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NYC Journal #13 – Proto-Normalcy

NYC Journal #13 – Proto-Normalcy

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #13 – Saturday, 5/9/2020 – Proto-Normalcy

It was in the high thirties last night, with a gray tumbling wind. Unseasonably cold for NYC. A little before noon, his laundry in a lumpy white cotton bag clutched to his chest, wearing long underwear under his khakis, a long-sleeved T-shirt over his regular T-shirt and under a thick orange sweater, itself under a puffy red vest of tent material and otherwise crying “suburban outdoorsman”, he set out under through the cold, windy, bright sunny air.

In the low forties then, and windy. The laundromat is large boxy and blue gray with a TV over the snack machine that faces the round picnic table whose metal-mesh top is coated in a rubbery blue plastic. A woman sat at the table, facing the TV, but with head bowed (long dark brown hair gushing out the back) over her telephone screen. On the TV chorus girls danced with knowing smiles and then they showed the picture of a 60ish year old man grinning quietly to himself, sipping from a big round beer mug, enjoying the show. Then the credits roll and that image is dropped down to the lower half of the screen while, lest the audience consider any activity other than movie-watching at this channel right now and forever, a new film starts. The short woman with the round acorn-brown face, her usual subtle smile covered in a blue medical mask, but her distantly-focused eyes testifying to a continuation of this standard mien, approaches. She looks cozy and with a touch of penguin in her lime green zip-up sweatshirt. “Picking up?”

Now the TV has a bunch of old white guys playing cards in a home or some other non-gaming-house. One guy is rambling about the intricacies of the game. Another guy says, “well if that’s the case” and puts all his chips in the center of the table.

“Dropping off”, says the guy in the red vest, his hair now short and upon close inspection clearly cut by its owner, standing in a poorly lit bathroom, hacking here and there with scissors and so leaving the back unduly ruffled, and with, here he must’ve used a razor, a big square patch missing from behind one ear. This man wears a white coffeefilter-style mask and his paleness is a little undermined by a touch of inveterate peach and the lightest beginnings of suntan.

$17! That’s quite a bit. But he knew it would be a lot. And the scale says 15lbs, which confirms that it is a lot. He takes the waxy yellow ticket, thanking her.

This is one of the few laundromats in this area with a parking lot. He can’t think of another one in his neighborhood with a parking lot. The many machines were mostly idle; a few people stood by their laundry. He crossed the emptyish lot in front of the laundromat and then crossed sidewalk, street, sidewalk, and, pausing at the sign “Dear Customers, Beginning March 11, we will no longer have dining service. We will continue to provide pick-up and delivery services …”, pushed the metal handle to open the glass door.

He’d eaten inside once a year or two ago. He’d actually forgotten to pay the bill and was walking out when a waitress had stopped him with a look of annoyed suspicion. He really had forgotten (or so he still believes), but he could think of no reason why they should be so sure and the incident had embarrassed him; for that reason, and/or simply because he doesn’t eat out much anyway, he’d not been back. Now a single row of the small square wooden tables remained, pushed up against the long window on the left hand side of the door. Directly across, the remaining tables and all the chairs were stacked up together against that far wall. In the center of the room sat a large black motorcycle, leaning proudly on its silver kickstand, it’s chrome handlebars at low T pointing towards the wide hardwood planks.

The sombreros on the wall, the knick-knacks (example: a large doll with an undecorated body but a Mexican wrestler’s mask reclines in a breadloaf-sized play green cradle) in the window sills, and the Day of the Dead designs cut out of bright-colored papers strung along chords near the ceiling — all this remained as before.

Alcohol was displayed on the wooden counter in front of the registrar and the enclosed kitchen. The white wine bottle had $24! on a cut-out cardboard star. The rosé was $17. The bottled beers had no price tags. “Why would you spend $24 for this take-out wine when you can walk five minutes to the liquor store and get the same wine for $12?”, he thought to himself. But he hoped for the establishment’s sake that some customers would choose to go along with such a crazily foolish proposition.

The guys working behind the counter are always tan and have thick dark hair under ballcaps. About his height (so kind of short) and speaking Spanish to one another while he waited beside the motorcycle, dancing around to the Spanish-language music, occasionally stopping to watch, on one of the two giant-screen TVs on either side of the entrance door, the replay of a Barcelona player get heroically close to scoring a goal.

“Ebenezer”, said one of the 30ish year olds. Evenezer approached the counter, but the other was still at a counter behind the register, and had his back half-turned towards Ebenezer. “Ebenezer, do you want hot sauce or utensils.” “Yes, hot sauce! … what was the other thing?” “Any utensils?” “No! No utensils!” “OK, here you go, Ebenezer.” Ebenezer paused as he put his bare hand on the ridge formed by the stapled top of a brown paper bag containing a square aluminum tin holding a burrito and sealed with a plastic lid (and a few packets of hot pepper sauce). “Thank you” he said, his face determinedly directed towards the other, younger man. “Sure, so problem”, said the other, with a slightly disconcerted, or perhaps merely contemplative lilt carrying the ends of the words up a little higher and holding them there a little longer than pleasant business exchanges generally require.

And so he walked home, still in the cold windy sunshine. A woman the shade of a medium-dark chocolate with long black braids trailing walked ahead, bent to one side by the weight of her long wide canvas grocery bag. She wore a long coat but between her skimpy red canvas sneaker flats, low white socks and green sweatpant pedal pushers, a not-insignificant portion of her bare calves were exposed to the chilly air. She stopped a moment, leaned her weight on her planted left leg, and, right foot turned out with toes on the sidewalk, rested the bag on her raised right heel. He thought of stopping to help.

But she had on plastic gloves and a mask and he had no gloves and had already put his mask back in his free hand and he wanted to hurry home before the cold swirling winds stole his (chicken, rice, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, pico de gallo) burrito’s warmth. And anyway, that kind of random helpfulness isn’t really done, and was therefore liable to disorientate her; plus she was taller than him and not scrawny — would the mere masculinity of his muscles make for a real improvement?

And so, as if to formally and decidedly declare his decision to sail on by, he accelerated past her, out of the shadow of a large apartment building, into the street, heading towards the sunny-side sidewalk, excited for lunch.

Life is back to normal in New York City. Kind of. Well, we’ve been doing what we’re now doing for a while, which makes it a kind of normal.

Author: Johnny Nnd Spoeott, with AB Cee IV
Editorial Negligence: B. Willard, with A. Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #12 – The Grouch

NYC Journal #12 – The Grouch

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal — Saturday, 5/2/2020 — The Grouch

I think he must not have slept well enough, because he sure was grouchy.

He seemed OK sunbathing on one of the two feet wide gleaming white steps in between three feet wide rows of healthy wind-brushed grass. But that’s only because no one was opposing. He was not being tempted. The walkers and runners, sitters and chatters in their varying degrees of dressedness [slacks and T-shirts, running shorts and a long sleeved T-shirt, a pale old Orthodox whitebeard with the full flowing black cloak and an oval beaver hat (tucked in on all sides like an envelope — not the tall round ceremonial ones; I’m not even sure it was beaver — it was a light, golden brown, soft, I don’t know what that animal was)] gave him no resistance. And so it is that we often fool ourselves into imaging we’re spiritually/emotionally/intellectually/morally sound, when in fact what we are is sheltered from the weather.

It was a little confusing. The tall sightly and saggily begutted sandy-haired (maybe?, complexion pale, but too rough to count as pasty) guy with a bag over his shoulder and one item in his long right hand was standing directly behind one register’s lane, but way back in the aisle. And so our grouch thought, “OK, that’s his lane; I’ll take this one.” Although he also thought, “what’s going on here? Is he meaning to wait for all possible lanes in that one lane way back in the aisle?”

Then both aisles opened up almost at once, but the one he’d chosen opened up a moment earlier, and the taller paler gentleman leaned, with the can or jar or bottle or whatever it was aiming at the aisle that the man with the furrowed brow (remember: no lips or noses are seen in this zone of reduced bodily expression) had staked as his own. Confused and annoyed, the grouch stepped back and made a hesitant “this way is open” gesture with his left hand, while scrunching his eyes further forward and his brow further up, so as to communicate, “I guess! I guess that’s what you want. And I guess that’s OK.”

The other guy gave a quick wet-dog shake of his head and said, “yeah!”, still wiggling his head at the other’s rudeness as he sailed by into the first open aisle, which had always been his.

And then it turns out that the cloth bag on the tall guy’s round shoulder had always been full of groceries, and now they would one by one go onto the black conveyor belt.

