Reflecting on the last "Hackie" column, "A Beautiful Nose," I thought about a recent exchange with a fellow cabbie at Muddy Waters.
We were waiting on adjacent coffee lines when the guy caught my eye and said, "You're a cabbie, right? Yeah, I used to drive cab in Boston, but I'm up here now working for Yellow Cab. You're also the guy who writes the taxi stories for the paper, do I got that right?"
"Yup, that's me," I replied. I thought, but didn't say, I write the stories in the paper; I write them for the readers. "Good to meet ya, man."
"I like your stories. They're all kind of charming."
I didn't like the sound of that.
"Yeah," he continued, "cabbing in a big city like Boston, the stories couldn't be like that - you know, all charming and everything."
"Well, thanks," I said, and thought, I think.
Over my mug of hot apple cider, I thought about what the guy had said and what it inferred. To me, "charming" carries the stigma of the ephemeral, as if either Burlington or the stores I pen about same are something less than - I don't know - authentic, meaningful, real?
Burlington, in my view, is no less or more than any other city, large or small - a community of individuals struggling to find love and connection in a world that can be both viciously hard and cruel, and also gracious and magical beyond belief. And, that's what I write about.
Sometimes that means a story about being 18 and a college freshman and getting your first nose ring with a new friend. If that's charming, so be it.
The thing is, a writer writes what he or she sees in the world. Even in little funky Burlington, there's luridness and cruelty aplenty, believe me. Many a "Hackie" column has explored the darkness. I don't think I shy away from it.
A Hindu saying comes to mind, "A pickpocket sees only pockets." Perhaps we construct the world daily as an expression of our own heart and soul.
In my writing, in my life, I want to see the whole picture - the light and the dark. But, like our friend Neil Young, I guess, when it comes down to it, I'm a miner for a heart of gold.