My last post was composed on my son’s iMac from his study in Roslindale, a Boston neighborhood. Tish must have thought I was looking healthier. We left for her sister’s house in Ohio on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday we did our 775 mile long slog to Boston. My Avalanche was packed full with baby things: a double stroller, two car seats, two sets of bedding, a playpen and a baby swing (one for each), many sets of baby clothing organized into pairs with the same style but different fabric design, pairs of matching onesies – a Noah’s ark version of a baby salon. Two of everything.
I did errands on Monday and Tuesday, feeling fatigued most of the time. But I did well driving, sleeping for only a couple of hours on Wednesday while Tish drove. We had talked about buying a GPS. My brother lent us his last Spring when we vacationed in South Carolina. The best thing since antiemetics if you ask me. But Tish thought we couldn’t afford it right now. Bad decision.
We ended up on the phone with my son guiding us in. We had driving directions from MapQuest. This usually works. But Boston seems to have been laid out along former cowpaths. Streets rarely run straight. Many are one-way. Most are unmarked. I have trouble at night anyway with only the one eye. The world is a glare. Once you miss a turn, there’s no finding your way back. Thank God for cell phones.
Our first day we took a day trip to Marblehead. First we walked to the local library and the librarian was kind enough to print off driving directions for us. Daytime navigation proved easier. We spent a pleasant day, toured a pre-Revolutionary mansion, explored an old fort overlooking the harbor entrance, and had dinner at a waterfront seafood place. But soon darkness fell and negotiating the complex urban landscape challenged us once more. The expected “left turn onto Service Road East” never materialized despite a half-dozen U-turns. We found ourselves in a deserted industrial warehouse district near downtown. My car has a compass. I headed south and west. We eventually called my son again and were actually just 4-5 miles away. A single street in this part of the country can change its name 3-4 times in the course of just a few miles. I watch my compass on a single street as it changed from south to southwest to west to northwest and back to north, all in the space of a mile. With twin granddaughters on the way, we may be spending the next 20 years or so exploring New England. A GPS is definitely on my Christmas list.
I am always impressed by the compactness, density, and diversity of large cities. Indianapolis is home to a million people but the pace and personality are different. Driving my neighborhood you see dozens of food and retail establishments with familiar national names. Driving the neighborhoods of Boston national names seem rare, replaced instead by hundreds of mom&pop small businesses. The whole range of international cuisines is represented in small intimate dining rooms and carry-outs. Beauty shops, car repairs, actual appliance and shoe repair shops, bodaigas, Asian markets, European meat shops, specialty used book shops, community centers, Social Security Administration store fronts, and then a myriad of domed, steepled churches, synagogues, and other places of worship. Shoulder to shoulder are day-care centers and funeral parlors, all stacked and staggered up against one another.
And then I see them, scattered in amongst this marketplace of goods and services, medical practices, dental offices, acupuncture clinics, and, I know they’re out there, down the block, across the street, medical and radiation oncologists. This may be another land, a different culture, but here, as everywhere, the Beast still lurks. Boston is home to Dana-Farber and several dozen other hospitals.
We stay until Sunday, then begin the long journey back to the Midwest. My son’s attic is almost transformed into office space. The twins are set to occupy the vacated studies on the second floor of this hundred-year old working-class frame house, setting atop a basement constructed of stacked and mortared granite boulders.
Sometime Monday we hope to be home. I hope for the concluding discussion of this month’s Book Ckub selection, Lisa’s Story – the Other Shoe. The author, Tom Batiuk, was kind enough to leave us a comment on the “Book Club” page. See you next week and take care, Dennis