I’ve never been able to escape the people or strong connections from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You can always find people from MA when you’re traveling, usually in major cities, and you’ll learn their story. I began to notice from all the old “snowbird” couples I met in Florida who moved down from MA to escape the cold ache of winter for the warm town houses. From one trip around America, it has come to my attention that people from Massachusetts are everywhere, our state produces transplants, and people often find their way trying to make it in Massachusetts. I’m sure we could spend a lot of time discussing the culture, diversity, or opportunity of why MA creates this, but here are 5stories of how home followed me.
Raleigh, North Carolina
My friends Craig, Costello, Rob and I were trying to cash out of the Hibernian Bar in Downtown Raleigh. The well dressed bartender was about to return Craig his I.D. when it all of a sudden caught his attention.
He held up the I.D. staring at Craig’s face and picture, “Your name is Hanley and you’re from Massachusetts? I’m from Springfield.”
Craig’s drunk face began to gloat, “Yup, I am Craig Hanley from Massachusetts, no shit, that’s wild.”
After a few minutes of chatting, the bartender requested that we wait at the bottom of this library themed bar as he went up stairs. He returned halfway down the stairs and signaled for us to follow him up. We entered the roof of the Hibernian where a small private gathering of middle-aged adults took place.
The bartender introduced us to the bar owner of the Hibernian named Niall, a large 6’2 Irish Man, with the same nose as Craig, who’s last name was also Hanley. Niall shook our hands finding interest in our Massachusetts and Irish roots. He had no problem giving us shit, had another well dressed bartender buy us a few rounds, and we spent the rest of the night on the roof top listening to him. He talked about being an immigrant in South Boston in the 90’s, offered to show us his nine other establishments in Raleigh, and didn’t rule out “bagging” Craig’s Mom back in the day. I’d like to return someday to the Hibernian to chat with Niall, I felt smarter after listening to him, and glad our home and the name Hanley could introduce us to a North Carolina Kingpin.
Walking in and out of the back doors of Nashville’s bars on Broadway Avenue, I bumped into a man wearing a Red Sox hat. I ran into a man from Nashua, NH in a Nashville Bar the year before and assumed it was the same situation.
I asked, “Are you from Boston, brotha?”
To my surprise, he replied, “No, I played baseball for the Lowell Spinners until I ruined my elbow in ’06. Wear the hat because I still have love for the team.”
I was at Spinners games frequently in 2006 and could of saw this man play. He was at the beginning phase of a baseball journey MLB Stars like Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, and Hanley Ramirez all took. I lived down the street from the park for a number of years.
I yelled through the noise, “I’m from Lowell, that’s insane, do you know Dustin Pedroia?”
The man replied, “Yeah, we’re friends, really good guy. Miss the city, loved playing there.”
Gave him a quick home town compliment, “That’s awesome, I love the Spinners, good luck bro.”
Meeting someone in Nashville who wore a Red Sox hat for the Spinners, who began the same journey as Red Sox stars like Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez, and still had a lot pride for his time in Lowell pumped me up for the rest of our night on Broadway.
San Francisco, California
My friend Joe and I approached a small white ranch style home not far from the San Francisco Bay. You could barely see the Golden Gate Bridge through the thickness of the fog. Inside a bunch of early to mid twenties, long haired, guys smoking weed, were streaming a skateboard competition. Joe and I made our way into the semi-circle gathered around the t.v. and found seats on the couches. Joe lead the conversation because he know most of the guys personally, but I explained how I made my way from MA to San Fran.
We watched the live stream of the skateboard competition when a skateboarder name Dave Bachinsky stepped on to the platform.
A dude to the right of me on the couch loses it, “Do you fucking know him!?!” Dave Bachinsky, he’s from Lowell! He’s fucking sick, Yo.”
I was aware of him but had to admit, I didn’t personally know him. All the guys looked around the room at each other with amazement that I was from the same city at Bachinsky.
Two Skateboarders later, “Do you know fucking Manny Santiago!?! Dude is one of the best skateboarders on the planet! Lowell’s killing it, huh?”
As Santiago finished up, a similar conversation began of not knowing him, but I provided the guys with what I could on how Lowell is a diversified city that can churns out interesting people. Everyone laughed at the fact that a kid traveled from Lowell, three thousand miles to this small ranch home in San Francisco, to watch Pro Skateboarders from Lowell online. It was strange to travel that fair, walk into a living room, and see famous people from Lowell, but I was getting used to it.
San Diego, California
My friend Alfredo and I walked down a row of restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. San Diego being a major city that has perfect eighty degree weather, no humidity, allows high volumes of business for restaurants every night.
As we walked, a man yelled, “Hey Bob!”
He stood up from his chair waving his hands as I turned wondering how he knew my name.
He shouted, “Where did you get that shirt?”
He noticed my “Bob, The Man, The Myth, The Legend” t-shirt with the giant gold fish rocking the hard edged ray bans and big smiling grin.
A bit suspecting, realizing he didn’t know my name is Bob, I replied, “My parents bought it for me in Fort Myers, Florida back in 2008.”
This man shouts, “My roommate at UMass Dartmouth started that company in our dorm room. Glad to see it’s still doing well.”
I stood there, probably with my mouth hanging open, as I tried to comprehend the odds of a man going to UMass Dartmouth, have that roommate start the clothing company, my parents buy the shirt on a 2008 Fort Myers Vacation, and then this man sees me wearing the shirt walking in San Diego in 2014. Alfredo and I walked to our next bar wondering the odds only to be served by a bartender from UMass Amherst.
I a woke in my bed on top of a mountain in Aspen, around four in the afternoon, about 11-12,000ft. up, and had spent a terrifying night on a greyhound. The roommate of the man who was housing me walked in from a day of working the mountain’s gondola. Tyler was a long haired man, in his early twenties, who enjoys an adventurous life snowboarding, and living on the mountain. Tyler and I began discussing the west coast, how he was from Arizona, and how I was forty-five minutes outside of Boston.
Tyler asked, “You’re from MA? Do you know Dave Martin?”
I did know Dave Martin, he was a year younger than me, a town over from me, and went to UML. I took a greyhound from Denver, Bloga second bus to Aspen, and rode a gondola 11,000 ft. up, just to be asked about a kid who lived fifteen minutes from me. Strange instances from Massachusetts followed me deep into the south, out west, and now all the way up a mountain!
At what ends of the earth did I have to travel to escape people I knew? Not that I want to, it’s hilarious, but mind numbing at the same time. Should I be playing the lottery more? These instances continued when I walked right by a kid from high school in Time Square while living in Manhattan or another friend from high school texting to say he saw me walking in the French Quarter of New Orleans. People from Massachusetts are everywhere, they have to explore, they’re in the middle of the major cities, and you can’t escape them.