three and a half hours up to swarthmore, a new record, thanks to the preponderance of new york and new jersey license plates lumbering back north. unaccountably edgy, i snapped at traffic, little brother, father, and idiot tenants. my mother tolerated me well. we lugged my stuff up the four flights to my room and were pleased at least to discover that it's of decent size, with a verdant view from the window-seat. the trip back home took less than two hours, granting me enough time to cut the meat of my hand making a sandwich and salivate before HBO (best exchange: "i'm here to return this vibrator." "we don't sell vibrators. that's a neck massager." "okay, fine, i'm here to return this massager." "why?" "because it failed to get me off.")
"pop," short for prince of peace, is a moderately, harmlessly crazy guy who lives with his affluent brother ("we're as different as blue and grey") in my neighborhood. when he first arrived, he sent us an empty envelope covered with biblical quotes and references. initially we called him jesus, less as he became a familiar figure. he once weighed close to 300 lbs; after doctors instructed him to lose weight he's walked his way down to 180. at first he just orbited my neighborhood, always in the same clothes: grey sweatpants, sneakers, white t-shirt, glasses with one lens missing, fingernails like a fashion model and only half his god-given teeth. when he got good enough, he expanded his trek to politics and prose, our neighborhood indie bookshop.
my brother and i were browsing there, weighing war and peace ("read the first paragraph and tell me if it's good." "i can't tell you if the book is good from the first paragraph!" "fine, so tell me if the first paragraph is good." ... "okay, i read the first two pages. it's good.") v. the life and opinions of tristram shandy, gagging at fast food nation and the fountainhead, when pop popped his head over. hey neighbors, he said. can i get a ride?
as we drove him back home, he regaled us with stories. he has the memory of an austistic and an uncanny sense of humor. "i had a friend in college. nickname 'knot.' you know what kennedy always said? 'ask knot'" ... "i get everything by a different name. i get sports illustrated to ted williams. i get entertainment weekly to paul newman. i get to the holy ghostbuster, i get to prince of peace, to Our father in heaven, hollywood is thy name" "i haven't paid a bill since 1993. i send it all to the white house; i say, Bill clinton (i'm using bill as a verb)." ... "what was robert redford's name in shane? [we haven't seen it] you haven't lived."
when he slides out of the car, he always extends his hand, like jesus in renaissance paintings, his fingers forming a V, and says, "peace."