Across From Me #2.

I don’t have a lot of time to write today. I woke up super early to arrive at church and rehearse before the service at Midtown Community Church in Raleigh where I’m now working. After church I drove Uber for an hour or so then came home to charge my phone. I’m having some trouble with the Uber app. It’s beautiful outside. It’s a day I’d rather be out walking beside the river. Perhaps I shouldn’t be working on Sunday, but I need money and I’m not super tired so I think I will drive for 5-6 hours and see how it goes.

I did a search for more “across from me photos.” Here’s another one, from a Bronx-bound 1 train. As it happens, it also features a dog, who was somewhat being used as a pillow. Apparently I’m less self-conscious about taking someone’s photo if they have a pet with them.

Bronx-bound 1 train


Across from me

I knew a woman who for awhile had a blog called “across from me” where every day she’d post a picture she took of people on the subway sitting across from her. I thought that’s a good idea, to have a theme — a hook — for a blog. But that’s all it was. I think she doesn’t update it anymore. I tried for awhile. I’ve taken a few pictures of people on the subway. But mostly I’m too self-conscious. once, in fact a guy told me to stop taking his picture. This wasn’t on the subway but on Coney Island. I was taking a panorama shot, and he was in the way. Big ol cranky guy. He said “not everyone likes having their picture taken.” Heh. Vain fella. He was just in the way of the sunset.

I did take a ton of pictures in New York City. Hundreds a week. Here in NC I’ve only taken a few. Maybe 40 since I’ve been here. Another thing I haven’t done much is get on social media. I’ve enjoyed the break. Sometimes maintaining a social media presence is a job all by itself. But I worry if I am losing people — losing my friends, losing my audience — in some ways losing myself. It’s weird to have our relationships curated by a big corporation. It’s unnatural. And then there’s a fear of non-response. I don’t like feeling this way but there’s the “what if I click ‘like'” and they don’t respond in anyway?” Feeling. I’ve been on both sides of that feeling. Ignoring on Facebook and being ignored. One fan from way back sent me a friend request and I wrote him back and apologized but told him I wouldn’t accept because I was trying to separate my personal page and my music page. I asked him to “like” my music page instead, but he didn’t. I was kind of irritated. I wanted the connection, but couldn’t rightly call him a friend. I guess people want that more personal connection. I’ve been guilty of the same thing. “Friending” people I don’t know that well. Once I wrote a fan email to Ann-Margaret, in the pre-facebook days. Her assistant wrote me back and said “believe me, it is appreciated.” Heh. That’s a different thing though. I have some people on my facebook feed I barely know, or do not know at all. Facebook had a thing where it would show you how many “likes” or reactions you had clicked or produced, and my number was astronomically, depressingly high. I didn’t like it. So I’m enjoying spending less time on facebook. I hope I can keep my audience though. And, of course, my friends.

So here’s a picture I took on the subway — a Manhattan-bound B train. The guy might have been taking his dog to the vet. He had a lot of nervous energy and kept nuzzling, petting, and canoodling with the dog. He seemed worried. The woman is interesting-looking too. I always like seeing people read on the subway. If I saw someone reading on the subway I’d try to go sit as close to them as possible, because their presence was invariably calming, as opposed to the majority of people hammering away at or yammering away on their phones. There’s something grounding and soothing about a person reading a book. A book makes one more present while smartphones seem to take us out of the present.

Manhattan-Bound B Train

Friday January 4th. Durham and Raleigh, NC.

Painting by numbers,
What’s the color of 9.

Counting by colors. White, grey, white, yellow.
blackasphalt, grey granite, white sky, yellow grass,
a golfer in grey on a yellow green tosses a plastic vodka bottle, small and clear, onto the grass.
It lands silently for me to find later when I go on the green after-hours.

But now I’m walking past him on the street which goes by the golf course.
Walking my Mom’s little black dog.

The golfer is setting up for a putt, bent over as if in prayer, or meditating.
I wonder how the vodka fumes feel traveling through the nose to the back of the tongue, or vice versa.
Feels good, I know. I remember.

What do we call that body part where the soft palate meets the nose, where the vapors go.
what color would it be. Dark deepest red, where the acrid non-flavor nests and settles in.


He makes the putt.
Looks at me, I look back, think of saying “nice putt.”

I could have, who cares. I say nothing, he says nothing,
He gets in his golf cart and glides away.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Nothing lost either.

