“This installment of Berklee students’ musings about their childhood (having watched Lowell Blues, a short film about Jack Kerouac’s early years in Lowell, MA) has more poetry than usual.” Prof. Fred Bouchard
Just A Normal Weekday
As I reach Woodlands train station, everything and everyone is moving in the speed of lightning. The human traffic moves like a colony of ants, coming from various directions. I soon realized that if I had stopped walking, everyone is going to crash into one another. Access control gates slams inward and outward like huge resounding metals in a factory. They go in sync and people go through them as quickly as they can – afraid the gates might just slam them. I walk without a care in the world. 7am: I am on my way to school.
Being on the train is such a marvel. I believe people walk fast towards the train station to escape the fast paced reality immediately. Being on the train is the most peaceful place on a weekday. I see students scribbling last minute homework, adults reading newspapers; some are sleeping and others are just blasting their music into their ears. And I… I am just staring out of the train windows and appreciating the beauty that most people do not have time to see. As the train passes Yio Chu Kang station, I see a still lake and a man is sitting by the bank with his fishing rod, waiting very patiently. As I look further beyond, the skies reflect beautiful shades of purple and yellow as the sun slowly rises into the morning sky. The sight takes your breath away and for a moment, you forget all your troubles and you remember why you love going taking the train every single day.
The beauty of the world cannot be described in short or long sentences. The beauty of the world cannot be described and reflected in pictures. Beautiful moments go by so quickly that only your presence can capture it. Singapore may not be as scenic as other places in the world, but there are moments we can take a look at to remind ourselves how beautiful the world is.
I was born in a town known as Burlington, Vermont. It is about three and a half hours from Boston (if you are driving fast). Vermont’s largest city, with a population of about 42,000, Burlington is known as a college town, with its red-bricked Church Street running down the center. There are no skyscrapers, no billboards, no subways. Our tallest building, Decker Towers, stands eleven floors high. To the West is Lake Champlain, lined by the Adirondack Mountains. There are numerous parks around the area, Oakledge and Red Rocks being the most popular. The South End is known as the Arts District, with Pine Street being the birthplace of the Art Hop. In summer, you can hear the sounds of jazz musicians echoing from the waterfront, Church Street, and around the lakeside.
Growing up, I lived on the outskirts in South Burlington. I would ride my vanguard deck along the hilly roads to get from place to place. My house was in a woodsy area by a corn field. In the middle was a large maple where I’d spend my afternoons climbing. Red Rocks was a favorite place to explore. It is rumored that there are portals spread out along the trails and cliffs. People would spend hours just walking around in circles and have no idea. One time I spent eight hours in the woods; it felt like ten minutes tops. If you know your way around the trails, you can end up on the cliffside. The cliffs are enormous, with caves hidden away, staring straight out into Shelburne Bay. In the summer, these cliffs are filled with college and local adrenaline junkies jumping off 20 ft, 30 ft, and 70 ft drops. Everyone tries to out-jump the last, with gainers, backflips, anything. The jagged rocks at the bottom seem to vanish from thought.
The other go-spot was Oakledge. Throughout the trails you can find the Forever Young treehouse, abandoned chimneys, and more cliffs. Traces of summer fun scattered all along the rocks: beer cans, joint tips, old fire pits, rock paintings. There is nothing like a summer in Vermont. The cliffs at Oakledge are much smaller than those at Red Rocks. This one time a guy was so drunk he tried jumping from the highest point. He ended up slamming into one of the bottom rocks and cutting his leg. Poor guy probably didn’t feel a thing, seeing as he climbed his way back up and cracked open another brew. That moment will be forever burned into my memory.
Traveling further down the bike path, you come to a large beach lined with massive trees. This place is known as Bum Beach. After sunset, you can find the local bums prowling the bike path. Bird-man is always a sight to behold, riding along the path on a bike clad with pinwheels, streamers, and cans. He appears to be straight out of a New Orleans Mardi Gras. There are occasional group gatherings along the beach. People dancing around campfires, singing songs, drinking and smoking on the driftwood, and running out into the water. Towards the town are the train tracks, with abandoned, graffiti ridden cars. The barge canal lies right behind the tracks.
You can meet the infamous Mickey, along with his dogs, one of which has three legs, there. If you are ever in one of the local bars, Manhattan Pub to be exact, you will find Mickey in his prime. Hustling the pool table, playing one handed until you are down to the last ball then coming back for a perfect win. All the while, he will be taking shots of Vodka and telling stories of his numerous travels. This one time my two friends, Luke and Jack, and I went fishing at the barge. Mickey was there with his companions, under the rusted, tagged bridge. He was drinking a brew while his dog stood watch for any strangers and waded in the lake. We ended up hooking this prehistoric looking bowfin, about 3 ft in length. That fish gave one hell of a fight which ended with Jack clubbing it with a wooden plank. After hauling it back to our place, we gutted the fish and cooked it for dinner.
