Beantown Diaries

I’m in Boston.

As I tweeted upon my arrival:

I’m in Boston, tweeps.  Hello Harvard Square.  Hello Newbury Street.  Hello stomping grounds of my misspent youth.

Whenever I’m in town, I always find myself remembering all the crazy shit I did when I lived just an hour, exactly, from this place.

What? What’s that you say?  You want me to regale you with crazy tales of my crazy exploits in crazy Beantown, Boston Mass, birthplace of the nation?  Just a hop skip and a jump from Lynn, Lynn, city of sin?

Well.  Have yourself a seat, little buckaroo, and I’ll dangle a couple tasty morsels of high school chicanery in your general di-rection.

Like the time I was waiting in Harvard Square for my best friend Kim.  I was fresh out of my first month and a half at Syracuse, on my way home for Thanksgiving break.  I was mohawked.  I was purple haired.  I was disillusioned youth-ed.  I was so punk rock.  I was going to hang out in Boston with my friend Kim for a day before heading home.  I was 100% rebel.  I was also going to Syracuse University on partial scholarship as an aerospace engineering major.

Right.  So in retrospect, I suppose the Boston street kid task force didn’t pick up on the whole engineering student vibe.  I tried telling them I really didn’t need any clean needles or a place to stay, thanks.  But the sandwich wasn’t half bad.

Then there was the time I totally ditched work the summer before I left for college and Kim and I headed down to Boston for a night on the town with some other friend of hers.  We went to a goth club and were gothy.  We emo’d all night long.  I met a boy named Derrick who I fancied.  He was very pale and full of angst.  WINNER!  I pined over him for a week or two, despite never seeing him again.  I remember walking back to my car, about 2 miles away.  Kim and our other friend were fast walkers, and sorta left me behind.  Drunk, you know.  So, I was walking down Comm(onwealth) Ave, at about 3am, essentially by myself.  I had my knife out, in my hand.  Ready.  Because I was not alone…and it was dark…and not well lit…and not a good part of town.  Plus, there’s the whole I’m-a-total-badass thing.

I also discovered Clannad that weekend.  Still, my favorite Irish band EVAR.  Maire Brennan is the shit.  Makes her sister Enya sound like a walrus needing an epinephrine shot.  (Total exaggeration there, in case you were wondering.  Enya is fab.  Just, her sister is More Fab.)

And of course there was the day I skipped school and Kim and I and a couple others (Kim was quite the bad influence on me, wasn’t she?  Wish I could find her 😛 ) We hung out on Newbury street generally being nuisances and having just a grand time being Not At School.  Being Not At School makes everything more fun.  It’s like…cinnamon.  With cherries on top, and a dollop of homemade whipped cream.

Now I’m here to visit my new nephew.  See my baby brother as a father for the first time.  Meet my sister-in-law’s parents, who are visiting from Brazil.  That makes them my inlaws, right?  Right?  Because I kinda like them.  Can I keep ’em?  I foresee a trip to Brazil in my future.  Who knows, maybe I won’t come back.

Anything’s possible.


Just look at everything that started in this little colonial town.

But I do miss Portland.

And my dog.

Fond memories of the far right coast – continued…

Read the first part first

Alrighty then, where were we? Ah, yes…I had just discovered the ‘transitional housing’ by the train station. I ended up only staying there one night, thankfully – those cots weren’t that comfortable. Everyone that stays there has to do some sort of an intake interview with someone who works there, and I was no exception. When they found out I was under 21, they told me that there was a youth shelter on the other side of downtown. (I had, by this point, discovered that Portland was not really a ‘quaint little town’, but an actual city, and a fairly nice one at that.) They said I could stay there that night, but I should head over there the next day.

There were lots of people staying at this shelter. Many of them were kinda scary. Some of them seemed really nice though, just down on their luck – much like myself. One in particular I found to be somewhat interesting, as he carried a guitar around with him. I, of course, decided to strike up a conversation with him. I was an artiste, you remember. So we got to talking. I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but I’ll never forget the things he told me. He showed me around town a bit, bought me (a very meager) lunch, and was just generally terrifically nice to me. We both layed out our life stories, or particularly the part of our lives that brought us to our shared situation. He was quite a bit older than me, probably in his mid to late 30’s. It’s amazing how quickly you form bonds with people when your circumstances are less than desirable.

