From the Conundrum Diaries: “Don’t Talk to Strangers?”

2017-03-10 17.34.34Should I really let this stranger into my house and let him check out my apartment? On the one hand I need to find a new tenant, so yes, I probably should. On the other hand, this is a stranger I found on Craigslist. And my wife’s not here. And I don’t know where the kalashnikov is. And unfortunately I forgot to ask my Muay Thai fighting neighbor if she could be on call for this one, and storm in and knock him out if I need her. And I had a shitty week and I’m stressed out and I really shouldn’t make any important decisions right now.

I put the chain on the door and peek out, hoping that if I caught a glimpse of him, I could tell whether he’s a serial killer or not.

The elevator door opens and there he is!
He’s very tall, towering over little me behind my door. “But he’s also very skinny,” I think. “So that’s probably good.”

He looks at me and grins. “I brought wine to bribe you,” he says and holds up a paper bag. My hand automatically removes the chain from the door and I hear myself say, “I love you. Come on in.”

(Brooklyn, New York, USofA. March 2017.)

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From the Bagunça Diaries: “That Time When My Ass Caused a Raucous in the Park”

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I’m in the park, comfortably lying on a blanket in the grass, writing my diary and listening to music, when I suddenly hear distant yelling. “Take a picture of me!!” And “Hey, Miss! Miss!” I do what every New Yorker does when they’re faced with crazy yelling: act like you ignore it, but be aware and watch out. I turn off the music and observe from behind my sunglasses. I see a very angry and very sweaty dude coming towards me. He is yelling and wildly gesticulating at me but at the same time he seems to be talking to someone behind me. I turn and see a guy sitting in a straight line behind me in the grass (no blanket or anything), and he says: “He’s talking to you, Miss.” Now I have no choice but to look at the sweaty guy and acknowledge the crazy yelling. And there he is already, like a sweaty bulldozer, and he screams at the guy behind me: “Stop taking pictures of her ass!”

Aha, so that’s what’s happening here.

The alleged ass photographer defends himself with: “Are you crazy?” and “Check my phone if you don’t believe me!” But bulldozer won’t let it go. He keeps yelling at the photographer guy, towering over him, sweat and spit flying as he tells him off and calls him a pervert and creep.

Meanwhile I look back and forth between the two screamers like I’m at the US Open and think: “Oh, please stop yelling and please don’t kill each other”. (In the last few months I’ve had way too much time to catch up on Netflix series which all involved a great deal of violence in New York City: Daredevil, The Following, Jessica Jones … brutal!)

I am too surprised to react adequately. My first thought is “What do I care if my ass is this guy’s screensaver?” But that’s the wrong way of looking at it. I care about fools like him getting away with shit like that. I worry about fools like him taking it to the next level on another occasion, maybe a comment at first, then an innocent looking touch, than a grab, and before you know it you got yourself another Brock. So yes, I do care if my ass is this guy’s screensaver. At the moment though I’m confused and speechless, and I worry that these guys will get violent with me in the middle, so regrettably I don’t do what I should, which is to get up, check this guy’s phone, and tell him to fuck off.

The ass photographer finally starts his retreat, not without a tirade of name-calling where he calls the bulldozer a pervert (for his thoughts), a low-life, a broken man, an asshole, and worse. While the yelling and abusive language continues I’m not able to get my “Thank you” in and when there’s finally silence and bulldozer is back with his friend on the hill, I think it’s perhaps better this way. I try to gather my thoughts (now I have a whole new story to write in my diary after all!) when I suddenly hear him yell again from afar.
He comes back over and he angrily asks: “You aren’t even gonna thank me?!”
“Hell yeah, I meant to. But how could I when you two are going at it like this?”
He smiles, apparently relieved that I’m not an ungrateful bitch.
I say: “I appreciate you looking out for me, man,” and we shake hands. Now his friend, previously in underwear but currently dressed, comes over too and we chat and reminisce about the recent action.

