Saturday, October 24, 2020

A LeFrak City Story

Located on the northern side of the Long Island Expressway in Elmhurst, Queens, is LeFrak City. 

LeFrak City—better known as just "LeFrak"—is a sprawling housing development, which was built in the '60s and '70s for working-class people and for those who couldn't afford to live in Manhattan. 

When I was very young, my mom would sometimes drive me to Lefrak because my pediatrician had his practice there. My mom didn't like going to LeFrak—hated it, in fact—but this pediatrician, Dr. Resmovits, was apparently very good. 

My mom and I lived in Forest Hills. Forest Hills is located on the southern side of the Long Island Expressway—across from LeFrak—and under no circumstances was I allowed to travel to LeFrak alone.

Actually, the only place I was officially allowed to be without adult supervision at that time in my life was the schoolyard across the street from my apartment building. Anything outside the schoolyard's fences was strictly verboten. And, again, forget about LeFrak. Not only was it about two miles away, but it was also said to be dangerous.  

Well…

One day, as I was playing in the schoolyard with my good friend Everett, a kid named Bret came along. Bret was one year older than Everett and me, and Bret . . . he had something of a reputation. 

Bret was known to be a tough kid, a kid who hung out with older kids, who didn't have much fear, someone you wanted on your side and definitely not against you. Bret had a charisma about him, and, honestly, he seemed like some doorway to another world, one that was mysterious and dangerous.  

Anyway, on this particular day that we ran into Bret, he told us that he was about to go to LeFrak to meet up with some of his "boys," or friends. He asked us if we wanted to come along. 

I was torn. On the one hand, I wanted to go. After all, here was an opportunity to spend time with Bret, to get him to like me, to build goodwill and an alliance with him. On the other hand, I was not allowed to go to LeFrak City. I wasn't even allowed to leave the schoolyard!

Being a kid, I told Bret I would go. I remember my decision seemed to please him, and it wasn't before long that he, Everett, and I set out for LeFrak on foot. 

But my mom had done a good job, apparently, because on the way there, I began to have a crisis of conscience. Not only that, I kept wondering to myself who exactly were we going to meet. Growing up in Forest Hills, we had often been told that LeFrak was not a nice place, home to gangs and crime. I imagined something terrible happening to me, and my fear was increasing with every block closer to the highway. 

In fact, my fear became such that a few hundred yards before the pedestrian overpass leading to LeFrak, I stopped in my tracks. 

"I can't go," I announced to the group. 

"Why the hell not?" Bret said. 

Though we were hanging out with Bret—which would make you think that he liked us—he was volatile; this was already known.

"I just can't go," I said. "I have to be home." I looked at Everett for help. He said he thought I should just go home, then. But Bret was less forgiving.

"Nah, he ain't going anywhere," he said. 

"But I have to," I said. 

"Nah, you ain't pussy’n out; you're coming," Bret said. All three of us were standing at the street corner, again with that pedestrian overpass just in sight.   

"I would if I could, but I can't," I told Bret. 

Apparently, those were the wrong words, and I've never forgotton his reply:

"You would if you could but you are."  

And then I started crying. 

I didn't cry waterfalls, but I did start to cry. I told Everett and Bret that I actually wanted to go because I had a really bad stomach ache. But we all knew that I was lying. I guess it was my luck day because Bret ultimately released me from my obligation. 

The next day at school, I was very curious to know from Everett what had happened in LeFrak. Did he see gangs? Was it dangerous? 

Everett said that it wasn't at all. He said that he and Bret had just looked for Bret's friends. When they couldn't find them, they went home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Another Brick in the Wall

It's like I'm trying to talk to him, and he's a brick wall. And sometimes, it seems as though I can get through to him: sometimes, it seems as though there is a space where one of the bricks usually is. But the moment I try to get through in that space—boom—the brick gets shoved back in. So what do I do, well, obviously, I look for other openings. And I find them. But, again, the moment I try to get through—boom—the brick comes rushing back.

Take Your Time, People

The bus had just stopped in front of the hospital, and people were clamoring to get on. 

From the curb, a man was trying to help his infirm wife, who was in a motorized wheelchair, board through the bus' side door. 

"Please leave some room in the corner," the man shouted to the people already on the bus.

"My God!" said a woman who was standing next to me, holding onto a straphanger. 

After the man helped his wife on the bus and boarded himself, he said to the woman who was holding onto the straphanger, "Well, I did say please." 

"No, no, it's OK," the woman replied.

"Take your time, people—let's not get stressed out," said a young woman who was waiting for the man to get settled so she could walk deeper into the bus. This young woman was wearing eyeglasses and one of the lenses was fogged up. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Venice

When I was 18 years old, I went on a trip with my mother to Italy. We took the trip in winter, during my semester break from college. We visited Rome, Florence and Venice. 

On the morning of our last day of the trip, we took a ferry from Venice to somewhere, I'm not sure where. All I remember is being on that boat in the early morning with the sun not even up yet and cursing myself.  

For whatever reason, at that moment, on that ferry, I was the horniest I had ever been in my life. I was cursing myself because about six months prior, I had had the opportunity to lose my virginity and didn't. 

I had been making out with a girl when she asked me if I had a condom. I did. However, I said that I didn't because I didn't want to lose my virginity to her. I was under the impression that it should be special when one loses one's virginity, and this girl wasn't special. I figured I'd just hold out for college. 

However, during my first semester at college, I had failed to lose my virginity. 

And now there I was, 18 years old and the horniest I had ever been in my whole life, sitting on a boat, gazing out into a dark Venice just beginning to wake up. 

I could've kicked myself. 

Fly on the Wall, Five Times Over

—Exactly, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Today, for example, my girlfriend—she’s German—she was talking about a second lockdown. But the thing is, she says the word, lockdown. She puts the emphasis on the word “down.” It’s actually lockdown. Right, we put the emphasis on the “lock” part. 

—Mm-hmm

***

—OK, Chad, so we have to talk. 

—What do you mean? 

—This is absurd. Our relationship over the last year has been . . . I mean, I can’t go on like that. Surely, you have to feel it. 

—Yeah, yeah, I feel it. 

—So what do you want to do? 

—What do you mean? 

—Are things going to be the same, because I really can’t . . . I mean, it was just absurd. 

—Yes, OK, things will be better. 

—OK, good. 

***

—I don’t know why they make such a big deal with all this bullshit. 

—Yeah . . . 

—Fucking with all this and that, and they say all this shit and that shit. Come on. If you ask me, when you’re dead, you're dead. 

***

—Dude, what are you doing? 

—What do you mean, what am I doing? 

—Dude, you’re single now, right? 

—Yeah.

—So what the fuck are you doing, man? You’re a good looking guy. If I were you, I’d get a place in the city. 

—Yeah . . . 

—Fucking go live in the city, man; go live in Brooklyn. That’s where it’s all happening. 

—Yeah, I mean, I’m going to—

—That’s what I would do if I were in your position. Fucking get out. 

***

—Were you out with Filou? 

—Yeah. 

—Really, for how long? 

—I don’t know, 25 minutes. 

—And where did you go? 

—To the doggy park. 

—OK. 

—Hey, I’m going to run out again. 

