Tag Archives: Boston

Travels at Home

I love to travel. Following some winding street in a foreign city until I have no real idea where I am, just because I liked the way the doors looked, or the way the light reflected off the windows, or for no reason at all except that I wanted to see where I’d wind up, makes me feel alive. I’ve climbed ruins and looked out over the rainforest, amazed to know that the world looked pretty much the same from there a thousand years ago.

The smell of a place. The sound of people chatting in their language as they pass by. The taste of food I’ve never tried before. That moment when I realize that I am really there. Someplace utterly strange, and indescribably wonderful.

At that moment, I feel like yanking on someone’s shirt and saying, “Can you believe it? We’re here! This is REAL!” I don’t, of course (I am from New England), but I have a hard time wiping the ridiculous grin off my face. I close my eyes and breathe.

Back in my working days, I used to fantasize about what I would do with a whole year off. Gazing at my dusty pink cubicle walls, I would imagine myself in India, in France, in Spain. Egypt. Peru. I’d soak in the culture; I’d forget about deadlines and e-mails. I’d meet new people—maybe even have some kind of tryst. I would be changed. Then the phone would ring, or someone would show up at my desk needing something, and the fantasy would come crashing down. I’d be back in dusty pink hell.

With dusty pink hell a memory, I found my traveler’s feet even itchier than before. Temptation to blow every penny on a vacation nearly got the best of me when my severance check arrived in the mail. Just buy a ticket! Worry about everything else later! I couldn’t travel for a year with the money, but I could have a hell of a time seeing how far I could get.

Sadly, I’ve gotten a bit wiser as I’ve gotten older. I deposited the check and resolved to stretch it out as far as it would go. That meant staying home.

Wherever I am, though, my wanderlust leads me into interesting nooks and crannies. Years ago I came across a dusty old paperback copy of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek at a secondhand store. Reading it made me more sensitive to the wonders hiding in my own backyard, if I bothered to look for them. While I’m not sure what Ms. Dillard would think of taking that curiosity to urban streets (I suspect she wouldn’t approve), I do sometimes think of myself as a backyard pilgrim. The image always makes me laugh.

My backyard wanderings took a different direction after I met a new friend at a networking function. (A note on networking events: I have yet to get much work out of going to these things, but I have made a number of new friends. If for no other reason, I recommend attending the schmoozy shindigs.) Relatively new to Boston, this friend had purchased a number of books with self-guided walking tours, and she asked me if I cared to join her on a stroll around town.

We met up at the Park Street T station one day early this past summer. While I was waiting for her to show up, I spoke with a guy hawking pickles from a cart and with a woman from New Zealand about what she had done while she was in Boston. My friend showed up, and we hit the books. I was a little skeptical that I’d learn anything new but figured that I could use the company and the exercise.

Before taking off, we established a few ground rules. We agreed to be genuine tourists for the day. That meant reading the descriptions in the guidebook aloud and being sure to look up and point at things. We made up names and backgrounds for ourselves (I was Louise from Kansas), in case we got embarrassed. We joked around about forgetting our sun visors, fanny packs, and white socks.

Then we headed for Chinatown. Chinatown’s my favorite place for cheap food, and I’ve wandered around after eating many a time, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get anything out of the tour. Thanks to the guidebook, however, we learned new things about the area and saw a few sights we hadn’t seen before. We got mooncakes and ate them (well, part of them anyway—we should have split one) in the new park, as we read about the significance of the plantings and the water feature.

Thorough though it was, our Chinatown tour didn’t take long, so we decided to take the Harbor Walk/Greenway tour. We gawked at the seals in the tank outside the Aquarium, along with all of the other tourists. We played on the metal sculptures and tried to figure out what they were (we decided that they were cosmic laptops). We checked out the view of the city from the US Courthouse. We laughed at kids playing in the fountains along the Greenway. We skipped through the arbor at Christopher Columbus Park.