Underwear-man watched the creepy photographer set himself up to take photos from an angle slightly below me on the hill. Now I get angry. I’m wearing my pajamas (yes, on a Saturday afternoon, it’s a long story), which consist of a loose fitting Nirvana t-shirt and loose black shorts – nothing crazy, nothing terribly revealing. And here is this man in his tight undies and he doesn’t have a creepy ass photographer positioned behind him now, does he? I’m in a public park in a free country and I shouldn’t have to worry about creeps following my pajama-d ass around.

Anyway, back to the reminiscing. Underwear-man is sunbathing when bulldozer-guy finishes his run and comes over to meet up with his buddy underwear-man.
“We watch people in the park, it’s what we do,” bulldozer explains to me. “There’s so many weird people around, you know?” Yes, I know. I watch them too, and then I write about them in my diary. “So I asked A., hey buddy, what’s new? And A. here tells me about this creepy guy that he’s been watching for a while.”
At that moment, creepy photographer, feeling the piercing looks on him, looked over his shoulder and spotted bulldozer and underwear-man, but it was already too late for him to get away with his crime because my ass-defender jumped into action right away.

While we’re talking about the recent events, another guy comes over and congratulates my guys on their good deed.
“When I saw you go at the guy I was like oh right, that’s what he’s doing! Now I put 2 and 2 together, y’know?”
And I’m the idiot with the ass who didn’t notice a goddamn thingy.

So that’s how my ass brought us all together. I finally learn their names (A. and C.) and a whole lot more about them. Turns out, underwear-man is dating a woman from Feldkirch (30 minutes from my hometown in Austria) who teaches at Cambridge and whom he’ll meet in Poland next week. What are the odds? And bulldozer-guy was married to a German woman for many years. Underwear-man works as a NYC tour guide and takes tourists around in the side-car of his motorbike. He also has a room for rent in Crown Heights which bulldozer guy praises and wants me to rent. That weirds me out a bit because all of a sudden everyone looks like a pervert-suspect to me. But they aren’t, they’re just being friendly, and when they finally say their good-byes I feel silly for doubting them. I take A.’s card and properly thank C. for the public shaming on my behalf.

Before they take off, bulldozer asks me: “So you come to the park often, B.?”
“Sure do!”
“Then I’ll see you around. I’ll be right over there!” He grins and points to the spot where the pervert had sat.
I laugh. “That’s perfect because that’s exactly where I need my bootyguard to be at all times!”

(Brooklyn, New York. September 2016.)

From the Workforce Diaries: “Word on the Street Part 2”

My favorite encounter was with the couple. Both in their mid-to-late forties maybe, both tall, she a curly blonde and he dark with horn rimmed glasses. They had just read the little note the event organizers had put up informing visitors that they may be photographed or videotaped.
The woman walked away quickly and yelled over her shoulder: “You see?! That’s what we get. I told you!”
“Hey, do you want to win a free trip to Vienna?” I called after her. She stopped, turned to me and said: “Oh no, that’s the last thing we need! A trip to Vienna!”
The man laughed, took her arm and tried to turn her away calmly.
Of course I needed to know how a trip to anywhere could be the last thing anyone needs.
“Why don’t you want to go to Vienna? It’s a free trip for two!”
“Because,” she threw her arms in the air, “we shouldn’t be seen together! And now we were probably on TV! Oh man.”
He smiled. “I’m sure it’s alright,” he told her.
She gave him a deadly look. “We cannot be seen together,” she said more emphatically, then she turned to me and said: “because we are cheating on our spouses right now. So like I said, Vienna is the last thing we need and we should definitely not go on a trip together!”
I shrugged. “It wouldn’t be a problem if you were seen together in Vienna. Nobody knows you there!”
He laughed and took my flyer. “I think she’s got a point!”
The woman snatched the flyer out of his hand and winked at me. “Thanks,” she said. “I’ll think about it.”

(Manhattan, New York, USofA. June 2016.)

From the Workforce Diaries: “Word on the Street Part 1”

Shortly before traveling to Europe, I worked a random promotion gig which – to my surprise – turned out to be one of the funniest and most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. My job was to stand in front of the Flatiron building next to an art piece depicting Freud and talk to passersby about Vienna. And that I did. Kinda.

