Monday, January 01, 2018

Unforgiving Years

Best book I read: A Dark Matter
Best book I translated, amateurishly: Four Years in the South Orkneys
Best movie I saw in a theater: Get Out. No contest.
Best movie I saw not in a theater: 12 Years a Slave. I really liked Mad Tiger, too.
Best album: Hmmm. I don't know. In the Dead Of Night, maybe? Or maybe The Incessant.
Best song: EMT Police and the Fire Department, easily. But Guts was real good, too.
Best cover: Don't Change
Best show I went to: A Giant Dog at Rough Trade. But Downtown Boys at Saint Vitus was pretty much ethereal, too. Not to mention Sleaford Mods at Warsaw.
Best podcat: Your Kickstarter Sucks
Best television show: GLOW. But American Vandal was pretty good, too. And so was Dark.
Best board game: Betrayal At House On The Hill

A lot of it was bad. The feeling of a wave function collapsing. The stars winking out, like someone spoke the nine billion names of God.

But of course that's just a feeling. And the year was so full of material comforts that it's pretty ridiculous for me to complain about anything. So I worked doggedly on projects: I released a big new version of my software. I completed a final edit on the José Manuel Moneta translation I'd been low-key working on for the past two years, then laid it out and printed up the smallest number of physical copies possible. I'm pretty sure I have no right to distribute them, but let me know anyway if you want one.

Beyond all of that, though I devoted myself to left-wing politics. Motivated by anger and fear and quite possibly this specific Rob Delaney tweet: ...I joined the Democratic Socialists of America. At first, I couldn't see what work there was to be done. Clint and I went to a stifling meeting at Mayday Space on a damp, chilly night at the beginning of December last year - maybe two hundred people sweating shoulder-to-shoulder in the big studio on the third floor; all three air conditioners engaged - and listened to report-backs from well-meaning organizers who seemed pretty overwhelmed by the crowd of angry, eager new members. "Of course they have no idea what to do with us," said Clint on the walk back to the L. "They've been losing for decades."

And the general weakness of the Left was certainly a reason I'd stayed away from political organizations before. I have only the flimsiest grasp of political concepts - really only what I've picked up from Handsome Caveman and Twitter - and I'm so dominated by aesthetics and emotion and my own vanity that losing always felt like too bitter a pill to swallow. I mean I can't even play competitive board games.

But I started sorting and mailing membership cards and merch from the DSA national office across the street from the Federal Reserve. I went out to knock on doors, first in Bay Ridge for DSA's field operation for the Khader El-Yateem campaign for city council, then for DSA's campaign for Jabari Brisport - something I hadn't done since 2004 and never imagined I would actually look forward to. And I found that I wanted to work hard for the people emerging as leaders within the local organization because they were universally smart and hard-working. (Crucially, they were almost universally kind and funny, too.) The aspect of left-wing organizing that had always filled me with hopelessness was that way in which you seemed to wind up - metaphorically or literally - sitting around the table in the freezing kitchen of an off-campus house, arguing over who's gonna do the dishes. I reckon that's still there. But I've decided that not only is there a straight-up moral obligation to organize and do this work, it's also the only thing I'm actually excited about right now. And I've started to think that we can win.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I'm breaking radio silence to note that Kitty has died. I think she was about eighteen years old. She was sick. We had the vet come to our apartment to put her to sleep.

I thought I should set down a few details about her. (What did Don used to say about web-logging? A self-important bulkwark against my own poor memory.)

Mer and I adopted Kitty from Bideawee at the end of 2003. I remember Mer saying she wanted a gray kitten, but the woman at the shelter &em; small, pale, long hair; I remember her wearing a too-big t-shirt &em; pleaded with us to take an older cat. She consulted a wall of cages. One half of the room was a free-range play area behind a pane of glass. I asked why only some of the cats got to go in the play area. "That's for the bad kitties," I remember her saying. I know, it doesn't make any sense. It drives Nina crazy because she can't square it &em; why would the bad kitties get to play in there? But that's how I remember it.

