The omens were mixed for this trip.
I almost missed the exit to 895 as I was driving south on I-95. I headed to the bus stop at long-term parking at BWI, nearly forgetting my suitcase. The Southwest flight took off about 20 minutes after it was supposed to have landed at Logan. Then I learned that Puzzle Lady on my right was on an overnight to Boston just to see Fashioned by Sargent at the Museum of Fine Arts, which I will explore on Saturday. We chatted the rest of the flight about wonderful exhibitions we had both seen over the last three decades.
My suitcase tumbled down the carousel as soon as a located the carousel. I was helped to find the Silver Line stop by the nicest Logan employee. Ukrainian? Some kind of Eastern European I think. He let me thank him by the lengthy name full of v’s, which was on his badge, and smiled. I don’t know how close I got but he said I did a good job.
At South Station, there was a guitarist, little time-worn, sweet of face, playing the most moving, bluesy version of House of the Rising Sun. Took me back to living with musicians in the early 1970s. I put a five in his guitar case as he met my eyes. I nodded and lost myself in his picking until the train arrived.
At Park Street I discovered that the Green Line is partly closed for repairs. I ascended to the corner of Park and Tremont Streets, into dark brilliant with Christmas lights, in search of a taxicab. A kind guard advised me to walk; Boylston Street was just at the end of the block at the edge of Chinatown, he said. But wouldn’t I enjoy cutting through the Common and then through the Public Garden more, I asked? Why yes, he agreed, I would. And I did.
Found the Charlesmark Hotel across from the Boston Public Library and settled in. Lovely room on the top floor. Terrible view.
The Christmas of 1967, I think it was, Ma’s time at McLean Hospital was drawing to a close. We had an apartment in Belmont, on Waverley Street, where my sister and I could stay when home from boarding school, and Ma could spend some time with us. That was a complicated Christmas, the first we had spent as a nuclear family since, I think, 1961.
It was a perfect place for us, a short walk from the McLean campus and a ten-cent ride from Harvard Square. I could, in the 1960s, take a dollar, head into the Square, get a coffee or two at the Blue Parrot, come home and still have a dime in my pocket.
We instituted some new traditions there, including preparing a Christmas stocking for Ma. But I remember best that one cold night, we came into Boston to see the lights on the Common. We piled into a trolley and traveled into Harvard Square where we changed to the Red Line. We emerged at Park Street, the same place I did tonight, and it was magical. There were reindeer in pens, frost crunched underfoot, bursts of pure color wrapped the trees.
It filled me with wonder.
The trip, however, filled me with concern. We were pretty broke and the excursion—the “free” viewing of the lights in the Boston Common—cost three dollars! Or maybe more. Ten cents a head each way to and from Harvard Square, and a quarter each for each ride on the T.
The More Things Change
Around 1965 or 1966, there was a cartoon in the New Yorker Magazine that showed two older ladies on a train. One leaned toward the other and said, confidentially, “I must tell you my dear. They’ve taken down most of Boston and put up something else.”
Some people seem to think Boston is unrecognizable, these days. I don’t.
Yes, there are some places that skyscrapers would rival those in New York City. The elevated highway that once cut off the North End is gone after twenty-five years of the Big Dig. Subway cars are still grimy and everywhere underground is the faint tang of urine. The system, however, seems to get you—mostly—where you need to go. And now it apparently takes you farther than it used to.
The More I Want to Live Here
I think moving here is an excellent idea. I can go back to walking and get away from sitting. There is plenty to do and friends old and not-yet-met to do them with. The cost of housing leaves me gasping, but I am guessing, hoping, I can manage.
Yes. Boston is still my home.