5 min read

Massasoit Street On A Snowy Night

Remembering Dad's one shift as a nighttime watchmen.

It’s late. Probably after midnight.

Massasoit St. and the tiny avenue that we share with two neighboring houses are already blanketed by three or four inches of fresh white snow. In the soft yellow glow of the streetlamp, which I periodically check by pulling side the curtain of my bedroom window and squinting down the block, I can see the storm continuing. It’s a slow and steady snow that’ll leave enough on the ground for Mom to wake up early the next morning, shovel a path from our house to the shed, and ski her normal walking route, winding through the neighborhoods around Smith College without her poles clacking on asphalt.

But she’s fast asleep right now, unconsciousness after reading less than 10 minutes out of the large stack of books and magazines (that never gets any shorter) on her nightstand. And Dad’s awake. Always the night owl. Quietly surfing the Internet until one or two in the morning, after which he’ll walk carefully upstairs, brush his teeth, and flip the light back on in the bedroom to read.

Tonight, though, he’s about to become the only impromptu member of our street’s neighborhood watch. He’s standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of water, and he notices the cab light in his truck is on.

Many years later, I’ll finally surmise that Dad liked to stay up so late because he’d often smoke sativa after Mom and I had gone to bed. He’d catch a late-night active high and dive into puzzles, books, and earlier Internet rabbit holes. Some nights, he’d play unending rounds of Spider Solitaire.

The nighttime offered relief from the high decibel levels created by myriad concerns—life as the director of a residential program for kids that needed help, a lot of it. Cutchins was place where Dad was proud of his impact and often tried by the demand placed on him and the rest of the staff to provide guidance, support, and a watchful eye at all times. Looking back, he must’ve relished a few quiet hits outside his shop in the growing darkness, then settling into the solitude of our house when everyone else was asleep.

Snowy nights were the most hushed. The clouds reflected light pollution and cast off a soft, dark purple hue, while they laid a heavy white layer of soundproofing on the roads and lawns of Northampton. Cars stayed hidden in driveways and garages. Plows waited strategically for lulls before heading out too clear.

Work, friends, family, houses, hobbies, never-ending to-do lists—we fill our lives with all of it in part to give ourselves meaning and fulfillment. We also do it because late at night, when our worlds take a break and inhale a few restful, slow breaths, the reality of it all can set in if we’re not careful. Maybe that’s why Dad would get pleasurably stoned and drift into the mindless the clicking of cards on his computer—so as his duties and his compulsions would fade for awhile, he’d fine some peace.

But tonight, the slam of his truck door takes him out of whatever tranquility he’s been enjoying. And just before the cab light shuts off, he sees a figure tromp back up our little avenue and turn left, headed down our main road for Elm Street. Dad’s on alert, now, and he briskly pulls on his clomping snowboots and heads out to his green Ford Ranger to find that all of his parking change is missing. And he calls the police.

It’s possible that I had kept myself up, speeding through a Jane Yolen book about dragons or wizards, all the while praying endlessly for a snow day good enough for tubing and hot chocolate. It’s also possible that a short whoop from police cruiser woke me up, my eyes opening to the lights flashing off the powdered street. That I only imagine that I was awake to remember all of it.

Sometime between that night and lunch the next day, my parents explained to me that a man from the house at the corner of Prospect and Massasoit had wandered out into the storm and wandered from car to car, checking for unlocked doors and quarters. Today I’ve convinced myself that the thief must’ve been drinking—or something like that. He was just messed up enough to not think much about his midnight endeavor. The police had an easy time following his fresh tracks from his front porch, down the sidewalk, and investigating each miniature spur into our neighbor’s driveways, up to each car door, and then turning around to head on to the next house.

Crime solved. Perp arrested. Small-town newspaper police blotter faeturing another short paragraph describing a boneheaded parking change caper. Car doors in our driveway locked every night, at least for the next few months.

This Week


Just once piece this issue, because it’s long and it’s worth your time.

Emma Marris serves up an epic, deeply reported piece about living off the grid (and what happens when you need help) in Eastern Oregon with Outlaw Country. The piece was published in The Atavist—a magazine that publishes one epic piece a month. Cool idea.

On The Screen

After some busy weekends, we finally made it out to see Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart. Funny and refreshing, even though it’s a near beat-for-beat remake of Superbad. The kids are all alarmingly self-aware, which, whether or not it’s accurate, gives you a sense that that’s how Wilde sees “kids these days”. The Internet Age and Gen Z, amirite?

We are still working our way through Season 3 of Pamela Adlon’s Better Things, and the show keeps outdoing itself. It subverts every learned trope of these realistic comedies about life—much the way Louie did, but with a greater reverence for humanity and family, and considerably less self-loathing (although the latter still plays a part, as it does for any comedian or writer.) Note: if the show feels a like Louie, that’s because Adlon worked with C.K. to develop the show—although his mark is gone from all but the credits now.

A few weeks ago, we saw Werner Herzog’s Meeting Gorbachev. It was Miche’s first foray into the documentary world of Herzog, who fearlessly inserts himself and his beliefs into his nonfiction film. The director’s reverence for the former Soviet premier and leading questions were disarming (especially for Miche and really for all of us)—but for a kid who was barely three when the Iron Curtain fell, it was pretty stunning to see Gorbachev, nearly three decades later, reflecting on his life’s work. Go for the historical relevance, stay for Herzog’s dismissive and petty jokes about everyone else in the Politburo.

Two Notes

This newsletter is a creative space to keep in touch, to think out loud, and to heal. It takes some psychological safety to put these thoughts out in the world and the sentences won’t read perfect or be free of typos. I do revisit my issues and make corrections as I catch them.

If you know someone who’d like to see it every couple of weeks or so, feel free to forward it or share the link: https://simontpollock.substack.com