April 18

Last night was open mic and even though you hadn’t prepared a routine, on account of so much work needing to get done and lots of family drama, you went up on stage. Underprepared. Fucked it up. Got down and lingered and had a beer, killed time, drove home and drank more and fell asleep cringing at how badly you’d bombed.

Wake up cringing still. In the shower you work the soap into a lather real aggressively, like to wash off the shame, and “fucking…shit” becomes the feverish, meandering, self-loathing mantra all through your morning routine: you’re getting dressed, checking email, driving to Starbucks, eating, posting for the Project — “fucking shit. Shit in my mouth.” Just start flinching outta the blue whenever you remember one of the awful jokes.

In the car you can’t escape the memories so fuck it, turn the radio off, confront it and “fuck, fuck me, I hate it. Get to the…chopper, fuck.”

Gibberish. So ashamed that words and phrases just come out, murmured or shouted or growled at the dashboard, doesn’t matter if it makes sense cuz what you really wanna do is scream.

So you scream.

It’s nice. There’s an endorphin melt afterward. Your throat hurts and your voice is immediately hoarse and will stay that way for two days.

Walking to the office you realize that if somebody stabbed you right now it’d be bad, of course, and that at some point in the hospital or the morgue you’d think, “Well I fucking wish this hadn’t happened” — but, tentative upside: literally nobody would still be talking about how painfully unfunny you were on stage last night. Even if somebody tried to bring it up they’d get shot down.

“Alex’s last routine was painful.”

“Dude just got stabbed, Reggie, give it a rest.”

It’s a slow day at work, nothing to do, but you will die if left alone with these thoughts about last night so you take out some essays you’re working on and start marking em up, flipping sentences, scratching out one phrase and jotting another, re-writing whole grafs.

And an hour later you’re just…here. Relaxed. Held up by the work. Yourself with pen and paper and the world, unlaughing, sitting someplace else, beyond the gate, doing its thing.

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April 17

Hungry at the cafe but you check your account and decide it’s probably safer just to stay hungry for a while, ’til Happy Hour, at which point you head south to the usual bar for a halfprice beer and a halfprice appetizer, big enough to work as a meal, and to read for a bit before heading home.

At the cafe when you were hungry the barista got up from behind the counter and came over and sat beside you at the communal table, bored in this lull between busy patches, and without mentioning her son she says she might have to look for a new job soon. This sudden candor. Talks with spotty eye-contact, unprompted, about how she’s only just barely meeting her expenses. She refers your eye to the counter where, a few minutes ago, that empty and red-stained Tupperware was full of pasta and she was doing damage to it.

“Made that fucking pasta two nights ago, big pot like a witch, and I’m still eating it now and I’ll probably have it again tomorrow. Like…” Her breath catches and she shakes her head, closes her eyes, sighs. Opens up and looks immediately more flippant and cool. Says, “I feel like it’s fine in the end cuz I’m, what?, I’m twenty-eight. I’m just starting out, like, in life. So I know it’s fine, that this is like my Struggle Period and that eventually shit’ll be good cuz I’ve got like the work ethic, the brains, whatever whatever. It’s just…” mouth agape, pawing for a word, she finally just laughs, “it fucking sucks right now.”

And a cuple hours later you’re here at the bar, finally getting your Bliss, and you’re thinking of her life and of yours. Her attitude and yours.

You’re comparing, which people say not to do.

April 13

Only other guy at the bar is thirtysomething and says to the bartender, tall woman all frecklespeckled with red hair, he’s surprised by how relaxed it is in here. He says this is his first visit.

“Place looks so fancy,” he says, “everytime I get near it I feel like I gotta book.”

She shrugs, wiping the counter in fast circles, “We’re not so fancy.”

He asks where she’s from.

“Virginia. What about you, you’re Cuban?”

“Yeah but I was born in New York.”

“I lived there for a while.”

He grins and does some clicking thing with his mouth. “It’s the best, I miss it.”

Bar tender puts a tender hand on the small of her back while straightening, and tossing the rag into the liquor well, exhaling. Strain of work written in her posture, her breathing, sweaty face. “Ahdunno.” She shakes her head slowly and looks either tired or defeated. “Wish it wasn’t so expensive.”

April 11. Didn’t We All.

The two of them, off now by themselves, came in as a group of six, probably straight from the office, and even though they’re still sitting with the group you can feel how they’ve kinda removed themselves.

