Category Archives: Stories

Love in the time of swine flu

I have an unabashed love for the city of Boston. I’ve explored its neighborhoods intimately on foot, weaving through the city on long, ambling runs. I wander the MFA and MOS regularly and use the Boston Public Library’s main branch at Copley Square as a source of much of my non-work related reading. Today I was spending some time with a friend EF while taking photos of our town; I wanted a picture of the snow-caked frozen river, which is the most pristine expanse of snow I’ve really ever seen. As we made our way down by the river to the Arthur Fiedler footbridge and through the Commons, I was reminded that EF hadn’t seen the library at Copley, which is one of my favorite things to show to visitors to Boston, since its grandeur is contrasted only by its decidedly democratic accessibility to education. Never before had anyone been underwhelmed by the magnificence of the architecture and art of the original McKim building.

To heighten the effect, one enters from Boylston Street through the relatively modern revolving doors set into the generic façade of the 1970’s library extension. Walking quickly through reveals several floors of stacks, which is what one pictures in any completely impassive book lender. However, as you walk up a set of short stairs and through the perpetually opened double doors, you walk through a vestibule into a section that immediately exudes a heightened sense of purpose and presentation. Through another set of doors lies the atrium, and on the other side of the atrium is the beautiful old McKim building that is the foundation of our magnificent public resource. In the summer, the atrium is teeming with readers and researchers who opted for sunlight and fresh air to the artificial fluorescents and musty stacks that can be found indoors. But there are far more table vacancies in the cold parts of winter, especially on grayer days like today.

As we made our way into the atrium from the industrial side of the library headed toward the enlightened side, several people as if on cue cleared the area and disappeared into one building or the other. There was one couple remaining, however, of whom EF and I immediately took notice. It was slightly conspicuous, since the guy was — did we see that right — down on one knee. Since I was still playing photojournalist from the rest of our day’s excursions, a brief conference with EF prodded me into action, and I employed the full length of the zoom in order to try and capture this rare moment onto silicon. I admit that I don’t often use people as subjects for photos out of respect for their privacy, but clearly we were hoping to share these photos with this particular couple. As I fumbled around with the camera attempting to coax clear photos out of it, I advanced my position not enough to be intrusive but enough to improve my angle. As they embraced in a clear sign of the engagement’s consummation, we recorded the events from afar.

We wanted them to enjoy their moment alone, so we waited off to the side for a moment to avoid interruption. As soon as there was a free moment, we sheepishly interrupted to explain ourselves, take a proper photo of the lovely couple, and offer to email the results, which they happily accepted.

As we continued our tour, we noted that no building could really usurp the moment we’d just witnessed, so we thought back on the happy couple and realized that through our vantage point into the atrium from the second floor, we could get a nice photo, so we did. I wish them a prosperous and loving life together, and I’m thankful that we were able to be a small part of their happy occasion.

The white raven

I spent the summer of 2003 in Colorado, teaching test prep classes, hiking, and camping. One night I had decided to go camping on some BLM forest lands, I guess near Nederland, CO, and I took my pack and wandered into a campsite about two miles or so off of a fire road. It was surprisingly busy for a non-weekend, and I recall finally settling on a site that appeared to be less inhabited. However, a few sites over from me was a truck parked and a large tent that had the appearance of being more of a home than a sporting tent. It was huge and probably could have housed four people comfortably, with head room. This tent probably had a foyer and a guest bedroom.

I can’t now recall how we came to talking, but there was a shorter Hispanic guy, dark skinned and stout, and a quiet, tall and skinny White guy, who was older. The Hispanic guy introduced himself as Atreyu but told me he also goes by The White Raven. He and his friend had caught some fish earlier in the river, and they invited me to grill the fish and eat with them. I have a psychological condition called FFAA (Free Food Automatic Acceptance) that has stayed with me since high school and has persisted throughout graduate school, and so I stayed with them for the fish and grilled corn on the cob. (It was all delicious.) We all traded stories, and Atreyu liked to talk, and somehow we got into a discussion about politics. He thought I was a “level headed young man” and was proud to share his government conspiracy theories with me. I politely listened, since dinner was so good, and it’s probably not a good idea to call someone “nuts” the first time you meet them — I usually save that for the second encounter, right?

Anyway, I thought about Atreyu during the 2004 Presidential Election, because he had wanted me to write in The White Raven for president. No comment on whether or not he would have been a better choice. Ahem. Atreyu gave me a straw hat that night, a token that I still have of our chance encounter.