April 11, 2007 scottcjones

Flew down to Florida last Friday. My mother picked me up at the Sarasota airport.

It was late in the day, nearly dinner time. “What are we having tonight?” I asked.

“L.O.’s,” my mother said, pulling away from the curb.

“What?”

“Leftovers.”

My mother’s car had been broken into the two nights before. As we drove down I-4, she launched into an agonizingly detailed rendition of the event.

“I thought you lived in a nice neighborhood?” I asked.

“We do live in a nice neighborhood,” she said. “That’s what the sherriff told us. ‘Criminals don’t rob the bad neighborhoods.’ What’s to rob there?”

My mother works for a visiting nurse service. The thief had stolen a bag out of the backseat of her car. The bag contained hypodermics, a stethoscope, thermometers, things like that.

“I blame your father,” mom said.

I asked her why.

“His routine is, just before dark, he goes outside and puts up the windows in the vehicles then locks them. But that night, he forgot. He was watching something on TV, and he forgot. When we lived on Powell Road, we never locked our doors at night, on the house or the cars. Most of the time we left the car keys right in the ignition. It’s different down here. Bad things happen all the time.”

The three of us ate dinner. We sat in front of the TV, hunched over the coffee table. Then my parents squinted at the TV Guide channel for about 20 minutes and complained that there’s never anything on. “It’s all repeats now,” my mother explained.

“What about Hildalgo?” my father asked. Hildago. 2004. Viggo Mortensen plays a Pony Express courier who travels to Arabia to participate in some kind of marathon desert horse race.

“Fine,” I said. I’d suffered through far worse during my visits. Far, far worse.

We watched Hildago. It wasn’t bad. My dad and I drank beer. When the credits rolled my dad moved the coffee table out of the living room and began to inflate the air bed.

“How firm do you want it?” he asked over the din of the air compressor.

“Pretty firm,” I said.

My parents took turns brushing their teeth. Then they went into their room, shut out the light, and the two of them began snoring almost immediately.

My mother has a wall clock in the living room that plays a variety of instrumental themes on the hour. Somewhere Over The Rainbow began to play. Eleven o’clock.

I got up and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. I checked the sliding glass door, making sure it was locked. I peered through the glass. I could see my mother’s car in the April moonlight. I pictured a man. A stranger. Someone bold enough, or crazy enough, or unbalanced enough to walk onto my parents’ property and open the door to their car.

That mysterious person, were I there a few nights earlier, would have been only 15 or 20 feet away from where I was standing.

My dad talks tough. He acts like nothing could scare him. He eats his hot mustard, brags about his masculinity. But I think this theft scared him. He tried to lay on some of his tough talk over dinner. It wasn’t very convincing.

I’m still peering through the glass. There’s nothing outside, no movement. It’s a still night. No wind.

But I feel the weight on my shoulders. I feel the air going out of my chest. This is exactly what I do not want to see when I visit mom and dad: their frailties, their insecurities, the ways in which the world threatens them. I listen to them snore in the next room. I look through the glass at the night.

I’m pissed. I’m angry. “Come back, you motherless cocksucker, whoever you are,” I whisper. My words are fogging the glass. “Just try to come back here, and I’ll break your goddamn pencil neck, you fuck.”

September 11, 2005 scottcjones

Drank away Labor Day weekend. Phone rang a few times, but I didn’t answer. Instead, I sat in the dark, blinds drawn, drinking.

Sunday afternoon, I decided to treat myself. I phoned the Thai place on 79th Street for a pick-up order. As soon as the woman heard my voice, she said, “Let me guesss–you want coconut soup?”

It was exactly what I wanted. “How did you know?” I said, already knowing the answer.

“Because you order it all the time,” she said. “Every weekend, coconut soup, coconut soup, coconut soup.”

I felt embarrassed. Ashamed of my own predictability. “It’s good,” I said defensively. “I really like it.”

“Sure, sure,” the woman said, sounding distracted.

“Maybe next time, I’ll try something different. I promised. OK?”

“OK, fine. See you in 10 minutes.” She hung up the phone.

I put on some pants and walked over to the Thai place, feeling angry, wanting the soup, but not wanting to confront this woman, not wanting to walk into the restaurant. (They won’t deliver unless you order more than $12 worth of food; coconut soup, with a side of rice, is $9.) I braced myself, then walked through the door.

The restaurant was busy. Every table was full. The cute Thai girl was working, the one who always wears a tight pink T-shirt that says, FARMERS DO IT IN THE DIRT. I usually don’t stare at women’s boobs, but for some reason this girl has such a high, firm pair that I can never seem to help myself.

I handed her the money. She handed me the soup. The whole transaction happened silently.