I keep walking.


I met with the Pastor of the new church where I am worship director. We met at a Thai restaurant on its final day as a Thai restaurant. The waiter tells us they are changing their menu, becoming a crab shack due to demand. They will still retain some Thai items. I ordered the green curry, plenty spicy, and it was plenty spicy. I had to keep ordering water, and also ordered one side of rice. It took me a while to taste the meal. It was so spicy, I was just kind of shoveling it in, then when it was over, I tasted the hint and remnant of what i had eaten. The kind of rough peppery fragrant burning.

My pastor and I were 2 of only 4 people in the place, and it had a 200-person occupancy. That’s not a good sign. The waiter still seemed over-worked. My constant requests for water probably didn’t help. Why not just bring a pitcher? I was a waiter once. If I had a customer who ordered 4 pints of water, no ice in a row I’d bring a pitcher. I’m smart like that. A genius one might say, if one were inclined to be very very accurate.

Actually I wasn’t a great waiter at the restaurant where I used to work in Durham, circa 1992. I was friendly — too friendly — but slow, and I daydreamed. I worked in a restaurant which was also a used bookstore, and I’d get lost in the stacks. I spent all my paycheck on beer and books. I’ve written about this before, I think. It was a really fun period of my life. Drinking, playing cards, listening to music, not caring. I wasn’t bedeviled by self-consciousness. I didn’t play many gigs, and when I finally did play one, people were impressed at the secret talent I’d been hiding. Under a bushel (no! I’m gonna let it shine).

Years later I received a card from one of my former co-workers — a woman named Allison, who now resided in College Station TX. The card said “I always wanted to say that I admired whatever it is — whatever was inside you — that made you go.” Gee that was a nice statement. I never knew Allison noticed me at all, much less admired me. She was a super type A good waitress. If I’d known she admired me I probably would have tried to like her or date her and who knows how that would have gone. Better the way it went. I only dated — very briefly, one of my coworkers, a woman who is a gifted writer who wrote me a poem I still treasure. She told me she would write “fields of poetry as green as your eyes.” My boss — John — wanted to fire me. He didn’t like me, never liked me. I think I was too slow, and unprofessional. And showed up late. But he had a manager — Kim. And Kim the manager liked me. Loved me. And I loved her. She was always smiling and so fun, and kept the place ticking and humming along. Kim went to bat for me and told John he shouldn’t fire me. The customers liked me. So he kept me. What a mensch, really. I mean, to go against his instincts and let his manager manage, and follow her instincts and keep me. He was a good guy. A former New Yorker. We were a family. There was a family feel. I miss those people. I’m friends with 3 or 4 of them on Facebook, and even manage to see 1 or 2 of them in the flesh here and there. I miss those days. All the more being back here.


I went to Ross. The Department store. Found some deals. Oh the deals you can find at Ross. There were some Good Year Shoes for $25. They had a big bright Good Year Logo with the tire and the wings in blue and yellow. They looked like hiking boots and I needed some. I’m bedeviled by foot problems. Self consciousness and foot problems, my twin bedevilments. Sounds like a Tom Waits song. Actually I have several bedevilments; those are only two of them. I really need to write this Tom Waits song — any Tom Waits song.

There was a salesman hunched over a newspaper, a scruffy looking millennial guy. I said, “What do you hear about these shoes?” Meaning, what do customers say after having bought them. “Oh you look great. You sure got my attention,” he said, with enthusisasm that did not sound real in the slightest. He should not quit his job at Ross and become an actor. “That’s exactly why I’d be buying these Good Year shoes — to get the attention of guys like you,” I said. He laughed at that. “What I meant was, are they good shoes? Good for hiking,” I said. “I have no fricking clue man,” he said. I bought them. $25, how could I not. I bought a bunch of other stuff, priced to sell. socks. insoles, nose hair trimmer, back and shoulder massager, portable phone charger made by duracell, in the shape of a duracell battery. The kind of stuff an old guy would buy, I know. you can say it. I mean, Good Year shoes? Uff. But Ross has deals. If anyone tries to tell you Ross doesn’t have deals, you tell them to hush.

Lazy Knave

Laziest knave, the veriest churl
Razed, hazy, two nickels short of a dime, see
lost track of the time, see
Not big, tee-nincey. [tiny]*
Can’t move for all the world

Yoohoo, lubber.
sated satyr.
round as a tater.

