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The most amazing Boston Missed Connection ever

I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972 begins:

I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972, the same day I resolved to kill myself.

One week prior, at the behest of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, I'd flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi. I dropped forty-eight bombs. How many homes I destroyed, how many lives I ended, I'll never know. But in the eyes of my superiors, I had served my country honorably, and I was thusly discharged with such distinction.

And so on the morning of that New Year's Eve, I found myself in a barren studio apartment on Beacon and Hereford with a fifth of Tennessee rye and the pang of shame permeating the recesses of my soul. When the bottle was empty, I made for the door and vowed, upon returning, that I would retrieve the Smith & Wesson Model 15 from the closet and give myself the discharge I deserved.

I walked for hours. I looped around the Fenway before snaking back past Symphony Hall and up to Trinity Church. Then I roamed through the Common, scaled the hill with its golden dome, and meandered into that charming labyrinth divided by Hanover Street. By the time I reached the waterfront, a charcoal sky had opened and a drizzle became a shower. That shower soon gave way to a deluge. While the other pedestrians darted for awnings and lobbies, I trudged into the rain. I suppose I thought, or rather hoped, that it might wash away the patina of guilt that had coagulated around my heart. It didn't, of course, so I started back to the apartment.

And then I saw you.

H/t eeka.

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Comments

Not to make light of the poor man's troubles , but it reminds me of this :

LITTLE TEXAS - What Might Have Been (Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEE3ycDH9_8

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Reads like fiction. Solid fiction, but still fiction. Local university creative writing assignment?

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Elements of this tale exist in Harry Chapin's song "Taxi". The chance encounter, the society girl in an unhappy marriage wearing a gown in a rainstorm, the fact that they never see each other again ("she said we must get together/but I knew it would never be arranged") once he lets her out of the cab. The main difference being the two people in the song were old lovers instead of two people who just met.

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FWIW, if I'm reading this correctly, the weather checks out...
http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KBOS/1972/12/31/DailyHistory...

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In 1972, the term "Downtown Crossing" did not exist yet. It was still just Washington Street. And all the better for it. I'm trying to remember if Neisner's had a lunch counter. I don't recall lunch counters in Neisner's or Kresge's (both on Washington Street), though they probably had them at one point, as most of that type of store did. I do remember them in Grant's (where the empty Barnes & Noble building is now) and Woolworths.

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You would still use the term Downtown Crossing in something you're writing now.

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"You would still use the term Downtown Crossing in something you're writing now."

No you wouldn't. If you are writing about a time period when something was named something other than it is now, you say it the way it was. For example, he writer said he went into Neisner's, he didn't say he went into a cell phone store, or whatever occupies the old Neisner's space now.
I realize it's a minor quibble however.

Incidentally, my grandmother referred to T stops by their old names, such as "Atlantic" and "Devonshire" until the day she died, in the 90s. I still sometimes find myself calling the theater on Tremont Street "The Music Hall". It happens.

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Good catch on the DTC.

I could go both ways with this. I could see how someone might want to update a reference to a location with a modern name, on the other hand, when I first moved to Boston I was mightily confused by the people who used "Auditorium" and "Washington." Where were these T stops?

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"Auditorium" is now the Hynes Convention Center stop on the Green Line. For a while it was the "Hynes/ICA" stop when the Institute of Contemporary Art was near there. "Washington" was what is now the Downtown Crossing stop.

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State was "Milk", Chinatown was "Essex." But, I believe State was "State" one way and "Milk" the other.

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I think State was "Devonshire". Aquarium was "Atlantic". Of course, Government Center was "Scollay Square" but that's a thread unto itself.

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but would still call it Downtown Crossing when referring to walking there 40 years ago. It's how I now think of that location.

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I guess I was asking that question rhetorically, because I figured it out pretty quickly.

Let us also not forget the very short lived "Citizens Bank/State" renaming in the early aughts.

Funnily enough, only Auditorium and Washington got the old-name treatment by my colleagues. Nothing else did.

Does anyone know why all the downtown stops were renamed? Some kind of rebranding for Boston?

