Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Subway Gods Are Cruel: Keys

They were loud talkers, so this story ends in the perfect way.


But you know who I’m talking about, that couple who always has one, two or three issues that they feel need to be aired out in public. This morning, they chose to do it on the R Train out of Bay Ridge. For the one stop the three of us shared, they were speaking Spanish so I was able to ignore it.

Two other women, speaking Spanish, were apparently unable to ignore it because they gave up seats to move away from the couple.

When the train pulled into 59th the street, the man exited and walked across the platform to the arriving N Train. And then the woman freaked out. She walked to the door of our R Train and started yelling, first in Spanish and then in English.

“My keys. I need my keys.” In Spanish again. “I need my fucking keys. Now. Give them to me.”

She was holding the train door. Both trains were just sitting there. I don’t know where we were in relation to the conductors of each, but maybe they heard the commotion and were giving these two a chance to get it done. The passengers on the R Train were mildly annoyed at the yelling. We were all waiting to get extremely annoyed if the conductor tried to close the door and Drama Queen had her ass wedged there and wouldn’t let us leave.

She shouted again, waving frantically. “MY KEYS!”

And for some reason, one thought flitted across my mind: Don’t do it.

But of course he did it. HE THREW THE KEYS. About two pounds of keys and key chain were launched toward the R Train.

Where do you think they landed?

On the platform? No. On the floor of the train? Of course not.

In her hands?

Well, they hit her hands, barely, and then fell, right into the gap between the train and the platform onto the tracks.

“Oh my god! How the fuck you gonna do that to me?” she yelled, then said some other things in Spanish that made me wish I knew all the dirtiest curse words in Spanish because I bet that’s what she was using. The man remained silent.

She stepped out of the train. The doors closed. The women speaking Spanish said something and laughed. Then someone else said, “Boy and you thought your day was bad,” and everyone else laughed. And off we went.

After the Louisiana Flood: A Plea

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 8.38.26 AM

My cousins need your help. They’re trying to raise a little cash to help their dad, my Uncle Carl.

It feels a little weird to write something (else) about the flooding in Louisiana a few weeks ago. After all, a hurricane just hit Florida and I’m constantly checking weather sites to see if it’ll make it to New York (not out of fear, but to see if it’s going to screw up my barbecue plans).

But the sad fact of the matter is that just because something bad is happening in one place, it doesn’t mean bad things just stop happening elsewhere. The national news media barely covered the Louisiana Floods to begin with. Because of that (and other shameless behavior when it comes to the state), they weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. And when the flood waters showed the first signs of receding, they were off after the next shiny thing, whether that was Ryan Lochte, Donald Trump or the Italian earthquake, all of which got much more coverage.

Here’s the thing about floodwaters receding, though. It’s only then you see the real devastation. There might not be much of the dramatic structural damage associated with hurricanes or tornadoes, but the interiors of houses are ruined. And days later, every street in some towns becomes a valley of discarded furniture, sheetrock, moldy insulation. It looks like the houses had a hell of a frat party and then threw up all at the same time.

My Uncle Carl’s house was flooded. In one of those surreal moments created by modern life, I’d seen the first hint of this flit by on Facebook when my cousin Lainey asked if anyone had heard from her dad. Within half an hour, three people in pickups had shown up at his house. (The below photo is obviously taken before the flood.)


He was fine. But the house took on water. Flooding is relative. It didn’t get anywhere near the roof of the house, so yes, others had it worse. But once the water’s in. Floors had to be ripped out. Furniture had to be thrown out. And when they started cutting into the walls, they discovered water had gotten in there, too. So, it all had to be thrown out. And, obviously, it all has to be replaced. Which isn’t easy.

My cousin Corey started a GoFundMe page and I’ll let him explain a little bit about who Uncle Carl is:

a veteran of the National Guard, living with ALS, a widower, and a survivor of the Flood of 2016.   He’s worked his whole life to make a home for us growing up, and now in his retired years he’s having to rebuild once again.  In 1987 our home was wiped away by a tornado and today he lives those memories all over again.  We have had some help from FEMA but it barely covers materials for the basics of reconstruction.

That might make Uncle Carl sound like Job, but most mornings he’s up and posting on Facebook that it’s time for coffee and asking if everyone’s okay.

A word about that “widower” bit. If you’ve read my third novel, Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears, you’ll know that the events in the book are kicked off by the death of the main character’s sister. If you’ve read anything I wrote about the writing of the book or come to my reading, you’ll know that it was the death of my Aunt Debbie that sort of shook me and kicked off that part of the book. That’s her holding me in the picture below. She was 15. I was 1.


