Leaving the Bubble
Oh, well. Fun and games with numbers. Finally it was time to get them to the train station and Bridget had us leave approximately ten minutes before the train arrived, and announced as she started the car, “Just have to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee beforehand.”
“The train is about to arrive and we’re still two miles away. I think I can hear that whistle blowing.”
But she wasn’t listening to me. I was being a Eurofag, as some say, and had no understanding of how a New York commuter runs under this pressure. She was right, but that didn’t make us any closer to the station. She crabbed as she told me to relax. My sister possessed her own reality distortion field. We could be at the counter paying while the train was pulling out and actually pull into the station minutes later before it even arrived. I don’t know how she did it, but we did it…coffee and all.
The rest of the day I spent hauling my butt up to Durham, Connecticut to pick up the car we would be using for the next couple of weeks. I went up with my nephew Kevin, who had to kindness and patience to plow through I-95 rough Sunday traffic, which was exacerbated by the fact it was the end of the Christmas holiday weekend. The minute we hit the highway, it stopped. Then it was stop and go for the next60 milespractically. I had taken along the entire case of the Beatles digitally remastered albums, 13 albums in all, so I think we were covered in that department. I guess I was supposed to act as an older and sager uncle cunningly trying to get his thoughts out about his life and filling his head with all the wisdom, but instead it came out more like this:
“So, do you have any fucking idea what you want to do with your life?”
“Uh… no, not really.”
“I know how it is. Well, you’ve still got time. Now, listen to John’s lyrics on this song, they’re awesome.”
Once you coast inland from the coast, you realize you are in a decidedly different part of the state all together. If not in a different state all together. Durham is hardly 21 miles from then center of urban New Haven, but you might as well be in upstateVermont. It was rural. Rural big time. Rolling roads, acres of farmland and woods, barns with roofs falling in. The downtown itself boasted a splendid green with all the major houses and local important buildings literally separated from each other in classic New England fashion. It was delightful and spooky at the same time, a sentiment which may have been compounded by the fact I had just passed an awesomely and deliciously frightening cemetery on the way in. It was set on a hill so steep I couldn’t imagine how in God’s name they could stick bodies in there.
We weren’t in Durham for long, just enough to meet Janet and Bill, the parents of a good friend of ours who had the generosity to lend us their wheels. We had been in touch for quite some time but never had formally met. They are sweet and wonderful people, the kind that make you feel at home from minute one. They were thinking about making a little dinner and they were being joined by a friend of hers. Just as I walked in the kitchen, Janet said, “Martha (to be honest I can’t recall her name), do you know who this is? It’s Brian Murdock!” I wish someone at the time had a camera to fully capture the stupefied look on my face, because I had been in that town for little more than ten minutes and I was being introduced to perfect strangers as if they were supposed to know me, and, as I feared even more, I was supposed to know them. That wouldn’t have been the first time, but in Durham?
“You were in his house!”
This was beginning to freak me out because now I really didn’t know what was going on. I knew there was something spooky about that town. “Oh, yes! How do you do?”
She extended her hand and expected a nice warm shake, which I guess I fulfilled though don’t know exactly why or how.
Janet hadn’t finished. “And you slept in his bed!”
Well, of all things. “That’s enough! What is going on here?”
It naturally turned out that they had been in my house. I knew Janet had, I just couldn’t remember the part about the friend. It kind of happens that way when your home is a kind of inn. I like it that way. I grew up with my house being that way, why would I want it any other way. Just the thing that so many people had passed through these doors that long ago I lost count, and when you do that, heck, you’re bound to bump into someone in a place like Durham who says “Hey, thanks for the digs.”
We took their advice and followed their directions back on to the Merritt. We ended up on I-91, the turnoff must have been at some unforeseen road a few miles back. Before we knew it we were just north ofNew Havenin a neighborhood Greenwich kids dread to find themselves in. Empty parking lots, half-abandoned warehouses, gas stations encased in robbery-proof bunkers, parts of old American cars strewn along the sides of the street. Dad and good old Brunswick School for boys never prepped me for this. I have lived in some pretty skanky places, and slept in some nameless holes, acted like a bum and mingled in hostile atmospheres; but there are still times when my goddamn upbringing told me once again… “boy…you just don’t belong here, so get out!”
And out we went. Calmly but without a pause. And we pulled on to the highway to the junction with I-95. It was backed up like hell the way it always is, but this time, worse still because of the day and time at hand. People were leaving every place and going back to every place and there was no way out of it. I had lost touch with Kevin. He had lost touch with me. We would meet back home at some time. I put the Beatles’ White Album on and took the trip in stride.