I don't know how many cats we "interviewed" in the small exam room, but Kitty was the first one that really responded to us. They told us she was five years old, that her name was Mimi, and that she'd been abandoned by her owner when he'd moved in with a woman who already had cats. She'd been left at the shelter with her sister, but the sister had been adopted separately. It was clear that she'd had kittens at some point. They told us her stomach has been shaved for a medical procedure, which turned out not to be the whole story &em; she licked that area obsessively for the next eight years or so, despite our interventions with scolding, ointments, and even an expensive regimen of histamine injections to cure any allergies she might have. None of it worked. She licked herself 'til she bled, and then one day she just stopped.

When we first brought Kitty home, she ran out of the carrier and hid in our narrow beroom under the crummy, impractical work desk I'd bought at the Fulton Mall. But when we went to bed that night, she came out and wanted to get in bed with us. She had shit in her fur from not taking care of herself, so we wouldn't let her in the bed until she took a bath.

I fed her Friskies, which made her fat at first. The salmon flavor turned her poop pink, so I told myself that she preferred "beef and liver entree" instead.

She tried to drink from the toilet. We were surprised by that.

She ate waterbugs when they showed up in the kitchen or bathroom, crunching them enthusiastically, and often leaving a serrated leg behind &em; as, what, an offering? There were never that many mice in any of the apartments I lived in, though she killed a couple in the place on 12th Street, depositing one in the leg of a pair of jeans I'd left puddled on the living room floor.

When we got bed bugs and had to box up all our stuff into a kind of Tupperware box fort that we lived in for a year, Kitty got depressed. She'd spend all day in bed, only getting up to eat and use the litter box. It was Nina who brought her out of it, coaxing her with daily play and catnip. When we had to have the apartment fumigated, Chris picked me and Kitty up in his dad's car and drove us to his apartment in Murray Hill, where she stayed for several days. I remember driving through Chinatown, Chris yelling about the traffic, Kitty purring loudly from her carrier wedged between the driver's and passenger's seats. She liked boys' voices, we think.

She went through a period of a year or so when she wanted to lick us all the time. She licked my feet in the morning when I woke up. When we would pet her in our laps or in her bed, she would signal that she'd had enough by licking our hands. She licked the arms of guests, especially if they were boys, especially if they had hairy arms.

As she got older, got sicker, there was medicine we had to give her, and she had to keep to a special diet to ease the burden on her kidneys, which were failing. I'd planned for some kind of liberated moment near the end, when we'd tear up the rules and feed her a whole order of chirashi. But the terrible irony was, of course, that once it was clear she was dying, she didn't want to eat anything. We brought her baby food, tuna, a roast chicken, chicken broth, whole yogurt, herring, Fancy Feast, cat food medically engineered to be appetizing, cheese, butter; but she was too sick for any of it. We gave her saline injections under her skin to keep her hydrated, but there was something wrong with her bladder, too, and the injections just seemed to make her swell up and get heavier, and towards the very end, she couldn't even walk across the room without taking breaks to rest. As the visiting doctor from Animal Kind gave her the preliminary sedative, I bent down and whispered to Kitty, "You did such a good job."

Why did I wait? Why did I wait?

I'd spent the final few nights next to her on the couch, the sofa-bed extension halfway pulled out to serve as a step in case she needed to get somewhere in the middle of the night, since she couldn't really jump any more. The very last night, Nina woke up to go to the bathroom, and heard the characteristic thump of Kitty hitting the floor. She came out to the living room to check on us, and once I'd woken up, we searched the apartment for Kitty. Had she gone into the closet to die, like it seemed like she'd been trying to do? Had she squeezed her way under a bureau? We finally found her in the bedroom, where she'd dragged her way to the foot of the bed. I scooped her up and we got under the covers with her like we'd been doing for years, and we all passed the early morning together. She wasn't purring any more at the point, but it was nice for us, at least.

That might be enough to say about that. When I gave Chris the news, he said, "Kitty was a good little friend." It's true; they really become your friends. It's not fair.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Let Me See The Future

The less said about it, the better. But:

Best book I read: They were all very good. Remembrance of Earth's Past, maybe.
Best movie I saw in a theater: Green Room. No contest.
Best movie I saw not in a theater: A Separation.
Best album: Pile. But WORRY was very good, too.
Best song: Sex & Drugs. But Festival Song was very, very good. And Nobody Speak was also very good.
Best show I went to: A Giant Dog at Cake Shop (5/26).
Best podcasts for boys: Hollywood Handbook and The Trap.

