After my husband died, I needed to get away from everything that held onto his memory. So, I moved in with my recently widowed mother in NH, (Dad died 2 weeks after my husband) I thought we could grieve and heal together, imagine my surprise when my entire family told me I was too sad and depressing! Granted, my Grandmother did assure me that no one in our family was ever widowed so young and maybe I should take up knitting and embrace a solitary life…
Uh, no… I moved lickety-split south to Boston. I considered moving back to the DC area to be near my friends but I needed a fresh start. After living in the DC area, Boston was a pleasant surprise. Everywhere I lived, I was never at home, until Boston.
I am too odd, people can’t accept the whole package, so my friends were always compartmentalized. Some accepted me as an artist, others as a published poet, rarely anyone accepted me as a former Marine and some embraced me as a lab rat researcher. But, in Boston, everyone seemed to wear three or more hats.
The close group of five or six dog friends I met up with in Ringer Park each morning consisted of musician/carpenters, partying house painters, a celtic tattooed AIDs activist/social worker, a foodie MBA student and the graphic artist temp guy who everyone lusted after. No one gave a shit about who you voted for or what religion you hung your hat on. That didn’t mean you weren’t political or religious, it meant your differences made for excellent sleepy-eyed morning debates over large Dunkin Donut coffees.
And if a mistake-date started stalking you, there were people who had your back! In Boston, I could be me, I knew I could pick up the phone and call three dog park friends if I needed an emergency dog sitter. And if there was no one I could reach, the comfort of strangers took your breath away. I have never known a place that embraced diversity better and more honestly. No, an Irish Southie Senior isn’t going to march in the Gay Pride parade any more than an Orthodox Jew will eat lobster at Legal Seafood but they don’t argued with you or try to force their beliefs on you. And they will stop to help you even if they disagree with something about you, kinda like a big dysfunctional family!
I have a few memories of Boston to share that kind of personify the place for me, from me, to you:
I managed a cancer lab in the 90s and learned I needed fibroid surgery, or as the dippy Dr said: “Kinda like a Ceasarian without the baby!” On day three, thanks to my HMO, they pried the morphine machine from my locked fingers and told me to go home… earlier that day I was told I wasn’t going home, so my family stayed in NH. And I didn’t have a ride home. There I was, suddenly on the sidewalk, drooling and drugged, in terrible pain and waiting for a taxi. When we got to my apartment, the Ethiopian taxi driver scooped me up into his arms and carried me into my apartment, put me in bed and made sure I had a glass of water and the phone before he left. I’ll never forget that taxi driver! He placed his large cool palm on my forehead and prayed over me “the poor lady, the poor lonely lady”. Later that night a friend rushed over to lock my door and fill my pain prescription.
Then there was Joey and his big German Shepard. Joey could only be described as high voltage Italian testosterone on two very long legs. He had been shot in the head as a teenager while playing basketball in the projects, his dog was a seeing eye dog. It’s a good thing Joey was blind, so he didn’t see us all drooling. One day Joey staggered up to the bench where I sat watching Gracey. He had blood pouring down his face and asked if anyone was there. I told him I was and he said “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Thank God you’re here, some bastard just smacked me in the head!” I asked if he needed me to call the police or an ambulance? He said no, but could I maybe walk back with him and see if we can find the guy. He told me that the same bastard had been hitting him in the head for about a week as he walked into the park.
All I saw were three elderly Russian woman hugging a tree and crying. (A story for another time) So, we started down the path and suddenly from behind me I heard a clunk, yelp and crash. I turned around and there was Joey laid out on the ground, calling out for me and asking if I was okay. He was more concerned for me than himself! I tried to answer but I was trying too hard not to laugh.
It was a low branch, but only low on one spot over the right side of the side-walk, so he would got clonked walking in but not walking out! Joey was well over 6 feet tall and I was barely over five and his dog was shorter yet. When I helped Joey up and guided his hand to the branch, we laughed and laughed till tears ran down our faces and our sides hurt. I called the City Parks Dept on my cell phone and they arrived within minutes and took down the branch. They good had a good laugh too, punching Joey in the arm (guy thing) and the men all went off for a beer with Joey.
