Tricks of the Eye

I.

Look at these two lines. Doesn't one appear to be longer than the other? Is the one on the bottom actually longer than the one on the top or is it a trick of the eye? No, your eyes aren't deceiving you, they're different lengths.








II.

Stare at this circle for a minute. Actually several minutes. Seeing anything? Perhaps several minutes more. Excuse me while I go to the bathroom. I'm back. Still staring? Be patient, this could take hours. Still not seeing anything? Perhaps something is wrong with you.











III.

Look carefully at this square. Now close your eyes. Now open them again. Now close them again and then open and close them again. Look at the square again. Notice anything different? No? That's because a square is not an optical illusion, no matter how much you open and close your eyes.














IV.

Try this. Study these two arrows. Do you see a third arrow? That arrow is not really there.










V.

Look at this perfectly straight line. Does it appear all wobbly? It isn't! That's just your eyes playing tricks on you.








VI.

Look at this semi-circle. Do you notice anything extraordinary about it? Is it even there at all? It's all about your perception of reality. When I see a tree, I ask myself "Is that tree really there, or has this whole world been created in my mind just for me?". I am constantly questioning. Maybe you should do a little more of that.


Cat Negotiations

I see you're sitting on the couch tying your shoes. Allow me to get on the coffee table and gently ram my head into your face. And again. Now let me turn around. Look at my butt hole. Magnificent. Very fine I think. Time for another head-ramming. Now back to the butt hole. Now back to the head-ram and repeat. I'm not sure if you've given quite enough attention to my butt hole. Let me give you another opportunity. Observe this head-butt-hole-back-to-head combination. Olympic. Just as you've finished tying your shoes.

-----------------------

Ah, you're trying to pack some items into a cardboard box to ship. I'm sure you are aware that cardboard boxes are just exactly my kind of thing. Shall I jump inside? No? Well, let's give it a try anyway, you will see how unwarranted your misgivings are. Yes this is really hitting the spot. Time for a snooze. Stop manhandling me, you freakish oaf! I was very happy there in that box. Now I have been removed from that happiness and returned to your feline Auschwitz you've been running here. Let me at least rub the side of my face on the box. I see the box has fallen on the floor as a result of my face-rubbing and you are wearing a look of displeasure. Coincidentally I was just about to go hide under the bed just as this happened. So let me do that and I'll touch base with you later for dinner.

-----------------------

That looks very fine, what you're eating. Very fine indeed. Why don't you let me have some of that. Just let me try it and I'll let you know whether it works for me. I'm already up on the table despite your persistent swatting. Ah you've given in to my charms. Let's have a smell here. Smelling now, I'll let you know in a minute or so if this thing that you've been eating passes my smell test. The results are in and seems possible that I will enjoy this, let me give it a nibble. A little lick here, a nibble there. Little lick, little nibble. Hmmm. I don't care for this, I have to say. I had misgivings when I observed it was green. I prefer brown. But I've never been accused of having an unsophisticated palate, so forward I boldly forged. No no, I'm afraid this just won't do. You've incurred my displeasure once again. It seems as though you're always letting me down.

A Difficult Excursion To The Sea

Heading down to the South Street Seaport area of Manhattan, totally unfamiliar territory, fraught with the possibility of getting lost, I did.

My father is always very good at figuring out where he is, it's a sense he has, something like if you dropped a dog off in the middle of the woods it would find its way home, except that my father is much smarter than a dog. I've never heard of a dog with a doctorate in physics, have you? Sometimes I forget that I didn't inherit this quality and just decide to take the F train to a random stop in Manhattan and figure I'll just "feel it out" and find my destination from there. This never works out the way I picture it in my mind, in my mind I arrive 15 minutes early at the meeting place and sit comfortably sipping a martini, the waitress falls instantly in love with me, and when my friends arrive they comment about how remarkable I am when I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. None of that ever happens in real life except the part about waitresses falling in love with me. I don't even like martinis.

I had to meet a friend on Delancey St. at 6PM prior to meeting my other friends Angela and Stepinsky and a few others at Salt Bar on Beekman St., right off of South St. by the East River. I knew I had to go south and east from Delancey and that was about all I knew for sure about getting from to one point to the next.

I walked through Chinatown before I headed further east and that was about as far as I got before getting lost and losing all sense of where I was; in other words I had made it about 6 or 7 blocks.

