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Friday, September 09, 2016

Square Jammin'

Okay, so I'm still a tourist here in Cambridge (Massachusetts, not UK). Or maybe we all are, or should be, at some level. If this means walking about with a sense of wonder, with a willingness to risk direct experience rather than busily building bubbles around ourselves, then it's a good way to be. It means never allowing the familiar to become boring; it means seeing things from new angles each time, allowing different shafts of light to illuminate a well-known object so that new angles, new curves, new hollows and depths, are revealed.

The objects in my current environment are far from having acquired the familiarity of home. And I suspect I will leave at that point when they begin to settle into lines that are strange no longer. Practically every day, I run into things that delight, intrigue, and make me stop--sometimes to look more closely, or to ask questions about, or to simply watch and take it all in.

The lunch hour on the margins of Harvard Yard on Shabbat eve had six young people playing Latin music while breaking students and faculty and visitors like myself made long lines at the food truck of their choice: on offer were Gourmet Vegetarian, Bon Me (sandwiches) and Asian Fusion. An oversized chessboard stood waiting and tweedy professors munched on jalapeƱo chips and listened to the almost operatic singers. Others make their way, more seriously, to pay the traditional obeisance to the statue of John Harvard and--not to forget--record it on their cellphone cameras. This involves a surprisingly Eastern-seeming custom of touching the left foot of Harvard (and hoping that some of the ivy splendor will rub off on to their hands). A little boy stands on the steps of the Widener Library holding a crayon-inscribed placard that reads "Class of 2030" and his mother quips: "We can dream, right?"

Late on a Friday evening a masked band plays a vibrant beat on Davis Square as young parents watch their younger children jump and clap, happily out of tune. Stooped men and women on a walk from the nearby Elder Care facility sit quietly enjoying their ice cream, remembering a time when they, too, skipped to a faster beat.

As I take the subway escalator up to the street, homeward bound myself, a street dweller holds out the free weekend paper, asking for spare change and, in an inexplicably cheery voice, wishes the commuters a good weekend.




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