How the 1990s Cambridge, Mass. ‘Spaghetti Night’ Parties Began
The Good Ole’ Days
Since the early ’60s, my friend Patrick held down the second floor of 27 Putnam Ave., one of Harvard Square’s coolest apartments ever. His pad was historically rich in decadence. Way cool musicians lived there, or they’d visit. There always was a resident poet and no telling who’d walk through the door … some famous, others desperate and trying to get along.
I met Patrick through my friendship with Helanie, an icon in her own right and today fondly renown as the world’s oldest living groupie. She lived in the thick of Harvard Square, directly below Peter Wolf of the J Geils Band. Holding down an admin job at Harvard, she hung with heavies like The Kinks, Atlantic Records promo folk and lots of local rock n’ rollers. During transitioning moments I’d live at her pad for a spell. A delight and helper to many rock bands, her advocacy was strong.
Right on, Helanie!
As mentioned, Patrick always had a poet in residence. This poet — several over time — would always blend with anyone or anything no matter when, how or why and any sense of reason or product of absurdity easily could become a new poem. Also unique was who lived in the back: A scrabbled contingent of Harvard Square’s homeless camped under trees and within the bowels and sheds of a great house hidden at the end of a tiny dead-end street.
It was at this infamous Putnam Ave. location where my pink ’56 Cadillac was stolen. Who took it? I don’t know. But I’d sure like it back! I never reported it stolen because I’d been arrested with lots of pot while living on Boston’s Beacon Hill — life for me then was too complicated to get bogged down with police-like things. So I took it like a hit in hockey: I got back up and keep on going!
But, oh, what a car!
I lived at the Putnam Ave. pad during the early-mid ’70s. At the time, I managed a glitter-punk rock n’ roll band called Harlow. I eventually moved upstairs into Holly’s third floor pad where things were sweeter, better organized and considerably more comfortable.
But excitement, unpredictability and a never-ending stream of Budweiser always always prevailed at Patrick’s. Today, I imagine marijuana scents still lingering with a blend of sounds from songs performed by famous people on very funky and unusual musical instruments. This, with a background of madcap poetry! During those days, even real Velvet Underground people would visit.
Ironically, I returned to live for a brief bit in 1992. Even though Patrick had some drinking skill problems, there was always something magical about the apartment that always drew me back. But, as frustrating as Patrick could be from alcohol, there also was something unexplainably magical about Patrick. Perhaps the leprechaun within as he was only a wee bit in height. But, over and over, with him, what you’d expect the least would happen the most.
Here’s a perfect example.
From ‘92 until Y2K, I threw the best parties on the planet. They were musical spaghetti parties and they spanned over three Cambridge locations. Ultimately, it got to a point where three-to-five-dozen people would party-visit every Thursday.
During this time period America’s Friday work force always suffered a decline due to my penchant for Thursday night partying. T’was hard to find work on Friday when you could not find sleep on Thursday. My strategy made for great long weekends for my worker friends!
Dumpster Diving Harvard’s Dumpsters
These parties actually originated at Patrick’s apartment. In Harvard Square I had rented an office where I lived. But I got discovered and was about to get the boot. So, knowing the small room was available, I asked Patrick if I could temporarily stay at his pad. He agreed. But first I’d have to help him rummage through some Harvard University dumpsters. He told me how the rich college students always left behind televisions, stereos, VCR’s, furniture — just about anything that couldn’t be packed into a suitcase.
I said, “Patrick, I don’t want to go dumpster-diving!” But it didn’t matter what I said, or thought. He knew me too well. He knew I’d go. He didn’t even reply to my statement. He just looked into my eyes. After a brief pause, he said “let’s go” and we were grabbing a couple of two-wheelers from the basement. Off we went.
Sure enough, just as he described. We found a dumpster full high-quality items. It was a very beautiful spring day. I was standing deep in the middle of the dumpster, thumbing through some Boston Celtics trading cards when I heard a distant combination of loud rattling noises mixed with laughing insults with invectives scaling louder and louder.