Still having a good time, we then walked over to the Financial District, where we learned about the history of the buildings. We walked into Bond and stared up at the chandeliers shamelessly. Overpriced drinks? We don’t need no overpriced drinks! We’re just here for the view. We strolled around Post Office Square, taking time to sit in the park above the Garage Mahal. Look! There’s where William Lloyd Garrison wrote The Liberator! I wonder what’s in the Verizon building—let’s check out the lobby!

There were a lot of giggles that afternoon. It turned out that we didn’t need our aliases, and we ran into a number of other staycationing locals. Worn out from all the walking, but happy, we parted ways determined to take another stroll soon.

Since then, we’ve done several more walks, hitting the pavement from JP to Charlestown, checking things out that we would never do if we were really on vacation (we don’t wear sun visors and fanny packs in faraway lands). When they were here, we viewed the Tall Ships. We got a great tour of a synagogue in Beacon Hill from a friendly guide who didn’t seem to mind that we had two dollars between us to donate. There’s a statue in the Public Garden dedicated to the discovery of ether. I’d passed it countless times and never knew what it commemorated. George Washington’s sword is fiberglass, because it has been stolen so many times. If I were you, I’d skip climbing up the Bunker Hill Monument (the last time I climbed that many stairs, it was to reach the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence. That was worth it). Not much of a view from up there, but the beer at the Tavern on the Water is cold, and the boat ride from Boston is cheap and fun. I want one of those Victory Gardens in the Fenway. We have avoided Faneuil Hall like the plague. There are standards after all, even when you are playing at being a tourist.

Our little tours haven’t taken away my desire to take a real trip. Just the other day, I pulled out my passport and tried to see if there wasn’t a cheap flight somewhere interesting. Alas, no. At least not cheap enough for me. Our wanders have filled my need to explore, however. If you stop rushing and take the time to look up and point, it changes your perspective. Once in a while, I’ve even had a glimmer of that delicious shock of the new in my own backyard.

It might not be Paris, but it should be smashing nevertheless. I am planning on taking one of those super-cheap bus rides to New York in the next week to meet up with a certain waiter while he’s on this side of the pond. Now that will be an adventure.

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Do Your Glasses Match Your Underwear? An Adventure in Networking

Yesterday evening a friend and I went to a networking shindig at a bar in Beacon Hill. Once there, we got to talking to a young man. It turned out that he was also unemployed (shocking, I know), and so we talked about the joys and sorrows of being work-free. Just as I was getting ready to try to meet some other people, this woman passed us.

“Check out those glasses! Aren’t they fantastic?” the guy said.

I agreed, as they were indeed fantastic.

The guy went on, “Don’t you want to ask her about them?” And then, his voice getting a little suggestive, he asked, “Don’t you want to know if her underwear matches her glasses?”

Wha??? Eeewww! “Um . . . I guess I hadn’t really thought about that?” I replied, inching away.

The guy leaned in close, “My underwear is horn-rimmed, by the way,” wiggling his eyebrows above his horn-rimmed glasses.

I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. My face made an involuntary grimace, and I stammered. “Um . . . “ Just then, someone else walked by, and I walked right over and introduced myself.

Later on in the evening, the young man walked over to say goodbye. Since I’d given him my business card before the glasses-match-underwear incident, he said he would be in touch on LinkedIn or Facebook.

“Please friend me,” he pleaded. “We could all use more friends in this world.”

“Um . . .”

Play Ball! How I Became a Red Sox Fan

WHOOSH!!! As the sound of fighter jets flew over my apartment, my heart leapt with joy (and fear—those things are deafeningly loud). I ran to the window to see those four planes head straight toward Fenway Park to do a fly over, marking Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox. I called my dad to tell him I’d seen and felt the planes, and we talked baseball for a few minutes as the ceremony continued. Ted Kennedy, looking weak but happy, threw the opening pitch to Jim Rice, and for once, the political divide between me and my dad didn’t matter. Even my conservative dad couldn’t begrudge an old liberal the chance to toss a ball. Sadly Dad had to get back to work, and so we said our “Go Sox!”s before I settled in with a cup of coffee and my knitting to watch the game.

