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Noisy Stories About Home, Pt. III

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack  September 29, 2010 11:57 AM

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Noisy Stories About Home is a project for Today’s Soundtrack where we’re collecting little vignettes or unbelievable stories or scenes or love letters to parts of the Greater Boston Area that people who are good with words think are unique to living here. We’ve assembled Boston’s best and most acclaimed music bloggers to tell you some of these stories.

The very loose thread here is setting -- we inevitably tie places or events that a lot of folks around Boston might visit everyday to a very specific song or album or band. In that way, we make it our own. Contributors were told that they could take any form they wanted with that. Here are their attempts to try to stretch and max that out, while telling you about some catchy songs in the process.

Today's post is the last installment. We'll probably do this again sometime.

Part I, featuring Kate of Pilgrims of Sound and some homeless straggler whom we handed a typewriter, is located here.
Part II, featuring Matt of dysonsound and Erik Ziedses des Plantes, is located here.

Ryan's Smashing Life

Ryan Spaulding is the founder of New England’s iconic rslblog.com. Over the last four years, he has worked with a team of independent artists, writers, and photographers to bring artists and audiences together. He is a writer and editor, a critic, a comic, and a promoter. Despite this, Mr. Spaulding finds he is still not yet filthy rich and is still somehow very single.

PLACE :: Boston, A.M. / SONG :: Radiohead - National Anthem

Should I ever be tasked to score an art film on living in Boston, I am convinced the soundtrack should be tied to the sounds of our daily acceleration. (I am fated to make films, you must know.) This colorful treatment of Boston in my movie would impart that this city wakes up each day and hits the ground running.

One way to truly take into consideration the collective vitality of the city - is to experience Boston as it wakes. You must do this alone. I am there this morning.

Before the first rays of light have come over the hill, a pot of coffee steams. My cats are curious and circling at my feet. From elsewhere in the apartment building, running water can be heard. Floor boards creak with movement and the distribution of air. These are the sounds of waking and preparation. Outside: nothing, silence.

I’m really living this experiment. In the apartment above, heavy boots are slipped on; the wearer stomps across the wood floor readying for what lies ahead. The sounds of cars and the first horn blast of the morning! Soon, my neighbor is heard fumbling with his keys one last time. He saunters down the half-illuminated staircase, and is out into the darkened street. There are headlights approaching, from two directions.

And then I hear it, the opening rush of National Anthem, plays in my head. On this track, Radiohead manages to fuse the concepts of identity (read further: purpose and belonging) with motion.

Anthem uses beats and guitar as its motivators. There is something relevant, important and somewhat subliminal imparted by the song: Repetition and “meaningfulness” here give us structure and bring us comfort - but just beneath those patterns is a steady, climbing chaos.

I stand next to my window and peer out into the new sun. And from nearly every direction the world is rising around me. On the street, a string of cars accelerate past – headlights softened by morning mist – their drivers pushing to make the next traffic light. Nearby trains, full of coffee-toting blue collars, rumble past. Here and there, the old metal rails spark and squeal. Saddled with backpacks and briefcases, pedestrians walk briskly toward the train station.

And now, it is my turn. Out into the mess of weaving gnats, I go. At this moment I am just another bead of moving light in a time-lapse photo of Boston. Traffic is thick. Everyone has someplace to be. Everyone is on their way.


Megan McCormick is an English grad student at Northeastern. Sites like her Tumblr page are why Tumblr and blogs and Nikons exist. It's what Al Gore was going for when he created the Internet.

PLACE :: E-Line, Boston / SONG :: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home

It was somewhere around the Park Street stop or the Boylston one that a man approached me. I was sitting on the Green Line, the E train, waiting for the end of the underground tunnel that would bring me to the summer sun above. Looking out the window to the black nothingness outside of it, I noticed a man shakily walk toward my seat, reaching frantically for each metal pole nearest to him, struggling to keep his balance on the moving train.

“Excuse me?”

