Monday, May 30, 2005

My Breakfast Spot

If you have ever seriously tried meditation (and I know a certain person with a “monkey brain” who has), probably you have taken a meditation class or read a book on the subject or even bought a guided meditation CD. During this process of inner discovery the seeker will inevitably be taxed with the following problem: he will be asked to picture himself in a peaceful setting, a setting that can either be somewhere he’s been or wholly a product of his imagination.

Perhaps to some (or most?) people, it’s a fairly easy question to answer. But when this mental task was first presented to me, I must confess I was stymied. Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t as if I had no ideas; perhaps part of the problem may have been that I had too many. The seashore at sunrise; a quiet, cool forest; sitting atop a mountain; floating on an inflatable raft — they all lined up and counted off like well-trained Marines. I suppose this exercise is a bit like conjuring up your idea of heaven, the very place you’d most want to spend the rest of eternity. Not a decision to be taken lightly. Rash choices can only lead to classic Twilight Zone episodes and little else. So what could it be, this ideal spot where I could retreat to and find tranquility? I didn’t like the thought of making up a place from out of thin air, so, drawing from my experience, the front runners I eventually hit on were mainly scenes from childhood: my grandparents’ house in West Virginia, my old summer camp, a river I once camped beside in New Hampshire, and so on. Good choices all, and over time I have put them to productive use in my never-ending quest for quietude. And yet, desirable and peaceful though each setting might be, they still seemed a bit wanting.

I suppose I was searching for my ultimate home of harmony in all the wrong places. Perhaps it’s the sort of thing that has to find you and not the other way around. However, I am now happy to report that I have finally discovered my personal citadel of serenity, and it was there in front of me all the time: my breakfast spot.

Let me back up a bit. Years ago, my oldest daughter, Lindsay, was part of a youth string orchestra that rehearsed every Saturday morning at the New England Conservatory of Music on Huntington Ave. in Boston. They rehearsed for an hour — from 8:00am to 9:00am — so it made no practical sense for me to drop her off, fight the traffic back home, enjoy ten minutes of leisure and battle back again to pick her up. Many parents stayed and listened to the rehearsal and, in the beginning, that’s what I did too. The maestro was a statuesque woman nearing the end of her middle years who somehow, through sheer force of a kindly demeanor and an expectation for her students to do well, controlled these forty or so kids. But a stringed instrument is either scraped well or not so well, and sounds resulting from that latter category can have an unsettling effect on the nerves. So after several sessions I began looking for other ways to fill up the hour.

It chanced that I missed breakfast one of those mornings, so I hunted for a place where I might grab a muffin and a cup of coffee. There was a Burger King nearby, but I wanted to do better if I could, so I walked in the opposite direction. Within a block I found a sub and pizza shop called Cappy’s, a greasy spoon that offered what my heart most craved, a hot breakfast.

For the next year and a half I visited Cappy’s every Saturday morning while Lindsay and her fellow musicians sawed away at their violins, violas and cellos. I’d bring the newspaper with me and read it while I had my breakfast. During that time of the morning, Cappy’s never really got too busy. Usually the customers were students from the Conservatory or Northeastern University. There were also some blue collar types who came in, but the only two regulars (beside myself) who I always saw were two black men, one a security guard who I suspect must have just gotten off his shift, and the other a light-skinned black man somewhere in his seventies who I guessed was retired. Certainly, from his accent, he came from another country, although from where I couldn’t determine. It could have been Haiti or somewhere in Africa. He sounded more than a little like Rafiki from The Lion King.

The security guard (whom I secretly called The Sergeant) was talkative and picked Rafiki as his interlocutor. The Sergeant was from Georgia and he liked to tell stories — often from his youth — in a slow, musical drawl. He was loud but not offensively so, and you had the feeling you were sitting with him on a veranda while he whittled away on a stick. Rafiki didn’t seem to appreciate his company very much and gave only monosyllabic replies in hopes of frustrating this conversation that had been foisted upon him. But The Sergeant didn’t need any encouragement; he continued to tell stories or comment on local news with an easy manner and a calm assurance that what he said was interesting. I admired that. He had my attention not so much due to the content of what he said but because I enjoyed his style of delivery. Meanwhile, Rafiki tore apart slices of stale bread the manager gave him into tiny pieces piled on a paper plate so he could later feed them to the pigeons.