—OK. 

—Is it cold outside? 

—If you were really out with Filou, you should know if it was cold outside. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Coffee

Today at lunch I thought to myself that I was eating too much bread. Martina had toasted four pieces of bread, and they tasted so good with the food. I not only ate three of the toasted slices, but I got up to grab another two pieces, too. 

After the meal, as I was brewing coffee, I thought that I would try and compensate for all the bread I had eaten by not putting any milk into my coffee. When the coffee was ready, I poured it into two cups, one for me and one for Martina. In Martina’s cup, I poured a little oat milk. I didn’t put any oat milk in my coffee. Instead, I turned on the faucet and put a little water into my cup to cool the coffee down.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

A Near Loss

“Margaret Silva, Silva: gold.” 

That was the slogan that my 3rd-grade opponent for student treasurer used. 

I beat her. 

My slogan was “Vote for Chad, he’s so rad, if you don’t, that’s too bad.” 

I don’t think my slogan was the reason I beat Margaret. I think I was just more popular than she was. After all, she had entered our school in the third grade, and I had been there since kindergarten. 

Still, after all was said and done, an older student, a fifth-grader, told me that I almost lost her and her friends’ vote when I said that, as student treasurer, I would try to create a student stamp-collecting club. This older student said that the fourth and fifth graders found my stamp-collecting idea so dorky, they almost voted for Margaret. 

I was embarrassed. The stamp club hadn’t even been my idea; it was my mom’s. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Dream, Dream, Dream...

Last night I had some strange dreams. At first I was in some sort of room, and I was trying to convince my mother that a type of evil was present. To be more specific, I was telling her that there were two bottles, one that contained evil and one that didn’t. I said that it was important that the evil that was in the one bottle stay there. I tried to stress how important it was to see to it that that bottle never be uncorked. Another man who was in the room with my mom and me had the bottle in his possession and was able to control it from opening up, but for everyone's safety, my mom needed to believe that the evil existed. 

Act II of my dream opened up on a snowy road. My mom was in the dream again, but the circumstances were different. This time, she and I were in Finland. I wasn’t thrilled about being in Finnland, but I eventually resigned myself to the fact I was in the country. Snow abounded, and my mother and I were in a taxi. We had been in the taxi for what had felt like hours, and I remember thinking that the fare was going to be a small fortune. I was taking pictures from the inside of the cab, and I can remember one picture I took. It was of a man standing on his balcony. I thought that the picture was cool because in it you could see the moon at the bottom of the frame and the sun at the top. I remember thinking, “This picture is so Finnland. Leave it to Finnland, of course, to have the sun and the moon in the same shot at the same time." Though the picture came out a little blurry, I uploaded it to Instagram and shared it with a friend of mine, Bettina, who loves Finland.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Picture This

PICTURE a little elk figurine. The figurine is about the size of your ring finger and fits easily into the palm of your hand. It was bought in a store like Hallmark and is made of relatively cheap ceramic. 

Picture this little elk standing atop a chest of drawers. Can you see it there, among the wireless landline phone, the decorative glass bottle and the eyeglass case? 

Now imagine me accidentally bumping into the chest of drawers and making the figurine fall. 

Imagine you saying, "Oh, no!" and me saying, "What? Did something fall? I'm sure everything's fine."

Imagine you searching the ground, only to discover that everything is not fine, that one of the elk's little antlers has broken off. 

Imagine me saying, "I'm sorry," and you saying, "It's OK." Imagine running your finger over the area where the antler broke off. This part of the elk now feels rough, right?  

Imagine me kissing you on your forehead because I broke your figurine. Imagine us discussing a better place to put the tchotchke. Imagine you again saying it's OK that I broke your figurine and me saying, "Poor little elk." Again, imagine that silly looking thing, now with one antler.

NOW imagine that I've died. Imagine two weeks have passed since you got the awful news. Perhaps my death has made you a little more introspective and a little more sensitive to the fragility of life, and you decide that you are going to write a letter to your estranged sister. Imagine it's a Sunday afternoon when you decide to write this letter, and you've sat down at your desk and the moment you put pencil to paper, the tip of the pencil breaks. You reach into your desk drawer for a sharpener and there isn't one there, so you get up and go to your chest of drawers to get one, and just as you approach the chest, you see it—the elk figurine with the broken antler. Can you imagine picking the object up? Can you imagine running your finger over the rough, chipped ceramic? Do you feel the weight of the figurine? It's not heavy. 

Friday, October 02, 2020

Back and Forth

God, what are you doing? You’re wasting your time watching this shit. How do you think you’re ever going to accomplish what you want to accomplish. It’s always "tomorrow." It’s always, “Yeah, but today I did this, so I can’t do that.” You’re fucking lazy. Oh, let me guess, you’re tired. Let me guess, it’s too late to do the thing you wanted to do because you’re tired. It’s not possible to do that thing. Let me guess, you’re going to get up early tomorrow and do it. Yes, yes, you’re going to get up early...that’s the ticket!

But come on, you do stuff, you have made good progress lately. 

Yeah, but other writers write. They write like crazy. You write, what, one to two hours a day at most, and then you are satisfied with yourself. That’s the worst part.

But you can’t deny that you have made some progress. 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Two Unrelated Stories

One time, when I was sitting at a bank of computers in the journalism department at New York University,  a fellow student told me that the head of the NYU journalism department had given her an interesting piece of advice. She had been suffering from writer's block, she said, and Professor Serrin had told her that there was only one way to get out of writer's block—and that was to write. 

***

Across the street of my childhood apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, there was a schoolyard. The schoolyard was very big and consisted of three sections—a section for the basketball courts, a section for the handball courts, swings and monkey bars, and a section for the infants. 

The section for the infants had a fenced-off baby-swing area and a fountain. Around the fountain, there were many benches. 

My mother told me that when I was an infant, she would come to the section of the park that was reserved for the infants. She painted a picture for me. She said: "When you were a baby, I would come to that area of the park, and every time I would go there, there would be mothers there, and they would be there with their babies, and they would all be talking to each other and having a nice time, sitting on the benches, and I would be there all by myself, and they would see that I was by myself, and not one of those women ever came up to me to talk to me or ask if I would like to join them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Moving

Martina, my ex-girlfriend's mother, will soon be moving. Yesterday, I stopped by her apartment to drop off my dog. As I approached the apartment, I saw a cardboard box near the front door. There were several books inside the box. Of note was a book titled "How to Raise Children without Men." "The Miracle of Life" and an astrology book were also in the box. 

As I headed up the stairs of Martina's apartment building, I noticed that on the windowsill of the first-floor landing, there were other items Martina was giving away. I saw a box of IQ puzzles, a tote bag of Maya's that said "San Francisco" on it, a laptop bag that I may or may not have bought for Maya (I can't remember), and a few magazines. 

Inside Martina's apartment, she asked me if I might help her move when moving day arrived. I said yes, and she was glad. She told me that she had a pair of old shoes of mine and asked me to wait a second while she went to the basement to retrieve them. I had totally forgotten about these shoes. They were gray suede shoes, almost in the style of Converse All-Stars, and they were from Diesel. I had bought them, I think, in 2015. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Swing

Walking along the lake, I just saw a man and woman pushing a tiny child on a swing. They were pushing him in a strange way. Instead of standing behind the child and pushing him, the man and the woman held onto the child as he sat on the swing and rocked him back and forward. They must have thought that the kid could not be trusted to hold onto the swing chains and were trying to keep him stable.