Enter Ladis. Next to the post office on Pine Street, there is a small based cafe called the Four Corners of the Earth. The owner is a middle eastern man named, Ladis. The place looks like a hoarder’s basement and on the far right wall there is an enormous portrait of Ladis with a giant pig. The coffee is liquid adrenaline and Ladis will cut you off after two cups. You can order a sandwich from various countries ranging from the Jamaican Avocado to the Thai Chicken. Over the course of ninety minutes, Ladis will simultaneously prepare the best sandwich you will ever eat, make out with a woman, and cleanse his palate with an aged bottle of wine.
To fully encompass the beauty of Vermont, best to visit in the Fall or Summer. In Fall, the trees turn to fire. The mountains are all ablaze with newly dying leaves, the crisp air hugging your body as the dreaded Winter approaches. But the most spectacular blaze comes from the sun. Vermont sunsets are extravagant color wheels. Purples, oranges, reds, yellows, greens, all swirling together across the sky. The clouds are burning over the indigo mountain line. The mirror image in the water connects on the shore line. If you are ever in Vermont, never miss the chance for a Mediterranean sunset.
Lafayette: The Oaks Under Which I Lay
As a youth, I had yet to notice the environment where I resided
The fall brought golden brown, crunchy leaves on the streets
But I walked in a hurry to school, the slightest breeze rubbing my face
Along the gray road, noticing the cars go over the speed bump
Finally at school, in a classroom with a teacher
I looked forward to recess and math, being able to play handball
Jumping off the swings, running my hands over the tan bark
Walking home, the sun lay upon my back
As I came to an empty house, waiting for my parents
Weekends were spent downstairs, playing games with my brother
I would sit on the carpet, not giving a care in the world
Trips to the park, trips to the wilderness
Hikes along the chartreuse grass, waving in the wind
I couldn’t stand it; I just wanted to play video games
Another level, another boss, another game
Impatient, restless, striving, ambitious
The never-ending papers became too much, writing, writing
Sounds of the Grateful Dead and Alpha Blondy drifted from the stereo
I came to resent that as well
As I grew, I gravitated to Hip Hop culture
The black sheep among the herd
I kept to my studies: Algebra, Biology, German, Orchestra
I loved my violin, the deep melon hue it would glow
Playing the melodious tunes from Bach to Vivaldi
Orchestra ended the school day, letting us out at the mercy of the hot sun
Beating down, but god damn how I loved every second of it
As I waited for the bus, I didn’t want to be anywhere else
My independence, studying, and music
were three pillars that stood taller than the oak trees.
The Beach of the Enlightened
There is a beach behind the grocery store on the north end of town. Its entrance forgotten by none but used by just as many. Its sandy shores allowed access to some of the greatest sunsets known to man. Magnificent spectacles of colored light that no lens could ever capture to the fullest. To most people in that town, this was the end of the earth for all they knew. Beyond the curvature of that crescent bay, there was nothing. But we knew better than that.
Every evening we could, we would meet there. During school nights, during the endless freedom of summer, even on nights when we couldn’t, we would meet there. Park your car behind the store, quick walk through the pines, fifty yards down the shore and you were there. Hang a short right up the dune and you found yourself with front row seats to a show some people only ever daydream about seeing. At this point the sun would be starting its descent, still a good 20 minutes suspended in air. We bum out on the sand, tell tales of mischief, and think about our days to come. Lit cigarettes circulate around filling the sweet air with the just as bittersweet smell of smoke. We howl towards the sun as it plunges to its death, only to be born again. Something like a scene straight out of a John Hughes movie. And then it begins. Blue! Green! Purple! Pink! Yellow! Orange! The sky illustrated by the brushstroke of the great painter in the sky. We dance with glee, and bask in the sheer beauty of it; the water all this time never moves an inch.
Now darkness has dropped its white dotted blanket over the earth, and we return to our seats. Reclining backwards as a new spirit takes the stage. Our minds seemingly connected wonder if the sky looks the same on the Oregon shore, or from the alleys of Rome. For we know the world doesn’t end here, beyond the crocodile coast is a world we were all itching for.
We’re all gone now. Scattered about the country, chasing meaning in something we started searching for those nights on the beach. The coast of the enlightened lies empty, but constantly waiting. For the sun is always born again, ready for us to return to witness its magnificent free fall into the abyss.
