February 5, 2014 | by Clifford Chase
Fat little dog trotting contentedly along the sidewalk, right at his master’s side, with a plastic steak in his mouth.
Neil Young sounds like a lonely alley cat, I thought, most poignant when slightly out of tune.
Whenever I got on the subway, I looked around for someone cute to glance at, and if there wasn’t anyone I resigned myself to boredom.
Old queen in the locker room: “When you’re the prettiest one in the steam room, it’s time to go home.”
At forty-three I was no longer in my heyday.
The name of the medication printed in a half circle and the “100 mg” made a smiley face on my new, blue pills.
On the L train, a poem called “Hunger” spoke of walking home “through a forest that covers the world.”
I’d had the same part-time public-relations job since November 1985. It was now February 2001 and counting.
I was drawn to Neil Young not by the specific content of the lyrics (too hetero) but by the overall tone of longing, which I defined as a kind of sadness that had hope.
On the L platform, a diminutive Chinese man playing “Send in the Clowns” on a harmonica, with flowery recorded accompaniment.
I write this in the hope that aphorism-like statements, when added one to another, might accrue to make some larger statement that will placate despair. Read More »
February 4, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
For several years, I lived in a neighborhood that worried my parents. But I liked my neighbors, I could afford the rent, and, in the grand tradition of fools, I lived a blissfully oblivious existence. I never once felt unsafe.
Well, that’s not strictly true. My boyfriend and I had been living in the apartment for about two years when I acquired a job that necessitated my commuting to an office, and oftentimes returning after dark.
“I don’t like it,” he said grimly of the fifteen-minute walk from the subway. There had been a recent spate of rapes in the area, he pointed out. “Call me when you get on, and I’ll meet you and walk you home.”
Naturally, I did no such thing. Instead, I walked home every day like a normal person and felt completely safe.
Until, one especially late night, I noticed footsteps behind me. I tried to shrug it off and picked up my pace. The person behind me started walking more quickly, too. I crossed the street; the steps followed me. I made a turn; he was right behind me. Now I felt real fear. I walked as quickly as I could without breaking into a panicked run, and fished my keys out of my pocket, holding the sharp point between my fingers for use as a weapon, as we had been taught in freshman orientation. The steps behind me never faltered. My heart was hammering by the time I made it into our building and threw the deadbolt. Read More »
January 28, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
There were extenuating circumstances. I was in LA for work, and I had known, intellectually, that it would be warm in California—hot, even. But when you’re deep in a New York winter, who really thinks to pack a sundress?
The lightest thing I had was a pair of jeans. So on a particularly Saharan afternoon, I ducked into a thrift store and grabbed a cotton dress off the rack without trying it on. When I got back to my room and changed, I noticed that the dress was brief. It wasn’t until I had donned my sandals that I realized the dress was in fact too small for me. Oh well, I thought. Better to look silly than to burn, as Saint Paul would most certainly not have said.
The bus let me off some distance from my destination. I didn’t mind; I like to walk. But I was the only pedestrian on that stretch of Santa Monica. Then, as the wind whipped my flimsy skirt up around my thighs, motorists started honking. One car slowed so the driver could catcall me.
If you think this is flattering—and no woman reading this does—think again. Read More »
January 16, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
I like my psychiatrist, but I often find that occupying fifty minutes with an account of my tedious life feels like a high price to pay for responsible prescription.
“Do you try to make him laugh?” my dad asked, when he picked me up from my first-ever appointment. “Do you want to be his favorite patient?” (My dad visited a therapist briefly in the 1970s, hence his expertise.) I explained loftily that this was a medical situation and not like that at all, and that the doctor had been amazed that with my family history I had never been treated before. Then I admitted that yes, of course I wanted to be his favorite.
“When I saw my guy,” said my dad, “I sang to him.”
And he began to sing, very beautifully, to the tune of the Love Story theme,
Dog food is the king
I wish it weren’t but I can’t do anything
It’s so damn good it even makes the sparrows sing
And grown men weep and angels cry.
There was a moment of silence.
“What did he do?” I asked.
“He made me turn around so I wasn’t playing to his reaction all the time and had to actually engage.” Read More »
January 13, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Many years ago, when Missed Connections, the creepy/romantic online personal ads, still felt like a big deal, one friend of mine claimed he had received not one, not two, but three such Craigslist missives from enamored young ladies. The guy in question was attractive enough, but even by the notoriously unequal standards of New York City mating culture, this did seem excessive. What’s more, as I pointed out, he was obviously poring over “New York City/W4M” every day in hopes of said ego boosts.
“Not at all,” he said. “Every time, I’d had a hunch.”
He went on a date with one of them—a girl with whom he’d made intense eye contact on the F train following a Cyclones game—and it didn’t really go anywhere. But that’s okay because now he’s happily married to a lovely woman, and they have two adorable children. Read More »
January 11, 2014 | by Brian Cullman
My father bought me a Swiss watch when I was seven. The strap was too big and needed adjusting, but when I could finally put it on, I felt a surge of electricity pulse through me, as if I’d just been shackled to time’s wrist. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the ticking of the second hand to sync up with the beat of my heart.
I stopped wearing it and kept it in my pocket, only later finding the proper use for it: timing the forty-fives I bought and listened to in my room, checking the accuracy of the time on the label to the time on my watch. The Beatles’ singles, I found, all listed the correct times. The Rolling Stones’ singles, not so much. They’d often claim their songs were fifteen or twenty seconds shorter than they really were, hoping to get more airplay from DJs, who would often opt for a song they could run right into the news break. For me, it was the first hint that time was negotiable, that with the right connections no one had to pay full price for an hour. That being the case, what was the point of a watch? I haven’t worn one since. Read More »