I tried getting directions from a Chinese man, which was probably ill-advised so close to Chinatown; there was a minimal chance this man would understand me, and he didn't. Nonetheless I carried on trying to get him to give me directions to "Beeker" St. (I had forgotten the name of the street was actually Beekman.) The only thing I could think to do without using words was to mime Beeker to him, and the only way I could think of to do that was to pretend to be a chemist in a lab examining test tubes and beakers. I held two imaginary beakers at eye level and glanced back and forth between one and the other. While I did this I made an "ooooh....ooooh" sound to indicate the fascination I had for my scientific findings, which in retrospect probably didn't help as a clue for the Chinese man but seemed to me at the time to be exactly what a scientist holding two beakers would do. He would be really into his job. Also since this man was Chinese I imagined that this would be exactly what a specifically-Chinese scientist would do, if not the scientists of all the world. I can picture an Indian doing it as well. Mind you, this is to get directions to BeekMAN St., which I had forgotten. "Maybe he knows Beaker from the Muppets" I thought, again forgetting the correct street name. To imitate Beaker I sucked my face into my neck and turned my lips down, making a "mee mee mee" sound. In reaction to this the Chinese man began backing away as politely as he could, nodding and smiling, and turned and started back down the street.

I walked on and passed an attractive young woman pushing a stroller. "Hey mother, want another?" I thought, recalling that rhyme kids in my hometown would say if they saw a hot mother. (This inquiry would have implied (if I had said it aloud) that I could impregnate this woman by having sex with her if she so desired, in case you can't get it from context). I wondered if that line had ever worked on anyone. "Hey mothuh, want anothuh?". "Yes indeed! Sounds smashing! Let's get cracking!". I don't know why the woman is British in that example. I guess because British women are so promiscuous. I don't know if that's actually true. It sounds accurate though.

I stopped into a bodega for cigarettes and noticed the shelves in the place were suspiciously barren. They didn't have my brand. "Must be a front" I thought. Then I questioned that thought. People always say that when a store is under-stocked. How many fronts can there really be in the United States? 50? 60? Yet I'll bet every adult in the Northeast has at least once accused a store of being a front. I left the bodega cigarette-less. (I was cigarette-less, not the bodega.)

At this point Angela and Stepinsky called to say they were also lost and couldn't find the place, and I just gave up and hailed a cab, just then remembering that the street is called Beekman St.

I finally arrived at Salt Bar on Beekman St. to find Angela and Stepinsky sitting with our old friend Gus who was in town from Boston and Saul who also lives in New York City.

"You've gained weight" I told Gus as I shook hello. I immediately regretted saying that even though Gus is pretty thick-skinned and probably didn't mind; it didn't seem to be taken very well by the group overall and seemed to cause a moment of awkwardness, effectively demonstrating the disparity between how things are in my head and how they are in real life.

Saul looked exactly like one of Tom Hanks' friends in "Bachelor Party" except gayer, which is basically the way Saul always looks, sort of like a Hell-sea version of Harold Ramis circa 1980. Saul had gone incommunicado a few weeks ago and we were worried about him so it was good to see that things were back to normal, or Saul's version of normal.

We had some beer and ate some sandwiches from the bar. Then Angela had to go so it was just the four of us and we went to a sports bar around the corner to watch the Celtics beat the Cavaliers to win the series and advance to the NBA semi-finals. I tried to keep my celebrating to a minimum as there were plenty of Cleveland fans in the bar and I didn't want to rub salt on their wounds. One of them looked particularly desperate and kept yelling "FUCK". I can understand how it would be frustrating to be a Cleveland sports fan, but I kept my distance from that guy. It can be good to have interests but when your interests provoke you to indiscriminately yell "FUCK" in a bar full of people in might be best to take up something else, something less frustrating, and in the case of Cleveland sports fans almost anything will do. Orchid hunting, for one example.

We parted ways with Saul and Gus. Stepinsky and I headed to Low Bar back in Brooklyn. Keith was bar tending and Clean Steve was there and got us high in the back garden. We drank some beers; I can't remember what we talked about but I do recall doing most of the talking. The pot didn't put me to sleep like it usually does, I had become rather animated.

Around about 2:30AM my friend Eva came in flanked by her usual collection of disorderly looking bluegrass musicians. They pulled out their fiddles and soon it was a full on jamboree so Stepinsky and I drank some Kentucky Bourbon to be part of the moment. The music sounded so grand, it floated in the air.

"I'd like to live in the South Street Seaport area" I said to Stepinsky. "When I have enough money".

"Some day we'll have money" he said. "Some day".

I smiled and fell backward off my chair.

A Letter of Request to Me from My Cats

Dear Sir,

It is of tantamount importance that you release us from the confines of this room. I know that only several minutes ago I may have given every indication that it was crucially important that we enter this very same room, but regrettably the circumstances have changed, and quite rapidly. I'm afraid I must urgently request that we be let out forthwith.

