Category Archives: the neighborhood


On a side-street around the corner from my house, I witnessed a woman call a man a “dick” because he angrily told her to move her big old dog out of the way. Said dog (very sweet and calm aged pooch) was planted comfortably across the width of the sidewalk, blocking the egress of the 30-something guy who was carrying his 3- or 4-year-old daughter on his shoulders.

There was no space between the man’s awareness that his path was blocked and his ire; nor was there any intervening pause between his irritated “Get your dog out of the way!” and the dog’s also 30-something female owner’s retort.

I knew it was some bad juju (aka vibes) in the air, and I gave the two anger mongers a wide berth. Then I thought, “What’s going on here?”

“Trump,” I replied to myself. Trumpian energy.

Am I over-interpreting? Am I looking for a reason to blame The Donald?

Who can say?

I say it’s a new – and not very nice – world, one in which one’s aggressive impulses are not to be resisted.

Hold on, folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

Look for my new non-fiction book, FEAR OF LANDING, The stories we tell about commitment and their meanings. It’s available on

Also available on is my science fiction novel, RAYMÒN AND SUNSHINE, It’s about the relationship between an autistic man and a female android three hundred years in the future, when what was once seen as a disability is merely a difference.

You can find more information about me and my books at


 My PIC and I couldn’t wait to get outside and go for a walk. The sun was bright, there was just the touch of a cool breeze, but the air was still warm enough to go jacket-less. We meandered happily uptown – there were errands to run, stops to make. But first we were going to swing by the bank and make a deposit in the ATM.

As I waited, I glanced at the double glass doors leading into the bank. A very disreputable and unmistakably homeless person, in full raggy regalia – pushing his cartful of foul crap, was about to enter.

Something came over me and I, who assert (see above: THERE ARE A LOT OF CRAZIES WALKING THE STREETS) the importance of avoiding encounters with the psychologically unfit, was filled with outrage and a call to action. I briskly walked to the doors and held up my hand. NO, I said, YOU CAN’T COME IN HERE. THIS ISN’T YOUR HOUSE… I would have continued, but the now clearly wild-eyed and agitated citizen began to yell and curse me. He was lucid enough to be clearly understood, as he insulted every aspect of my being: from my race to my age to my height, to my…well you get the picture. He was, simultaneously, now moving with some effort (his cart was way full) inside the bank’s ATM room, toward me.

Like the smart coward I am, I ran fleetly up the escalator and approached a bank employee. I quickly told the story (from my vantage point) and asked that they remove the now really scary man who was – in fact – already coming up the escalator, too. I was, thankfully, spirited away down an elevator, while the sounds of “excuse me, sir” and “I can damn well be in MY bank” echoed – now mercifully in the distance.

Back out in the street, my PIC and I commiserated and continued on. I understand there was a full moon last night – which may explain the fact that, although we weren’t pulled into any other frightening engagements, there was a massive shitshow going on on each block. Four cars at unnatural angles were blocking a major intersection; several men were trying to disentangle that mess. There were two couples coming close to fisticuffs in front of a large market; the issue at hand seemed to be about who cut in front of whom on line. We quickly crossed the street to avoid. There were also strange smells – gas-like, making me feel that frisson of fear of imminent doom that I am olfactorily (I’m sure there should be an “i” between the “l” and the “f” – you’re wrong, Mr. Google) prey to.

And so, I double-timed the rest of the route until I was safely inside my apartment, door double locked. I think I’ll stay in. Maybe for a while…




Whoever gets the above reference wins. Don’t ask me what you win. You just win.

As I walk around the neighborhood wearing the alarming-for-some and confusing-for-others tee shirt with the words: WHO IS COOLIE COOLSTEIN (on the front) and DON’T KILL YOU NEIGHBOR (on the back), I get sidelong glances that disappear if I try to engage them, stone-faced “I don’t see anything” non-looks, and (mercifully) the very rare double look – first at the shirt and then a smile at me. It is beyond rare that anyone says anything to me in response to what they see.

This is Manhattan and most everyone is playing the role of too cool to care. Of course, the irony is blatant. Too cool to notice Coolie? What would Coolie do in a comparable situation?

He would goggle. No, not google. Goggle. He would look with wonder and question in his eyes. He would say (very politely – he is a good boy, after all), “Excuse me. But your shirt says ‘Coolie Coolstein.’ That’s me!! And I would never kill my neighbor. Even if I had one.”

