“Can you step into my office for a minute?”

I was called into my manager’s office. Meetings like this feel like a walk in the graveyard. In the past few years, meetings of this ilk usually involved the expiration of a consulting contract or, in two cases, being laid off because of attrition (a pretty word for an ugly thing). I couldn’t understand why she needed to see me. My current contract is a roll-over (meaning there’s no hard expiration date), we’re short handed (especially since my colleague went mad) and I’ve been doing some of my best work ever for this place.

I sat down and it started the way it always starts: “I’m sorry, but…”

She’s sorry but although she’s been fighting with human resources for months, she simply cannot hire me on staff. The bean counters won’t allow it. The type of work I do, graphic design, is considered back-office. It’s work that COSTS the company money. In the current economic climate, they can only hire on people who MAKE money for the firm. (In investment banking parlance, “rainmakers.”) Sadly, this appears to be the new normal.

However. Although she can’t hire me, she likes having me around. She doesn’t want me to leave, so she performed a miracle. She got blood from a stone. To entice me to stay, they’ve increased my consulting fee a whopping 25%. That’s a significant jump for someone in my income bracket.

I know it’s gauche to discuss a salary increase. You don’t have to tell me. And I’m not fishing for congrats in my comments section. But for years, I’ve been posting about all the horrific things that have happened to my family and I during this recession. I feel somewhat at liberty to do a bit of boasting now that something nice has finally occurred.

Now I’m on my feet again
Better things are bound to happen
All my dues
surely must be paid

M. Ralphs

*     *     *
I stumbled across this beauty during an early-morning walk through Times Square. I chatted-up the driver and he said it was being delivered to the Museum of the City of New York. He mentioned the name of the sculptor. It was someone I’d heard of before, but I can’t remember it now. Can you tell what this sculpture is a reenactment of? If you ask me, they should leave them entombed in their cloth and plastic wrap embrace. It’s far more dramatic.


*     *     *

10-Year Old Daughter played on a community traveling basketball team last winter/spring. She wasn’t the best player, but she had a lot of fun participating. I think it was more of a social outlet for her. A few of the girls on her team were extraordinarily talented. So much so, that they won the regional championship.

They recently completed two-day tryouts for the coming season and because her team walked away with trophies and had their pictures in the local paper, the turnout was extra heavy. Everyone wants to jump on board an already-proven winner. It’s  much easier that way.

We got the results yesterday and Daughter didn’t make the team. She’s not a bad player, but much superior players came out of the woodwork to join. Her best friend on the team from last year made the cut. Do you know the first thing she did? She called her friend to congratulated her. That’s an evolved level of grace under disappointment that I, myself, have yet to achieve. My heart is ripped asunder that she wasn’t picked. Growing up, I was never picked for anything, so I treated myself to a lovely flashback. (It’s called “projecting,” for all you armchair psychologists.) Frankly, I think she’s over it already. I’ll try to keep my senses and not say anything to the coach if I bump into him in the frozen food section. I’ll try to learn how to handle a setback from my daughter’s example. What a champ.

Dancing backstage at a Giants Stadium concert


*     *     *

Here are the latest box scores:

A man visiting the Bronx Zoo jumped into the tiger’s den. He had a passion for cats and was motivated “to be one with the tiger.” Bachuta, an 11-year-old male Siberian tiger weighing 400 pounds, welcomed him by giving him a broken pelvis, broken right shoulder, broken rib, a collapsed lung, a broken right ankle and puncture wounds on his arms, legs and shoulder.

The man’s Facebook page is filled with tributes to nature and images of tigers and other wild animals. “Love the animals. Don’t trouble it, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness.”

Tigers: 1
Delusional human: 0

A protestor in Lahore, Pakistan, died from inhaling fumes from the American flag he ignited.

Olde glory: 1
Jihadist: 0

A Pulitzer Prize Finalist

In addition to the post title, Karen Russell’s debut novel Swamplandia! is:

Rolling Stone:
Beautiful, dark and funny.

The Seattle Times:

The Boston Globe:
Dazzlingly original…

The New York Times:
One of the 10 BEST BOOKS OF 2010!!!!!

Exile on Pain Street:
So boring I don’t know how I’m ever going to finish this thing. I’m on page 278 of 397 and each turn of the leaf is like a slog through a vat of waist-high gelatin. I’m not invested in any of the characters. They could have all been eaten by alligators by page 50 for all I care. I don’t mind heavy drama, but the novel’s unrelenting dreariness is wearing me down. What, in God’s name, are all these reviewers and the Pulitzer committee talking about?! I am completely out of synch with the litterari. If I ever get through this, I’m going to reread A Clockwork Orange to restore my faith in the novel as an art form.

*     *     *

Daughter the Second. Six years old. I predict she will annihilate the hearts of many men without regret, starting with mine. I hope you’re looking at this on a high resolution screen. As with most of my good shots, this was completely accidental. I snapped this in a booth at a diner. The light source on the left is a window. I didn’t do any retouching in Photoshop. That’s the raw shot.


