Patrick Fleming, Irish Harvard Square Warlock Icon!
My old-time friend just passed away … R.I.P.
Since the early ’60s into the ‘2010's, Patrick Fleming held down 27 Putnam Ave. #2, one of the coolest apartments ever in Harvard Square, Cambridge. This was because his pad was rich in decadence. Many of the coolest musicians either lived there or they’d visit. There was no telling who’d walk through the door — some famous, others just trying to get along.
I met Patrick through my friendship with Helanie Saad, an icon in her own right and fondly renown as the world’s oldest living groupie. She lived in the thick of Harvard Square in the apartment directly below Peter Wolf of the J Geils Band, and she hung with heavies like The Kinks. Forever a delight and helper to many rock bands, her advocacy list was a strong one.
Patrick’s pad always had a poet in residence. This poet — of which, over time, there were several — would always nicely blend with anyone or anything no matter when. Also nearby was a contingent of Harvard Square’s homeless who camped out in the yard of a great house around the corner. It was, in fact, from this infamous Putnam Ave. address that my pink ‘56 Cadillac got 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 managing a rock n’ roll band called Harlow. I eventually moved upstairs into Holly’s third floor pad where things were considerably more comfortable. But the excitement, the unpredictability and never-ending Budweiser always ruled at Patrick’s. I imagine the smell and ghost forms of marijuana still linger, blending with sounds of songs once performed on funky musical instruments. Back in the day, real Velvet Underground people used to visit here.
I returned to this house for a brief bit in 1992. Always something magical about this building kept bringing one back. And in many amazing ways, there was always something unexpectedly magical about Patrick. Over and over, what you’d expect the least would happen the most.
Here’s a perfect example of this magic. From ’92 till Year 2000, I threw the very best parties on the planet. They were Musical Spaghetti parties spanning over three Cambridge locations. It eventually got to a point where three to five dozen people would party-visit on every Thursday night thus creating a decline in Friday’s work force.
These amazing parties began at Patrick’s apartment. In Harvard Square I had rented an office to which I was also living. Eventually discovered, I was about to get the boot. So I asked Patrick to see if I could temporarily stay at his pad — the small room was available. He said I sure, but I had to first help him rummage through some of Harvard University’s dumpsters. He told me the rich students were leaving behind televisions, stereos, VCR’s, furniture, just about anything they couldn’t pack 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 with him. He didn’t reply to my statement. He just looked into my eyes. Following a brief pause, we grabbed a couple of two-wheelers from the basement and off we went.
Sure enough, just like he said. The dumpster was full of everything and high-quality items they were — almost like new at a Best Buy from the nearby mall. It was a very beautiful spring day. I’m standing deep into the dumpster and thumbing through some Boston Celtics trading cards when I hear a loud rattling and joyful conversation in the distance.
It was the sound of metal shopping carriages where wheels were negotiating the pavement. Lo and behold, down the street on approach was the entire contingent of Harvard Square homeless folk, smilingly and laughingly trudging forward while pushing two shopping carriages way overloaded with cardboard boxes.
They had it down and were very-well organized. Two of ‘em were pushing behind each carriage with one hand and two were on each side of the carriage. One hand pushed or held down boxes that were piled way too high for the small carriage. In each of their free hands they were sporting an open bottle of wine!
Merrily, they swigged along the way.
As they drew near it became eerie, almost pagan. They immediately recognized Patrick standing in the dumpster. In a deep gruff voices, several yelled out, “Hey, Patrick! You’re in the wrong dumpster!” One turned and finger-pointed down the street while chortling out, “You gotta get to the one down there — it’s full of wine!”
They didn’t stop for conversation. After all, they were on a complete mission from God. Pressing forward like an old ragtag Civil War platoon fresh from a battle, they marched on sipping, snorting and spitting to the sound of the clattering carriages.
Indeed, it was a beautiful day! And God was in on the script.
Patrick and I cleared our two-wheelers of various high-priced items and we set forth towards the magical dumpster. Sure enough, packed deep in the back were boxes and boxes each full of wine! We discovered they were bottles from Harvard’s Alumni Class of ’67. Each well-corked bottle was labeled accordingly. After several trips back and forth from the dumpster to 27 Putnam we ultimately landed 110 bottles.
When finished, with all brilliance I could muster, I looked at Pat and said, “Hey, 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 some musicians. Then local hotshot musical artists Kenne Highland and Jody Moore were among first visitors. Well fueled, we sat around and drank wine, smoked pot and played music till sunrise and beyond.
We did it the following Thursday and every Thursday after that … until Year 2000, when I fell in love and moved to New York City.
Shortly after it all started, I moved from Pat’s pad into a larger house at the other end of Putnam Ave. The parties got bigger.
I then moved into an even bigger house for even bigger parties. They became famous! The rule was you arrived in silence and you departed in silence. Once inside, you’d party hearty. Anything you brought with you was meant for all (no hiding a six-pack in a corner and thinking you were cool). This was The Spaghetti Oath!
I really do not understand why the rest of the world is not like Cambridge!
As a final note, I’m so glad I got to see Patrick about three years ago. I learned from Helanie he’d given up 27 Putnam Ave and had moved into Cambridge senior citizen housing. I went for a visit. Guess what? His new apartment, although modern and a high-rise, held the same funky look what with multiple musical instruments and unique oddball dumpster-gained items collected about.
When I found him, he was feeding his pigeons. Clearly, they had adopted him. Outside they communed on his deck. It was a was happy and comfortable scene.
Indeed, the poet of Patrick’s world had finally become he … himself! May he rest in peace!