It’s the devastating news I got first thing this morning that’s responsible for the constant stream of thinking and introspection that dominated my entire day. Thinking and introspection are exhausting activities and they’re entirely to blame for this terrible fatigue. Just minutes after waking up late (I decided to update my phone clock to Eastern Standard since I never remember it’s an hour off when setting the alarm), I got the expected phone call from Fathers and Sons, the VW dealership taking care of my car.
Of course I was expecting them to tell me that it would be ready by the time I could catch a bus to Springfield. I was expecting them to say it was something simple, something trivial, come and get it, no no don’t worry about money, this one’s on us. But instead I got this:
“Well, your car was driven on low oil pressure…”
“… and one of the heads seized in your engine.”
— “Oh. That’s not good is it?”
“Uhm… no it’s not.”
Essentially, that means the engine is worthless — generally, worthless. Unable to push a three-thousand pound car, anyway.
So for the rest of day I had a bizarre phone triangle with my parents and Fs&Ss. Calls were made in each of the possible six directions — efficiency at its finest — and the fact that my cell phone batteries were rapidly depleting was hardly the worst of my worries. It became a pretty big worry, however, since it is basically my only connection to mom & dad, who’ve shed a surprisingly bright light on this otherwise gloomy scenario. They’re also responsible for most of the decisions being made (although a lot still lies with me, unresolved), so it’s about my only way to stay abreast of those updates.
The phone call had me blue for sure, not entirely thrilled about any of my options — at least those that I was aware of at that point — and certainly not anticipating having to make a decision, so I took the day slowly, out of necessity. I was in no mood capable of haste. Introspection awaited and my mind is not one to move quickly. It demands solitude and stillness: luckily, easy things to find in Cambridge. I spent the first couple hours of my day in a quiet laundromat on a lovely little residential street, laundering almost all of my remaining clothes. Afterwards, I took my bags back to last night’s accommodation so I wouldn’t have to lug them around in today’s awful heat.
Still in need of quiet and solitude, I headed out with my new book to the Harvard campus to sit under a tree, on the steps of the grand Widener library, anywhere out of the sun, and read. I was temporarily delayed en route, however, in order to listen to the slow, meandering guitar of a street act, whose music I liked a great deal in my melancholia. I could have stayed there for hours, distracted and lost in the simple melodies, but a certain face was fish-eyed out of the crowd, at a distance. His face got clearer and less distorted as he neared and soon I was sure: my cousin Andy!
Andy’s still in Cambridge?, I wondered, knowing he and Parthena were going to Greece for a three-week honeymoon (it was their wedding that brought my family to the city at the mid-point of my trip). It was he, alright, and I ran up to him, shook his hand. He was on his way to Finegal-a-Bagel, where Parthena was “finishing up the thank-yous” just before they left for Greece at six, later today. I suggested we “walk-and-talk” since I’m not one who likes to bother people — even familiar people, cousins even, even when it’s a remarkable coincidence to meet — so I got a chance to explain the new-found disarray in my trip. I apologized for making the conversation so sour, told him not to let it get him down. He wondered if there was anything he could do — maybe, but I wasn’t about to bother him on a day like this, and he knew it, but the offer was still sincere, I’m sure. It was a brief and quick conversation, and I excused myself from it as if I had my own agenda to keep. Perhaps I should have gone across the street with him to say “hello” to Parthena in person — that may have been a more gentlemanly thing to have done — but instead I told Andy to tell her for me, and I went on my way.
I moved around campus a bit, mostly from tree to tree, and step to step, but all within the confines of the main quad in Harvard Yard, trying to find the most comfortable and cool place to sit and read. I had several hours to dive into my book, which as luck would have it, is about traveling around the world (as an unplanned and impromptu week-long trip in order to give away $32,000 — but why?). The time was well-spent, maybe my favorite hours in Boston altogether. And I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, no doubt, maybe tomorrow. The reading, though, was polka-dotted by phone calls and long interludes of contemplation about the decisions that face me. In true Works’ fashion, I lined all of these options up, tapping them on the desk twice on each dimension, sorting them into smaller piles and either tapping them again or feeding them to the shredder.
