Wednesday, February 24, 2010

nights at the new paltz trailways

cold, crisp days like this remind me of the days when I wanted to be jewish. I was attending suny-new paltz and took the bus to and from kingston where barbara and I lived. in the morning I took the small bus operated by the old fellow bob, who got you there for a dollar and a half, and in the evenings I took the trailways that dropped me off at the broadway end of elmendorf.

I remember the evening rides best, or waiting for the bus in the evenings. I generally caught the 645 and the sun would already be down and the cold closing in. I don't remember what I was studying--it may have been philosophy--but I had a long, thick beard and hair down past my scapula. I wore a bowler hat and thick winter coat that reached my knees and affected an accent sometimes. I imagined, standing there in the cold busroom, a single room with a single bulb in the center of the ceiling and a pinball machine that never worked and a pistachio dispenser that was always refilled (they were always green but tasted so good), that I was a hasid studying my torah (when what I was actually reading, holding it close to my face and licking my thumb before turning the page, was probably science fiction). I had to walk around because the room had no heat and the few seats were already taken up by mothers and broods of children, and that was as it should be. sometimes it was warmer and friendlier to wait outside.

it's hard to imagine, perhaps, but I loved those evenings. I felt a real part of some life outside the normality barbara and I tried to project, that of a couple who had middle class aspirations. I felt like I was searching for something bigger than that, not necessarily god--had I really been a hasid it would have been god--but a context and community that looked at life differently and more deeply than most people did. I was certain there was a frontier out in the cold somewhere I could enter, if I only could decipher the directions.

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