Was I weirding out? Maybe. While it was nice to be in a big city again, there was just something wrong with Boston, a weird, tense vibe that was getting to me. There were homeless people on the streets in the neighborhood, and I was beginning to recognize them, people like the fiftyish lady who was always trying to sell me something from her remaining worldly possessions, and the staring man I'd see on the way to work or to Bildner's.

I had seen my share of homeless on trips to DC, but, being more of a tourist in those situations, they didn't sit in my consciousness and conscience as readily. Back at UNC, there was that frail, shabbily-dressed Ethiopian-looking guy I'd see dumpster diving on occasion, but I was never really sure if he was homeless. This Boston thing was different, and every call of "spare change" would ring in my ears for far too long.

I had weirded out Ana surely, but that was nothing compared to the effect she'd had on her part of the dorm, exhibiting behavior that went beyond Hot Latin Temper into something a little scary, to judge by the tales being bandied about on my floor. She was now no longer in her room, having moved elsewhere; she still had my Coltrane tape, wherever she was. It would have been nice to have it back, but I feared looking for her and running into her on one of her bad days. The tape wasn't worth it.

It was time to turn in my first arranging assignment, something for an ensemble of four horns, piano, bass, and drums, made up of fellow classmates; I had the whole weekend to get it done. I picked Wayne Shorter's "Yes or No", from Speak No Evil, one of the boxful of cassettes I'd brought with me from North Carolina; I had the chords in my old Real Book, so there was no need to work to transcribe it. But I couldn't find a piano for working on it, still not knowing my way around Berklee enough to know which nook or cranny had a free piano room to use.

Then I dawdled too long, wasting time at places like Man Ray and Spit, where it was no fun not being part of a group; intoxicants and friends seem to be a prerequisite to enjoying such places. I had neither, this early into my Bostonhood, so bars and clubs were just loud, empty spaces, places I went to out of habit, rather than for any good reason. It was a better fit hanging out at the art gallery of the ICA, where one could wander solo in solitude, and it was an escape from the sheer mind-altering population density of both Berklee and Boston.

Favorite band name so far: Fear of Failure.

When it came time to hash out the music, I did it, as best as I could, on guitar, then wrote out lead sheets for the seven musicians, finishing Monday morning between the mess-hall breakfast and the arranging class. The instructor chose us at random, and I itched both to get my portion over with, and to hear what my writing sounded like, played by a real live jazz group. In the meantime, there was cool stuff from my jazz-savvy classmates, especially the intro of Jon's arrangement, a series of nice, mysteriously dissonant polychords that Julian, on piano, attacked with relish, while the horns provided icing on the relish cake, and the sustained pseudo-root notes in the bass guitar added the ground upon which the relish cake lumbered, smiling its weird smile, waving at us.

It eventually came to be my turn, in the latter half of class. The drummer counted the time, and they were off. Towards the end of the first verse, I noticed something was wrong -- I'd written the whole thing in too high an octave for some of the horns to play completely comfortably. I had some vague knowledge of the ranges of the instruments, but... I blew this one. Hawthorne, on alto sax, looked especially pained as he played measures 9-11 in the verse, with some of the notes shrieking out with an equally-pained tone. Since the assignment was to write two choruses, he would have to struggle with such too-high passages about six times in the verses, plus one or two times in each bridge. I nonchalantly buried my face in my hands, peeking every once in a while to see if Hawthorne was turning blue in the face yet, or was peering over the music stand to look daggers at me.

He managed to get through it and live. I got a B for that assignment; had I not nearly killed a man with my writing, I might have gotten an A.

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