Thursday, December 4, 2008

सौन्ड्स एंड signs

I am sitting in the library at BU, listening to students rattle away on the keyboard, typing.

Noticing sounds has been my latest practice--which is to say, it is always my practice, but I am noticing them more these days since I don't get a chance or take the time to sit formally these days. So I am practicing by listening.

You hear amazing things in the city. Walking over the BU bridge today (no geese, though there were hundreds of pigeons, swirling over and landing on the bridge like hunched little gobbley-eyed unappreciated old men) I heard an unfathomable sound of metal screeching across pavement, fast. I turned and looked--as did other pedestrians--and it was a woman driving a Volvo on a tire rim (it might have been two tire rims). Not just a flat tire--absolutely NO tire. And being me, words came out of my mouth immediately--something like, "How insane!" or something equally judgmental. Then I stopped; paused in my flight toward my class. I wondered why this woman was driving on her rims. What kind of panic--emotional, financial, circumstancial--was compromising her judgement? Was it, indeed, a bad decision? How do I know?

I keep seeing all sorts of signs that things are amiss in the economy; little signs, because I am also struck by how much things are just going along and all seems normal. Normal signs: students still lining up for capuccinos, coworkers still bringing in $9 sandwiches for lunch, people still getting new cell phones, braces, and Christmas presents, other people still going to Disney World. These are the signs that make me wonder if the Northeast has been as hard hit as other parts of the world. It is confusing. You read in the paper that the publishing industry is going under, but everyone still seems to be going forward here as if they expect to get jobs when they graduate, etc. (From where? I wonder to myself. Or sometimes out loud. You know me.) Fundraisers continue and people still ask for money, albeit with a pinched note in their voice, at times recognizing that it is going to be very hard for anyone to help out anyone else very soon. Then there are the other signs--the signs that things are unravelling, even out here. Things like that woman driving on her rims, the cars parked under the shadows of the BU bridge--as if they have been dumped there until someone tows them away. The shrinking lists of jobs in the classified section. Things like that.

I have a feeling that we are not going to see the real signs of collapse in this area until after January. Budgets will be rewritten; people will be out of jobs. I only hope that when it happens we can figure out some way to connect, reconnect, and help each other. That is up to us, of course.

Today, Ari spelled his name. I was sitting in the other room when he did it. He was sitting in his high chair and eating smoothie and toast with Andi. He was asking Andi to draw in the bottom of his smoothie cup (actually hers, he hijacked it) even though there was still far too much smoothie left to do that. And then he said, "A R I, Ari!" To say that we kvelled is, well, an understatement. Actually, Andi kvelled. I felt a little shocked. I think with all of these development milestones, I am too shocked to pay much attention. I am simply dazed by the change. What happened to that tiny tot who merely breathed and giggled and drooled? When did he learn to count in several languages? Hey, speaking of which, please weigh in with counting in other languages. Ari can count in English, Spanish, and Hebrew and soon will have French down too (his new favorite). Andi will teach him German, but then we are all tapped out. Anyone know how to count in another language? Can you tell me what it is and then write it out phonetically? My wish list: Armenian, Japanese, and Mandarian. But I'll take all comers. Ari is counting on you.