Al Sullivanís journal



Stepping in shit


January 10, 1995


I called Pauly by chance, just checking to see if he'd gotten payment for the art work he'd done. I've been lax in getting his voucher into the editor. I knew he needed the money. I wanted him to gloat a little and bitch a little about not being paid for Thanksgiving and it was already after New Year's. He told me the bad news -- news that was changing even as we spoke.

†``I'm moving again,'' he said. ``My sister sold the house.''

†I could hear the doubt in his voice, like a bass bell striking doom with each word. This scramble came just months after surviving another such disaster when after nine years, he and his room mate were asked to move out of their Lake Hapatcong house. I thought he was entrenched before that happened. I thought this time -- with his family giving him roof and board -- he was at least secure if not totally comfortable. I was wrong, and from the sound of his voice, he seemed to have believed the same thing, only to have his world shaken twice in the same year.

†Such events occurred often when he was young. His father, a jack-of-all-trades, moved his family to suit the job, and job came with the frequency and predictability of changing seasons. When winter dampened construction prospects, his father took up bartending or catering or sales, each requiring a move -- not only to a new location, but often to a lower rent.

†By the time Pauly got out into the world, he'd already shown the same habits, although not the same inclination for work. He lived where he could, often for free, sometimes with Ginger, later with Garrick, once or twice even with me. Now, in his mid-forties, he seems cast back in that pattern, seeking security without the benefit of roots, like a leaf struggling to find a tree after the autumn fall.

†I feel sorry for him; I shouldn't. As Garrick puts it so eloquently: ``You never have to worry about Pauly; he's always stepping in shit.''

†Maybe this much is true this time, too. Pauly has already made arrangements for a new life in a new home back up at the lake, in a Adam's Family kind of house (as he describes it) for a reasonable amount of rent. Sharon and I will go see the man, of course. We always visit him wherever he winds up. I'm just hoping we won't have to chase him down, visiting him here and there as he shifts from place to place. At least, he's got the same job now, and is reluctant to leave it. This spring marks his ninth year at the library, and though he'll never be it's director, he seems happy with it, citing its retirement plan and his growing seniority, and the way the small town has come to accept him as one of its own -- despite the fact his is the strangest man any of the locals have ever met.

†The mayor himself came out for Pauly, calling on people in town government to find him a place to live. One did. In that haunted house. I'm struck by the oddity, and struck by the fact that maybe, after all these years, Pauly really does have a place in the world, one where people love him and care for him, and are willing to take him in when times are bad.

†I envy the son of a bitch.




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