Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Back in Town
Vacation's over, I'm back in Brooklyn, and I'm doing my best to keep from running out the door screaming.
Let's look at the bright side: I had a great time, far more enjoyable than I ever would have imagined.
Yes, by going to my aunt's farmhouse in the Berkshires, I was going to a comfort zone; I wasn't seeing any new places or meeting new people.
But the Northampton, Mass. area is truly a wonderful place, a perfect balance of beautiful countryside with fabulous things to do and see.
During my 7 days up there, I visited two art museums, saw two movies, went to a jazz concert, hooked up with an old buddy from Brooklyn, ate like a hog, saw beautiful scenery and cheerfully made time to just lay on my ass in the sun.
I was away from my job, my tenants, and, God forgive me, my family. I didn't have to keep an eye on my father, I didn't have to jump every time I heard a noise, and I could sleep all morning if I so desired.
For all my complaining and whining about going to this place year after year, I realized finally that a lot of people would give their eye teeth to have a deal like mine. Free room and board, tremendous location, and plenty to see and do--what's not to love?
I had to take the bus up there, which truly does suck, especially the transfer at Springfield. Much as I dislike the Port Authority bus terminal in New York, the Springfield bus depot truly is the land of the lost. A battle-scarred building in a rundown city just doesn't put a smile on your face.
Where Do They All Come From?
I usually wait for the Northampton bus outside, clutching my suitcase and hoping no one of the local lowlifes tries to spoil my day. The interstate and the area bus lines share the same facility so there are all sorts of colorful--read "creepy"--characters loitering around the building.
But this time I really looked at the faces around me while I waited and I have to say, I was looking at people who for the most part were just down on their luck. These are the sort of people who don't have enough money to fly, so they'll ride the bus all the way down to Florida when they have to.
They're out of work or have lousy jobs they pay nothing, or certainly not enough to get them out of Springfield. And so many of them seem to hurting: I saw people on crutches or with their arms in slings, or on walkers or in wheelchairs. I saw people who could have been me under tougher circumstances.
Someday I'd like to go back there and hang around; talk to people, get story ideas, maybe even shoot a film. It's quite a location.
It rained the first two days of my vacation, which honestly didn't bother me. I was glad to be away from Senator Street. When the sun finallycame out, my aunt and I drove over to Shelburne Falls where we checked out the beautiful bridge of flowers and the trolley museum.
We even made a friend of sorts, an older gentleman named Ronnie, who was walking down Main Street with his shoulders slumped and his hands hanging by his side. Ronnie started talking to us, apparently because he doesn't have many friends in town.
He told us he was lived at some kind of state home up the street and he didn't have much to do there. And he told us about his battle with alcohol.
"My father died and they wouldn't let me go to the funeral," he said to my aunt. "I started drinking...you know what I'm talking about, Marie?"
I'm ashamed to say that I started feeling a little uncomfortable, as if Ronnie were getting a little too interested in my aunt. He kept saying her name, Marie, with a little bit more emphasis on it than I liked. I doubt he meant anything by it, and even if he did, my aunt could have certainly handled it herself.
But I saw a local deli advertising Internet connections and I quickly went inside claiming I wanted to check my e-mails. I actually did, but I think part of me wanted to get my aunt away from Ronnie. And it turned out the deli didn't have any terminals, just the connections for laptops.
Ronnie was probably a lot like some of the people in the bus depot; someone who's been through tough times and just wanted someone to talk to. LIke the Beatles said many years ago, "all the lonely people, where do they all come from?"
At night, my aunt and I would take walks under the stars to the crossroads near her house. There are no street lights around here, so you can see the sky lit up with stars, like you're in the Hayden Planetarium. Only this is real.
And it's so quiet up there. All you hear around my aunt's farm are birds, crickets, and the occassional car driving by. No radios, no blaring horns, no trailer trash tenants trying to kill each other--I tell you, Heaven must be a lot of like this.
I never went near a computer for the entire time. No blogging, no Googling, no e-mailing--I was a totally tech-free. And I loved it. The Internet's a beautiful thing, don't get me wrong, but like anything else in this life, you need to step away from it every now and then.
Every year I toy with the idea of relocating to Northampton. Right now it's impossible, of course, given the situation with my father, but in the future, who knows? I don't think I'd like the winters, but it's such a nice area, I could think I could get used to it.
I took time for some serious soul-searching while I was up there. I realized just how unhappy I am and how I need to change. I was pretty depressed coming home on the bus, but that's to be expected when your vacation ends and you have to rejoin the rat race.
For some reason, I was really fixating on the fact that I never had children. I was riding in this air-conditioned fish tank, looking out the streets of Manhattan, and it seemed like everywhere I looked I saw mothers or fathers hugging their kids.
I'm going to be 50 in May, so I don't think there's much hope of me having a child. I've had so much trouble standing on my own two feet, I'm not sure I could handle being a father. But a young father once told me that there's a perfect time to have a family, that nobody's ever completely prepared, no matter how much they claim to be.
Now, I'll probably have to accept the fact that I won't have a kid and it's a little upsetting. Maybe I'm afraid I'll end up like Ronnie, looking to total strangers for comfort and conversation.
But I have my nieces, whom I love so dearly, and I'm always waving or smiling at every cute kid I see. I'll keep that up as long as I didn't get zapped with pepper spray.
If I can't get away from the situation with my father, I'll work on myself from the inside out--stop the moping and start doing things to improve my life.
I made of list of things I planned to do; I'm going to clean up this hell hole of a bedroom that I currently live in and then I'm going to knock down those unfinished projects that I have hanging over my head.
So I'm glad I got a chance to step out of myself for a little while. Now the real work begins.