It’s payday! I exult to myself, momentarily, until I begin to pay my bills, and then – and then, you know. You know, unless you’re incredibly wealthy or maintained by someone else or are still a child. The terrible sinking feeling of watching it go away, the counting backwards and down until the money is gone or mostly gone, fingers folding into empty fists.

If you do manage to keep one of those fingers straight, to carry a little heap of earnings from one month to the other, the muffler will fall right off your car, or a branch will fall on it, or through your roof, or the door handle will come off in your hand, and that will be the end of the little heap.


I shouldn’t let myself be called in when I’m on supposed vacation. Not even to sub.

I wonder how often the ‘thing that is best for me in the long run’ is also not the textbook-right-and-virtuous thing to do. I really, really wonder.

I guess I’ll wonder forever. I guess the sort of people who wonder and guess about it are the sort of people who keep doing the right thing, and the people who don’t are the ones who, well, don’t.

Are ruthless people really so much happier? Or at the very least, do they have to think of less things, have less white noise in their brains?

old man

I saw an old man just now working a menial job, an old man way past retirement age, and I felt deeply unhappy. I felt for him, as they say, whatever that really means.

I gave him almost all the money I had on me, even though it wasn’t much, even though it was food money, I guess because the right thing to do is very often the stupid one as well.

It didn’t help that when he took the money, after he realized that it was for him and he wasn’t expected to do anything, looked at me. His eyes were clear and shone just like, well, I guess like a kid’s. Like I was doing something better than the decent human thing.

It didn’t make me feel better that he was so happy, it made me feel worse.

Maybe it doesn’t ever have to make sense because it doesn’t matter. All I know is I feel raw and ten kinds of miserable and when that happens I leave it here and not in my journal.


This is fun, I told myself. Maybe not fun in the orthodox sense but a type of fun. This is the sort of thing that happens when you’re young, I continued.

Sometimes there is no hot water, and you wash your hair in the sink, and you know . . . It works. It’s not ideal, and if I spend too much time thinking about it I probably will start to feel like a trapped and grimy small animal.

It’s time for coffee.

drunken tiger racer

I don’t know what peculiar synthesis of fate brought Chubby Hump and his wife together; all I know is that she is altogether too much for him. She is beautiful, and he is not good looking, not any type or sort of good looking, not even sexy ugly. She is funny and witty, and he is not, his jokes being of the either completely confusing or knock-knock level variety. She is sexy, statuesque I think is the word – and he is round, like a dinner roll. In fact the man is entirely too much like a dinner roll, round and soft and white and equally bland.

This assessment is harsh. I refrained from making such assessments of him earlier, kept the thought of him suspended in a sort of opinion-less ether, never revisited. Then one day I saw her looking on the verge of tears, and I felt that familiar chest tinge that meant my empathy was acting up again, and I asked her what was wrong. She told me that it was nothing, but she had a job interview, and in bits and pieces it came out that she couldn’t afford a new business suit for the interview, but it didn’t matter of course, she was just on a budget, after all it was fair. I consoled her without verbal opinion – what good could it possibly do – but you must know the man is rich. Whether or not she was bringing in ‘her share of the bacon’ there would be no shortage of money. If our state was plunged into fiscal drought, there would still be no shortage of money. If their child grew up to become a drunken tiger racer, there would still be no shortage of money. If the western part of the continent fell into the ocean – still, no shortage of money.


Someday I’ll bring home a decent paycheck, and my furniture won’t be a park bench, and the cat will have better toys than Isolde’s old Nordstrom bag.

I’ll have full bars all the time, because I won’t have to steal the neighbors wifi (password: pumpkin2011) and when I do so blogging will be so, so much more rewarding.

no bath

“Why would you do that Havana?” I asked, slumping beside the bathtub. She threw her long tail back and forth, made a noise like someone rolling her r’s. “Do you know how much mommy wanted to soak in Epsom salts tonight?” Her head cocked sideways. “Do you have any idea how tired I am?”

She actually looked kind of proud of the dried little turds she’d left in the tub. She continued to ‘rrr’ and flip her tail.

I looked down. Poor people don’t have the option to feel this queasy, I reminded myself. Nor do they – we, sorry – have the leeway necessary to declare ‘I shall never use this tub again, it has become soiled beyond comprehension.’

What do poor people have? Dollar store bleach.


If I had more money, I’d spend it well. I would not spend it on idiotic things like bling and cars. I’d travel. More money? I’d buy a cheap, functional apartment outright so I’d never have to go through the terror of making rent. Yet more money? Well, I’d start an orphanage.

The most money possible? Health insurance.

