawled out. “Mr. Nettie? Am I clear?”

“Of course, sir.” Nettie smirked.

“I’m leaving Mr. Ardill in charge.” Mr. Meagher left the room. “Get to work.”

We listened to his footsteps fade down the hall.

“What do you think happened?” O’Connell asked.

“Shut it, O’Connell,” Nettie snapped back. “Get to work.”

A few kids snickered at that, looking around at each other and the empty hall.

“Oh, okay.” Doherty sat in a tight ball, his arms awkwardly under his desk, his face obscured by his bunched-up blazer.

“What did I say, Doherty?” Nettie demanded.

Doherty half moaned and muttered to himself.

Nettie wore a checked blazer. He was the only one who didn’t wear the standard-issue dark blue blazer that everyone else had to wear at the school. I didn’t understand why. “Doherty, I’m talking to you.”

“Doesn’t look like he’s listening,” Moreland said.

Nettie lobbed a paper ball at Doherty which grazed his head and skittered across the worn marble floor. “You going to pick that up, Doherty?”

Doherty moved slightly, his thick glasses briefly visible from behind his jacket, and then curled away again.

“Doherty.” Nettie lobbed another paper ball, this one a direct it. “I’m talking to you.”

I looked around at Ardill, who had not looked up once since Mr. Meagher had left.

“What’s the matter with you, dummy?” Moreland hissed. “You deaf?”

“He isn’t doing anything.” I knew it was a mistake to say anything. I really didn’t want to and immediately wanted to take it back.

“What’s that, McPhedran?” Nettie replied. “You say something?”

“Can’t you just leave him alone? He’s not doing anything.”

“What if he doesn’t want to be left alone? You ever think about that?”

I stared down at the math problem I had scrawled out and had no idea what any of it meant.

“I’m talking to you, McPhedran.”

“Hey, Excedrin,” Moreland added. “He’s talking to you.”

“Like I haven’t heard that one before,” I snapped back.

“God, McPhedran, you are such a…” Nettie leaned lazily forward, an arm extended in a half threatening manner. “You’re a dipstick.”

“What does that mean?” I demanded.

“You’re such a dipstick, McPhedran.” Nettie lobbed another paper ball at Doherty.

“Leave me alone.” I was making a lot of mistakes today; first speaking out and now this. “You can’t do this to me.”

“Dip stick.” Nettie replied. “Donny the Dipstick.”

“Donny Dipstick,” Moreland chorused.

A few others laughed, some of them – Kipp, McConkey O’Connell – trying the name out too. “Donny Dipstick.”

My face was hot. I was on the verge of blubbering. “I’m telling Mr. Meagher!”

“Donny Dipstick!” Moreland led the others in the chant. “Donny Dipstick!”

I was going to get up and beat the shit out of him, that or just run away, when a door down the hall opened and footsteps approached. The class went quiet as Mr. Treasure entered.

“I will be subbing for the rest of the class.” Mr. Treasure had a thick beard and squinty eyes; he never smiled.

“Is everything all right, sir?” Ardill asked.

“Everything is fine, Mr. Ardill.”

“Uh, sir.” Nettie raised his hand. “Can we work with a partner?”

“Individual work, Mr. Nettie.” Mr. Treasure walked down the side of the classroom. “Get to it.”

“Sir?” Moreland stood up.

“Sit down, Mr. Moreland.”

“I need to use the facilities, sir.”

“When class is over, Moreland. Sit.”

“Yes, sir.”

I looked around at Doherty, still bunched up, around at Ardill and the others behind me, all of them working and then over at Moreland and Nettie, who were not. Nettie gave a cruel nod.

“Mr. McPhedran,” Mr. Treasure announced. “You will find that you can do more work if you look at the page.”

“Dipstick!” Moreland made it sound like a sneeze.

The class laughed.

“Who’s looking for early morning laps here?” Mr. Treasure warned. “Mr. Moreland, you are looking like a prime candidate.”

“No, sir.”

I stared down at the page, writing out numbers in random sequences. I wanted the class to never end, to be frozen in my chair forever, but it wasn’t to be. The bell made me jump.

“Enjoy your lunch, gentlemen!” Mr. Treasure said.

“Thank you, sir.” Nettie was the first to leave.

I continued to pretend to work.

“Get a move on, Mr. McPhedran,” Mr. Treasure said.

“Yes, sir.” The room was all but empty now, Doherty just leaving. I crossed the quad after him, thinking of skipping lunch and sitting at the back of the chapel instead.

Looking To Answer To Someone

I’m looking for someone to answer to, someone who knows what matters most in this life, someone who has unequivocal answers about what I’ve done and said and should do and say next. I had a sense when I was younger that it was an older person, like my mother or father, someone had lived life and knew things. It took me time to figure it out, but I now know that the answers aren’t there.

I scroll through my phone in the evening, go down through the numbers to see who there is to talk to, who I know that might help me to make some sense. There are many friends and family who help for a time, who say the right things and make me laugh. But it eventually runs its course and I am drifting off and thinking of who else there might be.

It might be as Carrie Fisher mused. “All these people we weren’t finished talking to, that we will never be talking to until we see them again someday and pick up where we left off. Or we can talk to them as we go along, like talking to ourselves but so much better.”

Anyway, I just want to know what this so very wise person might think of my script about this guy who makes all of these calls during the pandemic, leaving messages for family and friends, hanging up when someone answers, and then killing himself in the end. It’s a dark comedy. It’s a little funny, right?