On closer inspection of the man and the woman, I noticed that they seemed just a tick too hold to be the child's parents and must have been his grandparents. I noticed the woman looking lovingly at the child after grandpa had taken him off the swing. I thought that the whole scene—the child, the woman, the grandfather, the swing, the sparkling lake in the background—looked idyllic. However, the spell was broken only a second or two later after, when the child, freshly placed back into his stroller, began screaming and crying. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Pen Twirling

So the other day I was with a student of mine, sitting at the dining room table in his house, and I had just assigned him a small essay to write. Because I knew that the assignment was going to take him about 15 minutes, right after he put pen to paper, I searched my backpack for something to read. The only thing that I had with me was a German/English workbook. It wasn’t exactly fascinating reading, but I opened it anyway and began to skim the pages. Toward the back of the book, I noticed that there was a list of important English verbs and their German equivalents. I immediately zeroed in on the verb sich verlieben, which means, “to fall in love.” Was sich verlieben, I wondered, any different from verliebt sich or verliebt in dich or verliebt? Was it any different from the verb that she had said? 

That “she" was my ex-girlfriend. Verliebt sich, or a derivative of it, was a verb she used the last time I saw her. 

I had been at her apartment sitting at a small table in her kitchen and had said to her that based on how she had been acting, it seemed as though she were in love with someone else. 

“Das bin ich,” she responded. 

I couldn’t believe my ears. 

“Ich bin verliebt,” she said. 

That just can’t be, I had thought. And I still didn't understand. After all, h—

Thwack! My student's pen hits the paper in front of him. He had been intermittently twirling the thing as he was composing his essay and it had slipped out of his grip. 

“Sorry,” he said.  


Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Rhythm of Truth

I call this the rhythm of truth. The rhythm of truth is very hard to emulate. Many people try. 

Question: Did you look at Instagram today?

The liar: No. 

Question: Did you look at Instagram today? 

The truth-teller: No. I mean, the notifications that are usually shown with the icon on my home screen aren’t there anymore. So it would seem as though I looked at Instagram, but I actually didn't. See today, I wanted to send someone a picture—I think I was sending it to my dad—and instead of clicking on the "WhatsApp" icon, I accidentally clicked on the "Instagram" icon. (You know how that is, right, when you click on “Share” or whatever and then you can choose from all those icons?) Anyway, I accidentally clicked on the "Instagram" icon, and even though I wound up not posting the picture to Instagram, having accidentally clicked on the "Instagram" icon removed those notification symbols that are usually present in the corner of the icon...which would make it look like I looked at Instagram, but I didn’t; I swear. 

Again...

Question: Did you look at Instagram today?

The liar: No. 

Question: Did you look at Instagram today? 

The truth-teller: No. I mean, the notifications that are usually shown with the icon on my home screen aren’t there anymore. So it would seem as though I looked at Instagram, but I actually didn't. See today, I wanted to send someone a picture—I think I was sending it to my dad—and instead of clicking on the "WhatsApp" icon, I accidentally clicked on the "Instagram" icon. (You know how that is, right, when you click on “Share” or whatever and then you can choose from all those icons?) Anyway, I accidentally clicked on the "Instagram" icon, and even though I wound up not posting the picture to Instagram, having accidentally clicked on the "Instagram" icon removed those notification symbols that are usually present in the corner of the icon...which would make it look like I looked at Instagram, but I didn’t; I swear. 

Deposit

Today 9 guys from my basketball club and I came together to play on an outdoor court in Hamburg. During a timeout that occurred in one of the games that we played, I noticed a fellow player looking at the surface of the court. Another player was also looking at the ground with him. I wondered what was going on, so I looked at the ground too. A bee or wasp was on the surface of the court, crawling, and both guys were working together to try and remove it from the playing field. 

Later, after basketball was finished, I was standing near an ice-cream shop, waiting to meet my girlfriend. Next to me, near my feet, stood two empty water bottles. I had placed the bottles there because I had been too lazy to return them to the recycling machine. Perhaps someone more ambitious would like the deposit, I thought. Eventually, a man came by and collected the two bottles. He had a plastic bag with him, and when I looked inside it, I saw bottles and cans. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

It Hit Me

My old friend Andrew once said something interesting. I had been talking with him about how my mother was coping with the death of her mother, and I had mentioned something I'd found noteworthy. Of particular interest to me, I explained, was how my mom hadn't cried on the night she received the news but did a few days later when she realized that she had forgotten to give my grandmother a birthday card that year.

"Yeah," Andrew said, "but that makes sense, right? That’s how it hit her."

In that moment, I totally understood what Andrew meant: sometimes we can’t fully grasp a thing until another thing drives home the point for us.

Such was the case for me recently when I found out that a friend of mine, Claudine Weber-Hof, had died. When I got the news, I was stunned. I can’t say that I was crippled or as sad as a relative might have been; I was more stunned. Still, there was one occasion when it "hit" me. 

I had been in Bamberg, a picturesque town in Bavaria, walking in a pedestrian zone when I saw a street musician, a violinist, gearing up for his next number. Like so many other street musicians do these days, he had a speaker with him, one that played a backing track. It was when that backing track began to play and I realized that the muscian was about to perform "Carnival of the Animals: The Swan" that it "hit" me. 

“Carnival of the Animals: The Swan” is very basic, just piano and violin, but the piece is so beautiful, so able to evoke sorrow and longing—so able to stop you in your tracks—that it just hit me. As I stood there, listening to the music and watching the violinist play, I realized that Claudine would never hear this or anything as beautiful ever again, and I felt sorrow and regret. 

Here is the song, Camille Saint-Saëns's "Carnival of the Animals: The Swan."

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Italics

 Perfect use of italics, plus explanation. 

"Even if it’s their money they don’t come. Only if it’s their money."

What is meant: Company money is not enough to get the people to attend all the time. The only way to ensure that the people will always attend is if the money is coming directly out of the people's pockets. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Claudine Weber-Hof


There was one aspect of Claudine Weber-Hof’s emails that always stood out to me. Claudine was my editor at Spotlight magazine, and in her electronic messages, I often noticed that her valedictions were very elaborate. 

For example, instead of just writing “Warm Regards” or “Sincerely,” she would sometimes write, “Best, and thanks a ton” or, “Best, and thanks again for the fine work.”

As a writer, I often wondered whether such elaborate sign-off lines were “allowed.” But since Claudine was a top editor and had spent her life in journalism, I always assumed she was correct. 

Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to ask Claudine about her proclivity for long valedictions because she died suddenly in January. 

It was only recently, though, that I found out. I was traveling in Munich, where Spotlight is based, and had sent an email to Claudine asking her if she wanted to meet for coffee. A few days later, Inez Sharp, Spotlight’s editor-in-chief, returned my email and told me to call her, which was how I got the tragic news. 

