Swapped an “I Will Keep You Alive” to a college classmate, “The Poet Laureate of Martha’s Vinyard,” for a collection of his recent work.
And sent one as a 66th birthday present to Jimmy, whose last name will immediately come to mind for readers of my second book.
Then there was a “Cheesesteak” sale.
Fellow comes up to my table. Fortyish. Shaved head. Glasses. Orange hoodie. Accent. (Moscow, it turns out.)
“I am asking people’s philosophy of life. May I interview you for yours?”
What was he going to do with them? He didn’t know. I was his second, and the first, he admitted, had not gone well.
I had been waiting decades to be interviewed. I would have preferred the NY Times or even the Chronicle, but he would do. At the same time, it brought to mind the time, senior year, Tank Nuncio, who had a goatee and beret and roly-poley aspect of Friar Tuck, came out of the Oxford Grill and a young woman asked if she could photograph him for a “Best Beards” spread in the Globe. It never appeared and Tank was sure he was memorialized on some Cliffie’s bulletin board: “Biggest Assholes of Harvard Square.”
Still, my stories were ready. I ran him through Adele, comics, finding bliss after surgery, the non-existence of time, Earth being doomed.
“Perhaps another Black Death is coming,” he said. “Perhaps nature defend herself again. Leave not enough of us to do damage.”
We both savored that idea. “What do you do?” I said.
“Complicated. I’d say ‘economics,’ if I had to.”
Between him and his wife and previous relationships, there were five kids and a house in the hills, so it must have worked out.
When he’d learned I’d gone to law school at Penn, he was dumbfounded I’d never been inside its library. “One of the great buildings of the world,” he called it. I had not felt so inadequate since I’d told a great admirer of Abraham Maslow I’d gone to Brandx and never taken his course.
Anyway, Penn… Philadelphia… He knew my neighborhood. That was enough to sell a book.