chapter  13
14 Pages

Not Quite There

WithFelice Picano

During the 1960s and 1970s, it became commonplace, even cliché, to say of someone you didn’t quite understand that he or she was “far out” or “from outer space.” I certainly met more than my share of these folks, and indeed to some people, at times I myself was considered “out there” and “far out.” In fact, once our little urban commune was going on West 13th Street, our housemother-and drug dispenser-Margaret D., took to calling me “Philly, you’re so far out!” smushed all together like that, so that newcomers thought it was my name, and repeated the entire phrase addressing me until I managed to correct them. But I knew from far out myself, and among the very many far out people I met during this period, few compared to Bobby Brown. But rather than refer to Bobby as a space cadet or moonwalker as so many others did, I thought of him in terms, not so much of great distance, but instead of deficit, lack, or scarcity, in short, as “not quite there.” It was an inadequacy I recognized easily enough, while never precisely comprehending what it entailed. And despite probing, I never quite figured out how it had come about.