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Friday, July 28, 2006


I have a policy of not riding in orange VW bugs that are driven by people other than close personal friends because of two incidents that occurred during the 1980s.


Greg was an Electrical Engineering major from a broken Colorado home. Greg partied as much as anyone I knew in college. He seemed to make great friends with everyone he met but for some reason, not so much with me. One night when everyone else went off to bed, Greg and I had the brilliant idea to go to the lake, the lake being Lake Ontario in Rochester, New York. Did I mention it was February? And did I also mention that Greg's car, an orange VW bug, had no heat?

After a twenty minute drive, we pulled up along side a chain link fence and parked the car. It was pitch black. We jumped the fence and started walking. Walking, walking walking. Pitch black. A winter's worth of snow had formed a thick crust of ice beneath our feet. It was like walking on concrete coated with Vaseline.

"Where's the lake, man?" I asked.

"I don't know, man."

Suddenly, we stopped short just in time to look a few feet ahead of us at the black, undulating mass of water. We had been walking on the frozen lake and we didn't even know it.

Despite how cold it was, and trust me, Boston has nothing on Rochester, New York when it comes to the brutality of winter, the lake had not frozen over completely. Instead, large, donut-shaped chunks of ice, 5 feet across bobbed and jostled with one another in the water. Each looked like a giant ice cube that had been formed in the shape of a ring, the kind you used to get with your beverage on commercial flights. Their motion was hypnotic. I was drawn to it. And before I knew it I was standing on top of one of those chunks, straddling the hole in the middle of the ice donut. Laughing at the insanity of the situation, at the pain shooting through my feet in my submerged Pony hightops, I rocked back and forth.

"This is awesome!"

Then I fell in and got soaked up to my neck. We hurried back to the car. Somehow I managed to coax my muscles into heaving my body over the chain link fence. Once we were in the car and on the road, the shivering really took over. Remember, Greg's orange VW bug had no heat, so within minutes I myself became a giant chunk of ice. My clothing hardened and crunched around me as I tried to move around in the tiny passenger seat. Once we got back to the dorm I took a long hot shower, climbed under every blanket I could find and went to sleep still shivering and cursing not my stupidity for stepping out onto a giant ice donut in Lake Ontario in February, but rather cursing Greg's car for not having heat. Damn that orange VW bug.


One summer I got a temp job processing financial aid applications at Boston University. I was in my early 20s and already felt too old to be working temp jobs, so when I looked at the guy next to me, Mike, a fellow temp co-worker who was 27, I figured I was looking at the future I didn't want to have. But Mike was kind of funny. I was going through a phase of my life when it bothered me that I wasn't making any new friends, so when Mike asked if I wanted to come over and hang out I figured I'd buck my instincts and go for it. After work we headed up Comm. Ave. to the spot where he had parked his car, an orange VW bug.

I'd never actually been to East Boston except once when a taxi driver took me to the airport by avoiding the Callahan Tunnel alogether and instead wound his way through the fabled Irish neighborhood. To this day I have no idea how he did it.

When Mike jumped on the Mass Pike and headed east, I immediately became aware of his driving style. In a word it was fast. In two words, fast and hyper. He drove the car like he was rushing a severed finger to the hospital. Shifting and downshifting and speeding and cutting people off and constantly twisting his head back and forth to see how much room he had to maneuver, he was one with that orange VW bug.

I was not. I was one with the fear that I was going to die. I finally resolved to just focus on my feet and trust that soon it would all be over one way or another.

When we got to Mike's apartment, the scariness continued. On the top floor of a tripledecker, Mike shared an apartment with three other women, all of whom were there when we arrived. I was not introduced. Upon our entrance, one of the women launched into an argument with Mike over money, another scuttled across the floor to her room I presume, the third just sat in her rocking chair staring at the LED lights on the Sanyo stereo. She had a glazed look about her and a slight grin. In mid-argument Mike announced that he had to go somewhere and that he'd be right back. Alone with the glazed woman I couldn't think of anything to say but that was OK since she was carrying on a whispery conversation with herself. It was like she didn't realize that her stream of consciousness was taking place outside her mind rather than within.

Frankly, it freaked me out.

I found my way to a T stop and hightailed it back to the relative sanity of my apartment in Brighton.

And I haven't been in an orange VW bug since.



At 7/30/2006 5:46 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Sounds like good times to me!


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