One day, Lindsay did the unthinkable: she quit the orchestra. Her mother was devastated, because she put a lot of store in Lindsay’s violin playing. Myrna was convinced Lindsay really had talent (and in truth she really wasn’t bad). I, too, was heartbroken, but for a different reason: I could no longer justify my Saturday mornings at Cappy’s.

So for five long years I stopped having my breakfast there. Cappy’s was practically on the other side of town, parking there was a mess, it just wasn’t worth it. I tried establishing a new breakfast spot closer to where I live in Brighton Center, but none ever worked out. One place, the Mirror Cafe, is the nicest little spot anyone could ever ask for. Tables by the windows, a long counter with stools, pretty waitresses, great home fries, but it just didn’t work. It was all wrong. It wasn’t Cappy’s.

Two months ago, on a whim, I started going back to Cappy’s again. What can I say? It’s in my blood. And the place hasn’t changed at all. The same Greek couple work the counter where you place your order. The wife has a stern look, but I remember from the old days that she sort of took a shine to me after a while. The husband is, as he always was, very approachable. They both don’t remember me from five years ago, but, after two months, the husband has relearned my order: cheese omelet, home fries and toast with black coffee. And, as I said, everything is the same: the round, red, Coca Cola clock with a white, ribbony swish going through it; the Formica wood-grained tables with attached tomato-colored benches (tables that are, by the way, never clean); dingy, white tiled walls and counters accented by a single horizontal line of green tiles that run their twisted path through every corner and nook; the pitted linoleum floor; the dull metal pizza ovens not yet in use. All wonderfully the same.

The Sergeant doesn’t go there any more, but Rafiki maintains his post at the side of the counter where the pizza ovens are. My first time back I thought I noticed a hint of recognition in his eyes, but it wasn’t what I would call welcoming. In the old days we said hello to each other and took things no further, which was entirely to my liking — I was there for “me time,” after all. But now I’d say Rafiki regards me more as an interloper. His hair is perhaps a trifle whiter than it once was and he wears it more closely cropped. His light brown skin has a yellow tinge to it and his droopy eyes have dark circles that remind you of a panda. He always sits in the same booth just like I always sit at my corner table. He still tears up bread for the pigeons.

I follow the same routine. I stroll in and place my order, then sit down at my table, pull out my book and book holder and set everything up. After I’ve read for about five minutes my order is ready. I bring the food to my table and then collect my plastic eating utensils, napkin and tiny packets of salt and pepper. I reseat myself and proceed to enjoy forty-five minutes of escapist bliss. For some reason my reading comprehension seems heightened there (there are studies that show using a book holder can do that for you). I am in my own little world.

Next door within view of my table is a sort of drug rehab or halfway house. I get that impression because there is a sign listing visiting hours next to the front door and, on gloomy days, I can plainly see right into the lighted lobby to the person working the desk. It’s not a student dormitory because the residents, who frequently step outside to smoke their cigarettes, are too old. They all have a careworn, used-up look. I see middle-aged women with their long hair still styled as they had it in their youth. Men wear clean blue jeans, J.C. Penny spring jackets and white sneakers, and the thought always crosses my mind that they were dressed up like that by their no-nonsense mother.

As strange as it may sound, I envy them because I imagine they are all getting a fresh start. They are working out their troubles and people are rooting for them. They’ve hit bottom and there’s nowhere to go other than up. Here they appear, standing in front of their building smoking their cigarettes, newly washed in clean, wrinkle-free clothes, “reborn,” as it were. They’re given another chance. Expectations are low and any success they have is counted as a miracle. It seems hard to lose.

So what is your spot? Is there a place you can go to — either physically or in your mind — to find forty-five minutes of peace? Is it a lagoon or a laundromat? A country landscape or a broken down, wooden park bench in need of a coat of paint? Where is your Cappy’s?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Pi of Why?

Every child discovers at some point the mischievous power of why? It’s the Mobius strip of questions. Eat your green beans. Why? Because they’re good for you. Why? They’ve got vitamins and nutrients and stuff. Why? Their seeds were designed to make them that way. Why? It’s all part of God’s plan. Why? Because He cares for you and he wants you to grow big and strong. Why? Because He loves you, damn it! Now eat your beans!


You get the point.

