April 15. Even when you’re not talking about money, you’re talking about it.

Dad calls to say he doesn’t want you to go on a road trip you’ve planned and the fact of his getting in touch just to say so is enraging, more than it ought to be, and probably mostly because of money. You’re short on money and when you’re short on money everything is worse than it is cuzza the Money Cloud.

You’re currently on your way to a birthday party for which you’ve just spent 10% of your paycheck, and you’re wondering how you’ll float until the next one.

There’s a silence on the phone after he says what he wanted to say. A silence in which you’re pretty sure (angrily then, shruggingly now) that the response he’s waiting for is compliance. But there’s a teenage voice in your chest, militant and angry with a beret on its head and a fist in the sky, talking about NO MORE and RESIST. Talking shit.

You let the silence go on and on until he asks if you’re there.

“Yeah.”

Another long silence.

“I just don’t think this is a good idea.”

Whereupon you assure him that his preference isn’t a governing factor in your decisionmaking.

And the teenager inside you folds his arms and smiles and nods.

Another silence and then, feigning a meek matronly bafflement, he says, “…OK…have a good night.”


Upstairs at the party you’re the first one to arrive (sun hasn’t even gone down) and you pop one of the beers you brought and sit brooding on the balcony while the host takes her dog for a quick walk before the guests arrive.

Angry drinking, defeated drinking, worried drinking. Feelings all over the place like you should apologize — or no, cuz the gesture really was annoying — and what if a silent treatment ensues from this, another ten-day standoff like the last one? And what if this, what if that?

The intersection under her balcony is empty. It’s Passover. You spit into the road and lean your face on a post and take an enormous swig, half the can, and with the gulp comes a chill, a shiver, goosebumps. An immersion into this moment and space, here and now on a Coral Gables balcony, where nobody wants anything of you.

A nice feeling. Fake.

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April 14. La Quinta.

This particular La Quinta’s in a shady part of town and there’s bad lighting in the parking lot so when you get here at 9:30 it’s almost pitch dark. You walk inside with the McDonald’s bag and the Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand and your keys in the other, clutched in a jumble, unclear whether you’d swing or stab them at an attacker.

The elevator is wood-paneled and smells like 2002 and the hallway is narrow so you can hear laughter and coughing and arguments and all different sorts of TV while walking to your room. You’re on the second floor and two guys are having a heated argument in Spanish under your window so you draw the shade and turn the TV on and eat your fast food, drink your beer, stare at cartoons but focus mostly on money, jobs, where to go from here. Family drama. Issues with money again. Where will you live next month.

Something next door crashes into the wall behind your TV and you spill some beer in your lap, trying to stand up. Snatch the remote up and hit Mute.

Crouching by the window in your boxers and dress shirt, some vague inflexible imitation of a karate pose, rivulets of beer on your arm and crotch, you stand perfectly still, listening closely.

But your neighbors are dead quiet now. Not even a TV.

Blood’s pumping in your ears.

Creep over to the door and open it slowly and look both ways down the hall.

Just the white noise behind other people’s doors.

In the arm chair over the next two hours you watch cartoons with the volume low, taking small sips, going rigid and muting the TV whenever you think you hear something from next door. At some point you get into bed and at 9 am wake up with a gasp from some dream about a sniper.

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 12

You’re in here for happy hour just to sate a two-year curiosity, even though it’s clear from just the front room that you can’t afford it. The place has thick green carpet and emanates class and the meals seem to start at $22 but all the men here are in shorts or jeans or t-shirts or fairly-casual button-downs.

Sit at the bar with your $6 Miller and flip through your phone after a quick glance around. Photos of famous people and of newspaper clippings are framed and hanging everywhere. Some loud guys in shorts at a corner table are talking about a judge. Golf is muted on a TV over the bar. Pink Floyd playing from overhead speakers at so low a volume it’s almost pointless. Take out your phone, start scrolling. Couple minutes later one of the grayhaired bros int he corner slaps the table and lets out a clipped cackle.

“It’s not Smoke,” he says. He’s remonstrating a friend. “Snoke. Lord Emperor Snoke.”

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 8. Talkative.

You’re back in the habit of listening to podcasts for the first time in years and find that it makes for pleasant company at bars. Kevin Smith in particular. If gab is a gift, he’s got it. You listen to his stuff when you’re sober and marvel at how seamless he is, moving from topic to topic, and how he just takes off, soon as he’s prompted, and talks without cease and with so much energy, urgency, humor, comfort. Then you drink and he gets funnier.

You wish you could do this. Talk so well.

Start thinking about talking and about the friends of yours who are good at it, and don’t you even sometimes find a bad speaker interesting? Sure. Often. You cross paths with a few of them at work or the coffee shop. They speak in cliches and they’re the bad kind of vulgar and they’re narrowminded and short on vocab — but they’ve got energy. Character. You’d like to hear them talk with an option to pause, and without actually having to engage.

It’s one of those weeknights where everyone at the bar is by themselves, dressed for work, scrolling their phones. Smirking at something they read. Place feels alive with the lighting and the music and the twelve TVs on blast.

Takes a minute, coming up from the podcast, to realize nobody’s really actually talking.

Which is fine. To have a place where you can go and relax and be respected without having to talk.


The maitre’d points you toward a narrow door you hadn’t noticed when you first came in. It blends in with the wall. Ask him where it goes and he gives you a tough look, hands you a card, walks away.

Cross the lobby and go through the door and inside there’s a phone on the wall.

On the card there’s a number. 0424. Dial it.

Phone rings twice and then, on the other end, the loveliest voice:

Thousand Movie Project.”

April 7. Crystal Ball.

You and this other guy who do standup have a seat at the venue, each with a drink, and he says he’s reached two conclusions about you. “And you tell me if I’m wrong.”

“Sure.”

“The first is that you’re pretty smart.”

“Thanks.”

“Second one, no offense, is that you’re probably the least successful of your friends.”