Tuesday, April 28, 2020

New Paragraph



NOTE TO SELF: When we return to the main subject after having gone on a tangent, we begin a new paragraph.

So did I tell you about the cruise? It was great! We had amazing food and the weather the entire time was great. Every night we watched a band play and one night we saw this absolutely fantastic film about a guy who is totally in love with his wife and are just starting a new chapter in their lives when all of a sudden he gets murdered on the way home from the theater. He becomes a spirit of sorts who sticks around the earth to protect his wife from the danger she now finds herself in. Oh, did I cry at the end of that movie. 
Anyway, the cruise... Really, it was absolutely lovely. Honestly, I’m not sure if I have ever met such nice people in my life. And you would think that people would be pushy, try to be the first ones to get to the food and so forth. No, it wasn’t like that on this cruise. People waited there turn when it came to dinner and were just generally polite.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Collateral Damage

CARO WALKED INTO the lobby of Jonathan’s apartment building and looked for his name on the intercom’s directory. The names of the building's residents were in alphabetical order and Jon’s name was at the top. She pushed a button on the intercom and was buzzed into the building.

Upstairs Jon had already opened the door and was waiting for her.

“Hi, I’m Jonathan.”

“Caro,” Caro said softly. They shook hands.

“Did you find the place OK?” Jon allowed Caro into the apartment.

“Yeah, it wasn’t that bad. I just followed your directions.”

“Good, glad to hear.”

“But this street . . . what exactly--?”

“It didn't show up on Google?”

“No.”

“It’s because it’s a small road . . . a driveway, really. It’s not on Google’s radar, which I've always thought is pretty cool.”

“Ah,” Caro said.

“How long have you been in New York?”

“Three days.”

“Your first time here?”

“Yeah, it’s really, really interesting.”

“You never went to New York with Chad?”

“No, we didn’t make it.”

“Got ya. You want something to drink?”

“No, I’m OK.”

“Are you sure?”

“OK, I’ll have . . . do you have orange juice?”

“Yup, sure do. No ice or anything, right?

“No.”

Jon went into the kitchen. The apartment faced west and sunlight was pouring through a big window next to a door that led out onto a balcony. An onyx Buddha figure was on the windowsill and there were plants hanging from little hooks above the window. Caro sat down on the pullout leather chair that was next to the sofa.

“Here you go. . .” Jon gave Caro the glass of orange juice. Caro smiled a little smile but didn’t say thank you.

“So,” Jon said, “how did you guys meet?” He had taken a bottle of sparkling water for himself and, after he had taken a seat at the couch, began to pour the water into a glass.

“We met at a sports club. We were both doing aerobics. Chad was the only guy in the class. It was funny.”

“Oh, what, did come up to you after the class or something?”

“No, we actually ran into each other a few months after we first saw each other in that class.”

“Ah, OK, cool.”

Caro took a sip of her orange juice and nodded her head.

“So,” Jonathan said, “why did you want to speak with me exactly?”

Caro looked out the window and then back to Jonathan, then down. “I guess I just wanted to know something,” she said.

“Shoot...”

“Well, why did you leave him?”

“Why did I leave him?” Jonathan smiled and leaned forward on the couch. “I didn’t leave him. I just had a fight with the family, his family, and I guess he was collateral damage.

Caro looked confused.

“Oh, that’s right. You’re from Germany. Your English is good, so I thought . . . 'Collateral damage' means--wow that’s hard, actually. OK, imagine there's a war and one army accidentally kills some civilians while attacking the enemy. The dead civilians are, what the army that launched the attack might call, 'collateral damage.' The villagers weren’t the main target, but they unfortunately still paid the price."

Caro was nodding. “OK, I think I sort of get it.”

“How is he?” Jonathan asked.

“Chad? I don’t know. But I think good. From what I heard, good.”

Jonathan nodded. “I’m glad.”

The two just sat there for a few moments, not looking at each other. Outside there was the sound of bike wheels crunching over the gravel driveway leading to Jon's building. The sound of birds chirping could also be heard.

“Why’d you leave him?” Jonathan said.

Caro didn't say anything, then: "Don't know."

Jonathan laughed. “What? No . . . Come on, tell me; it's only fair.”