A friend of mine told me this anecdote about Gertrude Stein, the writer, and William James, the psychologist and philosopher (and brother of Henry James): Gertrude Stein was a student in James’ philosophy class. At the end of the year, the final exam James prepared for his students contained the single, one-word question, Why? Nothing else. Most of the class madly went through reams of paper and pounds of lead giving their answer, doubtless drawing from the wisdom of Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Hume, Voltaire and all the rest. Gertrude Stein merely wrote, “Why not?” and left early. She received an A.

But was that cheating? Should you answer a question with a question? If you ask me, I think it’s just being clever. So, if why not? isn’t really the answer to why?, then what is? Is the question why? infinite like pi, an irrational number, or is there really a bottom to the well? Is there an ultimate answer, like “yes,” or “asparagus,” or “Charles Nelson Reilly”? Or does it just go on ad infinitum?

Here’s another set of questions almost as good as why?: So what do you think? interchanged with its fraternal twin, So how does that make you feel? Alternate them and see the results: So what do you think? I think it looks like a rash. So how does that make you feel? Kinda itchy. So what do you think? I probably shouldn't scratch it. So how does that make you feel? Even itchier. So what do you think? I think I'll scratch just a little. So how does that make you feel? Pretty damn good. Pass me that wire brush and belt sander, willya?

Socially awkward people inept at small talk should use why?, so what do you think? and so how does that make you feel? at parties. It’s almost like a Jedi mind trick. I will guarantee that by the end of the night these very same people will achieve a popularity they never dreamed possible. Pretty dull party, huh, buddy? Why? All anyone wants to talk about here is their stock portfolio. So how does that make you feel? I dunno. Kinda inadequate, I guess. So what do you think? I makes me realize that I should consider my future security. Why? Because someday I’ll be old and unable to work and I’ll need some wealth to see me through. So how does that make you feel? It makes me feel glad we had this little chat. This is just what I needed to get me on the right path. So what do you think? I think you changed my life! You’re a goddamn genius! Are you free Sunday? I want you to meet all my friends.

I’ll let everyone in on a little secret I’ve discovered: if you want to be known as a good conversationalist, all you need to do is ask people questions about themselves. And whenever they ask anything about you, politely deflect their questions and bring the subject of the conversation back to them. People love to talk about themselves and need only the slightest bit of interest shown in them. This is how I get through parties where I’m forced to mix with strangers. That and sports. Find someone who’s interested in football or baseball and you’re golden. Or at least for me.

But never forget the power of why?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Joy of House Painting and Shakespeare

Last October we bought a new house, my wife’s “dream house.” I only hope and pray that it remains her dream house, because our old house (which we have held on to and now rent out) looked pretty good to her until two or three years ago, when it suddenly became too small. Now I practically need to take an accounting course with all the bills we need to pay, rent to collect (from four sources) and our never-ending adventures in refinancing.

Anyway, one of the great things about this house was that the former owner really had good taste. We love the colors the rooms are done in, only they’re a bit dirty and there are picture hooks and holes in all the wrong places. So my plan has been to repaint each room (at least the ones downstairs) in exactly the same colors. Which is a pretty thankless job, because no visitor will ever exclaim, “Whoa! Look at this room! Did you just paint it or something?” Nope. Each room will look just the same, only cleaner and with less holes.

When I was in my twenties, I worked for a few years as a house painter while trying to decide on which course my life ought to take (and I very nearly hit on “painting”). It’s actually not such a bad way to make a buck and, more importantly, it’s a skill. In fact, it’s the only way I can in any sense call myself “handy.” I don’t think I’ll ever hang a new door or install a carburetor, but I really know how to paint. Sometimes, when I’m working by myself, painting can be almost Zen-like. Sort of peaceful, you know? Like a meditation. Just me and the paint. Just me and the paint. Ommmmmm.

What I love to do while painting is listen to stories, such as audio books, old time radio shows and Shakespeare. That’s right: Shakespeare. I’ll try not to sound like anyone’s despised high school English teacher, but here is a great secret I want to share with everyone: studying a Shakespeare play (which includes reading all the footnotes and background material), then listening to an audio performance by professional actors is fun. It is a great, great pleasure! You have nearly full comprehension because you did your homework up front and you can really appreciate Shakespeare’s vision, because an ensemble cast will make it come alive. And listening to it while involved in an task requiring very little mental activity can make you think you spent most of the day in Verona (the setting of Romeo and Juliet, my choice last Sunday), not your dining room.

