Medford Village Currents (The New England Slack)
By Christopher J. Bradley
4/21/2003 7:19:08 PM (On the Eve Of The Completion Of The Boston
[a supermarket parking lot]
In a black Ford LTD
It is windy and hot
A summer afternoon in July
It breezes in pulses.
The goat dances on caffeine fumes
We speak to a cellist
She has long delicate arms
An MIT student with short blond hair
And a laptop also talks with us.
I would like to go home with either.
Scott finds the apartment folder.
He reads that a flute player is subletting.
[the steps of the pink house]
We meet the Jerry Garcia knockoff,
He is heavy, but willing to join us,
For a discussion of rental arrangements,
[the kendall square stop on the T]
It is six thirty,
Well after the rush,
The subway is clean,
It pulls away,
Leaving us to climb the stairs.
[the brewery with the overhead pipes]
Vested shorted ivy leaguers,
Are pulling from Yards,
We are in full swing,
With our humble pints,
Jefferson Airplane wails,
And the bar stool spins a little,
Keeping us able to walk,
Back into the night.
Ten Thirty P.M.
She is singing folk with an acoustic guitar box,
Open on the cement floor,
She has a little amplifier,
And a folding chair,
We ride the escalators,
And I make a note to tip her,
If I see her again.
Her voice echoes off the tiled wall.
[we move into the pink house]
It takes several trips from,
The LTD to the doorsteps,
Where we notice ants have invaded,
We have more homemade beer,
Around a dimly lit table,
The scrabble board is our centerpiece,
Late into the night.
We are getting cash advances,
And haggling with the tellers,
The sun is bright,
The wind is still whooshing,
There is a woman with a wind-burned face,
Power strolling up the street.
We are taking out pizza,
In paper bags,
This is Scott’s discovery,
And what a discovery! Eureka!
The oil, basil, and garlic,
Ferment among my taste-buds,
Sending wild sensations through my nostrils,
Of times dating back to the early eighties,
With grandmother at the malls.
We are here to buy the Globe,
It was a short drive from the pink house,
And I know tomorrow I will walk.
We take the paper this afternoon,
And walk a block not sure how we know its’ North,
To look in on a baseball diamond,
Where an all-star game is playing out,
Senior League kids game,
They are all wearing their own teams’ jerseys,
The coffee is just right,
Iced cappuccino melting against the bricks.
We are looking for groceries,
And now it is night,
The beautiful women are clubbing it in their clubs,
Or serving their coffee’s,
Tea Time has long since passed,
And the Tea is still blowing past us.
We buy Spaghetti Sauce, Pasta, and Vegetables,
Meat and Bread, A Half Gallon of Milk.
There is a half Hispanic girl at the check out,
We think, Purity, and wittingly try to impress her.
She is not impressed.
She would be even less impressed,
If we told her, that all we had between us,
Was a single mattress and two small rooms,
And a VCR, that played the only tape jammed into it,
A tape about getting jammed.
It is a long walk out to the parking lot,
Reflecting on her long dark hair,
Remembering a girl that looked like her when I was 15,
Who was a fantastic poetess,
In the glare of a television playing a vampire movie,
“Death by Stereo!” was the most important phrase for us,
And rather than have her show me the world,
I swept up glass,
And lost her in the pieces.
Until the engine started again,
And we were making our way back,
To the pink house.
[music and cigarettes]
The smoke traveled heavily,
In thick wafers of air candy,
Over the scrabble board,
While Dark Side of The Moon,
Played out over Wayne’s stereo,
And we learned that he was a technical writer,
And checked answers against his lexiconal dictionary.
We took the long walk,
Through Sommerville and Cambridge,
To visit Harvard Square,
After stopping for coffee at a Starbucks,
The first I’d ever spent time in.
[the au bon pain]
I walked into the store with the yellow awning,
And bought two Iced Cappuccino’s,
They came with far too much whipped cream,
And cost nearly four dollars each,
Expensive for 1995,
I came out to the Square,
To find Scott playing chess with David.
David was a Harvard student from over seas,
His clothing marked him an almost Boston Native,
But there was something more trim about his silk.
I spoke to him about how often he visited the square,
As Scott took a new partner,
Likely a park resident,
An older character in a wool coat,
And watched in awe as they battled,
Like Titans in the most famed,
Gladitorial arena of the chess sphere.
To this day I cannot recall the victor,
But the struggle, piece by piece,
Move by Move,
On the surface of granite,
Took on Epic consequence,
And I knew I would one day return.
[the snap café’]
David had told us of a Bohemian café,
Something more local than the Au Bon Pain,
A place with flavor, and style.
