Saturday, February 2, 2002

"Do you know how to get to the subway?" I asked the couple walking in front of me. We'd all just piled off the bus from New York. I was a little groggy -- I suppose that meant I must have slept -- but I was excited to have finally arrived in Boston.

"Sure, we'll take you there," the man said. He had a familiar accent, but I couldn't place it. "You're traveling?" he asked as we walked.

I suppose the huge backpack looming over my head must have given me away. I explained that I'd be in Boston for three months, then off to Europe.

"Sounds great," he said. "We met while traveling in Europe," he indicated the woman I presumed to be his girlfriend. It turned out he was from Israel -- of course, how I could I have missed the accent I'd heard so often from travelers in India -- and his girlfriend was from Ohio. "Let us give you our number here," they insisted. How nice to meet friendly fellow travelers!

"You dropped your pocket!" somebody called out. It was one of the guys in the group hanging out on a bench. I'd just from from the subway, still carrying all my things. "Hey John Lennon, Back there!" someone else pointed, looking at me.

Dropped my pocket? I didn't understand what they were talking about, but I went to look anyway. Nothing. I looked back at the group. "Back there," they yelled again, "behind the turnstile." I looked again, but saw nothing. I shrugged and began walking out again. "You dropped your pocket!" they repeated urgently. I smiled, finally getting wise to their idle diversion. They were Boston punks with nothing beter to do than harrass the poor schmucks getting off the subway.

"One minute, forty-five seconds," one of them told me, looking up from his watch.

"How does that compare to average?" I asked.

"It's longer," he said flatly. Then, perhaps to make me feel better, he added, "One woman took seven minutes!"


An asian guy in a suit walked by. "You dropped your pocket!" they told him. He looked like he didn't understand English, much less their cryptic prank.

"They're making a joke," I told him.

"Mind your own business!"

We both left.

So now I live at Scott & Kathryn's house.

Every time I try to write about people I've known for a while, I realize how hopeless it is to try to summarize anybody's character with any accuracy and depth, so I usually give up. But perhaps the fun is in the attempt, so here are some alliterations for your amusement:

Scott is sometimes silly and sometimes serious but seldom sad. Strange songs sound from his stereo, and his scalp sports a single stripe of silver strands in the center. Save Saturday and Sunday, he supervises his staff using software skills. Scott and his sweetie sculpt cylindrical ceramics in their spare seconds.

Kathryn, commonly called Kack, is as creative and crafty as they come. She can cook kick-ass cuisine and keep kind, colorful conversation coming constantly. Kack collects cash by creating cardigans with clever color combinations for clothing companies.

Whew. I think that was all more or less true, if a little obfuscated.

Last weekend, I went to the country to visit Karen, Aaron, and their baby Rowan. They moved to Massachusetts a half year ago to live on a small farm with Aaron's parents. The fields were covered in snow, giving it a peaceful beauty. We collected eggs from the chickens and made french toast with home-baked bread.

Rowan still remembered me, even though last time I saw him he wasn't even two yet. "Did you bring your didgeridoo?" he asked, then ran away to hide whenever I played it.

Aaron plays a handful of stringed instruments like guitar, oud (a kind of lute), and serbahar (like a sitar). He'd been hired as a stand-in musical director for the Sunday service at the local Unitarian church, so he invited me to accompany him on a hand drum. I wouldn't have predicted even attending church, much less playing music there, but it was fun. Since the church was non-denominational, the service happened to be about the teachings of Islam, so I learned a few things as well.

Karen and I seem to become closer each time I see her, even if the interval is a number of years. Though I can't explain it, I certainly appreciate it. She points out that we make no demands on each other. Perhaps that's part of it; it's easy to talk with someone who accepts you fully. Or even not to talk at all.

So I've been working for over a week now. Yep, you heard right, I have a job. It'll be my first paycheck since September of 1998 -- three and a half years with no gainful employment.

Well, okay, it's not a real job, it's a three month contract. I'm working for Scott, which takes off a lot of the pressure of proving myself with a new employer. And because I'm staying at his house as well as working with him, I've turned into his shadow of late. We drive to work together and sit two feet apart in his office. Perhaps I should shave my head into a mohawk and change my name to "Mini Me."

Life seems to provide me with a lot of opportunities to say, "It's not as bad as I thought." I don't know if that's a consequence of having really low expectations or being exceptionally lucky, but in any case this is another one.

I mean, I still won't be likely to utter anything like, "Corporations aren't so bad after all," or, "It's fun to sell your soul!" But it is good to know that I can rent my soul out and still sleep at night.