Written on the wall

Saw this on a wall outside the Big Dig this morning: “Torquemen: Fortitude, Guts, Persistence.” I don’t know what the hell it means, but “Fortitude, Guts, Persistence” just became my tagline.

Nice Boston weekend

I just noticed–though I managed to blog every day this weekend, I didn’t write much about anything going on with me. This is called either “healthy” or “avoidance,” depending on your perspective.

Well, Lisa got a lateral move within her employer that puts her in a more geographically independent job, which frees us up for our move when I graduate. We celebrated with a dinner with friends on Friday night preceded by the customary tasting at the Wine Bottega in the North End. In the middle of dinner, my friend Bransby got a phone call with a job offer–so we had a double celebration.

Saturday we went to Lala Rokh, a Persian restaurant in the middle of Beacon Hill. I haven’t spent much time on Beacon Hill; after the bustle of the North End its silence was either refreshing or tomblike (see, there’s that perspective thing again!). The restaurant was great–I’ve had kebabs and such before, but the inventiveness with ingredients turned everything up a notch.

On Sunday I worked all day when I wasn’t blogging. I’m having some thoughts about the dynamics of that. After I finish my system dynamics homework (or before, if present practice of procrastination continues), I’ll post the causal loop diagram that explains most of my blogging recently.

Back before the parade

Okay, so little did I realize when I made plans to fly to Brussels and return to Boston today that we’d be just a few jumps ahead of the Boston Patriots as they pull into town. I had to deduce that they won the Superbowl yesterday (since the Monday European editions of the US papers didn’t report it). As the bus pulled away from the terminal en route to the train, the driver pointed out the helicopters that were hovering to cover the return at Logan, and we walked through the place where the parade was to end at Government Center on our way home. We may have been in Brussels for a few days, but we’re definitely in Boston now. 🙂

Just an apostate enjoying the choir

I just saw my in-laws off after a nice weekend in which we took in the North End and the Symphony. I was watching the playoff game with my father in law before I went to get their car at halftime. Walking down Salem Street, I saw a guy stick his head out a third story window and yell “PATRIOTS!!!” at the top of his lungs. Up and down the street there were roars of approval.

I don’t watch football under normal circumstances, but there’s something great about being in the city when the Patriots are playing and playing well. Must be like what atheists feel like going to a really rousing church service.

‘Tis (Almost) the Season

I was feeling grumpy yesterday about all the Christmas decorations in the mall as I walked around with Lisa and our friend Kelley, who was visiting from Maine. But this morning I saw something that changed that feeling in a second.

Every morning I walk through Government Center Plaza on my way to catch the train. For the past month or two there has been a crew building a big tent shelter — one of the kind that have steel frames and their own climate control. Something that looks like it’s intended to stand up all winter.

This morning I went by to see that the tent had changed. Formerly plain white, it was surrounded by wooden boxes painted like they were wrapped presents, and the spire of a pine tree stood on the far side. Curious, I walked past the door and saw the interior decorated with pine rope and lights.

And I started crying. Because I thought about all the kids who would be having Christmas without one of their parents this year. And all the parents who wouldn’t be hearing from their grown children.

I hope the city intends that tent for the children.

More Beautiful as it Unfurled

Happy November!

I spoke too soon yesterday. This morning I noted that fully half of the trees in Government Center had started turning yellow.

I have to find another replacement power adapter for my PowerBook today. This is the second one that’s crapped out on me. The first, at the beginning of this year, had a cable break at the end that plugged in to the computer. This one has developed a short in the part of the power cord that plugs into the wall, near the “yo-yo.” (See this picture of the power adapter if the term yo-yo confuses.) It was actually kind of entertaining: a small flicker of white-blue light coming from under the yo-yo. When I saw what it was I unplugged it, but it had already burned through some of the outer strands of the gold wire inside the plastic.

Today’s music: “Sleep” by Mark Eitzel. I’m still mining all the artists whose stuff I heard on KEXP over the summer. An artist to listen to but not necessarily to sing along with. Lyrics to “Sleep” are less profound in print than sung, but from the equally brilliant “Christian Science Reading Room”:

I was so high
I stood for an hour outside the Christian Science Reading Room
And suddenly I could not resist
I became a Christian Scientist

Though in my days of gravity
The absolute measure of being free
I was so high
That I even scared the cat
And using the language of his tail
He said he had a vision: thousand-watt flags flying over my head
And then he hid under the bed
And his eyes were as big as bells
And suddenly he could not resist
And he became a Christian Scientist
And together we explored our world
And found it became more beautiful as it unfurled

Surrender to November

My website has a Seattle section; why doesn’t it have a Boston section? I’ll pull one together pretty soon, but the plain truth is that Boston isn’t so new to me the way Seattle was.

Still, every now and then I find things that make me think about the city. Every morning on my way to school I walk through the plaza at Government Center. It’s a big brick and concrete bowl that has an amphitheatre area, a stage, an assembly plaza, and a bunch of other stuff in it. The plaza drops something like two stories from Congress Street down to Faneuil Hall. It’s surrounded by large civic and commercial buildings–City Hall in particular, winning my award for ugliest concrete monstrosity this side of the FBI Building. From the base near City Hall it can look a little like the amphtitheatre at Siena through which the palio runs, but without the cafes, shops, and good architecture that distinguish that space. Most days it’s just a place to rush through, though sometimes during the summer you see people eating lunch there.

The irony is that until the 1960s the place was pretty happening, though in an unsavory kind of way. Scollay Square (warning: cheesy music at that link) was notorious for being an area of ill repute–prostitution and other kinds of crime were apparently pretty common, as well as less illegal but still fairly disreputable entertainment like the tassel twirling Sally Keith…

But there’s still some life in the place. You just have to know where to look for it. In the days after the crash, people gathered for vigils and prayer services. Every third day or so the news trucks roll to the back of the plaza to support the crews who cover City Hall. There are always vendors hawking papers right outside the doors of the T station, sometimes in song as the Boston Globe guy was this morning.

The thing that struck me most this morning, though, was the trees. At this point in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, most of the trees are either in the last spasms of their fall colors or have lost their leaves entirely. This morning, though, I looked up into a crown of green around the rim of the bowl of the former Scollay Square. It seemed to be saying to me, Don’t rush. Enjoy the end of the green while it lasts.

Today’s music: “See Jane” by Shannon Worrell, a Charlottesville musician who I first saw play in the Corner Grill in 1993 and who I always thought had the potential to go the distance. (Unfortunately her deal with the record label The Enclave folded when EMI was in its mid-90s throes and she fell off the map.)

Trees half turning
One branch in summer, another one burning
Can’t decide to stay
Can’t decide to stay
Or surrender to November

Good reading: The Fear of the Radical Alien: Boston Italians Between the World Wars. A really fascinating study of the culture of the North End that ties in Sacco and Vanzetti as well as the impact of multiple waves of immigration.