Miles and miles of open roads,
Not in walking distance of many friends.
It’s hot outside as the sun explodes,
And long lonely days never seeming to end.
I didn’t know why I felt so lonely,
I thought I was just too messed up.
I thought that I must be the only,
That I couldn’t be enough.
Looking back I was mistaken,
I had so many caring friends.
I convinced myself they all were faking,
I was so confused back then.
I still get confused today,
But keep a brighter outlook.
I have more hope how my future will play,
From lifelong friends I then took.
I am a natural born redhead, known for being crazy and full of life. My life has been a series of ups and downs and twists and turns, like a Ferrari Testarossa shouting and racing through the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps. I was well known for not taking naps and staying up way past my bedtime. At 7 years old I was looked in the eye by an angry old chess tutor and told, “You have Chutzpah.” That only aided in my fire towards life.
I was born and raised in Flanders NJ for the first 5 years of my life. My mom, dad, brother and I moved to Glen Ridge NJ, the summer before my sixth birthday. The town is small, and I mean extremely small, it spans three miles long and approximately two skinny streets wide. It has two elementary schools that separate the North and South side. Those divides don’t make a difference but a fun game to play throughout our middle school and high school years of arguing which side of town is better. In the middle of town there is the biggest mess of buildings that sit, tall and ugly on our main road. The contrast of the ginormous beautiful houses and mansions that sit besides these ugly yellow brick buildings is comical, almost. I remember the night I first saw the house I live in now. I looked at it with tired eyes and I said, “Ugh, we have to live there?” It was a beautiful old home situated on a small plot of land with a huge redwood tree sitting right next to it. It just wasn’t my home, but it would be. In the day, the long strands of the redwood tree would dance in the wind that swirled through the world around us. We unpacked our trucks and made our beds and soon it was September.
In September of 2000 we were in school and my birthday was around the corner. I remember on his way to work, my dad dropped me off. I walked sadly into my classroom and turned around and ran back out the doors like a movie scene. I ran faster than any roadrunner trying to get away from a coyote. I was yelling, “dad!” as his black suit and tie swept across his body and the clicking of his black, freshly shinned leather, shoes came to a stop. He turned as I jumped into his arms with tears down my face afraid the day was too long for me to see him at the end of it. I grabbed onto the last scent of him, our embrace lightened and he left for work that day.
In 2001 we were situated in our home, my little family, happy and ready for the new school year. My dad is the most amazing man I had ever known and till the day I die will remain that way. Those memories I have of my town are some of the best memories I could hold onto. I remember a few weeks before September 11 a huge storm knocked down tree branches and put the power off for hours. When the clouds cleared from the sky, my dad took us out in his beautiful Mustang Convertible that he got for his 40th birthday just two years before. The silver glistened with the rain that was coated on it. All four of us climbed in on this chilly summer day. We were looking for rainbows, one of my dad’s favorite things to do. He loved how so much beauty could come after something so destructive.
My town is one of the most beautiful towns in New Jersey, with our oak tree lined Main Avenue that erupts above in the beautiful gardens dancing with flowers of pinks, greens, blues, purples and the most ravishing yellows. As we road quietly through the town with the wind in our hair and hair sprawled across our faces the sky decorated in pinks purples and blues. My feelings of those moments are the ones that calm my heartache now. Remembering back to when my brother was small and falling asleep to the gentile motor of the mustang, my mom was so happy and content, and my dad, this man that ruled my world and is this statue of everything I wanted to be. These times when my small family was solemn and whole.
The car came to a smooth yet jolting stop and we positioned ourselves to see what had caused the sudden stopping of our smooth perfect ride. There in the street was a large tree branch torn across the road. My dad got out of the car and moved this large branch, his mindset that someone like his fragile mom would be walking down the street and would trip and get hurt. His kind heart helped him to lift this branch out of the road and I watched with big eyes. He climbed back into the car and reached to the back seat and squeezed my knee and then looked at my mom and squeezed hers. She let out a squeal that pierced our ears and the world around us as my dad reared the engine and we swept off into the evening.