“Freud had a beard,” the old man greeted me. “Did you know that?”
“Of course! Not as fantastic as yours though,” I said, truthfully. His was a cone of white wired hair down to his chest.
“That’s true. My wife hates it,” he added with an evil grin. “Would you take a picture of me with the statue?”
“Sure thing!”
“I have a real camera, hold on.” He dug it out of his pocket. “Wanna see the pictures I took?”
And there they were already, in my face.
“I take random pictures of things I see,” he explained.
“Yes, I see that,” I said, somewhat admiringly. “Is this a toilet?”
“Yeah, it was a really nice toilet. So I took a picture. It’s at Human Genome Project! Have you been there?”
“Nope, not yet. But it looks like I’m missing out.”
“See that one? It’s a cat! In a bush!” True story. 
“So,” I finally said. “Shall we take a picture of you and your beard with Freud and his beard then?”
“Let’s do it.”

“I’ve been to Vienna,” said a grumpy man.
“So go back!”
“No.”
Silence.
What could I say to that?
“No?” I finally said. “Just no? C’mon!”
“I was a roadie for 30 years. I’ve been everywhere with Led Zeppelin and others. And now I don’t want to travel anywhere anymore.”
Fair enough. I gave up on the Vienna pitch and asked him about his time on the road instead. I managed to squeeze a couple of roadie stories out of his grumpy but very likeable character. And then I asked him the most obvious question: “Thirty years of traveling. How the hell did you stop?”
He gave me a pained smile. “It was hard. My mind didn’t want to admit when it was time to stop. But the body speaks for itself.”

(Manhattan, New York, USofA. June 2016.)

From the Dating Research Diaries: “The Irresistibility of Disinterest”

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He said he wore his pinkest shirt for me. I replied that I took a shower. We were both pleased with each other’s efforts. Good start.

I wasn’t interested in him, but the way he had asked me out was refreshingly direct and I thought I should reward that with a yes and thereby encourage him to keep “this” up for future dates. I also figured that I could use the practice, I’m a dating-disaster after all. So here we were, showered and pink, drinks in front of us, ready.

He was Italian and he told me that he made most of his money with photos of rich people’s horses. I wanted to see that of course and so he did a slide show on his phone for me.
“This one has looks like a spooky clown’s face!”
“And this one is dirty, don’t people wash their horses? They wash dogs.”
“This one looks like a mule, are you sure it’s a horse?”
“Ha! This one looks like it escaped from the Hofreitschule in Vienna!”

“You should be a critic!” he said. That’s when I realized that I had critiqued his artsy photos like someone who’s taking a Rorschach test (you know, the psychology test with the symmetric blotches).
He said: “Now I understand why Shutterstock hired you,” and I had to laugh. I apologized for what may have come across like harsh words and assured him that I liked the photos of the spooky dirty mules a lot.

He told me he once did a documentary on cocaine production in Bolivia and that he made a kilo together with the producers, for research purposes. Then he told me something about his psychedelic “cowsin” and I didn’t pay attention to the story because I kept waiting for him to say “cowsin” again. (I’m a nerd, pronunciation amuses me.)

Then he told me how much he loved Florida and that he spent the last winter there. When I attempted to tell him about my recent Florida road trip he cut me off mid-sentence and asked if I’d played golf there.
“What the fuck?”
“It’s cheap.” He said.
“So? It’s boring. I did only fun stuffs in Miami!” I replied.
He said he played golf when he was stoned and wore an African dress. I had to admit that it sounded more interesting that way. But golf is golf and golf is blöd and I was annoyed by his constant interruptions.

I decided to leave as soon as I would finish my whiskey. Sometimes whiskey gives me ingenious spontaneous ideas though and apparently that night was one of those nights because I came up with the best business idea in the history of horse photography. (The details are proprietary and will not be published in this blog.) The man was excited and impressed by my entrepreneurial genius, but somehow he interrupted me again, this time to tell me I was beautiful, and I thought: “No matter what you tell me when you interrupt me, if you do it again I will punch you in the nuts, you motherfucker.”

I didn’t say that – because that would be incredibly rude. Instead I told him that I went out with him to reward him for his super direct date-invitation-approach even though I didn’t think I liked him very much and that this feeling got confirmed tonight, especially given that he hadn’t listened to anything I said all night (except for the brilliant business idea) and that he clearly didn’t care for anything I had to say about anything (besides the brilliant business idea), and I also told him that I enjoyed interviewing him and listening to his strange stories, but that I won’t see him again (except for the business idea maybe which was simply too brilliant to not follow through with).