“Yeah . . . I guess . . . I had my reasons. You know how it goes.”

“I sure do. Do you want another drink? Some more orange juice or coffee or something?”

“No, I’m fine,” Caro said. “Do you have a train schedule? My phone just died.”

“Oh, you want to leave?”

“Yeah, I want to get going. I had some things planned.”

When Jon came back with the train schedule, Caro thanked him. She thanked him by smiling at him. “Can I take the schedule with me?” Caro asked.

“Absolutely,  be my guest.”

OUTSIDE THE TEMPERATURE had dropped. Standing on the platform of the train station, Caro took out a scarf and wrapped it twice around her neck. She then zipped up her windbreaker and took her phone out. The screen was black. She put the phone away. She looked out at the water and the new apartment buildings built along it. She then turned her attention to a bench and a metal beam that was next to it. She looked to see if there was a socket affixed to the beam, but there wasn't. She would not be able to charge her phone.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Coronavirus Blues, or Between a Rock and a Hard Place

***Chad on line in the grocery story. Person on line in front of Chad wearing a surgical mask and surgical gloves. Many customers wearing surgical masks and gloves. Line moving slowly. A man comes up to Chad, not wearing a surgical mask, not wearing gloves.***

"Is this where the line starts?" the man asks.

"Yes, here," Chad says.

"Thanks," the man says, and gets on line behind Chad.

A few moments go by.

"You know..." the man says, "they say that the masks aren't safe, that they might even be worse for you, because you're constantly breathing in the same air."

"Ah, OK, right, I see," Chad says.

"Crazy times..." the man says.

"Yeah," Chad says.

"But it's times like these we could all use a little comedy," the man says.  "You wanna hear a joke?

Chad thinks: You have to be fucking kidding me. The other day on the way to the airport, the cab driver who took Chad would not stop telling jokes -- the entire damn ride, just would not stop telling jokes. Though that guy and his jokes did offer a bit of comic relief, not a-fucking-gen, Chad thinks. Not one of these "comedians" again. 

Still, Chad says yes.

"OK," the man says, a man who Chad notices is about Chad's height, which means that if spittle from this man goes flying, there's a good chance it will land on Chad's mouth.

The man begins his joke: "So my daughter, she was saying that she likes Cinderella and she wants a Cinderella birthday party."

"OK..." Chad says, solely to show that he's paying attention.

"I told her she can have a Cinderella party if she likes; in fact, I told her to invite all her friends. And you know what I did when all her friend got there?"

"No, what?"

"I said, 'OK, sweetie, now we're all going to go out and you can stay home and clean!'"

Chad laughs, because the joke is funny; however, at the same time, Chad notices that the woman in front of him in the surgical mask is eyeing him down. Chad thinks that she must be thinking, "Why the fuck are these two men, both of whom aren't wearing protective masks, laughing?'" The woman does not look friendly. You can hardly see her face because one half of it is mask, the other, bifocals.

The lines moves forward a little bit. Chad is happy about that, very happy. You see, everything else notwithstanding, joke-man has this little idiosyncrasy. When he tells his jokes, he unconsciously moves toward Chad and Chad, remember, really does not want the man's spittle on him.

The line moves a little more.

"Hey," the man says, "since we have a minute or two, can I tell you another joke?" The man sounds so nice when he asks. His tone is almost like one might imagine Oliver Twist's to have been when he uttered that "s' more" line. How could you say no?

Chad doesn't. Stupid Chad, but he doesn't.

"Well, OK, one more," Chad says. But Chad now has his back nearly completely to the man, hoping the man will take a hint and not move too close.

The man begins to tell the joke, and again he begins to get closer and closer to Chad. But this time, as Chad tries to move away, surgical mask woman looks at Chad and then makes a gesture with her hand, one that is universally understood to mean "halt."

"Six feet..." surgical mask woman says.

Chad can't believe it. How fucking rude, he thinks. Dude behind Chad is still telling the joke, something about a Victoria Secret model and lingerie, but all Chad can think about now is how he's got this woman and this man to worry about, and what the fuck is he going to do?

The lines moves. The man continues to tell the joke and Chad laughs, thinking that the man has arrived at the punchline, but Chad just laughed at something that wasn't even the punchline. The man doesn't even care, though. He just keeps telling the joke with the same gusto.

