So I'd decided to work for 5-6 more months in order to save a decent amount to move, but after one more week at work, I decided I wasn't going to make it. So last week I told my boss my last day would be in September.
Now that I've announced the decision, I've decided to stop in at all the places that have been dear to me. So on Saturday I took myself to Svea in Andersonville, where I used to go every weekend when I was within walking distance. It was typically full, so I sat at the counter with a copy of the Chicago Reader. An older man sat to my left -- he was very sweet and childlike, and the waitress obviously knew him; same for the guy who came in and sat to my right. The regulars. I ate my Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce and fried potatoes. The Reader had a feature on street art, and mentioned Brooks Golden, a graffiti artist who'd passed away about 6 months ago from cancer at a very young age. I'd met him through his girlfriend, who works part-time at my pet-supply store.
The man to my left warned me about the air conditioning blowing on my food, but I assured him it didn't bother me, which relived him greatly. I looked at his bag of magazines and papers.
"You look very organized," I said.
"Oh, thank you for saying that. Would you like to see an article on Svea?" he asked, handing me a copy of The Red Eye, a local free paper. "It's on page 28." On the front margin he'd written "PAGE 28" in large round letters in pen.
"Thank you," I said, and turned to the page. There was a tiny blurb about Svea's good eats.
"This is great," I said. I opened The Reader to the article on Brooks. "I met this man. He was a tremendous artist and a lovely person." A photo showed Brooks in front of a street mural of an enormous owl that he'd painted.
"Thank you for sharing that with me," the man said. "That painting of his is lovely."
We chatted and I mentioned that I was at Svea to pay it homage since I was planning to return to Massachusetts.
"We used to visit Massachusetts!" he exclaimed. "We had a cousin in Swampscott and we'd visit and play on the beach and get all salty."
"Well, My hometown is right next to Swampscott. You must have gone to King's Beach then," I said.
"Do you you know the song 'Charlie on The MTA'?" he asked.
"The Kingston Trio! Of course!"
And we sang the refrain.
"As a matter of fact --" I pulled out my walled and extracted a card I'd gotten onmy last trip -- "When Boston changed to a fare-card system, look what they called it." I showed him the card with the cartoon of the man hanging out of the window of the train. Across the card it said CHARLIE CARD.
"Charlie Card! That's wonderful! Thank you for sharing that with me!" he crowed.
I said goodbye to him and headed out to the sun and the people on the street. I looked at Women and Children First bookstore across the street. I remembered the first time I ate here, with my best friend, on a visit to him when he was in college. Over ten years ago. I remember saying, "I could live here."
"You could," he'd replied. "And you would love it."
He wasn't wrong.