"We used to live out that way," Mrs. Birnbaum points out the driver's side window to a cluster of geometrical-looking rooftops, just north of Palo Alto. "Beautiful homes. We were the first owners, you know. The architect said he'd seen Simon perform once. We only had two or three years left on the mortgage payments. . . staying would have been too much of a risk, though. In the end it saved us a lot of misery."
Mr. Birnbaum gazes out the opposite window, transfixed by the passing scenery. He shudders, then leans over and flips open the glove compartment. Vigorously, he rummages through its contents and extracts a dull pencil. Reaching into his shirt pocket, Mr. Birnbaum takes out a small, black spiral notepad, and begins scribbling in one of the pages. Fierce sniffs and coughs are interrupt long periods of silence, save for the furious scraping of the pencil. Mrs. Birnbaum displays a quiet concern over her husband's behaviour, periodically glancing in his direction, but never asking any questions. For all intensive purposes, my colleagues and I follow her example.