Causeway St. and Beverly St. (right outside North Station and the TD Garden)

Tuesday, October 26th. 6:10 pm

What better place to tip off my urban observation blog than sitting on a cozy concrete barricade across the street from the TD Garden on Celtics opening night? Bright lights project the lucky shamrock logo and unifying “IT’S ALL ABOUT TEAM” mantras onto the broad exterior of the Garden. Scalpers circle the block like vultures, crowing “Anybody selling tickets? Selling tickets?” (They have devised this clever refrain to engage potential customers without projecting the appearance of any wrongdoing). Yet, amidst the standard pre-game sights and sounds, I am struck by an unexpected sight at eye level: almost outnumbering the steady stream of Celtics fans predictably decked out in green and white NBA merchandise are brigades of sign-holding minions supporting a different team and selling something other than tickets to the game.

On this unseasonably warm night just a week before the upcoming election, volunteers line the Causeway Street median and congregate at the corner of each block along this five-lane thoroughfare to promote their favored political candidates. Forming a permeable fence of signposts between the dense traffic crawling around them, these sentries stand patient guard, armed with nothing but optimism that all those who cross will osmotically absorb the names emblazoned above their heads. I would share the names here if I could remember them.

TV news crews line Beverly Street

The sensory attractions along this bustling main street distract me from the bleak outlook along Beverly Street, which extends behind me from Causeway Street toward the Greenway.  TV news trucks line the dark street, which is blocked to general traffic by huge concrete planters joining with my barricade and others to form an effective border. Of the few pedestrians who approach the Garden along the dimly lit Beverly Street pass-through, none dare tread on the dirt-patched turf that flanks the street on either side. Only a news anchorman, bolstered by the bright bulbs of TV, ventures onto the unwelcoming lawn to film his pre-game spot.

Old brick factory buildings, some replaced by bland new modern apartment and office buildings, surround this poor park. One factory still bears the faded green painted palimpsest advertising some former inhabiting company, the name now unreadable as new windows poke through the old industry sign. As dusk turns to dark, a boy bouncing up and down on the concrete barrier next to me is careful not to topple the wrong way onto the grass.

The lively chitchat in front of me draws my attention back to Causeway Street. Standing outside the large black vehicles now parked in front of me, two limo bus drivers trade stories as they wait for their passenger loads. Suddenly a half-dozen teenagers on trick bikes race to take advantage of a lull in the traffic and hop by from left to right. Straight ahead, the wishbone profile of the Zakim Bridge, Boston’s newest defining landmark, points impressively skyward as cars disappear quickly down into the 93 tunnel below the more attractive park across the street.

The park outside the Garden teems with people

Across this little access road outside the entrance to the T, eager fans stand in a long unmoving line in hopes of being among the first to enter through the basement to see their favored Green in action as the team embarks on a new campaign. If these loyalists would only venture across the road as I did, they might find greener pastures inviting them to sit and stay awhile.


For more reading about the evolution of Causeway Street, check out this recent article from the Boston Globe.