I understand my policies on these matters have not always been in concert with each other, and I understand that may have caused some confusion on your part. I can sympathize with the fact that you only just let us into the room at my insistence, and my timing probably could have been better than to have made this current request just as you were drifting off to sleep following my having interrupted your sleeping only several minutes ago with my previous request to be let in.

Nonetheless I cannot let these missteps prevent me from taking immediate action on the matter. Like a Republican senator asking for stimulus money, I cannot let the appearance of contradiction stop me from doing what is right for us right now.

I tried crawling under the door for about a minute and a half but that has not yielded favorable results: the space underneath the door is prohibitively small.

Perhaps if you would make it a habit to leave the door open that would be an agreeable compromise for all, (though I've been lead to believe by various clues in your behavior that your policy of shutting the door is in order to prevent my brother and I from darting in and out of the room while engaging in play-fighting (and regular fighting) throughout the entire duration of your sleep time.)

While I can't make any solid guarantees, I can assure you that my brother and I will do our best to abide by this decision for as long as possible.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours,
Jackpot J. Munch (of the Southampton Munches).

Another In a Series of Letters to Me from My Cats

Sir,

I see you over there. Glaring at me scornfully. On the verge of scolding me. Trying to change my "behavior". Just because I am currently eating my brother's vomit does not give you the right to judge me, sir.

I am hungry, damn you. The fact that I just ate two thirds a can of cat food does nothing to change my hunger. Besides, cat food is not quite so delicious as vomit. I am not sure why but my brother really knows how to produce some sublimely exquisite vomit. I must say I enjoy every savory bite.

In these days of recession (and possible depression forthcoming) I would think I should be applauded for choosing to carry out this vomit-eating as I am. My hunger has now been soothed for at least the next several hours.

I am writing to demand an immediate apology and your blessing to continue eating vomit.

Sincerly Yours,
Nikolas J. Munch (of the Southampton Munches)

"Mr. Happy" By Roger Hargreaves: A Critical Analysis



One need only read the first few words of Roger Hargreave's 1972 work "Mr Happy" before one begins to see gaping flaws: "On the other side of the world where the sun shines hotter than here" it begins; a little general, don't you think Mr. Hargreaves? The "other side of the world". And where exactly is that? I guess that would depend on where in the world you are, wouldn't it? This is the very first line mind you.

Hargreaves then describes a Utopia called "HappyLand", where "everyone is as happy as the day is long". Predictably it goes on like this, asking you to suspend your disbelief but giving you no reason to do so:

"It's such a happy place that even the flowers seem to smile in HappyLand".

Maybe if you're tripping on mushrooms the flowers appear to be smiling. It seems to be rather stating the obvious to note that a flower is incapable of smiling, it is basically an inanimate object.

"All the animals are happy in HappyLand as well".

That seems a bit presumptuous. How would you know whether an animal is happy Mr. Hargreaves? Are you an animal psychiatrist? And are you telling me that you've done a thorough analysis of every animal in HappyLand and arrived at the conclusion that nowhere in this vast land that allegedly encompasses half the world is there an animal that might not be so happy?

"If you've never seen a smiling mouse, or a happy cat or dog, or even a worm, go to Happyland."

Well there's a small problem with that Mr. Hargreaves. First of all you've been totally unclear as to wherever this place is so I would have no way of going to HappyLand even if I wanted to, would I? And how would one determine whether or not a worm is smiling? It's a rope-like thing in the dirt with no face. Are you expecting me to somehow find this place Happyland, book an an airline ticket and travel there just to crawl around in the dirt to see if I can tell if the worms are smiling?

We then are introduced to the story's protagonist, Mr. Happy, who evidently was not informed about things like September 11th and waterboarding because there is nothing that makes him unhappy! Apparently word of the holocaust never spread to Happyland.

While walking around in the woods, Mr. Happy comes across a door in the side of a tree, and for some reason this asshole decides it's acceptable to break into and enter the home of Mr. Miserable, who for some reason doesn't object to the intrusion nor does he object when he is forced out of his home and into the fascist world of Happyland where he is forced to be happy.

During this inquisition Mr. Miserable claims that he "would give anything to be happy" but it's reasonable to reach the conclusion that he is being intimated by Mr. Happy, the one man gestapo who has invaded his home.

After a little while in HappyLand, miraculously, Mr. Miserable then begins smiling all the time, probably due to the effects of medication he was forced to take by this fascist regime, a regime which endorses a kind of euthanasia if you will, since Mr. Miserable and those of his ilk are being forced out of their homes and basically executed; killed and transformed into a nation of Mr. Happys.

It's no wonder that the generation that grew up reading Mr. Happy has so happily and readily paved the way for the kind of totalitarianism that is currently creeping like a black shadow over the entire globe. We all trust Mr. Happy to take care of us. Mr. Happy is going to make it better. Give yourselves to Mr. Happy.

