I misaddressed an email yesterday. It was about meeting up on Kingly Street in Soho. It went not to Nick in London but to Nick in Boston. ‘Kingly St?’ Nick replied. ‘It’s motherfuckin’ Patriots’ Day, dude. Don’t forget the struggle, don’t forget the streets.’ I had forgotten all about it. Patriots’ Day is a holiday peculiar to Massachusetts (and its former disconnected appendage, Maine). It marks the battles of Lexington and Concord, the first shots fired on the morning of 19 April 1775, and it’s the start of a week of school holiday. But somehow everything in Boston must be defined in terms of sport, so it really only has one meaning: Marathon Day.
I was on Kingly Street when I heard the Boston Marathon had been bombed. Was it the start or the finish? The starting line is at the corner of Main Street and Ash Street in Hopkinton. 23,000 runners, about 9000 more than the town’s population. I grew up on Hayden Rowe Street, a mile from the starting line. Registration is at the high school across the street, and every year our front yard was given over to stretching runners. My mother made sure they were well hydrated. I played the National Anthem in the school band. It’s the only day the town ever sees a crowd and by noon they’re all gone. Boston is the only race I know of that begins with a steep downhill plunge. Training for my own shorter races as a teenager, I’d use it as the end of my daily run, in reverse. When I lived in Boston I would cycle back to my parents’ house, tracing the race’s route backwards: Brookline, Newton, Wellesley, Natick, Framingham, Ashland, Hopkinton.
Of course they wouldn’t bomb Hopkinton, whoever they may be. Copley Square is where the bombs went off: ‘Copley, where all you have are rich Bostonians and drunk college students. A little tough to like that place,’ a friend wrote to me last month. ‘That was where everybody used to skate board,’ another friend wrote to me last night. ‘So my high school skater friends are posting old skating photos of Copley.’ It took a native of Boston, Ben Affleck, to make a heist movie about robbing Fenway Park (The Town): the home of the Red Sox is the ultimate setting of any Massachusetts child’s grand fantasies. And it may be premature to say so, but there’s something about bombing the marathon that suggests a native’s touch. Who else would think of it?
Nick wrote to me again this morning:
I’m sad to think of what will become of the city in the days to come. More security theater I would guess, along the lines of what we saw in New York back in the day, and likely a lot of harrumphing about lost innocence and never forgetting. I had this fantasy yesterday that we would show the world how to really deal with terrorists, by meticulously gathering evidence and giving them competent attorneys and proving way beyond any reasonable doubt that they were guilty, but that didn’t last long.