In my mind, Thayer Street has no seasons. I see a line of Harley Davidsons outside Johnny Rockets when the RISD kids are gone and Brown summer campers walk in tight packs gripping cups of Del’s, but it’s snowing, quiet, and I can see my breath. It all blends. I’ve seen it too many times over the past ten years to distill a master impression of the street in memory.
I first see Thayer from the same location: the porch outside Nice Slice. When they first opened, my friends and I renounced the topping-heavy pizza across the street at Antonio’s in favor of Nice Slice’s buffalo and barbecue chicken thin crust. In high school, most Friday nights started at Nice Slice. A bunch of dudes in fitted hats with flip phones and shaky plans and vodka in a water bottle missing its label. I saw Shepard Fairy redo the Obey artwork in the interior in 2009. I had a five-year anniversary sticker on my laptop from 2010 until the computer crashed last summer. I was sadder about losing the sticker - a red and blue unicorn with a flowing mane, a black logo in the bottom right corner - than my music library.
Across the street, I watch the line curl for inferior pizza. I watch them change the marquee at Avon Cinema. I remember the movies. A Scanner Darkly - the box office guy asked my brother and I if we were high, said we should be in order to appreciate the roto-scope visuals - An Inconvenient Truth - with my entire freshman class - and The Education of Charlie Banks - with my prom date. Andrea’s is where groups of girls go out to dinner and try to get served. Bagel Gourmet is where you eat in the morning, real eggs on the sandwich, five colors of Gatorade. Kartabar and ViVa are mystery places, bars, a different world that seemed far off back then.
I remember when my dad’s friend opened Roba Dolce on Thayer and Angell. We went after school, my dad, uncle and I. The power was gone all down Thayer, a hot September afternoon my freshman year. They were giving away the gelato for free; it was slowly melting behind the glass. The line was down the block and I saw some girls from school, and I turned red as thirteen year olds do when they find themselves in the company of peers and adults unexpectedly.
On wandering nights, my friends and I used Roba Dolce’s bathroom, which was connected to Geoff’s sandwich shop, because we knew we could drop the owner’s name if the manager told us we had to buy something. Roba Dolce is now a Chipotle and Geoff’s turned into some place I never go. Store 24 at Euclid and Thayer became a Tedeschi Market,and then closed and was still vacant the last time I went back. Though I haven’t been there in seven years, I imagine the Creperie still flourishing down Fones Alley beyond the line of dumpsters. Spats is gone, no more tubes of beer flirting with the ceiling, but whatever occupies that space now must still smell of foamy spills. The delight of Free Cone Day lives on at a new location, but the Ben & Jerry’s that I knew, on Meeting Street, has been bulldozed and condo’d. The hookah bar that was always crowded and never fun is still there.
I like when places stay open. It seems to confirm that the younger parts of my person live on. The more earnest and fun parts. But when restaurants close, when buildings are razed, they become nicely sealed in a pocket of years where they can take on more precise definitions. They can be seen complete, overlaid with the spirit of those specific years - first-term Obama, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, late-high school optimism, etc. - and stay forever occupied by the friends who are now only faces in my feed, numbers I never dial. I can see us in those places, speaking in slang I’ve forgotten on summer days when it is snowing.
I don’t go back to Thayer often and try not to go back alone. I find it best to return with someone who can corroborate false impressions and endorse tinkered memories. The friends who remain friends. We go to English Cellar and drink legally and play pool and every story starts with “Remember.” When Brown kids dressed as zombies paraded down the street. When Greg puked on the door to Spike’s. When we ran out on the bill at Johnny Rockets. When we heard a kid in a La Salle hoodie refer to Johnny Rockets as “J-Rocks.”
In the morning, we eat Bagel Gourmet and sometimes run into someone from school and rarely say hello. Because small talk is draining. And nostalgia is dirty, an old man with convincing lies and bad teeth, who tells you that it was better back then, rocking in his chair at the back of your mind. He should only be allowed out once in a while, in the company of friends. With an open invitation, he’ll have you stomping through summers like a houseguest who expects elaborate comforts and always forgets to say thank you.
About twice a year, I come back. I drive the same car as I did back then, but it’s harder to find someone to come along. Greg’s on a boat in Alaska, Luke’s in LA. I look for parking and take in the new signs and old signs. I’ve never been to Francesca’s or Shark.
I find a stool outside Nice Slice and watch the strangers and eavesdrop, shaking crushed red pepper over the cheese. I remember telling myself to remember: the view, the presence of friends, the sense of a wide-open future, the taste, the light in the sky and the life of the block. It’s narrow, Thayer Street, one-way and downhill. The pizza never disappoints.
More About The Author
Mike Jeffrey is a graduate of Lesley University’s MFA program. He lives in New York.
Photo Credits: Photo of Thayer Street courtesy of the PattyJDotCom Instagram