So, why are my UWS brethren and sistren (??) so snotty/snooty/above it all? One word answer: insecurity. It’s the hallmark of the insecure to overdo the cool. The truly cool (like Mr. Coolstein) aren’t afraid of not knowing nor are they embarrassed by their wish to find out.

How did it all come to this, this pretense of know-it-all-ness?

I remember the upper west side in the late 1970’s. It was a little bit like the wild west if the wild west were sort of vacant and burned out looking and a mix of hard-core unfriendly denizens and earnest adventurers from the upper east side.

I used to go to a bar called “Marvin Gardens” where everybody knew your name. I spent many an afternoon and evening hanging out (that’s what we did in the 70’s) with friends – both old and new – coming in and out. Not that much drinking was going on. There was great bar food: burgers and mussels in wine sauce. It was a complete experience.

Had Coolie and the tee shirt existed back then, it would have been an occasion for joy and hilarity. The rolling community would have embraced him/it/us. Yes. I’m doing ‘the good ole days.’ They really were.

The gentrification of the UWS bleached out much of its charm and energy. Now it’s merely a shadow of it’s former self, with the occasional fleeting waft of spunky grunge that was the heart of the neighborhood once upon a time.



Here in the City, we have several stages of the snow saga (it’s kind of operatic):

Stage one: Beautiful, glistening, and white. Catch it while you can; it’s fleeting.

Stage two: Dog snow – pee and poop have marred nature’s pristine blanket.

Stage three: It’s all turned to slush – gray and sloshing over boot tops onto socks and feet; disgusting to look at and impossible for many to navigate. Sadly, this is the stage that lasts the longest.

Stage four: When we’re really lucky, a deep freeze comes on the heels of the slush, and then we have deep ice conditions. Daunting and treacherous!!

As I write, we’re up to our eyeballs in Stage three.


So, first we had the two days of fear mongering: The blizzard is coming! The blizzard is coming! Storm of the century; deadly; get off the roads; power outages to come; state of emergency; invocation of hurricane Sandy.

By the time the first flakes fell (alliteratively lovely, no?) I, along with my fellow New Yorkers, were in high anxiety mode. The demonic media had done it’s dirty dead (it’s my thing today).

Next we had the panicked grocery shopping: because the fear of being stranded without enough of the basics (milk, water, eggs, bread) and those things which make life worthwhile (favorite cheeses, the necessary crunchies or – perhaps – a special pâté…), was in full force.

Once again, the news was full of visuals of stripped and empty shelves. For those who hadn’t been in the first wave of frantic buying, there was renewed dread: What if I missed the boat? What if it’s too late? What will become of me? Will I starve? This then yielded the scoff-up-the-remains wave of buying – feverishly taking whatever canned goods and rejected produce that was left.

And then the actual weather began. Now, I find myself without the edge of sarcasm: it really has been (and continues to be at this writing) a somewhere between daunting and impressive snow event.

My partner in crime and I were out at about 11am – just for the experience. It was quite beautiful – the soft whiteout above our heads and under our feet was transporting. The terrain was just substantially unpredictable enough to qualify for an adventure, but not severe enough to feel dangerous. We walked a few blocks and found – to our delight – that some stores were open (vive Manhattan!! vive the Upper West Side!!) So we stopped in and got some much needed black emery boards in our local CVS; then we bought three dozen clams at Joons – our beloved fish store.

Traipsing home with our scored stuff, we felt enlivened and righteous. Now we can hunker down, without having any unmet yearnings, and watch the rest of the east coast batten and battle.

Unlike those seriously frigid realms (i.e. Buffalo, Rochester), in a few days this will all be a memory and a huge mess of slush. But, for now, we are in the thrall of the winter wonderland, NYC style.


Even at the substantial distance of one city block, I knew it was him. Dressed as if for winter on one of those first below-fifties days, I trundled along doing early morning errands, Tim Gunn approached looking chic. He was hatless and his handsome face and trademark silver hair shone.

As our paths crossed, I raised a hand, waved and said, in a voice unamplified by my inner freak-out and delight, “Hi, Tim.” He didn’t hear me and we continued on our separate ways.

After, I ran through the lines I wished I’d delivered: “Oh, Tim, my granddaughter and I were at Finding Neverland when the Project Runway team was there. She and I just watched that episode together. Guess what? She’s twelve and already a fan of your show. Isn’t that great?”

