It’s difficult to keep Jerry away from me. I had my first real Scranton adventure of the summer last night.

I parked in the Scranton Mall parking lot yesterday. I read another essay by Borella, “Brooklyn Bridge” by Hart Crane (just as a side-note–in my opinion, the attempted epic, though pretty weak as a whole, is better than the actual thing), an essay by Tate, almost finished reading B16’s (at the time, Ratzinger’s) Principles of Catholic Theology, and sat around in Scranton drinking coffee until ten at night. Unfortunately, the mall parking garage closes at 9 PM, and the authorities that be are quick to tow any abandoned cars. I had several options. I could have–and this would have been the prudent decision–tried to get hold of someone at Saint Greg’s to pick me up, and resolved the car issue next morning. (Obviously, I’m not an exemplar of prudence: I did not take this road. Also, my cellular device died last night around midnight.) I could just run back, I thought; no need to bother the lads at this time. That would be an appropriately Jerryish decision, no? Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen, either. See, I was carrying a heavy backpack. And, that would be about a ten mile run. And, I didn’t have appropriate shoes. And, most importantly, I was low on cigarette papers. Well, I worried that too much exercise without enough remedial carcinogens might lower my blood pressure too much, causing my instantaneous death. Luckily, I had another Jerryish option out there: find a bar, close it out, and spend the rest of the night trying to stay awake by reading a Milan Kundera novel (they’re so good!), some poetry (Roethke and Stevenson), and essays by Auerbach (I’m almost done with Mimesis), and then try to pick up my car the next morning.

Life in Scranton is pretty slow on Tuesday night. After about 2 AM, I gerrymeandered to a lovely area, scented with pine, outside of the Scranton University library. It was a freshman year sort of gerrymeander, too, accompanied by the familiar sounds of “step, swish, slap:” most of the fake leather of my fake penny loafers has already rubbed off, and last night my right sole began to come off as well. The only person I met on the streets was a tiny guy about fifty years old, a bum I will refer to as “Jerry,” whom I have run into many times before. He always has the same few questions for me (“Gerry”). Last night, our conversation went something like this.

Jerry (catching sight of Gerry): “Hey! Hey! Do you speak English?”
(Gerry pretends not to hear.)
Jerry (hurrying up to Gerry): “What are you doing tonight?”
Gerry (having failed to avoid an encounter): “Well, I’m planning on going to sleep pretty soon.” (Gerry is not, strictly speaking, truthful in this.)
Jerry (concerned): “You got a place to stay?”
Gerry (again exercising mental reservation): “Yes, I’ve got a place.”
Jerry (disappointed at this answer, but hopeful for a negative answer to the following): “You staying there with a girlfriend?”
Gerry (thinking, ‘uh oh; hard to reserve mentally for this one’): “No….”
Jerry (exuberant): “OK, so you want to come to my place then?” (Conspiratorially): “I’ve got a secret place!”
Gerry (uncomfortable): “Thanks very much, but … I don’t think so.”
Jerry (pensive): “So … what do you want to do for fun?”
(Gerry says something about drinking heavily, because Jerry doesn’t dig on the booze at all.)
Jerry (glum): “When will I see you again?”
Gerry (having seen him wearing a Scranton Marathon Volunteer shirt): “Well, I plan on doing the marathon again next Fall.”
Jerry (bright again): “OK! So … what are you doing tonight?”
Gerry: “Cheesesticks?”
Jerry (as a last resort): “You got a cigarette?”
Gerry: “I can roll you one.”

His last question makes me wish that his other questions were less uncomfortable, because he’s harmless, and it seems that he would have some neat things to say, and because he could really be a type of Jerry. He is always so grateful to me for being willing to spend time talking with him (which consists in, mostly, answering variations of the above questions) over a cigarette. Plus (and this is a dead Jerry giveaway) he has even asked me for the time before.

His questioning and his manner suggests that he is some slightly eccentric man who is nevertheless harmless, and who spends his days sleeping and his nights/mornings wandering around the streets of Scranton. This is conjecture, but I would even bet that his “secret place” he claims to have is owned by his brother, who Jerry claims is the parish priest at Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton. I think that he’s telling the truth. He is always clean (for a bum), always dressed neatly (for a bum), his shoes are in better shape than mine, and I have walked into the cathedral for Confession before Mass of mornings and found him there chatting comfortably with the ushers and with those awesome old ladies who seem to be the backbone of every parish. Everybody knows him, and everybody seems to know of and be indulgent toward his eccentricity. (I wish I had paid attention to those conversations in the church. Does he ask those old ladies the same questions about girlfriends and his “secret place?” I really want to hear him try to bum a cigarette off of them, too.)

Yes, I made a Jerryish decision last night, and I’m kind of glad I did. Now, I’m sitting here in Scranton, drinking some more coffee (gotta keep that blood pressure up), trying to sober up, slightly tanked after starting drinking at ten AM so I could watch Landon Donovan score in the 91st minute to send USA, winners of group C, into the round of 16 (now, that game got my blood pressure up). Needless to say, I celebrated said score in true American fashion, by taking turns buying rounds with a group of recent university graduates. My Joshua Mahan-chosen “sexy jeans,” though quite blue, and my Dad-given purplish polo shirt (mixture of blue and pink [mixture of red and white]) did not even come close to competing with the outfits and paint that these guys were wearing. I’m not goning to lie; I like me some American Spirit.

Well, this Gerry is off to try to get his car back. I have an expired license and no registration, which might make things difficult. If I fail? Well, I know that I can always count on Jerry to provide.

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