A barefoot friar lost in the abbey
torpid tugger
on the rope of a bell with no clapper

Idle of the king
who made you,
calls you

Finds you
Wandring the halls
waiting to be raised
Til then staying laid.

What do you have to say?

Only this:
A hunk of fatback flavoring stew.
Stays, it doesn’t move.
But it’s used.


At the Hertz I was to rent a minivan to pack full of everything I own and then to drive to North Carolina. Hertz, incidentally, is the origin of the yellow taxicab. That is, the traditional taxicab yellow comes from Hertz. Or something. There’s some trivia I vaguely remember. Old school trivia — that is, not from the internet. I could google it of course but then that would break the spell. Remember knowing something just because you know it and not because you just looked it up online? I barely do. Today’s kids probably don’t. I think I remember the Hertz trivia from playing trivial pursuit. I used to play trivial pursuit with my old music partner Brian Funck on long road trips. We’d just read the cards to each other, we wouldn’t use the board or pieces or anything.

There was one woman in front of me in line, and one woman behind the counter, on the phone. Jenny. Her name was on a placard. I was feeling a bit nervous. I had booked a minivan ahead of time online and called the manager of the Hertz to make sure a minivan would be available on the day of rental. “Well, I can’t make any promises,” said the manager. “Why not?” I said. “I booked a minivan, why can’t you give me a minivan?” “Sorry,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what we’re getting each day so we can’t be 100% positive we’ll have a minivan. But we usually have minivans.” “Ok,” I said, frustrated, but not frustrated enough to book an actual moving van from U-Haul. I would take my chances with the likely minivan, which was relatively cheap. $217 for one day, compared to over $800 for a U Haul. One part of my nervousness was not being sure if Hertz would have a minivan. The other part was, once I had a minivan, would it hold all my stuff, or would I have to leave some behind? When I moved from Queens to Jersey City I had to leave a lot of stuff behind, including a crate PA which both sounded good and had sentimental value. But that’s another story.

Jenny got off the phone and started helping the customer in front of me, who wanted an upgrade. This was interesting. This woman was not content to receive the kind of car she actually booked, she wanted something better, and what’s more, acted like she expected it. “You’re gonna give me an upgrade, right?” She said. Jenny said sorry she couldn’t do it this time. I don’t remember the conversation, but the gist of it was, the customer usually got an upgrade for free, and this time wasn’t getting one at all, and she customer wasn’t happy. I was surprised and a little annoyed at how entitled she seemed, because I was going to be happy and relieved if I received the kind of vehicle I had actually booked. The customer complained loudly and left in a huff.

I stepped up to the counter. “Wow, she was spoiling for a fight,” I said. “Oh her? She’s always like that.” said Jenny. I thought that I liked Jenny. Equable, stoic, unflappable, somewhat sphinx-like. She seemed like a decent Hertz representative, and in fact in my experience all Hertz representatives are decent. “I rented a minivan,” I said. “Yep, they’re bringing it up. Just let me scan your license and credit card.” And she made a copy of my license and credit card, then handed it back and said. “You’re all set since you paid online. You can go outside and wait.”

I went outside. Soon a man drove a grey minivan up to the curb. All my anxiety melted away. The minivan was a gleaming grey ship. I looked inside. It was huge. You could sleep a family of six in there. All my stuff would fit in there perfectly. I thanked the man, got in, and drove away, very carefully. I drove very slowly, obeyed all the laws, letting so many pedestrians pass in front of me against the light. People behind me were impatient, honking. Sorry. Pedestrian always has the right-of-way. I wanted to take my time. My last time driving in Manhattan.

I made my way down the West Side highway, also known as the Henry Hudson Parkway, which is right by the Hudson river, and then got in the lane for the Battery tunnel. It’s officially called the Hugh Carey tunnel but you could put a gun to most people’s heads before they could be bothered to call it the Hugh carey tunnel. I just realized how offensive that might be to the Carey family. Sorry guys. But you know, New York New York. It’s a wonderful town. The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down. There’s no Hugh Carey in the song.

On the way to the tunnel I snapped a picture of the Freedom tower. Incidentally I always hated that name. Never let George W. Bush name your architecture. Ok he probably didn’t name it but it sounds like he did. That was a bad era for us. The immediate post-9/11 era. I have strong feelings about it that I won’t get into here, but you can probably guess what I think by the fact that I hate the name “Freedom Tower.”