Knowing him from my first encounter (see: July 13, 214 blog-post, “I Saw Tim Gunn”), he would have warmly received that news. But now it lived only in my mind. Cool isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.


Manhattanites are tolerant of great diversity and change. But they are sticklers for categorical things too. When it comes to the weather, it better damn well stay in the typical seasonal bounds, or else it’s just one long bitch fest – from the Upper West Side (hey!) to the Lower East Side.

All those neighbors who never speak – merely nod curtly and move on, stop to commiserate when it’s too cold in the summer or too warm after Labor Day; if there’s too much rain or snow or not enough. We have a fine palate for many things, and we are miffed and distressed when Mother Nature doesn’t cater to that palate.

Yesterday it was in the 80’s. No, no, no! Not at the end of September? Maybe we were all luxuriating in the beneficent rays a week earlier, but now it was a crime against humanity. Hot, unhappy faces grimaced past each other in the street. Meetings at the mailbox in the lobby sounded like workers about to go on strike. What the hell is going on, we all asked each other? What’s with the heat? This is just wrong! Lots of agreement; lots of mutual understanding. Umbrage and outrage were the common thread which had – on this unspeakably beautiful… I mean, disgusting…day – brought us together in a magnificent unity. A raised eyebrow in the elevator was sufficient as a signal of solidarity.

Poop on the sidewalk or sluggish public transportation are lesser evils, not necessarily problematic enough to create the connection that wrong weather brings. Aren’t we an odd lot?


No, this is not going to be about anything LGBT. It’s about fruits and vegetables. I’m in love. Okay, you’re not fully on board, I can tell. But let me paint a picture for you.

I went to MM’s, my favorite neighborhood vegetaria, for a couple of things: plums and apples. Basics. But then I saw them: perfectly white plump eggplant alongside some pale lavender and white striped ones. In the next bin were peppers that were a color I had never seen before. They were the palest yellow. Beautiful. Of course I had to buy some of each, but then I stepped back and surveyed the scene: There were small dark bluish purple potatoes, next to the deep magenta-skinned Korean sweet potatoes I love. There were nine different kinds of apples; plums as big as Joe Namath’s fist – darkest purple with the promise of red inside. There were big bananas, small bananas, and plaintains. The lettuce section was a small jungle of greens. There was a casual stack of  large succulent leaves, light green around the edges, white in the center, that reminded me of aloe – but I’m not sure what they were. Next time I’ll ask.

I could go on and on. I might. But you see, I feel extreme gratitude. For the bounty that comes to me from around the globe, just sitting there for my pleasure and health. If the choices were many and it weren’t quite so beautiful, I would still be thankful. But, for the artistry of nature, I am truly humble.



OUT AND ABOUT – the long version.

While Coolie Coolstein and Barbie Blue continue to swirl through as yet unknown galaxies, I got caught in a matrix of time and space as well.

The workmen arrived early. That’s not supposed to happen. And by 8:15 they had begun to do some renovations to the floors in my apartment – making a hellish noise but worse, creating smells that set me a-running. Solvents and gluey stuff. I knew it was happening, so me and my live-in bodyguard had an agenda for the day. We couldn’t loll at home, but – as my takes-it-as-it comes mother said: “At least you’re in Manhattan, and there’s plenty to do.”

Our day (which was supposed to begin at 10 – a far more civilized hour) was predicated on it being sunny and in the high 70’s. That’s what the lying weatherfolk said. They just toy with us, you know. But it rained for the first few hours of our jaunt and it was damn chilly. The sounds of rain pelting the A/C unit had awakened me before 5am, so my ass was dragging as we stumbled onto Broadway. It was too early to do anything so we veered into Starbucks. Sanctuary, I thought. WHOA! Here’s where my alternate universe cuts in…

When did they start playing loud music? What happened to that place you could go and maybe work on your novel in peace, without being bothered? I made it for twenty minutes. Not only was there a sensory assault, there was a brewing rumble by the bathroom. Someone had taken it hostage, according to the wild-eyed guy who was waiting to get in. No. He really was wild-eyed: they moved in two different directions, like an owl. He was intermittently (every minute) pounding on the door to the single toilet in the place. A line had collected behind him and it was getting ugly. I had that feeling you get (if you’re lucky) just before a landslide or an avalanche or a shoot-out. So I grabbed my partner and got the fuck out of Dodge.

Adrenalin receding, we relocated to the diner down the block. No music. No hassle. Peace. But you’ve got to order more than a cup of coffee, so a nice omelet seemed like a good idea. I remembered having breakfast already, but…what the hey?