I went home and ate my soup and watched the Mets lose on TV. For some reason, the soup didn’t taste as good as it usually does. It was kind of flat. Watered down. Something was missing. An ingredient that I couldn’t put my finger on…

My doorbell rang. It was my neighbors next door. I’d been getting their mail all week while they were away on vacation. The word is out that I’m here all the time, that I rarely go away, so I’ve become the official mail-retriever for anyone who leaves for a few days. “Here’s a token of our appreciation,” she said, handing me a big shopping bag that said DUTY FREE on the side.

“You really didn’t have to do this,” I said. Really meaning it. In fact, I would have preferred that they didn’t get me anything.

Once they were gone, I peered into the bag. A big yellow X-large T-shirt with an embroidered sun in the center of the chest above the words CABO SAN LUCAS.

There was also a small bottle of tequila.

Once I settled back onto the couch, I noticed that the cat was missing. Lately, her hiding skills have improved remarkably. Sometimes, it’s as if she has the ability to turn herself invisible.

After a few minutes of searching, I realized that this was one of those times where she’d invisibled herself. I looked everywhere for her. Behind the fridge. Underneath the nightstand. Everywhere. Everywhere I could think of.

No cat. Nothing.

My search became desperate. I worried that maybe she’d scampered out the door when I was getting the DUTY FREE bag from my neighbor.

I had tears in my eyes. I put my slippers on and ran up and down the stairs, calling her name.
I could hear TVs playing inside apartments. Low conversations. A telephone ringing in the distance. The hallways were empty. The stairwell was empty.

No cat.

I tore my apartment to pieces, looking everywhere for her, tears running down my face. If I’d lost her, I’d never be able to forgive myself.

Exhausted from my search, with everything in my apartment upside down and inside out, I realized there was one place I hadn’t looked. I pulled the cushions off the couch. And there, holed up inside the corner of the folded sofa bed, was the kitten.

I have no idea how she got in there. I pulled her out and held her to my chest. I buried my nose into her neck, inhaling her kitten smell. I love how she smells. I kissed the top of her head. I rubbed her belly. She let out a meow of protest, but let me kiss her a few more times anyway.

I noticed that the sun was going down. I opened a fresh beer. I put the cushions back on my couch. I searched for something to watch on TV.

What a shit-ass Labor Day.

August 28, 2005 scottcjones

Was taking my bike out through the basement exit yesterday–per co-op rules, anything you can’t carry has to go in or out through the basement–when I saw a man letting his dog shit on the tiny wedge of grass in front of the building.

I rode by the man, on my out to the park. Then decided, Fuck this. I stopped. Turned back.

“Excuse me,” I say, trying to be polite. “Did your dog just take a shit back there?”

This is one of those third-person, disembodied moments, when I can’t really believe I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s like I’m seeing myself do this, and I’m rooting for myself, hoping it all turns out OK for me.

Guy stops. Looks at me. Sunglasses. Vintage T-shirt. Unshaven. Jack Russell terrier. Douche all the way. “Did she shit?” he asks.

Did she shit? I saw her shitting from 20 yards away while riding a bike. Give me a break.
“I think she did,” I say. I motion towards the turds in the grass.

He stops. Sighs. Turns. Looks at me.

I say, “I live here. In this building.” To explain why I’m complaining about turds on the lawn. I motion towards the building.

He looks at the building. He looks at the turds. I wheel my bike around, and I’m about to ride off, when he says, “Hey, you’re riding your bike on the sidewalk. That’s against the law.”

“What?” I say.

“Yeah. You’re breaking the law right now. And when you rode past me, while breaking the law, you almost HIT ME. You almost RAN ME DOWN.”

At this point, I’m facing the other way. Towards the park. He’s backtracking, moving towards the turds, his dog in tow. “Hit you?” I say, looking over my shoulder. “I didn’t even come close.”

I step on one of the pedals. I’m about to wheel off.

“What did you say?” he says.

Now I am wheeling off. “I said I wasn’t even CLOSE.”

He mutters something, but by this time, I’m already on 35th Ave., riding into the wind, towards Flushing Meadow. I’m pumping hard, full of adrenaline. I’m pissed. Really pissed. I ride, faster and faster, thinking of all the things I could have said, but didn’t.

-If you don’t want to clean up your dog’s turds, you shouldn’t own a dog.
-Give me your address. That way I can stop by your building later and take a shit on your lawn.
-Hit you? If I hit, belived me, you’d know it.
-Now clean up your dog’s shit, and get the fuck out of my neighborhood.
-And don’t let me ever see you on my block again.

