Were it my lot to sit through another interview — I've done one for television, one for a magazine, a couple for an alt-weekly, and that's more than enough, thank you very much — I would hope that I would be asked "What's your favorite place in all the world?" To which I would reply with as much feigned bitterness as I could, "Anywhere but here."

Now technically this isn't true. I described one place that might at one time have been my favorite, way back in Vent #226, on Christmas Day in long-ago 2000:

The old Boston Public Library scowled down on Copley Square, and the interior, all rosewood walls and gooseneck lamps and murals, was a scary sort of place for a kid away from home. And around the corner was the library's annex, which struck me at the time as a domestic version of those modern soulless bunkers you'd see housing the proletariat in Eastern Europe. In between was a courtyard, seemingly miles, even years, away from the noises on Boylston Street, stuck in the Twilight Zone between the old and the new. I was twenty years old and very uneasy about everything, but here, for a few moments each weekend, I found a measure of peace.

Boston Public Library courtyard, recent picture

One's favorite place, I could argue, ought to look something like this. Then again, this is a relatively recent picture, and it doesn't quite match up to what I remember from four decades ago — as, perhaps, it shouldn't. Time keeps on spinning; memories stick a pin in the globe, but do nothing to slow it down.

Yet being somewhere else has always been in the back of my mind, for reasons entirely unrelated to pleasant memory: there lingers more than a vestige of good old-fashioned Impostor Syndrome, the notion that some day, more likely sooner than later, I'm going to be uncovered as a fraud and duly exiled to, well, somewhere else. And you can point to any single item, or any group of items, within these two gigabytes of stuff I have either concocted or curated, and declare that "See? Look what you accomplished here!" It will do no good; it will be obvious to me that you've been hitting the mushrooms again and I should not take anything you say seriously.

Nor does it matter if the selected item is on this site with my name on it. About seven thousand people — sixty-eight hundred more than I could possibly deserve, if you ask me — have attempted to plow their way through my fictional offerings, and I concern myself far more with the thirty or so who have outright rejected me than with the three hundred who have embraced me.

This condition has positively ancient origins. I can trace it back to second grade, and possibly even before that. For some reason having to do with Standardized Testing, which was all the rage back then, I had been declared to be something of a prodigy; what I felt like was a trained seal, brought out to perform for the nice visitors and then thrown a couple of yesterday's fish. Perhaps the hardest year was grade six, the beginning of my prep years, an environment utterly unlike any I'd seen before. The school was located in a Victorian house in the next county over, a long ride in the Corvair wagon that passed for a school bus, and the classroom was filled with women, or at least what I thought of as women: girls of eleven or twelve years. I was bumfuzzled from the get-go, but I managed to finish the next couple of years' worth of coursework on schedule, and it is perhaps fortunate that I never found out how much the parental units had to fork over to get me this place. (The school still exists, though it's moved across town, and tuition is now around $10k a year.)

Still, for all its advantages, preppery did not do anything to relieve the feeling that I was faking it; if anything, I was worse off, since I was two to three years younger than the other students at my level, and I was dreading the moment when my hormones would start to kick in. Mercifully, they were slow in coming, though by that time I'd already crushed on one of the younger girls, a wraith with the blackest hair known to man, who at six had written a book of sorts, a collection of letters she'd sent to people famous and otherwise. Dedicated student that she was, she completely ignored my existence.

And you can jump forward from that point over the next half-century and wind up just about here. It's not so bad here: I've met some pretty swell people over the years, including dozens I can't even remember anymore, and if I've had to dial back the fantasies rather severely, it's probably for the best. Still, I suspect that one of the reasons I put my name on this site from day one is simply to establish a claim, on the off-chance that I might be "found out." I don't know what it would take to dispel this particular neurosis, but for the moment, I'm assuming it's permanent.

The Vent

  16 March 2015

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