So then there’s a young woman there in the line that the tall man left behind. Short and round in her gray sweats. Dark hair long and perhaps pony tailed. With many items for purchase. “I was waiting over there” the grouch, brow still furrowed in annoyance and eyes still large in mystification, says to her.

“Yeah, but the line’s here”, she replies. “Whatever dudes!” he says with a petulant flip-up of his left hand, the same hand still smarting from ceding place to the tall ungainly person (I guess that’s why he pluralized “dude”? Not clear). So he goes and stands behind her, strongly suspecting, though not being sure and certainly having no proof, that he’d been waiting at least half a minute longer than her.

In the next moment she was sliding up to the next open register in the store (the one directly in front of them as they stood in what had turned out to be the unlabeled but somehow sanctified “official line for all registers”). “Ola mi amor!” and she begins prattling in Spanish to the indulgently semi-smiling clerk.

The grumpy short man twitched his hidden nose as he thought, “She’s playing it up! Getting all chummy with their shared native-level Spanish, well aware that in all likelihood I should’ve had that spot with that clerk, y quieres encontrar si no puedo hablar espanol??”, which final taunt he had to admit was maybe not exactly what he meant to say, and it if was, it was probably not the best way to say it. “And do you want to discover if I don’t speak Spanish”?? What??

Oh but The Grump’s grumping began earlier, didn’t it?

Because hadn’t this Saturday morning his boss shoved five minutes worth of his own (the boss’s) work on him!; or at least, shouldn’t the chain of command have gone from Subordinate to Boss to Grump, rather than from Subordinate to Boss to Boss telling Subordinate to tell The Grump, and so therefore, contrary to established usage, from Subordinate to Grump? And had not that irregular chain of command necessitated that he, who was not about to be found to one side of regulation, call up his Boss and, with a terse and pointed tongue, request permission to execute the obvious and standard response to the subordinate’s problem?

Yes! That all happened, but No!, that’s not the issue! The trouble is not the loss of five minutes, or Boss’s (REPEATED!) failure to follow the correct protocol; the trouble is that he then wasted thirty minutes complaining to the fresh light-filled spring air about the incident.

And that was long before the grocery line; it happened on the walk to the museum where he was going to sunbathe on the wide steps amphitheatering around the front of the englassed lobby entrance area.


The man originally occupying the register that our difficult hero had thought he could be next in line for did not wear a mask. He was a tall, medium-build, muscular young black man with hair flying off at all angles. The hair was dreaded? It was not clear to the observer, though he did notice black sweats or tracks, low riding, revealing underwear, perhaps lime green or aqua or a related shade; and a white close-fitting T-shirt but of a heavy quality, like a polo or adidas or some kind of fancy athletic-wear. Perhaps 30, with a long face and heavy square jaw, thanking the clerk with a quiet smile while tipping three dollar bills into the plastic delicounter container.

“He’s not wearing a mask! Is that allowed? No, that’s not allowed. It is a violation of state law. Why isn’t he wearing a mask? How did he get away with it? Is that a tip or a bribe? Is he cooler than me because he’s calmly defying the law? How to play this? Should I silently stew and disapprove of him and thus risk being even less cool? Or should I silently admire his bravado, and thus risk indulging in irresponsible (albeit secret and private) showmanship? Ripping my mask off and shouting out about how now I’m just as cool if not cooler is out of the question. It would take too long to explain the background considerations to the dozen or so people in this storefront area, many of whom are probably not even aware there’s a young maskless man in our presence. ‘Who was that maskless man?’, but that by way of a side-joke.
What is it he says to her? Does he apologize and say the dog ate his mask? Or does he chit chat as if there’s no pandemic and no signs on all public buildings, including this one, about the mandatory wearing of masks? And how does she hand him his full bag of groceries? Is it pushed forward a little quick and annoyed?”

The man was grouchy and snarly and a little embarrassing for humanity. I don’t think he got enough sleep last night. He calls to mind an anecdote a young father once told him about his 4 year old son Octavius (or whatever the kid’s name was) and his pal , also 4 years old.

The pal’s parents were always holding up Octavius as a model of behavior; if only their son could comport himself as well! But you see, said the father, his son was in bed and sleeping before 8PM every night, whereas his son’s pal stayed up way too late every night watching TV; and, indeed, on those occasions when the young Octavius awoke inadequately rested, he too was cross, irascible, unmanageable. “We’ve tried to tell them, but …”

4 year olds, 40 year olds, everyone but the most dedicated of mystics (who live on prayer, water, and a thousand calories a day high in their quiet mountain abbeys) need sleep.

What about the fair haired pale kid of about the same height and medium-low build as our slightly more Mediterranean protagonist? The one with the giant bandana hanging down to his chest. He asked where the line was and The Grouch said it was behind him and that he himself had once stood where he (the Great Bandana) was presently doing and had ended up losing a spot over it. [This was, by the way, not the first time he’d mentioned the tragedy. He had also said (before the era of Bandana) to the air and perhaps loud enough to win the backward glance of the gray-sweats woman unloading groceries in what could’ve been his spot, “I was probably in line before her. Well, there it is.”] Bandana, apparently well-rested, eyes smiling, chipperly replied: “well, the main thing is we know you’re next.”

But was the two of them knowing that Grouch was next in line for all registers really enough to maintain order and stability? Grouch didn’t want to know what would happen when Bandana and the person who’d lined up behind the Grouch had to navigate the next open register; and so he was careful to not look back after (finally!) taking possession of a register (it was like a five minute wait, actually).

Did the sour, spiritually-damaging if not outright damning mood of the story’s hero in any way color the telling of the story? For example, did the tall guy actually have a gut? And aren’t there more flattering ways to just as accurately describe his complexion? But what was this tall antagonist wearing? Tan slacks and a short sleeve button-up plaid shirt? I don’t think so. I don’t think we know what he was wearing. And did his head really keep wobbling as he passed Grouch? The only clear image left to us is the right hand tilted up (but still holding a big juice or something like that) as part of a chest-out, head cocked back and right shrug of “WTF???” towards The Grouch on the left. There might or might not have also been an accompanying sound, something like the “yeah!” we originally recorded.

You know what? Let’s just say this: None of this really happened. No real human souls were damaged by the spreading of one soul’s unrested peevishness. It’s just a story about the sort of thing that could very well have happened in Brooklyn today, if somebody got out of the wrong side of the bed and kept right on going out the door and into the world, contaminating it with not the covid-19 virus (which the Grump’s already put in his five weeks of lying around with soggy lungs for) but with something arguably worse: anger and discontent.

Author: Roger Peevishpunk Dodger, with a few careful suggestions from Johnny Onduh Spott
Editors: BW/AW
Copyright: AM Watson

[NYC Journal]

Book Give-Aways / Looking for a Demographic

Book Give-Aways / Looking for a Demographic

Hey there! Can I interest you in an ebook?

If so, write us at, and let me know if you’d like a Kindle/Mobi or Nook/Epub file, and if you’d prefer to try “A Readable Reader” or “Superhero Novella with A Web Sampler”.

What’s the difference between “A Readable Reader” and “Superhero Novella with A Web Sampler”? The former is a collection of stories, essays, commercials, poems and reportings selected from First Loves, First Essays,,, and the vault; the latter’s a novella about superheros trying to figure out a way to stop crime at it’s evil roots, followed by selections from,, and

We’ll also send you a short questionnaire that you can fill out if you’d be so kind.
We’re not entirely sure that these books have demographics, but if they do, we’d like to find them, so we can try to reach this potential audience.
Right now we have no audience at all, which pains us.

[Obviously, our demographic should be anyone who feels the Hurt loud and spreading, but feels the Joy even within the Hurt — feels the Joy winning even there.

But that’s everybody, and it seems unlikely that everybody will like our books, even if we’d hit our stride and told it like it is at an angle that can’t be denied and so slips in, but that then snags from the inside like a harpoon and doesn’t leave, instead worming its way deeper and deeper until reaching the heart, which it duly pops, spilling black blood, releasing the life-demons in a torrent of warm exhaustion. And it’s doubtful we achieved that with these books.

So we thought, well, maybe, for example:
People who like philosophical ideas in their fiction, and who have an interest in nonliteral spiritual paths, and who like taking walks.]

If you would prefer to just buy a copy of one or both books, that’s cool too.
See Buy Our Books! for links to various formats.