The other people in their party have turned inward toward their new grouping of four. It’s the kinda scene where you can tell that the other four have been trying to get these two together. Maybe it’s the whole reason for the happy hour outing.

He’s explaining something to her, longwinded, and at the end of it she seems more curious than impressed when she says, “You know a lot about bars.”

Lifting his beer he says, “Yeah.” Coy in a way that might or might not be sincere.

“Were you a waiter?”

Sets his glass down. Beer from the tap. Pausing to swallow. “That’s the part I actually don’t like to talk about so much.” He clears his throat and makes a gesture with his shoulders like he’s a guy with a troubled past or something. “I actually…” dramatic pause for a weary sigh, “I used to have a business…”

April 6. Hungover with a Guest.

Wake up before dawn because the house is getting tented in a few hours (termites) and you need to pack.

Last night you hosted an event in South Miami, took an Uber to the venue because you always have a few drinks during the show. A friend drove you home when it was over and after a quick argument she fell asleep in your bed.

Four alarms have gone off since 5 am and you’ve snoozed every one and lain awake the whole time, not wanting to get up. She’s a mannered sleeper who doesn’t snore, drool, toss or sprawl or mumble.

Take the dog outside where it’s quiet and the sky softly blue, kinda navy, getting brighter even just in the couple minutes you’re standing here.

Go inside, feed the dog, use the bathroom, start cleaning up a little. Shower.

Your friend wakes up and comes out and her eyelids are heavy and red, she never took her contacts out, and she’s holding her elbows and her shoulders are perked up to her jawline like she’s cold but really she’s just uncomfortable. Strange to see her in a dress and wedges at  7 am.

When she sees you she smiles but it’s tense. She makes a remark about her hair being a mess and you get her some water and then walk her out to her car and trade goodbyes.

Listen to a podcast while the hangover wanes and drink lots of water and write that letter you promised a friend last month and eventually make your way to the door, bag looped over your shoulder and a box in your arms with all your clothes in it, feeling like a nomad with the dog whining and circling on his leash beside you, excited about getting to ride in the car. But then you just stand here for a while, thinking you’re forgetting something, until finally you say fuck it, and leave, and later that night, as you’re sliding a key card into the door of a $105 room at a La Quinta in a shady part of town, a bag of fast food bleeding grease in your hand, your toothbrush will come to mind, and you’ll sigh.


In the morning you find a plate from room service with a lid on it. A receipt beside it on the platter says $4.24.

Reach for the lid and lift it up slowly, carefully, and find beneath it, on a bed of lettuce, a gateway to Thousand Movie Project.

April 5. Fans, Cooling Off.

Wouldn’t have thought college basketball was this popular but there’s a game on between Duke and some other school and everybody’s pretty tense about it, focusing on the massive TVs over the bar, even the servers and the bussers pausing to look, trade remarks. Everytime somebody’s closing in on a basket you’ll hear a chorus of muted “come on come on come on” and two bussers pause right beside you and one of them’s gripping his hair and sighing and talking about his bracket.

Whenever somebody makes or misses a basket the reaction is explosive, disappointment or joy, and all the tension along the bar melts off in a loopy uneven way. Like ice cream in a microwave. Then it all picks up again, just as slow.

It’s 7 on a Sunday and you’re only halfway through your first beer but you feel like this’ll be the only one and then you’ll go. Nothing to do with the game or the shouting. This just happens lately, in a way it never did in your early twenties. You’ll look at the remaining half of a beer and something in your stomach, some vague overhead cloud with mixed-up silent words about sleep and the next day’s responsibilities, tells you in no unclear way that you’re done. It’s time to go home.

And so that’s where you go.


You find a safe behind the painting.

04 left, 24 right, 91 left.

Pull the door open and you’re transported to the Thousand Movie Projects.

Did This to Yourself

There’s a young guy here about your age who parts his hair in the back-right corner of his head and he’s got sunglasses on inside, taking hits from an e-cigarette, an air of austerity and entitlement about him and, internet being what it is, you wonder if he’s famous somehow, or if his parents are rich, and then a minute later you notice you aren’t even entertaining the idea that maybe this kid is independently wealthy for doing something honest and practical.

He’s having coffee at a table with an older woman in nice clothes who’s talking about somebody who lost $9 million. She gets to the end of her explanation: the person who lost it and how they lost it and the consequences. Then she looks into her coffee and shakes her head, pitying. Cocks an eyebrow. “May’ve even been ten million.”


More of this upstairs, in the Thousand Movie Project.