We were about to give up looking for our rainbow when my dad spotted it. It was there, just sitting, peaceful and simple, over the horizon. To this day rainbows have always been a big reminder of my father and when times were simpler. My town is still small and beautiful, especially in the summer when the trees stand tall among the large houses on the main avenue. The gardens that rustle with beautiful vibrant colors and the skies that darken and depress with a storm and brighten and spring up with life after the rain tears through. The feelings that fill my body and soul with love and remembrance as I now drive through and see all the beauty that my dad did all those years ago. I remember when he would come home from a tough day and surround himself with his family, like buried treasure. At bedtime we would find ourselves in love embraced hugs as if to say we were never letting go. Before the mess of buildings, the elementary schools where young high school kids sit in the parking lots and smoke their first blunt, and before the field on the south end that housed secret prom after parties that got my friends thrown in the back of ambulances. The days when my family was whole, the memory my town holds, the memories of days that I wish I could go back to. Those are the days to hold onto, the ones that are the most simple and the ones that at any moment could be gone in the blink of an eye.
Subjectivity at its finest.
It’s defined as the town where one grew up
If accurate, I have an exponential amount
For I will forever be growing, changing and learning
Yet I have been molded
And from this molding I’ve run
I’ve run away from a place that would shut down every Friday night,
For the most important thing was a competition that took place
on a dirt and blood stained piece of turf
Watched by heroes of past generations and hopefuls with glistening eyes
Reflected in what many are familiar with as “Friday night lights”
I’ve run away from a place that didn’t accept the unordinary
Didn’t accept the ones that didn’t find themselves in a pew every Sunday
Despite how those that did were some of the least “holy” of all Monday through Saturday
I’ve run away from a self that was unsatisfied,
unimportant yet a self that was grounded and had been rooted with a strength
that could have only been secured through what I perceived as ailments.
I’ve run away from everything this place was in search of something better
Just to find that “something better” is, once again, somewhere else
I’m a lost wanderer traveling and experimenting with all the world has to offer
that I couldn’t see when blinded by what was “accepted” and “expected.”
I’ve been molded by places and people and obstacles, and I’ve broken.
And through breaking I’ve learned an infinite amount when I didn’t even know there was anything to be learned.
Ultimately, I’m always running to my hometown; the place I will grow up.
Childhood Memory, Tacoma
Oh that blessed place, that brilliant place. I shall always remember the magical waterfront that housed some of the world’s most beautiful creatures. Filled with ambiguity and wonder. Oh the color of that crisp blue sky with the reflection of the white mystic mountain overshadowing all its inhabitants. How? I ask. How was this possible? this beautiful scenery was so real and so delicate. I was young, but to this beautiful portrait of nature I was a baby. Ready to be milked slowly by the breast of Mother Nature. The beautiful water gazed through me in those. It was chilling. I could feel the serenity tumescent in my marrow. Peacefully gazing at me with the gloss of eternity. I was gone then. In my own world, just me and nature. Everyone was so happy in that place, as if all of the pestilence of the outside world was relegated to the entrance of the gate. Oh those flowers, how they made me dream. I loved them. They were so soft and innocent. I called them my brothers and sisters, because I too wanted to be just like them. They were incredible. Their petals felt like the flesh in the palm of an infant. They were all so different. There were colors that I had never seen before, and couldn’t even explain. There were elixirs of colors and an array of so many different voices speaking to me all at the same time. How could all of this just be here? For me? My family was so beautiful. I spoke to them when I was here and I would remind them of how beautiful they were and how we were the same. We were family and they could come to me about anything. But they were just flowers I guess. Oh and the trees which stood with meekness. They were my ancestors watching over us. They stood together in unity and yet there were so many shapes and sizes. My hands caressed the minted grass that felt soft enough to taste. All of the people walking by were telling stories to one another, laughing, and taking pictures. Striking brilliant poses in front of one another, experiencing the same thing I was at this beautiful public park. This place I loved. My parents would love to take my sister and I here to escape. I love Tacoma Washington. I loved this brilliant waterfront that never ceased to amaze me and take my breath away. Every child should be able to experience this sort of nirvana. I was young then. But to mother nature; I was her baby.
