Dropping me off at my hotel by a new highway and an old hurricane barrier, Ted made the comment, “It’s almost like you never left, dude.” If only it were so.
I refer to New England as timeless without qualification. Timeless in the sense that, to borrow from the euphemistic language of the hippies, a vibe is always preserved. The Gap didn’t change Quincy Market, Quincy Market changed The Gap. Fenway could be reduced to rubble, but we would still love that dirty water. Folks will pick up a donut at Tim Hortons and still buy their coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. While institutions crumble and fall, the traditions that built them remain in every brick of the Biltmore. G-Tech can build their glass and steel Smurf pimple in Waterplace Park, but when the light reflects off it from WaterFire I am sure all of Providencetown knows their hubris. They built with the intent of highlighting their success. Instead, they only serve as a twelve story mirror of our own.
But, of course this doesn’t mean that everything in my glorified home are the same. A timeless environment is not any more frozen in time than the White Album. The same dynamics that created the history of this land carry to the lives like rockets that populate it today. Aside from the skyline, much in my town had changed. I spent my Monday finding out what.
He answered the door with the same easy smile and a new charge in tow. Since I had seen one of my best friends and fellow rockstar he and his wife had Tobias Edward. Age 0 with a head full of hair, Tobias is a grunting, precious bundle of joy that I successfully held for at least ten minutes without me freaking out. Ted and I played in a band together for the better part of my time in Providence, having toured much of the Eastern Seaboard with our fair share of stories to tell about it. Most of our time was spent catching up on our respective gigs, the lack of music making in our lives, and plenty reminiscing about the days of yore.
Ted, among being one of my closest friends, is also one of the best fathers I know. I learned more about what it takes to deliver the goods on dadhood in the late night car rides back from places like Worcester and New Bedford than certainly my youth. How his daughter Aurora ended up so simultaneously well behaved and fun was a mystery that he unfolded on those trips. He’s the only guy I know who can say someone is not raising their kids right with any credibility.
While I was gone, he and his wife created another human life. All I did was learn how to speed cube.
He told me to take easy while I gave him a hug. Not that he wasn’t happy to see me and all, I just have a tendency to harm the recently injured in my exuberance to say hello. He said he had titanium on both ends to balance out his small frame – some in his right arm, some on his left ring finger.
The titanium on his left finger he got from marrying his high school sweetheart Mick. I lived with him and her and at our peak I think a dozen other people in a fat apartment on the East Side. Truth be told, A-train was saving me from the first tenement that I occupied when I moved to Providence.
In his right arm was the counterweight, a titanium rod inserted after his humerus snapped in an arm wrestling match a few weeks ago. The way he described it was, in his usual style, darkly hilarious. Rotating bone-on-bone contact as a rule is not particularly funny, but you have to understand his delivery.
3) Scottie Homeslice
Scottie was a guitar player in one of Jersey’s hardest drinking, most frequently fighting hardcore punk bands. He now looks like Jesus and runs a still out of his shed. He came to dinner with a bottle of mead which, no bullshit, he made entirely himself. The honey, blueberries, and whatever the hell else you need to make this stuff was totally out off his house on LonLon Ranch.
A while before I left, he had become an honest-to-God beekeeper. He lost a few hives in the mysterious phenomenon that is killing off all the honeybees. He now has one super hive that apparently is destroying all other bees in the neighborhood. With limited competition and a dry year, they’ve been pollinating like motherfuckers, producing sufficient honey for a full scale mead production operation. The product was sweet and tasty, with an alcohol content I’ve come to expect from his kitchen.
Gone from punk rocker to a hippie looking organic spirits producer. As soon as his online store is up, my weekly disposable income is going to take a serious downturn.
A lot happens to twenty and thirtysomethings in the space of eighteen months. Some got married, some broke up. Some had kids, some had career changes. Everyone had some new stories to tell, and, to my great comfort, everyone was doing well.
A few folks besides Ted commented that it was like I never left. That these relationships, like this city, was just as it was left, ready to be revisited and enjoyed. That the bonds that were forged in this town are just like its irascible taxi drivers and the taste of its coffee. It was something that would never dilute or fade. It would age like fine wine or gorgeous architecture, only more refined and strong as the years pass.
It didn’t feel like I had never left. It felt like I’d always be welcome back.