Thursday, March 26, 2009


I'm on the Penn campus this week, in west Philly. Not far from home, less than an hour with no traffic, but the days are long so I'm staying. It's a good experience, but strange in it's own way, having nothing to do with the reason I'm here. Penn is a comfortable place, and familiar. I've done readings here for two of my books. One of our favorite Indian restaurants is near here, so we come down for that from time to time.

Way, way back, though, U of Penn is where my mother was a medical student. She began medical school when I was 5, so unlike most physicians' children, I was not only alive but have memory of her being in med school. Memories from that far back in childhood are funny things. There are large swaths of nothingness, blackness, and then the odd random incredibly vivid image. Buildings, streets, that kind of thing. The cadaver room, with all those dead bodies awaiting their student dissection. Soundtrack by Chuck Mangione and Bill Withers. University City, mid to late 1970s.

Years later, when I was 19, 20 years old, I lived in Philly and direct environs for a year or more, and not in a particularly good way. I remember wandering the Penn campus with guitar on my back, going against the flow of all those students streaming out of brick buildings, students who were my age but on a planet tilted differently than my own. An entirely foreign orbit.