THP #24: Past Life

November 15, 2021 – Quincy, Massachusetts
Eastern Nazarene College vs Plymouth State
Women’s Basketball

It’s a weird feeling when you remember here but it’s a foreign place.

I used to spend a good chunk of time around these parts. My wife’s first apartment was one town over from Quincy (pronounced KWINzee), and she lived there for 2.5 years.

I spent many a night with her and we drove a lot of the same roads I drove on this day. But it had been years since I’d been back. It was a constant feeling of mental strain as I slowly pieced together the roads and how I remembered them.

We still live in Massachusetts, about an hour away, but even in that short distance so much misses you. So many times throughout the day I felt a vault unlock in my mind as I remembered how I remembered where I was.

The false demon that is nostalgia crept in a lot on this cold November day. I was fondly remembering a place that was a B-side in my life. Sure, my wife and I spent some time in Quincy but she lived in Weymouth. It was putting those sweet memories onto a place that for the most part wasn’t involved. That’s why nostalgia is a demon, it’s a tricky motherfucker.

But there I was, on Wollaston Beach, my feet touching the icy waters of the Atlantic, Boston beckoning to my left, wondering how life would be different if this was my home. I love where we’re at now. I’ll always wonder what other paths in life I unknowingly walked past while marching toward the one I’m on now.

Anyway, here’s some dead presidents.

The City

 

The sign says it all. The second and seventh presidents of the United States were born and raised in Quincy. The houses still stand today, the first stops on the city’s Presidents’ Trail.

They currently are on an intersection across from McKay’s Diner and down the street from the Goodfella’s Barber Shop.

My wife and I had a lovely breakfast one day at McKay’s. It was a spring day and I remember walking out into the sun and seeing a large group gathered in front of these houses wondering what was going on. I casually saw a sign and thought “oh, just another colonial tour thing”.

That day hit me like a truck once I realized that today I was on my own colonial tour. One of my beliefs is that we don’t intrinsically know that time is passing. We only know based on outside queues. We see an old movie on TV. We get a high school reunion letter. We realize what the building across from the diner actually is.

And it all hits at once at the weirdest times “Damn, some time’s passed.” It’s a nice feeling though once the initial blast wears off. Being able to recognize the passage of time is better than the other option.

Across town is the United First Parish Church. It is an active Unitarian Universalist parish and it is the resting place of John, Abigail, John Quincy, and Louisa Adams. The church offers tours of the building as well as the tombs beneath it. And if I had known that tour season ended two days earlier I’d have been there.

The structure though is imposing and striking, especially as modern Quincy, a city of 100,000 has grown around it.

A statue of John Hancock stands in the courtyard next to the church, he was born in what is now Quincy and was then a part of Braintree. But what interested me most was across the way: the Hancock cemetery.

I’ve mentioned in the past how I find a serene calm when I’m in cemeteries. I find them to be peaceful and full of stories lost to time. The Adams’ were initially buried here before getting interred in the church. Many people who fought and lived through the American Revolution are buried here.

So much of the war is basically a myth today. It’s so old as to feel like a fictional story full of cartoonish men in weird hats and wigs even if its effects can still be felt. But many of these stones were just people trying to get by.

I stared at the stone of Betsey L. Nash for a good while. That epitaph is brutal. One word that says everything. I dug around a bit online and found out that she had six children, one may have died as a child. In her listing in the 1870 census her profession was simply “keeping house.”

She lived a long life. Was it good? Did she enjoy motherhood? What are her ancestors doing today? So many questions in a single stone.

The Good Eats

Being a city of just over 100,000 people, good food options are easy to find in Quincy. On this day I went bar fare and stopped at Assembly on Hancock Street.

It was what you would expect from a modern bar atmosphere. Lots of TVs, a big bar, and exposed brick.

As I tend to do, I opened with a Caesar salad. It tasted great and may have made my top four in New England if not for three little things. Can you spot them?

Now, I like tomatoes, but a Caesar salad is no place for them. Otherwise, a quality salad.

For the main I went with the special: baby back ribs with fries and cole slaw.

Had the nice modern plating complete with the slaw in a gravy boat. And it was damn good. The ribs were the perfect point of easily coming off the bone while not falling like snow in a blizzard. I just wish there were one or two more of them.

A quick aside about the humble french fry. A quality fry can elevate an entire dish the same way a floppy, lifeless fry can ruin one. The fries at Assembly were perfectly crisp and salted and made for a better meal. However, in the larger scheme, I believe that a good french fry, when part of the plate, is the engine that makes the meal go.

