WESTON — The streets that lead you from the Mass. Pike to David Ortiz’s house offer an idea of what life must be like here. On a Saturday morning before 7 a.m., they’re quiet, with houses increasing in size and inching back from the street, until they’re mostly hidden away by long driveways and tasteful overgrowth.
But on this Saturday morning, you can’t take the left onto Driftwood Lane, where the Boston legend actually lives, or at least where he’s been trying to move out of since putting his home on the market for $6.3 million a year ago. It’s blocked off by traffic cones, and there’s a long line of cars that spills down Hickory Road. It’s easy to pull into a spot 900 feet from his home and make the walk back — along with hundreds of other people who are hoping to get a piece of Big Papi at his estate sale.
There’s a lengthy line and three separate, hand-written lists posted at the front gate, where just after 7 a.m., a half hour before numbers are given out and an hour from when the first group will be let in, I’m named No. 203. Like everyone else who enters, my phone is taken away lest I take any photos from inside.
J.D. Naron had better luck than me, and he should, because he left Martha’s Vineyard on an 8:30 ferry Friday night and came straight to Weston. He arrived around 10 p.m. and camped out to become one of the first people in line. He watched Weston police put out the traffic cones around 3 a.m., as he made one of his many walks of the night up and down the street.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Naron said. “I was going to come this morning at 5, but I figured I’d never get in. So I came at 8:30.”
Seray Cuthbertson traveled from West Roxbury on Friday night to put her name on the list. She came back this morning. She was No. 30.
“He’s just one of the icons since I’ve been in Boston,” said Cuthbertson, who moved to Boston from Sierra Leone in 1991. “He’s one of the icons you look up to, with his character. Even if I don’t get anything, I just want it to be perfect. It’s exciting.”
One of the more sought-after items seemed to be an asparagus area rug. It was one of the items that had first piqued my interest in the estate sale, so with time to kill, I walked after people leaving the sale in the bitter cold, making sure no one had purchased it.
Eventually, I caught up again with Cuthbertson, who was “very excited” about the assortment of cookware and artwork she purchased for $182, and Naron, who secured the “Ortiz” welcome mat that he had his eye on, that had propelled him to leave his home on the Vineyard an entire night prior. It cost $100.
“I get his iron welcome mat that says ‘Ortiz’ right across the front,” Naron said. “You’re never, ever going to find another one like that. So I didn’t even hesitate.”
Naron also purchased an award plaque given by Massachusetts General Hospital to Ortiz, citing its uniqueness, and some photos, artwork, and a bar mat, for a total of more than $750.
“It was insane,” Naron said. “Seeing where one of your heroes lives and the kind of stuff he has. You can imagine some of the stuff, but other things, you own a piece of history now. It’s totally worth spending the night.”
As neighborhood residents walked their dogs and went for morning runs while strangers hauled furniture, artwork, clothing, and baseball mementos from the home, it seemed as though there was nothing out of the ordinary about what was happening here.
But after I finally got inside David Ortiz’s home — four hours later, around 11 a.m. — I realized that’s the thing: There wasn’t anything unordinary about it. Sure, there was a living room full of signed jerseys and baseball memorabilia, and an arcade machine in the basement, and a regulation-size soccer goal in the backyard, but Ortiz and his family were selling the same things we all have in our homes: Clothing (under $20). Plates (a set of 13 for $13). Mugs ($2). A bottle opener ($1). Leftover food. Furniture. Cookbooks — touting recipes for Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese cuisine, and Weight Watchers recipes, too. People came out of the home with bottles of Tide detergent for $4 and a bottle of Windex for $1.
It wasn’t about the asparagus rug at all, which I learned had allegedly sold for $75 earlier that morning. Ortiz’s estate sale showed that a man who seems larger than life is really quite like the rest of us — even those of who stood outside for hours in below-freezing temperatures.
It showed how much this city loves him, so much, in fact, that we were willing to buy his daughter’s artwork, his wife’s old clothing, a toilet seat (which the crowd talked about, but it was unlisted), or even an asparagus rug. We want to hold on to him for as long as we can.