*     *     *

A pretty, young Chinese girl walks onto the downtown R train with her gigantic Plaster of Paris rat. The reaction from the other passengers? Compete and utter indifference. Of course!


*     *     *

If I were a wizard for one day, I would conjure an irrevocable metaphysical law whereby if you dialed a number on your mobile phone while behind the wheel, it would instantaneously superheat to the temperature of molten lava. If you tapped out a text message while driving, the phone would detonate, taking your hand with it.

Ooh! That was a little dark, wasn’t it? But it’s an epidemic out here in Stupidville, U.S.A. Another wreck this past weekend. Is it as big a problem in other countries?

Excuse me, sir, does your dog bite?

Our 10-month old puppy has taken leave of her senses and decided to attack me on two occasions. It’s always for a specific reason; she gets angry when I take something away that she’s trying to eat.

She seems perfectly normal and happy. She’s great around the kids. But she snapped. While I was walking her, she gobbled up a big wad of saran warp. I had to pry her mouth open to extract it. She snarled and bit me hard enough to draw blood.


The second time she was eating feces, which she once shunned but has now acquired a taste for. She bit me when I picked her up, the little bitch. This time I got a nice bruise. A few days before that, we gave her a steak bone. What a treat! She snarled at anyone who walked anywhere near her.


We’ve taken her to training classes but now we’re looking into a private trainer who’ll come to the house. My Lower East Side credibility has officially evaporated.

There are some manly men out here who think I should have given her a good, swift, kick in the ribs, but I keep reading that you shouldn’t hit your dog and thus far, I’ve resisted. But if she ever bites one of the girls or Mrs. Wife the way she’s bitten me, I won’t bother with the humane society. I’ll throw her in a sack and toss it in the Shrewsbury River and watch it float out to the Atlantic. For real.

* * *

I don’t do food posts (except for stuff I slap on the grill). I have absolutely no appreciation for “good” food and I’m sure it would show in the writing. But take a look at this and please refrain from licking your monitor:


This is (was) a delightful plate of lobster ravioli with mushrooms, tomatoes and other stuff in a cream sauce. Perhaps I should reconsider my indifference towards food. The pasta is black and white. The black is made from squid’s ink, is that correct? We took the girls to a nice restaurant, which we don’t do often because they’re still kind of young and it’s a luxury item for us.

Our table overlooked the Sandy Hook inlet. Do you know what? To hell with the Lower East Side. Who needs it.

* * *

9/11 is our wedding anniversary. Fuck you, terrorists. You’re not going to take it away from us. 13 solid years. 15 if you count dating. A lot of people don’t make it this far. It was easy! Happy anniversary, dear.

Sing me a lullaby

Do any of you use sleeping supplements? Occasionally, I’ll lie in bed at night and just as I’m about to drift off, my mind will frantically race with dark thoughts. Troubling images relentlessly wash over me. My brain spirals and when I snap out of it, my jaw is clinched tight and my hands are balled into fists.

It doesn’t happen on a regular basis, thank Jeebus. Maybe a few times a month. But when it starts, it’s an effort to stop it. Usually, I can calm myself through meditative breathing exercises. If that fails I’ll take one Tylenol PM. That does the trick although I don’t like taking a cold/flu tablet if I’m not sick. You can build up an immunity to meds. I think Mrs. Wife is up to three or four Advil per dose.

My sleep-threshold madness almost always involves harm to my family. I’m concerned that when the girls get older and get into confrontations at school (it’s inevitable), I’ll go ballistic. I hope I can keep it together. What do you do if your kid is picked on? Isn’t your first impulse to find the father of the little monster whose making your baby cry and use a pipe to turn his teeth into sharp, jagged little chips? Or is that just me?

* * *

10-Year Old Daughter:

“When I start a new book, I feel like I’m about to enter a different world.”

One down one to go. I’m jealous of my girls. I wish my pop had done that for me.

* * *

Adios summer. It was TOO DAMN HOT this year. Bring on autumn. Football starts in just two days and the leaves will soon change color. All-day pots of hot coffee. Mrs. Wife’s astonishing crock pot beef stew. The new theater season is just underway. [I already have a ticket to see Al Pacino in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. How’s that for a perfect storm?] Thick sweaters and, soon enough, Christmas carols on 5th Avenue. Man, I love it all.

I lasted 18 months in Arizona and fled for lack of the seasons. (That and a ruinous love affair with a pretty, erotically-inclined Mormon who was “pre-engaged” to a weightlifter/ physical trainer back in Salt Lake City who could have crumpled me into a tiny ball and tossed me over his shoulder like a piece of waste paper. But that’s a whole other post.)

Here’s my farewell summer lunch. Grilled bratwurst. Laid gently into a bun with a squiggle of brown mustard. At first bite, the juices trickled onto my tongue. My head tilted back, the room spun and I slapped the table top with an open palm. They were that good.

* * *

I stumbled across this New York haiku written on the sidewalk. I couldn’t have said it any better.

* * *
Self Portrait

That’s my thumb! It’s an exercise in perspective.