Friday, September 23, 2011

Making Coffee

It takes more ground beans than you think. Try four tablespoons for a good-sized mug. Use good coffee. Buy whole beans and have the coffee shop grind them. Use clean, cold water. Go ahead. Measure out the grounds. Pour the water. Hit the button. Now wait. Look out the window. Rub your eyes. And if you’re the type, maybe you light a cigarette. Me, I’ll inhale the morning. Dewy grass. Fallen leaves. Waiting pumpkins.I take it all in. Like you, inhaling your cigarette, I hold the world in, and then let it go. The coffee is ready. I pour. Wrap my hands around the mug. Breathe the steam. My first sip is warm, smooth, strong, and dark. The sun rises. The world becomes green. The sky a brilliant blue. And there is nothing but light and coffee and hope ahead of me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Night Time

Lying naked next to your body in the darkness. Our children and the dog are asleep down the hall. The mortgage is paid down to under $75,000. The Soviet Union has long since fallen. But when I brush my hand along your side, you feel to me as you did before Glasnost. And feeling that, I am again idealistic. Naive. I have no career into which I’m trapped. No work in the morning. Just morning classes, then lunch at a long table filled with talk and laughter, followed by a night out drinking beer from plastic cups and shouting over loud music. Then, after midnight, I will climb into bed beside you. I will brush my hand along your side and know that the Soviet Union will fall, the Internet and housing bubbles will burst, that we will slide into recession again and again. As I pull my fingers through your long curls you will quietly gasp and gently moan. The news will go on. The clock turns. There is the mortgage. There are kids and a dog. Tomorrow is another day of work. But under the comforter I touch your body. In the darkness time ceases to make even the slightest sense.

Friday, September 16, 2011


You’d like to think you know where the sun will rise this morning. You want to be the man who knows from which direction will come the first light. Over the garage? Beside the dying elm? But the truth is that you’ve failed to pay attention to the directions of the compass, the phases of the moon, the languages of the clouds. Admit is, you’re not up early to see the sunrise. It was just those damn boys across the street that woke you. They are out there still, drinking, smoking cigarettes, talking and laughing with beautiful blonde-haired girls. You are awake out of simple confusion and anger. It’s not some noble quest. You wonder, why didn’t you drink or smoke cigarettes in high school? How did you fail to learn how to talk with beautiful blonde-haired girls. You’re still thinking these things and rubbing your eyes when you feel sunshine on your back. By the time you turn, the sun has risen, the day is begun, the kids have moved on, you are unsure what to do. Besides, you’ve already forgotten from which direction the sun rises.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Red-Haired Girl

Across the soccer field on which little girls roam and soccer balls flurry, I watch four high-school boys play basketball in the cage. They shout and show off for all the girls we boys imagine are ready to sit in worship of us and our skills. The boy in the grey shirt busts a killer crossover and rises high to take the shot. It should be enough that the kid in the red hat is falling down, that his ankles are so totally broken, but the shooter is imagining a red-haired girl who smiles and blinks her eyes at him from the sidelines. He can see her and the crowd gathered to see him play. And the distraction is enough. His shot goes awry. The crowd groans. His buddies, even the one picking himself up from the deck, laugh and the game goes on. He sneaks a quick look for the red-haired girl. If she were there she’d already be looking elsewhere, smiling at something else. She probably wasn’t even looking at him in the first place. And he remembers now that she’s not even real. He looks across the soccer field, past the little girls now circled around their coach. Behind them he sees the man in a chair, writing in his notebook, about a red-haired girl he used to know, and the kid wonders how this guy looks so familiar.

Monday, September 12, 2011

With Neko Case at the Temple

I sit outside the temple with Neko Case and my dog. None of us are Jewish, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Neko smokes cigarettes, the only thing I don’t like about her, and the smoke drifts by us on God’s own breeze. The dog, who doesn’t smoke (there is nothing I don’t love about her), sits low. She sniffs for scents more mysterious than cigarette smoke. Neko asks the dog a question about death. And, I suppose, life. The dog lifts her head. Sniffs the air. Stares at Neko, then licks her lips and yawns. Neko watches, drags on her cigarette and hangs her head as she exhales. Smoke envelops her red hair. I can’t see her face. Sitting between them, outside the temple, before which the rabbi now stands, I understand none of it. I feel as though it is all mystery. I don’t know why petting a dog always comforts. How cigarette smoke sometimes entices. What the Torah is saying as the Rabbi reads. I don’t even know why Neko Case is here or why she curses, butts her cigarette on her shoe, and goes off saying that she needs a guitar. The dog gets up, stretches, and follows her across the parking lot. That, at least, makes perfect sense sitting outside the temple alone under the blue sky and clouds of heaven.