Leaving the Bubble
Oh, well. Fun and games with numbers. Finally it was almost time to get them to the train station. I was not waiting for the call to mobilize. This moment did not come until a eight minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive. Bridget announced as I started the car, “We’ll make it. 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.” That was me feebly trying to avert disaster.
“Oh, we’re doing better than I thought. Come on.”
I was being a Eurowimp, as some say, and had no understanding of how aNew Yorkcommuter runs under this pressure. That may have been possible, but it didn’t get us any closer to the station. She crabbed as she told me to relax. Bridget, you see, possessed her own reality distortion field. We could be at the donut counter paying for our coffee while the train was pulling out of Cos Cob and then be pulling into the station three minutes later and yet two minutes before it even arrived. I don’t know how she did it, but we did it…coffee and all. In any event, I have sent this data to MIT in hopes someone there could provide an explanation that adhere to the basic laws of physics.
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 the kindness and patience to plow through I-95 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. We 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, figuring we had enough musical entertainment to tide us over, and should the need come to start over again, ten hours was a respectable span of time.
We also engaged in a little chatting here and there. My nephew was at an age where he was starting to think more seriously about what he wanted to do, though I am sometimes wonder what that age happens to be because I am just beginning to exit that stage. Still I felt I had lived enough to at least act as an older and sager uncle who could cunningly extract his thoughts out about his future. I might even contribute some tidbits of wisdom. Cars are good for this purpose because the listener-victim normally won’t open the door and abort while driving throughBridgeport, Ct, at 70 mph. That was the plan at least. 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. Lots of time, trust me. It helps to listen to the White Album for guidance and escape. Now, listen to John’s lyrics on this song, they’re awesome.”
I-95 is not a very scenic national road. It doesn’t even seem to pretend to be. Its purpose to expedite travel, or at least that was the original idea, and to take you through the major coastal cities which about a century ago bustled and generated the majority of the state’s economy. Like much of Eastern Coast America, that all fell apart during the second half of the 20th Century. Major efforts have been made to renovate these downtrodden areas, some with greater success than others. There are townships which have jumped to life while others which are still limping by.
Once you slide inland from the shoreline, you realize you are in a decidedly different part of the state all together, if not in a different state all together. Durhamis a scant21 milesfrom then center of urbanNew 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 classicNew Englandfashion. 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 we had never formally met. They are sweet and wonderful people, the kind that set you down a plate of freshly baked cookies as a welcoming gesture. Either that or a beer. 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, Sue said, “Martha (to be honest I can’t recall her name), do you know who this is? It’s Brian Murdock!” Music and applause, maestro. That’s what should have come next. I wish someone at the time had 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 who were supposed to know me, and, as I feared even more, whom I was supposed to know. That wouldn’t have been the first time, but inDurham?
“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. I looked around the room to see if there was a mirror for me to check if they actually had a reflection, but I didn’t see any.
“Oh, yes! How do you do?” I said timidly. She extended her hand, I looked to see if it was a skeleton, and engaged in a nice warm shake. I played along not wanting to look completely clueless. “This is my nephew, remember?”
“Oh hi! No. What’s your name? We’ve never met before.”
Something wasn’t right. I needed more careful explaining, but none came. “And, Martha, you slept in his bed!”
Ew. This woman was sixty years old. I certainly would have recalled that. I interrupted. “That’s enough! What is going on here?”
It naturally turned out that they had been in my house back in Madrid. I knew Janet had, actually, I just couldn’t recall 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 was, 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 all had a good laugh. We stayed a few minutes and made some friendly conversation then decided to head back as it was getting dark. Taking their advice we stuck to the back roads hoping to get to theMerritt Parkway. 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. Good oldBrunswickSchoolfor boys, my training ground for life, had never prepped me for this. Since then, 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…“man…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 and drove 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’s car. He had lost touch with me. We would meet back home at some time. I put the Beatles’ White Album back on and took the trip in stride.