We dropped by Cake Shop early on the 31st to wave goodbye, but it didn't seem much different than any other night there: Sparse crowd, inauspicious booking. Maybe why they're closing up shop. I was tempted to nab a t-shirt but didn't after I saw the designs. This notwithstanding, Cake Shop has consistently been a great place to see a show, play a show, have a drink, take a shit, buy a record, screen a movie; simultaneously edgy and comfy. Several of the best moments of my life took place in that sloping basement room.

I'd only found out about its closure the week before, and by that point we'd already made plans to go to out to Sunnyvale to catch an early Peelander-Z show, with Ken Minami's new band Toranavox opening. They're (Toranavox) still a two-piece, a white dude with a couple of dreads taking over drumming and yelling duties from Adam Amram. Ken still manages to evoke the sound of several different guitars all at once, although he's traded in his acoustic for a sparkling, blood-colored Strat. His stage act is several notches fiercer, too. He stalked up and down the stage, his topknot bobbing like a rooster's comb, shaking his fist at the crowd and apparently inviting individual members of the audience up on stage to fight him. He gradually shed his kimono to reveal a skeletal, Stickles-esque physique.

It's been a while since I've seen the crew from the Z area. Maybe it was the weirdness inherent to the gig - they had to hustle offstage at 10:30 sharp to make way for the late show, some NYE hair-gel DJ - but Peelander-Z's set now seems much more focused on party / audience participation bits than on, you know, funny pop punk songs. This was the first time I'd seen them, for example, that they didn't play Ninja High Schooool. Not a complaint, really; after all, per Kengo, the band is 90 percent theater and 10 percent music. And they're so, so good at the theater. I laughed and gawped the whole time. This was also the first time I'd seen Peelander Purple, who's got a super dope, like, rhinocerine costume. Afterwards we idly considered inviting them to Pumps, visible on the eastern horizon beyond the BP station, but we had to beat feet to Bed-Stuy to hit up our friends-of-friends Frank and Nelly's house party.

(Side note: Is Sunnyvale Kotaro Tsukada's bar??)

Beau and Sam and many of the Kellys and other nice adults were there, and the hosts had supplied "cookie candy salad" and chips and things, and Eileen had baked an honest-to-god strawberry pie. I drank champagne but not much else, having decided to try a (mostly) sober New Year's Eve after getting way too fucked up at Thursday karaoke at Insa and finding myself hollering out the words to Rake At The Gates Of Hell as I tottered alone down 3rd Ave. to a few queasy hours of sleep before work on Friday. Yoga played Mase on the Spotify and Suze and Frank "danced me" on the couch, pulling my arms and legs like I was a sleepy marionette.

No resolutions, per se. But Sam is retiring the iOS "funny ghost" emoji; Beau is ditching Pusheen, even though he's just acquired the official onesie. I'm going to try to do likewise. As Rilke said, You Must Change Your Brand.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Best Of 2015

Hello! Best book I read: The Handmaid's Tale, finally
Best movie I saw in a theater: Mad Max: Furiosa! But It Follows was very, very good, too.
Best movie I saw not in a theater: Take Shelter
Best album: To Pimp a Butterfly. But The Most Lamentable Tragedy was very good, too.
Best show I went to: It's hard to remember shows when I'm not describing them in obsessive detail! Speedy Ortiz at Saint Vitus Bar (August 31st) was pretty good.
Best show I performed at: Pepperoni at holy shit Shea Stadium.
Best veggie burger: Shack Veggie Burger, Pickle Shack.
Best podcast I was on: Chab City.
Best podcast I wasn't on: The Black Tapes.
Best worst movie: Joysticks. But Evilspeak and Bulletproof (aka Butthorn) were also straight-up garbage.
Best reason to listen to WFMU: Dr. Gameshow, on which Jo Firestone - sounding like she's always on the verge of a panic attack - attempts to corral a crew of guest stoners as they play through listener-submitted gameshow ideas.

I took the year off from writing about myself. I reckon my hiatus began as I was poised to give the blog an update to its look and feel, and wondered what its next incarnation should be. Should I pack it up and move it to Tumblr? Roll my own thing? What were the kids doing. A survey of self-documentarians proved thoroughly demoralizing, though: Such idle, solipsistic chit-chat from such desperate, desperately boring people. I didn't feel like I had more of anything interesting to say.