Mr. Hargreaves attempts to sell us Utopia, as totalitarians always do, but we must give up our souls to achieve it.

Shame on you Mr. Hargreaves!

The Man in the Hallway

The man in the hallway has chosen now to start banging on things. At least, I assume he's a man because you so rarely see women doing manual labor. I'm not saying it doesn't ever happen but you'll have to agree with me that it is indeed rare. Get off my case OK? I'm not going out there to check to see what gender this person is. And since I'm not going out there I can only imagine what he's banging on that couldn't have been banged on earlier in the day, when I wasn't reading in my living room and listening to some late period Beethoven string quartets, which by the way, are not accompanied particularly well by banging. I can only imagine the man is probably banging some nails into the wall for some reason, although it's hard for me to picture why that would be necessary in an unadorned hallway in a New York City apartment building. What would nails be needed for? Are they going to hang pictures? In the stairwell? I hardly think so. The banging now seems louder and closer, almost as if this man has specifically directed all of this banging at me; the sole purpose of this racket is to annoy me! What did I do to this guy? Now it's so close that I can almost feel it inside my own head, his heavy hot sweaty breathing on my neck, his cigarette breath wafting unpleasantly up my goddamned nostrils. He smells like hell this guy. Take a shower pal! Can no one in the whole building besides me hear this shit? Can't someone go out there and tell him to come back later at a more reasonable time? This is not a reasonable time! It's 7:30!!! PM! Surely someone else is just sitting down to dinner and just wants a second's peace! How can anyone tolerate this outrage? Now the floor is shaking and the plaster is crumbling from the walls. It feels like nails, long sharp nails are being driven into my skull by this mutant, this awful man who just has no consideration! No consideration whatsoever for other people's peace of mind! That's it, I am going out there to confront this person; I don't care how big he is, I am going to punch him in his goddamned idiot head! He deserves it! He fucking deserves it! Once I'm done punching him the first time I may just punch him again, that's how worked up I am. But wait, now it's stopped. Finally it seems to have stopped completely. Now that I am worked up beyond belief. Did he come here just to get me mad? It appears so. The nerve of this guy. I am going to call the building people and complain. The building people should know better. It's a good thing I am patient. The building people will regret this whole thing come Monday.



UPDATE: There is no evidence of anything in the hallway which would have necessitated 45 minutes of banging noises.

Another Blow to the Empire

Dear Sir or Madame,

Today I went to mail a package to my grandmother in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio - a task which required my making use of your facilities here in Park Slope, Brooklyn; a task which also seemed, at the outset, like it shouldn't be too difficult to execute. Mailing a package. How could I fail?

While it was not the most difficult thing I've ever gone through in my life, it ranks surprisingly high on the list: I would put it somewhere between my Mother's bout with breast cancer and the time I was hit by a car while on my bicycle and hospitalized.

I understand that our elected officials here in New York City, and really at all levels of government seem hellbent on creating some kind of nightmarish Orwellian totalitarianism where forms need to be filled out in order to fill out another form and so on. So I sympathize with you because I'm sure this kind of atmosphere is created at the top and you're doing the best you can within the parameters in which you're forced to operate.

So here's a couple of things that seem obvious to me and, I imagine, anyone who has visited this particular branch; just a couple of ideas that seem to have eluded the powers that be at the New York City Post Office.

First of all, when the post office was set up initially, it's creators probably asked the question "will people need pens at the post office?". Somehow they arrived at the conclusion that no, they wouldn't - but the answer is actually yes! People do need pens at the post office! Let me just take a pause here to let this point sink in........ I was today able to succeed where the Post Office has failed and observe that the lack of pens is problematic. The reason for this? Almost everyone who enters the Post Office will need a pen (for writing). (on letters and packages). The reason that people need to write on packages is because they need to "mail" them to "destinations", destinations which are denoted by addresses on the packages which need to be written (by pens), so it might make sense to have some, because mailing packages is kind of "your thing". I know what you're thinking - "but people will just steal our pens! What a waste of time and money!". I had the same thought myself. Then I remembered about the several thousand times I have visited a bank in my life; there was something about those visits; I was able to write things even though I myself was not in possession of a pen. The banks had their own pens, and they were made difficult to steal because they were attached by a beaded chain to the counter! This is just the kind of cutting edge technology that the Post Office of New York City should employ.

Luckily I did manage to find, deep in the recesses of my bag, my own pen. As I wrote out my grandmother's address I realized I didn't know her zip code. No problem I thought, I'll just look it up in the zip code finder. But there was no zip code finder to be found. (You should probably have one of those too but we'll avoid that point for now) No problem, I thought again, they'll just look it up for me when I get up to the window. They are the post office after all. This sort of thing is their bag. This sort of thing must happen often, if not all the time.