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In the old Boston Elevated Days, the downtown stops on what we now call the Orange Line were each considered to be two separate stations. Chinatown was Essex on the inbound side, and Boylston on the outbound side, DTX was Summer St. and Winter St., etc. At some point they consolidated names, and we ended up with Essex (now Chinatown) and Washington (now DTX). Both of those were again rebranded to reference the neighborhood. I do think the current names make more sense, but the history is that many stations were named for the street crossing.

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If you listen closely to the automated stop announcements, you can hear that the recording for "Hynes/ICA" was simply truncated to "Hynes", leaving it sound a little breathless and chopped. (How's that for useless trivia?)

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Author's prerogative.

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He didn't write this in 1972. It's called Downtown Crossing now and maybe it's just easier to call it that in his recollection

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On the Bromfield Street street side. I just remember walking by. My mother and grandmother preferred Woolworth's lunch counter. Then later, as Dad made more money Jordan Marsh on the 8th (?) floor. Although the best trips ended at Bailey's.

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Let's all hope that this is true and not a fictional account. It's beautiful.

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I really hope this doesn't turn out to be viral marketing for a new TV series.

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There are, among the foul yelps and lecherous whoops, some truly beautiful Missed Connections out there. I read them all the time, just for the hell of it. (Of course, the only times I've found any about me, they've been deeply disturbing.)

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I've always wondered if any missed connections were referring to me, and how many I might have missed since I only read them when they are shared around in this manner.

How do you know they are referring to you when you read them?

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There could be some that were about me that I didn't catch, because they were really vague; sometimes, MCs are little more than "I SAW U AND UR PRETTY REPLY TO THIS IF U THINK IT WAS U" - and that's not very helpful. The creepy ones that I know were about me mentioned me by either my real name, or by one of my online handles (and then included additional details that were definitely about me...even if I had no idea who the poster was.)

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Those vague MC ads are vague on purpose -- guys use them to pick up women who are hopeful that it was them and flattered to think they have been noticed. Something like "I saw you in Downtown Crossing, you had brown hair and a nice smile" casts a pretty wide net. Women respond, maybe send a photo on request, and the guys decide if it's someone they want to meet.

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There would likely be a mention of that engagement party in the social pages.

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It doesn't quite match up with the Missed Connection account - but Cabots were involved.

A 1/1/73 account in the Globe begins:

A return to tradition marked the New Year's Eve ball given last evening by Adm. and Mrs. Samuel Eliot Morison for 100 Proper Bostonians. It took place at 44 Brimmer street where Adm. Morison was born and where he still lives after his travels afar to the Seven Seas. ...

It was a strictly Old Boston party with Cabots, Peabodys, Parkmans and Coolidges. And there were no crashers as a policeman guarded the door.

Now to check the wedding announcements.

While searching for that, found a couple of other interesting tidbits about the time, including an item about the Cabot family being denied lunch service at the Ritz because one of the men didn't have a tie on:

The reason was that Powell Cabot, whose father, the late Powell M. Cabot, had the honor of carrying the standard at many Harvard Commencements, came from his home in London wearing a turtle neck sweater with his Saville Road clothes.

So they decamped for the Copley Plaza, which was more than happy to take their business.

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the Boston Herald American may have had better coverage at that time. It was the Republican newspaper and they consistently covered the debutante stuff and fancy parties.

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I checked eight months on either side of 12/31/72. Several Cabot engagements, but they were all women. One Chaffee, but both he and his bride were from Providence, which makes sense, since the Chaffees are more of a RI family.

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Looks like banker Chilton "Tony" Cabot married Lynne Marie around this time frame, then after having a couple kids they divorced. Son got married at age 25 in 1990,so dates seem to be about right assuming they we'd in 73. Couldn't find engagement or wedding announcements though.

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Someone I knew at college married one of Morrison's granddaughters.

Should I ask him if there were any stories from his inlaws about this? :-)

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I didn't realize that there was more to the ad until people started referencing Neisner's. December 31, 1972 was a Sunday. When I was a kid (but in the 'burbs), it seemed like everything was closed on Sundays because of the Blue Laws.

Would Neisner's have been open?

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Great catch. I know that back in the Blue Law days they would make an exception at holiday time and stores could be open on Sundays from something like the day after Thanksgiving (not widely called "Black Friday" yet back then) to January 1. But I don't know if that was in effect in the early 70s. It may have started later than that.

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It didn't start until 1977, and was only for the Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, not New Year's.