My selection of Romeo and Juliet, by the way, was entirely due to purchasing a copy of West Side Story last week and watching it twice (which means the entire score is now permanently stuck in my head). I had already familiarized myself with the Shakespeare play, so I thought I’d give it a listen while rolling out the dining room walls. Lemme tell you, that Romeo was some character. He starts off heartsick over this one girl, Rosalind, and then, upon seeing Juliet, forgets all about Rosalind and fixates on Juliet (who, by the way, hasn’t turned fourteen yet). There’s a stable guy. And his counselor, Friar Lawrence, comes up with a wacky scheme to keep their marriage quiet instead of just calling time out and explaining to the two families that he had married Romeo and Juliet on the sly. Sure, it would have been awkward to tell, what with Romeo having killed Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, and Juliet’s parents’ plan of quickly betrothing her to Paris, but better that than having Juliet drink a sleeping potion that feigns death and then placing her in a mausoleum. But what a story! It starts off like a comedy and then everything turns completely sour and black. Shakespeare had his A game working. Wonderful pacing, nice plot twists, and the most exquisitely phrased dialogue a human being can ever possibly write. My kids may roll their eyes when I say it, but Shakespeare rocks!

Friday, May 20, 2005

My Position on the Yankees

For years, being a Boston Red Sox fan meant two things: perennial disappointment and fostering an abiding hatred for the New York Yankees. The former condition has been alleviated considerably by a World Series victory after 86 years. The latter continues to persist. People here really hate the Yanks. To be a true Red Sox fan, you have to hate them. There is no middle ground, just like you can’t be a little pregnant. All or nothing, baby. Either you’re with us or against us. It’s us or them. Or so they say.

Before I continue, let’s get something straight: my credentials as a Red Sox fan speak for themselves. I was in the first bloom of baseball consciousness during the “Impossible Dream” season of 1967 and living through that magical time has probably helped shape my life. My favorite ballplayer was the shortstop, Rico Petrocelli, and I even summoned the nerve a couple of years ago to call a sports talk show to tell him that. I saw Carl Yazstremski have the greatest year ever for a ballplayer. I remember Billy Rohrer, pitching his first big league game, come within an out of a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium (broken up by Ellston Howard, who later in the season was traded to the Red Sox). I remember Tony C. getting beaned and Jose Tartabull’s throw to the plate. I remember Jerry Adair. Jerry Freaking Adair. Does anybody else remember Jerry Adair? I do. And how about Joe Foy? Oh yeah.

Let’s do the numbers. 1975: World Series against the Reds. Freddy Lynn, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Bernie Carbo, Yaz, Luis Tiant. Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey Sr., Ed Armbrister (the bastard!). Possibly the greatest World Series ever. 1978: a 14 game lead over the Yankees at the All Star break evaporates to a single, winner-take-all play-off game at the end of the season. Bucky Bleeping Dent, the deciding home run that would be an out in any other ballpark. 1986 World Series: Bill Buckner (although it wasn’t all his fault). 1991 ALCS: Roger Clemens with the eye black and Ninja Turtle shoelaces cussin’ out Terry Cooney, the homeplate umpire. 2003 ALCS: Grady Bleeping Little. Pedro shouldn’t have even started the eighth. And last year: Redemption! Hell Freezing Over! The Second Coming of Christ! Pigs Flying Everywhere! People Dying Happy!

I’ve been through the wars. I’ve followed the Sox through the good times and bad. I remember Cal Koonce. That’s right: Cal Koonce. And get this: with my tireless coaching, my youngest daughter’s first words were “Red Sox.” It’s true. Who else can do that? Huh? I’m asking you! Yeah. Thought so. So say what you want about me, I am a Red Sox fan and no one has the right to question it.

And yet . . . and yet I like the Yankees.

If I had no regional connection to any baseball team, I would probably follow the Yankees. They are always interesting. Start with their owner, George Steinbrenner, Mr. Type A. I’m still not sure if he’s a real person or an actor playing a part. This guy was born to own the Yankees. The bluster, the bombast, the deep pockets, the constipated look. When he dies and goes to heaven, his roommate will be Jake Ruppert. Casey Stengal will be their next door neighbor and Babe Ruth will crash on their couch once a week. And look at the Yankees’ history. All those championships. That’s hard to do, yet they did it so many times.