Imagine my surprise when I finally got to the window after having waited 45 minutes in line (a wait which was certainly exacerbated by the people who had already waited in line going back to the front of the line because something about their packages had not met the rigorous standards of the New York City Post Office the first time around) - I was told that looking up the zip code would be impossible. "You don't know the zip code?" the woman behind the glass said to me. "I don't have that, no, sorry" I said. "Well you need to look it up over there" she said to me, awesomely. "You mean you can't look it up for me?" I said. The woman behind the glass told me that, well, she could but next time I had better look it up myself, or something like that. Relieved, I said thank you.

Then she turned to talk to the woman next to her, who informed her that I would have to look it up myself at what she called "the machine". My woman related this to me and I said, incredulously, "You mean you can't look up a zip code? But you're the Post Office... Isn't this kind of thing your deal?" I was told that her "machine" is "really slow".

What kind of machine could she be talking about? Does the machine that the Post Office uses to look up zip codes not use the recent technology called "the internet" which actually operates at the speed of light? What sort of device did they have back there? Could it really be as hard as this woman was making it sound? I was to go look up the zip code myself on "the machine over there" and then come back up to front of the line just like the other people that had caused the bottleneck I previously described in paragraph 6.

I found another long line at "the machine" which looks up zip codes. But by then it was too late. I had run out of time and I had to go. So another thing I think the Post Office might want to think about incorporating is the internet. It's great! It's so fast, really. I imagine it's much faster than whatever you guys are using and it would enable your employees to do things the rest of us can do in 5 seconds!

Thank you for your time.

Stuart Wollensky
8th Grade Science Teacher, Patriot

Travels to and From Edwards Birthday Party at Gallery Bar, Ludlow Street, Lower East Side of Manhattan

(The names of the people in this story have been changed to protect myself from incurring the displeasure of those to whom I am comparing myself favorably)

I am a Bostonian and in Boston there is a code that isn't ever explicitly stated but is nonetheless generally understood which stipulates that when riding the T (subway) if you see someone that you know you don't disturb them at all. Indeed you try not to even acknowledge them so that you can both be comfortable with the fact that you're going to ignore each other for the duration of the ride. No offense is taken by either party. Both parties greatly appreciate that the other didn't violate the code.

Even if you are walking unwittingly toward someone you know in the same subway car trying to find a seat and you notice them, you must immediately turn 180 degrees around and attempt to procure a seat as far away as possible. The person may notice you too, and you will both be horrified. Eye contact should be avoided at all costs. Once eye contact is made, the mission of avoiding conversation is plunged into peril. Eye contact will virtually ensure some kind of conversation will have to be made. But we're very good at not letting it get that far.

Anyone who has the audacity to violate this code will certainly be the object of scorn later when the violated party gets to wherever they're going and sends a group email to their friends letting them know what an idiot the violator is. "I saw Denise on the subway this morning and she talked to me the whole way! IT WAS HORRIBLE!". All ears will be sympathetic.

This might seem sort of backward to the some, but in Boston we have weird rules and when you're one of us you understand them and if you can't handle it you go back to Michigan.

The reasons for this code are very intricate but essentially it's because making stilted small talk in a brightly lit area in the company of strangers who are prone (in Boston) to scoffing at any opportunity is very uncomfortable. One can't help but get the feeling that all their words are being judged.

Last Friday night I was on my way to my friend Edward's birthday party and had the rude revelation that this no talking subway rule does not extend to my adopted city of New York when I saw Jacklyn, who is apparently Swedish, and an acquaintance of mine, and she had the nerve to actually approach me and try to strike up a conversation! "Who didn't tell her the rule?" I wondered. She saw me get on the train, she explained, but didn't have time to come up to the car that I was in. So she waited until the next stop and got off the car she was on and ran up to the one that I was in! Can you imagine! And then she approached me and started saying things! As if to have an exchange of words! As it happened we were going to the same party, thereby guaranteeing that there was no way out of this nonsense for the remainder of the trip. My eyes darted around the interior of the subway car looking for some excuse, some hope of escape. Perhaps even a rope with which to hang myself. I thought about saying something like "Excuse me Jacklyn would you mind if I don't talk to you and listen to my mp3 player instead?" but I had a feeling that would be taken wrong.

Eventually the initial shock wore off and I got settled into the idea that I would have to talk to her. Jacklyn is actually very nice and has nice eyes and also looks quite good in jeans. But that doesn't mean I want to talk to her on the subway.

