Monday, May 28, 2012

Harvard, 1982

The view from my friend's dorm room

It's Memorial Day today in the States (hope you're having a great day if you're celebrating it) and I've realized in thinking about Memorial Days and Victoria Days of yore that it was exactly 30 years ago this past week that I took my only trip to Boston to visit a friend who was finishing up at Harvard by the name of John Rose. 30 years ago today I was sitting in a repertory theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts watching the Bogie and Bacall classic, To Have and Have Not for the first time. My girlfriend, Jeanette, and I had just bought a brand-new Civic - my first car - and I had turned 21 only a week earlier. John was writing his finals around that time but he assured us we could crash in his dorm and it wouldn't get in his way (because he is a super-genius). New car, legal drinking age, free lodging: sign me up!

I loved this facade being kept alive
So sometime around twilight on Victoria Day, May 24, 1982, Jeanette, Stephe Yorke (whom you may remember from earlier blog posts on music and mothers) and I piled into the Civic and took off for the Mass 'Pike. J and I split the driving a little but I did the bulk of it as we drove through the night to Boston. We had allowed 10-11 hours for the trip, expecting to get there in time for an early breakfast with John; we made it in about 8 1/2 because I had quite a lead foot in my youth. If memory serves, we arrived in front of John's dorm about 4:30 in the morning and had to wake him up to let us in. I have heard the drive from Boston to Harvard across the Charles River is really quite pretty; we came and went in nearly total darkness so I really cannot offer any opinion on that. What I remember mostly is that we made it there without getting lost once; and that there was absolutely no place to park when we arrived that didn't cost about a month's salary per hour to use. Street parking overnight (which is when we arrived) was a no-go and apparently policed quite heavily, judging from the inordinate number of "Denver Boots" we saw on the cars around the dorms. (I had no idea that's what they were called until John told me, having never seen them before. They were everywhere in Boston in the spring of 1982.) I honestly have no idea where we ended up parking that night or the rest of the time we were there, but we managed to do it "boot-free" and without having to give up a kidney. We must have been pretty creative, I think.

Charles River in more modern times
Harvard was beautiful, as was the city of Boston itself. The campus is absolutely stunning and I would love to see it in the fall. The Charles River is quite charming; there was a sort of "Main Street" arrangement upon just entering Cambridge from Harvard where there were cafes, pubs, bookstores, restaurants and I think even a branch store of the "Harvard Coop" where you could buy logo-emblazoned memorabilia, but my memory is fuzzy there. I do remember having my first margarita on a patio in Cambridge; I know I also had my second there but I don't remember it nearly as well. I didn't spend a lot of time in Cambridge; my friends and I really wanted to see Boston and John was too busy early on to hang out with us in any event.

Fenway Park, with Pesky's Pole prominently featured
He wasn't too busy to take me to Fenway Park, though. He managed to score a couple of tickets to see the Red Sox play the California Angels the first night we were there (Jeanette and Stephe went off to find their own fun). Had a popular team been playing the week I was visiting I likely never would have made it to Fenway at all, but thank goodness I did. Even 30 years ago it was decrepit, foul-smelling, cramped, unsanitary, everything you'd expect in a stadium that had already been open for 70 years that summer. But once you got to your seat, it was truly an otherworldly experience. The Green Monster - which I cleverly avoided taking any pictures of, apparently - is even bigger in person than it appears on television. The odd shape of the outfield fences - which I did get a picture of - is hilarious. The game took place practically in our laps even though we were well down the left-field line and about halfway up the stands from the field, narrowly avoiding sitting directly behind a roof support column. But all of that took a backseat to the colour. Everything - everything - was green: and not just an everyday, run-of-the-mill green, either. The shades of green in Fenway were the deepest, most luxurious greens I had ever seen in my life. Even the grass looked as if it couldn't possibly be real. The experience was one I will never forget, even if the game itself was a dud. California won 10-2 and the thing that I recall the most about it was watching former Expo Tim Foli hit a homer that curved around "Pesky's Pole" in right field, traveling maybe 303 feet in total from the plate. I think in all my years as an Expo fan I saw Foli hit maybe two homers on television (he totalled only 11 for Montreal); in my only visit to Fenway I saw him hit one in person. I thought this was hilarious.

My friends and I had a terrific time in Boston while John was studying or writing finals. We visited Faneuil Hall, we saw Logan airport which juts out into the waters of Massachusetts Bay, we spent some time at Beacon Hill. Boston is quite a beautiful city, or at least it was in 1982 to be sure. We also saw Chariots of Fire at a theatre downtown; I remember both how wonderful that movie is and how huge the theatre seats were: about 1.5 times the size of the ones I was used to in Toronto. That memory really stands out.

And then on the Thursday, the day before it would be overrun with people for the rest of the summer as Memorial Day weekend began, we visited Cape Cod. We drove nearly all the way up to Provincetown, driving a little past Truro and then heading west to Cape Cod Bay. It was a gorgeous day and we spent a couple of hours hanging out on the completely deserted beaches, all of the summer homes which looked down on us still being boarded up for the winter just past. My pictures of that trip, of that day especially, are beginning to fade now, but here are the four of us on the beach, playing a little paddleball with the "Hebrew Paddles" John had brought along and strolling some of the miles of sand.

Grumpy P, the early years
John Rose and that magnificent beard

Stephe Yorke not interested in posing
Jeanette Mathe off strolling the dunes

My dad used to make the trip to "The Cape" several times a year, driving down from Montreal in his MGB. He would have been about the same age as we were in those pictures. Looking at them is conflicting: on the one hand, I can't believe we were ever that young; on the other, I still feel like that 21-year-old inside. But this remains my only visit to Boston; I'd love to get back there some day.


  1. Do these things! They'll cheer you up no end! As you (probably) know, my sister and her fam live in a suburb of Boston. We get down there three or four times a year. What a great city! (But don't get me started on how we looked back then ...)

    1. Ha! I have other pictures that I fully expect will "show up" on this blog at some point, likely of their own volition. I can't imagine who might be in them...

  2. That pic of you is so 1982! Funnily enough, I went to Boston on a Scarborough Schools Symphony trip in 1982 and also saw Harvard. I like Boston and have been there a few times. Go back!

    1. This world gets smaller and smaller. I sang in the Scarborough Youth Choir not long before that. I wonder if we crossed paths back then....?


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