My uncle remembers his time in Allston fondly, incidentally so does his wife who married him despite the weekends she spent visiting him there. Neither of them recalls any great hardship or desperation, then again they moved on to the circus of Manhattan real estate. As I watched the largest cockroach I’d ever seen crawl first out of, then back into, the cozy little crack between the dishwasher and the counter top this evening, I realized I was going to remember Allston fondly as well. Perhaps the cockroach is the wrong place to start, because what I mean to say is that Allston is a more friendly disaster then it at first seemed.
For my first experience with the Allston area, I was a recent graduate of freshman orientation, as I tripped along behind a friend’s older brother. There was the scent of beer in the air and a sweet something else, which I now know is a combination of mistakes and fresh vomit. This culmination of smells was surprisingly ‘- like burning trash ‘- not entirely unpleasant. Within my first five minutes on Harvard Ave. I watched a girl push her friend down the street in a shopping cart. The two of them were having the most hysterical time in high heels, though they’d never know it the next morning. I remember thinking beneath the neon marquee of Blanchard’s Liquor that I wanted to go home. I returned the first weekend of freshman year, although the older brother from the first visit was now replaced by those two or three guys who always know for sure ‘a place where we can all totally get in and get some beers’ while they keep making wrong turns. Even though my mother had told me never, unequivocally never, to walk home alone through Boston past midnight and even though it was the stage of college where I thought I really ought to listen to what my mother told me, I decided for both of us the chance of rape was higher on Ashford then elsewhere. I grabbed a new friend who I probably haven’t seen since and took off. I could have been wrong.
‘ It was not until a few months later that I went to my first real Allston bash. It was in an apartment where it seemed illogical that no one had cared to turn on the lights, yet the windows were wide open. Someone gave me something to drink that was not a beer and not straight vodka and then there was dancing to this stuff called Daft Punk and I was hooked.
For the years to come I thought of Allston as one big club that had to be washed off either before I went to bed, or I needed to wash my sheets anyway, the next morning. I never went during the day and never alone.
This summer I subletted on Glenville and even then I couldn’t shake the sensation of nightlife. People would ask my address I would tell them, explaining that even if they didn’t know for sure where Glenville was they had probably thrown up on my street, or knew someone who had. I fell asleep to the sounds of Wonder Bar, or our downstairs neighbors recruiting everyone ‘- anyone ‘- off the street.?
I began however to jog the area. During the day. Alone. Running in Allston is comical in itself, though surprising numbers of wry souls jog past last night’s cigarette butts with gusto.?Truly, the area can be beautiful, especially the parts that could be Brookline, and the view from my summer roof was peaceful. Running makes weekly trips to Twin Donuts more feasible where breakfast is delicious and the grease sticks to your stomach lining for days.
On September first, I moved to a new apartment. It is Boston at its best, only it’s in Allston. The walls are thick, the floors are honeyed hardwood, the apartment building has a graceful name ‘- a holdover from the streetcar suburb hopes of early developers. And it is affordable. I have had Indian food three days, Vietnamese once, fresh buttered bread from?a Brazilian bakery and one truly fantastic pulled pork sandwich ordered from the Laundromat and ready to pick up by the time my laundry was done. Star Market is a block away, and recently, a little girl held the door to my building open the other morning but she had to put her lion down first. Morning sun wakes me up, and not the sounds of freelance urban recyclers at their task. So the truth is, the cockroach is actually the only feature ruining my honeymoon with my new apartment, but everyone knows in Allston, you have to complain about something.