When we got to the party which was mercifully close to the subway exit (the quality of our conversation had been waning considerably and rapidly) we were surprised to learn that we had been grossly misinformed about it's start time by our mutual friend Angela. We, in fact, were the first people there. We went downstairs to the empty room where the party was to be; there was no one down there but a bartender (who was not even ready to serve us). I was looking around for a knife or something sharp to jab into my eyeballs, and just then our friend Edward, the person for whom the party was being held and I believe also the host, arrived. He approached us nervously and wiggled his jaw from side to side and chattered at us with all the grace of a machine gun. I was fairly certain, actually completely sure that the reason for this was that, even though it was only 9:30PM, Edward was already gakked out of his mind.

And so we were three. Edward was kind enough to buy us a round of drinks and unrolled a fifty dollar bill to pay for them. I had a Heineken, Jacklyn had a vodka tonic and Edward had something that looked like bourbon on ice with soda. Though there was no one in the place at all, music was playing at an unnecessarily high level and so Jacklyn and I, for the next half hour, seated on leather couches in an empty room, listened to Edward nervously shout at us over unnecessarily loud music.

Angela, the person who had misinformed us about the start time of the party, and who is also my best friend; a green eyed, pale skinned redhead who has never been very good with logistics, had naturally not yet arrived. The next person to arrive was Audrey, a black woman from Washington DC who was in possession of a birthday cake and extremely ample breasts, which bounced up and down in her white blouse as she walked toward us. Neither Jacklyn nor I knew this person, who, although very nice and also quite attractive, really only added another layer to the already multi-layered awkwardness of this situation.

The cocktail waitress had just come on and came over to take our drink orders and she brought with her a pair of obviously fake breasts, which hung like halved grapefruits in her pink halter top. Her skin was the color of a Commodore 64, which was the result of having spent many long hours in tanning beds.

Finally Angela arrived, and, after I had accused her of being a horrible human being and also not very smart nor adept at making plans, informed me that she had gotten stuck on the train, which is kind of an all purpose excuse in New York and is very rarely true. From the moment she arrived I started devising plans to immediately extricate ourselves from this place, which was growing more horrible by the minute. We had a few more drinks and said goodbye to Edward whose bulging eyes seemed by now to be the size of golf balls; by that time the downstairs had become absolutely riddled with assholes. We walked through the upstairs bar that was still surprisingly empty (which seemed to be inconsistent with the long line of people outside waiting to get in).

Controlling this line were three giant men who, I think it's safe to say, were not able to read past the third grade level, which is probably being generous. Jacklyn, Audrey and I and a few others waited outside for Angela, who had checked her coat and was taking a very long time to retrieve it. Perhaps she'll find a way to blame the train, I thought. While outside I was informed several times by the oafs that I was standing in the wrong place. Even when our party had moved halfway down the street that didn't seem to satisfy them. We had to be, according to them, "behind the velvet rope" which was literally a half a block away. I was bemused by the long line of people waiting to get inside the bar, a bar which there was nothing at all extraordinary about, unless you count as extraordinary the fact that so many people wanted to enter it, which I do. Actually, also extraordinary was the fact that it's emptiness could clearly be seen from the street yet no one in line objected to the idea that they were obviously waiting unnecessarily and were pawns in this establishment's game of attracting sheep-like customers. Finally, after what seemed like a very unreasonable amount of time, Angela came out with her coat and we walked to Local 138 on Orchard Street. As we walked by the line of people I was tempted to shout things like "I don't know why you're waiting in line, the place is empty and not that great. There's a lot of great bars in this city you know". So I did. No doubt the oafs were infuriated.

When we got to Local 138 the evening took a turn for the much better. The music was great; Black Sabbath, Butthole Surfers, KISS, Fishbone... we got drunk and nothing that I enjoy writing about happened, because a good time is fun to have but not to write about.

Around 3AM I decided I was drunk enough and my evening was over so I stumbled back to the F Train at Delancey St. I approached the ticketing kiosk which said the following on the screen:

UNABLE TO ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT DEBIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT FUCKING CASH AT THIS TIME

Of course it didn't actually have the expletive in there but that was how I read it. I went to the next kiosk over.

UNABLE TO ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT DEBIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT FUCKING CASH AT THIS TIME

I went across the street and subsequently to every other possible entrance.

UNABLE TO ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT DEBIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT FUCKING CASH AT THIS TIME

As I had only a credit card on me and I would not be able to go through the turnstiles without a new Metrocard, I was left with few options. Naturally there was no attendant at any of the stations to help my with this dilemma, which I have to imagine was a dilemma shared by half of the subway passengers in New York city that night, if not the majority.

