Nowadays the sewer drains, utilities, streets and sidewalks are being redone all over my neighborhood as part of a massive public works project. Most folks around here try to grin and bear it because it's important and necessary work. But the noise, dirt and disruption are incredible. I work days so fortunately I miss most of the fun; if I had to sit through this five days a week I’d probably staring at a kitchen shelf by now trying to decide between absinthe and hemlock.
I live around the corner from Tory Row, named for seven historic mansions sprinkled along Brattle Street that were built by wealthy locals who remained loyal to the crown during that awkward spat between the colonies and King George. Many other equally regal homes have been built along that stretch over the years, and this is where you'll find some of the most expensive real estate in New England.
These are the kinds of houses where you’ll see a half dozen Mexican landscape guys patrolling the lawn on hands and knees, trimming the grass with manicure scissors. I'm guessing that most of the owners have decamped to their second or third homes on Martha's Vineyard or St. Croix by now and left the housekeeper in Cambridge to make sure the tractor driver doesn’t plow down a fence.
The beating and banging starts every morning at seven. Microphones are on the ground here and there that one of the construction guys said aren’t recording anything—they're just checking sound levels. Sure…like the NSA would pass up this good a chance to keep an ear on The People’s Republic of Cambridge. But it must be boring for the monitors, listening all day to people discussing their dogs’ bowel movements. So I figure to provide a little more interesting programming:
1. With “Super Freak” blasting in the background on a boombox, introduce the line-up of an imaginary NBA team (“And now, ladies and gentlemen… your 2014 Freedonia Landsharks! At one forward, Duplicitous Manatee! At the other forward, La’ Shonn Pantoum! At center, Buns Alfresco!”….)
2. Sing an a cappella Tom Jones medly. I’m leaning toward “What’s New Pussycat,” “It’s Not Unusual” and “She’s a Lady.”
3. Deliver Henry V’s speech at Agincourt in Bugs Bunny’s voice: (“And gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.”)
4. Read twenty minutes of Rodney Dangerfield jokes.
We’re only six months into a three-year construction project so I’m going to need a lot more material.
I’m open to suggestions….
Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. A short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. He has been selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.” His novella, "Spin Cycles," will be published in October by Gemma Media.