So where were we? Oh yeah, Brooklyn.
I’ve been hanging around Massachusetts – Boston and Cape Cod – since then, doing what I do best: eating other people’s food, sleeping in their driveways, being America’s Guest. I try to earn my keep, in the sense that I believe the Traipsemobile serves as a significant deterrent to young neighborhood punks – something to consider as the Halloween toilet-paper-in-the-trees, shit-in-a-bag-on your doorstep season approaches. Having a large gray vehicle in front of your house (with a hobo inside) is not something to be sneezed at.
Generally, I provide this service to people with whom I have a history, old friends who aren’t really surprised I ended up this way and who feel some moral obligation to offer me home-cooked meals and access to their washers and dryers. I take these things not because I am a freeloading degenerate. No, I do it to help them feel good about themselves. I’m a giver.
And it seemed wrong to share my gifts only with those I know. Selfish, really. So, because I care about you, the American people, I have offered my services to Couchsurfing.org, which allows complete strangers to offer me food and shelter, in exchange for which I tell them stories about that time I interviewed Bob Barker when he wasn’t wearing any pants.
This is how I ended up under the care and supervision of Ms. Marga McElroy of Falmouth, Mass, on Cape Cod, whose history of public service is almost as great as my own. She raised two sons, spent years as a marine biology research assistant. She substitute teaches, she volunteers at the Falmouth Service Center (the local food pantry) and, in her mid-50’s, she spent two years in the Peace Corps, in Sibulan, The Philippines. Other that that, really, she’s accomplished very little.
I found her on Couchsurfing.Org, sent her a note and she immediately invited me — a complete stranger with, let’s face it, a questionable background – to stay in her home. So I slept in her driveway, used her shower and ate (with a fair amount of guilt) some of the best meals I’ve ever had – homemade apple and raspberry crumble, marinated swordfish, homemade clam chowder, bay scallops and pasta. I know. She really deserved more than the Bob Barker stories.
She drove me all over the place, showed me the harbors she’s sailed since she was a kid, explained which lighthouses protected which coves, talked about sloops and schooners and skiffs as if I actually understood the difference. We walked around cranberry bogs and nature trails (we picked teaberries – who knew there was actually a thing called a teaberry? I thought they made it up just to sell that damned gum.) It was joyous and enlightening and in return she asked for, well, nothing.
We sat on her back deck, wind blowing through the trees, frogs clicking in the marsh, drank wine and told each other stories, her doing most of the telling. She’s all alone in the house now, the kids grown, the marriage long since over. She came back from the Philippines with a stunning resume but (so far) no job prospects. She’s not sure what she’ll do.
In the meantime, she’ll keep letting layabouts like me visit her home and she’ll tell them about the history of the Cape, the Portuguese and the Cape Verdeans, the farmers and the fishermen, the class divisions between the academics who have come to dominate Woods Hole and the surrounding area and the working-class long-timers. Towns vs. Gowns, is how she describes it. It’s good stuff. The city should hire her as Special Ambassador.
And, for recommending her, they should give me an all-you-can-drink coupon at Grumpy’s, the local pub, and my own parking space. This seems fair and clearly in the best interest of all concerned. I expect this to be taken care of before my next trip to Cape Cod. And, trust me, there will be one. That chowder was wicked good.