People are often surprised by my love of baseball. Even here where almost everyone at least claims to be a Red Sox fan, I don’t fit the baseball “type.” I’m not athletic. I hate sports bars. Jocks bore me. I own nary a piece of Red Sox merchandise. My tastes tend toward “culture.” I could care less about any other sport going, but baseball just makes me stupid happy.

It wasn’t always this way. Although I’d been a fan as a kid, growing up with Yaz and the Boomer, my baseball fandom pretty much ended with the 1986 World Series. My dad had woken up my mom to watch what should have been the final out of the Series. “Oh, Mr. Sundry,” Mom said, rubbing her eyes, “these are the Red Sox. They are going to find a way to blow it.”

Sure enough, the ball went trickling through poor injured Bill Bruckner’s legs, and the dreams of a Sox win went with them. All my mom said was “See” to my stunned father and me. As I watched her pad off in her nightgown back to bed, I thought to myself that maybe my mother was right about just this one thing (I was thirteen at the time, so my mom was pretty much wrong about everything). And that was pretty much it for me and baseball for a long time. The next time the Sox made the Playoffs, I busied myself kissing my boyfriend’s neck, trying to distract him from the game. He didn’t appreciate it.

My indifference toward baseball would have likely continued if it hadn’t been for an autumn evening in 2003. I’d just arrived in Massachusetts to start my recently ended job, and I had been staying with some friends of friends in Salem. These guys were hardcore baseball fans, and apparently the Sox were having a great year. If I ever wanted to sit in the living room, I needed to be able to tolerate baseball. Despite myself, I found myself rather charmed by the sloppy looking Sox. They just looked like they were having a good time. That didn’t mean that I was interested in the game. Or wasn’t, that is until that fateful night.

We were at a party in West Gloucester. We’d had beer. Somehow the party wound up becoming two parties, with women dancing to cheesy pop music in the kitchen, and men drinking beer on the porch, listening to Game Three of the series against Oakland on a hand-cranked radio. However much my sister and I love to cut a rug, the music was a bit much, so we decided to join the guys on the porch.

I don’t know if it was the beer, the October air, the romance of the hand crank radio, or the general collective tension surrounding the game, but it took only a few moments before my sister and I were hooked. No one needed to tell us to shut up, because we were listening intently to the broadcast. The game was close, and error filled. It went into eleven, nail-biting innings. At one point, when the tension became almost unbearable, my sister and I looked at each other. “Oh no,” we said together. “We care!”

“I want them to win!” shrieked my sister.

“Me too!” I cried.

The injured Trot Nixon stepped up to the plate. Magically, or so it seemed to me at the time, he hit a game-winning homerun.

“TROT!!!!!!!!” all the guys yelled. Sister and I joined them, “TROT!!!! YAY!!!!!”

From then on, Red Sox fans we were. Now would we have become fans had the Sox had a mediocre year in 2003, I can’t say. But ever since that night, I’ve loved baseball. I might not have truly felt the heartbreak after Game Seven against the Yankees in 2003, or deserved the happiness I felt in 2004 and 2007, but I don’t care. My dad loves it that his daughters have crossed over to the dark side (my mother feels betrayed). It gives us something to talk about, even when other current topics make us quarrel. Baseball’s a game that brings an arch conservative and an ardent liberal together to rejoice in Opening Day.

So, yes. I love baseball. That the Sox won today makes me stupid happy. Play ball!

The End of the Boston Globe?

UPDATE: Save the Globe or bury it? Check out this post from Universal Hub.