It’s really hard to live in a large city and escape getting robbed, but oddly I find it far more common an experience in the rural south! Anyway, back to Boston. I tore my knee-parts roller blading on the Esplanade. I was on crutches and wearing an inflatable full leg cast and in a foul, cranky mood. On this particular day, I was returning from the doctor, high on pain meds and ready to crawl into bed with my rescue greyhound, Gracey. But, when I unlocked my door, it was locked from the inside! I couldn’t open it all the way, the chain was on! My dog’s long neck was sticking out and she was screaming. I thought she’d put the chain on the door and I started yelling at her to unlock it (pain killers, remember?) Finally, I hit the door with my shoulder and learned that those chains are worthless! Inside, I noticed things were missing and then I put 1+1+1 together and got 3!
OMG, I was robbed! I picked up my bedroom phone to call the police but it kept hanging up. Then I realized with all the horror of a horror movie starlet: He was in the apartment!
I put on Gracey’s leash and hobbled out across the hallway to my Vietnamese neighbor’s apartment, I asked to use her phone. She handed me the phone and I turned to see Gracey in their living room cleaning out a row of bowls filled with carefully slice meats and veg for their supper. The wife must have been preparing dinner on the floor watching soaps… The Chinese delivery guy brought her family a feast that night -with my apologies.
The Boston Police were there within three minutes and they chased but eventually lost the thief. Later, they took fingerprints and photos, while I sat on my bed giving my statement –which I think went something like this:
“OMG! I am so high! I hurt my knee, It’s okay these are prescription drugs but I am still sooo high! Those door chains suck! Did you know my dog can work a door chain? I think I’ve been robbed. My dog ate the Vietnamese lady’s dinner. I am so high! OMG but in a legal way! I got robbed!”
The police were very kind and offered to keep an extra eye on my building, since I was so high but in a legal way. Which is typical Boston smart-ass, but re-assuring because it’s done in a way that makes you think you have a city full of big brothers.
I lived in Boston for ten years and hated leaving. But I left due to my favorite Boston memory. The night I called the police about the party upstairs. I called three times and finally the police showed up at 3:30am! I was pissed, I had to work the next morning! The guys upstairs came down the next night and apologized. They were three BU art students… one kept showing up within minutes of the Chinese Food delivery guy leaving and I started ordering two dinners -I swear to god he looked like the Edge from U2. I seriously lusted after the guy and we became best friends, confidants and painters of the Big Dig. We’d dray easels and paints to the edge of the hole on Sunday mornings and paint urban guts landscapes and eventually after a few years the inevitable and now fifteen years later my husband.
And so many memories of Patriot’s Day and the Marathon. On patriot’s day everyone is happy, mostly everyone gets the day off, we get an extra day to do our taxes, which aren’t due into the 16th, there is the Boston Marathon and its local heroes. The leaves are budding tulips are open and trees flowering. It’s a family friendly place too, lots of parks and things to do. You can feel the history.
Boston is a place where it is just not possible to be lonely or bored. There is something for everyone and the people are great! People actually care, they might be smartass about it -they’ll tell you if you are an idiot but it feels more family. I was not surprised but proud that people today are commenting that many people ran towards and not away from the bombs -that typifies Boston. Boston has survived many disasters, battles and now this cowardly evil act. Dumb-ass terrorist cowards, you will only make Boston stronger and bring people closer!
So, thank you Boston for healing my grief, setting me back on the path of creativity and big thanks for the new husband! I am sending you barrels of prayers and hope my tears wash away your pain. This post may seem like a typical response to yesterday’s tragedy, it is my way of dealing with it. PTSD and depression can make it difficult to continue day-to-day after a jarring tragedy. My way to keep going and to deal with the surreal suffering is to remember the strength and courage and kindness I saw daily for ten years in Boston. I know the city will be stronger for its suffering, it will not dwell on the past or wear today like a shawl of suffering. Bostonians will stand tall and prove survival and keeping true to themselves is the best revenge.