Alewife Brook Parkway

31 Aug 2018

Every day for a year I’ve made the turn from Mass Ave onto this little winding road as I head to work. Usually there’s a line of traffic waiting to make the same left, each car a little more grumpy than the last. I perfected the art of sneaking up in the right lane and swiftly taking the left right as the arrow changed to green so I could dodge the backup and greet Alewife Brook Parkway without the surrounding crowd. I love this road, and I’ll miss it when I’m gone. To one side is a strip of forest, sandwiched between the road and the river and always full of squirrels to watch out for. In the evenings, sunlight dapples through the trees and speckles the road with little sun spots that I find comforting. In the mornings the colors are crisp and set against a calm grey-blue sky, at least in the summertime.

It’s a narrow road, somehow managing to squeeze two lanes each way into a space that should be one and a shoulder. There’s some charm in that, though: every day I have to be a bit focused to keep the edge of my car from bumping the curb that always seems too close. In the winter there are piles of snow so close that you can reach your hand out the passenger window and brush away some powder. Driving there in the winter makes me feel like I’m on the only safe path for miles.

On work days, Alewife Brook would spit me out at Highway 2, which I cruise for a few miles before arriving in Waltham. But the road has taken me so many other places, too. It’s been a main artery, pumping me from my house to climbing gyms, Trader Joe’s, and cheap movies on Tuesdays. When I returned to Somerville from long roadtrips to the West, Alewife Brook was always the last exit off the highway, the obscenely complicated left that never fails to have traffic backed up, even if it’s 10pm. I know wwhich times to avoid Alewife Brook like the plague, because during rush hours it has some of the worst traffic around; and I know times where riding Alewife Brook is smoother than surfing.

Somehow, today, on my drive to work, I felt the gravity of my departure as I thought about the road I drove along. It’s not a perfect road, or even the best road that I’ve driven on in the area. In fact, it may even be one of the largest sources of traffic consternation that I’ve dealt with in my life. But there’s something amazing about the consistency. I know the flow of things: the Stop n Shop lot to the cemetery to the Greek Orthodox Church to the Mobil on the corner of Mass Ave, then the neighborhood with the playground and the streets that intersect the parkway like cross stitches, to the big branching point where one side goes to Cambridge and the other to work. I know the red light with the secret right turn, the Summer Shack just before the hill, and the road that takes me to Danehy snaking underneath. I’ve entered at Boston Ave, Broadway, Mass Ave, Rindge, from the bike path, from Concord Ave in the roundabout, from 2 and from 3; at 10 in the morning after driving all night, at 6 in the morning when going to work early, after midnight showings and exhausted from climbing. I’ve taught Ari how to drive and listened to her golden hour playlist during more golden hours than on any other road.

Alewife Brook has been one of my paths well-traveled. I’ll miss it when I’m gone, through all its imperfections.