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Frolicking in the Pit of Despair


By June Shih

The T pit. A brick square of sorts bordered by the glass windows of the Cambridge Trust Bank, Mass. Ave. and the T station. Most tourists and students on their way to the subway or to stores and cafes around Harvard Square avoid lingering in this smoky hangout of would-be adolescent punks sporting black leather, spikes and the latest in hair design and coloring. The pit is a hangout, and it's nothing like the IHOP or the yogurt store you liked to dawdle in after school. This is a real urban joint, the territory of ruthless teen-age druggies and anarchists. Or so you think.

15 Minutes went to check out the scene and meet the personalities that so often intimidate passers-by. Unfortunately it was raining on Saturday. And all we could find were Izzy, his friend Andrew and a pair of pink-robed hare krishnas.

Izzy was sitting at the top of the T escalators, taking shelter from the rain. He was sporting a leather jacket covered with leopard-spotted fur that matched his dark spotted bleached-blond hair. A bright-red mohawk ran down the middle of his leopard hair. Greasy black jeans, patched many times over at the crotch completed his outfit.

Izzy, 19, has been hanging out at the Square since he was 14. He comes to the Square to panhandle when he's broke and because it's safer.

"Other parts of town people just want to beat you up," he explains, though he has had many run-ins with the Harvard and Cambridge police.

He and his friends aware that they intimidate other people, too.

"They're afraid of things they don't understand," Izzy says of the timid students and tourists.

Izzy is the real thing. He won't let us take his picture.

"Anyone who'll let you take their picture are posers," says his friend Andrew, 27, in between sips of his Snapple Iced Tea. Most of the kids who hang out in the pit "have their parents buy hair dye and come to pick up 14-year-old girls," he continues.

"They don't understand what life is about," says Izzy. "Punk is everything to me." All the posers, "the skin heads, the jocks into hard core, don't recognize their punk origin."

During his five years of hanging out in the pit, Izzy has noticed an evolution, an absolute revolution in Pit personalities.

"The Nazi skinheads got into reggae and started smoking pot," he observes.

"There are a lot less ass kickers now. They've gone to jail or the graveyard," says Jesse, whom we met the next day.

We went back to the Pit on Sunday. It was sunny and Izzy was there hanging out with a group of 16-year-old girls, clothed in the latest fashions from the Limited. They said they were "from suburbia" and they came because they felt "comfortable."

Jesse, 19, lives with his parents in North Cambridge. With unwashed brown hair tucked in a cap and pulled back in a pony tail, Jesse corroborated many of Izzy's statements.

The girls from suburbia were typical of a good proportion of the Pit population.

"In the summer, suburban kids run away and hide in Harvard Square because they didn't get the car they wanted for their birthday," he said.

He and the other Pit regulars had even less flattering remarks about Harvard students.

"Arrogant, upwardly mobile, narrow-minded, pseudo-intellectuals," says Stu, who comes to the Pit to spread the word of Jesus Christ.

"Rich, rich fucking kids," says Izzy.

"Most of them are fairly egotistical and not nice in general. They get drunk and talk shit," Jesse says.

"They say they're really tough. That's why we stab them," another warns.

Talk of the murder of an MIT student by a Cambridge high school student seemed to be on the minds of most of the people there.

"Fuck that MIT student," a blond pre-adolescent boy from Dorchester interjects.

Jesse says that the media exploded unjustly over the murder. "Another 21-year-old kid was killed in Roxbury the same day," he says, "I'm not saying the killing is justified. I think the media had a feeding frenzy. It was unfair."

Both Izzy and Jesse are equally pessimistic about the upcoming election.

Jesse says he plans to write in Simpson's character "Sideshow Bob" this November.

Voting is just a matter of picking a "different oppressor," Izzy says, "No matter how cool he sounds, he's going to be the asshole for the next four years."

"Government is for slaves. Free people can govern themselves, "he adds.

And the ideal country?

"I don't think there should be borders," he says.

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