Whoa. Late last night, after an evening consisting of watching Milk and Vicky Christina Barcelona and eating ice cream, I logged into my Twitter account to see if anything interesting had happened. Well, something had (sorry, Manuel, I’m delighted that your broadband is up and running, but I’m talking about something else). Universal Hub had twittered about the impending demise of the Boston Globe. According to the post (and the Globe‘s own Web site), unions have 30 days to agree to $200 million in concessions, or the Globe’s parent company the New York Times will leave us with only the Boston Herald for a local paper. These concessions would come on the heels of the decimation of the Globe’s newsroom staff, a wound that has cost the paper so many subscriptions (including mine) that its viability has been in question for years.

There’s no question that the Globe is a shadow of its former self. I cancelled my subscription years ago after Tom Oliphant left, and my Sunday paper of choice has become the New York Times. I tend to get my local news from WBUR. When on the rare occasion I’ve picked up the Globe in recent months, the poor quality of the paper has left me disappointed. I check Boston.com regularly, but I cannot say that I think it’s a critical news source. So in thinking about the future of the paper, I can’t say that I would support it in its current form. I’m part of the paper’s problem.

And yet. I believe that newspapers provide a crucial role in a free society. We need professional journalists to investigate and report on our communities. Television, radio, and the Internet do not lend themselves to the in-depth reporting that made papers such important sources of news for so long. However much blogs have become a way to learn how we regular folk view the world, we are not accountable for our reporting, or for our opinions. Nor do we have the time, resources, or training to uncover stories the way news room journalists can.

For these reasons, I would truly hate to see the end of the Boston Globe. Those in charge of the paper have precious little time to figure out how to make the paper relevant again. The answer isn’t that stupid g section, or the elitist Boston Globe Magazine. It’s in excellent reporting and insightful opinion. It’s in covering local news in the way that only a newspaper can. Changes are necessary at the Globe, and I can only hope that they make them before it’s too late. Especially since I hate the Herald.

The Sassy Sundries: My Week in Review

Wow, what a lazy week. Friday’s here already, and so it’s time for the Sassy Sundries, my weekly tally of things personal, political, and nonsensical.

The unemployment figures released this week make me feel like a total joiner. There are 5.56 million of us on unemployment the dole in this country. Minus 5,560,000

Obama gives his second press conference. It’s so nice to have a president who can speak in complete sentences. Interestingly, with only a couple of exceptions, every question was about the economy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t come up once. While obviously the economy is on the front burner, I hope that the wars don’t fade into the background. Even

Speaking of war, Obama is expected to announce that he will be sending 4,000 new troops to Afghanistan, with the goal of training Afghan security forces. This brings the total number of new troops in Afghanistan to 21,000. In addition, more aid will be given to Pakistan for counterterrorism measures. The new focus on Afghanistan will set benchmarks for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. While I can see the point of trying to clean things up in a region where we’ve been fighting a half-assed war in for so long, I wonder if recent history doesn’t have some lessons for us here. Minus One

Went on a bit of a bender and made a bit of an ass out of myself. Oh well. It was great to see Andraste (who wasn’t involved in the bender or the ass-making), and today is a new day. Plus One

The Boston Globe announces yet another round of layoffs. Minus Two

During the presidential press conference, Obama indicated that the Republican criticism of his budget needs to be backed up with an actual counter budget proposal. Today House Republicans announced that they had a budget. The only problem? There aren’t any numbers attached to it. Minus Two

Twilight at Boston Latin? Vampire rumors spread through the school, prompting a memo home to parents about bullying. Gimme your lunch money or I’ll bite your neck? Minus One

Sarah Palin threw a snit this week, saying that she couldn’t find anyone to pray with her before the Vice Presidential Debate. You’d think that everyone on McCain’s team would have laid hands on her. Thank heavens the religious right isn’t in charge any more. Plus One

I have a date tonight. Plus Five

Total Plus: 7
Total Minus: 6

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: -5,559,999

Last Week’s Total: -165,000,00

The View from Here

One of these days, Fluff will be making a pilgrimage around Fluff’s hometown (Somerville is the birthplace of Fluff). Until my leg is all better, though, I will leave you with photos of my view from my front window.

View Daytime