Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Fairlawn Cruise: Flirting with Disaster

Come—take the Fairlawn Cruise with me. Turn the clock back more than a quarter-century, when we didn’t have a care in the world, except maybe when we ran out of beer. Yes, that was an emergency. But before we hit the packy to get another six of beer, let’s go on the Fairlawn Cruise—WHICH INVOLVES RUNNING EIGHT STRAIGHT STOP SIGNS WITH OUR HEADLIGHTS OFF.

Reckless? Yes and no. You be the judge. All you have to do is go on the Fairlawn Cruise with us, and then we’ll hit Burns Package Store, and you can give us your verdict.

Just kidding. Burns Package Store closed years ago. So take a virtual cruise with us.

I motor down Wilbraham Road and pass by Fenway Drive every day. In the morning, when I glance at Fenway on the right, and then, a few streets later, Bellamy Road, sometimes my thoughts wander back to an old ritual my friends and I invented: the Fairlawn Cruise. Should I do it again one of these nights for old time sake? Fuck that. But I’ll be glad to tell you about it.

Fairlawn Street runs parallel to Wilbraham Road, connecting a grid of nine streets in the neighborhood where I grew up. Our Fairlawn Cruise began at the intersection of Fenway and Fairlawn (on the right in the photo below—click on it to enlarge), and ended at the intersection of Fairlawn and Bellamy (on the left in the photo). If you click to enlarge the photo, the red "A" marks the former party spot known as The Gully across from Creswell Street. This was tantalizingly close to the finish line. If we were going fast enough by the time we got to The Gully, the Promised Land, Bellamy Road, was at hand.

Oh, to take another downhill Fairlawn Cruise. But that would be impossible today. Well, not impossible—just, well—oh Goddamnit, I can’t! I’m too chickenshit! I’ve got a wife and a kid now!

Let me explain. We used to take the Fairlawn Cruise at night, after shutting off our headlights and car engine. Then, yes, we’d roll on a gradual incline through eight stop signs. I could repeat this maneuver now, and shoot video of the whole thing for the sake of this blog, but alas, there would be no more blog—and no more me—if someone slammed into my car during such a stunt. So you’re going to have to rely on my description.

Fairlawn: what an appropriate name for a suburban street. Let’s take a cruise down Fairlawn Street—past all those nice lawns. Lawn after lawn after lawn of lush, green, fair lawns.

Come on! We’ve got to take a cruise down Fairlawn at two in the morning—from Fenway Drive to Bellamy Road—an all-downhill magical journey. This was a must in the early and mid-1980s. We simply had to do it before retiring for the evening.

So, we’ll put the car is in neutral, turn off the Pink Floyd, roll down the windows, cut the engine, and turn off the headlights. Click! And voila, we’ll start coasting through the first of eight straight stop signs.

That’s what we used to do for a little fun. Don’t ask us why we did it. Just use your imagination and join us. It’s a hot summer night. Can’t you feel the condensation on your beer bottle?

Photo: the intersection of Fenway and Fairlawn, looking downhillthe beginning of the Fairlawn Cruise. Yes, I know theres snow on the ground, Goddammit! Just pretend its summer, OK?

Dangerous, you say? Rolling through eight stop signs with no headlights? Not really. Fairlawn is not exactly a busy thoroughfare. The nine residential streets it bisects are quiet as hell in the wee hours of the morning. No one here but us losers!

On a late summer night—in any season, really—when we agree that it’s time for the Fairlawn Cruise, we drive to the intersection of Fairlawn and Fenway, shut off the engine and the lights, and start rolling down Fairlawn.

Ssssh! It’s so quiet all you can hear is the rubber of our tires crunching on the asphalt, and maybe a few crickets. With the windows down, we’d be able to hear any cars coming, so stop freaking out. There’s Aldrew Street, [STOP SIGN] Catalpa Terrace [STOP SIGN], Maebeth Street [STOP SIGN]. Yeah! We’re almost halfway!!!!

On with the cruise: Granger Street [STOP SIGN]—damn, we’re really picking up some speed now—with all our windows rolled down a pleasant breeze blows through the car as we look and listen carefully for other cars that might interrupt our cruise. Believe me, this is easier to do at night—if we see headlights on any of these streets all we have to do is slam on the brakes, but this is never necessary. Never. I guess we’re lucky. We’re the luckiest motherfuckers in the world!

We’ve got the momentum now. Fucking flying, man! We’re definitely going to make it to the end! Denwall Street [STOP SIGN], Pineview Street [STOP SIGN]. There, past Pineview, on the left, is the wooded area known as The Gully. This is usually a big party spot on Fairlawn, but not tonight—it’s so friggin’ late—no one hanging out to witness our proud feat. We’re on flat terrain now, on the bottom of the hill, but this is the home stretch, and we’re home free.

Photo: The Gully, a notorious party spot in The Acres, is no more. Houses replaced the woods years ago on the Fairlawn Street side, and a dead-end street of single family homes, Lemnos Lane, now fills the rest of the former city property. Who the hell is Lemnos? The street should have been named Lame-ass, after the people who destroyed our party sanctuary!

We cruise past The Gully, past Bellwood Street [STOP SIGN], and finally, Bellamy Road [STOP SIGN]. We made it! Yes!!! WE MADE IT!!!

So, who says there was nothing to do growing up in Sixteen Acres?

Photo: Congratulations, you have made it to the intersection of Fairlawn Street and Bellamy Road, completing the Fairlawn Cruise. Its time for a packy run.

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