I am lost among it today. Figuratively, rather than literally. With two radio interviews booked late in the afternoon, I have a day to fill. I ask the woman sharing my hostel room if she’s found anything special in Boston. She tells me Hanover and Salem streets. She tells me there shops and cafes there and a little bit of cultural diversity. I ask her where she’s from and she says California. I smile to myself at yet another foreigner proclaiming her American status – her accent, coupled with her eyes, places her anywhere but here. My smile is for understanding; given all its malignancy, these united states of America are still a justifiable land of hope for those who live without it in their own lands. She tells me how to get the train to Hanover; I know I’ll be walking.
I set my iPhone GPS and wander along Boston’s wide, slow and busy just the same, streets. Only to find Salem Street is where I was lost yesterday. Small restaurants and cafes line a once-cobbled street, a magnet for tourists in a city whose mythologized story lives on in the imaginations of an abundance of tour guides.
I roam through the small vegetable market in Haymarket, grinning at a grocer piling apples with a burning fag hanging outa the corner of his mouth. There is something perversely pleasing about people who handle food while smoking cigarettes, as if a spirited self is alive and well, an attitude that tells me he has completely ignored the well-intentioned sanctimonious of the rest of us. I flop into a comfortable lounge in a cafe, just for something to do. I glance at the froth on my soy chai, puzzled for the ten thousandth time about why this country has such watery thin ‘foam’.
I ponder as I sip about whether or not I’ve done enough for my book. As I move further away from the vibrancy of New York City, I feel the tour energy draining away. Then I remember a garden I paid someone to plant for me in a grassy backyard of the home I once shared with my children in Adelaide. I paid her for two hours and came home to find a little patch of dirt scratched out of the hard earth, planted with pretty little violets. I stared. That was all I got for my hard-earned two hours gardening wages? I can still remember the pleased look on the gardener’s face. And can still feel my horror that that’s all there was! I wanted a garrrrrrrden. Big trees. Overhanging vines. Lush green shady places. Sunshiney flowers. I sacked the gardener. Not unkindly; I just knew I wouldn’t be in the house long enough to make it worth anyone’s while. I laugh. I have planted seeds in New York. I have to wait for them to grow.
I decide to walk to Beacon Hill and pass a centuries-old graveyard – I stop to read the sign and find someone’s been officially scrubbed from the burial ground roll of honour. As I walk the narrowing streets, still cobbled, a group of high spirited teenagers comes up behind me. Says a young woman to her friends: ‘this place is so quiet – do you think you can live here?’ I laugh. She has to be from New York City.
The tall houses crowd in; I fancy I hear the clipped clop of horses’ hooves, perhaps glimpse a cape lashing the darkness in the wind. I wonder where this image comes from. How I know this story. Then I see a street sign marked Revere Street. Paul Revere! Fancy that, he must indeed have ridden this way. I turn into the street and get goosebumps for a ride I suspect changed the course of human history – or, at least, shaped it.
I smile as I turn into Joy Street. We can’t ever escape the paths of those who came before. We inherit more than we can possibly know. And it is not our place to judge the lives and times of other human beings, for we know not what any of us have inherited, other than an occasional story. I turn onto Beacon Street and stand there.
You think you can do better? Than your parents? Than those who came before them? Go on then. Go right ahead. Instead of throwing mud at those who sit high in the saddle leading us into and/or out of this and various other messes, get up on your own pony – and ride! Lead on sister, brother. Lead on – and let’s see if you have courage enough to lead us through your own mess, let alone into a future worth having. Ride on Saviour!
I stand at the intersection of Joy and Beacon streets and remember another foreign film I loved called Crash.
Here is the reality: we are all fucked up and there will come a time when in order to save your own life, you must reach for the hand of the one you loathe.
I take a breath at the intersection of Joy and Beacon – and realise I am standing at the intersection of Hope.