5AM – Dunkin’ Donuts – Somerville

On January 3, 2018, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


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At 62 it is a lot harder to get up for the class that I teach at Endicott College on the North Shore – especially in the winter. I like to do a lot of my prep at the office – so I bite the bullet – and get ready at 4 a.m. I meet the morning demands of my cat – Ketz – brush my crowned teeth, take a brush to the remains of my hair – and I am out the door.

I am a man of ritual – my day starts at the Big D Tuesday and Thursday mornings – for almost a decade now – at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Somerville Ave., adjacent to Central Street. Often I am the first one there. My car is exhaling steam and so am I, often the moon is a vivid white, and the configuration of clouds and sky – a new breathtaking work of art. Before it opens I hear the last minutes of talk radio with Bradley J on WBZ – all those insomniacs trying to fill their void, the voices from the city and the hinterlands – a Greek Chorus to the opening act of my day. In my own imagination I have become an iconic figure there. If you can see my dark silhouette in the window, the brim of my baseball cap pointed to my java and my multi-grained bagel, then you know they are open for business. I must look like a figure from an Edward Hooper painting – in this early morning desolation.

There is a mini-subculture here that I am part of. The people at this time are bone-tired. For the most part they are not the hipsters and young professionals that populate Union Square Donuts. The donuts and bagels are good but they ain’t “artisanal.” The customers are not strangers to the elements, they have weathered a lot, and have that did that–done that sensibility displayed on their faces.

We all usually nod to each other, sometimes say hello – but we don’t linger – we are tired and in a rush. The manager is a good ol’ girl who drives in from New Hampshire, and her cheerfulness is a much needed bitch-slap to the gloom of the wee hours. There is an industrious Asian woman behind the counter, looking like a Keystone Cop as she briskly walks back and forth to help things run smoothly. There is a Hispanic gentleman, maybe a little older than me, that I have seen for years. We always respectively nod and smile at each other – and exchange the usual early morning cliches. He drinks his coffee and smokes his cigarette outside. He takes puffs and sips as he looks to the sky – it almost seems like he is having a spiritual experience. There are two women who arrive punctually at the same time. They seem to order coffee for their work crew. They are real Somerville types – not transplants – but I could be wrong. They croon the order with a rapid fire cadence – a sort of song for our morning. They cackle with deep Boston accents with the manager, laughing at life – bemoaning what’s worth bemoaning.

This is the Twilight Zone limbo after the dreams and nightmares of the night, and before the mad rush of the day. Our cars leave the parking lot – high beams leading us to our journey into the light.

 

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