Saturday, September 12, 2009


I met Michael at The Goodwill Store in Allston, Mass. He worked there, behind the counter. I was a sophomore at B.U., he was in and out of high school, about 6’3”, extremely handsome, so much so I forgave him his Keith Partridge shag-doo.

I would frequent The Commonwealth Ave. location in my quest for vintage wear. At first, I was just scouting for pencil skirts and angora sweaters for myself, but pretty soon I would scour the place for anything cool and saleable. I had started a business hocking clothes to the other kids in the theater program, I was affectionately known as “Five Dollar Schwartz”. I would approach one of my fellow thespian/students and show them something that I thought would work for their collection, they would ask “how much?”
Whether it was Levi’s, a leather jacket, a vintage camisole, the answer was always the same: “um, five bucks?” The price point worked for my target audience: broke-assed college students with enough money left over from their monthly stipend – after books, basics, beer, and weed, I would take what was left. I was stylist and personal shopper to the rag-tag bunch that made up the B.U. theater department: closeted homosexuals, Jewish Princesses, borderline mental cases that presented as extraordinarily gifted. Business was good, and it was in no small part due to the help of Michael at The Goodwill Stores store.

I started to gain access to the back room of the store. The dusty goldmine where they delivered all the stuff before it was put out on the Formica tables on the main selling floor. I scored a pristine pair of 50’s lawn chairs for my living room. A brat-pack leather jacket that I rocked with a pair of authentic Ray Bans I had paid full price for to complete the look. There rest of the plethora of vintage finds found their way to the hallways at the theater school.

I knew what days the stuff would come in from The Goodwill Stores central location, and would always show up right on time. At first, Michael would be reticent to give me back room access, he would kid about how he was spoiling me, giving me first dibs on everyone’s cast offs. He would pick and choose when he would allow me behind the “red rope”. Pretty soon I would stroll in, give him a wave and a wink, and glide to the back room uninvited - to pick through the piles of gold before the public had at it.

Michael was a good honest kid, not much younger than myself, he charged me for every item I took from the store. He came from the bad side of town and you could tell, he was rough around the edges, but extremely sweet and kind. He had teen idol good looks, even without the Keith Partridge hair. Straight white teeth, blue eyes, a shy smile – he was starting to grow on me more each day. He hand delivered my set of two 50’s lawn chairs to my basement apartment 12 blocks away – both at once, one on each arm.

He put them down in my subterranean living room, and washed his hands in my tiny fluorescent lit kitchen. When he came back, he looked at me expectantly, like he was waiting for a tip, he looked smitten. I had grown up in Connecticut, I had never had anything to do with boys from the wrong side of town. There were some in my high school, they were called “The Greasers”. They smoked cigarettes and rode old motorcycles to school to cut class. My parents told me that most of their fathers had jobs driving the big trucks that collected the garbage from our street at 5 A.M. Michael was from Dorchester. I didn’t know much more about him, only that he was Irish, he didn’t like to talk about his parents much – and he was one of the 4 kids in his school who were white. A man of few words, Michael ingratiated himself to me with his generous spirit, typified by the affordable pricing of the brown paper grocery bags full of clothes that I would haul out of there. He would guess how many items were stuffed in there, like a kid guessing how many jelly beans are in the jar. Now we were standing face to face in my apartment. My roommate would be painting stage sets for hours - and here was Michael so handsome and tall with his hands freshly washed. He took a step closer and leaned down to kiss me. I could barely feel it, the kiss was so soft. I was used to more aggressive boys, I had lived in the dorm the year before, my room on the same floor where they put most of the B.U. Hockey Team. Michael was so gentle, he didn’t kiss like a boy from the wrong side of town would kiss, I imagined. Soon, we were on my bed, a mattress and box spring on the floor, lying face to face. It never escalated to full make-out steam. His tenderness crescendoed into barely audible cooing sounds that escalated into waves of urgent wimpers. I didn’t know if he was in love, or injured.