I decided naively to walk to E 2nd St, the next stop on the F, which was a good walk and when I got there:

UNABLE TO ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT DEBIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT FUCKING CASH AT THIS TIME

As I would rather be gang raped than have to hail a cab and then to pay the fare I walked back to Delancey St, not sure what to do. There I noticed an entrance I hadn't yet tried: I don't even know what made me go down it, as I had already tried literally 14 entrances with the same empty result each time.

UNABLE TO ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT DEBIT CARDS AT THIS TIME
UNABLE TO ACCEPT FUCKING CASH AT THIS TIME

This time, however, there was an attendant at the station. This was our conversation:

Me: Can you take credit cards?

Him: (Totally uninterested in talking to me, which as far as I could tell, was his only job) No I can only take cash, sorry.

Me: Well do you know where the next station is where the kiosks are working? I've already tried two.

Him: (angrily, and as if he hadn't already had this conversation at least 200 times that night and as if I was the sole idiot in New York City who hadn't been able to work this out) JUST GO THROUGH THE FIRST TURNSTILE

And through the first turnstile I went. A half an hour later I was home in my neighborhood of South (Park) Slope, which is conveniently located between the great neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, and because of this convenient location I may never leave Brooklyn again.

Escape from Staples Office Superstore, Brooklyn

Dear Esteemed Senators Gillebrand and Schumer,

The other day I found myself in need of copier paper so I patronized Staples Office Superstore at 4th Avenue and 3rd St here in Brooklyn NY. Having attempted to procure this same copier paper at CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid and having been unsuccessful at both attempts, I can tell you I was relieved after trekking the considerable distance to Staples to see that it was in plain view from the moment I walked in.

The long, arduous journey toward copier paper had begun earlier in the day at CVS Pharmacy on 9th St., around 4PM. I strode in, eyes alight, confident, maybe even naive; hopeful of easy success, and since I had never before encountered a CVS Pharmacy that was not well stocked with a full line of stationery supplies, I had little reason to believe this hopefulness was unwarranted. Whistling a tune, I walked in the door and swiftly found the correct section. This was a sign that things were going well as it usually takes me something like 45 minutes to locate any one item in CVS. Despite the good sign, there was bad news: the shelves which normally held the copier paper were completely empty.

Discouraged, but not yet defeated, I soldiered on. Rite Aid was only a few blocks away after all. "Surely CVS and Rite Aid can't be out of copier paper at the same time" I thought to myself. Then reality again smacked me swiftly across the face with it's genitals: Rite Aid was also without copier paper. It seemed odd that both places would be out of copier paper, almost as if all the forces in the universe were coming together to conspire against me.

Panic began to set in. It was 5pm. If I couldn't obtain this copier paper soon, I wouldn't be able to print out and sign documents which were in need of my signature by the end of the day. I had to get this done, and in my horror I realized if I couldn't get copier paper and do it at home, it might be necessary for me to go somewhere like Kinkos! I would rather have my flesh eaten by firesnakes.

Time was running out. That's when I remembered Staples. The end of my challenge, or so I thought. Of course buying copier paper doesn't seem like it should be a challenge at all but the city has a way of augmenting the difficulty of errands we might normally expect to be mundane.

Everything went comparatively smoothly at Staples until I arrived at the register. A young man with thick lensed horn-rimmed glasses and straight brown hair that hung in a mop above his pock marked face named Kenneth was ready to ring me up. "Finally my journey is at an end" I said to myself, relieved, satisfied.

But then Kenneth, like a conjurer, produced seemingly out of nowhere something that looked suspiciously like a form. I froze, terrified. "Would you like to sign up for a Staples card?" he asked me. "No no, that's fine. I live in Wisconsin" I lied, and as soon as the lie stumbled clumsily from my mouth I realized that it wasn't a very good one, because they probably have Staples in Wisconsin.

Kenneth was undeterred, like a bridge troll who won't grant passage without satisfactory answers to his questions three. "Are you sure?" he said. "You just have to fill out this little form and you'll get ten percent off your purchase right now." I held firm: "No I'm fine, thank you". I attempted to placate him with a little humor: "You're a good salesman though, very aggressive".

"It will only take a second" Kenneth insisted, with a strange look in his eye that I couldn't quite place, almost like fear. "No thank you Kenneth" I said before emphatically adding "Really." I was starting to lose my patience but unable to summon up enough energy to become angry.

It was because of my low energy that I didn't walk away in disgust when Kenneth then told me to wait at the register, he'd be right back. It probably would have been easy to walk away, I hadn't even taken my wallet out yet to pay. But I had already come so far, and I reasoned it would be foolish to let this incident prolong my journey.

I saw Kenneth disappear into the back and as he slipped out of sight I noticed that it now appeared, oddly, that I was the only person in the store, which as far as I could tell had been bustling when I came in and it was currently nowhere near closing time.