When we got there it was garage noir,
Thin, light metal chairs,
It was uncomfortable,
And we spent too much for single cups,
They required the purchase of a coffee every fifteen minutes.
It was like something I would have expected in Manhattan,
Something you don’t want to have to agree with,
People were wearing berets,
And they probably didn’t know the first thing about Kerouac,
Not that I did at the time either,
But I wasn’t pretentious enough to believe they would have paid a dime
For coffee in Styrofoam.
[the harvard book store]
We went in and took a look around,
It was crowded,
People pushed and shoved their way to the register,
Trying desperately to take home a piece of the Boston,
That they couldn’t have.
I remember looking at the Sweat-Shirts in the window,
And burning with envy at the emblazoned logo,
That I couldn’t afford to wear,
It was cool that night,
And we were making our way to the pub we’d seen earlier.
[the arrow pub]
Coming in made me feel like taking a coat off,
Funny that I wasn’t wearing one,
Scott was wearing a jacket and shoes,
Almost about right,
We were humans in a boiler room of pool and darts,
A place where talking to each other made more sense,
I could tell the women there were older and somehow immune to my
It was still corrupted from the memories of the Purity girl and
remembrances of Tammy,
And my fantasy video women.
So we sat and talked and watched the small television screens,
There was a Red Sox game playing out,
At that point having been blanked about baseball,
My skill in attention to it had died,
But there was always another pint,
Something to drown the missing parts of me,
That are only now merging into one.
The gates are closed,
But the Arrow Pub is open.
[the international house of pancakes]
We waited in line for almost an hour for a seat,
And the meter ran out on the car,
The food was ok,
Coffee, and pancakes,
But it wasn’t worth the twenty dollar fine,
That I had to mail in,
That fateful evening,
The lessons about taking a car downtown,
Can be endless,
And aren’t easily taken with a grain of salt.
The shops lining the inside of the square,
Serve food of all types,
I have been told by others,
That there is excellent Souvlaki there,
And I know for a fact,
That they have excellent sausage.
We walked through and it was like a mini-mall.
There were Equadorian pipe players in the cool wind,
Of a summer night in front of the Square,
That I watched,
As I finished my dinner,
And tipped change into a felt hat.
The girl from Buffalo,
Helped me set up and take a typing test,
On a small personal computer in the back,
She determined I wasn’t a quick typist,
But found me a mailroom job for 8.35 an hour anyway,
And I started work the next Monday.
I took the elevator to the 18th floor on Federal St.
And found the front desk secretary.
She had the keys to the mail room ready for me,
And handed me a voucher for a cab that had already been called,
It was my job to pick up the mail at the dock.
I took the elevator back down to the cab,
And glided through the streets,
Like a fish being driven,
And the mail was in a crate,
Ready to deliver.
The driver was patient with me,
And I gave him a five dollar tip.
I took the elevator and the envelopes up,
And entered the mailroom,
Where I was taught the sorting technique,
By the front desk second in command,
They instructed me on how to weigh postage,
And stamp on the mail machine,
And how to file the faxes in the log book,
And after a few days,
I thought I might have figured it out,
To the point where I was washing dishes,
And taking the payments for one of the Vice President’s cars,
To the garage across the park,
And stopping on the way,
For Au Bon Pain’
In the big central rotunda,
Ticket counters line the edges,
Interspersed with McDonalds,
And other Quick Food establishments,
The people flow like rodents,
Quick and furious,
Through the tunnels,
I made a deal,
And I’m there to buy a ticket,
One Way Greyhound.
[sitting on the bus]
I watch through the windows,
With the driver’s announcement,
That we should remain seated,
While the vehicle is in motion,
New England’s trees become a blur,
And my thoughts dream,
Back to the Purity waitress,
And my Grandmother’s Pizza,
And the sweatshirts in the bookstore window,
I begin to realize all that I will bring back to Medford.
I will bring back the computer,
And the shadow,
And the Juno keyboard,
And most of my compact disc library,
Then there are all the trees again.
And then I think of the people I will have to bring back,
And I try to listen to the radio,
But it is useless,
I have to pay attention to the stops,
Here and there along the way.
And the trees are powerful and strong,
Against the vivid light of day,
And then we are suddenly in the midst of Oak Street.
And the motion Vibrates in my temples,
And the transport comes to a temporary end.
[loading the car]
Rarely do I see,
Actual tears in my Mother’s eyes,
She stood on the porch,
As I loaded the computer, keyboard, and discs,
And a wide assortment of clothing,
Into the Shadow.