It was also around this time that Beau invited me and Nina to "FloChan," a sort of chat room as implemented over Facebook comment threads, and populated with a crowd of sweet, earnest weirdos drawn from the "Anti-folk" music scene that accumulates around the Sidewalk Cafe on 6th and A, and its weekly open mic nights. I got quite addicted to FloChan in its digital form, bringing my phone to bed to chat with my new friends, and in its corporeal manifestation in the backroom and basement of Sidewalk.

And it was through FloChan (and Beau) that I met Ray Brown, for whom I've been playing drums periodically. Our act, which also includes Charles Mansfield, is called Pepperoni, after the name that our friend Joanna gave Kitty on a pet-renaming spree. The songs are drawn from Ray's catalog of solo material, re-arranged as brisk 80's hardcore. (Because that's what I can play.) It works pretty well! Ray is good friends with John Hall, the lead singer of King Missile (whose "Detachable Penis" played in heavy rotation on Z100 in 1993 coincided with my awakening to popular music) who are performing together again after some years. Ray and John conspird to get Pepperoni onto a King Missile bill at Shea Stadium a week before Christmas this year. Which is how I found myself stashing gear in the green room and sitting behind the drum kit in the House of Reisch & Levine, things I never thought I'd ever get to do in this lifetime. Sure, I was in a state of crawling panic right up until the final half-note, but other than that it was bliss. Nina wrote her name on the wall in the back. Eric Harm mixed us and filled the booth with smoke.

What else?

I mean, the year was filled with pleasure and distress as usual; weddings, trips, projects, incremental achievements. More nice things and friendly people than I deserve. I went to Poland on business; Seattle and Pennsylvania for little vacations.

Kitty is, improbably, still alive.

Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Of 2014

Best book I read: The Savage Detectives
Best book I turfed out on finishing: The Gulag Archipelago (at Volume 2)
Best movie I saw in a theater: Obvious Child
Best movie I saw not in a theater: The Host
Best album: Run the Jewels 2, Run the Jewels. But Lost In The Dream (The War On Drugs) was pretty good, too.
Best show I went to: Deltron at Celebrate Brooklyn, July 19th. Runner-up: Buzzcocks with Titus Andronicus at Webster Hall, Sept. 6th; observed through the dressing room window with Jo-Jo and Jo-Jo's mother.
Best veggie burger: Falafel burger, Thistle Hill Tavern
Best brunch: Nah, fuck brunch
Best podcast I was on: The Breakfast Quest
Best podcast I wasn't on: Welcome To Night Vale
Best nut: Cashew
Best worst movie: Foodfight!, possibly the only outright evil movie our team has ever watched. Runner up: The Vineyard
Best thorn in the side of clickbait capitalism: @SavedYouAClick
Best weird Twitter: @dogboner
Best Twitter: @RandyIsDaMan

We visited Emma and Jay on New Year's Eve. They'd made spaghetti and meatballs, and we sat for a while and watched Terry Crews and Ken Marino get drunk in Times Square before cutting the TV over to a movie, Roger Corman's Attack Of The Crab Monsters. The crab monsters took their sweet time making an appearance; most of the tension came from the love triangle between Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, and Russell Johnson ("Hank Chapman"). Pearl the ancient dog snored in her bed near the screen.

We didn't wait for the claws. We left Bridge St. at 11:30 and jumped on the train to Classon Ave. to check out the final blasting of the Pratt steam whistles, due at midnight sharp. Mr. Milster, the Chief Engineer at Pratt (guess he runs the physical plant) was blowing the whistles for the very last time. ...Which is what every blog and newspaper item had been saying for the past few weeks, and why we wanted to go, but we didn't really know what the whole thing was all about until we got round the corner of Willoughby and Grand and heard the first massive toots. The main event was through the gates and around the corner in a copse of trees outside the East Building, where a crowd had gathered around an array of steam whistles. We couldn't see or understand any of this at first, because of the volume of steam and noise. It's hard to describe the sound, but it was a bit like a barge horn: A basso-profundo hooooo at the resonant frequency of the human skull. Like the muezzin's adhan, it was hypnotic and pacific. So was the way the steam looked just as it emerged from the valves of the whistles. It looked like the edges of an egg frying in the air, dense, fluid, opaque. We stood in the warm-wet veil created by the steam, smelling that radiator-water smell of old iron pipes, certainly not a clean smell; corrupt in a physical, if not biological way. When we became aware of the mechanics of the scene, we saw that feeding the whistles was a large conduit pipe running along the ground to the wall of the East Building, where Conrad Milster was giving comments to the press and appreciative members of the community, periodically opening and closing a master valve with a lever. Nearby, there was a smaller-scale installation, a kind of miniature steam organ attached to a wood-and-plexiglass console with a piano keyboard that people were lining up to play.