I first met Claudine in 2014, when I pitched an unsolicited story idea to Spotlight. Though she wasn’t able to accept this pitch of mine--and had to reject a few others that were to follow--she always said that she admired my “tenacity.” In 2015, Claudine was finally able to give me some work--just a few small articles for the opening pages of the magazine--but in 2018 there was a breakthrough. I had pitched Claudine with a column idea and the magazine accepted it. Getting the “English Explained” column in Spotlight was a huge coup for me at the time and an achievement I’m still proud of. 

I really will miss the chats I had with Claudine over the years in Germany. She was also an American and we would sometimes talk for 30-minute stretches about our experiences as expats and our love for dogs. Especially memorable was one of the last phone calls we had. In it, she said that she had really enjoyed reading a feature-length story I had written--my first for the magazine--and she looked forward to assigning me similar pieces in the future.

Anyway, it’s incredibly sad that Claudine and I will never be able to get that cup of coffee. It’s also sad that I’ll never hear her voice again, that we’ll never be able to work together again, and that we won’t be able to chat about all the hilarious differences between Germans and Americans ever again. 

You know, as I was writing this post, I actually looked up whether it truly is correct to use non-standard, longer valedictions. Turns out, it’s 100 percent correct. So in honor of Claudine, I’ll close this post with a sign-off line like one of hers.

Yours always in friendship and understanding (and thanks again for the fine work),   

Chad

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Italics

 Perfect use of italics: 

--Do you have the book? 

--I have a book. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Exercise


Just a small writing exercise...

Picture a Catholic church. Now picture people queuing up in front of that church because the church door is relatively narrow. What would you think you would see when you walked into the church? Stained-glass windows? Pews? Candles and a donation box? 

We saw all of those things when walked into a church in Augsburg this afternoon. 

Now, when you think of this church -- your church -- does something like St. Patrick’s Cathedral come to mind? Do you picture gothic architecture? Do you see flying buttresses, spires and trefoils? 

Well, the church we were in today was Catholic, but I wouldn’t say that it was a Gothic church. It didn’t look like St. Patrick’s. 

Now, this church today, it had an altar, of course, and we’re all used to imaging rows and rows of pews facing an altar. But in Augsburg today, the church also had pews that were perpendicular to the altar. So if you were sitting in these pews looking at the altar and the priest was behind it, facing the majority of the congregants, you would see the priest in profile. 

Now, I want you to imagine someone sitting in the pews I just described, the ones perpendicular to the altar. Do you see him there? If you were standing in the nave (the central aisle) facing the altar, he would be sitting in the benches off to the left. Can you see him there? 

Now, this man, he’s just sitting there, and because it’s corona time, he’s wearing a surgical mask. But the mask is hiked up really high on his face so that there is hardly any space between the top of the mask and his eyes. It’s like he’s trying to cover his entire face with a surgical mask, trying to hide his identity with the thing. How is that even possible? 

Anyway, this man looks mean. In fact, when you look at him, you wonder to yourself who he is and why he’s there. After all, no one is sitting near him, no family, no friends. He’s just sitting there, isolated from everyone and looking intently at all the people who enter the church and walk down the main aisle. 

And he looks super mean. His eyes have something of the Grinch to them and his gazed is a fixed one, and when you look at him and he doesn’t look away you can’t believe it. You think to yourself, Is he not looking away? No, no, I must be wrong. He must've looked away. No one would stare for that long. But no, he’s looking right at you -- still.

Anyway, point is, what would this man say to you? 

Would he (a) say something in Latin, something such as, “Nemo me impune lacessit delinquit,” which means, “No one offends me with impunity”? (b) Tell you that he is the caretaker of the church and it drives him crazy when visitors not only look at their mobile phones while in the church, but also play videos with the sound on? Or (c) say that he’s really a nice guy, but a few years back he had a stroke and ever since then, his face has been fixed in a grimace? 

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Over the Hills and Far Away

 The other day I said that I thought that the fields that were spread out there before us reminded me of a quilt that had brown, green and dark green patches. I also said that I understood why you weren’t scared to drive fast on roads as windy as the ones we were on -- you used to live in a place that had hilly roads with plenty of curves. “Wow,” we would say, when we’d emerge from the forest-flanked roads to see vistas of rolling farmland, “this is really beautiful.” 

And then of course there were all the tree-lined streets and the shade and the shadows and the hills in the distance. And then I asked you, “How are mountains actually formed?” and you said, “I think it’s when the earth comes together,” and then I said, “Yeah, that I know, but I mean, those there” -- I was pointing at the hills -- “aren’t really mountains; they’re hills, actually. How do they get formed?” And then we talked about how we would love to redo high school because now, if we were to be taught things like “how hills are formed,” we would be paying full attention. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Two Dreams

Two dreams. 

I was standing near outdoor train tracks and a train was stalled and a dog was walking around the train tracks and I tried to warn someone that there was a dog there but no one listened to me and the next thing I know I see the dog on its back, twitching. It had licked the third rail and was dying. I called out and in doing so woke myself up. 

I was with Martina and I had taken two pills of Ecstasy and was coming down from a high and was happy about that because I didn't want to be high but then for some reason took two more pills.

Titanic

G: Did you ever see “Titanic”? 

Chad (not really paying attention): Yeah.

G: It was sad. 

Chad (still not really paying attention): Yeah, a little.

G: A LITTLE??

Chad (laughing): Yeah, sorry, you’re right. “Titanic” was definitely a really sad movie. 


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Florida Night

It was a warm night in Florida -- aren’t they all warm nights? -- and Xavier, Maya and I were in a car together, right in front of my aunt’s condo. Xavier was driving. He had just used a security card to open the gate of the complex's parking lot when Maya said, “Do you still love her?” She was referring to Xavier’s ex-wife. Xavier, putting the card back in his wallet, said, “Uh, no.” 

“How come?" Maya said. "You guys were married for a long time. Didn’t you love her?" (I always marvelled at how Maya had no problem asking people questions I never would.) 

“Yeah, I loved her,” Xavier said, “but loved is the key word. Doing what she did, it told me that she didn’t love me. And why the fuck are you gonna love someone who doesn’t love you? I’ve never understood that. If someone tells you that they don’t love you, why the fuck should you love them?” 

As hyperbolical as Xavier could be, I honestly believed him. Though I knew there was no way that what he saying was 100 percent true -- there had to be a little more hurt there -- I believed that his love for his ex was greatly diminished if not completely gone because, hey, after all, Why the fuck are you gonna love someone who doesn’t love you?

Friday, August 21, 2020

Holly Golightly

 Here's a great passage from the book “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”:

"She’d come completely into the room now, and she paused there, staring at me. I’d never seen her before not wearing dark glasses, and it was obvious now that they were prescription lenses, for without them her eyes had an assessing squint, like a jeweler’s. They were large eyes, a little blue, a little green, dotted with bits of brown: vari-colored, like her hair; and, like her hair, they gave out a lively warm light." 


Thursday, August 20, 2020

I Remember...Paris

I remember one time I was in a hotel room with my mom in Paris, watching a documentary about B.B. King. 

My mom and I had been traveling around Europe together, and Paris was the last stop before I was to go back to Hamburg and my mom back to New York. 