My last time staring up at the Freedom Tower, last time on the West Side Highway, my last time seeing the Hudson, my last time in Manhattan. I said goodbye, with no regrets.

Freedom Tower on the West Side Highway.


Day 1. (The Writing-Every-Day-Challenge resumes, hopefully).

Addiction is longing shed of love.

If I didn’t want ya I wouldnta swiped right on ya

your face and I clicked a red heart.

a bled heart drained.

And it rained.

See how the dirt is mixed up kid, churned up, turned up,


You came from a good family,

had love, four squares, four walls, a roof and a floor and why do you always choose the floor,

you beggar?

New Chapter, Part 1: December 6 2018

Thursday Dec 6th I took a B train from Brooklyn to Manhattan to rent a minivan to pack full of everything I own and then to drive to North Carolina. A moving van. I was moving after 10 years of living in the New York area. I had been talking about moving for a couple of years but had delayed for various reasons. Now it was finally happening. I had one day — this day, December 6 — to pack up, drive down to NC, unload, and return the vehicle to a Hertz location in Durham.

Knowing it was my last subway ride for the foreseeable future, everything took on the glow of rite. Entering the station. Swiping my card. Walking down the steps. Jostling past my fellow train-waiters, saying excuse me, or not. Craning my neck to see when the train was coming. Feeling a slight whoosh as a territorial pigeon flew a little too close to my face. Seeing, finally, the glow of subway headlights approaching. Stepping on the train into a waiting press of fellow humans. Grasping a pole and situating my body into some kind of tenable position while the doors closed, then opened again, then closed.

Here’s my position on riding the subway. If you are well-rested and energized, there is no more exciting and fun mode of transportation. If you are tired or sore, there’s no more agonizing and miserable mode of transportation. The morning of Dec 6th, I was tired and sore from having spent most of the previous night packing boxes. The subway car was packed full of morning commuters, jostling for position, avoiding each others eyes, looking down, away, or, eyes closed, not looking at all. The seats are bright orange trimmed with beige and the walls are chrome. The light is a dim orange and there is an everpresent whining hum.

One thing I learned is that subway drivers are like regular drivers. Some of them are not very good drivers. There were several delays on this trip. This subway train lurched to a stop a lot. It seemed like the operator was riding the brakes. Every lurch was comprised of several smaller lurches. Every stop was rough, every start-up was also rough. When the train lurches, bodies tense and shift, stumbling, rebalancing. There were several announcements of “we are being held momentarily due to train traffic ahead of us. Thank you for your patience.” Faint mutters and rueful groans in response. Several times the train stopped dead for what felt like minutes but was probably just 10 seconds or so. A couple of times the lights went off and the electric hum ceased. During these pauses you can hear people’s ragged breathing and the tinny drone of someone’s earbuds. Some people are reading, Some people swiping idly or tapping madly at their phones, or just standing still looking vacantly into the middle-distance.

My back hurt. I wanted to sit but no seats opened up. I would have liked just find a wall to lean against and press my lower back into, but no walls opened up either. Just humans on every side. A man’s shoulder kept bumping mine. I resisted the urge to react, or look at him. I just breathed, and prayed — for him, for me, for everyone on the train and for everything — remembering that this was my last time.

Here I’d like to pause to tell a story. If you ride the train or subway you’ll sometimes hear a warning or see a sign saying something like “watch the gap.” That means watch out for the space between the subway platform and the subway car. One time while racing to get onto a train I failed to watch the gap, and instead stepped right *into* the gap. One of my legs went straight between the platform and the car and my butt landed hard on the platform. I had a guitar on my back. I was momentarily as helpless and dependent as a baby. Instantly, a sea of hands belonging to concerned faces reached down and out to me, and, not waiting for me to grab ahold of them, seized ahold of me and yanked me collectively up and into the car. Someone said “You ok?” and I nodded as the train pulled away and people returned to their books, phones, and idling thoughts.

Whenever I’m tempted to think the worst about human beings and about New Yorkers in particular, I remember that day and those people who had my back and possibly saved my life.

Back to December 6th. This particular lurching crowded B train escaped Brooklyn and made it over the East River, to West 4th street. I walked up the stairs and out into the street. I found a wall and pressed my lower back into it, breathing in the pale winter air. Ahh. That’s the stuff. Tired and thankful, I walked to the Hertz location on Morton Street in the West Village.

