CATEGORY: Random Firings

Waking the Giant

UWS, 7am

During my ten-square-block morning ritual along the wide leafy sidewalks of the Upper West Side, fathers lead their young children to school by hand. Young girls snipe at their mothers and nannies.


The dog walkers are out – here a load, there a load, a piss on a brownstone doorway. Along CPW, parkside, a man in suit pants and an impeccable dress shirt firms the leash of a doberman pinscher whose jet black coat looks like it has leather trim. The dog is squatted up on all fours like a yogi, motionless, maintaining a complicated but oddly perfect pose in the moments preceding it taking a shit.

At ground level in front of the tall edifices that line Central Park West, window washers are out, keeping entryway glass flawlessly clear. It has the inverse effect for interlopers like me, for us back-of-the-building dwellers: the result makes the notion of living behind one of those limestone sentry walls even more opaque, more unattainable. Brass polishers are out brightening emergency water hookups. Doormen hold briefcases and packages and doors for their patrons. Livery cars line up two deep in front of the San Remo in anticipation of the morning commute.

Dogwalker UWS

Dogwalker UWS

Most cities are more interesting early in the morning. Paris in particular, though that’s best seen very very early – say 5am. New York at 7am is a wonder. It’s like a slowly waking giant as the sun rises through breaks in the Eastside skyline and spills into the trees in the park. The sleepy eyes of the giant wrestle with the morning light and his fingers become nimble atop the sheets.

At the corner of 76th St, as I pause to check for cars, a sudden, brief moment of absolute silence and still washes over the corner. Traffic was stopped at stoplights blocks away. No radios were playing. The subway rumble was absent. There was literally no noise, not even the hum of the breathing giant. Only a few birds were chirping in the park. That was it. It was breathtaking. It lasted about six seconds and then the giant tossed back his bed covers.


Ruminations on Four GougÈres

RUMINATIONS ON FOUR GOUGÈRES, on the patio at Thorough Bread & Pastry


Some errant bird pilfered one of my four gougères, right off of the plate, while I was inside waiting for my coffee. I’d set the plate of four airy, chive-dusted puff pastries out on a patio table along with a glass of water in order to secure my spot beneath the pepper tree.

What a rare occasion; I’ve never seen a bird breech the fence and land on any table.

So I sat. The cappuccino, it turned out, was watery, the gougères a bit drier than I remember – the three that hadn’t been stolen by the thieving bird, that is.


A bit of time passed, indistinguishable from the rest, as I worked there. A wedge of tranquility had been carved out from the screaming rest of society and things felt good for those few minutes, despite the impending chaos, the political implosion portended by all the latest presidential polls. America had lost itself. Lost its way. Given itself over to corruption and a sort of political in-breeding that yielded idiots, as happens when first cousins reproduce.


On the patio out back behind Thorough Bread & Pastry you can hear the Muni trains passing along Church St. Occasionally you’ll get a glint of traffic along Market Street, or the more clearly audible airplane passing overhead. You can hear your neighbors’ conversations, as well, whatever they are. Minimal effort is required to keep the volume down because the verdant triangle and its leaf- and twig-strewn stone terrace cause an autonomic tempering of voices – except for the truly shrill and clueless, of course. The patio is, thus, a respite. And like all respites, it’s part illusion. Or rather, its peace and tranquility are illusory. To hear birds chirping in the distant trees and the sexual moaning of pigeons on the other side of the fence is to be reminded of the temporal nature of things. Of rise and ruin. The decline of societies. This tranquility yields tears when we sit long enough to realize that we’ve paved over our personal existence with greed and competition, just as we’ve paved over the earth with asphalt and cement. Sucked every aquifer dry. Shit in every stream.

On the patio of Thorough Bread, however, we breathe in possibility and exhale poison. We keep to ourselves (for the most part). We read our books and write or listen to music or sketch and draw and converse – we behave like civilized human beings and the trees cradle our feelings. As critical mass nears, as the patio fills up and tables become hard to come by, the frailty of our species kicks in.

Alone we are okay, in small groups we excel, but as the ranks expand and more and more are brought into the fold we lose our humanity entirely and become a singular, ugly machine.

A shot of espresso, please, to resuscitate my watery coffee and to bring me back to life. Moisten by bread and lift my spirits.

Right now, it’s quiet at Thorough Bread and Pastry.

Too quiet.

quiet on patio of thorough bread

Reading Carver in the morning

May 6, 2015
Church St Cafe

When I think of all the things I’m not (borrowing the opening to ch. 12 of Hugo, ‘A Brief Touchdown in Paradise’)… When I scan the streets for visions of myself and witness only possible outcomes of myself, potential future states, I find the present alienating and a little more than harrowing at times. Unlike Hugo, though, I do give a shit.

I’m learning to be content with my choices in life, with whatever it is I’ve chosen to pursue or not pursue. Content with what is inherent in me, this  fundamental condition.

To go cup

To go cup

Reading Carver this morning: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.

The sun sneaks into the front windows of the café from in between the peaks of two victorians across the street. Two old guys sit over to the right talking about Turkey, their church and the Middle East. Ahead of me two guys, one 70 the other about 40 years younger, are perched in leather chairs. The old guy has good posture and is reading the NY Times. The young guy, marked incognito by his dark baseball cap and baggy clothes, is slouched down reading intently from his small handheld. Could be Hollywood or could be hi-tech. Outside, perched around a set of to-go cups and mobile phones are a trio in their 20’s: hoodies and black jackets and smoldering cigarettes. They are joined by another derelict, some middle aged artist, hungover or still high, all of their experiments in rehab gone mutually asunder. They depart, unseen.

2 guys in the window - church st cafe

2 guys in the window – church st cafe

There’s a brief flurry of activity inside at the counter: coffees to go, an occasional pastry or a hard boiled egg. The flurry disperses to the sidewalk and a google bus lumbers by, stops by the neighboring building. Its butt sticks out in front of the window where the two old guys are talking retiree shop. Ignoring the bus, they get up from their chairs to get the sun out of their eyes.

On the sidewalk the hipsters all head to work, wet hair and beards and skull caps, with tracking badges dangling from their sides, while inside the old guys are pushing cafe chairs around noisily.

google bus

google bus

In walks Pollyanna Pink Pants with his plaid jacket and loafers without socks, movie star sunglasses and a striped canvas bag slung over his forearm.  He’s got the gay accent and a pitch of D-minor: “I’ll have a medium Jamaican roast to go. And a blueberry scone.”  Things are good right now, all signs pointing to fabulous. He will weep, though, when the happiness ends. When he’s called one day into the office and told he’s being let go. (We’ve all been there.) He will weep as if his heart has been torn in two, because nobody who wears pink pants merely cries; they weep.

Meanwhile, outside the hipster girls in their frilly scarves and earbuds consult their phones all the way down the block.  Another double-decker google bus comes to a stop in front of the café, its monolithic form stretched across the entire front of the café, with no beginning or ending in sight. Inside, the old guys again re-position themselves against the sun, and here and there a stranger ponders all the things that he is not.

sunlight, cafe chairs

sunlight, cafe chairs