I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, raised by two parents who kept their eyes on the city as they shuffled their kids to soccer practice and suffered through PTA banality. Both my mother and father came from working-class Northern Massachusetts mill towns, and found in 1960s and ’70s Boston a glorious burst of music and color and matter-of-fact magic. They moved to Newton, 15 miles west, so my sister and I could benefit from the town’s excellent public school education. And an excellent education we did have, though I, the eldest, kept my eye cocked on the city as well. I loved sun trailing through freshly cut grass, smoke entwining with drying leaves, ponds beckoning not far from our house. But I felt my parent’s ambivalence as by osmosis.
I craved action.
My high school paper won a national award my junior year, and when the staff went to Columbia University to collect it, I broke off from the other editors and took the 1/9 train down to the Village. It was the late ’80s and the city had not yet been hemmed in by Guiliani and superstores. Second-wave punk, hip hop, and gay liberation reigned supreme, as did one-dollar coffees and broken park benches flanked by buildings as trees. I borrowed a Walkman from a friend, and walked through that heat, heart, hopeless hope with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love rising in my ears. Back home I was already fucking a cruel and beautiful man, and when he’d hit me and I hadn’t left him, I’d stopped believing I could fit anywhere good. But as I walked through New York that day, I saw there could be another way. Continue Reading →