Monday, March 03, 2008

Ghosts on the Subway

By Pauly
New York City

I've kept an odd schedule over the last six days in New York City. Several nights during last week, I crashed hard around 11pm or Midnight and and woke up by 3am. I had a smoke and tried to go back to sleep, but it never worked. I spent the hours between 4am and 6am writing. By noon, I put a full day of writing in.

I wrote a series of poems. I haven't done that in a very long time. It was inspired by Jamie Lynn Spears recent pregnancy. I titled them Ode to Juno Lynn Spears. It's the story about how 16-year old Juno Lynn Spears gives up her baby for an adoption to a nice couple (God-fearing Baptists from Peachtree City, Georgia). But at the last minute, Angelina Jolie swoops in and adopts her baby instead. Maybe I'll re-work the poem into a short story format.

I finally finished the L.A. issue of Truckin'. It includes one of my better short stories in a very long time. Although the last twelve issues have been on time and featured a wide variety of styles and authors, I have definitely been slacking in the quality of my submissions. I almost always end up publishing a "best of" piece from Tao of Pauly, snagged from the archives of the previous month. I rarely had time to sit down and write new stories.

Luck for me, I had plenty of time to work on Next to Mama Cass. I really don't like that title, but went with it anyway. I wrote a first draft of Mama Cass at the end of December, in Hollyweird during an early morning session while sitting in Nicky's living room with the windows wide open.

The other day, I re-wrote most of it but keeping only the same characters and themes. And I even had the time to re-write a third draft! I rarely get a chance to write a second draft of anything these days, let alone having the luxury of another re-write. Extra time allowed me to to publish a high quality piece.

The first week of the month is always the busiest for me. I'm trying to sort out invoices, pay bills, and catch up with a nasty backup of unread and unanswered email. Oh, then there's always a couple of big deadlines including Truckin' and Bluff.

Ideally, I'd like to get all my business affairs done in the first week of a month, to allow me to be free of those entanglements for the rest of the month. I'm more productive that way and in a much better mood when I'm thinking about non-annoying work things. When that doesn't always happen, so I've been setting aside just one day a week for business matters, in order to have a harmonious remainder of the week. Six days of free of mega-work-tilt. Sounds like heaven... when I can get that to happen.

When that doesn't work, I allot myself one hour every day for business bullshit. I implemented a basic philosophy... instead of being a slave to work and dictating the rest of my life around business matters... I flipped it... and I'm squeezing work into my life. It's been an amazing process reclaiming my life back. I've been more than content, but I can be a pain in the ass for those who are constantly waiting on me to get back to them.

Like the email issue... I spent too much time wasting away with checking my email forty-seven times a day. I've been trying to do the "once or twice a day" email thing (and never first thing in the morning and last thing at night because you need to give yourself a relaxing hour away from technology to start or wind down your day).

March is another month of transit. It's not until April that I can spend a good three weeks in New York City. For the first time in... um.... I dunno when.

Over the weekend, I got all my shit together for the upcoming trip to Florida and completed errands like multiple trips to the post office and the bank. I went running a couple of times when it wasn't too cold.

I spent a decent amount of time walking around the old neighborhood. But it's always weird being in the place you grew up decades later. You see lots of familiar faces. Passing glances. Ghosts. memories bubble up to the surface. 5 years. 10 years. 15 years. 20 years.

The pre-war buildings are losing the battle to stay alive. Gaudy condos are replacing the older buildings in another phase of rip down and re-build in New York City. Neighborhoods go through cycles every 15 to 20 years. Ethnicities change. Class distinction changes. The crime levels. The coolness factor. Immigrants. Old people. Families. Hipsters. Hoodlums. Drug fiends. Yuppie scum.

The streets stay the same, but the stores, buildings, and people are slowly shifting. Dying off. Moving away. A pet store today used to be a pharmacy five years ago that used to be a bicycle store in the 1980s and before that a fire burned up what used to be a bar in the 1970s. But the address remains the same.

I have been eating healthy and avoided bagels. I only ate at the Greek diner once. When I was paying for my sandwich, I recognized a guy who used to be an altar boy with me. He was eating breakfast in a booth with on older relative. We sort of nodded to each other, but I got lucky and avoided the dreaded "I have not seen you in (insert number of years here) years conversation" that I hate having.

I managed to have an eye-to-eye meeting with a guy in the neighborhood that Derek and I think is a total serial killer. He's gonna snap one day. Anyway, I saw him carrying a huge load of laundry across the street. The more I think, it could have been pieces of a person that he hacked up and smuggled out of his apartment in something as ordinary as a laundry bag. Hmmmm...

As we passed in the street, he looked right at me. Most normal New Yorkers avoid eye contact and snub you. It's a given and I'm a big fan of the "let's just snub each other" encounter on the street. We're New Yorkers, right? No time for bullshit. Go fuck yourself.

Anyway, the serial killer looked me in the eyes. I almost lost my cookies. I kinda nodded to him and he looked away. I wonder if I'm on his "To Kill Next" list?

I discovered that my mother is a part of a cabal of gossip queens in her building with two elderly women, one Irish and the other Jewish. Lord knows that they don't have anything else better to do. Maybe I need to upgrade my mother to a better cable TV package?

My brother had a horde of Dominican kids living down the hall from him. They run around at odd hours. He's waiting for the spring to come so they can run amuck in the streets of the Bronx.

I headed to Vinny the barber for a haircut. It had been a while, the longest in I can't recall when. I last saw him in December. We had lots to talk about including Atlantic City. Las Vegas. Roger Clemens. Hillary Clinton. And even a little golf. He knew that I went to Denmark. He bumped into my mother and she told him that I spent a week in Europe.

On Monday morning, I ran for about two miles and then walked another mile. I wanted to keep going but I had a few thoughts that I had to write down before I forget them. I got most of my work done before noon, so I took the subway down to Columbus Circle. I then walked north along Broadway before I went west on 72nd Street. I wandered around Riverside Drive and Riverside Park. I spotted lots of nannies on the job. Hundreds of brown and black women pushing white babies in strollers.

I eventually made my way around Columbia University. I walked south and eventually got back on the subway at 103rd Street. I sat in the first car. It was practically empty aside from an older black guy who looked like a 70 year old version of Samuel L. Jackson. At first, I paid no attention to him talking non-stop, and focused on my book. One subway stop later, I looked up and noticed that the old guy was talking, but there was no one in the seat where he was directing his conversation. That made me wonder if he was a crazy old man or if he was one of those freaks who could see dead people. New York City is an city that is centuries old. It would not be unreasonable to think that ghosts ride the subways at odd hours.

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