My old-time friend just passed away … R.I.P.
Since the early ’60s into the ‘10's, Patrick Flemming held down 27 Putnam Ave. #2, one of the coolest apartments of any ever in Harvard Square, Cambridge. This was mostly due to his pad being rich in decadence. Many of the coolest musicians either once lived there, or they’d often visit. Any time I was there, no telling who’d be walking through the door — some who were famous, some just trying to get along.
I met Patrick through my friendship with Helanie Saad, an icon in her own right and fondly renown by her friends as ‘the world’s oldest living groupie!’ Not only did she hang out with The Kinks, et. al., but Helanie was always a true delight, always a tremendous helper to rock n’ roll bands. Her advocacy list is a great one!
Notably, somehow, Patrick’s pad always had a poet in residence. This poet — there were several — would always blend nicely with the contingent of Harvard Square homeless who had a camp-out around the corner. It was, in fact, from this address that my pink 1956 Cadillac was stolen back in the mid-’70s. Whoever took it? Please give it back — lol!
I lived there in the early to mid-’70s back when I was managing a rock n’ roll band named Harlow. I eventually moved upstairs into Holly’s pad, #3, where things were more comfortable. But the excitement, the unpredictability and the Budweiser always resided at Patrick’s. I imagine the smell and ghost forms of marijuana must still linger in the building, blending with the sounds of songs once performed on multiple musical instruments.
I returned to stay there for a brief bit around 1992. There was always something magical about that building, something that always brought you back. And, in many amazing ways, there was always something unexpectedly magical about Patrick — what you’d expect the least would happen the most!
Here’s a perfect example of that magic. From ’92 till ‘00, I threw the most incredible Musical Spaghetti parties at three Cambridge locations. Eventually it got to a point where three to five dozen people would automatically visit for musical fun and frolic mixed with fine dining every Thursday night.
These amazing parties were to begin at Patrick’s apartment. I had rented an office in Harvard Square that I was living in, and I was about to get booted from it. So I went to see Patrick to see if I could temporarily stay at his pad — the small room was available. He said I could, but I had to help him rummage through the Harvard dumpsters. He told me the students were leaving behind televisions, stereos, vcr’s, furniture, all kinds of things.
I said, “Patrick, I don’t want to go dumpster-diving!” He knew me too well, he knew I’d go. He didn’t say anything, just looked at me in my eyes. After a brief pause, I said, “Oh, all right. Let’s do it!” So we go down into the basement and he hands me a two-wheeler, he has one and off we go.
Sure enough, just like he said. The dumpster was full of everything and high-quality items — way better than a Best Buy! I’m standing in the thick of the dumpster, thumbing through some Boston Celtics trading cards when I hear a loud rattling sound in the distance.
It was the sound of metal shopping carriages on wheels. Lo and behold down the street the entire contingent of homeless folk were smilingly and laughingly approaching while pushing two shopping carriages full of cardboard boxes.
They had it down well, they were very well organized. Two of them were pushing behind each carriage with one hand and two people were on both sides of each carriage, with one hand holding down the boxes piled way too high for the carriage. In each of their other hands they were sporting an open bottle of wine!
They drew near. It was eerie. They quickly recognized Patrick standing in the dumpster. In a deep gruff voice, one of them yelled out, “Hey, Patrick! You’re in the wrong dumpster!” He points behind him down the street and says, “You gotta get to the one down there — it’s full of wine!”
They didn’t stop. They were on a mission from God. Pressing forward like a rag-tag Civil War platoon fresh from a battle, they trudged on by, sipping and snorting to the sound of the clanging carriages.
Yes, it was a beautiful day! Clearly, God was in on the script.
Patrick and I cleared our two-wheelers of high-priced items and set forth towards the magical dumpster. Sure enough, there it was packed deep in the back … boxes and boxes of wine! Checking it out, we discovered the boxes were full of bottles from the Harvard Alumni Class of ’67, each bottle was labeled accordingly.
After several trips back and forth from the dumpster to 27 Putnam we ultimately ended up with 110 bottles of still-corked mostly red wine which filled our pantry.
With all of the brilliance I could muster, I looked at Pat and said, “Let’s have a party!”
We picked Thursday night — why interfere with a good weekend! We threw some tables together, got a nice tablecloth, put some candles out, cooked up some spaghetti and invited about 15 people over. Musical artists Kenne Highland and Jody Moore were among the first visitors. We sat around and drank wine and played music till the sun came up.
We did it the following Thursday and every single Thursday after that until Year 2000, when I fell in love and moved to New York City. Eventually I moved from Pat’s pad into a larger house and the parties got bigger and then into an even bigger house for bigger parties after that. They were famous! The rule was you came in silence and left in silence, did what you wanted once inside. Anything you brought with you was for everyone (no hiding a six-pack in a corner and thinking you were cool)— The Spaghetti Oath!
I’m glad I got to see Patrick about three years ago. I learned from Helanie he had to give up 27 Putnam Ave and he moved into Cambridge senior citizen housing. I went to visit … and guess what? His apartment, even though modern, held the same funky look what with musical instruments and oddball items scattered about. When I found him, he was feeding his friendly pigeons who clearly had adopted him outside on his deck. He happy and he was comfortable. He had, himself, become the poet!