46 tagged with #interactions

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neighborhood (part 2)

a woman in a flattened down jacket stumbles along the salted sidewalks in orthopaedic shoes; i put my hand over my heart and shake my head at her, sorry. i've seen her here for years. i've seen her here for as long as i've lived in this neighborhood.

the clerk at the liquor store leans against her checkout counter, eighteen minutes before closing, staring unblinkingly at the display of miniature bottles of jim beam. i wonder if there's going to be a pre-closing rush today. i'm only passing the window.

the entrance of this grocery store has always smelled like rotten vegetables, year-round. i have been in many other grocery stores, and i know that this is not the only way a grocery store can smell. do the regulars here know that, too? a pale man with a monstrous white beard reaches past me to paw through a display of countless different kinds of boxed macaroni and cheese, and i don't let myself spend much time thinking about what percentage of the items in the store are food and what percentage are food products.

it surprises me that there are cartons of egg dozens that almost cost five dollars; even on their small island, my parents can get eggs for under three dollars if they're lucky. the cheapest eggs here this week are still between one and two dollars, a number that sometimes seems preposterously high, and other times seem unreasonably low. i am grateful for a steady source of eggs.

the woman begging on the street crosses my path again. "sorry," i say out loud. "i'm sorry." i want to ask her: do you have a warm place to sleep tonight? but i am afraid, because i know she has persisted through this many winters, and worry that the question is patronizing. what i really want to ask is: are you alright? is there truly something i can do to help you? are you alone? what are your hopes?

we're all people, but sometimes i don't know how to talk to people. on my bad days, i hand out dollars; on my worst days, i've handed out twenties. i pay off my guilt for existing with more than the bare minimum of cash i need to survive, by passing off fistfuls of currency to anyone lucky enough to ask me during that moment. and i worry, then, too, if i could be more fair, if i could be more generous, if i could reach more bodies, if i could cause a greater amount of happiness.

and i have to satisfy myself with the reassurance that i'll never know the answers to these questions.

06 February 2018 23:26


young rabbits scatter into the alleyway, not knowing which way to escape. the garden wall only gets taller, so they keep sprinting downhill.

motorcycling in cargo shorts, hiking boots, and a flannel top. the moon watches me tuck it away in the garage. i tell myself it's fine to put the cover on because i only rode half a mile and none of the parts are warm yet. "thank you," i whisper to the bike, running a hand over the cowl to check for dust. "i'll come back for you."

the door creaks conspicuously as it unravels, thudding into the concrete in front of my feet.


my thoughts are flat, stretched thin and taut across the surface of the earth. i breathe knowingly; the back of my chest rubs against my shirt. you will not always feel like this.


i ascended the cathedral twice today. why aren't you always training? i ask myself. i ask myself every day. no one takes the stairs beyond the eleventh floor. the elevators are alien; students pack in shoulder to shoulder and most of them ignore me.

"i love your hair!" one of them shouts from the back. i pull an earphone out and raise an eyebrow. she means me, right? they always mean me these days. people i can't recognize will recognize me and say hi. i always smile and ask them what's up. sometimes i make them feel awkward, and i'm not sure if i mean it.

"thanks," i reply. once, someone said to me, 'just thank them and accept the compliment and move on,' when i was struggling to justify not getting complimented.


last week, i checked my snake hut. it was still there. i added grapevine. it will probably stay there. someday, it won't be there anymore, and i'm okay with that.

15 September 2016 22:15

James Truslow Adams vs. Andrew Carnegie

Yesterday, I brought the canonical picture of Andrew Carnegie to happy hour at a bar over in Pitt's territory to perform an experiment, based on the frequent misattribution of his face to James Truslow Adam's name. I wanted to get a rough idea of how recognizeable Andy's face is to people outside of the CMU bubble, in order to quell my complete disbelief that people mistake him for JTA.

I passed the picture around the bar and asked people if they knew who that was, and if they did, to tell me who they think he was.

Almost everyone I asked claimed some amount of familiarity. Of those, only about half of them thought they could name him. Only about half of the people who could name him confidently said 'Andrew fucking Carnegie', and all but one of those turned out to be CMU-affiliated (I did not ask the lone non-CMU winner what his deal was).

Among the wrong answers were 'Howard Taft', 'Winston Churchill', 'some president', 'definitely a robber baron', 'the Monopoly guy'. For comparison, I pulled up a picture of Rockefeller as another famous robber baron to see if anyone could recognize him, and got blank looks all around.

Other faces occasionally applied to James Truslow Adams include Ansel Adams * and Paul David Hewson, better known as Bono of U2*. There is one image on the internet that looks like it has promise as a positive identification, but I've been unable to verify it to my satisfaction.

My conclusion is that all fat old famous dead white guys from the turn of the century pretty much look alike as far as the masses are concerned, and that Andy is the poster boy for robber barons.

31 October 2014 11:06


i learn how to say things that make other people happy, just a few words here and there to remind them that i've paid attention and i know. does it matter how sincere i am? not if the end result is indistinguishable. it only matters to me. no one can see what's in my head.


'but tell me how your name is really pronounced,' someone asks, with good intentions to not offend me.

'it's fine. however you pronounce it is fine.'

'no, it's not! i want to learn how it's actually pronounced. teach me. i can do it. i want to be respectful of your name.'

but can you be respectful of how i want you to pronounce it? or is it not about what i want, but what you perceive is the correct thing to do? i've accepted pronounciations that feel contextually appropriate. you are already looking at an anglizied representation of a word that does not exist in your language or character set.

names are as real as you declare them to be. names are as real as they are used. i have names you don't know, and i have names i could never share with you.

'oh, but you shouldn't have to accept people saying your name wrong, that's such a disservice to your history!'

thank you for trying to be culturally sensitive. but call me what i tell you to call me. don't try to correct me if you don't like the name i give. other people's preferences are not mine. my preferences are not others.

09 October 2014 11:36

early frost

frost crystals blinked in the sunlight at me as i stepped onto the porch. by the time i got close enough to look at them, they were gone. the rubber sheeting glistened with dew.

there's a work truck of old rastas who wave and shout enthusiastically at me whenever we pass each other in the mornings. i smile and wave back, but i wonder if it's cool that i'm not actually a rastafarian and they just think i am.

we're bad at remembering how we felt the day before yesterday. we're bad at evaluating our progress towards long-term goals.

07 October 2014 08:29

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