At first I was convinced — yes, convinced — that I’d be going home in a day or two, a week at the latest. And I was ready, anxious even. I almost couldn’t wait to be home. I’d take a bus to Springfield, gather all my personal effects from the car — that fucking car — and catch a plane from Hartford to Kansas and be through with it. Call it quits. Put it behind me. Get to work. Pay off the debt for a car that is no longer worth the lien stuck to it. Work hard in Humboldt or Manhattan, surprise the Golay’s by walking into Wal-Mart unannounced. Play Bingo on Thursdays, get by without a car for the rest of the summer.
There was another option too, but in my fatalist mood I simply scoffed at it: I could use my car as a trade-in, buy a new car. The three words — “buy a car” — just seemed too distant, too out-of-the-blue to be a real option. Buying a car is not something that you do at the drop of a hat. For me, my family, buying a car involves weeks of research and deliberating, option-seeking. My dad has it worked out though. When he needs a new vehicle, it’s easy: just buy the latest, red Dodge Ram pickup. I think, in my future, it’ll be just as easy for me. I’d like to stick with the Passat, but maybe switch up the colors. White is nice.
Anyway, my parents finally helped resolve the skewed balance between options: mom’s talk on living with debt, how weighing the costs of this chance-of-a-lifetime versus ten-grand or whatever, that it’s my call, that I’m the only one able to measure that balance; and dad’s effort to encourage me to keep busy, have fun, seek out adventure, and to recognize the lack of control we have in this matter. Their advice certainly helped to ease the weight fatiguing my mind, but of course did nothing to clear up the outcome of this whole situation. Only time will tell, I suppose.
I crossed the river to find the HI youth hostel in the Fenway area of the Back Bay, leaving my bags back in Cambridge just in case I was unable to find a bed, still avoiding carrying them in the heart of the afternoon. Finding the youth hostel was no problem: it’s a huge place with some 200-300 beds. There’s a large lobby with internet terminals (hideously and prohibitively expensive) and an even bigger full-use kitchen. I got a bed, on the fourth-floor, and went up to drop off my only bit of luggage at the moment: my book. I hastily returned to Cambridge, picked up my bags, and returned at the peak of the evening commuter rush-hour, embarrassed and silently apologetic about my damn bags.
Back at the hostel I signed up for a free ticket to the Comedy Connection — the comedy club on the upper-level of Quincy Market — partly in hopes of clearing my mind for a while, heeding my parent’s advice, but also because I was genuinely interest, having never been to a comedy club before. The flyer brought disappointment, though, as I learned I had just missed one of my favorite comedians, Jamie Kennedy, this past weekend (and I was even in the city at the time!!!). Ugh. There were all kinds of good names on the past and future billings, people like Colin Quinn, Kevin Nealon, Greg Proops, Lewis Black, Jamie Kennedy — but I hadn’t heard of anyone on the schedule for tonight. Oh well.
I went anyway, sacrificing the time I had scheduled to update my website at the public library. It’ll be worth it, I promised myself. I’ll update tomorrow and it’ll be okay.
The show was fine, really. There were some crappy comedians who got nothing but the obligatory chuckle, but it was kept pretty clean, save the cussing, but nothing like the lewd comedy I’ve heard about. The final act, the “headliner” I guess, was the best by far, but I had to sit through about four mediocre acts first. I didn’t buy a single drink, so the show was genuinely free for me, and so I can’t complain, really.
I’ve signed up for two nights here at the hostel, so I’ll be in the city tomorrow. And I’ll definitely know more about my car by then. Right now it looks like we’re leaning toward just replacing the engine with another used engine. The whole process of finding, delivering, and replacing the engine should take three or four days, they say, so it’s a relatively expedient way of solving our problem and not too terrible on the pocketbook either. If there are problems with that scenario — no engines, too expensive, not worth it — I may have to start checking the classifieds or dealerships soon, and I wouldn’t be entirely against that either.
I liked today’s pace, so I may try something similar tomorrow: find a good place to sit and read; hang in the library with my laptop for a couple hours; maybe take a walking tour in the evening or something.