I remember the scent, the taste on my lips
Of a time back in Jersey, that’ll I’ll never forget
I was invisible to the world in those lively days
A girl running through time in a youthful haze
The streets filled with figures with no destination
I drove by these people with no hesitations
You knew everyone, everyone knew you
I didn’t look twice as they whisked by and through
The greenest of lawns
The prettiest of whites
My house was a home that I loved more than life
The porch that held secrets and cries from the night
The patio held times and lies and frights
My room so green and so rich with color
The boy that first lay down his head on my white feathered pillow
All my friends gathered
We danced till sun down
The songs became endless
It was more than a town
A family of misfits and no one care to fit in
We gathered our feelings in bottles of gin
The schools were all close and we walked usually
We giggled and swayed as we graced the narrow streets
The smell of the fog as we rose bright and early
Mother forcing my eyes to start the day’s story
Passing Old John who stayed on his bike
Did he ever stop riding when he went out of sight
The laughter and screams that lingered the ave
Still sing in my mind when I’m lonely or sad
I’ll think back to the days of Egg Harbor city
A time where I was safe from evils of reality
A place where I first breathed my first real breath
The place my lips were stolen by the first man I met
The place I found truth
The rights and the wrong
My hometown memories will forever live on
A Hometown Memory
Back in Indianapolis, being into classical music put you in a weird demographic. I grew up in the ghetto. It was a community with a rich history in African-American culture. Sadly, a love for western music and a love for black music were considered mutually exclusive. Where does that put me? That is where the story begins. When I was five, I went to the symphony to hear Tchaikovsky’s Five. It was my first time at the Hilbert Theatre and my excitement was limitless. I walked through the double-doors with my mother. An attendant walks up to me and says to my mother, “I think you two are at the wrong theater. The Expo is further down the street.” Now, if you missed the punch line, allow me to elaborate. She was referring to the Indiana Black Expo that was taking place that week. I didn’t realize why my mother got quiet and motionless at that moment. Later, after the lessons in history class about civil rights, I got it. I slowly began to notice that my hometown recollection is seasoned with events like this, like salt and pepper on a hot batch of fries. The only difference is the taste that’s left in your mouth.
Hometown Memories, Hardwick
O the wind. I’d feel the wind rush against my face, as the hilltop seemed to hold me up against all that approached. Looking out of my front yard, the rolling hay fields run far away to the tree line, giving way to the rural horizon that extends for miles. A farm town paradise nestled in the middle of old Massachusetts: Hardwick.
The towering snows of winter melting in the spring. The brook down Taylor Hill ran rampant. Young kids we were, running down its banks, ducking beneath the sap lines running from the maple trees, a mutual respect between man and mother nature it was, and is. The sun beaming through the trees, illuminating the thick forest where one could escape from the escape that is my hometown. Follow the brook down to the valley of the southern villages scattered along the Ware River. Stopping to get an ice cream at the farm stand, we’d feed the alpacas so as to entertain ourselves while eating. No time to even eat without nurturing our environment. We’d go down to the river bank, sit and throw stones, and look beyond to the vast cranberry bogs in the next town over, just over the opposite river bank. Mother nature. Our mother, she was.
As the summer grass and trees grew greener than we thought possible, we’d drive around in our cars to the trestle, jumping thirty feet into the river below. Running wildly, madly in love, not a care on earth about the world outside our paradise. From the package store to the parties in lofts, to our home to play our music, we were running mad to do everything we could. And we did. The nighttime summer air, bringing a cool breeze of relief from the hot sun. We couldn’t resist. Run, run, run said the shining moon that lit up the fields across the road. Jump, jump, jump said the hay bails strewn about the ground. Jumping off, booking it for the tree line, our senses driven by the liquor in our bellies, our hearts one with the moon, we ran from nothing. We ran to nothing. We ran because we were free. Far from the hustling bustling middle finger of modern day metropolis.
Fall arrives. We are on the eve of our departure. Our liquor run dry, and our minds eager to move to something new. I drive by the church where I was raised. Once a religious young boy, I drive by a man, and I am not as holy. I have my wings, I am hesitant to fly. But ramble on I did, into the winter I must endure.
Far from home, it is winter. The cold city and its cold children turn away. “Hello,” I say. “How are you?” I ask. Not a word in return. Suppose had I messaged their cell phone, they could’ve said a silent “Hi.” I’m far from home. Far from human interaction. Far from nature. Far from the way man was meant to live. I am here. I am lost. But I am hanging on. For they say spring is coming soon.
I’ll Never Forget Barnard, Vermont
A community of retirees, vagabonds, and old-timers
Hodgepodged, nestled in picturesque countryside
Silver Lake, shimmery summer days
Refuge on the well-worn porch, homey General Store
Melted ice cream, a trail left by an untried tyke
Lush sunsets in a canoe across the Lake in the State Park
Raged masses of water force its way through the grate
Bare feet leap into the murky depths of the water
Daddy’s trust-fund facilitates start-ups on their next organic enterprise
Lost and searching souls
Healed by seasonal scenic beauty
The close-minded who unwelcomed the Fable Farmers
The “homeschooled” free-minded, hippie kids
The crazy Chestnuts, firing guns during inebriated races on the hill around their trailer park
Sysco, the legendary wild man and his Siberian Husky
Surviving 30 below nights in a lean-to, deep in Chateguay, the vast backwoods
I’ll never forget the long winters
The stinging frigid pining at dusk
The yearning for change, an escape
The longing for non-existent Spring and all the whispering promises of Summer