And that’s when he leaped across the table and kissed me.
I jumped up and yelled: “Hell no!” It was nuts: the very moment I had switched gears into complete straightforwardness he got hooked?! All of a sudden he loved me and now he wanted to spend every single day with me for the rest of the summer, before he returns to Italy. He was fascinated and delighted; he said he loved that I was so candid and brutal and funny and crazy. He beamed when he said “che cazzo di tipa” (I responded that I do speak enough Italian to understand transgender insult-compliments) and then he said he just had to see me the next day. I was glad I had a good (and even true) excuse: I couldn’t because I had a friend in town until Saturday.
“Sunday then!” He said.
“No, on Sunday I will sleep in, for a fucking change.”
His response was that I should come to his house for a nap on Sunday.
“So what part of I’m not into you and I am not gonna sleep with you didn’t you understand?”
“It’s alright!” he screamed. “I’ll read a book and you take a nap at my house.”
Fucking weird. And also oddly familiar. “Oh please don’t tell me you read self-help psychology books on your kindle!” I cried, remembering an unromantic situation from not too long ago.
“What?! No way. I read books, made of paper. On art!” He protested. Better. But still. Weird. And no, I wasn’t planning to go to a stranger’s house for a nap on Sunday.

Then he wanted to walk me home. “No thanks,” I said. “You don’t even know your own neighborhood! Trust me, you will just get lost and mugged here. And anyway, I walk much faster without you.”
He called me “stronza,” but he did it with an endearing smile, and then he dreamily said: “You’re gonna be a mess in my life.”
“You got the bagunça part right,” I thought. “But I’m not going to be anything in your life, don’t you worry.”

I took off and was around the block before he could even cross the street. When I got to my apartment I received this text:

This is a surprised human talking. I like this a lot. More maybe. Sunday is napping day. I like you and your paranormal brain.

The impression that bagunça can make on a boy. Fascinating … and also terrifying.

 

(Brooklyn, USofA. June, 2016.)

From the Squirrel Diaries: “The Tale of Nemesis”

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Once upon a time I lived with my two beautiful wives in a 4th floor walk-up in Crown Heights. Our apartment was tiny and the landlord was an asshole, but we had a nice roof terrace, the stairs kept our butts tight, and we loved one other so the dwelling on top of each other suited us just fine. My teeny-tiny room could fit only my bed; there wasn’t even enough space for two people to pass each other. But I had access to our fire escape and I used it frequently for sitting and wondering (and smoking and drinking and crying and laughing and kissing and talking and pretty much for anything else that happened in my life at the time). Outside my window was a big tree and in that tree lived a fat squirrel. Every New Yorker knows that squirrels are actually rats. I prefer rats because rats are ugly and nasty but at least they are honest and they don’t wear ridiculous disguises. Squirrels are assholes because they hide behind their cute bushy tails.

In case you haven’t guessed it already, my neighbor the squirrel and I didn’t like each other from the beginning. Over time our relationship deteriorated steadily – until it culminated into a full blown war. This is the story of our war and for the purpose of this tale I shall refer to the asshole squirrel by its name from now on: Nemesis.

Nemesis frequently visited my fire escape and hung out there. (I was at work most of the time so I can’t tell you for sure what he was doing there – smoking, kissing, laughing?) Nemesis also loved visiting the fire escape in the middle of the night. Then he’d roam around and wake me up making these odd clicking noises (it sounds a bit like Rocio when she has a laughing fit in an Uber car driven by Santiago), or with his weird alarm-like squeaky noises that I hated so much (like this asshole here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8b-2TFrx3fg).

