And another thing . . . People
And another thing . . . People
by Alison Barnet
Thursday Jan 28, 2010
Buzz was happy that Scott Brown won the election; in fact, he’d taken the day off from the bank to work as an observer at a polling place. Jen, a high-priced consultant, had made phone calls on Brown’s behalf, ignoring the raised eyebrows of her nonprofit clients.
Walking together on Union Park the next day, glowing over Brown’s win of "the people’s seat"-his stirring words-Jen tripped on the brick sidewalk and fell into a huge hole. Buzz tumbled in after her, ripping his Brooks Brothers coat. As on New Year’s Eve, they found themselves traveling back in South End history without knowing it, this time to a seedy variety store on a questionable corner with a train thundering overhead, so loud they couldn’t hear themselves think. They’d never been so scared.
A scruffy-looking guy with a T-shirt riding high on his hairy belly was working behind a counter cluttered with coffee, popcorn, and hot-dog machines; a sheet of wax paper barely covered an open box of doughnuts. When there was no response to "Could I borrow your cell?" Buzz asked for change from a twenty to make a phone call. Pulling a pistol from under the counter, "Tex" told him the store couldn’t handle big bills. "I had to shoot somebody just last night for tryin’ to pay with a ten." Luckily, a guy sitting on a milk crate cleaning his fingernails with a knife handed Buzz a dime.
"Thanks, but I think I need more than that."
"Where you callin’, China?"
The call didn’t go through, and Information had no record of Buzz’s bank or even his attorney. Jen waited anxiously over by the WonderBread and the dog food-nothing fancy, just Alpo. Buzz returned carrying a newspaper he assumed was put out by Scott Brown because it was called the People’s South End News.
"Oh, Buzz, Black Panthers on West Newton Street!"
"What do you mean? It says right here, ’All Power to the People.’ That’s Scott Brown, all right."
"But Buzz, it also says, ’Power to the Tenants! Power to the Community-Controlled Institutions! Power to the Self-Help Programs! Power to the Community!’ I don’t think Scott would go that far." She was slathering mustard and relish on a hot dog.
Buzz, choosing a jelly doughnut from under the wax paper, read on. "The New South End Must Be Stopped. Urban renewal has done more harm than good ... The only people who benefit from it are downtown."
"The Republicans would never write something like that, Buzz!"
"Where you folks from?"
"Oh, we live in the South End, and we worked for Scott Brown."
"Scott Brown! Doesn’t his sister live over on Claremont Park?"
A man buying a pack of Marlboros for almost nothing spoke up. "Naw, his family was in the projects. I knew his old man."
Now everyone was all ears as Jen read on: "The Future Leaders of the Blacks (FLOB) is a youth group in the South End. We’re young, revolutionary, and our goals are that of freedom and liberation of black and oppressed people."
"Are there many black youth in the South End, Buzz? I don’t think so."
"That’s basically the only kind we got, lady. Thought you said you lived here."
"Yes, but in most condos all you see are white babies."
The man looked at her blankly.
Suddenly she exclaimed, "Oh, Buzz! The date on this paper is 1970! Scott Brown was a child then, and we weren’t even born."
That settled, they felt better, and the longer they stayed in the store the more they loosened up. All kinds of people stopped in, some just to talk. The ad didn’t lie:
Hot Coffee-Doughnuts Sandwiches-Conversation
A sallow-faced man regaled everyone with gory tales of his near death experiences. Jen fixed him up with a nonprofit.
The storeowner described his plans to open a restaurant serving pork chop sandwiches, bone and all. Buzz gave him advice and invested on the spot.
By the end of the day, Buzz was placing a bet that Scott Brown would be our next president with a man standing near the Pampers writing numbers on slips of paper. Later, this man gave Buzz and Jen directions back to Tremont Street-without a GPS!
"Well, that was fun! Let’s see, he said Washington Street and Tremont were parallel ..."
"They were good people, Jen. Smart, interesting."
"Totally. Buzz, do you think Scott means them when he talks about people? People has a lot of different meanings. It seems some people count and some people don’t. When our friends say, ’It’s great to see people buying homes in the South End,’ they’re forgetting all those people who owned homes in the past and maybe still do. They’re way too eager to cut out people who lived here in 1970, like the ones we met today. Isn’t assuming that only people like us count kind of arrogant?"
"Well, you’ve got a point, Jen, but don’t get carried away with it. People won’t like it."