Anyway, at some point during the documentary, I said I thought the film felt more like like a hagiography than a documentary. I remember that my mom hadn't known the meaning of "hagiography," and I can’t remember if I was proud of having stumped her. 

Be that as it may, the next morning, it was time to say farewell. I had an early train to catch, and I said goodbye to my mom in the hallway of the hotel. I mean, I had already said goodbye to her in the room, but she came out into the hallway to wait with me for the elevator and to see me off.

***

As a coda to this story, I took a cab to the train station that day. However, the previous night, right before my voyage, I had gone down into the Paris Métro and purchased a ticket, fully intending on taking the subway to the train station, Gare de l'Est, on the day of my departure. However, for some reason, when morning came, I got spooked. There had been so much talk about terrorism at the time, and for whatever reason, I was hesitant to ride the subway and thought it better to take a cab.  It was just one of those strange gut feeling. 

Coincidentally, and tragically, terrorist attacks occurred in Paris only a few months later. 

In a storage box in my apartment, I might still have that Métro ticket. The ticket is purple.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Kobe Bryant Quote

 A few minutes ago, Maroon 5's song  "Memories" came on, which made me think of a video montage that was played at Kobe Bryant's memorial service. "Memories" was the song that was played during the montage. Anyway, thinking about that video montage then made me think of one of my favorite Kobe Bryant quotes, which I often think about. Enjoy. 

"... those times when you get up early and you work hard; those times when you stay up late and you work hard; those times when don’t feel like working — you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself — but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That’s the dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And if you guys can understand that, what you’ll see happen is that you won’t accomplish your dreams, your dreams won’t come true, something greater will."

Paddle by


As I walk along the Alster, I enjoy the feeling of the sandy path under my feet. 

It’s a glorious day and the lake is busy with sailboats, stand-up paddlers and people in row boats and paddle boats. 

A woman lying close to the shoreline catches my eye. She appears to be sleeping. I can’t tell whether she's homeless, and I keep looking at her for clues to discern whether she is or not. I see she's wearing a chunky gold watch, but the watch might just be made out of metal. I still can’t tell.

I have a book with me and I begin reading it. Reading and walking is something I've gotten quite good at. However, I fail to see a big rock embedded partially in the ground in front of me. I stumble over it and decide to walk on the jogging path that is further from the shore and closer to the street. 

I’m reading the story “Big-Hearted River” by Ernest Hemingway. It’s basically a blow-by-blow account of a lone fishing trip taken by the protagonist, Nick Adams. The story fits the pensive mood I’m in, but I keep getting distracted from the reading. I must have read this same one line, “Down about two hundreds yards were three logs all the way across the stream,” at least four times already. 

I look to the water. It’s sparkling in the noon sun. There are so many stand-up paddlers going by. I wonder to myself: Do people who go stand-up paddling happen to have good bodies or do people with good bodies purposely go stand-up paddling? 

Eventually, I decide I've walked enough and I turn around. There is a vacant lot between two townhouses across the street. The lot can’t be more than 20 feet wide--it’s deep, I’ll admit it’s deep--but it can’t be more than 25 feet wide, and I wonder how much the land costs. Millions, it’s gotta be millions, I think, considering the neighborhood. 

I walk down to the path I had been on before, the sandy one, the one closer to the shore. There are people strolling along and fiddling with their phones, people walking their dogs, people hanging out on blankets. I see one woman laid out on a blanket wearing a bikini. She's glistening in the sun. Before I even reach her, I smell the coconutty aroma of the lotion she’s using.  

As I’m about to leave the area around the lake, I see that woman again, the one I thought might be homeless. I ask myself why I think she's homeless. Well, I reason, she’s lying down with no blanket. All the other people lying near the shoreline are on blankets. Also, she’s overly tan. It’s almost as if she spends too much time outside, always exposed to the elements or something. And the pose she’s in. It seems a little unnatural. While she doesn’t look dead or anything, she looks a little too “out,” like perhaps she had been drinking. Her clothes also aren’t perfectly suited to the weather. She’s dressed for cooler weather.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Pimps and Hoes

I transcribed the following text from a prostitute who was featured in a 1970s 60 Minutes episode titled "Pimps." She was being interviewed at a bar by someone from the show, and I thought she made an interesting point. She said: 

What is a “pimp”? What is a “hoe”? I don’t know…Could you give me the definition? ’Cause I don’t classify -- I classify myself as a young woman…you know, that wants to help my man. That’s all. No pimps and hoes, that’s call'n each other names, that’s what I think, ’cause they jealous, ’cause they can’t do it, that’s all. They do it another way. Can you dig that? 

How? 

How? You pay your wife money, don’t you? Whatchu call that?…Huh? She pays you. Both of you might work or whateva, so whatchu call each other? Doing, to each other, you know. Are ya’ll pimps and hoes, too? 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

Black photo

In my dream last night, I was in an elevator with a woman in her 20s. The cab was pitch black and I couldn’t see the woman, but I knew she was there. I got the feeling she and I were in some sort of high-rise building, but, again, all I saw was black. As the elevator started to descend, the woman and I began talking. I’m not sure what we were talking about, but the manner in which we were chatting was pleasant and friendly. Suddenly, the elevator started to descend very quickly. At first, I thought, "Oh, these high-rise buildings with their fast elevators; they really try to make the elevators really fast in these buildings." But then I realized that we were falling at a dangerous speed. After a few seconds, I realized that we were going to die. I tried to talk to the woman, but now she was praying--and in a different language. I kept trying to talk to her--I’m not sure why--but it was futile: she just kept on talking to herself, or praying, in that other language. I remember thinking,  "So this is how it ends, huh? This sucks." 

Then, out of nowhere, I thought to myself, “Just open your eyes. All you have to do is open your eyes.” And I did. And the dream was over. Disaster averted.

Friday, August 14, 2020

That God Intended

So I just enjoyed a really nice time with my dog. 

Initially, she and I had just headed out for a jog, but it's hot out, and it didn't take long for me to realize that Filou wanted to have a dip in the lake that was near the fields where we were running. 

At the lake, I found a stick and threw it in the water. Splash! Filou immediately jumped in after it. When she brought the stick back to me, I decided to walk over to a nearby dock.

The dock was weatherworn and rickety, but I trusted that it was stable, and from it, I threw the stick into the water. Splash! Without hesitation, Filou jumped off the dock and into the water. The distance between the platform and the water had to be at least four feet, or a little more than a meter, so the splash she made this time was a huge one. 

As Filou swam toward the stick, I looked around. About 300 yards to my left, a man in a boat was fly fishing, and on the other side of the lake, I saw kids taking turns jumping off a pier, into the water. 

Filou looked adorable, swimming back to the shore with the stick in her mouth. 

Because I had just gone running, I thought it would be wise to stretch, and no better or nicer a place to do so than there on the dock, I figured. After all, the sun wasn't too hot and the sound of the lake water lapping against the shore was very calming. 

As I stretched, Filou was right by my side, sitting on her haunches. She had already dropped the stick and had shaken off and was just waiting for me to right myself and grab the stick. When I did, she ran back down to the shore and jumped into the water. Splash!

