the guy at the Y

Where ever you go, there you are! -Buckeroo Bonzai

Location: Dorchester, Massachusetts, United States

Monday, October 31, 2005

Where Ever You Go, There You Are!

The words of Buckaroo Banzai were never more true than when I lived at the YMCA in Central Square. Cambridge. There were some quite extraordinary people there. Some of them had AIDS. They lived there while they were too sick to live on their own, but they were still able to do some things for themselves. Sometimes I would see them moving out. Sometimes they just disappeared. They went somewhere else to die. My truly graphic story is about someone distressed in a different way.

I was there because the real estate lobby spent $1,000,000 to end rent control. Some of it came from Harvard. 50,000 tenants spent $160,000. I lived on Forest St a 10 minute walk north of Harvard. I could just afford it on my student/casual job at Harvard. [The receptionist at UPS would not even connect me to personnel.] If I got some freelance work, maybe I could save for retirement. I had been homeless before my friend Jim took me in there. When the Question 9 Campaign started, I couldn't help but feel that I had broken yet another promising thing.

It was a little confusing dealing with the Cambridge Housing Authority. Finally, I just asked the receptionist for one of each form and filled them all out. I heard from the Y before I became homeless again. I hope my description above of the dramatis personae doesn't make me sound ungrateful. It had heat when it was cold. I could go outside to escape the mega heat in summer. It was dry when it rained. And I could roast beef in the toaster oven I bought for $10 from the GoodWill. But I didn't do that when Cambridge's dinner program rotated to the Rev. Doug Whitlow's church. A tall Jamaican woman coordinated the dinner. She was [and I assume still is] statuesque in the extreme. But you best not be messin' with her mon! Still some folks did. It was kind like watching a train wreck. The casualties barely noticed. I did. I was sober.

There was some fine eatin' on the circuit. Food Not Bombs was really good. Dan doesn't work with them anymore, but he still knows how to accessorize a hat. He's trying to bring the young folks home from Iraq Often FNB served dinner on the Common across from Rev. Tobin's Church. It's classic New England gray clapboard. The Episcopal Church I grew up in looked like a minature European castle. Grace put out a good spread. Shamus was a professional cook. I knew him from another context. It was good. But the meal that stands out in my mind was tunafish on Hampshire St. I suspect that Jamaican spice is part of the secret. But there 's more. It was the best meal I remember. I pity the hungry white fool too proud to take help from the souls of black folk.