Reflections on the October Writing Challenge and on going forward

I really enjoyed the writing every day in October challenge. It was hard; it felt like work. It was work. I’d be just about to climb into bed with some Netflix, and then remember that I hadn’t written for the day. So I’d climb out and sit in front of the computer and … either bang something out rotely or, think and breathe and write something more organically. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Some times you can start writing rotely and it will end up organic. That happened a couple of times. Sometimes I’d have something specific I wanted to write about. Once I looked out the window and described what I saw. The senses are access points for the emotions and the “deeper sense.” You start writing about what you see, and it triggers memories, feelings, and associations. What you see becomes a metaphor for something else.

Every now and then the turn-to-organic didn’t happen and I ended up with just the roteness. Once I wrote something that was tinged with mean-spiritedness and felt wrong. It wasn’t me. But I left it anyway. Just do it, just ship it. Good advice for me.

Another good exercise that I learned from Pat Pattinson, who teaches lyric writing at Berklee College of music and online, is to imagine a particular place from your past. Say, a front porch, middle school soccer field, church basement, or your grandmother’s living room. Then access every sense. Close your eyes. What do you see, feel, hear, touch, taste? What’s your emotional state? How does the pavement feel under your thighs? Does it leave a pattern if you sit too long? Is there a breeze? Does that church basement smell musty? How do the fluorescent lights sound when you turn them on? They flicker and, inevitably, one or two stay dark, don’t they? Does your grandmother have a candy dish? If so is the candy old and glommed together? How does your gut feel when you think about the impending soccer game? Are you nervous, full of excitement? Full of dread? Me, I was always full of dread before sports events. Terrified.

When the October challenge was over a few weeks ago, I was relieved. Proud. I had gained some followers on my blog and some praise from friends and family about my writing. Good. However, in some ways, it might have been some productive procrastination from what I really want to be doing: writing and/or finishing some songs. Specifically, hymns. I’m working on a hymns record and would love to have one or two more originals to complete the package.

I have a vague sense of a song I want to write. A “hallelujah” song. Just an upbeat song of joy. Ah, but it’s got to be good. There’s the rub. It can’t be a tossed-off thing.

Oh and not a Leonard Cohen Hallelujah song. Incidentally, I find it annoying how we Christians decided we loved that song, without, in my opinion, giving much thought to what it’s about. It’s such a beautiful, tender, bleak, bitter song of surrender. Oh My God. Oh God and I mean it, how beautiful is that song, are those words. I love Leonard Cohen, and I love his approach to God, religion, and spirituality. I think many decided they like the song simply because they liked hearing a “secular” artist sing that word that we usually hear only in church. There is a certain desperation Christians have to win approval from the culture and to see someone waving our flag. “He’s one of us!” Now, there’s my own bitterness coming through and maybe I’m not giving people enough credit. But I think many who love this song have not paid attention to the pain and bleakness in it:

“I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”

Ok I take it back, if I could write a Leonard Cohen “Hallelujah” song of course I would. But that’s kind of my wheelhouse, the mournful stuff.

I’d like to write a song of pure joy. Well, another song of pure joy, for I do have some.

The Sun is Up” comes to mind. That’s a song of praise. Or is it?

“The sun is up. I can’t believe it,
The night flew by. My little head is burning
From the summer dust scratching at my eyes.

Lean out the window, I’m hoping for rain,
That’s my posture these days.
Cool my burdens down, I can’t believe how hot it stays.

Some kind of solar conflagration
Shot down from the sky,
Slid under my skin,
And now the sun is burning me from the inside.”

Hmm what’s that song about? *Is* it a song of praise? Is the Sun God, or God’s love, or the actual sun?

Yes to all three. It is. Each is a metaphor for the other in a way.

And it’s a song about myself. And about heat and temperature, and, i think, manic-ness. Jitteriness, but wanting to be calm.

Here are the full lyrics:

“The sun is up. I can’t believe it,
The night flew by. My little head is burning
From the summer dust scratching at my eyes.

Lean out the window, I’m hoping for rain,
That’s my posture these days.
Cool my burdens down, I can’t believe how hot it stays.

Some kind of solar conflagration
Shot down from the sky,
Slid under my skin,
And now the sun is burning me from the inside.

“Get on up!” James Brown said.
I guess I will, it couldn’t hurt much.
Ooh, jump back—my skin’s too hot to touch.