I burned off all my adrenaline at the park. Most of it. 90-percent of it. When I rode back to the neighborhood, I checked the lawn for the turds. Sure enough, they were still there. I was winded, sweating, too tired to get pissed off all over again.

Since this happened, whenever I go down to the street, I’m thinking about this guy. This douche. Always thinking about him and his fucking Jack Russell. I walk around feeling a mix of bravado and cowering fear. I hate that I’m thinking about him. Hate how this whole thing has tainted my formerly friendly, peaceful neighborhood in a weird way. I’m always half hoping I run into this guy again. And always half hoping I don’t.

July 28, 2005 scottcjones

Was sitting at my desk having a cup of coffee yesterday morning when the kitten, as is her habit these days, leapt onto the desk and began her search for pens, paperclips, rubberbands, batteries, etc. Basically anything she can knock to the floor and bat around for 10 to 15 minutes.

As she surveyed the desk, she spun around, turning her backside towards me. Her tail happened to be hoisted high, giving me a bird’s-eye view of her butthole. And there, pinned in the halo of fur surrounding her butthole, was a dark pebble of poop.

With all the time she spends grooming herself, and, in particular, grooming her crotch, I figured I’d leave the pebble there and let her take care of it. It was only a matter of time before she found it. So, I went about my morning, sending various emails, etc. An hour went by, and the pebble was still there. Two hours…and the pebble was still there.

Finally, by noon, I figured I had no choice but to help her out a little.

“Hold still,” I said, gently lifting her tail. With nervous fingers, I plucked the pebble of poop off of her. Once the extraction was complete, the kitten let out a polite meow, which I interpreted as, *Thank you.*

If this isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

July 21, 2005 scottcjones

An ice cream truck has been patrolling my Queens neighborhood nearly 24 hours a day for the past month, always blaring a Casio keyboard rendition of “Turkey In the Straw.” I get so fucking depressed during the summer months. It’s not just the overwhelming heat and humidity in New York, the blinding sun. It’s picnics, watermelon, BBQs, fireworks, popsicles, parks, beaches, pools, margaritas, camping, state fairs, badmitton, hot dogs. It’s ice cream trucks that play “Turkey In The Straw” all night. It’s summer culture itself.

And it’s the way people are hellbent on doing something, going somewhere, desperate to make something, anything, happen. The way everyone is always determined, no matter the cost, to have themselves a ball. The way the newsanchors on the local channels are always pretending to beg the weatherman for a sunshine-filled forecast. (The sun icon used on the screen is inevitably a smiling face.) The way everyone is forever asking one another, “So, what are your plans for the weekend?”

Implying that to not have plans is somehow abnormal.

Well, fuck you. Those are my plans.

There’s something false in all this relentless cheeriness. Something that doesn’t ring true to me.

One of my neighbors invited me out to his Hamptons house. A college friend tried to get me to go down to Breezey Point in Brooklyn last weekend. Still another invited me to a cookout in his tiny backyard in Park Slope.

Thanks, but no. Instead, I draw the blinds. I run the air conditioner. I sit in the dark and watch DVDs. I drink beer and play videogames. I get more pale, more mushroomy, by the second. I rarely go out, and only then if I absolutely must. (For more beer, or DVDs, or kitty litter.)

Sometimes I think I suffer from a rare brand of seasonal affective disorder. Only instead of being afflicted during the dark, bitter months of winter, as most people are, I get it during the summer.

Or maybe I’m just on my way to becoming a cranky old fuck.

July 18, 2005 scottcjones

So I got a cat. A kitten. 10 weeks old. 2 pounds. She was a street cat who was rescued a few blocks away from my apartment. (It’s a rags to riches story; she was homeless, but now she’s moved on up to my deluxe apartment in the sky. And yes, I’m quoting The Jefferson’s theme song.)

I named her Humtum, but I usually call her Pewey (which is short for Pewey-head). I’m not sure why I do this.

I love her dearly, but she’s a pain in the ass sometimes. I’ve got steel wool stuffed into cracks and crevices around the apartment, which is designed to keep out bugs and mice. Pewey has made it her personal mission to locate every bit of steel wool she can find. This drives me insane, and I’m terrified that she’s going to eat some of it. And she climbs all over my keyboard when I’m at the computer. This was sort of endearing at first, but quickly became annoying, especially whenever I’m on deadline.

I realize that she won’t be a kitten for very long, so I wanted to make sure that I properly record her kittenhood for posterity. So I follow her around nearly every day with a camera, snapping pictures of her, trying to catch her in the act of napping (not hard to do), or doing something cute.

One day last week as I followed her from room to room with my camera at the ready, it struck me that there might be something more than a little sad about a 36-year-old man alone in his apartment in Queens trying to take photographs of his cat.