One sunny day in early Spring I was sitting on the fire escape with my coffee and my cigarette when I suddenly spotted Nemesis chasing after a squirrel lady. He was beside himself with passion and couldn’t see straight. But the squirrel chick wasn’t into him (no wonder, clumsy asshole that he was). With a slick maneuver she distracted him, jumped off the tree and onto the fence of the building next door – and just like that she was gone. Nemesis never knew what happened; he kept running in circles like a fool, looking for her everywhere. I laughed like Nelson from the Simpsons and yelled: “Haha, asshole squirrel! You idiot!” Nemesis stopped his crazy circle dance, turned and stared at me for an uncomfortably long moment. But I am tough and I held his stare defiantly. “What? You think I don’t know who you are? Your bushy tail can’t fool me, asshole.” I flicked my cigarette butt towards him and went back inside, still chuckling at the memory of his ridiculous mating performance.

That night I realized that through my actions I had declared war on Nemesis. I woke up to spooky noises and heavy breathing behind the window screen. At first I thought there was an intruder outside my window who’d climbed onto the fire escape from the roof top! (That had actually happened once, on a summer night when the crazy Australian got high and felt romantic and decided to climb over the roof and through my window. Thank God I don’t know where my wife keeps her kalashnikov, otherwise I probably would have shot him that night.)

Anyway. I was panicky and couldn’t move at first. I finally took a deep breath, opened one eye … and screamed in horror. There was a huge shadow of a creature with widely spread arms and legs on my wall! When I slowly turned my head towards the window, I saw a smaller version of that same creature and it was smashing itself against my screen. The creature was Nemesis, of course, and he’d come for revenge. “Fuck off, asshole!” I screamed as I leapt towards the window and shut it close. I swear I could hear him chuckle through the closed window and I could see his breath against the glass. “Fuckhead!” I mumbled and went back to bed.

The next day I went to work, as usual, and when I got home I poured myself half a pint of vodka, as usual. With the vodka in one hand and the cigarette behind my ear I opened my window to climb out for an after-work “breather”. I immediately felt his eyes on me. I stopped and looked around and there he was, on the roof across from me, motionless. “What did you do now, asshole?” I yelled. Something was up, I could sense it. But I still saw it too late. I had my head and one leg out of the window, my butt and other leg were still inside, the vodka glass hand was still inside too. But I had planted my other hand flatly onto a pile of squirrel shit pellets. “Motherfucker,” I hissed.

Nemesis clicked contentedly. Then he turned his bushy butt towards me and took off.

(Brooklyn, USofA. Spring 2012. Original mug shots of Nemesis from my “Asshole Squirrel” Album.)

My Oma

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I came from a job interview and was on my way to meet a friend for drinks in TriBeCa when I received my mom’s text this afternoon. I was running across a busy intersection in Midtown towards Grand Central Station, glanced at my broken phone screen and then stopped mid-stride, right in the middle of the crosswalk. It was like a movie scene: people in suits sidestepped me, an ambulance with a blaring siren passed me, and finally a honking car and a menacingly blinking pedestrian light woke me up from my daze and I ran to the other side of Third Avenue just before rush hour traffic started moving again. My Oma is dead. Not surprising, given her age and condition lately. And still, somehow I wasn’t prepared for it at all. I stood there like an idiot for a minute. And then I saw someone entering St. Agnes Church in front of me and without hesitating I followed them inside. It was Tuesday, shortly after 5pm, and there was a service going on. I took a seat in the last row and while the priest and the congregation sang, I took a deep breath and tried to make sense of it all.

Immediately two memories of her popped into my head. The first was the last time I really laughed with her. It was the Christmas right after I met Brien in Guatemala, the last Christmas I spent in Austria before moving to New York. She visited us on Christmas Eve and I taught her and the rest of my family how to play Shithead. We drank too much wine and played Shithead all night long. She had a hell of a good time. So did I. I laughed so much, I had tears streaming down my face and my belly hurt the next day.

The second memory was so old, it felt like a dream at first. It was of her and a very little (5- or 6-year old) me in my parents’ bed. I think it was during the time when my Mama was in the hospital for surgery. My Oma stayed at our house to take care of me and at night we slept in my parents’ bed and I listened to her snoring. It was very loud and it sounded exactly like my dad’s snoring. I was too little to know about genetics or anything like that, but I remember clearly lying awake and listening to her breathe and snore and thinking how funny it was that Oma sounded JUST like Papa, right before I fell asleep.