How about Reggie Jackson? Those three first pitch home runs in the World Series? Holy Moley! Goose Gossage? Mickey Rivers? (I loved that twitchy little guy.) And let’s all be honest for a moment: wouldn’t everybody rather have Derek Jeter as your shortstop over everyone else? A rhetorical question if ever there was one.

A former next door neighbor of mine was a big time Sox fan. She had a Red Sox license plate on her car and a sticker that read: Yankee Hater. I always wanted to ask her, why? Because they win all the time? Or is it because the Red Sox lose all the time? But the slogan I really take issue with is “Yankees Suck.” Because they do not suck. They are the opposite of suck. The Yankees are what the Canadiens were to hockey, the Celtics to basketball and the Cowboys to football. Only the Yankees continue to do it, while the other legendary franchises have faded away.

I am so glad the Yankees are the Red Sox’ chief rivals. There’s some Native American expression about how you can measure yourself by the caliber of your enemy and the Yankees fill that bill pretty well. It’s Jedi versus the Evil Empire, David versus Goliath, White Hat versus Black. Carlton Fisk versus Thurman Munson. Rico Petrocelli versus Joe Pepitone. Jim Lonborg versus Whitey Ford. Fred Astaire versus Gene Kelly. Tammy Wynette versus Dolly Parton. Frankenberry versus Count Chocula. It just doesn’t get any better.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Scenario to Consider

I’ve got a cold and am feeling a bit run down. I remarked to someone in the office earlier that I have the energy to play a game of catch with a softball, but can just barely summon the strength to do my work. It is a beautiful day here in Boston. You can walk around without a jacket on and all the vegetation is green once again. The window to my office is open and I can feel the gentlest of breezes on my back and hear the murmur of traffic seven stories below. Now, if I could only have a queen size bed with a good, firm mattress, I’d really be in business.

I ran an errand a little while ago mainly so I could do something productive. I really have stuff to do, but no one is clamoring for anything and I’m feeling tired enough to allow my feet to drag. I think for me to properly do my work right now, I have to feel my job is in jeopardy. Pathetic, right? But that’s how I feel.

I took a package of printing proofs to a client of ours a few blocks away and then mailed something at the post office. Along the way, I practiced a little “mindfulness,” taking in what my blunted senses could absorb: the smell of the air, the sounds, the people, how my body felt as it moved through space. And then I inexplicably started thinking about all the photographs I might be in. Not the ones I know about, but strangers’ photographs, possibly people visiting here from exotic countries like Nauru, Maldives, Seychelles and Idaho. How many times have I been the guy in the upper left corner picking his nose while Cousin Mustafa and his family were getting their picture taken at an old time train depot in Conway, NH? Or the tall, skinny dude crossing the street in Orlando right when Aunt Angirasa struck her pose? How many times have I been an “extra” and where are all those photos?

If I was fabulously wealthy and more than a little bored, I think it might be fun to select an obscure photo from the family album, taken, say, at a nephew’s high school graduation ten years ago, and hire a detective agency to track down everyone who might have purposely or accidentally been included in it . . . and have a reunion! Hire a fancy hall somewhere, get the image blown up the size of one of the walls and throw a dinner with a live band, maybe even a magician or two! And I’d pay everyone’s expenses — airfare, hotel, car rental, Duck Tours, the works — really make it worth their while. The only work I’d ask any of them to do would be to fill out questionnaires just get a little personal history on each one of them. Oh, and each provide a sample of their DNA and fingerprints, because I’m kooky that way.

And then, at the height of the evening, just to throw a little twist into things, I’d step up to the mike and announce something like, “I have called you all here because one of you is a murderer! That’s right, a murderer accidentally caught on film! This snapshot on the wall behind me was taken a split second before the gruesome act occurred!” Immediately the doors would be barred shut and the burly guards who before had blended so well into the scenery suddenly make their presence known. Exclamations and screams everywhere! Pandemonium! “What, is this your idea of a joke?” someone might shout. “I confess!” someone else will probably call.