I sent him on his way back to Dorchester. I didn’t see us as a couple. He was a step up from my last boyfriend, a boy I had met in the theater department who turned out to be gay. Still, I had hopes for someone who had some sense of culture, the arts, who read beyond a 6th grade level. But I felt bad, he was nice - I went back to The Goodwill Store the next day to let him down easy. His girlfriend was there, she had been crying - he had broken things off with her, the situation clearly out of control. My sweet deal at The Goodwill Store had to come to an end. “Five Dollar Schwartz” was no more. I never went back to the back room after that, and never saw Michael from Dorchester again.

Two years later I was waiting for a rental car to be vacuumed and brought around front. My boyfriend Philip was sitting there next to me in The Budget Rental Car waiting room, we were heading out of Boston to go to The Cape for four days. He was perfect. I had met him on an Amtrak train. He looked like John Cougar Mellencamp, had graduated from Tufts. He was cool, a painter, he wore vintage bowling shirts and took me out to fancy dinners at great restaurants, and knew what wines to order. He read big books. I planned on marrying him - our trip to The Cape was merely a stop on the way there. I picked up a copy of The Boston Herald that was lying there next to me. There on the cover was a huge picture of Michael, his handsome face staring back at me in black and white. The photo looked like it had been snatched from his yearbook or possibly his Massachusetts Driver’s License. The headline read: Tragic Death of a Hero (story on page 6). Michael had walked past some boys mercilessly beating up a young man in the park. He came to the boy’s defense and tried to break things up. The gang turned their efforts on Michael and chased him on to the highway where he was struck by a car and killed instantly.

Just then our rental pulled up, Philip said, “come on, this is us”. He grabbed both of our bags, I put down the paper and picked up the maps we needed for the trip. “Is anything wrong,” Philip asked from the driver’s seat, his eyes steady on the road. “Nah, still asleep,” I said from my trance. I didn’t want to start our trip with a tale about me making out with the murdered boy who had made the cover of the morning edition. We were headed for the beach, we would be eating raw clams, 2 pound lobsters, and staying at a quaint motel with clean starched sheets. I took a napkin from the Dunkin Donuts bag on the floor and rubbed the newspaper ink from my hands.

Monday, September 7, 2009


When I was a child I had dreams that I could fly. Sometimes it would be a low hover over a grassy field, other times I would suddenly find myself at high altitudes over a metropolis. Sometimes I would dream that I would lift off the ground to barely escape danger. I would always fly at gentle speeds, no big g-force moments, no near misses of tall buildings, just a steady drift, me-powered, landing effortlessly on two feet. That exquisite feeling gone moments after I awoke.

I got on two wheels to get that feeling back again. But when I started riding something wasn’t quite working. When I got my first scooter, I would seek out the roads the crotch rockets travel. I would hear the Ninjas searing the pavement from my window - on this road that runs along the highway that has no lights or stop signs. Those first few days, I would push the little audacious scoot to it’s limit on this daredevil straightaway, feel the thrill that is one part “wheee!!” and two parts fear. I started thinking about getting a motorcycle, a sport bike, along with some comprehensive medical coverage.

Then I experienced a shift. I had doubts about my 1st scooter, but a motorcycle wasn’t the answer, so I purchased a second scooter. It felt a bit more grown up, a lot more stable, and it lead me somewhere that took my entirely by surprise: The Slow Lane.

Very quickly things went from “how fast can I push this thing”, to “how slow can I go.” The scooter felt steady, like it had everything under control. I could relax a little, sit back a bit and enjoy the show. Instead of seeking out Crotch Rocket Road, I spent more time cruising the tree canopied streets of Brooklyn Heights and Ditmas Park – sauntering down those historic lanes, lulled by the hum of the low rev of my scooter, the slow scroll of gas light landscapes became my new rush. Today, riding along the water in Red Hook, I took the long straight stretch of road at a crawl - this is when my flying dreams came back. The gentle endless glide, the body’s subtle steering of it, the cool air lapping at my face and neck.

When people talk about ne’er do well RPM junkies who leave coffin lids fluttering in their wake they say, “he was really flying!!” But they’ve got it all wrong. It’s when you back off the gas, coax that throttle ever so gently, that’s where the wings are.