When I had told him how I ended up homeless in a strange town, and that I was going to head to West Virginia, he told me something I’ll never forget:

“So you’re just going to run away again?”

I remember that that statement hit me like a brick in the gut. I’d never looked at my actions in that light, but once that light came on, it blinded me. That’s exactly what I was doing. Running away from my responsibilities, running away from facing not just the things I had to do, but facing my life. It was past time that I took control of my life, and made it happen, instead of just going with wherever it took me.

He also said to me “You know, Portland isn’t such a bad place. It’s a good place to make a stand, to start your life, to make things happen for you.”

So I did. It took me a while, but I did it. I made my stand, and I named Portland my home. There were times when I almost moved away, went back home, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I love this place, and the experiences I’ve had here – good and bad. And right now, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

Fond memories of the far right coast

There are a few constants in my conversational life:

  1. I will get asked if my hair is naturally curly, and when I answer yes, the response will be various levels of envy which I do not understand in the least
  2. If the fact comes up that I was born in New York, I will get asked how I came to be out on the left coast.

So here goes. Once and for all, for posterity’s sake…here is The Story.

The year is 1989 and I was living in Syracuse, NY, after a miserable bout of trying to go to college. I was working for the Syracuse University Parking and Transportation department, a job laden with possibilities, all of which end up with me being sub-poverty level. My friend, co-worker and roommate, Judy, her friend Al, and I were all hanging out outside our apartment one day around October, bemoaning our circumstances. We were all three of us obviously meant for much more than this, we decided. And we all knew that Syracuse is the armpit of NY State, so that is certainly no place for such gifted young artistes as ourselves.

What to do, what to do. We decided that Out West was the place for us. And wouldn’t you know, Judy’s parents lived in Vancouver Washington, just a hop over the river from the quaint little town of Portland, where we could certainly find some work. From there, it was just a few miles down the coast to San Francisco, and on to Los Angeles, where our gifts and talents would surely be appreciated.

That was the plan, in a nutshell. Judy would leave for her parents house and grease the wheels. I would go home, say my goodbyes, and meet her after Christmas in Vancouver. We’d stay with her parents until we could find a place in Portland; by then Al would have finished his schooling up and would come out by bus. From there, we’d continue to work until we had enough money to head down to San Fran or LA. What we did at that point I don’t think we really considered, but what the hell, it was a big city with big city life and big city prospects. And the streets would be lined with gold.

It was all going according to our plans….until Judy and Al started getting a little cozy in the one bedroom hovel we were sharing. I was completely repressing the issues of my sexuality, despite the fact that I had already dated the same sex once. I wrote it off to the probability that I was bisexual. But when my jealousy of Judy and Al’s growing relationship started to cramp their style, they kicked me out. Boy was that ugly. They wouldn’t let me take half of my stuff. That guy Al could be damn intimidating.

So, let’s analyze the situation. I had no job, no money, no friends or family and no place to stay in a strange town. Pretty bleak outlook, to say the least. So I hailed a cab back to the train station, the only other place in Portland I knew, where I could collect my thoughts and figure out my next steps. Of course I had no money to pay the cab driver, and to her credit she didn’t press charges or beat me up when I started crying over the fact that I couldn’t pay for the trip. (yeah I do that sometimes :P)

I called a friend of mine back in Syracuse. He happened to be going to college in West Virginia, being one of those few people I met who actually *live* in Syracuse. A wonderful man, he set me up with a job, a place to stay with him back in WV, and he wired me some cash for food. Since my train ticket was round trip, I talked the Amtrak people into letting me go to WV instead of back to Boston, and I figured things would work themselves out. I checked my luggage at the station so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. The only problem left was the train didn’t leave for about 3 days. I had to find a place to stay.

So I figured I’d hang out in the train station, maybe hide out in the bathroom and sleep there at night. That didn’t pan out, since I didn’t count on the security being as efficient as they were, so I faced sleeping outside. Yep, it happened, I slept in a parking lot. For maybe a few hours at least. I couldn’t handle that for very long, and I just started walking around. I ran into these obvious heroin junkies who were very nice to me, and informed me of the homeless shelter just around the corner. So without any delay I made a beeline for there, and got to sleep inside in a cot. Yay!

To Be Continued….