Tables of contents are below our signatures,

B. Willard
A. Whistletown

Superhero Novella
“metaphysical pulp”
Novella Preface
Pt 1: Introducing the Players
Pt 2: Furthering the Old and Making New Acquaintances
Pt 3: The Story Unfolds, Blossoms Even
Pt 4: The Tale Unwinds and Slips Down the Rusty-Bar Sewer Drain
That’s the End of that Book
Optional Addendums to Pt 1; Optional Addendum to Pt 4
Novella Afterword
About the Cover
A Web Sampler (broken down by site)

A Readable Reader
“oh please please please be readable!”
Disclaimer; Preface
Part 1: From “First Loves”: Introduction to “First Loves”; A Couple Decides Whether or Not to Drink; Love Engineer; John of Charles, A Something Deeperist Prayer
Part 2: A Little More Love: Love Castle; Love Freighter; Internal Memo; Love Dust; A Love Maker Speaks
Part 3: A Few Ads: A Couple Pure Love Ads; Ad for the “Objectively Cute” Baby Onesie (featuring Soren Kierkegaard and Regina Olsen)
Part 4: Standard Frame Story: The Pitch; Chapter 1 of “Diary of an Adamant Seducer”
Part 5: From “First Essays”: Pure Love Give-Away; The Things We Long For; The Law; Buddhist Marriage Counselor; A Fun New War; Introductory Ode to the Invincible Anti-Weapon
Part 6: Pure Love Mogul: Days 1-3, Pure Love Audit [This section is an alternative, or perhaps additive, frame story — it is Bartleby and Amble tending the Pure Love General Store in the Wild West, and then Pure Love auditors invading the piece of their grand brick PL industrial campus.]
Part 7: A Dozen Poems [I won’t list them all here]
Part 8: NYC Journal (first-hand accounts of life in NYC): Two Homeless Men; The Man Who Gives Out Flowers; NYC Journal #1 – Limited Visibility
Part 8.25: About the Cover
Part 8.5: A Mini-End
Part 9: Something Deeperism from “First Essays” (tucked away at the end here, so you can skip it if need be): Plato & Bartleby Exchange Texts, A Something Deeperist Writes an Otherist; A Simpler Shared Something Deeperism: In a Republic; Freedom of Will
Part 10: A Long Advertisement for Pure Love / Essay on the evils of marketing
The End
A Couple Appendices

Everything on this site is copyrighted by Andrew Mackenzie Watson

NYC Journal #11 – Bust

NYC Journal #11 – Bust

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #11 – Tuesday 4/28/2020 – Bust

Recollection accuracy: OKish, not so sure of descriptions of individual people:

You can be lying on your bed, writing about the subway ride the other day, when the 40ish milk-chocolate-skinned, thimble-nosed lady with the softly runny lumpy androgeny in sweats and a red satin doo-rag (no mask!) nodded her head and, with a slight smile playing on her waxy face lip-synced the smooth-flowing, quick-cascading rap as it rolled out of cylindrical speakers hanging around her neck. Every so often affirming her appreciation of the music by sucking her cheeks and lips in a little, rolling her head a neck a tad down, and tapping her chest with her the bottom edge of a palm, thumb and first two fingers pointing out. And about the 40ish paper-pale Jewish guy who (like the rest of us on the sparsely populated train) wore his (white filter) mask. With a muscular lank build and broad head, he focused with all his might on a thick leatherbound book of original-language scriptures. One black pin-striped leg crossed over another. Black yamaka fastened to trim dark hair with barrettes. Clean shaven. With white prayer tassels flanking his thighs.

You can be lying in bed, trying to recall how it was the other day, when people are stomping on the roof or the fire escape or somewhere running and crashing around.

And voices. Voices talking; voices yelling; voices. You can ignore if for a full minute, thinking this too shall pass. But then maybe you have to get up and see what’s going on. And then maybe you see five or six uniformed policemen climbing on the fire escape of a nearby building, making their way onto a low roof that serves as a patio for your downstairs neighbors. They are big burly men, made burlier with bullet-proof vests. Wearing white masks over their nose/mouth/chin areas. With powerful flashlights peering into the yard on the other side of the roof.

Talking and yelling to each other, and then they lose interest in the yard and start walking towards the window/door that leads to your downstairs’ neighbors apartment; then one is commanding, “pass through! pass through!”; and then one is saying to the conscripted hosts, “is there a way you can let us down into there?” as they all five or maybe six of them file into the second floor apartment.

In hindsight, that passing through seems a little gratuitous. Since they must’ve ended up walking down a long narrow flight of stairs and out the front door onto the street where other cops were probably already waiting, as by then they had the place surrounded. And then into the shuttered commercial space whose only entrance is a streetside door. But as it was happening I guess they didn’t know where the suspects were or what was really going on and time was of the essence; hence someone yelling, “pass through! pass through!” and the others obeying.

There were many more than six police officers involved in this endeavor. Several white police suburbans and a police car and several police vans double parked on two streets. And in the street walked and dashed and waved and moved many policemen and a few policewomen. Of the five or six guys on the roof, I think maybe two were black and three white. Maybe. It was dark and chilly out. They all had big shoulders.

Everyone said the guy looking down from the upstairs window looked scrawny and ineffectual, and his hair was a fright, but that was just empty talk and I don’t see why they had to say anything about him anyway when he was just minding his own business until the thumping began, making his own business seem out of touch with his surroundings.

I tell you that they kept filling up police vans! Each van seems to only hold four 20ish year old black men, so that was part of the problem. The young men / old boys in handcuffs were different sizes and wore different clothes. Like the tall and broad-backed young man in light green coat with funnel hood, or the medium-sized guy in gray sweats, or the narrow-waisted dude in a red-armed leather jacket. Lots of flat-brimmed ballcaps.

Policemen and suspects wore facial masks, usually white coffee-filters. At least one policeman wore a black fabric mask. One tall broad muscular square faced tan-skinned cop with ears that stick out did not wear a mask but (circle-)motioned the paddy wagon forward while looking back towards the next line of suspects and then opening his wide mouth with big white teeth to say something to somebody. I think the cops filled three or four vans with suspects.

A tall white cop with a heavy slab gut jogged windedly a little ways down the sidewalk and then petered out into a walk. Nearby, a shorter medium-muscled square-faced Asian cop spoke to someone standing inside the small apartment building that the cops had originally climbed up.

The suspect in the fuzzy brown faux-lightbrown-poodle-coat was a young woman, I think. She also had a flat-brimmed ballcap over her poofy crinkly hair that was somehow rounded, perhaps into two side ponytails, although memory doesn’t quite serve.

In addition to like a dozen uniformed cops, there were many plainclothes cops too. From a distance, you couldn’t really tell the difference between the plainclothes cops holding the suspects and the suspects except that the former held the latter while handcuffs kept the latter from holding anything. All cops had black guns on one side of their hips and yellow tasers on the other side. Sometimes they would pat a suspect down through his coat and pants.

Before handcuffed suspects began lining up next to paddy wagons, the cops were running around, climbing fire escapes, trundling across roofs, talking and yelling sharp and quick. Tension permeated the cool slightly-ruffling night air. But once the rows of cuffed young men started forming, all was calm and neither suspect nor police seemed worried. The main question of the evening had been answered; now there was nothing to do but allow the answer to carry you into prison or through the rest of your shift, depending on your role.

What had been going on in that former juice, coffee, healthy salads, and snacks shop?? They kept coming out of the entrance in cuffs. It was orderly and relaxed by then. A surfeit of cops, both in uniforms and plainclothes with flat-brimmed ballcaps and loose-fitting sweatshirts and jeans stood around, holding some part of the perimeter while watching, or just watching. One big plainclothes cop gave a low-five-into-a-handsclasp to a big uniformed cop.

That uniformed guy was the one who you’d spoken to. He answered your query with, “it’s being investigated now” and then, after you said, “oh, so you don’t know what’s going on yet?”, he (35? still young enough to have all the sharp edges on his anvil- or drillbit-face; Italian? white, but not winter-pale, dark hair) said “No!, it’s not that; it’s being classified; I don’t want to classify it wrong, and then you spread it all over the place and it’s wrong.” Then you said, “There’s like eight cop trucks here; it’ll be in the paper” and he gave an up-nick with wrinkled pout, “there you go! read it there!”, at which point the conversation was over and the night air felt cold on your naked toes.

Bullet-proof vests make everyone seem bigger and boxier, more like tanks. And they do make their wearer a tiny bit more like a tank.

Now I ask what all this amounts to? Who were these young people? What were they up to? Why was the heavy purr of a police chopper required? That was a police chopper, wasn’t it? Very loud and choppy and whirring and there from five minutes after the thumping began to about when the last vanloads were leaving. When a police chopper pants over the scene, you know it’s serious, or you at least you know someone with authority had decided at some point that it might turn out to be serious.