My Oma didn’t make life easy for herself or for the people around her during those last few years of her life. It was a difficult decision for me not to visit her the last time I was in Austria and when I made it I was aware of the consequences in the event that something should happen to her. It deeply saddens me to know that my Oma was not a happy person and how hard that must’ve been for her. But perhaps those two memories that popped into my head this afternoon in St. Agnes were among those that went through her head when she remembered her life before she passed. I hope so. They’re all that matters, after all, those happy moments.

(Brooklyn, New York. June 2016.)

From the Travel Library: “Lone”

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<< Rather like the process of life itself, lone travellers like to think they are on some kind of grand mission that only they understand. It’s where my mind goes while I am between point A and point B that often excites me more than my destination.

Paul Theroux recently said in an interview for the Guardian that travelling is best done alone. There are certainly no more compelling travelling companions than the inescapable thoughts and feelings of your own soul. Travel with a friend and his or her presence secludes you from the way your brain delves into itself when you are in an unfamiliar place and wholly alone. When you travel alone your identity slips away, especially if you do it slowly and go a long way. You speak very little, which in itself is quite meditative. Your thoughts are free to roam into the often-neglected parts of yourself. The transition can be uneasy at first, but soon there is great comfort in what is lost. >>

From The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran

(Brooklyn, New York, USofA. April 2016. Photo: Koh Chang Noi, Thailand. December 2015.)

From the Brooklyn Diaries: “Coffee and Suicide”

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A man was sitting on the leather couch by the door when I walked into the coffee shop. There was something about the way the barista glanced at him when I ordered my coffee that made me look at him a bit more closely. Hard to tell his age; he was a thick middle-aged man, black, with a friendly but very sad face and shortly trimmed curly hair with a little grey in it. He wore a thin black string around his neck, which I didn’t notice at first, not until he declared that he intended to strangle himself today. Ah. That explained the barista’s nervous glances. “Please don’t say that, sir,” she said in a way that suggested this was not the first time she’d told him today. And the way she looked out of the window suggested that she was waiting for help.

After his short (and not unfriendly) outburst the man sat back down and waited quietly. I chose a free seat by the window, placed my coffee next to my laptop and waited, too. I’d come here to finally start working on my resume. Less distractions than at home … or so I thought.

Every now and then the man on the couch said “Imma do it.” Then we guests or the baristas said “No, please don’t.” And then he was silent again for a while. It was sad, and it was also very bizarre. There was a weird black humor in this situation: how we all just sat there together, the suicidal neighbor and us, the coffee shop crowd, and how we drank our coffees, and how we worked on our laptops, and how every now and then someone would tell the man with the string around his neck that he really shouldn’t strangle himself today.

“That’s no life. I’m gonna kill myself. Yes, today I’m gonna strangle myself,” the man said and shook his head. It sounded more like a question. “Don’t say such things, man,” said the other barista while he poured a $5 soy latte for a new guest.

A short while later a police car pulled up in front of my window and two cops entered the coffee shop.
“Did you come for me?” The suicidal man cried.
He didn’t sound angry at all; he sounded rather delighted actually.
“Are you guys from the 71st precinct?”
The cops mumbled something, then repeated their request that he step outside.
“No? 56th precinct then? Thank God you’re not from the 71st precinct, man! The 71st precinct is the worst!”
That made me smile. A connoisseur!, I thought when I watched him leave the coffee shop.

Outside the man put his hands up against the wall while the cops searched him briefly for weapons. One of them gently removed the string from the man’s neck and put it in his pocket.

Wow, what a shitty job. We are all quick to criticize and show our aversion when it comes to the police – and no doubt the awful examples of racial profiling, violence, strip searches, corruption, and of course the terrible shootings across the country (and the world, for that matter) are numerous, unacceptable and heartbreaking. But I actually never gave much thought to those cops who aren’t sadistic assholes but just normal guys trying to do their job. The women and men who get called to a scene and respond, never knowing what they will be confronted with – violence, death, mental illness. The balls. It’s nuts if you think about it. They have to to be shrinks, social workers, first responders, and somewhere on the side we want them to be humans too. Nice humans. With an incredibly ungrateful and low paying job. How do they not walk around with a string around their neck every day? I wondered. And then I thought that perhaps our friend here used to be a cop too? And that’s how he knew the 71st precinct so well?

