Sunday, May 6, 2012

Boston, Sunday Morning

Sitting in a Starbucks across from the Parker House, reading a story by Ann Hood, I tried to keep a man’s voice from interrupting fiction’s dream. But his voice was strong. Insistent. I glanced to my right. Two men, street people, poring over a crossword puzzle, the man with the strong voice, leaning into the table, his long stringy unwashed gray hair, streaming. He wore jeans, a thin tee shirt, an undershirt, really. 
“I can’t remember how to spell palest or pale,” the man opposite him says. He’s younger, with reddish hair, glasses, wearing a long sleeved flannel shirt.
            “P-a-l-e-s-t,” the older man says.
            “Palest. Is that what you’re saying?” the younger man says.
             As I listened, I kept my eyes focused on the scene outside the window wall, the garden of the Old City Hall where azalea as white as snow bloomed, profusely. Rising from the garden a statue of one of history’s giants. Later, I learned he was Josiah Quincy who lived from 1772 to 1864, a long life. Josiah Quincy was a member of the Massachusetts Senate, of Congress, a municipal court judge, mayor of Boston, president of Harvard.
            “I can’t continue with the this,” the younger man said. Glancing over, I saw that he had pushed himself back from the table. “Want to take it over to the park?”
            And I wondered on this particular visit to Boson, how many times I'd  walked past these men as I crossed The Common, head high, eyes erasing their humanity? Now, as they walked past my table, the older man, shouldering his dirty back pack, the younger man following, I lowered my gaze, hopefully, a gesture of respect.  


  1. I spent one summer in Boston, then visited often after my wife and children moved to Concord. I could have written about a dozen incidents every day. Your piece reminded me of a cafe in Cambridge one gloomy Sunday morning, me trying to ignore a loud local yelling over and over again, "Hey, Michigan!" calling attention to my sweat shirt, as I tried to think of how far I had come from Michigan. Then driving down to Cape Cod wearing a blue and yellow t-shirt, Michigan colors, with a Harvard logo and the words "Harvard -- Michigan of the East," and an old woman who did not understand the irony staring at me and being impressed enough to say "I didn't know that." You're right. You walk past a thousand stories, or you stand or sit and they walk past you.

  2. Perfect post, Sandell I too think about how often I erase someone's humanity because he or she drew a shorter stick in life than I did. There but for the Grace of God go all of us.

  3. It's strange to think that one might overlook a once literary giant merely because circumstances have reduced him as a person. Maybe doing the crossword puzzles is an indication of a personal comeback or a refusal to admit defeat.

  4. Thanks, both Judy and David for your comments. Both so insightful.


  5. And Ken, I love it when story generates story. Thank you.


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