How much money did tonight’s intervention cost? A dozen uniformed police; another half dozen plainsclothes; several vans, several suburbans, a cop car, a chopper with pilot and fuel and safety precautions. I don’t have a calculator with me, but it sounds like a lot of money.

Some day we’ll all die, and all our flesh and all our feelings and all our ideas will evaporate. And we’ll be left only with the Light that watched it all from the inside bleeding out. And the more the Light has become our feeling and thinking, acting and presence, the more what we next become will resemble what we now are — for only those aspects of a human that are imbued with the Light is Love can pass through into the afterlife. In the time after time, there is no race, no gender, no nationality, no politics, no religion, no philosophy — nothing but the glow of kind resolve and the giggle of compassionate joyful sharing fun.

This, at any rate, is what everyone with any sense says happens after death.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

A 6’3″, broad but sloping shoulders light skinned African American cop, large egg-shape head shaved and that same basic shape reflected in his muscular-but-spreading physique. Hands on his belt. Standing six or seven feet from the open door but facing your way, while another stocky, though not so tall, cop faces more towards whatever’s behind the black partition wall.

“Helloo??” asks the tall cop with a tone that says, “and what exactly are you doing poking your head into this police matter?”

You say, “Oh! Hi. Can you tell me what’s going on here? Yesterday you were all here, running around, surrounding the place, arresting people. And the door’s broken. And now you’re here again.” His mouth and nose twitch while his eyes grow. Like he’s about to say something but then no, that’s not quite the thing to say.

“I guess it’s a secret”, you offer. This settles his face with visible relief. He gives a little upnick of the chin, “it’s an active investigation”. But you don’t hear it the first time and say, “What?” He gives another chin upnick, but this time holding his head and chin out to more loudly and more sonically focused on you and repeats, “it’s an active investigation”.

The cop last night had upnicked his chin too, but with more swagger and bravado, wincing his lips a little and throwing his chest out a tad much. This cop is nicer. His full cheeks remain relaxed. And there’s the tiniest trace of a smile on his lips when he delivers the official line.

“OK, well, have a good day.”

“You too!”

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Could you find an article about the bust?
No I couldn’t, but I did find this Facebook Post from the 77th Precinct’s Facebook Page:

On Tuesday night our Anti-Crime Officers responded to a suspected Burglary in the vicinity of Wyrd Street and Weird Avenue in Farflung Fields and discovered an illegal social club operating out of a closed deli. Once inside, a large group was observed and three firearms, cocaine, gambling devices, and approximately $57,000 was recovered. Four persons were arrested and numerous summonsed. Exceptional job by all involved who continue to protect our community. #FlattenTheCurve

So they raided a speakeasy. The thing is that you don’t know what you’re getting into when you’re the police. Criminals don’t send invitations with what to bring and when to RSVP by. And if you don’t come with enough force, you risk more resistance and thus more casualties all around. I guess that’s how it is. And, of course, if three people with guns do decide to start shooting, terrible bloody mayhem ensues. And, then again, $57,000 is a startling lot of money for ten kids in an abandoned storefront.

At any rate, that’s what the social club bust turned up, though they’d originally sought not an illegal social club, but a burglary, because, I guess, someone had seen or heard something from that abandoned “deli”.

The commercial space was not, most recently at least, occupied by a deli; but, as we’ve mentioned, by a juice bar / coffee shop / snack shop. Although, anymore, the line between a place with all these offerings and a deli is perhaps a little fuzzy, as a deli could conceivably also offer them all. Point taken: but this place had no deli counter! It sold no cold cuts and no deli sandwiches!

The posters in the not-deli’s papered-over windows have for some time advertised lectures on wrongful incarcerations.

Last year on at least a few Sundays during football season a stout African American man with a chef’s apron grilled outside, and there were posters up that you could come in and watch the game. Why didn’t you ever do that? You never do anything that might get in the way of you talking to yourself — that’s your problem.

Author: Johnny Onduh Spawt
Eyewitness Editors: Bartleby Willard and Amble Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson

[NYC Journal]

Secret Sunrise Apology

Secret Sunrise Apology

I don’t know why that happened in that way.
Too many hours ‘long too cold a wall.
My visor hinges loose so’s not to stay
without I hold it up in place, while fall
my heavy boots all heavy day upon
these worn-smooth stones where we our watch must keep.
I saw, I thought, you lean, you see; and gone
from contemplations rested, clear and deep,
I sounded the alarm, though gentle speech
was all the cry required you to reach.

Can you believe I meant to help you stand?
Yet legal dots confused my flattened mind.
Forgive me please these stupid heavy hands
that broke the thread, pale-thin but true, that binds.
In darkness stirring wide, the night is loud
with rustled branches, lonesome owl’s hoot
and finally the cock exulting proud.
Now watch human justice itself refute.
Why did this happen in this wrinkled way?
I need you and could find no way to say.

Author: BW
Editor: AW
Copyright: AM Watson

NYC Journal #10 – Recalled to Life

NYC Journal #10 – Recalled to Life

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #10 — Friday 4/24/2020 — Recalled to Life

On Friday, April 24, 2020, Walter Samsa bathed and dressed, ate 50% whole wheat rye bread with organic no-stir peanut butter and grape muscat jelly imported from France, and, zipping up his puffy red vest with his black scarf tucked in but puffing out like a robin’s breast (robin black breast??), throwing his black Jansport over his shoulders, and grabbing a 6” umbrella in one hand and an old white dress shirt (with the bottom third inexpertly cut off) folded up in the other, he left his apartment.

Rainy, low-40s, gloomy, air heavy.

All throughout New York City all year round, some nontrivial portion of the sidewalks are covered by sidewalk sheds of corrugated metal sheets atop rusty I-beams supported by steel poles with flat square feet propped up on an uneven number of 12”X12” pieces of 2”-thick wood. The roofs protect pedestrians from any stray building material. They also serve as a platform for the workers to stage this or that facade work from. To keep both debris and workers from falling onto the street or sidewalk, they have tall walls (maybe 4 foot tall, on average). These “scaffolds”, as they’re sometimes named, are boxes with plywood walls standing thirty feet over the sidewalk.

Walter stopped under a green-walled construction shed.

He set his old rust-stained blue umbrella down concave-up on the sidewalk and lay the slightly-shortened, de-collared but still ringed around collar-area, old offwhite dress shirt on the inside of the umbrella. Folding its bottom up and top down, he created a 6”-tall band, which he centered around his nose/mouth/chin area, and then fastened into place by tying the shirt sleeves behind his head. During the tying process, the wind kicked his umbrella, stutter-skidding it a few feet ahead. He scooped it back up and went back to the rain, which had been patiently waiting outside the shed’s shelter. And he was off! Ready to abide by current subway-riding regulations.

He noticed that the fabric’s sheerness created a bit of problem: it got sucked up by his nostrils and covered them, interfering with their essential function. He adjusted it so it poofed out a bit more around his nose. Then it seemed to work pretty well, though he’d have to pull up or otherwise adjust the makeshift bandit-mask several times during the next twenty minutes.

Thirty or forty people standing or on benches scattered along a couple hundred feet of subway platform, waiting with him in the dank basement-world for the screeching train looming light.

Did he make a mistake? He noticed a bum sleeping in the car on his left hand side and also one sleeping in the car on his right hand side. But since there were already other people in the car on his left hand side, with still others now boarding, he thought the better option was to join the sparser car on his right hand side. Was he wrong? It’s one thing to be able to say: “things would’ve gone better if you’d chosen the car on the left hand side”; it’s another to claim: “you should’ve known to choose the car on the right hand side”.

It wasn’t that bad, but it did turn out that by choosing the car to his right, he had chosen to travel with one homeless man stretched out on a bench diagonally across from him, and another—not initially perceived—sitting upright with broad hands on thick thighs, surrounded by a loose semi-circle of strewn boxes and bags, several benches down. The car remained otherwise empty for the four stops Walter had to journey, and the seated man yelled at him the entire time, with the reposing man occasionally chiming in with a sleepy refrain of the more vulgar taunts.

But whose fault was this incident? For didn’t Walter Samsa initially swivel his back against the back wall and his feet up on this bench by the back door? And didn’t he pull out a notebook, set it on his lap, and begin to make notes while studying the sleeping man? And aren’t these actions likely the cause of the other man’s words:

“Don’t do that! I’m not high! I’m not looking at you! Somebody asks! Looking at me like I’m a piece of shit. I’m not a piece of shit!”

Here Walter bends over to be able to see the yelling man, “Are you talking to me? I can barely see you from here!”

