October 8, 2022
AN EMAIL FROM old friend, J, brought the news that Terry had died. Heart attack, six weeks ago. Life’s just been too chaotic to tell everyone until now, J said. She had decided to go ahead with their daughter’s wedding, and was now in the middle of moving to the downstairs apartment, so her son could take over the upstairs. We were close when our kids were growing up. Terry, ten years older than us, was friends with the world, voracious for all of life, people, ideas, music, and especially food.
Once, at an obscure Szechuan joint he loved, bewildered by my refusal to sample some beef dish, for reasons of health, Terry said, “So you’ll live three weeks longer than me. And it will be cloudy.”
I raked some leaves in our postage-stamp front yard, three bags’ worth. They were mostly little almond-shaped things, just on the golden side of lemon. It’s ragweed season and afterward I had to lie down for a half-hour. M was back from her errands. We put together a lunch and did the Times crossword, her with paper and pencil, me with the laptop.
The air was crisp, the streets crowded, the town alive. But there was too much leaf-peeper traffic to go anywhere glorious, and the day was half-gone, so we decided to head over to Davis Square for coffee. There, we ran into the Honk! Festival of Activist Bands. Every half block, there was another leftist marching band from some corner of the world. It was packed, the place loud and joyous. The ground was littered with tubas, bass drums, knapsacks. Trumpets lay on the tables.
We ran into B and T, old theater friends. I told T I’m about to revive the New Play Workshop he was in sometime in a previous century, when I brought it with me to Boston. He laughed. He’s been performing at Lincoln Center and in Paris.
We parted, and M said she was worried that T looked too thin, wondered what could be wrong. You haven’t seen him in a long time, I replied; he’s looked that way for 20 years. Maybe he’s a vegetarian. It was too crowded at Davis Square for coffee, so we went to the Porter Square bookstore. M’s hearing is not the best, and even with the finest hearing aid insurance will partly cover, it’s always a bit of a struggle for her to order. I wound up having full caffeine, which I shouldn’t have had. The buzz was tremendous. We sat outside under a large aqua shade umbrella, the kind we’ve been dreaming about for our west-facing porch. M tried to figure its width, da Vinci–style, with outstretched arms.
I heard something click behind me and glanced down to see a tape measure in an open palm, belonging to a friendly old guy—white shirt, white hair, free-flowing white beard. He critiqued our technique as we measured up the shade. He’s lived here for 50 years, a few blocks away, we learned, where he and his wife have a garden. We’ve only been here for 30, I said. We traded stories of the old Davis Square, when the kids would race cars around the block on Saturday night. People got hurt. No house had yet been renovated.
He and his wife are foodies, he said, switching gears. In fact, his wife has a YouTube cooking show. He offered her card. He knew he was going on, assured us he’d leave soon, aware we might be worried we’d engaged with a genuine eccentric. When he learned I do video, of course, he needed an editor, for all those YouTube shows. His wife is a star, he just needs to package something for her. I recommended Fiverr, and he said that’s what his kids told him, too.
He expressed mixed feelings about the coffee I was drinking, and suggested I try a specialty brand they sell at a new place called Life Alive, drawing out the name so I’d be sure to remember: “Liiiiife… Alive.” I tried that brand once at a different spot, I told him. It was good, but I couldn’t see paying five dollars for a cup of coffee ever again. He smiled and said, “But you’re drinking the coffee. You’re having the experience.”