I made sure to check on the camera,
I had bought at the CVS in Boston,
In my backpack,
I kissed her,
And rolled from the gravel,
[black maple cruise]
The road wrangled up beneath me,
And as I traveled,
I spoke in silent thought,
To my life Icon,
The maple I climbed in my yard,
God in all his splendor,
Assured its rest there,
For my hands as a child,
For my legs as a teen,
For my shade as an adult,
To be my companion during desperate moments of hope.
And the rubber was firm against the blacktop,
And the Black Cherry Shadow angled forward,
Into the rising sun,
That blistered the eyes like a burning fire,
The day wore on and the birds and the pheasantry,
Scattered into the woodlands,
At the edge of the Interstate.
And the car was like the inside of a cranked up toaster oven,
And in the moments that I stopped for soda,
I reflected on the stiffness in my aching legs.
When the toll cards were finally paid,
I knew I was back,
In the place I belonged,
The Pink House in Medford.
[the beer mart]
I walked into the dark store,
And smelled the odor of old dry Beer,
Like the smell of,
The back room bottling department at Tops at home.
It suddenly came to mind,
That a good German beer,
Might be preferred,
By my housemates.
With the help of the shop keeper,
I settled on a nice twelve pack,
Of Grolsh bottles,
It cost roughly fifteen dollars,
And was a menace to carry,
So I loaded them into the front seat,
The green bottles rattled as I drove.
[scrabble in the evening]
When I arrived they were playing,
Duelists locked in fiery Battle,
The smoke wafting in the rafters,
The clean face facing the beard.
He was the Bunzee man,
Furiously laying letters,
In a desperate attempt,
To forego the inevitable gloom of defeat.
I offered them Grolsh,
But they concentrated on the home brew,
So I cracked one open,
And watched the fates collide.
[computer city saugus]
The bus dropped off,
On the side of the four lane highway,
Opposite the mall,
And I had to walk,
Across a long gated catwalk,
To finally achieve the retailer,
Where I went in and requested,
A full-time sales application.
I was dressed well,
But I was sweating in the summer afternoon,
The store was virtually empty.
The customer service clerk,
Took the completed application,
And told me to call back in a day or so.
I missed the last bus leaving the mall,
As it closed at four P.M.
So I ended up taking a Taxi,
Sharing it with a Puerto Rican woman,
And her baby,
For ten dollars flat.
[circuit city mystic avenue]
I filled out an application,
One sunny afternoon,
Thinking I had a shoe in,
Because of my tech background.
The manager interviewed me on the spot,
But at the end of the interview,
He asked the tough question,
“Have you ever had problems with drugs or alcohol.”
I told him the sorrowful truth,
And I was not hired,
To sell Televisions or Camcorders.
[the gillete agency]
I drove for miles and miles from Medford,
To a temp agency in Waltham,
Where I met a very upscale agent,
To discuss a potential opportunity for work with Gilette,
As a technical services representative.
It was an in-house operation,
On their internal computer network,
I was shown several diagrams,
And engineering schematics.
But I could not understand them,
Their illiteral detail,
Was not something I had ever seen before,
And so the trip,
Was an expense of fuel,
And yet another dashed hope.
[the last days of the green tomato]
Scott cooked the vegetables up right,
He made a stir fry without the pasta,
While I surfed the Y’s and Z’s of the dictionary,
And that’s when I discovered Yohimbe.
I did a song and dance,
It was the African mint root I had chewed,
In the midst of the Chemistry mayhem,
Of December 1993,
A courtesy gift from Mark Oliver,
The DJ that I gave a couple of extra Smart Drinks,
For his Twenty Dollars Canadian.
I was riding the back of the Zebra,
Through the breathing walls of acid and dry ice fume,
And it was seven letters.
So we made the rule,
That if anyone ever scored with Yohimbe,
Or even got it in their rack,
They became an automatic Scrabble victor.
Those vegetables tasted amazing,
On the earth-ware dishes in the pink house,
And the tomatoes,
Even the green ones,
Were ripe, and full of garlic salted juice.
[the mac world nomad spoilers arrive]
August had come,
Rent was due again,
And the Mac World Nomads knocked,
They startled the hell out of us.
He hadn’t told us they were coming,
Regardless of his reasons,
They were not welcome in my living space,
And they made themselves at home,
Unrolling their sleeping bags on the living room floor.
I had one beer with them,
Then I went to try to sleep,
But I deceived them.
