Tuesday, July 10, 2012


arrived in The Garden State on Sunday
got on the turnpike
going the wrong direction(s)
to the point where my GPS started sighing:

(New Orleans has ruined my sense of cardinal direction.)

took two students to dinner on Sunday evening
at a restaurant with a farm-to-family option:
3 courses, $19 a person, all locally sourced.


(They also had 20 wines for $20. Done.)

drove to Princeton Monday morning
my first time visiting
since I was the students' age
hoping that my reach school
was within reach


observed high school students' courses all day:
writing workshops. biology class. sociology.

ate in a cafeteria
for the first time in close to a decade

returned to Sunday night's restaurant
sat at the bar
befriended the bartendress
(who is fluent in five languages)
a man who might have been 118 years old
(who went to "a small college in New Haven," then worked for Merrill Lynch)
a man with whom I shared some of my $20 wine
(who used to be a lawyer for the Mafia)
and the former governor of New Jersey
(who ended up following me back to the hotel, just to make sure I made it safely)

today, Tuesday, included more classes--
literature, personal development, college admissions--
and another lunch from the cafeteria

students read from their essays
"Why I want to go to college"

I found myself fighting tears
as I listened to teenagers describe
the soft bigotry of low expectations

got a migraine.
closed the curtains of my hotel room.
took aspirin, a nap, a bath as hot as I could make the water.

met the program director for dinner
shared stories, ideas, enthusiasm

then alone
I walked around the borough
magical in the summer twilight

(I forget that some places are safe enough to walk alone
but none of them are the neighborhoods the students described in their essays.)

Nassau Hall
illuminated, glowing, inviting

children playing in a square
while fireflies danced

wandering further down
this tiny little slice of non-reality
where many places lack air conditioning (??)
because the summers are that mild (!!!)

I found Eastern Relax
where for $1/minute
any lingering moment of migraine
was massaged out

towards the end
all ninety pounds of my masseuse
leaned onto my back

the closeness of a stranger
breathing into me
moving into my breaths

was all that I needed
to exhale pain
to inhale acceptance
to be grateful.

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