Archive | Essays

Two With Nature

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, raised by two parents who kept their eyes on the city as they shuffled their kids to soccer practice and suffered through PTA banality. Both my mother and father came from working-class Northern Massachusetts mill towns, and found in 1960s and ’70s Boston a glorious burst of music and color and matter-of-fact magic. They moved to Newton, 15 miles west, so my sister and I could benefit from the town’s excellent public school education. And an excellent education we did have, though I, the eldest, kept my eye cocked on the city as well. I loved sun trailing through freshly cut grass, smoke entwining with drying leaves, ponds beckoning not far from our house. But I felt my parent’s ambivalence as by osmosis.

I craved action.

My high school paper won a national award my junior year, and when the staff went to Columbia University to collect it, I broke off from the other editors and took the 1/9 train down to the Village. It was the late ’80s and the city had not yet been hemmed in by Guiliani and superstores. Second-wave punk, hip hop, and gay liberation reigned supreme, as did one-dollar coffees and broken park benches flanked by buildings as trees. I borrowed a Walkman from a friend, and walked through that heat, heart, hopeless hope with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love rising in my ears. Back home I was already fucking a cruel and beautiful man, and when he’d hit me and I hadn’t left him, I’d stopped believing I could fit anywhere good. But as I walked through New York that day, I saw there could be another way.  Continue Reading →

Home of the Heart

Last night I had the anxiety dream about homelessness that I’ve anticipated since losing my jobs last spring.

I rarely talk about my fear of homelessness, especially with married friends. When I do, they say things like, “You won’t be homeless. You can stay with us.”

When I report their assurances to my shrink, a practical woman who knows from rough times, she raises her eyebrows. “People think they’re being supportive,” she says. “But staying on their couch would not be the same thing as having a home.”

My shrink never sweetens realities. Maybe she does with other people, but she is well-acquainted with my capacity to om-shanthi myself right into destitution. I’ve done it before.

It reminds me of a joke I tell clients. Continue Reading →

Massholia Ornithology

Right before I left for Cape Cod, a girl at my local coffee shop said, “I bet everyone is super laid back there.” I couldn’t help laughing. Growing up in Massachusetts and moving to New York City right after school, I first encountered a laidback person when I visited California at the end of my twenties. “Ooooh,” I remember thinking as I struggled valiantly not to interrupt the slow-talkers and slam into the slow-walkers. “This is laid-back.”

The truth is that native Massholes are impatient, skeptical people who loathe airs and whose only form of pretentiousness is an avowed hatred of pretentiousness. Regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or sexuality, almost everyone in this state dresses terribly, drives even worse, and prides themselves on their frugality and inability to suffer fools. I find it all totally endearing, especially because, since nobody shines you on, the friendships you form are life-long and right as rain.

But the people are hardly laidback. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy