Happy Allston Christmas, aka Don’t Come to Boston Today

By Julie, sweltering in Somerville (but holding fast to summer)

9-1 (1)For the first time in 24 years, I will not be working at a college this fall. I took the semester off from teaching to focus on the launch of Just Killing Time, the editing of Clock and Dagger (working title for Book #2) and the plotting of Book #3. While my plate is full, it feels odd not to be editing a syllabus, planning a lecture, putting aside blocks of time twice a week for class, and not worrying about finding class coverage for Bouchercon or the New England Crime Bake.

That said, I live right outside Boston, so there is no avoiding the change that takes place here every September 1. Most colleges (and there are dozens in the city) have already had freshmen orientation, or are in the middle of it. Many are starting classes this week. Late Labor Day means classes start a little early, which throws everyone off. Add to that the real changing of the guard comes today, when a ridiculous number of apartments turn over. We’re talking thousands of apartments, one day, people moving in and moving out. I was on that schedule for years, and still have nightmares about the upteenth trip in a friend’s brother’s pickup truck during a rainstorm. Don’t ask.

There are two “this will happen for sure” things about September 1. First, a rental truck will get stuck under a bridge on Storrow Drive. This will tie up traffic for hours. It hasn’t happened yet (as of this writing), but it will, despite the warnings, and the signage. Hopefully only once.

Second, some people will score great finds during Allston Christmas. Allston is a neighborhood in Boston with a large student population. Every year, huge piles of stuff are left out on the curb by folks who couldn’t fit it into a van, car, cab, or grocery cart. Sure, some of it is garbage. But a lot of it can be recycled for another home. Hence the name–the days when folks go picking trash for presents. (There is a great article, and poem, at this link.) I know someone who got a piano on September 1–the renter couldn’t get it up the stairs of his new apartment.

[Note, Allston Christmas would make a great Sarah Winston novel–what do you think Sherry?]

Here’s the other thing about September 1. It is my new year’s day. Living here, you can;t help but be influenced by academic calendars, so I gave in a long time ago. My planner is an academic year. I set new goals and they kick in September 1. Much as I hate to see summer go, September 1 is a reboot. But the one thing I don’t do on September 1?

I don’t try to drive anywhere in Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville.

Happy New Year! Does anyone else consider September 1 their new year, or is it just me?

20 Thoughts

  1. I love this, Julie. I learned to trash pick when I came to Boston, and still use a couple of lamps I picked up off the sidewalk thirty-plus years ago. i cleaned them up, rewired them, bought fresh shades, and got new lamps for essentially free. But having had two sons who lived in Allston for a time – yeah, don’t go near the place today.

    I have a total of twenty-two years of classroom learning, so September means a fresh start for me, as well. I’m starting a month-long health rejuvenation program today, too. So happy new year!

  2. Yes, today does feel far more like New Year’s than January 1 ever does! New clothes, new schedule, new people. I cannot imagine what it will be like to one day have the academic year come and go without notice. Merry Christmas, I hope you find good things.

  3. Ah yes. Fond student memories of life over the P&K Deli on the corner of Museum & Beacon Street in Somerville. We had a round living room! Our alarm was the odor of coffee brewing in the deli as it wafted up through the register. Nice quick walk to class, though.

  4. I don’t have experience with Boston, but I just flashed back to my year in grad school when it seemed as if, every day on the drive to classes, the same song was playing on the car radio–the Rod Stewart classic that starts by saying it’s late September and he really ought to be back in school. Now that’s going to be stuck in my head all day!


  5. Of course the year starts in September!

    The last time I was one of that horde of locusts descending on Boston (or in my case, Cambridge) was when I started graduate school, a long, long time ago. I met up with my grandmother in New York, and she rented a car for me (she didn’t drive)–a humongous station wagon, which I then drove out of New York city and into Cambridge. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Boston, so I assume I parked there–I may have erased the memory. We drove back to my college to collect the odds and ends I had stored there over the summer, including a chair and a steamer trunk, and then moved them into the apartment I had rented (on Harvard Street, which no one could ever find because tourists always stole all the street signs). I had to buy a bed and a couch–and then I added a cat. But I don’t remember the craziness on the streets.

  6. I’ve never heard it called Alston Christmas, although I started my Boston odyssey in neighboring Brighton. Our current neighborhood in Somerville is popular with grad students and I’m headed there from Maine today for an overnight. It will be crazy! Of course nowadays no one takes beds or upholstered furniture off the street because of the possibility of bedbugs.

    Sherry, Bill & Kate are headed to Brimfield on 9/11. You should tag along!

  7. I never felt that way about September 1st even when I worked at a college. Of course, we usually started the last week of August, so there was no clear cut date like this. However, since we had a July to June fiscal year, I considered January 1st and July 1st to be new years.

    Now, the company I’m working at has both January 1st (us) and July 1st (parent company) fiscal years to deal with, although January 1st feels more real to me for this job as a fiscal year end.

    1. Mark, since I worked for a private company with a Jan 1 fiscal year, and we sold primarily into higher ed institutions with July 1 fiscal years, I know whereof you speak. I do, emotionally, begin a new year on September 1, even all these years later (although this year my daughter starts teaching at a college next Tuesday, my son has gone back to school, and my granddaughter has just started “school” while her dad is at school, so I guess we are back in it.) But when you think about it, getting to start fresh 3x a year isn’t bad!

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