It was the sound of metal shopping carriages where soft wheels negotiated hard pavement. Lo and behold, on approach was the entire contingent of Harvard Square’s homeless folk, each wearing deep smiles and uncontrollably laughing while trudging forward in a push of two shopping carriages, each way overloaded with cardboard boxes.
As if disciplined, they were very-well organized. Two of ’em were pushing from behind each carriage with one hand and two were on both side of each carriage using one hand to hold down the boxes that were piled way too high for such a small carriage. In each of their free hands they were sporting a large open bottle of wine!
Quite a sight to see. Merrily, they swigged along.
As they drew near it became eerie, almost pagan. They recognized Patrick standing in the dumpster. Simultaneously, in a deep gruff voices, several yelled out, “Patrick! You’re in the wrong dumpster!” One of them turned and finger-pointed down the street while chortling, “You gotta get to the one down there — it’s full of wine!”
They didn’t stop for conversation. How could they? They were, after all, on a complete mission from God. Pressing forward like an old ragtag Civil War platoon fresh from a battle, shoulder to the wind, they marched on sipping, snorting and spitting to persistent sound of clattering carriages.
I felt like saluting them. It was a beautiful day … and the gods of mercy were indeed in on the script.
Patrick and I immediately cleared our two-wheelers of the various high-priced items we already had gathered. We set them aside on the sidewalk and promptly aimed for the magical dumpster. Sure enough, packed deep in the back were boxes and boxes full of still-corked wine!
We discovered they were bottles from Harvard’s Alumni Class of ’67. Each corked bottle was labeled accordingly. Several back and forth trips from the dumpster to 27 Putnam ultimately landed us 110 bottles.
Let The Parties Begin
When finished, with all brilliance that conceivably could be mustered, I looked at Pat and said, “Let’s have a party!”
We picked Thursday night. Why interfere with a good weekend! We threw tables together, got a nice tablecloth, put some candles out, cooked up some spaghetti and invited musicians. Then local hotshot musical artists — Guitarist Kenne Highland and Vocalist Jody Moore — were inaugural attendees. Well fueled, we sat around and drank the wine, smoked some pot and played music till sunrise and beyond.
We did it the following Thursday and every Thursday after that … until Year 2000. That’s when I fell in love with a girl from New York City and moved out of Cambridge. It became like The Curse of The Bambino of a Different Kind, for those who like to party.
Shortly after it all started, I moved from Patrick’s pad into a larger house at the other end of Putnam Ave. in Cambridgeport. The parties got bigger.
I then moved into a larger house for bigger parties in East Cambridge. Luckily, we were the only residence within the zip code. We were surrounded by MIT buildings and industrial business. Our already famous parties became even more famous!
Of course, over the years we didn’t just party only on the Thursday nights. Every holiday we’d have huge parties with well over a hundred people in attendance … and always from dusk to dawn.
Each large party was themed: French Toast Party for New Years, May Day in the Spring, Trick or Treat for Halloween, etc. We had a Raffle Party, a Camper Tailgate Party and a Bubba Party where Cambridge intellectuals were required to speak in the language of bubba.
We even had a Sex Lay-Away Plan Party where attendance was contingent on drawing a name from out of a hat. The name you drew meant you had to have sex with that person 20 years later. If the name drawn were to die or become unavailable, then you’d get lumped into the Orgy Pool. It was to my great regret that we actually passed this future date without any action — lol!
Indeed, we knew how to have fun … and we did!
The Spaghetti Oath
The rule was you arrived at The Spaghetti House in silence and you departed it in silence. Once inside, you’d party hearty. Anything you brought was meant for all. There was no hiding a six-pack in a corner, leaving it only for you and thinking you were cool.
I really do not understand why the rest of the world is not like Cambridge, Massachusetts! Although I understand, since I left Cambridge, it has suffered from gentrification which can ruin any party, especially when working people and creative artists get the economic boot!
Anyway, party well my friends — with consciousness — wherever you are!