Until recently, I’d spend the beginning of September getting ready to head to Boston. I only stayed in the Allston duplex where I lived for most of college for one summer and so the rest of the time, returning to school seemed like a rightful pilgrimage, a mass return to form, a trip to reenter “real life.”
The clearest indicator that time has passed since I was in college is that a boy I befriended in my school’s comedy scene when I was a senior and he was a freshman is about to be a senior. I went back to Boston unexpectedly in July, tagging along with a friend for a concert. Like this boy, the babies I’d left behind when I graduated were all preparing for their final year — hanging out, making decisions on where to move post-grad (Los Angeles? New York? Back home?), wrapping up their friendships and storylines and romances.
Music plays a big part in how I remember college. The songs we played at parties in the student ghetto, hoping no one calls the cops. The songs we played walking in the North End to get high on someone’s roof. The songs we played when we were heartbroken and drowning our sorrows at the Tam or the Silhouette or Sweetwater or The Field. The songs we played to celebrate the end of the icy winters and the beginning of playing frisbee in the garden.
This one’s for you, college babies. Here’s some songs for Boston this year.
Hostile, Mass – The Hold Steady
Listen to this on the way to a trashy party in Allston. Ride the T to the Harvard Avenue stop with a bottle of gin in your purse, but still stop at Blanchard’s before you head over. Pass a group of rowdy girls headed to Model Cafe. Pass a bunch of bros bummed The Kells closed. Pass someone puking. Wonder how anyone lives in his crazy hell hole? Know that everyone who lives here absolutely loves it.
Boston – Dresden Dolls
Listen to this in the winter when you’re walking against the wind on Tremont Street and you’re face is so cold it physically hurts. Listen to this as you trek on to the Common to smoke weed by the gazebo. Listen to this as you walk from the Central Square T stop to your apartment, which you just now regret choosing because it is in BFE and you hate it. Listen to this when that townie breaks your heart.
Ladies of Cambridge – Vampire Weekend
Listen to this when it starts to become spring. Buy new flats on Newbury St. Play softball in the Public Garden. Go to the ICA or to a show at the Middle East or around Harvard University’s campus to see the “ladies of Cambridge” at their vegan restaurants and local book stores. Look at the purple and pink flowers bloom in the Public Garden on your way to Beacon Hill. People are flying kites or sitting and reading the Sunday Globe on blankets. Join them.
Bridges, Squares – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Listen to this, not in Kendall Square like the song suggests, but just on a walk at night. Walk over the bridges to all the different squares. Look up at the night sky. Boston’s a walking city. Go from one end to the other. Walk from Harvard to Central to Kendall, if you want to be literal. Go from downtown to Fenway to Boston University and back again.
Dirty Water – The Standells
Listen to this when you love Boston. When you’re happy to be there and you want to embrace even the parts you know are kind of terrible.
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
Listen to this when you shop at the Stop and Shop, and as you walk back to your apartment in Davis Square with your hands full of groceries. Listen to this when you take the train out to Chestnut Hill for a BBQ in your friend’s big backyard. Put this on in the car late at night and open the windows.
Girlfriend – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
Listen to this at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston while holding hands with your hipster boyfriend or girlfriend. Admire the Cezanne’s. Fall in love with them and with each other.
I’m Shipping Up To Boston – Dropkick Murphys
Listen to this when you’re a true Bostonian, and not (as it seems) just a drunk idiot on St. Patrick’s Day ruining everything for everyone. Headed to Eastie, Southie or Dorchester? Planning to rob a bank in Charlestown? Gonna snitch on the Irish mob? This is your one-song soundtrack.
Mass Pike – The Get Up Kids
Listen to this — where else? On the Mass Pike. As you fall in love.
In conclusion, I refuse to put that Augustana song on here. Refuse. Enjoy college, those of you going back. It doesn’t last forever for a reason.