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1) Downtown Crossing was not yet Downtown Crossing.
2) It was a Sunday during the Blue Law era and Neisner's (and any other store like it) would have been closed.
3) No mention of the engagement or New Year's soiree in the society pages.

I think #2 is by far the most damning evidence.

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There used to be a department store in Hanover (mid 70s) that was open on Sundays because its owners were Jewish and closed it on Saturdays. Presumably they weren't the only store in the state to take advantage of this exception. Anyone recall if this was the case with Neisner's?

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I read on a retro boston shopping blog that Neisner's lunch counter was on the first floor of the store on the Bromfield St. side. Is it possible that the lunch counter could have had separate hours on Sundays when the retail store would be closed?

I was a regular at Filene's Basement from a very young age, and have no recollection of Neisner's. But I guess I just followed my mother around to Filene's, Gilchrist's, Stearns, Bailey's, and Dini's.

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Neisner's and Kresges were two Woolworths-like department stores on Washington Street in the pre-Downtown crossing era. I always confuse the two. Neisner's was at the corner of Washington and Bromfield and Kresges was at the corner of Washington and West, I believe. A men's clothing store is there now, next to the Army Navy Store. For a while in the 80s I was a record store whose name escapes me though I bought many albums there. Not to be confused with the excellent Discount Records in the 70s which was very near that same location. Neisner's closed at some point in the 70s, but Kresges hung on into the early 80s, although it was pretty pitiful by the end.

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maybe?

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It was further down towards lower Washington and lesser known than Strawberries. After it was a record store it was an eyeglasses place for a while. I think it's a Men's Wearhouse now.

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Was in the area for a time in the 80's, but I can't remember just where. I don't hink that's the one you're thinking of either because we didn't venture too much further than just past Jordan Marsh (young, naive suburban kid tagging along with her big brother).

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There was a Kresge's in the South Shore Plaza as well. We used to only come to Washington St for Filene's basement. I have no recollection of Niener's.

The Kresge's company, of course, became KMart.

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The Downtown Crossing argument is dumb. After 43 years, one can easily start to rewrite how one call a place of following today's convention or the convention back then.

But yeah, the other two arguments does not look so good for this to be a true story.

But one thing I should keep in mind, memory is a tricky thing. Even details like the nature of the party could be misrecollected.

Assuming that it is true, I wonder if she recalls it with such importance at he does to her. Even if it was meaningful to her, she may have not retained thought as strong he did.

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There are studio apartments in that area.

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/425-Beacon-St-Apt-3_Bos...

Not that it would disqualify if there were not, since those buildings have been made over and made over again in 45 years or so - but adds veracity.

I'm still leaning toward "fiction", especially given the "blue law" issue has not been resolved, and my memory of relatives returning from service in Vietnam was that it took far longer than a week to muster out. All the same, if it is fiction, the writer seems to have done their research.

Kind of spooky to me that the Back Bay and Boston of 1972 was much closer in time to the world that I landed in than it is to the world of today.

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In my recollection it was definitely later than 1972.

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I wonder if it possible to get a roster of the soldiers involved and who would be from Boston. Though if this is true, he probably want to keep his privacy.

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or not but I really want it to be. I know I say Downtown Crossing now when I talk about going to the old Santa's Village at Jordan's (Marsh, not furniture) and back then, stores could open on Sundays between Thanksgiving and New Year's for Christmas shopping and returns. Neisner's, if I remember, was at the corner of Washington and Bromfield and I remember walking down after going to Filene's and the lunch counter was on the right-hand side of the store as you walk in. So a lot of it rings true there.
My only quibble would be the one week between cockpit and barren studio apartment. Seems awful quick. I remember they used to ship troops back to the west coast for debriefing and separation, usually took a month or more. But having PTS from killing and maiming could skew time memory so I can forgive that. But it's a great read.

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I can still smell the smoke over Hanoi

Question for the pilots: Can you smell smoke on the ground from the cockpit of a plane? The wikipedia entry says the B52s flew at 30000 feet. Would the crew be wearing masks at that altitude?

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Cockpit is pressurized but over a combat zone masks would be worn in case the airframe took a hit and decompressed.

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I wasn't alive in 1972, but it fills me with pure joy to see all of the effort and detective work you've all put forth here.

