Bruno, Lucas, and Ocean are in their usual spot – Pablo’s clubhouse – also known as the BTC recording studio. Pablo, the BTC music director, has done a masterful job coaxing and coaching this talented group of aspiring musicians as they come dangerously closer to earning the distinction of actually being called a band. Pablo, raised in Columbia, and a Bostonian via Berklee, hits all the right notes with an uber approachable manner and absurdly broad musical knowledge. I’m on his couch too. I love to drop in when they’re rehearsing, or just hanging out. The other day, I felt a creepily strong sense of deja vu as I watched Bruno mess around with a new riff, and Ocean and Lucas tentatively jump in with cautious accompaniment on drums and bass. Finally, it hit me. I was watching a fifty years-later, Brookline version of the Liverpool lads in that truly amazing scene from the Beatles documentary Get Back, where Paul literally invents a song on the spot with George and Ringo looking on in wonderment and then joining in.
And yes, I did push the Beatles analogy a bit further by sending the guys a video of the 1969 rooftop concert and then telling them that we needed a Tik Tok of them playing their full setup on the BTC roof to a crowd of adoring teens below. The video will promote our upcoming concert “Brookline Calling.” (Only a slight chance we get sued by Boston Calling. But then, they could probably be sued by The Clash!)
For a few moments last Thursday night, I had a second quick bout of deja vu, as suddenly my brother and I were celebrating our 11th birthday in the coolest way possible in 1984 – with a roller skating party at SpinOff. But I wasn’t on Landsdowne st., I was in the BTC basement, as blue and pink lights flashed and disco beats echoed off the cinder block walls – this was TeenSkate Roller Night. And rolling past me was my esteemed colleague from Brookline High Joslyn Vendola – venerated special ed teacher, Brookline Woman of the Year, and thrower of mean hip checks for a semi-pro roller derby team called The Nutcrackers. She brought a few of her tattooed teammates who patiently offered skating lessons to wobbly-legged teens. Across the rink, several effortlessly cool twenty-somethings demonstrated kickflips. They were from Lonely Bones Skate co., a group of activists determined to diversify the sport and bring the joy and life lessons discovered on a skateboard to a broader audience. All that skating must have made the 70+ teens in attendance hungry, because they established a new BTC (and possible world) record by devouring ten Village Fare pizzas in about 120 seconds.
One teen who bravely entered the scrum and managed to emerge with a slice was Destiny. Earlier in the week, she ditched school to spend the day visiting Fitchburg State University with BTC social work intern Sujata and me. Destiny is a senior, with just three months left until graduation and a few weeks until college applications are due. But this was her first time setting foot on a college campus. At one-third the price tag of private universities, with a comfortable campus, and a stellar criminal justice/law enforcement program (Destiny intends to be a police officer), Fitchburg is one of those hidden gems that too often get overlooked and overshadowed by flashier, higher profile universities. Destiny, who only a fool would bet against achieving all of her life goals, soaked in the atmosphere and the insights offered up by our bubbly tour guide. As I hung back and let her and Sujata walk stride for stride and chat, I could almost see inside Destiny’s head as she envisioned herself, perhaps for the first time, in a dorm room, in the dining commons, in the cozy corner of the library. And when she finally broke through her shyness, or possibly just took pity on our guide, who kept asking us if we had any questions, Destiny simultaneously revealed her naïveté and cracked me up with all-timer of a query: “So, do they have, like, a curfew here?”
You may have noticed a certain photogenic teen center member keeps popping up in the BTC social media feed. He was squeezed in between four girls on a cramped couch. Posing at the poker table. Chasing after an errant dodgeball. I’m talking, of course, about Squanchy, the Epstein family 90lb Bernedoodle who has taken up residence at the old garage. He seems to be on a mission to destroy every ball in the place. But that’s mild misbehavior compared to the other night when he almost put the future of the BTC in jeopardy. The Brookline Community Foundation, in many ways the glue that holds together Brookline’s social services and nonprofits, and one of BTC’s biggest funders, was having a board meeting. The teens had emptied out, it was late, and the board was convening upstairs. I was in my office finishing up some end of night emails when I realized Squanchy wasn’t in his usual spot on his dog bed at the office door. I headed to the BTC cafe, and there he was, looking guilty as they come, amid a mess of lettuce and tomatoes on the concrete floor. He had eaten an entire tray of sandwiches! Thankfully, Aba Taylor, BCF’s dynamic new Executive DIrector, who kindly gifted us the large platter of sub sandwiches has a sense of humor. I was relieved to learn that the BCF board had already eaten. No one goes hungry at the teen center (especially not Squanchy). Everyone laughs. Kids try new things. We look into the future – and celebrate talent. We move and sweat and make loud music.