Monday, April 25, 2016

I Fell in Love Last Wednesday

First there was the mid-1980s fascination with the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry, then the learning about Boston in the late 1980s because the members of New Kids on the Block all hail from there and so much was written about their hometown in the articles I tacked to my walls and pasted into scrapbooks in junior high, and then my crush on fictional former-Boston-Red Sox-pitcher-turned-"Cheers"-bartender Sam Malone, and on and on over the years, but last week, I finally got to visit for the first time what I've always somehow known would someday become my beloved Boston, and I've been so giddy ever since, it almost feels like I've fallen in love with a person and not a place.  Seconds after landing in Boston and walking from the plane into the terminal, I saw the heart below and knew that any trip that began this way would be as beautiful as I expecting, and I was right.
As soon as I had learned this January that the Tom Stoppard play Arcadia (Lisa, don't read past the synopsis or it'll be ruined for you) was going to be performed in Boston this spring, I booked a flight--I studied this play in college in the fall of 1997 and have wanted to see a production of it ever since--and emailed Lisa and Cheryl to see if it would be possible for them to make the trip up from their homes a few hours away for a visit.   "That will be great!" wrote back Lisa.  "That would be wonderful to meet you in person!!!" wrote Cheryl.   :)  Minutes after running into these guys--
 --outside my subway stop at Boston's Old State House Wednesday, then, I found myself hugging Lisa and Cheryl and telling them that having had this trip to look forward to this spring had made the last few months of winter so much easier. 
I love that picture.    We had lunch in the North End, where I chose the menu's hardest thing to eat while trying to carry on a conversation meatball sandwich, toured Paul Revere's house, walked around Faneuil Hall and the Harbor--the salt water!  the sea gulls!--found desserts (and my first tiramisu and first cannoli, neither of which thrilled me but I has happy to have saved them for Boston), admired the architecture--ahhhhhh, the architecture!--and explored the neighborhood. 
After Lisa and Cheryl headed back to Haymarket Station to catch their train around 3:30 that afternoon, I walked--and I mean walked, until about 6:30 pm, only stopping to take a few pictures, since I became spectacularly--but blissfully--turned-around on my walk to my hotel.  It was the prettiest walk.  I don't know if the city workers were just out in full-force during my visit or if the wind blew it away right before I turned every corner, but the only litter I ever saw on the ground there was cigarette butts and hardened gum.  It was so CLEAN, I was so impressed.  I pick up more trash in a fifteen-minute walk here in my own city than I saw in Boston in two and a half days.  
A friend from high school has completed the Boston Marathon three times so far--Go, Michelle!--so finally seeing Boylston Street, the last leg of the race, and imagining her joy upon reaching its finish line each time, made that part of my visit even sweeter.  
Boston, like any new love--or any love worth its salt, I suppose--makes me want to be an even better version of myselfSmarter and stronger and more athletic and kinder and more helpful to tourists here at home.  I came back wanting to be a better woman, and maybe it is the effect of the city or maybe it is more "me," but I've lived in New York City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and outside Milwaukee and didn't walk away from any of those places as inspired as I felt while in Boston.  I connected with something in this place, and I'm still on a high from it.  
A sweet moment from inside Fenway Park Thursday:  Before the game began, a guy probably my younger brother's age in the next section over held the seat beside him steady so his maybe-four-year-old son could climb up onto it.  Once they got settled, an older man leaned forward and said to the young dad--all in endearing stereotypical Boston accent--"If this is yuh son's fuhst time heeuh and he can't see past that bah, I'll switch seats with him so he can see bettuh."  The dad thanked him but declined his kind offer, since his son was too young to pay much attention to the game anyway and likely wouldn't care at all about the obstructed view the "bah" (i.e. bar [i.e. one of the poles that support the upper-deck seats above our grandstand section seats]) caused.  The kindness, though! 
And another sweet Fenway Park moment that continues to make me laugh:  Two guys my age or a little older who were sitting together were talking, and one of them suddenly said to the other, "Don't cuss here."  :)  Except it sounded like "Don't cuss heeuh," making it even more charming.  :)  Love!  
And as I reported to my parents and brothers immediately upon checking in with them: Everyone was SO over-the-top nice and helpful while I was there.  I encountered this kind of I'll-give-up-my-seat-for-your-kid/Don't-cuss-here goodness so many times in my two days there.  I asked someone on Beacon Street the quickest way to such-and-such, and she not only answered, but also pulled out her phone, looked up the destination on a map, then--over my thanks and protests, since she'd helped so much already--patiently read me street-by-street directions too.  Another woman took the extra time to explain which local bus was heading toward my destination and how often it would pass along a certain street, and she pointed out the nearest stop for it too.  When I called the theater needing to switch something with my ticket-order for the play, I told the man on the phone I had my card ready and could read off the numbers to pay the fee as soon as he was ready, and he laughed and waived the fee, saying, "I'm not charging you five dollars after you traveled six-hundred miles to see this."  My soft-spoken cab driver kindly answered a bunch of my questions about Fenway Park on the way back to the airport at the end of my visit.  So many kindnesses.  And Cheryl gifted me with a rainbow-striped pen for my writing.  :)  And Lisa paid my admission to the Paul Revere House.  :)  It felt like the entire city--all the people in it, all the pretty and well-kept grounds, and even the perfect weather--knew what this trip meant to me and sweetly conspired to make my visit as beautiful as possible.  
And just when one would think I couldn't be more charmed--and before the Red Sox game had even begun Thursday afternoon--the sweet "Cheers" theme song was played in the stadium, leading me to text my younger brother and simultaneously catch it on video. 

And the play was beautiful, and I cried watching it as I do while reading it.  I eventually mailed my former English professor a postcard from the airport to let him know I'd finally seen it.  :)
Much too soon, I was again flying over ocean and islands on my way home.  I don't know what part Boston is destined to play in my life, but it's captured my heart.  I'd only been home about twenty-six hours before I'd booked a flight to return this fall.    (Most of this trip's budget was still unspent when I got home and thus went to the start of visit #2's.)  Until October, Boston, my love! 


La Table De Nana said...

Oh happy you are going BACK,,the song gave me goosebumps cause i felt yours..
I have driven THROUGH the Cape..but have only heard wonderful things..

who knows what your future holds!!:)

racheld said...

Oh, Wordsworth and Sandburg and all the poets of centuries have not written and photographed such a paean to a city. I've never read such a wonderful homage to a PLACE outside "There's no place like home," accompanied by Ruby Slippers. Your words and all the images are simply so evocative of the place (which I've never visited, either, but would love to see) that I'm simply transported.

I smiled all the way through, beginning as Chris was headed out the door to pick up Chinese, meaning to sloosh the dust and work of the day off in a luxurious shower before he returns, and he's probably already breathing the enticing aroma of Mapo Tofu from the back seat already, and headed for home. I must away, to silverware and tea glasses, but I do say, GIRL, you DO beat all.

"Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep . . . " says most of it, and you added the rest.


Val said...

Thank you both for such kind comments. ♥♥ 'Wish I could go back TODAY. :)

Linda said...

Wonderful post and beautiful photos, Val. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tour.

Val said...

Thank you, Linda. 'Totally my pleasure. It's such a beautiful place. ♥