We waited for the whistling to subside, but it was still going pretty strong around 1:00 AM, so we decided to make our way to the next party, at Nina's friend Diana's house on Berry St. in Williamsburg Prime, the heart of corruption and profligacy. Diana and her husband are successful graphic designers, and their ground floor brownstone apartment is furnished like a big game hunter's colonial-era trophy room. There was chocolate cake and fancy cured sausage and champagne. Shiny metallic balloons spelling out "2015" bobbed against the low ceilings. It was a combination New Year's / birthday party for Evan, and so I presented him the prize I'd been carrying with me all night, a handle of Widow Jane, which he promptly cracked open and poured into shots. "You were at Pratt?" he said, as we stood talking with Ray and Nini. "At Parsons, we used to call Pratt students ATMs, because it's so easy to get money out of them." I could swear I'd heard Randy say the same thing about Parsons students, but I kept my mouth shut. It was his birthday.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Chance To See


My sister and I cooked Thanksgiving for my parents. (Well, everything except the turkey, which my dad more or less handled himself. With a little help from this video.) Here's what we made:
Nina's grandmother Ann passed away about a week after Thanksgiving. It was sad. She was a nice lady. The funeral was in Scranton, where she'd lived her whole life. I took the Martz bus from Port Authority on a Thursday night, stayed over through Friday, occupying her abandoned house with Nina and her family. The funeral was held at Our Lady of the Snows in downtown Scranton. Appropriate, since the town as freezing and blanketed in white. I'd never been to a Catholic service before; I had to sneak glances at the other mourners to see when to sit, when to stand, when to kneel. The doddering priest slobbered about Jesus, didn't say much about Nina's grandma in particular. We drove the coffin out to the Italian American cemetery, waited in the icy chapel until it was time to lower it into the ground. Nina and I returned to the city on Friday night to prepare for our holiday party, which had been too close to cancel. It felt strange, but there wasn't really anything else to be done in Pennsylvania, anyway. We got up early on Saturday, bought a Christmas tree from a sinewy Québécois woman outside the Key Food on 5th Ave., scrubbed the apartment, and laid out the truly overwhelming selection of cheese and nuts and cookies and chips that Nina'd gotten at Fairway. We gave the tree an initial dressing of lights and Garbage Pail Kids cards, the red "Christmas birds" -- and a new addition, rescued from the fake tree in Nana's dining room in Scranton: Alex the Owl, another fake bird in the shape of a tiny horned owl; but with his eyes glued on about a quarter inch too low, giving him a seriously derpy expression.

Our guests started to arrive at seven o'clock, and we put them to work at the craft table, a tradition from Tom and Colleen's annual party than Nina'd been eager to implement herself. KT brought a pouch of decorations from Michaels, which included googly eyes, pom-poms, shiny confetti (shapes: bible, dreidel, circle) and pipe cleaners. We supplied the glossy pages of The Economist, New York Magazine's grotesque "gifts issue," and, like, the Neiman Marcus Kids catalog. In return, our friends produced the following ornaments.

Skeleton Space Cat

Free Robert Blake

Jay's masterpiece; a kind of Sistine Chapel ceiling of dicks.

I saw The Dickies play a show at The Bowery Electric last weekend. Weird place: Narrow bar at street level, cavernous basement performance space. (And right next door to where I bought my first porno movie!) They were in the same configuration (I think) as when I saw them last year, though this show was filled to capacity. A much older crowd, too; maybe they wouldn't come out to Brooklyn. "It's great to see so many young faces in the crowd," said Leonard, kicking off his traditional five minutes of comedy. "All you forty-year-olds; you've got your whole lives ahead of you." There was a contingent of hecklers standing next to me, definitely older than forty. "Fuck you! Fuck you!" one guy kept hollering, like a boorish Yankees fan. "If I wanted to be bored, I'd'a stayed home! Fuck you!"