Or not. Maybe we’ll just have a good time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Good Old Frank

I grew up with a kid named Frank Basile who lived on Howe Street, near the border that separates the town of Natick, Massachusetts, from Framingham. He was technically Natick and one of us, but he always smelled a little like Framingham to me, along with the Dows and the Sollimas who lived near him. He had a sort of dual citizenship that felt not quite kosher to me. But he was, as I say, Natick, so he went to Cole Elementary School with all of us, and then on to Kennedy Junior High and finally Natick High School.

Frank was always small for his age, doe-eyed and diffident, although sometimes he surprised you with contrariness. He would come up with original notions that added little to the matter at hand, then shut up when his opinion was passed over. If one cared to watch him, perhaps one could see in Frank an odd intentness about apparently nothing. His expression often denoted concentration, with a little frown and a fixed stare at the ground or the space in front of him. But for the most part he was quiet, unobtrusive, someone you could use to fill up the roster of a pick-up baseball team.

His father helped coach my farm league baseball team, the Tigers. Odd as this sounds, I don’t believe Frank was on the team. Hmmm. Maybe his father was friends with the coach. Anyway, because I was the tallest kid, I played first base, and Mr. Basile taught me to stand in a crouch with my hands on my knees, ready to spring at the crack of the bat. I was an indifferent athlete at best, but one day when someone hit a scorching line drive heading for right field I reflexively leaped up and snared the ball in my glove. All the parents went “ooooh!” and Mr. Basile told me, “You see! You had your hands on your knees! That’s why you caught it!”

Frank one time came to my house to show off a frog he caught. He carried it on a Frisbee and it was the ugliest frog I ever saw. Its colors were nearly luminescent, very harsh, very green. Something about its coloration made me think it was unfriendly and poisonous. The frog submitted to its captivity well, staying on the Frisbee and later allowed itself to be handled by Frank with domesticated passivity, no struggling to get away. The frog naturally became an object of great interest with us kids for about a half hour until when suddenly Frank became possessed with a wild desire to kill it. He set it on the ground, grabbed a a fallen tree branch the size of a staff and tried to crush it with one end, striking at it as if violently digging a hole for a post. “No, Frank, don’t!” I yelled, because the frog was an innocent thing and, despite its unpleasing exterior, wasn’t really such a bad frog after all. But Frank kept saying, “I’m gonna kill it!” and he had a maniacal expression that made us wonder if Frank’s mind was clicking on all cylinders. He came close to striking it a number of times but the frog eluded his lethal tree branch, sometimes just barely. I actually thought the frog might get away, but finally Frank made a direct hit and the frog had time to let out a small whimper before it went splat. We all protested, asking him why, but his response was that it was his frog and he could do with it what he liked.

As we got older, Frank was the first among us to smoke pot. He had older brothers who were into it and they took care of little Frank. Frank smoked and smoked all through seventh and eighth grade until he declared one day that he had smoked so much pot he was now permanently high. You could believe it because he seemed bemused most of the time, communicating to us from another dimension.

Finally Frank required psychiatric help, and over the years he got lots of it. We’d ask his younger brother every now and again how Frank was doing and he’d say, “Franky flipped out again, he’s getting treatment now,” as casually as if talking about an old car that keeps breaking down. When we’d see Frank and speak to him, he’d answer back as if he were miles away. One of my friends remarked, “One day Frank seems all right and the next you see him petting a fire hydrant.”

During late spring in 1982 Frank voluntarily checked himself into the psychiatric unit of Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick. He stayed there for a couple of weeks and abruptly left against the advice of the therapists. They couldn’t keep him there, everyone found out later, because it was "voluntary." Hmmm. Anyway, old Frank went home, took a baseball bat and bludgeoned his parents to death. The news the next day played the 911 call his mother desperately tried to make. One cop later said “their heads were all bashed to hell” and it was the worst thing he had ever seen.

There was a big manhunt for Frank. He took off in his parents’ car, a old Granada. Frank was a famous walker, often taking four or five hour strolls at a time, and the news played that up, as if ditching the car and setting off on foot would make him invisible. But finally he was caught in a diner in New Hampshire, his parents’ car in the parking lot. He offered no resistance; he had spent all day nursing a cup of coffee in this diner, quiet but seeming strange, and the manager at last called the police. No one there had any idea he was a murderer.

I last saw him a few days later on the news being led into court, handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit. As always, Frank looked small for his age and doe-eyed.