Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Massachusetts Avenue: Of Life, Love and Amanda Palmer

I've kept the promise I made two years ago when I first discovered Harvard Square, the day I saw Amanda Palmer in Cabaret. I live off Massachusetts Avenue and finding an alternative's a little hard to do. (Storrow Drive is pretty in the fall). 

Yesterday, I walked home from Harvard Square for the first time in a few weeks, ignoring the twinges of pain that were weaker than the ones I experienced for most of the summer summer. There's something in that anyway, mixing pain with memory in the way of the song. I strolled down six blocks of Massachusetts Avenue, blasting Amanda's song of the same name, which finally has a studio recording on her new CD Theatre is Evil.

That song---and the entire album--sums up my Bostonian existence. Meow Meow opens the album in German, an echo of Amanda's role as the MC in Cabaret, the performance that transformed the way I think about art. It was my escape from the world and a reminder to tune into the world. Meow played several of Amanda's Late Night Cabarets, the post-performance concerts that were my only social engagement during those tenuous first few months in Boston. I didn't have much, living alone in a tiny dorm room, but almost every Wednesday night I didn't have to go back home at all.

There's more to the album than memories, of course, but every time I walk down Mass Ave I remember those nights in the darkened club, sitting a couple of tables away from Neil Gaiman, sipping red wine and being alive. Being hopeful.

One night, I contemplated not leaving my room for the show. (Do you want to go back home, check your messages and charge your phone?) I was writing. The words were flowing. I had my own art to work on.

Which is exactly why I had to go. That manuscript, which I hope very much to see in print someday, if only so I can list Amanda (and Neil) in the acknowledgements, is infused with the joy I absorbed that fall (Do you remember loving me more than I could be loved?). It's set partially in Harvard Square, the place I explored, and adopted, during long evenings spent waiting to enter the Oberon. It's about music, and living statues, and Jacques Brel, and drag queens, and acceptance, and art, and hair dye, and love, and not a little bit of wine. And I hope that one day someone will read it and think, I know that feeling. I remember that. I covet that.

But this post isn't about my manuscript. It's about the way we need to experience art to create art, and the way one song--one note--can bring back the joy and love of a moment.

I don't need lyrics to tell me I don't have to be alone anymore. I have friends. I have a life I don't need to escape. I've cried in the parks, and walked through the cemetery, and nearly been run down by trucks.

And every time I walk home, I pass the spot that holds my most vibrant memories and remind myself what I want to do, and whom I want to be.

"There was a cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies and there was a city called [Boston[ [on a street] called [Massachusetts Avenue]. "


  1. Hey, got your site via Amanda's twitter feed; lived in Boston for about three years and an aspiring writer as well. Just thought I'd drop you a line; @destroy_time if you ever want to hit me up. Cheers!

  2. Thanks for the wonderful, heartfelt words! It's hard for me to explain how being a part of this tribe enriches my life but you have articulated it well. Hope to see you at the shows in November!