Archive | City Matters

Dog Day Afternoon

I just spent an hour in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park hugging an enormous golden retriever—soft and gentle and boundlessly sweet—who’d mosied over to my blanket from his mom and dad’s. When I first noticed him he was wriggling in the grass, cycling his legs in the air, and I thought: that guy really knows how to enjoy a summer afternoon. They were a couple about ten years older than me, and something about the way he planted himself between them after he was done rolling around suggested they’d had him instead of kids. When the dog–honest to God, his name was Wrigley–approached me, I asked if it’d be ok to say hi and they said so long as I could “handle a snuggler.” I could, and the two of us sat together for a while, his torso leaning into mine until I just went ahead and wrapped my arms around his neck. Both of our noses twitched as we inhaled the good smells of 5 pm sunshine in the July grass, the barbecue the Korean family was cooking on the other side of the trees, and after a beat we began to match our breaths. Finally he nudged me with his head, and I took the hint and buried myself in his neck.

I love my cat beyond measure but there’s something so wonderful about a visit with the right dog. As the three of them were leaving, I said, “Oh, he’s such a nice person,” and the woman replied, a little conspicuously, “Well, he did used to work as a therapy dog.”  Okay, lady.

The Church of Plato on a Rainy Afternoon

Yesterday, my friend B and I were having a long talk at Chelsea’s Cafe Grumpy. Because it had just rained, we had the backyard to ourselves and were using that rare private outdoor space to discuss topics that basic NYC etiquette prevented us from inflicting upon others: healthy grieving, ethical dating, spiritually conscious fucking, the heteronormative construct known as marriage, the queasy fundamentalism known as atheism. We were going off. If you saw us through a window, you might have concluded we were on a date, and a good one at that. A man and a woman of roughly the same age, talking animatedly, not touching but paying close attention to each other. She in a sheath dress; he in a tweed jacket.

In the middle of our second coffee, a man poked his head into what by then felt like our turf. “Helen?” he called out tentatively and looked at me. Rather than shaking my head, I grinned, and he raised his eyebrows, mistaking my glee at not being Helen for interest. After a beat B began talking again, and the man—who was peaked but not bad-looking, with a lanky frame and a long, pale face that bore the scars of a rough adolescence—disappeared. A bit later, while standing on the bathroom line, I noticed him again, this time looming over a woman placing an order. She was wearing a brown shirt and what we used to call slacks when we were mocking our parents in the ’70s. The outfit was so drab that it took a minute to register her bright face and surprisingly good figure. “You have nothing that is dairy-free that also does not have nuts?” she was saying with a grave, almost scholarly precision as the barrista searched the pastry case. Continue Reading →

When We Talk About the Weather

I’m aware it’s wicked predictable that I’m obsessed with the weather, me hailing from Massachusetts and all (pun intended, always). But still: I don’t get the people who weren’t wasted by this last spate of swampy days; who aren’t deeply relieved by the cooler temperatures of today. When it grows as muggy as it did over the weekend I turn into a dirty, hot, wet towel who simply cannot think–let alone answer emails, be clever at dinner, or, yoiks, don grownup-lady clothes and lipstick. There’s a reason we always talk about the weather, and it’s not that we have nothing else (polite) to discuss. It’s because weather matters even more than we controlling humans care to admit.  A cigar may never be a cigar but what we really talk about when we talk about the weather is, in fact, weather.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy