Showing posts from March, 2021

Stamped Hearts

NOVEMBER 18, 1996 ; TWENTY-FIVE-ISH MILES NORTH OF CHICAGO, IL: I live in a second story walk-in closet with a window and a toilet. The window and the toilet are at opposite ends of the space. Is it ironic that there’s nowhere to hang clothes? And, no, that’s not a phone booth next to the toilet, it’s a shower stall. There’s a “kitchenette,” too. It’s more “ette” than “kitchen.” It’s an all-in-one sink / stovetop / minifridge. If apartments got any narrower than this one, you wouldn’t be able to sleep on your back. I think of it as a walled-in Winnebago wannabe. The floor holds up the ceiling of Arabica Love. (Unless the ceiling of Arabica Love holds up the floor.) Below your feet you can hear the hiss and scream of a steam wand frothing milk; you can hear the grinding of coffee beans; you can even hear old man Holstein shout, “You call this a bagel?” And he still comes in every day—not to buy a bagel, but to complain about it. (To be clear, he buys the bagel and, in so doing, he purc

Mr. Janitor & Mr. Footsie

MARCH 21, 2001 ; CHICAGO, IL: The janitor pounded on my door yesterday afternoon. At the time, I was sleeping off a tough, early morning shift of steaming milk and brewing espresso shots. The tough part isn’t pouring mochas, lattes, and cappuccinos. The tough part is ignoring the angry eyes of caffeine addicts who gather around the espresso machine and lean over the pickup counter. They’re commuters, late for work, who haven’t had their morning bump. They want to blame the barista for their grogginess, the alarm they forgot to set, their bad hair day, the knicks earned from a rushed shave. Hours of gimlet eyes can wear you down. I cope by sneaking hits of crushed Oreos, chopped Snickers, diced chocolate mints—anything that’s intended to top the fancy-schmancy espresso drinks. This is how I’ve paid the rent for the past six years. I’m on my third coffee shop. But I’m not moving up. I’m moving sideways. I have gone south, though…by about twenty-five miles. What’s clear why my alma mate

Sex, Religion & Idiocy

NOVEMBER 17, 1996; CHICAGO, IL: I’d like to ask this girl out. But there’s a problem. She’s with this group. They like to stop street traffic and commuters on subway platforms during rush hour. They’re out there to spread “The Way to God.” I admire the effort. It takes pluck to slow down people who do not want to stick around. This girl, though, she’d correct me. “Not pluck,” she’d say, “faith.” And that’s great. Only there’s one little snag. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I don’t share her faith. I’m supposed to be Jewish. Just between you and me, I’d prefer to be Jedi. I’m not trying to convert you or anything, but the Force is real. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not like you see in the movies, though. Hollywood tends to glamorize. The real Force isn’t about rearranging the furniture by closing your eyes, sporting a shit squeezing face, and waving your fingers in the air. No, on this planet, the real Force is more about… charisma. As far as my family is concerned,

Work Hard

In Atomic Habits , James Clear advises the reader to: “Work hard on the things that come easy.” This is a dangerous proposition for a person like me. I’m a lazy bum. Given the option, I could easily squander the rest of my life stuffing my face with warm chocolate chunk cookies while catching up with Doctors Phil and Oz, along with the ladies of “The View,” “The Real,” and “The Talk.” But this raises a question: Can one “work hard” chomping junk food and nursing from the boob tube all the livelong day?  First of all, I wouldn’t want to “work hard” eating cookies the way Joey Chestnut crams hotdogs down his gullet. I’ve a real beef with the “sport” of competitive eating. Though, in fairness, if swallowing large quantities of food at record speed with minimal chewing is your calling, your God given gift, your honed-to-perfection skill, then please, do not let me or any other snooty blogger stand in your way. Which reminds me: The bakery down the street holds an annual paczki eating co