The song came to mind on Saturday as I walked the familiar, circuitous Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, but not until I had walked the bricks and walked into too many crimson crested humans.
Well it was in the melt of Spring vacation for many schools in the northern climes. And there are many aspiring to be of the crimson club, and many getting lost. So I find the store that still is there and still sells vinyl records, which amuses me, and is another story for another time. So I come out of the Garage, and see a family under shelter from the spitting, mist and lost.
“Do you need help?” I offer and through their get along English and my total lack of Polish we manage to connect. The map helped. The mother was born in Jamaica Plain and they were confused on how to the there from Harvard Square. Well that was fun and easy as this had been my route home when I lived in the area. The fact that the T is color coordinated makes it clear yet the old school direction “inbound” and “outbound” are useless in contemporary Boston. Off they went smiling and thank you. I continued my walk.
Hoping to be delighted as I took the purposeful meander. I have gone to Boston many times since moving to Austin, Texas. However I have avoided this place for a few years for it stirs happy memories of being with my son. It is enough to say, we are estranged and this was to be a re-taking. I walked past building where food was good but now owned by the University. I saw that Schoenhof’s was closed and mourned the empty bookstore. The delightful, odd building that was used books, re-purposed. And as I made my way up toward the remaining bookstore in the area that held more bookstores than any other place in the nation had only one.
If it’s springtime in New England then it is mulch time in New England, or at least in the Metro Boston area. My head thinks New England Flower Show. My nose says manure and pine bark. My eyes water at the dark brown crap, asthma threatens with weaze. My feet walk faster for scent is memory faster than taste and it rips a band-aide off my healing soul, commanding my entire self, ‘don’t. remember. Now. Go. Moving with a required city stride and once again the rude Yankee I am, making my way past Crimson gawkers for when I get to Mass Ave, I will smell diesel. Ubiquitous city scent.
The Bookstore. Ah it smells good. It is a constant. I am greeted by books by friends, living and deceased. I am delighted. I skim off one layer and stuff it down my satchel. I touch the face on a book jacket. I go to poetry to see who is there. I go downstairs to the used and remainders. I make the mistake of talking to the human behind the counter who I guess either manages or owns it. I don’t know but I am greeted with condescension. And sadly he doesn’t know the book right in front of him won the Pulitzer for History.
He’s the kind of person that at one time would have had me out the door and down the street to Wordsworth but that store closed many years ago. This is the only bookstore in Harvard Square. I do buy two books, that I couldn’t get at the Austin Public Library nor The Book Store in Austin. He’s been to The Book Store. And he does that thing people do when confronted with a difference of opinion. . . “OH but I LOVE So and So” when I say I rarely shop there because the selection is limited and it’s where the worst traffic in Austin happens. Shrug. I only go there to buy books for kids. Austin is a city of over a million people now and while you can hear world class music and you can eat at world class restaurants, there is ONE independent bookstore, and small women’s bookstore. . .then Barns and Noble, one north, one south, in well to do neighborhoods. (Dear Austin readers, don’t even start on Half Price.)
I leave the store, wander around some more. Watch tourists cross Mass Ave without a crosswalk, I thought it was going to be a pity to see her cashmere hit by the bus. The same man is still selling “Spare Change”, a news paper sold and written by the homeless. He used to have more of a spiel. I give directions again, this time, the question was: “Where is Harvard” and I smile and I point: “There. There. There. . .but what I think you want is right across the street at that crosswalk.” Giggles and smiles and Danke makes me smile.
I get a sandwich to take back to the hotel room to eat. I’m emotionally spent which get me on the train going outbound when I wanted Inbound and then I get off a stop too early. . .sigh. I no longer love it and I’m pissed because I wanted to. I’m from here but I don’t belong here.