If the world were ice cream,
We wouldn’t last long, would we?
We’d slip away—a spacey, sticky stream.

Some kind of solar conflagration
Shot down from the sky,
Slid under my skin,
And now the sun is burning me from the inside.

Jalapeño and Tabasco,
Have another habanero.
Taste the pain of fire in a fruit.

Outside it’s burning white and red
But hushed and grey-green in my head.
The breeze I dream, it blows me wet and cool.

Some kind of solar conflagration
Shot down from the sky,
Slid under my skin,
And now the sun is burning me,
And it’s the best thing I have felt in my whole life.
The sun is up and so am I.”

Those are some good lyrics I think. I’d like some other good ones to come my way. Maybe today.

Day 31 of 31

To live is to be annoyed, I guess. To be disappointed. People will let you down and you let yourself down the most for being let down.

How much better to be blithe and easy going and free.

I’m tense. I’m not usually tense but Im all wound up, balled up like aluminum foil crushed in on myself, like a little star.

I don’t know much about stars. My nephew was reading a popular physics book.

The universe is ever expanding forever. Into what? What holds the Universe? A Universe container. And what contains the container? And why is it always expanding?

There’s a truth. A truth and a good spot always overhead.

There’s a good place. Sometimes if I write and keep writing I can find the good place where something good comes.

I went for a bike ride today. I was working today, most of the day. Kind of a stressful project.

And I finished, and didn’t feel great about it, and went for a bike ride.

It’s Halloween. In my neighborhood they relly make a big deal about Halloween. NYPD comes and White cars sit at the end of the streeet to block the street.

And families come out. Little kids are dressed up. Lots of dinosaurs, superheros, harry potter, princesses, witches, pirates. Teenagers are dressed up, even adults are dressed up.

People are in a good mood. Shuttling kids to and fro, smiling. Cops are waving people by. I see the guns on the belt and feel a little uneasy.

Some houses are more popular than others. People are waiting in line to get into the good houses. The streets are jammed with people.

I have to walk my bike.

Then the street clears and I am able to ride, it’s fine. It’s getting dark so I don’t stay out too long.

I come back, and Robert, the guy who often hangs out in the garage, says the veil is the thinnest between the Spirit world and the material world today, on this day.

Hm ok.

I’m a bit dead, nothing’s working to break through, to get me to the good place. The place where good words and ideas come out.

That’s ok. I can be grateful. In AA they taught me to be grateful as a remedy for — pretty much everything (count your blessings).

Sometimes I just thank God for my fingers. I’ll look at each one and bend it and Thank God for it, and it does help. It puts me in a better place.

I had a crisis of confidence today. not sure why but I was looking at video of myself performing and was convincing myself I’m no good.

And I emailed a friend and said “Am I any good?” And he said “You are VERY Good.” True story.

So now, do I believe it, or not?

So many kids and parents. I saw a jellyfish. Someone dressed as a carton of milk. Looking for meaning to break through my crumpled tinfoil heart.

in AA they teach you to pray for the object of your resentment. I did this and I’m feeling better (pray for your enemies).

It’s a really good strategy. It’s hard to be mad at someone if you’re wishing good thing for them.

The fact is, the world is suffused with beauty and meaning. It’s a beautiful rich, glorious, shining world.

I’m impatient. That’s my problem. My writing is good if I treat it with respect and patience. If I don’t want to be doing something else, if I’m not balled up in anxiety.

It’s respectful to breathe, to practice gratitude, to let anxiety dispel, to let the richness of the world in so that you can in turn let it back out.

I’m a control freak. Once I went to a Christian recovery group. I was the only man. THere were women, and they all said they were adiicted to control. That was the first time I had heard that. One of them owned a pie shop. She was a ball of stress. She was learning to relinuish control.

Then the women broke into groups and I had to leave because they were going to share intimately, and being Christians, they paired the women with women and the men with men. And there were no other men. THe leader — the owner of the pie shop — asked me to leave, apologetically.

So I did, feeling a bit sorry for myself. But yeah, i like to be in control. I want to be wanted and I want to have things the way I like them. WHo doesn’t?

It’s beter for me to ask how may I be used. HOw may I be a blessing, how may I be poured out to help someone else.

I just read lyrics to a praise song that said “rid me of myself.” Ha. Good Calvinist praise song, that, but on the other hand, the Bible does talk about killing the old creature and becoming a new creation. That in fact all things will be made new. Are new. Old, becoming new, and already new at the same time.

