I’ve come back to attend Hampshire, a liberal arts college in western Massachusetts, though I graduated from here quite a few years ago.
I’m in a holding area with a few others, waiting until our dorm rooms are ready, and I’m relieved to see Paula Rosenfeld among us, with dark curls and a sunny face, looking as she did then, as if she were in her late teens. I’m nervous because this place we’re in is nothing like it was at Hampshire, somewhat haphazardly roped off on the very edge of a beach (and the Hampshire I know is nowhere near a beach), bordered by the struts of a pier on one side, and made up of a loose collection of boats, surf boards, buoys, buckets, and slabs of foam, many of which, like the plastic tank I’m sitting on, rise and sink with the ebb and flow of the surf. Paula looks quite comfortable here, smiling beatifically, barefoot in her simple jean shorts, balancing without any apparent difficulty on two crossed telephone poles that are resting on the detritus, and regularly shifting with the waves.
My wallet, keys, and phone are floating around somewhere in a plastic bowl like those used in airport security, as are some of the personal items of others similarly marooned in this holding area. My trunk, a large, black, and shiny one that makes me feel a bit like Harry Potter on his first day at Hogwarts, is floating in a small, trunk-sized boat somewhere nearby. Complicating things, water is constantly flowing through a makeshift system of pipes, swales, and other conveyors and water is pouring out here and there into various boats and receptacles, some of which tip over when filled, to pour the water elsewhere, and I’m getting a bit damp sitting here.
I’ll need to collect my wallet and things before I move into my dorm room, which is in a new complex that’s behind where the cafeteria was, when I was here last, roughly where the old Merrill buildings were, according to this wet, historical pamphlet I’m trying to read.
My dorm room is in a new system of buildings called “Delfino,” but I’m having trouble remembering that word, perhaps because it’s a bit more fragile and elaborate than “Merrill,” and good ol’ Paula keeps reminding me. She seems to know what’s going on around here. Eric Konheim is also around somewhere, and they are an item; I know these two facts simply because I know them.
In actuality, Eric died many years ago in a kayaking expedition, and he was a mischievous, edgy, but ultimately good-natured character. I actually first met him back in first or second grade, and even then he had a loose-canon persona and was often getting into fights and other trouble, but he was my friend, and I wouldn’t have liked him to be an enemy.
He was obsessed with all things WWII, and when I went to his house he pulled out a hardcover book about the war and showed me a close-up of a soldier smoking a cigarette. He told me a story about how this soldier singlehandedly defeated an entire enemy platoon by using a cigarette as a smokescreen to conceal the tanks that were waiting behind him.
I saw him many years later on the first day of Hampshire waiting in line at some matriculation event, and it took me a long time to recognize him, as he was now extremely tall, and had long blonde hair, effectively playing the role of a hippie, which didn’t exactly surprise me, but I wouldn’t have expected it. In the coming months he got his hair cut military style, and he told me that what really pissed him off about having long hair was that people often assumed he was “mellow.” We weren’t in the exact same circles but they intersected in a few places, and one summer he joined me and Jeff Swicord in starting our own little company selling fruit on the streets of Manhattan using two vans and three carts that we built out of plywood and 2x4s. Jeff hailed from Maryland, and was highly amused, in a cool and detached way, by New York shenanigans (except when his guitar got stolen out of his Van due to my profoundly stupid idea that it would be safe on its own for a few hours). For a while around that summer Eric and Paula were an item.
I’m wearing a white paper jumpsuit, like the one that I wore once during the Hampshire years many years ago, when I played guitar in a Jazz Funeral In Connecticut concert at Sheehan’s Bar in Northampton. Jazz Funeral in Connecticut was an extremely large band (Some might be tempted to say it was unwieldy), with an actual horn section and two vocalists (shoutists?)/rappers that was over-the-top, raucous, and occasionally brilliant, especially when the horns, drums, and bass suddenly became scarily in synch within the surreal sloppiness of everyone else.
I’m now trying to collect all my stuff to make my way towards the old “Merrill” grounds, to whatever the new dorm is called, and Paula reminds me that it’s “Delfino.” Then she tells me that Eric has already taken my trunk over there. I feel very grateful for that, as the trunk is large and heavy, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with it. Did he have access to a bunch of guys, hand-trucks, and a van or something?
We’re getting ready to go to the “old Merrill,” or whatever it’s called, and boingy D’arcy Mastrangelo is suddenly there, as she was back then, and she’s resting her hands on my shoulders. With shining eyes and shining blonde hair tied into what is (to me, at least) her characteristically large pom-pom at the top of her head, she looks into my eyes and tells me that it’s Delfino. “You can just say,” she tells me, strongly but warmly, “I live at Delfino,” and I feel this to be true, so I say the words, and when I say them, they are true. This makes me feel good, so I smile at her in that way and say them again. D’arcy is someone who I never knew that well, but she was friends with many of my friends, and always seemed dynamic and expressive to me, ever moving, ever at the epicenter of the hippest parties.
By the way, Delfino is a name, of course, just like Merrill is a name, and Delfino is Italian, deriving from the Latin delphinus, which means dolphin. Urban Dictionary offers a few definitions, my favorite being “A sexy-ass beast that attracts all sorts of attention. A very loving person. Very friendly and fun to hang with. Don’t have any enemies. The only enemies he has are the people that wish they were him. Did I mention that he’s sexy? Delfino is pure amazing!”
Now I’m really getting ready to go to Delfino, where I live, and I’m feeling truly happy about that, perhaps for the first time. Paula is almost ready to leave the holding area, and a few others are going to join us, but D’arcy has moved on, no doubt already having established herself somewhere. I look within and see that in my happiness I’ve made a conscious decision to put aside “all worldly cares” (Trump, parenting fears, money woes, career, the dishwasher that doesn’t seem to be working anymore) and as if young again, I get ready to head for Delfino.
I’ve taken off my paper suit to let it dry, and I’m holding it near the collar and letting it float on the breeze like a flag or a spirit. Off we go, Paula and I, and a few others, out of the holding area and along a cement path between two green lawns. I was wearing something else underneath the paper suit so I know I’m not naked, but what I am wearing isn’t exactly clear to me, probably because it doesn’t seem important.
After we come up a few steps, a kid in a fedora with a thin mustache has just passed us, and is opening a glass door to our right that leads to the outside, where the sun is shining brightly, with almost palpable rays. This is strange because we’re already outside, but no matter. He looks as if he’s anticipating extremely good things from the other side of that door, but he’s hesitating at the threshold as we pass, as if wondering if he’s forgotten something. A guitar, perhaps? And as we pass, I recognize him, and I say, “I know you!” I actually don’t, but dreams are funny that way. In any case, he’s gone before I finish saying that.
We continue walking along the path, through the quad, surrounded by students carrying books, wearing backpacks, throwing Frisbees, making our way in the direction of Delfino, and I’m flying my paper suit around in the breeze, feeling good to be “back.” As I wave the suit around in the air with my right hand, I line it up to people’s faces and take their pictures with my phone in my left hand, making little “spirit pictures” of them by way of saying “Hello.”
“Where are ya living?” one of them yells back to me.
“I live at Delfino!” I call out, proudly.