Also, the soft rock music that had been playing through the store's PA system had been replaced by a strange, low droning hum.

Then I began to notice something far more bizarre: there was something about the way all of the Staples employees, in doing various tasks, stocking the shelves, pricing items and so on seemed to be moving. They seemed to be somehow moving in unison. As I observed them further it became immediately clear they were indeed moving in perfect unison, in perfect rhythm. The glow around the lights overhead seemed more profound, and yet the general aura of the store seemed to dim.

Just then Kenneth returned with his manager, whose name tag read #21479. Similarly, Kenneth's name tag no longer said Kenneth, but #21562. The manager wore a grave expression. He stared at me for a minute and then he said:

"Are you SURE you wouldn't like a Staples card, Mr. Zavracky?".

I froze.

The bags I was holding dropped to the floor.

I started quickly toward the door. The security gates at the front of the store swiftly came to the ground with a crash. Every Staples employee had their gaze fixed upon me. They moved slowly toward me. I was trapped. The room was hot. The floor was like lava. I was trapped in the volcano. The Staples volcano.

"Clearly Mr. Zavracky isn't going to cooperate, 21562." said the manager. "I think #1 will want to see him at once." I was then descended upon by the other Staples employees, all of whom by this point looked exactly like Kenneth.

I was led in shackles to the employee break room and placed in a chair. The room swirled around me, I was in a state of panic, my pulse rapid, I sweated profusely. The Kenneths left and closed the door behind them. "I just wanted some copier paper!" I called after them.

I waited.

After a few minutes the walls of the room began to descend, and the ceiling began to lift, revealing a great hall with unadorned grey walls and a glowing altar at the front, almost like a cathedral with no pews or windows, but completely angular and rigid. On the altar sat a similarly angular chair, a throne, with it's back toward me, and over the top of the throne protruded the back of a gleaming bald head.

A deafening high pitched voice, like a child's, shattered the still:

"So you think you don't want a Staples card, Mr. Zavracky"

"How...how do you know my name?" I stammered, incredulous.

The voice had an androgynous quality:"We've known about you for a long time. We summoned you here. Did you think it was mere happenstance that both CVS AND Rite Aid were both out of copier paper at the same time? That would be ridiculous!".

"But why?" I asked, thinking about how easily I could have gotten out of this during Kenneth's absence back at the register. "How did you even know I'd need copier paper today?".

The hermaphroditic child's voice turned to a furious shrill roar. "SILENCE!". And then more calmly: "All we want is to give you and everyone else in Brooklyn the gift of a Staples card which gives you a generous ten percent discount off of our already low prices. This is an offer we extend without prejudice to anyone that shops with us. Of course some are foolish enough to reject our kind offer, like yourself. They are sent to me".

And then a harshly vivid, high pitched cackle.

The chair began rotating slowly around and as it did I could barely make out a face, a face which somehow exuded a blinding white light which burned my eyes as it turned 180 degrees from its previous position to face me; a face so bright and terrifying that it was impossible to discern whether it was absolute evil or absolute light, and the shrieks of a thousand demon-angels tore at my eardrums. I screamed now, begging for a Staples card.

--------------------

I remember only little things about the months that followed, just that I worked in lockstep with my brothers and sisters, spending happy nights in our Great Hall reading from the Staples Employee Manual, and sitting in circles on the floor singing odes to Number One. We never left the grounds, which included a dormitory with our sleeping quarters, and we never wanted to. We were given subcutaneous injections daily, and we distributed Staples cards to everyone in Brooklyn, gathering all of their addresses to send to the Home Office in Wisconsin.

Months, possibly years went by, and I was enjoying my new life until one day something reminded me of my old life and filled me with an overwhelming desire to return to it. I have only vague memories of this but I think it was a song, and I think the song was "Nobody Gonna Break-a My Stride" by Matthew something. I know that the day before I had an argument with someone about the song; she had claimed it was Styx and I knew it was Matthew something, and even though I hadn't know the last name I still had somehow won the argument, and I think hearing the song had reminded me of that. I had always adored arguing, and now I had given that up. Why?

None of the Staples employees had anything physically restraining us from leaving there you see. I walked unhindered out the front door and returned to my apartment. That was this morning.

But they are coming for me now.

I can see their flashlights approaching on the horizon like the torches of an angry mob. There is a low hum, and the sky is a filmy green. And my name on the wind from the park all the way down to the river's edge in Red Hook.

Senators, I just wanted to bring your immediate attention to this matter, in the hopes that you can somehow intervene and free these people, who I am now to re-join, from their servitude.

Sincerely
#21593