An early movie was in our plans, but first we scoped out the possible places for lunch near the theater. Can you see how food might be the thematic structure? Sun made an appearance – but a strangely cold wind was blowing underneath. We hurried inside and waited for the movie to begin. Oh, right. The time they say it starts is really when twenty minutes of trailers begin. It was 10:45 and I’d already eaten all my popcorn (I know, I know.)

We reappeared in the now more consistent sunlight at 1pm. Entourage didn’t disappoint; we are both fans of the TV show – so it was like visiting with old friends. A few good yuks and half price for the early show. You can’t beat that.

Can you guess what time it was? Yes. Lunchtime. I was starting to feel like a turkey on November 1st. It was all so redolent of my childhood: Eat, Totie, eat. A little more?

Our afternoon event was the annual Crafts Fair at Lincoln Center. It’s a special accumulation of artists and artisans. I look forward to it every spring. But I was kind of done, and the guys were still working on the floors, so free will was not being exercised. That ass that was dragging earlier, had dropped a foot or two. Rats. Forgot to go to the bathroom in the restaurant. (That’s the sub-theme.) One issue you tend not to think about when you aren’t a wandering Jew. Ferreting out hospitable toilets…not my favorite thing. Okay. Back to the schlep.

Now the sun is out. Am I happy? No. Because now we’re walking up and down the endless aisles of crafts and it is hot. There are too many people, many of them are in wheel chairs, many of them are aged and not moving apace. I’ve got too much paraphernalia in my purse and waaa! I wanna go home.

Stopped off on the way for my accomplice to get a smoothie (hmmm!!)

Home. Be it ever so humble, there’s running water and climate control. And things to sit on and lay down on. Heaven.


I write from a shaded bench which runs alongside a segment of the circumference of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. I am waiting for 1pm, the magic hour when free tickets are distributed for the current installment of Shakespeare In the Park. Tonight, God willing (I thought it would behoove me to add a little old-Jew into the discourse), we will be treated to an outdoor performance of The Tempest. There will be a cast of first rate actors with a few stars sprinkled in.

The under 65 set are on a long winding line, snaking the equivalent of about ten blocks. I’ve been there – packing a picnic lunch and making a day of it, with a gang of 30-something wild-folk. Swilling wine and imbibing other mind-altering substances, the party was the point; the play was a nice afterthought.

My party days are way behind me, but my delight in theater of all stripes has increased with the decades. I just received the best possible news: my wait is only until noon, things have changed since my last sojourn.

There is a camaraderie amongst us waiters. Chatting and joking seem natural. But now there is a rumor floating around: we may be too far back in the line to score. Well, I’m philosophical. I did arrive late-ish and it’s a nice day for this part of the outing.

Two men on my left strike up a protracted rambling dialogue: birds are their first topic, engendered by a nest spied in the rafters of the theater overhang. Since, as we know, all roads lead to narcissism, the two Gentlemen of the Line rapidly discover that they had both been actors – back in the day. They start dropping names at an ever increasing rate. Let’s leave them for a moment.

On my other side, an Asian man exuding a sweet demeanor commits an act of unexpected kindness. I brought and consumed a banana. Leaving the line has its perils, so I just held onto the skin. My neighbor had apparently also eaten a banana. He turns and asks if he can take my leavings to the garbage with his own. Who could ever have anticipated that?

Back to the two posturers: one mentioned he was still collecting residuals for something obscure. I wait to see what the other one calls with or if he raises. I think Atlanta-boy (he’s made sure to mention he has “place” here in town too) is winning in a rout. He has taken the whip in his hand and is flailing his own flank. His bragging is consuming all the breathable air. Time has slipped to a crawl.

Paul Sorvino

Ronnie Reagan. Yes, Ronnie.

Can this go on forever?

The wife of my left hand neighbor arrives. She looks like she belongs to someone else and not in a good way. She stands; hubby sits. Now the convo is a three-way. And it’s devolved (if you can believe that is possible) to naming all the celebrities they have seen on the street. For fuck’s sake, it’s Manhattan. Everyone sees everyone on the street. But on they drone. I know, I know. They are making conversation. And that would be why I don’t.

My boredom ends abrubtly as ticket time arrives. The banana skin man gets the last two tickets – none for me. But this is somehow just. The actors, who were behind me, slink away into the afternoon.

We shall all return for another try.