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but I just re-watched Brief Encounter, and it's like Missed Connections c. 1945, and between that and this post, I'm a mess.

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But the guy's account says the unloved one was a banker. Also, the obit says the doctor got married sometime before 12/31/72.

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Bet this guy hated The Things They Carried.

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Good that he notes additional inconsistencies that, coupled with the Blue-Laws angle from earlier cast some major doubts in the story. But anybody who's seen the news out of Kinduz the last day or so will realize he's letting his hate get in the way of his point.

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Whether the original post is a work of fiction or just the product of a fuzzy memory 40+ years later, there's enough of a ring of emotional truth in it that I think Wictor should calm the eff down. To borrow from Nabokov: "Oh, let me be mawkish for the nonce! I am so tired of being cynical."

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Thanks for clearing this up. And, as a daily user of the State Street T stop I was going to post about the "Old State House balcony shelter from the rain" bit as being implausible but you beat me to it.

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That Thomas Wictor link was pure BS. Just about every point in his "takedown" was factually wrong. Officers are discharged, at least according to the military:
"Each officer discharged honorably or under honorable conditions will be furnished an appropriate discharge certificate"
http://www.apd.army.mil/jw2/xmldemo/r135_175/main.asp
The man saying he was discharged is factually correct. He could also say separated but he doesn't have to since either works.
A patina is an encrustation in a general since but a thin layer more specifically. using the word patina is fine. Wictor gets his panties in a bunch over little things.
And the Old State House balcony would provide some relief if there was a deluge. It's not the best place but if the rain is coming straight down, it's better than nothing. And yes, there could have been a deluge that day. .69 inches of rain for the day, if it all comes down in one hour (or even two) is a LOT of rain. In fact, it is one of the highest colors on a doppler radar chart. If that rain is spread out over an entire day, it's not much but if it all comes down quickly it is. When the man started walking, it was not raining. It only started to rain on his way back to his apartment.
And Neisner's is only 1000 feet away from the Old State House. It can easily be walked in 5 minutes or they can dash through the rain. And yes, so women can run in heels.
And Wictor's wrong on Vietnam also. He said the bombings didn't hit residential or civilians targets - wrong! He should read about Bach Mai hospital. The bombings hit the civilian hospital as well as destroying 2000 residential homes. (he then goes on some strange rant about why the Vietnam war was justified).
All in all, Wictor's "takedown" is far less credible than the old man's original post on Craigslist.

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"One week prior, at the behest of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, I'd flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi. I dropped forty-eight bombs. How many homes I destroyed, how many lives I ended, I'll never know. But in the eyes of my superiors, I had served my country honorably, and I was thusly discharged with such distinction."

This is the part I have questions about. I never served in the military, but I work for a military organization and have many co-workers that are in uniform. I welcome correction on this, but something about the statement above doesn't quite pass the smell test for me.

The paragraph is clearly referring to Operation Linebacker II, where a whole slew of U.S. aircraft, including B-52s, were involved. That operation ran from 18-29 December, and the author's writes this his missions took place "one week prior." Then he was honorably discharged and went back home.

One short week after being in flight status and flying a bombing mission, he's been honorably discharged and is already back home? I have serious doubts about that timeline. He would've probably had to leave while Operation Linebacker II was still underway, which I find truly hard to believe. A fair number of B-52s were lost in that mission, and many crew members from down aircraft were captured. But they're going to discharge a pilot in the middle of all this and get hime home within a week? Not buying that.

And if he was close to being discharged anyway, I doubt he would've been actively flying missions, or even in theater at that point.

I don't know enough about Boston to judge the geographic terms, but just that first paragraph alone has me doubting this story.

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"I'd flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi. I dropped forty-eight bombs"

The more reading you do online about the B-52 & Vietnam bombing campaigns, the less these numbers make sense. Along with the points made by Heartless Skeptic, it should be pointed out that a B-52 can carry more than 48 bombs on a *single* mission. So, why only 48?

Any Vietnam veterans or folks with experience feel free to chime in and explain what appears to be a *very* low number of total bombs dropped.

Not the best sources, but good starting points:

http://www.stratofortress.org/current-operations.htm

http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/military/read.main/136656/

http://fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/bomber/b-52.htm

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