Vienna Blood

In the afternoon I watched the sun burn pale orange after a day of intermittent rain, and I felt convinced that everything was okay, in that wide and sweepingly perfect sense. Had the new year come then I would have, without doubt, welcomed it broadly.

It did not, of course, and later I stood with a bag of cold raw food that will later turn delicious with heat and spices, looking at the nighttime sky, looking at the moon, and I smiled at the person next to me because I had been able to afford everything I needed for the new year. Well, almost everything. I had a new pair of cotton underwear in my trunk and I had the aforementioned frozen food and I had systematically picked out every bit of trash from my car, and that was something.

I don’t know if it was the radio or an old cassette he had – I only knew that suddenly the car was filled with the sounds of ‘Vienna Blood’, instantly recognizable, and I stopped eating my cucumber. It went on, played in its entirety, and then there was silence – at any rate I didn’t hear anything. “Are you thinking of your childhood in Vienna?” he asked me. “I suppose I would be awfully homesick if I were you. It is Vienna, isn’t it? Or Granada? Or Lucerne? Same difference, right?” I gripped the steering wheel and watched my knuckles turn white. This is the last time I will wonder if he is purposefully riling me, I told myself. I would rather be alone with a bottle of champagne and drink until I saw Vienna, or Granada, or Lucerne and believed myself there than ever, ever wonder this same thing again. I have no need for friends who are only sometimes kind.

They say – I don’t know which they – that if you listen to ‘Vienna Blood’ you will know what it is like to feel Viennese blood course through your veins, even if you can’t spell it. They say watch ‘Gone With The Wind’ to see the Old South. They say you have to dance the tango in Argentina to appreciate it fully and you have have to drink Cuban coffee to say you’ve had coffee at all. There is a dictate for every food and experience and dance. Perhaps they’ve issued dictates for smells as well.

And in between these spoken and printed words are the people of these places, whose flesh and blood give rise to subsequent generations of the same flesh and blood. They are the delicate fauna that tourists watch closest of all.

My heart is like a peony, large when it is closed and larger still when it opens. Across an unforgiving ocean of time and space there is a very delicate fauna, a singular one, who knew the city where I was born and the city where I spent my childhood and which colour of the sky was my favourite – which is to say, who loved me. And because of this imposed delicacy I wonder if he – if he is living, still, and if he does, does he live well? Does he listen to ‘Vienna Blood’ and does his chest constrict like mine? Does his health remain the same, or has it deteriorated further? You would think there would be no longer any questions like these in this modern world, in which one may travel to every corner to experience the dictates of pleasure and knowledge, in which I can talk to you as intimately as if I were whispering in your ear.

There is not only one of you though – there are more. There is a fluctuating number of ears and most likely a limited attention span. I doubt we share the same blood and of course we do not share the same heart and you can no more tell me if he lives and how he lives than you can tell me the shape and colour of my dreams. I would like to believe that some feeling comes across the keyboard, something travels through my fingers right now because I am writing and publishing this at this very moment, and so the feeling, the spark has no time to cool and perhaps travels up your fingers as well. I would like to believe that we are all united in a wish and desire for a better year, a kinder, luckier one – even if we are wishing the good only for ourselves.

And if you can feel this feeling, this spark, this echo of what I mean, even if you do not care for old Austrian cities or cucumbers or peonies, if you can feel it at all, then you know that I wish you a Happy New Year, everyone, anyone who reads these words. And even if you do not care for all of these things or new years either and you believe these human markers of time are only the illusions of fresh starts, even so, please wish him well. I believe that his heart, somewhere, will feel it. And perhaps the delicacy will fade, his health will return, and these wishes will pass over that wide ocean and it will dry, and cease to exist. I believe they can pass, I believe a human heart can somehow feel what another wishes it, because I have to believe, because I want to, and because perhaps in the end blood is only blood, and despite the little differences hearts can beat the same – my heart, your hearts, and his.

Happy New Year.


“What’s that she’s got?”
“Your cat. Havana. What does she . . . it’s a mouse! Oh my God she’s killing it!”
“I don’t have mice,” I sighed. I’m sure it’s just some, you know, thingie.”
“For fuck’s sake Lola I know when I have seen a mouse and I think she’s killing it oh God -”

I picked up Havana, pried the mouse from between her teeth. She squeaked angrily. She squeaks entirely too much; I suspect her miaow mechanism is faulty. “Look, it’s a bow.”
“The thing you put on presents.”
“Oh. Well. What kind of a cat carries around a bow like that anyway. Like, carrying like it’s live prey kind of carrying it. What’s up with that?”
“Cats who don’t have any – um, many toys. Poor people’s cats.”