From the dock, I watched her swim around, anticipating the moment when the stick would leave my hands. She was so cute. Usually, it's hard to see Filou's body when she's swimming, as it's submerged. But thanks to my vantage point on the dock, I was able to see all of Filou as she doggy paddled. Her front legs seemed to be doing all the work, but on further inspection, I saw that her back legs were kicking, too. She looked so pretty, squinting up at me there in the water. She was swimming close to the shore, back and forth through a mass of algae. The water was lit up in spots by the sun and was about the same color as the algae. When I threw the stick, Filou doggy paddled toward it, the flaps of her ears partially in the water. 

What a beautiful day, I thought, standing there on the wooden dock.  This is the kind of day that God intended.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Checking It Twice

Today as I was having lunch outside at a restaurant, I looked down to see if my dog was properly fastened to the leg of the table. 

I mean, after I had taken my seat, I remembered having locked the dog up. But I did it so quickly, and sometimes when we do things without thinking, we don’t do them properly. 

Specifically, I wanted to see if the bolt snap at the end of the leash was properly fastened to one of the leash’s D-rings. 

My thought was that perhaps I hadn’t fastened the bolt snap right, which would have meant that the dog would have actually been free. 

I have to admit, always having to make sure that the dog's leash is on properly can be annoying. But it's important always to check. I know, because I can still remember a close call from a few years ago. 

Filou and I were on our way to her last walk of the day, and we were walking down the stairs of my old apartment building. Because my old apartment building was directly in front of a very dangerous street, I always made sure that Filou was properly leashed up before we'd step out the door. However, on this occasion, I made a mistake. 

Instead of fastening the leash's bolt snap to the dog collar's D-ring, I attached the bolt snap to the malleable circular keychain that was on the D-ring. That keychain, mind you, had a purpose--it bore Filou's identification tags--but it was flimsy as hell. 

Anyway, as I opened the door and Filou charged toward the street--which was something she always did--I felt a sickening feeling. Instead of feeling resistance on the leash, I felt no resistance at all. The force of Filou pulling had broken the keychain and Filou was now in the street. 

Luckily--and I still thank God about this to this day--there weren’t any cars around. It was about 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday, and by the grace of God the street was empty. 

With Filou now running around in the middle of the four-lane road,  I yelled at her, "Filou, get over here, now!" Thankfully, she listened, but I had been given the shock of my life, because that street was that dangerous. 

Anyway, back at the restaurant today, it turned out that I had locked Filou up properly. I saw that I had indeed fastened the bolt snap to one of the leash's three D-rings. Filou was safe: she wouldn't be able to just run off and wind up God knows where. But you gotta check. You gotta always check.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Woman in Supermarket

When I was in the supermarket before, a woman pushing a baby carriage came in the store after me. I took notice of her because she looked nice, but not friendly. As I did my shopping, I saw her a few times, on various aisles. At one point, she was on one aisle and I was on an adjacent one, and I knew she was next to me even though I couldn't see her because I was able to hear her baby playing with a squeaky toy. 
At the checkout area, I took note of one of the items this woman planned to purchase. It was coffee, instant coffee.  This item stood out to me because instant coffee is not by any means popular in Germany. The plastic lid of the jar containing the coffee was green.  

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Breakups

"We need to talk." 
"Sure, about what?" 
"About us." 

*

“I’m not breaking up with you because…"
(Me in my head: “We’re breaking up?”)

*

"What’s up your ass?" 
"I no longer want to be your partner: that’s what’s up my ass."

*

"I mean, does this feel like a relationship?" 
"N--"
"I mean...wait, what?" 
"No, you go 'head."
"I mean, honestly, does this feel like a relationship to you?" 
"No." 

*

"You're acting different." 
"Nooo."
"Yeah, yeah. You're acting different." 

*

"If you need to, you can call me back, OK?"
"OK." 
"OK, goodnight, then, OK? 
"OK." 
...
"Hello?"
"Hi. You said I could call back." 
"Yeah, yeah, of course." 


Poor Nick...Poor Mom

The actual basketball courts where it all "went down." 

One afternoon many, many years ago, my mom dropped me off at a schoolyard near our house. This made sense because the schoolyard, known to everybody who used it as “the park,” was my favorite place to play. And how couldn’t it be? It had basketball courts, handball courts, monkey bars and swings. 
 
Usually, anytime I’d go to the park, my friends, or at least a friend, would already be there. But on this particular afternoon, I was having a hard time finding anyone. On the basketball courts, however, I ran into a kid I knew, Nick. Nick was about three years older than I was, so he would have been about 13 at the time. I remember that Nick was a nice kid, and I never had any problems with him. 

Anyway, on this day, Nick decided, for whatever reason, that he wanted to play fight with me. Moments after he greeted me--I think we were actually the only two people on the basketball courts--he grabbed me in a headlock and wouldn’t let go. I might have tried to get out of the headlock--I hope I did--but all of it was just a joke, and we knew that. 

Suddenly, though, in the middle of our horsing around, I hear my mom. 

“Get off him! Get the fuck off him, you son of a bitch! I’ll kill you! Get the fuck off him! Now!”

Apparently, my mom had seen what was going on from her car--I personally thought that she had driven away--and had come down to rescue me. The only thing was, of course, I didn’t need any rescuing. 

“Ma, it’s OK, we’re just joking, we’re just playing.” My mom was now on the basketball courts with Nick and me, and all three of us were standing in close proximity. 

“You get off of him, you hear me,” my mom said. 

“Ma, it’s just a joke; I know him--it’s Nick. I know him. We were just joking.” 

“Well it didn’t look like a joke.” 

Nick just looked on, stunned. He didn’t say anything. I was absolutely mortified. 

“Ma, it’s fine, I’m fine, please...” 

And with that, my mom backed off. She told me she'd see me later, walked out of the park and drove away. 

I don’t think Nick ever talked to me after that again.  

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Wasp

So this morning I went onto my balcony to play guitar. I had just begun strumming when I saw a wasp on one of the railing’s balusters. The wasp didn’t seem to be doing too well. He was motionless, and when I got up close to examine him, his antennae were moving very slowly. His wings also weren't that translucent. 

To try to help the little fella, or at least give him a small treat before death, I went into my kitchen for some honey. Back on the balcony, I smeared a fingertip’s worth of the sweet stuff about a centimeter above the wasp’s head. It was like magic! The wasp all of a sudden started crawling upwards, and before I knew it was using this tiny little, straw-like mouthpart of his (I guess it’s called a proboscis) to suck up the honey.

I think I might have saved the wasp because later, when I checked to see if he was still there, I saw that he had flown away. There was still someone honey on the railing. Maybe an evening treat? 

Monday, August 03, 2020

Europe

A holy-fuck-I-live-in-Europe moment:

"What are you looking for, sweety, 50 cent pieces or 20?
"20."


Cake First


The other day we ate breakfast at a café that was at the corner of Schubertstrasse and Mendelssohnstrasse. There was a row of tables outside the café, and a wicker beach chair was set up at each table. Standing in front of an unoccupied table--two tables were already taken--we wondered if we should first go into the café to order or to take a seat and wait to be served. This question was settled after we noticed a laminated card on one of the tables. It said, “Please order inside.”

After we placed our orders--two lattes and two pieces of cake--we walked back outside and took a seat. I had a book and began reading to you. But a few moments after I started, I began to feel self-conscious. After all, there were people sitting only a few tables away, and I thought I might be disturbing them. You noticed that I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable and asked me if I’d like to come sit next to you in the beach chair. I thought all my problems were solved, but the moment I sat down next to you, I noticed it was way hotter in the beach chair. The hood was probably keeping in the heat. Nevertheless, I ignored my discomfort and continued to read.

After a few minutes, the waitress came with our cake. Each piece was on a plate and she put both plates on the table. She then went back inside the cafe. I was expecting her to return momentarily with the lattes, but she didn’t. I thought that I was maybe being impatient, but then another couple minutes passed, and another, and another...

What the fuck?” I finally said. I had been trying to hold back my annoyance but couldn’t any longer. “Where the fuck is she?”

“I don’t get it, either.”

“I mean, who does that? Who brings the cake first?”

“It makes no sense, you know, because that’s how they make money. How many times have you finished your first drink before they even come with the food? Then you have to order another drink.”

“It’s like, Waitressing 101. Bring the fucking coffee first. What are we supposed to do with just cake?”

“It’s ridiculous; it makes no sense.”

“OK, I’ll tell you what. If I get to the end of this page and she still hasn’t brought out the coffees, I’ll go in and ask, OK?”

“OK.”

About three-quarters down the page the waitress came out with our coffees.

“Oh, perfect,” I said, as I moved the plates with cake out of the way to make room for the lattes.

“There we go, two lattes,” the waitress said.

“Awesome, thank you,” I said.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Burial at Sea

As Martina and I were lying in bed the other day, I noticed that there was an insect on the wall; it looked like a mosquito.
“Is that a mosquito?” Martina said.
“I was just wondering that!”
She got up to see.
“Yup, it’s a mosquito.”
“Will you get it?”
“Yes, of course,” she said, as she stepped off the bed.
While she was in the kitchen getting a piece of paper towel to kill the thing with, I said, “I’m just going to go wash up real quick, OK?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, smiling. “You don’t have to be part of the killing.”
I laughed. “I know.”
As I was showering, Martina came into the bathroom and showed me the dead mosquito in her hand.
“Got it, huh?”
“Yup.” She then went over to the toilet and dropped it in. “Wasserbestattung,”  she said.
I laughed again. After all, Wasserbestattung means “burial at sea.”


Martina Chess

So I've been teaching Martina how to play chess, and today we played a really good game. Although I won, Martina really applied pressure at certain points. Especially impressive was her 20th move, Knight to h6, check. After that move I really had to defend precisely. Good job, Martina, and keep up the good work!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Haubentaucher

So in Germany, they have these waterbirds called Haubentaucher. I’m not sure if we have them in America. Their body shape, more or less, is that of a duck’s, but their distinguishing feature is the spiky hair on their head. It looks like they are sporting a mohawk.

Anyway, today as Martina and I were walking along a canal near my house, we saw two Haubentaucher in the water. The first thing that I noticed about them was that they were very close together. Also, it looked like something was on one of the birds, perhaps a baby.

"Is that a baby?" I asked Martina. Though she initially said no, on further inspection we discovered that indeed, a Haubentaucher chick was hitching a ride on one of its parents.

“Oh my God, that’s so cute,” I said.

“Wee!” Martina said, as the baby slipped off the adult bird’s backs and into the water. The baby was just a tiny little thing and its head was striped like a zebra.

“Holy shit, is there another one?”

This time Martina told me I was right. Peeking out from the wing of the other Haubentaucher was another black-and-white head.

Then the cutest thing happened. The first baby that I saw crawled back onto his mother (or father) and tucked himself under his (or her) wing. It tucked itself in there so good it was no longer visible.

“Holy shit, did he just go under the wing?”

“Yeah," Martina said, smiling. "So cute."

“That is really, really cute.”

After Martina and I said adieu to this little bird family, I said to her,  "Wow, so that really is where the expression ‘to take someone under your wing' comes from."

“Yeah, we have that too in German, 'Jemanden unter seine Fittiche nehmen.'"

“Yeah, like, to show someone the way, to be their mentor.”

“Yeah, like in business.”

“Exactly.”

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Daum

Last night I dreamed that I was in some kind of post office. I say “some kind” of post office because the place felt more like an art-supplies shop, but let’s call it a post office for now. I was there because I wanted to mail a piece of artwork I had made. But there was a complication. One of the fittings that was to be used to keep the framed painting in place was made by the company Daum. Daum, you should know, is a French manufacture of decorative glass. I personally have  no idea why the fitting would have been made by Daum, but it was. Anyway, when I asked a post office employee who was behind a counter how much the painting was going to cost to ship, he said that it was going to cost a lot more than normal--three times more--because of the Daum fitting. Ultimately, the employee asked another worker if he could check in the back to see whether or not the shop had a basic fitting that could be used instead of the Daum one.

***

It’s a strange dream, I know. How to explain the Daum thing...Well, my connection to Daum glass is my mom. She loves it and knows a ton about it. So there ya go.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Two Women

I was walking along the canal on my way to the basketball court when I took note of two women who were opposite me and walking in my direction. The women struck me as an odd pair. One was old and dressed in a woolen Chanel suit, really spiffy-like. Her companion was younger, in her late 20s, and wearing sport clothes that would be suitable for an evening jog. The younger woman was pretty, but her face was scrunched up like she was upset. The women were surely together--that is, they knew each other--but were looking in opposite directions as they walked.

On my way back from the basketball court, I saw the women again. This time, I was walking along the canal in the direction they initially had been walking, and vice versa. The younger woman was now on the phone. She was talking loudly, and as she passed me, I heard her say this into the phone:  “I am in no mood” and “this evening.”

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Chess Win

Here's a game I love. Why? Well, my opponent thought it would be a good strategy to move as fast as he possibly could throughout the entire game. Sorry, that didn't work. Also, a few weeks ago, I spent some time studying how I could improve against the opening that's played in this game, the English Attack variation of the Sicilian Defense. This win was confirmation that my studying was worth it.


Two Stories



We were walking around the lake and talking about people who beg for money--or more specifically, we were talking about the illegal bands to which some beggars belong--and she told me this, she said: “You know, after the Wall fell, there were people from all around Europe who came to Germany because, well, yeah, now they were able to ‘ply their trade’ in Germany. Well, one day, one of these people came to my house when my family was having lunch. I think the man wanted to sell a carpet or something. Anyway, when my father got up to answer the door, he had a fork in his hand. The only reason why he had a fork in his hand was because he had been eating when the doorbell rang. So he opens the door and the guy is there asking him if he wants to buy a carpet, and my father says no and the guy immediately accepts the no. Well, these people who try to sell things to you are usually very pushy, but we all thought that the guy said no so quickly because, one, my father is a tough guy and, two, he was a tough guy with a fork in his hand.

