Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Red Line: a ride into my own personal history

I love the Red Line. Let's be serious, most people agree with me. It's one of the smoothest, usually one of the fastest rides in the whole of the Subway system in Boston. But, my affinity for the Red Line goes beyond mere agreement with the majority of Bostonians on the subject of T travel...

Everyone, at some point or another, is intrigued with the idea of figuring out what their very first memory is. (It's true, you know it!) Mine, I found, after many years of "searching" (if you can call it searching...), is like a flash of video; mere seconds of animation. It is a memory of looking out of a window and seeing the rounded-off rectangle go from light to dark, light to dark, light to dark very rapidly.

When I first came to Boston (a year and a half ago already!), I lived on Harvard's campus while attending a 6-week course at the Harvard GSD. So, my experience with Boston's Subway that summer began with the Red Line. And my first ride on the Red Line that summer transported me into one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I was mindlessly watching out of the window of the car I rode in with my friends from my program, and suddenly, I saw in reality what had been flashes of played-back video in my memory for so long: the window, a rounded-off rectangle, was going light to dark in rapid succession due to the lights in the tunnel carved for the train's travel! I admit I let out a little shriek of glee and jumped to my feet, alarming the friends riding in the car with me as I ran to the window to watch it more closely.

It was like I suddenly put the last puzzle piece into a vast jigsaw puzzle in my mind. It was like a huge lightbulb flicked on, illuminating a corner of my brain that had been hiding in shadows for years and years and years. Let me bring you up to speed so you can better appreciate why this sudden illumination happened. I am Minnesotan through and through, I was born in Minnesota and lived most of my life in Minnesota. But I do say most. When I was 2, my family moved out east for a short 6-year stint. The first 2 of those 6 years was spent in Boston, well, Framingham technically. So, when I was 3 and 4 years old, I rode the T quite often with my mom and dad as we went different places around the city.

Now, I know what you're thinking, maybe it wasn't actually the Red Line I was remembering, but another line. How can I be so sure that it's the Red Line?

Ah, but I'm way ahead of you. I thought of that myself. So, I made a point to ride each color of the Subway system during that 6 weeks of my program at Harvard (at that time, I didn't know I'd be staying in Boston, and thought I wouldn't get a chance to figure this out anytime soon once I had left). On all of the other lines, I definitely was reminded of this flash of memory, but I never experienced the intensity of surreality on the Green, Orange, or Blue Lines like I did (and still do) on the Red Line.

And therefore, I conclude that my first memory was indeed formed from a ride on the Red Line some 2 decades prior to now. (Wouldn't it be cool if one could figure out the exact moment in time in which their first memory occured? I'm sure I rode the Red Line quite a lot in my 2 years as a child in the Boston Metro area, so it's impossible for me to know, but that would be pretty cool...)

And thus, my special affinity for the Red Line. Every time I ride it, I feel a sense of personal history. And when the car is mostly empty, and I can look out of the window across from my seat, I still get that surreal feeling of jumping back into the vaults of my memory. For the briefest of moments, I feel almost timeless.

which line is the cleanest? dirtiest? has the most "interesting" people on board?
omg, you died!
Hi! I write a weekly blog column for the Globe's City Weekly section. I'll be pointing to your Red Line post since it's way cool. Would it be possible to get your last name? Editors love attribution like that. You can contact me at adamg@gaffin.com

Wait, I died? What? I'm so confused...
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