“Don’t talk man. Like I’m a dog! I ain’t a dog! You look’in at that girl, you watch’in her—and you ain’t gett’in no pussy! No pussy! (it was here that the other opened his eyes, gave a little laugh, and then chimed in, “Ain’t gett’in no pussy!”) Ain’t nobody fuck with me, man! Ain’t nobody!”

[There was, as previously stated, no one in the car but these three men. Had they passed a female at the last station? Walter had been preoccupied with his immediate environs, and so couldn’t say.]

Walter Samsa dreams of a career in capture-journalism. He imagines himself catching precious moments as they float past, retaining them, boiling them down to their essentials, and reanimating them in prose. And so he’d thought to himself:

“Well, this is not my preferred subway car, but I may as well verbally sketch this man. Aged perhaps 40, dark-skinned with matted hair forming a bouncy many-fingered solid sometimes tamped down and sometimes rejecting oversized parka hood, reclining to his full height (5’10”?) on the light blue subway seat, his oversized, canvas square-cut navy-blue coat looking new but a little spattered with dirt. Wearing dark slacks a little wrinkled but not grimy and bright yellow socks with puffy white geometric shapes all over them. Lank build. Thin of face, with sunken cheeks and sharp features. What looks like a giant black purse or an ornate bowling-ball bag stuffed to overflowing with I don’t know what all under his seat. And right now he places a very dirty (lots of black (oil?) and brown spots all over it’s crinkled yellowed base) dish rag on top of his face.”

How did Walter Samsa think observing that homeless man and writing down his observations would help anyone? What is the use of being a writer? What is the use of Walter Samsa writing what he’s writing?

The yelling man was tall and stout. He wore a puffy coat and a knit-cap with a little built-in brim. Walter couldn’t see him very well. This man coughed quite a bit. But they were fake hollow forced-air coughs, meant to disquiet Walter. Of course both men have been riding the NYC subway without fare and without masks all during the pandemic, and so of course they’ve been exposed to the virus. But they’re not currently sick. If anything, the man coughed-out some coronavirus antibodies.

Walter wondered this: Why didn’t he smell anything? His sense of smell had long since been restored. And usually if a homeless man lays around with his shoes off in a subway car, it creates a stink. Is it the mask? Or is it owing to the relative cleanliness of this homeless man?

The yelling man also said that Walter was a spoiled baby. Is he right? How close is Walter to being homeless, to wandering the unforgiving NYC streets alone, hungry, shunned, smelly, tired, vulnerable to the elements and pandemics? Just a couple inches this way or that and any human switches places with any other human: is it like that?

Stephanie Zambrano was the only one there to witness his 9:30AM entrance. She was wearing sweatpant pedal-pushers, a thick light-green long-T-shirt, and white lowtops. The roots of her hair were coming up gray, though the mass of it—brushed up and back to fall on all sides like a harried mane—remained a very dark brown. “Waalll-ter!” she exclaimed. They chatted a minute. It was established that he’d been away almost five weeks. The receptionist came in with a blue surgical mask on. She walked into the kitchen, greeting him on the way. He followed her in and said, “about these masks”. She said, “I have to give you one.” A little while later he said, “Why is mine white and yours blue?” She replied, “Oh, this is one I grabbed from home; I have a white one too.” And then he had to ask where people got masks like that these days and she told him her father had gotten a box at the pharmacy before the whole thing really got going.

Why does Walter do this job? It’s too stressful for him.
There’s too much yelling.
And sometimes you yell with ferocious certainty only to find out that so and so never answered your calls because your colleague had been dialing the wrong number, which meant that so and so hadn’t been blowing you off so much as failing to pick up a phone not his own.

What else happened during this working day?

At the nearby vegan grocer, he was greeted by a young smiling man holding out a box of plastic gloves. He put on the gloves and nodded to the man. Now they were twins! Both with masks and clear plastic gloves. It was as if everyone was the same person, a person in a sterile nosebridge-to-chin face mask and clear plastic gloves. This one much-copied person leaned over the shelves as a tallish thin lithe-limbed young woman with darky curly tumbling hair, rearranging vitamins; and leaned patiently back as a broad beefy-limbed young man with heavy hand on the top box, holding the tilted-back two-wheel hand-truck in place while a short 40ish man with a white coffee-funnel-like face mask and clear plastic gloves meandered annoying long over the sprouted-wheat breads; and—as a young woman with big eyes and nervously-bowed eyebrows—hoisted a bag of groceries over the plastic dividing line, pushing them at the 40ish man who’d just purchased the frozen sprouted-wheat bread (yup: he ended up taking back the much-contemplated fresh sprouted-wheat loaf!), a $10 jar of organic no-spread peanut butter, two $5 avocado and hummus sandwiches on sprouted-wheat bread, and a $5 organic applesauce.

Why had that short male 40ish medium-build, with receding hairline and never-quite-perfect sprouted bread, incarnation of the masked- and gloved-one thought it appropriate to go on and on about how he’d not used his debit card for so long he’d forgotten the pin! ?? Why? Should people be proud of him for having been sick for so long? And proud to have him, fresh out of some sordid squalid quarantine, choose their establishment as the first place to use his rusty old debit card??

A man with a booming jovial voice calls Walter on his office line. No, he’d not seen his email. The girl at the office had told him Walter wanted him to call him. You know what? They’ll send somebody Monday morning. Nothing easier! Regular route guy! First thing Monday. If that’ll put Walter’s mind at ease! Anything to help! Glad to help! You have yourself a great weekend! Walter hangs up the phone, feeling frail and neurotic and recognized as such. In truth, he’s getting very tired. A full day for his first day back was maybe a bit much.

Walter worked from 9:30AM to 5PM.
He wore a mask except for the five minutes it took to eat an avocado, hummus, tomato, and lettuce sandwich on sprouted-wheat bread. And for the occasional slurp of iced tea (decaf green and black). And for those few minutes he spent eating spoonfuls of peanut butter. And when he first walked in and only had the embarrassing button-up dressshirt mask, which he shoved into his bag moments after the heavy wooden office door had latched behind him. Of course, at that time, the place was almost completely empty.

The office was cold, with the wet humid 40ish cloudbank outside air somehow infiltrating. He wore a sweater and at times his scarf. In total four out of thirty people made it to the office that day. But many computer screens moved as if they were alive. They were inhabited remotely by the accounting department from their homes in Long Island, Queens, and New Jersey. The most boring ghosts conceivable, meticulously haunting spreadsheets.

Walter S. caught a train from Borough Hall around 5:15PM. There were maybe a half dozen other commuters in his train. Everyone wearing face masks—blue surgical or white dust or medical, for the most part. Everyone except for the guy who got in at Nevins street with his white corrugated face mask down and a pizza box in his hands. He plopped gratefully onto a bench and set the medium-sized pizza box on his thighs. (Everybody had at least half a bench to themselves for this ride.) A very light-skinned young black man, a little below medium height, a little muscled past medium build, with a beard sketched around the perimeter of his square-oval face, and a straight mustache likewise drawn (you know: a precisely trimmed ⅛” thick beard: just enough to have the clear outline of facial hair, but not at all poofy). He wore a light jacket open, slacks, and working boots with thick gray round-edged soles. Once situated, he opened the pizza box. Looked like BBQ chicken (chunks of white chicken with BBQ sauce slathered all over the top). He folded a slice lengthwise, bent over the open box, and shoveled a third of the piece in his mouth.

Walter was by this time beginning to realize that he had used up every bit of the “feeling great!” that he’d 10AM bragged to the receptionist. He envied the man’s energy. He wondered vaguely about the impact of subway snacking on the coronavirus spread. Could it possibly be having a statistically significant effect?

Walter Samsa went to be before 6PM.
He got up after 8AM.
His first day back had been very busy and quite tiring.
He felt like a little boy in a story book who has a busy day and then goes to bed.
Privileged little boys in story books who are allowed to rest after a hard day’s efforts.
He doesn’t like the title “privileged”. It sometimes seems to get thrown around in a mean and dismissive way. As if everything good that happened to whoever gets the label was stolen and everything bad the result of the labeled-one’s patheticness. But it is nice to be able to go home at 5PM when you’re all tuckered out and your lungs are back to feeling squishy. It’s nice to have a quiet bed to go to and not everyone does.

Why did it take him exactly five full weeks to return to the office?
He’d lie and bed and hear the Prokurist say,
“Hoffentlich ist es nichts Ernstes. Wenn ich auch andererseits sagen muß, daß wir Geschäftsleute — wie man will, leider oder glücklicherweise — ein leichtes Unwohlsein sehr oft aus geschäftlichen Rücksichten einfach überwinden müssen.”
[Hopefully it’s nothing serious. Though I must on the other hand remark that we business people — unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately — are quite often compelled, out of professional considerations, to simply overcome a little sense of unwellness].
Walter Samsa worked dutifully from home the whole time!
He would’ve probably gotten better quicker if he’d really spent all day lying on his sofa — as slanderously charged by some not-to-be-named field worker!

