In late October we began hearing rumors that new people might
be moving into the unit across the hall.
enough, a couple days later 3 Hippies who'd just arrived from California showed up to claim the place.
One was Doug, a "dyed in the wool" Bohemian who was usually mellow but sometimes showed flashes of impatient
everyone else in our orbit, he was a Mixed Bag but proved to be a Critical Lynch Pin in the social structure
at 269 Broadway.
He was accompanied by Nick and Cynthia, hard core Hippies who'd totally rejected any semblance
had a huge mane of hopelessly tangled hair and there was no way it was ever going to get untangled, not in this lifetime.
Nevertheless, Cynthia would spend hours trying to do just that, sitting behind
him undoing knots and snarls while carrying on Whimsical Conversations with no one in particular.
Nick was tall and lanky with large features and sported a mustache and beard that he stroked thoughtfully when he spoke.
Cynthia, on the other
hand was a fairly "cute chick."
dressed in long flowing dresses and wore her hair parted in the middle.
Her salient characteristic was a disconnected look as though she were in a state of
constant fascination and would utter Random Observations about life that left us scratching our heads........
Nick and Cynthia, like us, furnished their place with the flotsam and jetsam of neighboring buildings.
They were more methodical than we were and did it over a longer period of time but when
they were done it looked nothing like our place.
It was filled with fabric, curtains and broken furniture piled high all over their living room. Their kitchen
was decked out with an abundance of pots, pans, and utensils.
A few weeks after they moved
in, Doug found a 1930's refrigerator and hauled it up the stairs, the kind with the motor on top encased in a bee
very funky looking but it worked fine....
The Art Of Trashing
Soon after moving in, Doug knocked on our door and invited us to go "trashing."
At nighttime the
city was cold and mysterious and what we were doing seemed forbidden but Doug approached it matter-of-factly as though he'd
done it many times before.
To our surprise he began finding good stuff right off the bat. Canned food to be exact.
Lots of it. Food that was marked with a Government stamp denoting it was welfare food
for the poor.
"They throw this stuff away?" I asked, "Why, if they're poor?"
"Don't ask me," he said as he began placing cans in the bags he brought along.
Mostly, it was bags
of Powdered Milk and cans of Beans but we also found cans of Boneless Chicken.
Now that was good stuff....!
Along with food, Doug pulled things like old
tools, lampshades and old fans.
We were all impressed but it wasn't anywhere near the scale of what he was about
to turn us onto next........
Food From The Docks
When Doug arrived it was in a large open bed truck, great
for hauling large loads.
It was an old timer but ran okay.
One Saturday morning Ollie walked into
our apartment with a crate of fruits and vegetables raving about all the food Doug had just brought home.......
Looking out the window to the street below, I was
amazed at what I saw.
It looked like he'd just hijacked a Produce Store.
I then saw Doug entering his apartment with more boxes.
"Where did you get all that?" I asked.
"Down at the Docks."
"No, the Railroad Yard."
"What Railroad Yard? Did ya have to pay for it?"
"No, you don't pay for this. Ya just take it."
He then went on to explain:
Cities have Railroad Yards where
food is brought in from all over the Country.
By the time it arrives from the farms it's still perfectly
good but some is Marginal.
By the time it's picked up, brought to the market, unpacked and put on shelves
it's just a little too ripe.
Anything that might fall into that category
is thrown into dumpsters to be hauled away.
Doug knew this from living in California and when he arrived in Boston
he just repeated the formula.
He was generous about it too.
After we helped him unload his truck he gave us crates
of produce and then shared some of the bounty with the Hippies in the nearby buildings.
From then on we accompanied him on his Saturday Morning Jaunts, winding through the industrial section of Boston until
arriving at the Rail Road Docks.
As Doug drove slowly along 3 or 4 of
us would jump off the back of the truck
and peer into each dumpster to see if there was anything worth while.
In one there might be 15 crates of Grapes and we'd
eyeball each one, taking any that were acceptable.
Then it was on to the next one which might contain Sweet Potatoes.
The process would be repeated with rapid efficiency until we filled up the truck and by the time we left, our load
would include sacks of Onions, Peppers and Squash, crates of Apples, Peaches and Melons.......whatever we happened to find.....
When we arrived home we would further cull any bad stuff then take what we needed and give the rest
to the guys downstairs and others around the neighborhood.
We were doing God's work. We even managed
to pull Garlic, various grains and sacks of Rice although the Rice almost always had moths in it.
The Thermostat Affair
At 269 Broadway (Miss Dales Farm) things didn't always go smoothly,
there was the occasional squabble.
Doug often made pilgrimages across the hall to our place to borrow something or impart information.
he'd finish talking he would fold his hands Buddha-like, smile and bow before leaving.
On other occasions though, he could get testy and lash out over some
we'd wonder what we'd done so wrong to cause him to act that way.
A couple days later
he'd show up again filled with Sweetness and Light, hands folded and bowing.
From the beginning we'd been letting him use our shower.
heat and hot water and he didn't.
Then one day our thermostat broke. A new one was going to cost money
and since Doug wasn't using his we thought we'd ask if we could
just take his
"....so we thought we could use yours," I said "and....."
he shot back, "I'm not going to give you my thermostat !!!" his voice dripping with indignation. You get your
own thermostat !!!"
We were stunned by his reaction but I was fed up.
pal, I'm sick of your bullshit. Tell ya what, you don't use our shower anymore!"
Seeing that I
was pissed he tried to turn the tables by feigning shock, as if he were the injured party.
We ended up scavenging a thermostat elsewhere but it turned out
he never needed his.
He did however, show up at our door a few days later, hands folded, offering an olive branch and we
continued to let him use the shower.
After all, he did help us with the food....
Another Strange Encounter
One night after being cooped up in the apartment all day,
Ollie and I decided to take a walk....and kept walking and walking.....
We meandered over to the Harvard Bridge, crossing over
into Boston, stopping frequently along the span to peer into the Charles River.....
We made our way down Marlborough
Street, through the Public Garden and all over Beacon Hill, joking, talking about life and the situation back at the apartment........
Hours later, we found ourselves quite alone on the
deserted streets of downtown Boston,
it was a Sunday night......
We were getting tired and decided it was time
to head back to Cambridge when we saw someone approaching from the shadows. We braced ourselves for trouble but as he drew
closer, the stranger looked Vaguely Familiar......
It turned out, once again to be our friend from the shelter,
the guy with the dead stare.
He was wandering downtown alone late on a Sunday night in the shadowy vacuum of the
Running into him was somehow appropriate......
"Hey, what are you doing down
"Oh, just walking," he said, as if he'd just stepped out to get the newspaper.
We gave him a couple cigarettes and chatted for a few minutes before we went our separate ways.
all the people in the city, of all the places we might have gone, we bumped into him on that particular corner.
was a little weird but as far as entertainment value went, it capped off the night perfectly.
As we rolled toward home we had to stop and catch our
breath several times from laughing so hard.....