I read all night,
At 5 A.M. I woke Scott in his room,
We packed the LTD and the Shadow,
And at daybreak,
Before their ratcheting eyes opened,
We were on the road,
[the tennis match]
Early on Sunday morning, one week after we arrived, I dressed as best I
could, and walked to the Methodist church between Davis Square and the
Pink House. I patiently signed my name into the guest book and sat down
to listen to the sermon. The minister was an African American woman,
the service held was for both Unitarian and Methodist parishioners. I
listened carefully as she talked about Agape and the unification of
spiritual and philosophical forces bringing peoples lives together. At
the time I don’t think I really saw the impact of how this would impact
me, but in retrospect, I can see that it was important. It is not just
important to me, but to anyone who has a friend or relative, and that
covers just about everyone in the world. Or at least you would hope it
does. I meditated and prayed on it for a moment, and asked God to help
me find the reason why I was here. I thought mostly about finding a way
to support myself and become part of a community other than the one I
had dealt with back home,
Not realizing, that no matter where you go, you can never really leave
home. Either home comes with you, or it finds you, or it Spirits you
away. Because today, home is the Earth, Earth is where you come from,
and Earth is where you will stay. Even the cosmonauts that lost their
lives in space return to the earth as ash. Yet visions like theirs are
eternal because they are made eternal through the motions of the papers
that sift through the air of the seaside, on you guessed it, Earth.
I asked around at church to see if I could enlist in any help finding
work in Boston, and I was nudged aside by most people, except for one
kind old woman who began asking others on my behalf. Many of them
suggested reading the help wanted ads, or looking to temporary
or the unemployment office. It appears that most good God fearing
are not the ones that have the power to instantly employ just anyone.
They work for people too and have careers to uphold and must keep to a
smart degree guarded from strangers or drifters who might upset their
ability to care for their own. This is understandable. So I took their
suggestions and worked at it a while but that all came later. The
important lesson is that drifting is something that you have to be
careful about, because even your own affiliations may not recognize you
when you journey to distant lands.
I will take you to the beginning of the tennis match. I spent a long
time walking back up the hill thinking about the sermon and the old
woman’s charitable speaking, and the coffee and cookies at church, and
was not particularly in wonderful spirits for sharing my thoughts of
the people I had encountered because I did believe that they genuinely
could have helped me if they had wanted to. And perhaps in a way they
When I channeled my energy and wisdom into relaying a message of
hopefulness in the last quarter mile, I found Scott waiting for me at
the door, with two rackets in hand. He told me to go and put on some
other clothes and come and play tennis. At first I wanted to decline
because I saw this as an energy sapping activity. After all, I had just
walked four blocks up hill and had a mission to talk to him about
motivation and overcoming obstacles. I thought he was just as depressed
as I made him out to be, and I thought that he had been reading things
that were necessarily prescriptions for depression. He was always
walking around with a book written by Jean Paul Sarte’ or Albert Camus.
It isn’t until now that I realize that philosophy, reason, and
metaphysics are all connected. In a spiritual sense, he must have been
working toward his own awakening of being. Just quietly, and in
considerately. And so I changed, thinking that it wasn’t going to do me
much good. After all, how can you give a sermon, if you are choking
your way after a green ball?
I played as well as I could, but I knew that I would never defeat him,
at a game he had grown up playing. So I struck the ball when I could,
and the energy flipped out of my hands and over the net into his court.
Every once in a while I would score a point, but it wasn’t often that I
would achieve love on my side of the score sheet. So I conceded that if
victory had to be his on this count, it would define it that he was
champion. But he was never overly smug about his game play. He simply
wanted me to remember that we played the game and had an opportunity to
enjoy an almost resort like living. Our house wasn’t even a block from
the court, and there was no charge to play. And the baseball games were
gratis, being a community sport, if we wanted to watch. So there was
something going on. But I couldn’t exactly see it at the time. Now I
think that I can say it without fear and without enmity from anyone.
The truth is, that agape and spirituality apply to everyone, and that
these mergences of common experience are not coincidence, but a part of
the nature of God working through nature. There can be love of a
spiritual kind among men, without the necessity of abomination or
contact. And so I say clearly, that in the tennis match of life, I
found Love for Scott, as a brother, and fellow human, and look toward
him as a good man to obtain knowledge from, or share knowledge with, or
even possibly find wisdom through.
Some might call this comradeship, I cannot attest specifically to this,
because I believe that communism is steeped in hatreds too old to be
viewed as plausible for a leading existence in modern social action. I
will call it only what it is. Love. Comradeship implies leadership in a
cause. And there is no cause, greater than that of the Son of God who
died for our sins, also named aptly, Love. I find brotherhood through
his suffering, and know that I too suffer, and that everyone who has
lived a day since Rome began to burn has suffered. And today, we are
still in the fires of that fallen Empire. We are also however in the
light of God, and through Love, as I would share with my Father, or My
Brothers, or my Sister, or my Mother, or any of my Aunts, Uncles, or
Cousins, we may all be healed again.
May we all have awakenings similar to games as great as these.