Friday, February 27, 2009

riding on the MTA with "Charlie"

Let me tell you of a story of a man named Charlie
on that tragic and fateful day
He put 10 cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family,
went to ride on the MTA...

But did he ever return? No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned...

That's the beginning of the classic Kingston Trio song that I grew up singing... and today I got to be a tourist in Boston, and to "ride on the MTA" (although now it's called the "MBTA" - Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority - or just "the T"). In fact, I used Jon Paul's "Charlie Ticket," which is what they call the transit pass (named after the song, of course).

Anyway, a fun day - a ride on the "T" into Back Bay station, a visit to the Boston Public Library (incredible), a walk down "Commonwealth Avenue" (or "Comm Ave as Bostonians say it) to the Public Garden and Boston Common...

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him "one more nickel"
Charlie couldn't get off of that train!

But did he ever return? No he never returned...

I walked the "Freedom Trail" through historic Boston... don't get me started... it was great...

Now all night long Charlie rides through the station
Crying "What will become of me?
How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea
Or my cousin in Roxbury?"

But did he ever return? No he never returned...

I can't tell you how much pleasure it gave me to actually see and experience that all those specific place names (Kendall Square Station, Jamaica Plain, Chelsea, Roxbury...) that I've been singing for years are REAL PLACES...

Charlie's wife goes down to the Scully Square station
Every day at quarter past two
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich
As the train comes rumblin' through!

But did he ever return? No he never returned...

And then I also rode the "T" up to Harvard Square and walked around there, soaking up the different kind of energy and being accosted by various Greenpeace street evangelists... good for them...

So you citizens of Boston, don't you think it's a scandal
How the people have to pay and pay?
Fight the fare increase! Vote for George O'Brian!
Get poor Charlie off the MTA!

Or else he'll never return, oh he'll never return...

And then, get this. Tonight I did a house concert, and we closed out the evening with a rousing rendition of this "Charlie on the MTA" song - when else do I get a chance to do this song in concert, with people who would know EXACTLY where and what it's about?

And a man who came to the concert tonight told me that his father used to work for Columbia Records in Boston during the Kingston Trio era. It turns out that when they made up the publicity posters for the song, THIS MAN'S DAD was the one who portrayed "Charlie" in the posters...! What would that have been - 40 years ago?

Can you believe that?!

Anyhow, my day as a "tourist in Boston" is now over, and the pace of this tour is going to pick up dramatically as I'm doing 4 events in the next 4 days, and 9 in the next 11 days. So far it's been a lot of travel, and a little performing. Now it'll be much smaller distances, and a lot more performing.

And not to worry. Despite my obvious passion for - and now personal association with - this song, I don't think I'm in danger of sharing Charlie's fate...

Or else he'll never return, no he'll never return
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned...



At 12:04 AM, Blogger Turmanator said...

Wow Brian, sounds like you're having a great trip! Makes me want to travel the continent, visit some American cities. Thank you for sharing a narrow slice of what you're experiencing.

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Eugene said...

I guess we want you to return. By the way, our basketball team has a perfect winning record since you are gone ... maybe extend your trip through the playoffs?

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been singing the song all week.... Grace and Peace, abby


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