Sure, people call it a “burger and fries” and not  “fries and a burger” but without a quality french fry to act as the backbone of the meal the burger or the steak or the ribs coast by and are just fine. But a good fry…a good french fry holds it all together. Respect and love the good fries of the world for they do more than we give them credit for.

For a sweet treat I went across town to Fratelli’s Bakery. It was everything you would want in a local bakery.

It was the type of place where everything was fresh.

It wasn’t just baked goods. There were sauces and marinades and salad dressings made in house. And even homemade flavored blends of panko breadcrumbs were for sale. I have never seen anything like that before.

But I was here for the baked goods and, as I usually do, I went with the classic chocolate chip cookie. When done right, it is the perfect treat.

And this was among the best I’d ever had. It was odd. It was a touch cakier than I usually like but damn if it wasn’t a nearly flawless cookie. Perfectly salted, used the good chocolate, and chewy in the best way.

Big thank you to Danielle with the cool green highlights in her hair for selling me on this because it was absolutely worth it.

I also walked out the door with a cinnamon stick for my wife and a box of muffins for us.

Fratelli’s is just down the road from the original Dunkin Donuts. I went there once with my wife. We were 10 days away from celebrating one year together.

I went to Fratelli’s today, seven days before we celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary. Driving by my past life on the way to my present and future wasn’t lost on me as I walked out of the bakery.

The Campus

If I wasn’t specifically driving to Eastern Nazarene College I wouldn’t have known it was there. I was a tenth of a mile from the campus and there was nary a sign that a college was nearby.

With an undergraduate population of just a shade over 600 students, it was easy for the school to hide within the city.

Founded in 1900 as the Pentecostal Collegiate Institute in 1900 in Rhode Island, the college moved to its current location and changed its name in 1919. The Wollaston Church of the Nazarene sits on the campus quad.

I’ve been on dozens of college campuses in my travels. This was the first time I felt like an interloper walking the grounds in the mid-afternoon. A man was walking his dog by the student center and I felt him watching me as I walked around the quad and the Babcock Arboretum on campus.  Strange vibe.

The Game

Like the rest of the campus, the Lahue Physical Education Center, built in 1973, was more brick and concrete.

Lahue is the hub of Lions’ athletics. The basketball and volleyball teams play here and there are locker rooms and batting cages and all the other accoutrements an athletic department needs.

A small lobby features a fetching trophy case showcasing the school’s championships.

The gym itself was in line with many other D3 programs in New England. Bleachers on both sides, little distance between the fans and the floor, and a smell of lacquer permeating throughout. That’ll always be one of my favorite smells.

At the far end of the gym hung the proudest banner in program history: a Sweet Sixteen banner from 2000.

And New England better be ready because this team is going to be a problem. Sure, the NECC is a four-team league but the Lions are a veteran squad that plays suffocating defense and team ball on offense.

Eastern Nazarene led Plymouth 17-15 after the first quarter before opening it up on offense and locking it down on defense.

Everything was more for the Lions. More ball movement. More screens. More open looks. More buckets.

This three put the Lions up seven early in the second and the lead kept growing before they took a 13-point lead into the break.

The Panthers simply had no answer for the variety of looks Eastern Nazarene threw at them.

Now’s the part I’d transition to the second half but I’d be a goon if I didn’t share that it was on this Monday that I witnessed the greatest halftime entertainment in the history of college basketball.

According to the guy in the Sean Taylor jersey, the school has an intramural dodgeball league and this was a sort of all-star game.

In the second half, Eastern Nazarene did more of the same to Plymouth State. The Panthers tried like hell to score, but the Lions wouldn’t break. ENC picked 17 steals in the win and forced 26 turnovers. Take a look at the instincts the players have in the zone. It feels like there’s six or seven out there.

The Lions took it to the final horn and kept the pedal down to blow Plymouth State away. There are some big teams on the schedule this year, a few NESCAC opponents, Brandeis, in-conference rival Mitchell has a strong team too. All of them are going to have a tough time with Eastern Nazarene.

Eastern Nazarene 69, Plymouth State 45
Time of game: 1:30:42
Player of the game: Alondra Jimenez (ENC) – 16 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals

History, whether personal or national, is all a bit of a ruse. The people buried in the cemetery and under the church are just a fraction of the whole tale of the story of Quincy and the myriad names it was known as before European colonialization.

These roads and who I was when I last drove them are a fraction of who I was and who I am today. I’m not sure why I felt a longing while in the car. Maybe it was because time is the true currency and having lived it I can’t live it again. I’d like to. I want to fall in love and grow again with my wife.

Those moments are locked in their own time capsule though, a beloved capsule, still locked away unable to be done again.

Each of these stops makes a memory that’ll be locked away all the same, unable to be done again. Better to have been remembered than be unknown I guess.

Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road.

 

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