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

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

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