Dancing in The Pit

Warm summer night. Harvard Square. The Pit.

Thousands of memories begin here.

A few weeks ago, that’s where I was – along with about 100 others wishing The Pit farewell. This iconic hangout for punks, misfits, street people, and artists will soon be gone. Cambridge city officials plan to make the Pit into a plaza, destroying the visual reminder of what this place has meant to many for decades.

In response, The Pit’s people said goodbye in a celebration that included meaningful words, live music and dancing. The farewell party helped me think about why this space was important to me.

Gathering for some memories

I don’t remember the groove that made the woman in the rainbow dress sway in her seat on one of those long, stone benches that have seen so much. Watching her, my boyfriend and I started to dance, joined by a few others. Next, Introspective OG, a local breakdancer, busted some moves, riffed with a fellow breakdancer in the crowd who was about twice his age, and then included all who cared to join in a spontaneous dance lesson.

During the open dancing that followed, when New Order’s “True Faith” came on, many more hit “the floor,” where people had sat, skateboarded, danced, smoked, and jostled each other for many a day and night, all seasons, going back to 1982. Each danced alone, but we all felt the rhythm. The sweaty, shirtless, man with long, blond hair and eyes half closed. The dreadlocked woman with the friendly smile. Another young breakdancer, peer to Introspective OG. A stranger and I mouthed the words to each other. I raised my hands Heavenward. On the steps at the dancing’s edge, two young women smiled at the crowd. They reminded me of parents watching their kids play. Most of us in the dancing crowd could have been their parents.

Continue reading

Quincy Quarries

I had a magical experience on a recent, sunny day.

Here’s what I expected: an exciting afternoon as a passenger on my boyfriend’s racing motorcycle — feeling its pull underneath my thighs, the thrill of holding on so I don’t go splat on the street (which has gotten more thrilling, less overwhelming as time goes on).

What I didn’t expect: to walk into an enchanted land of bizarre, painted rocks, that I hadn’t known existed. This is the Quincy Quarries.

We had gotten lost – the recipe for anything interesting – and Akira suggested, “how about we go to that park we passed?” We left the bike in the lot and followed a small trail that cut through a sparse grove of trees surrounding various small boulders. Our first hint of the unusual was the painted slogans on some of these rocks: “Teachers Inspire” and “Die 4 My Bitch.” I still regret forgetting to take a couple’s selfie next to that one.

Continue reading

Here’s What I Can Do For You

Hello, friends,

I’m in the process of trying to publish a book. It’s a wild and wooly process. Actually, that metaphor doesn’t fit. Right now, it feels like I’m Cinderella, but I didn’t get to go to the Palace — that glittering Palace of writers with “platforms” who get published. Little by little, I’ll make my way, and my Fairy Godmother, to me, will take the form of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, friends, other writers, artists, family helping me, my mind and body blessedly being able to do what they need to do.

I’m reading about how to build a writing platform, and the first piece of advice was to find what you’re an expert in and start celebrating it. So, here we are! I present you with my areas of expertise. Glad to help.

Continue reading

Walking Through the Cemetery Listening to the Avett Brothers

Hello, friends, hello world. It’s been too long. I’m on a bit of a mission — to write more, and I guess, to keep it simple, maybe brief (ha!). More to the point, to be less afraid of thoughts in draft. To reflect on the day, the way I do in my journal, but little by little, to reflect more publicly — at least for now, one day at a time, in this season.

Here is one thing I got to do today: walk to work, through the Forest Hills Cemetery, with the cold bracing but not crippling, the sky smeared gently with clouds, my eyes watering, moving over the gravestones, bare branches and snow. While I was doing this, I was listening to “No Hard Feelings” by the Avett Brothers.

When the sun hangs low in the West/and the light in my chest/won’t be held at bay any longer/when the jealously fades away/and it’s ash and dust for cash and lust/and it’s just halleluiah…

It’s a song about death. It’s about letting go, and being unafraid to do so. I put it on a Spotify mix for my Dad. I hope he doesn’t get the wrong idea. I put it on there because I believe, or at least as I see it, he has few “hard feelings” toward people. He is often at peace with himself and others. Or at least, he’s getting there; he inspires me towards it. I’m getting there, not expecting to have achieved this while I’m on this earth, but it’s sure enough work to try for a lifetime.

I was imagining a film of the cemetery while the song played — just stone after stone, the camera panning over all the names. Some from the 1930s. Little children from the 1890s. Huge mausoleums with familiar-sounding names associated with brands or businesses. Ice covered the pond, and I was grateful for the stillness everywhere. The timing of these songs as they come up on my playlist gets me sometimes. What a perfect song to walk through the cemetery, you know? It was just time for it to play.

On the walk home, I listened to “Uptown Funk.” I had to turn if off to just listen to the silence, then I turned it up again. Of course, this is not a cemetery song. It works, though, if you are just passing through, putting one step in front of the other toward your future.