I’m leaving New York. It’s finally decided. I just remembered going on a date with a former girlfriend, and we were in Corona queens, and there were some people playing Bocce, and we joined them for two games, and they welcomed us in. And then we went and had some ice. What to they call it? Snow cones? Shaved ice? I don’t know. And we walked forever. And it was summertime. I’m going to leave New York, and I’m not going to say goodbye to her, not because we’re not on good terms, but because it would be weird. Or what the hell, maybe I will. I will say goodbye to lots and lots of people.

People say “New York will always be there; you can come back.” They mean come back to live. Because of course I will come back to visit. But probably not to live. I fought so hard to stay here. Every year I fought and scrambled and scratched, until finally it wasn’t hard to stay here anymore.

And now I’m leaving.

Day 30 of 31 (Frosty)

In need of exultation, I exulted in a Frosty. Let me back up.

I started to walk by Wendy’s. It was a grey-white day in a grey-white month. Everything was the color of dry cement. It seemed like it might rain, or might not.

If it had rained everything would have been the color of wet cement.

In fact much of everything would indeed have been wet cement. But it didn’t rain. Everything was kind of in-between.

Everyone seemed like they thought about waking from a daze but then thought better of it.


I started to walk by Wendy’s but instead, feeling like I owed myself something — like the Universe owed me something, I walked in.

The Universe owed me a Frosty.

I had the means to make it happen.

There were about 5 people in line, and then an empty space in front of a cashier where it looked like another line might be. I asked the woman — a fellow customer — at the end of the line if there were two lines or just one. She held up 2 fingers.

But only one register looked open and I felt like talking. Sometimes, in a city of strangers hustling back and forth, you just feel like talking.

“I haven’t been in a Wendy’s in a long time” I said.

“Oh really,” the woman said, humoring me.

“I don’t know why” I said.

“Maybe because it’s so slow,” she said, indicating the line.

“No that’s not why,” I said, thinking that that would a strange reason to not visit a particular fast food restaurant chain. It might not be a good reason to visit *this* particular fast food restaurant though.

“I think I just don’t like Wendy’s,” I said. “Except for the Frosty.”

She gave me a friendly shrug.

I wanted to talk more but had pretty much used up that topic of conversation and was teetering on the edge between friendly stranger and strange stranger, so I walked to the front of the counter, where a woman who had previously been in conversation looked up and asked if she could take my order.

“Do you have a child-sized Frosty?” I asked.

She shook her head and said “Junior Frosty.”

“Oh Junior Frosty, then. Ok, I’ll have one of those.”

She nodded and went to the machine and filled up a little cup with frosty and then snapped a lid on it.

“I don’t want a lid,” I said, after it was too late.

I pictured Frostys of my youth, which ascended out of a bright yellow cup into a consummate swirl. That was when going to Wendy’s was a treat. I remember going to a Wendy’s in Durham, NC with my family after church. They had the old timey tables made to look like old newspapers, and they had old timey font everywhere, and a cash register that had a little chute where the change came out into a dish. That was back when square hamburgers really seemed like an innovation.

When she handed me the frosty she said, “Sorry, I didn’t catch what you said.”

“Oh, I didn’t want a lid,” I said.

“We have to put a lid on it,” she said. “It’s a rule.”

“Ok. It’s just nice if it has a –” And then I made a little upward-drawing motion with my hand to indicate a swirl.

“Yeah, I get it,” she said. “No swirls anymore. You have to have a lid.” “But here.” She handed me a coupon book.

“That’s good for five free Junior Frostys. You finish that frosty, come back and I’ll give you another one, on the house. In fact, I’ll give you free Junior Frostys all day if you want.”

This caused her to laugh, and several other people in the Wendy’s to laugh too. I laughed too, thanking her.

I put the coupons in my pocket. I took the lid off of my frosty, carefully, so I didn’t get my hand sticky. I put the spoon in. It was thick. I tasted it. It was sweet, cold, slightly granular in texture. Chocolate. It’s got a distinctive flavor. Wendy’s might have gone downhill, but they still have the frosty. Unchanged, tastes just like that Sunday after church in Durham.

I walked outside. It was still grey-white. The sky, the sidewalk, even the remains of my frosty were grey-white in the cup. I was grey-white too.

People were walking by in a daze. Hustling strangers, some going this way, some going that.

I threw away the cup and started walking.