"Cash or credit?" the supermarket guy asks, interrupting Chad out of his now mild state of panic.

Chad says cash. The supermarket guy immediately routes Chad over to Checkout 1. Yes, yes, Checkout 1, Chad thinks, away from this fucking man and away from this fucking woman...Thank God. 

As Chad leaves the store, he think's of a figure of speech, "to be between a rock and a hard place."

Wow, Chad thinks, that really was like being between a rock and a hard place.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Still Finding a Way!


Yesterday, Martina and I went to a local park to play basketball. However, when we got there, we were super disappointed. The local government had hung up a sign at the park's entrance saying that the park's basketball courts were closed due to the coronavirus. If this sign wasn't warning enough, there was yellow caution tape blocking off the courts.

What a bummer, Martina and I thought. Basketball had been a refuge from all the craziness, and to have it taken away, too, was very frustrating.

However, today, around 10:30 a.m., Martina said that she wanted to go for a walk. It was still kind of early for me, so I teased her: "Oh," I said, "you want to get some exercise, do you? Sure, we can do that. We can actually go running!"

Martina wasn't too keen on the idea -- she really just wanted to walk -- so I thought we could split the difference. I figured we could take a basketball with us and walk one town over, to New Hyde Park. I thought that this was a good idea because we would get to walk and perhaps play basketball, so long as the courts in this town were still open.

Well, about three-fourths of the way to New Hyde Park, Martina and I were passing my old middle school. As we were walking, I noticed that the fence around the school was open. After seeing this, I looked to the tennis courts and the basketball courts. I noticed that the wire-mesh door leading to the tennis courts was open and, from the tennis courts, the door leading to the basketball courts was open, too.

"Holy shit, Martina," I said. "Do you see that? The basketball courts are open! Do you see that? Look past the tennis courts."

"Holy shit hey," Martina said.

We then entered the school grounds and walked onto four pristine basketball courts -- courts that I used to play on in middle school but had since been refurbished. Martina and I couldn't believe it. We spent about an hour and a half playing on these beautiful courts.

Friggin' score!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Renew

Sometimes when I play chess, I go on losing streaks, and when I do, I hate the game. It just seems so frustrating. After all, I have been playing chess for nearly two decades now, shouldn't I be winning-- and winning a lot?

Suffice to say, losing streaks suck. But every now and then I play a game so good I forget all about the losing streaks . . .  I play a game so good, it renews my love for chess and reminds me why it is I play. The following is such a game. I have the white pieces. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Lights Out

Your love is bright as ever... 

When I was growing up, we would learn about JFK, and I remember seeing that famous black-and-white photo of Jacky O. after the assassination, the one in which she’s standing beside Linden Johnson as he’s being sworn in.

Even in the shadows... 

I remember how that picture of her, grief stricken, mouth turned down, stood in such contrast with other pictures I had seen of her.

Baby, kiss me... 

In the other pictures, she had been happy, full of life, smiling—smiling with her family and the man she loved.

Before they turn the lights out... 

I was reminded of Jacky O. and just how different we, as people, can actually look depending on the circumstances, while watching the memorial service for Kobe Bryant yesterday. 

Your heart is glowing... 

There Vanessa was, dark hair partially shielding her face, a little like how Jacky’s hair was shielding her face as she stood next to Lyndon Johnson.

And I'm crashing into you...  

How could I not be reminded of seeing the smiling face of Vanessa, of seeing her in happy moments on the floor of the Staples Center, during one of Kobe’s many triumphs?

Baby, kiss me... 

Vanessa, with that pearly white smile, too . . .  a smile that, as she even said during the memorial, took up her whole face.

Before they turn the lights out... 

But yesterday was different. Yesterday, her mouth was turned down and her face was heavy with grief.

Before they turn the lights out... 

And seeing Vanessa like that and comparing what I was seeing with how I had seen her in the past, I couldn’t help but think to myself: this is what it must have been like, in one way or another, when JFK died.

Baby, love me lights out... 

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Chess Win

Here's just a nice win using some of the things I recently learned about the King's Indian Defense. I have the black pieces. My favorite move is 13...e4. Enjoy.