This morning, I wasn’t passing through in the same way. For a few moments, that song, that cemetery, were everything. I’m grateful for this mini-film in my own mind on a Thursday morning before work. I’m grateful for a tiny moment like this. I’m convinced there’s at least one to notice every day.

A Lonely Moment to Dream

I couldn’t take my eyes off Rusty dancing alone next to the little silver boom box, surrounded by beer bottles and cigarette butts. He swayed and shifted under a few bare trees at the top of a rocky beach in Collins Cove.

It was Saturday afternoon in Salem, almost a year ago – January 5, 2019. A light, misty rain fell, with an intermittent wind that slapped my wet pantlegs onto my skin, promising a dank and lasting cold long after I returned indoors.

A few feet behind Rusty, a chain link fence enclosed a set of imposing, white National Grid tanks. Beyond that, the shore continued and bent out of sight. A walkway lead to a park, houses, pizza joints. Across the cove, more tanks and houses lined the shore, windows and roofs scrunched together.

There was evidence of human life all around, but the only person I could see was him. Continue reading

Something You Can Do That Matches What You’re Saying

I wonder what Jalijah is up to now.

I met her a little more than a year ago at Vicente D’Oro barbershop in Dorchester, and from what I saw, her 18-year-old life appeared to be changing fast, pulsing with uncertainty and promise.

Is she still at Salem State? How was her summer? Did she dance? Does she still work at the movie theatre and get her hairstyle “lined out” at the barbershop on Saturday night?

Most importantly, what’s the state of her dreams? Continue reading

Wow, Thanks!

The next post is coming momentarily, but I just want to take this time to make a deep THANK YOU to all those who have begun following this blog in the past few months. I appreciate your support and please, if you have it, feedback in the form of comments! You encourage me to keep writing, which which I hope to continue, no matter how busy I get with whatever life throws my way. Lots of love and gratitude from me to you!

I Want to Be One of the People Inside

One of my favorite things to do when it’s dark is to look into the lighted windows of people’s homes.
Yes, that sounds totally creepy. I do not sneak up in the bushes.

But I’ve always been fascinated by dwellings that aren’t my own. Other places, other lives. When I look inside these little worlds during brief moments walking or driving by, I see comfort and contentment that doesn’t live within my own heart.

Blue television light flickers on walls dotted with family pictures. A person bends over a sink by the window of a glowing kitchen whose fresh wood cabinets I can almost smell. A Christmas tree silently illuminates an empty room after midnight.

As I pass by, I’m filled with fleeting curiosity and longing. Everything I see looks familiar, reminding me of my own experience, and at the same time, hauntingly out of reach.

Although it’s usually homes that have this effect on me, it was also true of the Vicente and d’Oro Barber Shop in Dorchester, whose window I passed in early spring almost a year ago. This is where I met Jalijah, a young woman who was getting her hair lined out on a Saturday night. Continue reading

I’m Just Getting There Fast As I Can, Same As You

It takes a certain kind of person to live in the woods on and off since 1998.

Jimmy has what it takes.

The first time I saw him, I was driving in Belmont, near McLean hospital, and there was a man, walking on the sidewalk, carrying his belongings on a bag tied to the end of a stick. Original hobo. I marveled and drove on.

The second time I saw him, it was on the bus. He wore mirrored shades. It was winter. Shorts exposed his bare calves, which were riddled with thick veins. His face was fuzzy with whiskers, wrinkles, chapped skin.

We exchanged a few words. Probably about the weather. I realized this was the same guy I had seen walking in Belmont. Not because of his stick, which I don’t think he had. Rather, it was the way he carried himself – slowly, as if trying not to fall apart. But steadily, too, like he couldn’t be broken. Continue reading

Searching for Healing

Matt makes me think of life’s unfairness, and the stories we like to hear about how people overcome it. Some people scrabble from hardship to emerge as high-profile success stories. They grasp onto their dreams and push their way out of the muck, with tears along the way. They arrive on mountaintops, finally admired, inspiring others with what they’ve overcome. These are the stories that get made into movies. The ones for which people are always hungry.

Then there are stories, like Matt’s, whose triumphs remain secret to most.

Matt is confined to a wheelchair. His hair is neatly combed, his eyes, behind glasses, a clear, light blue. His speech slurs, his neck bends towards his chest, so he has to turn his head carefully to focus on the listener. It looks like it hurts to get the words out.

He has wrestled demons, and doesn’t know where they come from – or if they travel by a different name – genetics, environmental poisoning, personality. He’s still searching for healing.

That search, and the One to whom it’s directed, are reasons enough to shout Matt’s journey from the mountaintops – however halting, however incomplete, however gradual it may be. His continued hope that he will feel better, the push of his mind toward wholeness, is his gift. This gift comes the way breath flows through the body, the way a heart beats without anyone being able to make it stop or start. Some days, you can argue with this gift, or try to ignore it. But it keeps coming back. You can’t measure its value. That’s why, however bleak things look on the outside, something in me quickens when Matt talks about what he wants most. Continue reading