A second police car pulled up and two more cops joined the party on the sidewalk. As everyone was talking outside, a strangely soothing thought crossed my mind. Maybe, just maybe, this sad man here was Brooklyn’s biggest concern on this sunny Wednesday morning in spring, perhaps even the world’s most pressing concern, and no serious crimes or accidents or wars or natural catastrophes or other adversity needed the police’s attention at this very moment. I dwelled on that thought for a while, stirring my cold coffee.

A few minutes after the cops an ambulance arrived. Two medical staff approached the man, talked to him, and then calmly and quietly led him to the vehicle and drove him away. The cops left right after. I hoped that the place they were taking the man to would be a much happier place than the couch where he just sat.

I turned to look around. There were at least 15 people in the shop with me, all in their early twenties to mid thirties, all either staring at a screen of some sort or writing on notepads, all sipping overpriced coffee, all engrossed in their stuffs with very limited, if any, interaction with each other. Is it just me, or is normalcy weird as hell?

 

(Brooklyn, New York, USofA. April 2016.)

From the Dance Floor Diaries: “Paris”

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He: Have you been to Paris?
That’s a weird small talk question in this situation. Unless he has a private jet waiting at the Williamsburg bridge. Oh wow, will I fly to Paris with a stranger tonight?
Me: No. Why?
He: You’d love it.
Ever since his body appeared next to mine on the dance floor we have exchanged a total of 11 words and I’m pretty sure he already forgot my name, which was one of the 11 words. But he knows that I would love Paris?
Me: What is there to see in Paris?
He: The Eiffel Tower. It’s pretty cool.
Me: Okay. Oh yeah, that one. Duh. What else?
He: The Louvre. He pronounces it “Louff”. A lot of, like, art, you know. It’s awesome.
Me: Hmm. We’ve got that here too, no?
He: Yeah, maybe you’re right. But I grew up in the city, you know. It’s different.
No, I don’t think he has a private jet waiting for us. Man, what a strange dance floor conversation this is. I struggle to keep it going. Mostly because I don’t want to keep it going. Where are my friends anyway??
Me: I don’t know, I always thought the Louvre is probably a lot like the Met.
He: I’ve never been to the Met.
Me: Oh. Okay.
He: Have you been to the Natural History Museum?
Such an intellectual dance floor conversation. Wow. Seriously – where did my wife go? Why is she never here when I need her?!
Me: Yeah.
He: They have a Tyrannosaurus Rex?
It sounds like a question and I feel obliged to answer.
Me: Yeah.
He: I mean it’s just like a bunch of bones, you know what I mean? Like, really old bones.
Oh my.
Alright, time to wrap this up.
Me: Look Aaron, you’re sweet and your arms are nice and all.
He looks down at his arms and then gives me a puzzled look. The exchange of the previous 11 words didn’t include an arm fetish confession. Surprisingly.
Me: Thanks for dancing with me but this (quick motion of hand between both our chests) ain’t happening and hey, it’s 3am so if you wanna get lucky tonight you should really move on now. You know, before they turn on the lights and kick us out.
He: Oh. Aight.
The puzzled look is still there.
He begins to walk away but then he turns and says:
Hey, thanks for the heads up.
It doesn’t sound sarcastic.
Me: Sure, man. No problem.
I walk up to the platform for an overview, I still haven’t found my friends. Suddenly there’s an arm around my hip. I turn and it’s Aaron.
He: Hey. Do you wanna dance?
WTF! Did he forget me already? It’s been what, 90 seconds?!
He: I mean, I know what you said and that’s cool. But I still wanna dance with you.
They’re playing a Biggie Smalls classic. Of course I wanna dance.
Me: As long as we’re clear, sure!
He: We are clear! He salutes me, hand on his forehead. 
We start dancing and this time it’s a lot more fun than the first time around. I remember our Tyrannosaurus Rex conversation and have to laugh.
He: What?
Me: Oh nothing. So Paris, huh? I think you’re right, I’d probably love it.

(Brooklyn, New York, USofA. April 2016.)