WRITING #11 Boston Mass; a Cowpath Culture of Diversity
“…I think you’d like Boston” that familiar calm and cool voice was on the other end of the phone. Tied to the hip since Roosevelt Elementary, my best buddy Mike was painting a picture of “The Square,” that iconic Cambridge gathering place where Mass Ave meets John F Kennedy Street. A unique medley of coffeehouses, bookstores and small eateries line the sidewalks, and academics from nearby Harvard and MIT intermingle with street musicians, poets and performers. Sidewalk linguistics include that thick Yankee vernacular interspersed among a wide range of international dialects coming from a colorful pallet of skin colors. Home to dozens of colleges, Boston draws students from every corner of the planet.
“Isn’t it amazing, we are all made in God’s image, yet there is so much diversity among his people” — Desmond Tutu
“…yeah, maybe you’re right…” I murmured back. Mike had been accepted to Harvard’s Grad School of Education in Psychology. I was still in Minneapolis; a drummer without a band, an artist without a studio, and an art degree resume tie-dyed with a potpourri of construction gig experiences. What better time than now to dive deep into art with Boston providing that River Charles “Dirty Water.” So that was it. I packed up what few belongings I had into the back of my trusty, but aging Toyota pick-up, on-ramping to I-90-East. Madison, Chicago; Detroit and Cleveland, Buffalo to Bean -Town.
Mike was in a small grad school apartment, so I had to find my own shelter. Always one to lend a hand, Mike spread the word a fellow Minnesotan was pilgrimaging Eastward looking for a place to hang his hat. Within a few days I was on the phone with a new friend of Mike’s; he had a housemate moving out. Steve was another Harvard Psych student. Intelligent, charismatic and gay. A Baptist from Chattanooga, Tennessee, whose thick Southern drawl and infectious laugh welcomed me to move into a 3-bedroom house he was renting in the Newton neighborhood near Boston College. The 3rd member of the nest was an Irish Catholic carpenter direct from the Emerald Island; a Dubliner named Ian. His often sleep-over girlfriend hung at the house like one of the family. She was a New York City Jew, hailing from Manhatten’s Upper East Side. Yes, this white guy from the Midwest land of corn and soybean fields fit right in. The make-up of my house was a microcosm of the aforementioned and seemingly typical, eclectic mix of Boston student housing.
“We say the cows laid out Boston. Well, there are worse surveyors.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Arriving in Boston a week before the roommate lease was ready for transfer, I was forced to find an affordable place to stay for a few days. “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA” took on a different vibe than the Village People would have you believe. With all my prized possessions packed into the truck below the old brick high-rise “Y” on Huntington Ave, I found the $5.00 per night accommodations, affordable, but two-star at best. August in Boston is hot. Sleeping on a sheet-less mattress, windows wide open, and a communal shower down the hall, left me longing for that soon to be home sweet home in Newton. Feeding the meter every 4 hours, and living on those pizza-by-the slice places, I immersed myself in a new urban culture until move-in day next Monday.
Mass College of Art was just blocks away and that was my ultimate reason for the move. I mean rekindling the foolish shenanigans of hanging with my best friend launched the move, but I knew it was time to commit to something; to embark on a mission of building that childhood to art student curiosity into some semblance of a livelihood. So I used my transition time wisely and went in to enroll in the sculpture program; to start making art again.
If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.- JFK