What about racial descriptions in New York City?
“What’s he look like? Is he black, white, Spanish, what?” says the 30 year old pale white kid with the Staten Island accent and the green-lined tattoos. He’s pacing around on his cell phone, a marked chub running through his ranginess.
“That dude hits on every woman! You know? That’s what I’ve noticed! Light-skinned girls, dark-skinned girls, white girls — he don’t discriminate!” says the 30 year old light-skinned black kid with the Bronx accent and the multi-colored tattoos. Leaning over veiny forearms on the low countertop, looking unstoppable in tight polo shirt around carefully-crafted musculature.
Walter S. circumlocutes around racial descriptions whenever possible. He counts as “white”, isn’t from New York,is too old to be 30, and is afraid of offending people.

Author: Franz Kazoo
Editors: JOS, BW, AW
Copyright: AMW

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #9 – First Nice Day

NYC Journal #9 – First Nice Day

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #9 – First Nice Day – observed and notes jotted on Sunday 4/19/2020, although not completed/posted until Wednesday, 4/22/2020

Is the following a true-account?
There’s no need to take it as such.
But you could confidently call it a rough sketch of the general scene as wandered through by one observer who’s trying to get better at noticing and remembering but is so far not the very most reliable observer.

On Sunday, April 19, 2020, the weather in New York City was sunny and warm enough that many wore sweaters and light jackets and a few wore T-shirts and shorts.

Along Eastern Parkway by the Museum the wide white sidewalks beamed in the sunshine. A thin woman a little above average height with tumbling gray locks and a long wizened face with stark folds and somber eyes behind a strong nose walked slowly, distractedly, pulling a small yellow box (a canvas-walled cart on wheels, maybe), her long brown smooth-leather (almost plasticky) jacket open. No mask. Not everyone had on a mask. But most did. She did not.

Upon entering the Prospect Park entrance across the round-about from the Civil War Monument, visitors were greeted by a large orange-framed black roadwork sign with “Beat COVID-19: Practice Social Distancing” (or something like that) scrolling across in yellow lightbulb-pixelation. Directly in front of the giant sign, at the bottom corner of that little spigot of land that borders the roadway around the park and splits the road entering/leaving the park, was a piece of orange plastic about six feet long and a couple feet wide that read “<---- Stay this far apart —->”

The park on this day was so very full! Everyone exercising, walking, talking. Most of the locomoting people behind masks, except for the serious exercisers — maybe half of that subgroup had covered noses/mouths. At this entrance near the Civil War monument and the main Brooklyn library, park-goers walk up the road a little ways and then carefully cross the wide circumambulating bike/walk/run road (so as to avoid death by cyclists, who sometimes seem more interested in maintaining their heartrates than in the safety of all these annoying pedestrians); head down maybe ten wide stairs cut in dirt and shored up by logs, with trees and other brush on all sides, and then they see it: a great bowl of treeless green, bordered on either side by a raised path and trees.

On this fine spring day in that bowl—which is maybe 100 yards wide and 400 yards until it rolls up onto a stretch of higher, tree-ier ground—bloomed hundreds of little encampments. Small groups of people on blankets and sheets. Individual people on towels or blankets or lying on their backs, their heads propped up on backpacks or whatever else was handy. People in shorts and T-shirts doing lunge-squats or other exertions. Some with masks up, some with masks hanging about their chins. Some with their masks presumably in pockets, backpacks, purses, handbags.

A young woman in black track pants (the kind with the double white lines running down the sides) and a tight-fitting black top that left her midriff bare (pale; sturdy, but with curves and a soft stomach) fell forward onto her belly, her back bowed backwards, and was so elastic that she could somehow slide her head to one side and roll over her shoulder while her bare feet wound around and over her head, caught the ground, and pulled her contortioning body up and back around into a thoughtful sitting pose. She’d take a break for a minute or so and then fall forward again. Another young woman lay nearby, her head turned towards her friend, admiring and chatting, as the occasion permitted. Or maybe they didn’t know each other, and the one just happened to glance over and say something as this observing entity passed by. What can you recall of the perhaps-friend? A long brown braid? A long body and face? Olive skinned? Lying next to a bike? Oh, now you’re just guessing! At any rate, neither wore a mask right then and there.

Near the front center of the bowl sat two colonies about four feet apart, talking to one another across the safe-ish distance. A man [40s? Tall. A little belly settling around his square youth. Big head, big brow and fleshy forward chin. Full head of hair (light brown?) worn long and pulled back. A ruggedness and/or lumpiness nestling into his square youth. In the 1920s silent films he played a Viking in the winter and spring and a cowboy in the summer and fall, when his tan set in] and a young woman (short, slight, petite, long straight black hair, Asian). His mask, perhaps a bandana blue and white from the Wild West, was pulled down below his chin, so he could speak across the space to the three huddled on their private blanket. The woman was busy. Standing up. Folding up a towel. Her face shrouded always behind a giant multi-colored bandana hanging down to her chest. It couldn’t have been a bandana; they’re not that big; perhaps shawl? Dark running tights? A sweatshirt?

No, don’t you shouldn’t in the middle of an article switch tenses!
Oh, no, stop!
Too late:

Everyone is happy in the grass and in the sun.

A farmer and his wife walk down the steep incline on one side of the bowl. He swings a classic picnic basket woven of thin strips of light brown wood. The blue and white plaid fabric lining the basket and rounding its rim was also used to make his nose/mouth/chin mask. Her pink, with yellow and white lines (plaid, I guess) one-piece straight-cut textured-cotton farmer’s wife dress does not exactly match her face mask.

He swings the basket gayly. I wish I could remember the kind of blues he wore. Blue plaid short sleeve? Knee-length dark-denim shorts? Navy blue khaki slacks? They are both 30ish, tall, sturdy, with a little excess flesh rounding out their full shoulders and thighs. It’s like the coach said: those farmer boys from North East don’t have the prettiest muscles, but they are big useful muscles, and they make for good football players, and — at least at the upper weights — good wrestlers. Their faces were soft, large, pale from the winter, and topped with some kind of hair.

[Did a coach ever say that? Anyway, North East had kids of all shapes and sizes, like all the other little towns that we, ourselves a little town, competed against.]

Are these two happy larks really farmers? Seems really unlikely. Could be that one works in software and the other in design. Hard to say from merrily swinging picnic basket while greedily gobbling sunlight: could be anybody from any kind of business out in the Sunday sun. Were they at least raised on farms? Probably not. Most people weren’t anymore.

Outside the park, walking home, still sunny:

A tall pale Orthodox guy with a large belly in his white button-up shirt and stretching the top of his black slacks leans back a little as he walks, long arms swaying, swinging cupped hands fore and aft. He wears large thick-framed glasses and a blue surgical mask. His great gray and white beard explodes all around the mask so that it bunches and lumps up a little.It sits on the front of his face like the little floppy blue snout. A light skinned black guy with a powerful square-cut beard has a similar problem. Is it a problem? Sure: there’s more space for air to go in and out of when you wear your mask as a little lumpy dome on the front of your beard. Better than nothing, though, I guess.

[You invented the man with the square beard. Did I? Well, here’s another invention: a mask for giant beards: a flat mask; like a 4×4 cloth with strings; the standard cupping shape is counterproductive when the chin’s been replaced by a bristly platform.]

Those several kids leaning over scooter handles are skinny. Their bangs are too long and they should be wearing helmets. At least they’re wearing cloth face masks as they roll-mill around the Brooklyn Museum’s Eastern Parkway entrance. That’s more than can be said for the two shirtless skater kids (young teens; so older than the scooterers) in baggy bright-colored shorts and brown and white skins hitting and missing tricks on the wide concrete patio of the main branch of the Brooklyn Library [on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Flatbush; the patio being a short flight of steps above the sidewalk and a short flight below the spinning-door library entrance].

Why is this old woman in the long brown smooth-leather coat still near the museum / botanic garden entrances? She looks away from the observer’s gaze, pointedly pivoting her head, neck and upper torso away so as to almost face the street.