I'd yelled that and worse at them when I was twenty, and I sometimes wonder if the band thought it was part of the contract the same way I did at the time. Back when Bel Argosy was still a thing, I think we were flattered when people threw empty cups at us (that one time) but I would've been hurt if teenagers had yelled to us that we were too old. The set list had some good stuff on it, even if it wasn't anything I hadn't heard: They opened with "Silent Night, Holy Night," Leonard in a Santa hat -- one of many props he'd exchange with a patient producer in the sound booth. They played "Welcome To The Diamond Mine," which I think only I danced to. I tried to sing along to "I'm OK, You're OK," but they've changed the lyrics again, and I have no idea what it's about any more. They played "Manny, Moe & Jack," and ended the song with a decisive down-stroked chord instead of the final "...Jack." The crowd applauded, the band turned away to tune their instruments. A good ten seconds passed. Leonard took a swig of water from his Poland Spring bottle, stuck his finger in his ear, and sang the final note on pitch.

Christmas interlude. Caroline and I cooked again. This time we made the four dishes I'd made at the South Indian class I'd taken at Brooklyn Kitchen:
  • Potato carrot (spinach) sambar
  • Coconut cucumber raita
  • Green beans palya
  • Lemon peanut dill rice
My sister made two pies -- cranberry sage and rosemary shoo-fly -- from the Four & Twenty Blackbirds cookbook, which she's been baking her way through. They were both amazing. She makes the dough and weaves lattices herself, something I have never had the patience to do.

Nina and I went out on Sunday to see Bass Drum of Death at Glasslands, one of the last shows before the venue closes. Much has been made of the disappearance of so-called DIY spaces in North Brooklyn this year: 285 Kent, Death By Audio, Goodbye Blue Monday. A real bad thing, for sure. And crazy that so many of those think pieces attempt to re-assure the reader that the closures are No Big Deal. But it's interesting to see in the semi-mourning for all of these lost places the gloss applied to the term "DIY." It doesn't mean there was no money involved -- there's always money, even at the Market Hotel. Doesn't it really mean, We don't know what we're doing yet; we don't have any partners to show us the way? We're writing the book as we go. But no one's gonna call the next place that Haykal and Rosenthal open DIY. Furthermore, isn't there something in VICE's takeover of Kent Ave. akin to Caesar's return to Rome? No excuses for them, but everyone should'a seen it coming. "So where's the Underground?" I asked Nina as we stood up on the balcony watching the last of the opening acts, Mitski. A last tuft of the "burning cloud" sculpture that used to hang above the stage dangled from a wire above the sound booth. "There isn't one," she said. "And you wouldn't like it, anyway." The band was performing a song with the refrain, "I don't care about your fucking money!" It ended with three or four unrestrained, full-throated screams from the lead singer. A thread ran in my brain for the rest of the evening contemplating the idea of starting a zine to curate and distribute the kind of non-artisanal dirtbag outsider art materiel that's being wiped out in New York City. Like a Maximum Rocknroll for the 21st century. I even came up with a name for it: True Weirdo. I think it's a cool name. But it's probably impossible to do, and I might be -- might be -- too old, anyway.