We were young once … and tee-tiny.

She was Uncle Carl’s wife.

This is them at a wedding:163127_1493947199685_4124359_n

Now, some folks might ask, “Ken, why don’t you, I don’t know, donate some of the millions you make off of that book?”

Well, first of all, there are no millions. What I’ve made off of the book, I could maybe pay one month’s rent here in Brooklyn. Secondly, even if there were a mad rush on it, I wouldn’t see that money until next year at some point, because book publishing is an antiquated industry run by not particularly bright wizards.

Thirdly, every time you see one of those “Proceeds from this book” things, know that it’s first and foremost a marketing ploy, a PR effort to drive up sales for the book. That’s not what this is about.

I just want anyone reading this to a) donate and b) share it. Just to be clear, I donated. I’m also not a fan of “Well, I wrote about it, so I did my part! Raising awareness! Starting the conversation!” Conversation ain’t gonna get the mold out of the walls.

They’re not asking a lot. Five bucks, 10 bucks. Hell, two bucks! Donate here.

P.S. I didn’t write anything about my cousin Jason in this post. Hi Jason!

Poll: If Life Hands You Lemons…


If Life hands you lemons …

  • Reckon that’ll come in handy. This scurvy is a bitch.
  • Oh well isn’t Life a regular fancy lad, swanning about handing out lemons like he’s the King of Citrus.
  • I don’t have room for another damn thing. Get ’em out of here.
  • Lemonade? Like I’m just sitting on a mountain of sugar like some kind of sugar baron?
  • Are they GMO free? Organic?
  • Does Life even have a permit to distribute fresh fruit?
  • Got a nice piece of fish here. Little olive oil. Little salt. Little lemon juice. Bing bang boom. Doesn’t get any better than that.
  • Make lemonade. I guess.

Le Choo Choo: Cannes to Paris

CannesStreetSceneBonjour from France, yall.

I’m typing this post out while hauling ass through the South of France on a TGV train, the arid, hilly countryside and villages filled with sandy-colored houses topped with red-tile roofs. It’s the sort of region in which you could film Western movies and the audience wouldn’t know the difference. (Just ignore the fact that if you climb the next hill, you’ll be faced with the blue waters of the Mediterranean.)

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Barbecue: Seven Stops in Kansas City


Nicholas and I have just wrapped up our barbecue tour of Kansas City. Between arriving Sunday evening and Wednesday, we hit the following seven places in this order: Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue (Freight House location), Arthur Bryant’s, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Danny Edwards BBQ, Q39, L.C.’s Bar-B-Q, B.B.’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ.

The Short Version
Before I get into the details, some of you might just want to know the answer to the following question: If I only have time to hit one place in Kansas City, what should it be? That’s an easy answer. Joe’s Kansas City. Some people might say it’s touristy or mainstream, but these are the sort of people who start hating a band simply because it becomes popular. Joe’s is popular for a reason. It’s got perhaps the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, the pulled pork was delicious and the beans weren’t sickly sweet like they were at a lot of places.

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Memphis to Kansas


Payne’s Bar-B-Q, Memphis

I’m writing this from Kansas City, Mo.

My son Nicholas and I are celebrating his graduation from high school with a barbecue tour. Three years ago for his birthday, we did the Austin area. I wrote about that in fairly exhaustive detail shortly after the trip. Short version: Blacks, Stiles Switch, Franklin (where he fainted), Louie Mueller, and Salt Lick. (I’ve sense been back to Austin and tried Lambert’s, Freedmen’s and Iron Works.)

Last year, for his birthday, we went to Memphis. I didn’t write about that. It wasn’t because I prefer Texas cue to Memphis cue, though I do. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good time or didn’t have interesting stories. We did. I just had a circus going on at work last year and the thought of looking at a computer during my off hours was more than I could stand.

But long story short, between Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum and one non-barbecue detour to Gus’s Fried Chicken, we hit Tom’s Bar-B-Q and Deli, Central BBQ, A&R Bar-B-Cue, Germantown Commissary, Payne’s and Rendezvous. We went to Cozy Corner, but it was closed because someone broke into the place the night before and stole all of the meat. Sad!

Anyway, I just wanted to mention Memphis in hopes that it’ll prompt me to write up the current trip. We made the 11-hour drive from Opelousas, Louisiana today and walked over to Fiorella’s Jack Stack and availed ourself of burnt ends, ribs, sliced beef, sliced pork and some of the sweetest baked beans you’ll ever eat.

My First Post – An Unexpected Problem in the Yucatan

One of my oldest friends has started to share his travel stories and he starts out with a series of unfortunate events.