My mind is a dangerous place. Make sure you wear a cup.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The big picture

Life is funny. You never know what's going to happen. I'm in a reflective mood tonight.

Whenever I am in a mood like this, thinking about how unpredictable life can be, I think about Donna Booth.

Donna and I went to high school together. We had some of the same classes, and went to the same parties. We were on student council together. We weren't really friends; I didn't really like her all that much, and I think the feeling was mutual on her part.

But I knew her pretty well because she was one of the stars on the girl's track team, and I covered the team for the local city newspaper. It was a pretty good team, as I recall. So I used to watch her race all the time and went on road trips with the team and interviewed her and other members from time to time, yada yada yada.

Anyway, Donna was like Goldengirl. She was tall, blonde, and pretty. She was popular, and she got good grades. I think after graduation she went to Brown. Anyway, I'm sure that the summer after graduation was the last time I saw her. But we always knew that for people like Donna, the sky was the limit. She was one of the beautiful people, and she was gonna be just fine.

Fast forward about 17 years or so. I got an email from my friend Zeke in Tampa telling me to check the obits in our old hometown paper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette. We used to check it all the time (before the website went subscription) to see who we knew that might have shuffled off this mortal coil.

I checked it, and found that Donna had died.

It really threw me. It gave me pause. If Donna could die at a young age....

It made me think. There are no promises. Anything can happen.

That rattled me enough. But then Zeke told me to check out a book, Hometown by Tracy Kidder. He wrote it about Northampton, where we grew up:

"Probing beneath Northampton's friendly exterior, Pulitzer-winning author Tracy Kidder uncovers the town's many layers, from the lowest to the highest rungs of society, and renders a portrait of Northampton by introducing those who know it best. Kidder relies most heavily on native Tommy O'Connor, a 33-year-old police sergeant who has never left his beloved hometown. Tommy's optimism and gentle humor make him an appealing guide, as he shows both the darkest and most charming streets of his town and wrestles with a future that may forever alter his relationship to Northampton. Kidder also introduces readers to Laura Baumeister, a young working mother and Ada Comstock scholar at Smith College who is struggling to care for her son and keep up with the rigorous school curriculum; Alan Scheinman, a real estate lawyer who made a fortune in the 1980s, now plagued by a crippling case of obsessive-compulsive disorder; and Samson Rodriguez, a former loom operator who may have been one of the first people to bring crack cocaine to Northampton. "--Kera Bolonik

One of the people Tommy (we called him Todder) came into contact with was a woman in her mid 30's--a drug addict who had two kids. She was a mess physically and emotionally. She said the man she married turned out to be a transvestite. If I remember correctly, Todder had to bring her in for either posession or intent to buy. She was driving around in some beater car with some dirtbag. He took a boxcutter off her. He felt bad about it because he knew her from school.

Anyway, yes, that woman , whose name was changed in the book, was Donna Booth. That really threw me. This time I was completely blown away. My last memory of her was this Goldengirl image. How does someone go from that to that?

Life. Who knew?

Rock on!


Anonymous goon said...

Life has a randomness to it that I find unfathomable.

11:33 PM  

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