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Running Away with the Gypsies

10/25/2010

Professor Mike Fink has taught at RISD since 1957.

My cobblestone dead-end driveway is not along RISD’s fashionable Benefit Street. Yet somehow the architect and RISD alum who shares this common alley with me has joined at the hip my worlds of homestead and school office, or, rather, salon/studio.   

Ed Neubauer BArch 92, who also teaches at RISD from time to time, once worked with his students to craft the steel staircase with the cheerfully painted wood balustrades that leads by way of RISD’s Orpheus fountain from Frazier Terrace to Waterman Street. 

But back to my current report on Ed, my next-door-nik, and what he has come to symbolize for me, an English teacher. I don’t recall how or why he rolled an enormous hull of a sailboat to the cobblestone harbor. It has simply been there through deluge and flood, blizzard and heat wave. There is a Noah-in-the-Bible or a Hollywood-backlot-fantasy-never-never-land quality about this out-of-scale Ark beached in patience and faith outside our respective homes.   

But that’s not all. This summer there appeared a gypsy caravan wagon that Ed purchased, fixed, painted and attached to a black convertible for a summer's cross-country trek with his wife, daughter, dog—and my blessings. But why does this fascinate me so?   

My mother was born in Romania, the land of the most marvelous gypsy music. I feel a romantic, sentimental, lifelong attachment to the idea of the gypsies. The Ink Spots sang of their “quaint” wisdom. Victor Young composed lyrics about their magical, mystical earrings. I long to run away with the gypsies—from my house and yard, my hometown, myself.  

Or at least I like to pretend I long to run away. Actually, I love to stay put. So there you have it. Ed has made my wide world a narrow strip of stones. Should a hurricane hit us hard, I suppose I could climb aboard and sail away (or roll away). Or he could take my dreams on his own voyage of the absurd and leave me to my own devices—at least until September, when school begins again and he’s back to help me rake.  


tags: Architecture, alumni, English, Literary Arts + Studies

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At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.