The people you saw were more likely to be white than is normal for that walk. Is that true? Nothing approximating a formal study was performed. Quite a few Orthodox families; that’s normal for that walk I guess. How old were the people in the thousand chatting encampments in the Prospect park bowl? Mostly late-20s through 40s, maybe? With some young families mixed in. That’d be my guess. I noticed many exceptions in age and/or race, but the general impression I had of the bowl was a thousand encampments of one, two, three, maybe four 30 year old white people on blankets in the sun. A pitched military camp that had forgotten their tents or were perhaps laying groggily, drunk on peace and quiet, on top of them. But now I think I should’ve looked more closely. Certainly a thousand encampments were not observed, let alone remembered. In any case, the park was different than normal: An unbroken sea of isolated outposts and a lack of sports changed the mood from an active park to a desperate field of sunworship and hellohellohelloing.

I can think of at least one example of four young people resting on backs or sides, propped up on elbows or forearms, forming a loose square, hanging out in a socially distanced society. I don’t think they had on masks. Many congregants kept their many colored mostly light cloth lowerface masks on; many didn’t. The ones that didn’t often wore the masks around their necks.

It’s good to get outside finally and see somebodies. Tiring though. Mighty tiring. An hour and a half of fresh air and interfacing with other pedestrians (every interaction with another person, however distant, is at least a tiny little confrontation, a stressor—however minute)!

Makes a body more than ready to slide back into isolation, sink into bed, forget the world outside and how we are all here together and beholden to one another and actually all the same exact Light though wearing slightly different flesh and notions; but how we still somehow slide past each other and don’t really get each other and sometimes even get all mad at each other, or high and mighty or bitter resentful or lustfully focused or all this other stuff that isn’t quite at all the Truth and yet which we cling to and serve as if it were the Truth.

Yes, just go back to bed. You’re tired, and everyone is just a person until they die and learn the Whole Truth and sit with the Great God on a red and white checkered picnic blanket in the park one fine sunny day, eating cucumber sandwiches while jointly critiquing their (the dead-human’s) performance, considering where to improve and how. Only in heaven do picnic blankets spread out so perfectly, never and nowhere bunching up nor flutter-flapping over.

Author: Proud Mary Pledge with Johnny onde Spoett
Editor: B. Willard with A. Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson with Andy W.

[NYC Journal]

A Simpler Shared Something Deeperism

A Simpler Shared Something Deeperism

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

We human-things are not going to agree on everything.
We’ll argue philosophy, worldview, religion, politics, style.

But we are all still human-things and can thus all agree that to the degree a worldview fails to help an adherent develop more and more aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, respectful, kind, joyful, loving thought and action; that worldview is useless to that adherent.

Because those are the ways we must think and act in order to understand, believe-in, care-about, and participate-in our own thoughts and actions. To the degree we are not aware … loving, our thoughts and actions clang meaninglessly about: we cannot travel with our own thinking and acting, and so rather than being steered by the clear light of conscious awareness, our bodies/minds are steered by the chaos of competing animal-flinches (“give me!” “get away!” “I know!” “I don’t know!” etc). This is the way downward.

Bone-trembling example: Suppose there’s a !True Religion! Suppose further that you know and believe all its dogmas, but not with awareness … love. What do you then possess? Muddled thoughts desperately trying to interpret ideas that they do not understand — or even really believe in or care about.

Flesh-shaking other example: Suppose there is a sense in which things like “Real” and “Not Real” don’t even exist. Suppose further you believe this dogma, but not with awareness … love. What do you then possess? Muddled thoughts desperately trying to interpret ideas that they do not understand — or even really believe in or care about.
And so while we will continue to debate worldviews, we should agree to never pretend that our worldviews justify or even tolerate any departure from awareness, clarity, … loving kindness. When one does that, one betrays that aspect of anyone’s worldview that is actually meaningful and useful to anyone; and so one sacrifices everything worthy for a moment’s bloated fantasy about “us” versus “them”.

Let us therefore work diligently together to fight for more awareness, clarity, accuracy, competence, kindness, shared joy and real togetherness.

Why do we fight to establish and maintain just principles, norms, procedures, and laws within ourselves, our families, our communities, our groups secular and parochial, our governments, our friendships? Not to be “right” while others are “wrong”, but to all join together around our shared starting point — the one whose betrayal amounts to betraying all our worthiest (ie: most meaningful/useful to whole-human-beings [creatures consisting of ideas, feelings, and thatolsoullight all working together]) principles.

We don’t agree on everything, but we still have the ability and duty to work together on what we do agree on: awareness, clarity, accuracy, competence, kindness, shared joy, on how we are all in this together and beholden to one another.
Let’s permanently retire the crooked daydream that we disagree so fundamentally as to preclude any common ground, any shared identity and reality. That tired trope’s already responsible for too many fetid, diseased wounds deep-tunneling through century upon lonesome century. Let’s try more interesting, more enlightening, more productive, more beautiful angles.
Everything in its place: We don’t need to agree on worldviews to agree that none of our worldviews means anything to any of us without clarity, honesty, accuracy, competence, kindness and shared joy. And we don’t need to agree on worldviews to demand these goods of our organizations and governments.

Let’s not get side-tracked by details! Let’s keep our collective eye on the prerequisites for any meaningful worldview and any workable community, system, organization, or government!

Pudd N. Tane,
President of the “We can do it!” Society of North America,
A chapter in good standing of the the “We can do it!” International Body of Optimistic Realists.
“We’re optimistic, because we believe humans are capable of doing good!”

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

NYC Journal #8 – Life on the Outside

NYC Journal #8 – Life on the Outside

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal – Saturday 4.18.2020 – Life on the Outside

Did you mislead the doctor? Oversell our improvement? You feel fine, but why this nagging chest congestion? Not unpleasant, just a gentle trickle of mucus up your throat all day.

She said that starting when your sense of smell returns, you turn away from being contagious. And it’s been way more than seven days since that happened.

Seven days without symptoms, was what she said was needed, and then she honed in on the sense of smell, saying that that at that point even if you were still sloughing off the virus for a little while, it is probably coated in the antibodies you’re creating. Then she said of course there was not enough certainty to say anything with certainty and the very best thing would be if you could get a nose swab. But you feel better and better and your friend had to wait to get the test and then two weeks to get the results, and in weeks and weeks from now, you’ll either be all better or tragically dead. (“We thought he was getting better! He was getting better! Well, it’s tricky when you’re in charge of your own diagnosis and treatment. A certain percentage will screw it up.”)

It was the agreed upon time and you felt well and so you did it. It took a month, but you gathered up your cloth shopping bag, your vest and your scarf, and walked beneath a giant dome of gray curling clouds that covered the afternoon in an eerie blue-tinged light, making the orange bricks of the schoolhouse pop dramatically out — redder, brighter, more determined.

The grocery store is close by. Everyone has a mask on, except you only have a scarf. You don’t have a mask because you’ve been inside your apartment for a month. You don’t need a mask, because you’re already cured of the concern. Or so you suppose. Some of the masks look like perhaps black cloth and nothing more, but you don’t get nosy, and perhaps these ninja cowls are something more than cloth, perhaps much more.

The barrel chested stocker in his blue thick-cotton button-up uniform shirt is there like always, except now the bottom half of his face is covered by a mask. Blue surgicalish? Now you forget. And were the plastic gloves he wore clear, blue, or black? At least he’s still shorter than you. Why is everyone so tall and thin and looming now? What has happened? Did you get smaller in your captivity?

The tall thin (not slight, but not quite rangy) pale young man, all dressed in black even to his mask, sees you standing off patiently four feet (should be six!), eying the potatoes, and so he backs away, allowing you to enter the space. This kind of turn taking, space giving and taking, aisle opening all happens automatically. Social animals, easily adapting to this new way of coordinating space with glances and by reading the momentum of bodies.

Who was that short white guy with brown receding hair slicked back but poofing a little 1950sy up? He was dressed in a very dudish, bright, blue/purple/yellow/mauve pearl snap-button westernwear plaid shirt. With a black scarf. Everyone else had a mask. Why didn’t he? Where’s he been the last month?

In the store today, he danced side to side with snappy movements like a breakdancer. To Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River”

Who was the short teakettle-shaped black lady who’s singing, through her white hospital mask, to Spandau Ballet’s “True” caused the dude to nick in recognition and agreement as he sailed past her? “This is the sound of my soul, this is the sound … ”

You can’t wear glasses with a big scarf over your nose. It fogs your glasses. You have to put them in your vest pocket and zip it up.

The girfriend with straight lines pulled down her mask to say something at her curvier girlfriend, who walked a pace ahead as they neared the aisle, and who lifted and bent her head to hear what the other forward-spoke. Is that allowed?

