It was 40 years ago today that I arrived in Boston in a white, right-hand drive post office van as Richard Nixon was departing Washington in a green Chinook Marine helicopter. At age 26 I was escaping a failed marriage while at age 61 Nixon was fleeing a disgraced presidency.
Like Nixon I hadn’t a plan or a job to speak of, and held no prospects. Unlike the dishonored ex-president I had nothing beyond the unalloyed confidence of youth and the unbounded belief of my generation that ours was a crossroads cohort, fated to a new set of values fostering brotherhood, unity and integrity.
It had taken me two days to drive the 1178 miles from my hometown of St. Louis, and as I pulled up in front of 61 Empire Street in the Allston section of Boston, the Allman Brothers hit Ramblin’ Man poured from my stereo like an ally of the warm summer sun.
My new home lay about a mile north of Harvard Square just a block off the Mass Turnpike. Up on the corner at North Harvard Street sat the Merit Gas station where I had worked part-time the previous fall to make ends meet while on a five-month visit. But this time I was here to stay, so no gas station work for me. Besides, the Arab oil embargo was in full swing, and the lines out the station sometimes stretched for blocks on end.
Now, as I turned off the sturdy slant-six motor of my reconverted van, my new roommate, Patrick, bounded down the stoop with a joint fired up.
“Hey, Reavis!” he said, extending the sweet-scented memory cleanser to me from behind a wide grin. “Welcome to Boston.” Continue reading