As I settled my bill, alone, at Boston's best Irish pub last evening, the pub's playlist, which focuses on soft rock and Irish folk songs through the ages, hit me with Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." ("Count the headlights on the highway.")
In my junior year of college, in my mind, the Tiny Dancer was an Asian girl from Tarrytown who had a single across the hall from my double at Cornell. She wore mens' shirts with the buttons undone. I became clinically smitten with her, which became especially awkward when her boyfriend took the bus over from Ithaca College for an overnight. A really foolish affair that cemented a long-lasting connection in my mind between romance and futility, at least as it related to me.
One day, after all my classes were done, I had a cup of coffee in the Ivy Room of the Straight, the building made rather famous a few years before when black student activists stood on its front steps with long guns and bandoliers.
The coffee was weak. It came in flimsy little white plastic cones that were pressed into less flimsy plastic holders, in red or brown. At the far end of this very large room, by the windows that looked down the hill at the Baker Halls, which housed (male only) freshmen in classic collegiate gothic, was a primo juke box that, in those peak days of (especially psychedelic) rock and roll, seemed to be playing all day every day, and at volume.
Was it Eric Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues" or "Tiny Dancer" that set me off? In any event, I put my head in my hands. Another student, a stranger, asked me if I was alright. I was not alright. I couldn't see that I would ever have any agency that would make it possible for me to cross the barrier between me and any particular her who caught my fancy.
Fifty years ago. Half a century.
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