***

When I first moved to Germany, I was waiting for my ex-girlfriend outside of a supermarket. Our dog was with us and the dog was not allowed into the supermarket. As I was waiting, I gave 2 euros to a woman who was sitting outside the supermarket begging. I felt bad for the woman. When my ex finally finished the shopping, I told her that I had given the beggar woman money. When she asked how much, I told her 2 euros. She then chastised me. “Chad, no, you don’t give those people 2 euros. Are you crazy? 2 euros is a lot of money. You need to realize that. Two euros is not two dollars; two euros is a lot.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Really Low

"Martina, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh."
"It’s been a while since I heard that."
"Yeah, because my guitar’s tuned down."
"Huh?"
"The guitar, it usually has a certain tuning, but I tuned it down, which allows me to sing songs I wouldn’t usually be able to sing. Your song, it’s already low, so if I sing it with the tuned-down guitar, it’s really low. That’s why."
"Ah."

Thursday, July 23, 2020

To Read One

"I'd like to read one. It's really short," she said.
"Yeah, please do."
She came over to me to read it.
"I love you," I said.
"Aww, I love you, too."

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Consider the Difference

Consider the difference: "I saw a grey van" vs. "I saw a grey van with a 'cane corso' decal on the rear window."

Friday, July 17, 2020

Nice Win

I have the black pieces. The game ends with fireworks. Very proud of this win.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Drawing

When I was younger, I liked He-Man. I mean, I liked a lot of different comics and comic book characters, G.I. Joe and Garfield included, but He-Man was my favorite. Funny enough, my favorite character in the Masters of the Universe franchise (of which He-Man was a part) was She-Ra, He-Man’s twin sister. I remember for one birthday, I had asked for She-Ra’s castle, which was, like, this big, pink Playmobil-like fortress.

At any rate, one after during the time when my interest in He-Man was very high--which is to say, one afternoon in in the late 1980s--my mom and I sat down to draw. I don’t remember what spurred our desire to draw on this particular afternoon, it was just something we decided we'd do. Anyway, I asked my mom at the start of the session if she could draw She-Ra for me. I still wasn’t at the point where I was able to draw well, and I knew my mom was better than I was, so I asked her.

When she was finished, I remember thinking that the drawing was amazing. My mom did the piece in colored pencils and I remember it being this vibrant, lifelike, exciting thing that really did resemble She-Ra, in all her glory.

What struck me, though, was that after my mom finished the drawing, she kept saying that it wasn't that good. I mean, I couldn’t believe it. There I was thinking that this thing, this drawing of She-Ra, was amazing, and all I can remember is my mom saying, “No, it’s really not that good, no." And she meant it! It just made absolutely no sense.

But then again, I was a child.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Nice One, Ma

Here's a funny story from many years ago.

One evening I broke curfew and got home about an hour late. My mom was sitting in the living room when I arrived.

"Where were you?" she asked.

I told her that I was out at a girlfriend's house.

Wanting to tease me a little, I guess, she replied, "Oh, really... What were you guys doing this late?"

I told her that we had just been hanging out, nothing special.

"Nothing special, huh?" my mom said. "Your shirt's on backwards..."

Immediately, I looked down. "No it's not."

Slyly, she looked at me and said, "Why'd you look, then?"

Nice one, ma.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Dreams

Anyone ever ask you over breakfast if you had any dreams during the night? Here was my response today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Nice chess win (I have the black pieces)

Here's a game I'm proud of. Reason being, I have been studying the King's Indian Defense for some time now, and here is a well played game in that opening. My favorite move of mine is 15. ... Bxg4. It may not have been a perfect move, but it broke up my opponent's attack and allowed me to start applying pressure with my own pieces. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

ill-fated


I remember I used to have this psychologist; his name was Gary Mandel. Dr. Mandel -- that's what I called him -- was awesome. He was one of the first psychologists I had a connection with, and he helped me immensely.

I remember one day in one of our sessions Dr. Mandel and I began talking about the girlfriend I had at the time. She was German and lived in Germany, and I asked Dr. Mandel what he thought of long-distance relationships. Without much hesitation, he said he thought that they were ill-fated.

I'll never forget that. Not his opinion, but that word, "ill-fated." It's not a word that's used that often, but at the time, though I didn't want to admit it, I thought his word choice was quite apt.

The funny thing is, in the end, distance wasn't the thing that led to the end of that long-distance relationship.

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.
 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Chess Game

I finally got to play that tricky sacrifice on d5 as White in the Sicilian Defense. I had had this sacrifice done  to me several times in the past and had always wondered about it. This time I was the one doing the slaying. The move I'm referring to is 16. Nd5. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

No Man Is an Island

So the famous English poet John Donne has this poem about how one man's death is never really just one death. Instead, Donne believes, one death is a death for all mankind. The logic is that we on this earth are all humans, are all brothers of sorts, so when one person dies, we should lament the death, not take it for granted, as the loss represents a diminishing of humankind, something of which we are all a part.

The poem, "For Whom The Bell Tolls," goes like this:
No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.
Yeah, the poem is old, but it’s powerful, and even if you don’t know all the words, I think you catch the author’s drift.

I mention this poem because in the wake of Kobe Bryant's death, I can relate to it more than ever. Somehow I feel as though some part of me died that day, too. Perhaps all that died was my ability to live a little bit vicariously through Kobe; perhaps what died was my ability to see all the creative and interesting things Kobe had in store . . . I don’t know. All I can say is that in these times, I can relate to the John Donne poem very well.

I’ll close with another another set of words, but these ones from someone more contemporary—LeBron James.

At Kobe’s memorial at the Staples Center on January 31st, LeBron was asked to give a speech. LeBron and Kobe had been friends for many years and, LeBron, to be fair, was Kobe's successor to the title "the best player in the NBA."

I thought that what Lebron said at the memorial was exceptionally moving. My favorite part of the speech, though, is at the end, at the part that starts, "So in the words of Kobe Bryant . . ."

Here is what LeBron said:
Before I get started with this speech that I have, I want to acknowledge all the lives that were lost Sunday morning. Alyssa Altobelli. John Altobelli. Keri Altobelli. Payton Chester. Sarah Chester. Christina Mauser. Ara Zobayan. Gianna Bryant and Kobe Bryant.
Now, I’ve got something written down. They asked me to stay on course or whatever the case may be, but Laker nation, I would be selling y’all short if I read off this shit. I’m going to go straight from the heart.
The first thing that came to mind, man, is all about family. As I look around this arena, we’re all grieving. We’re all hurt. We’re all heartbroken. But when we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family. And from Sunday morning all the way to this point — and I’ve heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year, about how much of a family it is — and that’s absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week. Not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization, but from everybody. Everybody that’s here, this is really, truly, truly a family. And I know Kobe, Gianna, Vanessa and everybody thank you guys from the bottom of their hearts as Kobe said.
Now I know at some point, we will have a memorial for Kobe. But I look at this, I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything. The countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the past three years, man.
Tonight is a celebration.
Before we get to play (yelling). Love ya’ll, man. Kobe’s a brother to me. From the time I was in high school, watching him from afar to getting in this league at 18, watching him up close. All the battles we had throughout my career. The one thing that we always shared was that determination to just always want to win and just want to be great. The fact that I’m here now means so much to me. I want to continue along with my teammates, to continue his legacy, not only for this year, but for as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want.
So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.