May in Boston: sunlight, flower blossoms, green shade. A Red Sox fan from Minnesota pays the T driver with a ten dollar bill. In Somerville, outside a 19th century Victorian painted moss green, five young men grill hot dogs and smoke marijuana from a small threaded piece of copper tubing. The kids staying for the summer pick up two, three jobs, wait tables, pour sangria on the patios, throw back 2 a.m. shift drinks. An actor friend gets work – and his SAG card – hand doubling for second unit photography in a Kevin Spacey film about blackjack. College students commence, in one way or another; they begin something different.
The city, though, stays the same. It has been raining for five days – one of those pitch-black nor’easters that sweep the city annually in the middle of May, forty degree caprice, ill will, fine mist that freezes midair. Joan Didion writes, in an essay about Los Angeles I’ll be quoting later to different ends, that New England winters determine how life is lived here: long, bitter, cold. Boston shivers the fuck out of itself six months out of the year, smokes cigarettes down to the filter, chokes down its drink and says too loudly it’s the best possible city on Earth, fuck anyone who says different. Blue laws, curfew, cost of living, racial divide and shoddy light rail aside. It’s a city you love like those aging couples who enjoy tearing into each other too much to get a divorce.
My father went to graduate school at Boston College in the 70s; back then, a bus ad gave comical directions to Hollywood in a way that encapsulates the city’s provincialism. It was a map of the United States, Boston bulging out front and center, the rest of the country reduced to an appendage the size of Florida. It read, approximately: Directions to California. Turn left onto Mass Pike. Take Mass Pike to Newton Center. Continue west.
And meanwhile, while the weather defeats my optimistic use of the word fecund and keeps me indoors, Emerson College, arts school for careerists, has graduated another senior class: goateed Spielberg-cap director; Midwest marketer/beauty pageant queen; Brazilian conga drummer cum film producer; Harvard-hopping French socialite; Jewish editor in black sedan; blonde Buddhist artist in handlebar mustache; Irish all-singing all-dancing revue; melancholy improvisatory comedian; lumberjack IT technician; actor recently fined for unarmed nighttime B&E; Croatian femme fatale; Jersey Model UN-type assistant director; poets, gaffers, film geeks, trash novelists, associate producers, news anchors, disc jockeys, and others too numerous to mention.
Most are fleeing this little city. Many are going to Los Angeles.
For them: good-bye, good luck, directions above.