We spent the Labor Day weekend in Boston and what a perfect weekend it was. Our primary purpose was to drop off our son at Harvard Business School but, once we had seen him settled in, we took in the sights of Boston, not having been there since eight years ago when our neice was starting out at Tufts.
The weather was just superb . The sunlight was warm rather than hot and there was a refreshing breeze as we strolled Harvard Square with our son. Having seen it in so many movies, there was a sense of deja vu. Appparently, many of the old locally owned stores( particularly the bookstores) have been replaced by national chains but there are still some familiar landmarks such as the Out -of -Town News in the middle of the square. I was surprised to find that John Harvard was quite ordinary , not at all the sort of man that a famous university would be named for. He was an English clergyman ( 1607-1638) who died of tubercolosis the year after he emigrated to America. He bequeathed 779 pounds(half his estate) and his entire library of 400 books to the New College which eventually became Harvard University. In Harvard Yard, there is a statue of John Harvard but we did not follow the tradition of patting his foot ,having heard that inebriated students have been known to piss on it. Incidentally, the staue is not really accurate. Since there were no likenesses of John Harvard, the sculptor Daniel Chester French is reputed to have modeled the statues features on his own.
The best thing about strolling Harvard Square is watching the students as they go about their pursuits. Looking at these young people, earnest, passionate, lively and self-absorbed,one is reminded of what it was to be young with a glorious future still to come.
On the next day, we took a subway to the Government Center and visited Fanieul Hall and Quincy Market. Outside Fanieul Hall a brother and sister team of buskers drew a large crowd but they had plenty of competition from a troup of acrobats.
Both Fanieul Hall and Quincy Market are touristy places but it is fun to mingle with people having a good time and to gawk at the amazing variety of food stalls. Greek, Italian, Thai, Seafood, Pizza, Ice Cream, Cookies, Indian,Chinese, Burgers, hotdogs and on and on. We settled for New England Clam Chowder in a bread bowl and a clam strips dinner. I love clam strips ; they aren’t easily available since Howard Johnsons folded. Two bars , Cheers and Sam’s Bar ( named for the Ted Danson character ) made me nostalgic . Cheers sign proclaimed ” Since 1895″. Surely that can’t be true. I had thought that it was based on a fictional place. Everywhere I saw people sporting deep red Red Sox tee-shirts and wearing Sox caps. One woman was wearing a shirt which said ” I root for two teams- the Sox and whoever beats the Yankees”. “Fine”I thought to myself, ” be like that.”
Full for the moment, we sat by the waterfront revelling in the wonderful weather watching the yachts and motorboats come and go and wondering what the harborside condos cost. Then we took the Codzilla speedboat ride and it was a lot of fun. The young crew indulged in some corny humor as they exhorted us to ” hang on to your headwear…. your eyewear…..your footwear … your underwear….”. Enjoyed their patter. The speedboat took us out into the harbor and then went full throttle so that we were zipping along at 30 or 35 knots. Everyone’s hair was flying straight back and there was a little screaming from some passengers. Suddenly,the boat skidded around in a tight turn “to avoid the ferocious giant cod, the mythical Codzilla”. The water showered everyone and boy was it cold ! That’s when we heard some real screaming. On the way back , the boat went a little more sedately and we dried out (somewhat) in the sparkling sunlight as we approached land. To one side , we could see the airplanes landing at Logan airport while, ahead of us the towers of downtown Boston loomed larger and larger as we neared land.We ended our day with an early dinner at Legal Seafoods, a Boston icon. Harpoon IPA , crab cakes and seafood over jasmine rice. What could be better ?
I suppose that we will visit Boston a few times more in the next couple of years, while our son is in school.That should give us an opportunity to see some of the other sights of Boston. The bridges across the Charles River offer some very scenic views,. We enjoyed them as we drove across but I’d like to stroll across those bridges. I want to walk Boston Commons, take in a game at Fenway and perhaps watch the Celtics in their new arena. ( I believe Boston Garden is now gone). I want to read the early Spenser books by Robert Parker and visit Boylston Street and some of Spenser’s haunts. I am a New Yorker and will always be a fan of the Lakers and the Yankees ( arch rivals of the Celtics and Red Sox) but … I love Boston, too. There is a coziness, a character to this city which makes it different.
But, before I visit Boston again, I am definitely going to get me a GPS. Boston is lovable, Boston is charming, Boston has character but … the road system is mystifying. Lots of one way streets and roundabouts. People are nice and try to be helpful but most of them haven’t the faintest idea of directions. The only time we got proper directions was from a gentleman who was in his cups ! The subway system , which I was surprised to find is older than that in New York, is very convenient and quaint. A much preferable alternative.
Finally, I have to say that we were very lucky in Boston. First, the ticket machines in the subway were not working and the attendant let us in to ride for free. Then, at Legal seafood, the waiter comped my entree and beer because we were kept waiting so long. This sort of thing never happens to me !
Even without this it was a great weekend and we will be going back.