Bass Drum of Death, though: They were very good, even if not every song is as interesting as their singles. At their worst they sound a lot like The White Stripes, which is to say, still pretty good. At their best, I was surprised to find myself thinking of Jay Reatard. Vocals reverbed to hell, unpredictable but catchy lead guitar riffs on top of more and more guitar. The comparison is aided by the hairdos, huge swaying yellow-brown mops that completely obscure their faces. I'm going to miss Glasslands. It's a beautiful place. We spent some minutes after the show staring into an installation they'd put up recently -- since the last time I'd been there: A clever combination of blinking LEDs, mirrors, and one-way glass in elegant black frames to create an impression of an infinite starry corridor.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Nina and Eve go driving some Sundays, partly to keep their skills sharp and partly to learn about the mysterious parts of the city that are accessible only by car. This most recent Sunday I took them up on an invitation to ride along, and we drove out to Floyd Bennett Field. Which is to say that they drove, alternating in the driver's seat, while I sat in the back and munched on pastry. It was a cold, gray afternoon. We put Neon Bible on the stereo, and I sat in the back, watching us pass through Kensington and Marine Park, trying not to be boorish and sing out loud along to the record. There's a great black wave in the middle of the sea. Floyd Bennett Field is a former municipal airport that's been turned into a kind recreational area. It's got "nature walks" and a climbing wall and an ice skating rink and even a petting zoo. When we arrived, I got into the driver's seat and drove around the parking lot, a couple of times, haltingly. (I've recently re-obtained my Learner's Permit, having let it lapse in a fit of despair about five years ago.) We ducked inside the hangar, now converted to a kind of neutered, family-friendly video arcade, to use the bathroom, then struck out across the tarmac for the wilderness. The runways are cracked and faded, but you can still see the markings that indicate the landing zone for, say, a helicopter; standing inside it makes the airfield seem even bigger, even emptier. We took one of the hiking trails on the far side of the airfield that lead into what the National Park Service map calls the "Natural Area," a kind of ramble of small trees, thorn bushes, and tall grass that's taken back the northwestern side of the facility.

At first the paths were obvious, dusted with sand and bordered by shrubs and berry bushes offering pale and inedible little berries. The kinds that birds eat or that maybe nothing eats at all. The further we went, though, the thornier and more overgrown the trail became. We saw several buildings and large machines covered over with creeping vines and in some cases with trees growing up through them, despite printed signs insisting that the buildings were still in use and alarmed. We talked about The Magicians trilogy, which Eve and I had just finished, and whether Quentin Coldwater's emotional journey is plausible or resonant. (I say it's not.) At length we emerged into a clearing near the banks of the Mill Basin Inlet and dominated by the skeleton of some kind of warehouse or other functional structure, now overtaken by weeds and graffiti -- the ubiquitous "KUMA" in big, elegant letters on the north-facing side. Peeking inside, I saw drifts of empty aerosols and bottles and takeout containers, and I got the prickly feeling that this might be a place someone would go to get away from the world, and that they might not want visitors. I suggested that to Eve and Nina, but they pooh-poohed the idea and went poking around inside while I stood on the rocks looking out across Island Channel. They were right, I was wrong; the place was deserted. We followed the shore as it curved around to the south and came upon a rocky, trash-covered beach. A guy with some kind of fishing apparatus was picking through a net he'd cast. He looked like he had a very practical interest in the area. He wasn't there to paint or hide out.

As we re-emerged onto the airfield, we came upon a group of middle aged men in heavy coats flying and observing a set of expensive-looking remote-controlled model airplanes. Model planes swooping, carefully landing; Old Dudes impassive with their hands in the pockets of their parkas. Obviously a dad activity, and one apparently with some real precedent: A wooden shed, open to the elements but wired for electricity and phones, displayed a wall full of plaques and crusty laminated photographs of Old Dudes through the decades with their model planes. We watched for a few minutes and then walked back west towards the parking lot.

A pair of newlyweds (or soon-to-be-newlyweds) were taking a photo out on the runway as we neared the hangar. The cold and the wind were fierce, whipping the bride's train like a flag. We got back in the car and drove out to Brighton Beach to buy groceries, picking up a few tubs of eggplant hye from Elza Fancy Foods, and some frozen pierogies (mushroom, cherry) and charcuterie from the Russian grocery around the corner. We passed by the proctology clinic with the distinctive signage; we passed the stretch of Brighton 4th St. with the tiny houses sprouting like cabbages on a tiny grid within the block. It was very dark by the time we were done. Nina drove us back on Ocean Parkway like a total champ, Ben Folds' frustratingly ironic cover of Bitches Ain't Shit playing off an ancient mix CD on the car stereo.