The young boy with his cherub cheeks fading (6 years old? 7? 8?) let his blue surgical mask hang down around his chin while he looked up at his fit-40s mother-type. Is that allowed?? They were off to one side, along an otherwise unoccupied wall far from the shopping and the motion. But still: is that allowed??

[Editor’s Note: Originally, these individuals were sketched a little more precisely. We removed even that touch of precision for the sake of anonymity. The author thinks he’s being funny in this “Is that allowed??” segment, and that a little slippage from mask-protocol is to be expected and, at least in minor cases like these, overlooked. But maybe people would be embarrassed to see themselves immortalized with their mask down in this setting. And we don’t want to give any impression of a state-run paper, where even the gossip column is really there for the sake of outing, disgracing and ultimately destroying all dissent.]

Not everyone was tall and thin and swaying in the breeze high above you, but many were. Not everyone was dressed all in black, but so many were!

This cashier is a sturdy young woman with several lines of tight braids running down her head. She’s protected by a plastic shield in front of the conveyor belt, and by a white clinic mask and black plastic gloves.

She says, “I’ll bag it for you!” The dude is not used to this kind of treatment, and starts bagging the smaller bag himself. On the way home perhaps it will dawn on him that she probably wanted him to not reach into her space to grab the tumbling produce.

At some point early in their relationship, he says to her, “I guess I’ll just have to buy a bag!” She says to him, “We’ll figure it out!” And, a little while later, after one of the most masterfully efficient packing jobs he’s like to ever witness, she presents him with a very heavy very solid canvas bag, and exclaims (smiling, no doubt, behind that mask) “See! No need for a bag!”

Did you get everything you wanted?
Forgot the salt. Five years on one salt container and it picks the pandemic to peter out! And then you forget to buy it at the grocery store! You’re not going back there tomorrow. Not for salt. Add salty condiments to whatever you need salt on.

No toilet paper still. No plasticware either. Or dishwashing soap. Low on cleaning supplies in general.

They had broccoli, but it looked a little dry and pale; you bought it anyway, since you were craving broccoli; it was pretty tasteless, but better than absolutely no broccoli. You got a definite sense of broccoli.

Only one natural peanut butter; and only a few jars of that! Take it! Take it! And settle for this strange muscat grape jelly. Could be good! Good to try new things. You’re one of many who now sit at home, replaying their day, regretting not taking the shelf up on the fig jams. No one ever thinks to buy fig jam, not even in a pandemic and it’s one of the few options available. But fig jam is a neat idea. Next time.

Fancy bread available still, though not the exact fancy bread you’d hoped for.

Menu: Steak marinated in Bragg(™) amino acid (tastes like soy sauce; you’d forgotten you had it, but the fridge is now showing its once hidden back-area) and fried in organic expeller-pressed canola oil; cooked carrots, potatoes, beets, and broccoli; and a small side salad.

A big steak.
You thought you might just eat half.
You ate every bit, including all lumps of gristle.
If you’d had the teeth for it, you would’ve probably crunched the bone.

But what have you learned from all this?

Author: Distant Dan
Editor: Jonathon Vonder Spoett
Producers: B. Willard / A. Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #7 – A Larger Day Alone

NYC Journal #7 – A Larger Day Alone

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #7 – Thursday 4/16/2020 – A larger day alone

Using up food in the pantry and fridge is satisfying.

Why did I have five partially-consumed nut butter jars? Three peanut butter and two almond butters? I don’t know why. But as of this morning I have none.

Why did I leave two pieces of organic spelt sourdough bread to ossify in my fridge for several months? I don’t know why. But this morning I enjoyed peanut butter and in some spots almond butter and grape jelly on two very thick very hard organic spelt sourdough bread crackers. (Yes! You guessed it! I went through both the fancy jellies and all the Finn crisps).

Seamless texted me questions about my satisfaction. The final was one about did the delivery person respect my wishes for a contact-free delivery. I said” Yes”, because there was no option for “And how! He’d thumped down several flights of steps by the time I turned the latch, stretched up my shoulders a moment to let the Light in at the blades a bit, and pushed open my door.”

The previous two days I’d lunched on whole wheat noodles, frozen peas boiled with a bit of salt, and olive oil. Oh, and yesterday I added some canned salmon with mayo and mustard. Today I bought enough Mexican food (whole wheat steak burrito, large guacamole with chips, large chop salad) for two days. It’ll definitely last two days because I made my own side: refried beans with whole wheat noodles. They’re not just whole wheat. They are an ancient and abiding grain, which has proven its synergy with the human form. (I don’t eat dinner, especially not while under house arrest.)

I was so hungry when I finally got to ordering lunch around 2:00pm! And then they have to prepare it and bring it, texting fiendishly all the way. And then when I was trying to eat lunch, somebody had a clogged tub, and strange goings on were in motion due to another person’s worried radiator, and something else that seemed noteworthy at the time and which I’ve now forgotten also got going. So I was really really hungry when I finally ate around 3:30pm. As a result, I scarfed my food. I did not adequately commune with one of the best meals of my life — a fresh hearty feast that leapt up to meet the demands of my returning appetite. This I regret.

Hunger enhances a meal, up to a point. Of course, I who’ve lived so molly coddled for so many years, cannot speak of real hunger. I should’ve just sat down, taken a deep breath, gave a little prayer of great thanks, considered the moment, savored the occasion, and ate slowly. Oh well. I can savor the tastes in retrospect. And there was some real-time savoring.

I can’t say enough about today’s teledoctor. It was like she cared! It was the best. I told her how I’d been taking the isolation order really seriously and have only been outside twice in four weeks. She said you must be going crazy. I said YES!, I AM!

We had a lot of other nice exchanges. And she said that while we lack adequate the scientific evidence to be too certain — since, after all, two months were wasted after the initial warning (who said that? Was it me or her? Or do I just add it now? You’ll never know! Dr/Patient confidentiality! ) — , it seems like, seeing as my sense of smell’s been returned to me for a while and I in general seem to be reinvigorating, that I should be OK for work next week.

Do you know about the tests? I do. She told me. The one they swab your nose’s interior and tell you that you do or don’t currently have the latest model of coronavirus. This test has a 25% false negative, but it’s better than nothing, and it would be great if I could get one before work begins again — just to be really sure, and in this way extend to my colleagues the consideration that I would like from them, were our roles reversed. And in like manner did she weave many a profound spiritual teaching into her medical learnings. The other test tells me if I have the antibodies: here’s a great idea: call this local hospital that’s looking for people to donate blood with the covid-19 antibodies, and offer up some plasma: you get a test, people less lucky than you get the help they need, everything goes better for everybody.

But first things first: I need to find someone qualified to swirl a cue tip around the inside edge of one of my nostrils. Luckily a nearby walk-in clinic had texted me about the tests earlier this week. I clicked on the link. However, it seemed that since I’d already been to that clinic, I needed to sign in to the website with an already existing account, and if — as in my case — one doesn’t have a login and password, one must call the clinic to get it. And then when I called the clinic, I was on hold for twenty minutes and then transferred to an answering machine without realizing it and then heard, “you’ve exceeded the maximum time. Your message will be deleted.” On the one hand, I’d left no message, so it doesn’t seem to matter that it was deleted; on the other hand, it is always painful to be deleted, erased, forgotten, zeroed away as if you’d never been the legion that you had, in certain moments of fluid competency engaging and utilizing you’re whole moment, known yourself to be.

Beyond the above I don’t know what to say. I think the breath exercises where you take in a small sip of air and hold your breath while expanding your abdomen from your gut up — I think doing that for like an hour stretched out over many hours last night and then again as much as work permitted this morning was very salutary. I think it helped reduce the congestion and papery / fragile lungs. Eating so much so quickly was unsalutary: it seems to have brought back a trace of the paper lung feel.

Today’s Spotify lists were Classical Jazz and Jazz Classic. I don’t know why. I wanted something with bounce, but also with some depth, even if I have a very weak understanding of music and can not plumb its depths, but can only vaguely sense that some interesting ideas and beautiful sentiments are going on way down there, albeit far deeper and wider than my perception reaches.

Wait! Hold on! Today I was also reminded that the people still working out in the world during this shutdown are not being adequately compensated for the risks they’re running. The least we can do is cover our faces, give them wide berth, look out for them when we can, and also, in a weak but hopefully not completely negligible attempt to push against the injustices within the economy, tip generously. So there’s that. Also we could maybe give some thought on how to look out for everyone. I’m so wrapped up in myself, I can only half fathom wise counsel; but I pass it on, hoping more spiritually mature souls will understand and advance it.

Author: Mr. Toad
Oversight: JOS, BW, AW
Copyright: AMW

[NYC Journal]