Notes from the Boston stranger
I heard the weather forecast called for snow over the weekend and decided to head east to take the pulse of one of America’s oldest and greatest cities.
It’s slightly elevated with a bp rating that needs to be looked at ASAP.
Although it was difficult to get any of the local residents to allow me to hold their hands long enough to get an accurate reading, I made some biological assumptions based on observable driving habits.
Believe me, it isn’t just their vital signs that are out of whack. Driving in Boston is like a colonoscopy. Don’t do it unless you really, really have to. I took a cab from the airport to Cambridge and the combination of linguistic confusion and mach III speed made for an experience that I assume is startlingly similar to what a newborn must feel just before leaving the womb: a strange sense of spatial disorientation made all the worse by hideous screams, both from you and the person transporting you.
Actually, this is a terrific city and the proof can be found as one strolls through the Boston common and public garden. Any town that plans for such beauty in the midst of gritty commerce needs to be commended. The fact that such visionary thinking was done in the middle of the 17th century makes it all the more impressive.
The magnolias are in bloom, which made walking Commonwealth Ave. all the more spectacular. Although, truth to tell, you don’t need trees here to have a mind-altering experience. Now that everyone is using these little microphones hooked up to their cell phones, it appears that all of Beantown has lost its collective mind. So many people are walking around in earnest and loud conversations with, apparently, no one but themselves, you’d think it was a mass audition for’ “A Beautiful Mind II.”
This, of course, is the city made famous by Robert McCloskey’s lovely little book “Make Way For Ducklings.” In honor of that childhood classic, open-aired buses, built to resemble huge mallards, drive around the downtown streets filled with people failing to not look pretty darn foolish. The men avert their eyes as they ride by you and those who happen to make visual contact tilt their heads toward their wives as if to explain their utterly odd choice of inner-city transportation.
Walked over to Fenway Park to see if I could get tickets for this weekend’s series with the Yankees. It was around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Eastern Daylight Time. I mention this in case you thought you heard what sounded like a huge cosmic laugh that day. By my reckoning, it would have come shortly after you finished your lunch. It was just the Red Sox ticket seller politely informing me as to the availability of seats for the game.
As I waited for the embarrassed blush to work its way out of my face, I circumnavigated the stadium. I kept far enough away from the fence to allow room to run once the rusted steel girders gave way, which, judging from their appearance, I was certain would happen momentarily. I just hoped the Yanks were in the outfield. Picture Coors Field 450 years from now.
Harvard Square isn’t. Square, I mean. And I’m sure you already know that the Celtics no longer play in the Boston Garden, which, of course, wasn’t a garden anyway. What is it about these east coast cities that have us rubes always being rubed? Everyone I asked to point me in the direction of Massachusetts Ave. stared at me as if I was inquiring how to get to Fargo. It wasn’t until one kind gentleman informed me that the locals only refer to it as “Mass Ave.” that I got someone to help me. He was from North Dakota.
Boston is a college town. Everywhere you turn there are budding scholars earnestly engaged in earnestly engaging conversations.
Did I mention that the statue of Harvard College founder, John Harvard has a slight flaw? Actually, there are three failings of accuracy. A kindly local told me that the statue is not actually of Mr. Harvard and the actual inscription is in error since it is off by more than a few years but that really doesn’t matter anyway because John Harvard wasn’t actually the founder of the college.
I hate to think what that has to say about all these thinkers.
Rich Mayfield is pastor of the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church and weekly columnist for the Summit Daily News.
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