I only live about a half hour from Boston and a half hour from Providence, really the perfect distance to pick and choose where and when I want to go into the city to do something. But 30 minutes is relatively far away. First I have to drive to either the Commuter Rail station in town, or to the nearest T station in Riverside or Quincy Center. Then there’s the train into the city, and onward to the destination. So coming from the boring ‘burbs, I usually just stick around the area and wish I lived closer to the city. In general, the only time I go into Boston is when there’s business to be had, whether it be a game, concert, or dinner with the family.
Since I came back from Amherst I’ve been looking for an excuse to get into the city, if for nothing else than to experience something different for a change. When I lived in Sevilla, there was always something to do or see, and I loved simply walking a few blocks and finding a park with people in it. I like city life, and though the suburbs can be peaceful, the boredom is often too much to handle. On Saturday I finally found my excuse to get into Boston. My buddy Goldberg had just come back from Israel with a newfound love of falafel, and had heard there was a great place in Downtown Crossing, called the Falafel King. I became a huge fan of shwarma, or kabob when I lived in Europe, so I was excited to try the place, as it’s hard to find a shop with shwarma in these parts.
I drove to the nearest T station, Quincy Adams, where we took the Red Line into town. I figured I’d use the day as a chance to try out using a digital SLR. I’m saving up to buy one before I leave for South America, and my dad just bought a Canon Rebel XTi, so I was testing his out. I haven’t decided what kind I want to get yet, but have it narrowed down to either Nikon or Canon, and probably the XTi. My plan was to try to interview the owner of the shop and maybe write up a little story about it, but when we got there we found out the place was already closed. Though they were supposed to stay open until 4pm, they were already locked up by 3:45.
With the whole point of our trip into the city gone, we had to find something to do. Downtown Crossing is a strange little area. At some points it seems like a cheap attempt at a baby version of a 42nd Street persona. Chic stores line next to mom and pop shops that have been there forever, as street peddlers try to sell and entertain. On the other side, there’s a nice park with a fountain, where on hot days, people will gather by to sunbathe. Up the hill is the State House with the famous gold dome.
I started to take a few random pictures, just to get the feel of an SLR. The difference in the picture quality from a point and shoot is night and day, and it just feels better to have a “professional” camera in your hands. However, at the same time, you lose the convenience and lightweight feel of a smaller point and shoot. Not to mention, no matter how much you try to look like a professional photographer, to everyone else you’re just a tourist.
We walked to the fountain, where Goldberg waited in line to get a lemonade, and I saw some interesting people going about their business. One man walked around with a sandwich board reading “Jesus Loves You” while quoting the Bible. Another man was wearing only his shorts and going to town with oil all over his body. It was disgusting, but like a train wreck, you couldn’t look away. Why he had to do that in the middle of a crowded park is beyond me.
A woman was practicing yoga, peacefully blocking out all of the city noise, fumes, and heat, as she quietly sat on her small patch of grass, her own private garden. The Red Line stopped at Downtown Crossing because of repairs, and everyone had to get onto buses at the corner, so as hundreds of people rushed to get into the bus, cops had to stop traffic and yell at pedestrians to pay attention and get a move on. With tour groups going by and locals trying to get through, it was a cluster of slow moving walkers.
Next we came upon the cemetery where Paul Revere was buried, across from Suffolk University. Though it was just off the street, it was quiet and peaceful once inside the gates. It seemed like a fitting resting place for the patriots who founded the nation. Walking through the isles, I read some of the tombstones, and found that most people didn’t live very long back then. One woman who died in 1794, was only 48. Another baby was dead at 13 months.
Goldberg was hungry still, so we went back into the crowd to some crappy food court that we politely dubbed “the dirt mall.” Everything about this place was skeezy and wrong. Every receipt at the dirt mall should have read, “Buyer beware.” He got a burrito, which he immediately regretted, and I got a slice of pizza from Sbarro, which will never really suck, but won’t be good, walking the thin line of just barely getting by.
After that we window shopped for a bit. I’m convinced that I’ll never be able to buy a good hat again. I must have a tiny, peanut-sized head, because ever since hat companies started making everything in “Flexfit” and “One Size Fits All,” I haven’t been able to get one cool hat. Nothing ever fits right, and “One Size Fits All” is always too big. It’s not fair. After unsuccessfully trying to find a hat that fit for a half hour, I gave up, and we started back for home. The burrito was really taking a toll on Goldberg, so we took the T back to the car and headed home.
I only spent a couple of hours in Boston, and though our mission was a failure, it was still fun to get out and see the city for a bit. It’s refreshing to have a change of pace, even if only for a short time. Hopefully the next time I go to Boston, it will be a bit more successful.