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no gold (things will have to wait)

There is an old Russian expression for the inevitable moment when your neighbors begin renovating. "Searching for gold in the walls." They say, to describe the epic sounds of drills in ancient concrete. You might appreciate this odd humor, this dark joke, this survival tactic. I am not so graceful a man to wrap my thoughts around it. Those drills and grinders, they shake the very walls of our apartment. Early on Sunday mornings and often long into the evenings they go.

This has been going on for the last four months, maybe more. I stopped counting.

I cannot imagine there are any walls left, that there is an entire open floor below us, the wind whipping through the naked beams and nothing else. That is the only explanation. Or that they break down walls, build new ones, find a flaw, some grand mistake and then break all of the walls down again. Not swiftly with sledgehammers, but with one crappy old drill with a dull bit, mashing away, so that children hundreds of miles away…

a late birthday in New York

I am back in New York for a few days, speaking clean English, eating real pizza, blowing out birthday candles on a late, delicious cake.

The city smells like laundry soap, and those cornucopia steam tables – of watermelon and sesame chicken. It reeks of cigarettes and stale beer as I travel beneath a midday sun. It is coffee and bacon from Eisenbergs.

Everyone is checking everyone out, sizing each other up like we’re about to fight, or pitch a pathetic one-liner, or get asked out on a date.

I walk up and down the city, catching bits of conversations in French, and German. I hear someone speaking Russian and my ears perk up like a terrier. I turn and follow these strangers down Church Street until I know what they are doing here.

People stop me and ask for directions to the World Trade Center, to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Guys are leaning out of cars, calling to girls in short skirts. Children are running under sprinklers on a playground.

The city smells like a clean shirt.

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