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He didn’t care about money, he said; he cared about being in something bigger than himself.He was a bookish, passionate, deeply neurotic Jewish intellectual…and he was a killer drummer. On tour, you live in a van and sleep on strangers’ floors. I quickly discovered Abe’s flaws, both small (his loud snoring) and big (his explosive temper). So when Abe offered to hook me up with a job teaching theater and music with him at a Jewish summer camp in New England, I jumped at the chance.* * * Abe picked me up from South Station Bus Terminal in Boston the morning we were to report to work. “I don’t get why comfortable shoes are an insult,” I said, closing my door. Where were the lush forests, the pristine brooks, the starry country nights?It had been a few weeks since we’d last seen each other, and today, he was in an unusually sunny mood. “I’m reading , and it’s changing my life.” He popped the trunk and pushed aside part of an electronic drum kit to make room for my bulging backpack. “Because a woman doesn’t want her shoes to look comfortable. Where were the mosquitos, the leeches, the one rotary phone all the campers line up to call home with? “We’ll see.” That night, I walked along the docks by Sunset Lake, the sizable body of water the camp was situated on.“Have they asked you anything about what I’ve been up to? Abe soon started speaking about his job as if it were a righteous crusade: As he saw it, he was a good shepherd for the brainwashed Jewish youth.Somewhere in the past week, Abe had come to view the camp as synonymous with organized religion, and it was his responsibility to guide the campers out of the darkness and into the bright light of critical thought and self-actualization.Even with my limited experience at the camp, I knew Abe’s paranoia was unfounded; the most Jewish thing about the place was the brief Hebrew songs the campers sung before each meal.In fact, as a non-practicing Jew myself, my only concern about originally accepting the job had been that I might spend the summer the sole nonbeliever in a sea of religious fanaticism.
Abe and I watched a basketball game in the TV lounge with the young counselors, and then headed out to the camp parking lot, a grassy field at the edge of the property, where we stood around with a bunch of teenagers and got high. * * * The whole thing happened fast — within a week or two — and by the time I figured out that Abe was losing his mind it was too late to do anything about it.Abe had assured me, only a few months prior, that the camp was secular and that that wouldn’t be the case. “I’m going to tell you something, but I need you not to tell anyone.” “Okay.” “Promise.” “I promise.” “I control whether or not the ball goes in the net,” he said.The conversation shifted again when he started talking about his magical powers. ” he asked me one afternoon as we sat on a bench in the main quad, watching some of the campers play a game of basketball. “I control it with my mind.” As he opened up to me more and more about his inner world, he became more and more insistent that I never mention it to anybody.I delighted in the idea of returning to a summer of my youth: swimming in ponds all day, sitting around bonfires, making new friends. And this summer they can’t afford to give me a raise?On the strength of Abe’s recommendation, I was hired to co-chair the music and theater departments at the camp. ” “Contract negotiations with this camp can be hard,” he continued as we pulled out of the station parking lot and into Boston traffic. We had been on the road less than an hour when we arrived at the camp.