My parents euthanized Ivy, the cat the family adopted after Josephine died and I left for college. She was old (though not as old as Kitty) and had bad teeth, and once they fixed her teeth, she'd stopped eating, probably because of a growth or a blockage in her intestines. My parents had brought her to the St. Marks Veterinary Hospital on 9th St. and 1st Ave., which is where they always bring their animals when they're in trouble. It was a freezing night. I stopped there on my way home from work, and joined them in a tiny exam room. Ivy looked like a sick kitty; bony, weak. My parents talked to the vet about all the things they'd tried to do to get her to eat. The vet agreed that they'd done everything a good pet owner would have done; she gave them permission to put the cat to sleep, which is what they were asking for, in so many words. She gave Ivy the first injection, which, after about a minute, caused her to just sort of keel over. I sat on a metal chair with my jacket and hat on and peered into the cat's unseeing face. "Their eyes stay open," said the vet. "It's not how it looks in the movies." Then she administered the second shot, and Ivy stopped breathing. My sister cried and said that Ivy was "a baby angel," which was sad and funny at the same time.

After leaving the vet, I went to Ted's huge condo on Dean St. to watch I Know Who Killed Me, which was insane; like a fever dream.

Nina and Caitlin and I went out to Kensington Stables on Sunday to ride some horses through Prospect Park. First we had brunch at the Thistle Hill Tavern (close to my old apartment on 12th St. and former home of the second location of The Olive Vine) which was very good and in which none of Fat Mike's influence could be detected. (Certainly not in the house playlist. But maybe the dude really likes "falafel burgers?") We walked around the perimeter of the Park to Caton Pl. where the stables shared a corner at E 8th St. with Calvary Cathedral. Some teenage girls were using a hose to bathe a shaggy brown pony on the sidewalk.

Caitlin announced herself as an experienced rider, and was promptly assigned a large brown horse named Bingo. "You'll be riding Emma," the trainer told Nina. A guy and a girl who'd walked in at the same time as us were assigned horses named Cody and Tinkerbell, respectively. "And you'll be riding Dakota," the trainer told me. (Dakota! Like Dakota Moss from I Know Who Killed Me!") Emma turned out to be a enormous white mare with a sleepy demeanor who stood patiently in the middle of the street while Nina climbed onto her back, using a plastic mounting block to boost herself up. Nina sat in the saddle, taking instructions from the trainer on how to hold the reins and control Emma's speed. Emma closed her eyes, fanning her long eyelashes. Dakota turned out to be a stallion, not quite as big as the other horses, I thought, but still the size of a freight train. I couldn't see how I'd be able to get a leg up over him, but I put my foot in the stirrup and just kind of clambered up. it's a testament to their training, I guess, that they just stand there and let you push and pull them.

"I'd forgotten how weird horse people are," whispered Caitlin, as the procession of riders and horses with ridiculous names filed past us.

Walker, the head trainer, mounted the "boss" horse, a huge coffee-colored stallion named Spider, and led our party in a single-file line around the corner and down E 8th St. onto Ocean Parkway. The horses moved slowly, almost comically so. Dakota and I were behind Tinkerbell, who had a loose shoe that clanked every time she took a step. Brian, the other trainer (I think that was his name; he looked like a "Brian") riding a horse whose name I didn't catch, brought up the rear. He kept giving me pointers on how to handle Dakota and keep him out of trouble, but Dakota seemed like he had no intention to misbehave. He was the best-behaved of all the horses. "Press in with your left leg and tug the reins to the right," called Brian. "He's going to want to eat those bushes." (He didn't.) We crossed the intersection at East and West Drive and entered the park, where we crossed West Drive at the southern end of the lake and walked up the western side of the park in the muddy ravine next to the road. We turned the horses right at Well House Drive and made a slow loop of the southern interior.

The whole time, the horses moved slowly, obediantly. A loose nail in one of Tinkerbell's shoes clinked with each step. Occasionally a horse would stop to pee or take a shit, their tails shifting to reveal their enormous, dark-hued orifices; and every horse behind would stop politely and wait for it to be over before clomping forward. It was good of them to do that, because I felt very little control otherwise and would have been powerless to prevent a horse pile-up, which the trainers were anxious to avoid. ("Dakota shouldn't get too close to Tinkerbell!" called Brian.) We'd only been riding for about an hour, but the effort of sitting straight in the saddle and the continuous, low-grade impacts on my lower parts made my body feel not good. Nina was unaffected. I loped and limped with her back through Prospect Park, anticipating a painful morning.