“Yes?” I answered, bracing myself for a tourist’s question. He looked out-of-place, wearing an old, battered t-shirt with dinosaurs on it, and the air of an out-of-towner, looking back at the map above the door.

“Do you know where I would go to get to the Hynes Convention Center? That is a stop, right?”

“Yes, there’s a stop on the green line for that, but this train doesn’t stop there. The E train is the only one that doesn’t go to Hynes. Better get off at the next stop and wait for another train that isn’t an E,” I said, hoping to satisfy him with an adequate answer that would leave me to my empty analysis of the window reflection.

“Will that take long?”

I sighed. “Well, I don’t know. It’s anyone’s guess when the next train will come.” Should have looked at the map before you got on the train, I thought to myself. Is the T system really that difficult?

By this time other passengers were listening in on our conversation. Why didn’t he ask any of them for directions? Why am I always the one that the tourists go after?

He attempted to stand still, planting his feet firmly on the floor, and holding onto the metal pole with two hands.

“Well, I’m in a hurry. I'm supposed to meet someone at the Hynes stop right... now,” he told me, getting more frantic as he spoke, glancing at his watch again. I realized that he was rather young, maybe in his late twenties. The t-shirt he wore could be older than him.

“Okay, well, better not get off and switch trains then,” I answered, beginning to become interested in his plight. Maybe this wasn’t just another tourist blunder. “You could get off at Copley, then walk there, though that is kind of a long walk, considering how other trains go right there.”

“I’ll get off there then. See, I went to China for six years, and my girlfriend and I parted ways before I left. She lives in Boston now, and I haven’t seen her in that long. She’s willing to see me today and she gave me the time and the place and I figured I’d make it in time but now I’m late and what if she leaves? What if this is my only chance and she’s gone? I don’t even have a cell phone to tell her I’m late; I don’t even have her number.” He looked at me, his blue eyes wide. “I don’t know you--I don’t know anyone here except for her. And I still love her. And I need to tell her. How far is Hynes from Copley?”

“Several blocks, but it’s your best bet, I think.”

“I’ll just run.”

I smiled, absorbed by his predicament, forgetting that the rest of the train was now an audience to our conversation. Picturing his sprint through town, I began to get anxious for him. “You’ll find her. I’m rooting for you.”

He smiled and I realized how cheesy that was to say to someone whose name I didn’t even know and who was not a character in a highly predictable (but oh-so-heartwarming) romantic comedy.

I told him where he would need to run, and as we approached Copley I was clutching my bag, feeling ready to run with him. I stayed in my seat though and watched him spring off the train, pause on the platform for a moment to see where the exit was, and run in that direction, weaving through the people standing in his way.

When he was out of sight, I sat back and smiled. A million little stories unfold every day in this city, and I just got to be a part of one. Little stories of humanity, of people being alive and struggling to make it worth something. Life was happening on the other side of those windows I had just been staring at so blankly.

I got off at my stop and walked down the sidewalk, relishing the summer warmth and feeling grateful to be a part of such a wonderful city. Each person I passed gave me hope as I imagined their struggles and loves that go unspoken as they walk along. A man asked me if I had any spare change. I gave him a dollar, feeling affection for the stranger like he too had a love to go run after. I placed the bill in his nearly-empty bucket, and walked away, picturing the rest of his day, the rest of his life. He, too, has a story to tell. The streets of Boston are alive with this potential, this life being lived. I continued down the sidewalk, a new sense of purpose guiding my steps.

“You got a fine ass, sweetie,” he yelled after me.

Oh, Boston. How curious you are.


This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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About the author

Ben Collins can't help but search beyond Feist for the zeitgeist of Today's Soundtrack, his pick of a song or songs capturing the mood or events of the moment. His musical tastes vary from Strawberry Fields to The Magnetic Fields, from Low to Skee-Lo. A North Shore native, Ben has worked at The Boston Globe and Spin and is an Emerson grad. Make your own nominations to him at ben.t.collins@comcast.net or on Twitter @globesoundtrack. More »

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