Category Archives: Boston

The Apple Lady


Today is Halloween. I know that — I even wore my Lucille Ball costume to work. However, having not lived in a family neighborhood since high school (when my parents took care of such things), the idea that I might want to have some candy on hand completely slipped my mind. And it turns out, I live in a very family friendly neighborhood.
I let the first doorbell go, but felt guilty and frantically started rummaging around the kitchen looking for anything that might be remotely candy like. I saw the gourmet chocolate bars I had impulse bought from Whole Foods, but decided that a) I didn’t want to give $2 chocolate bars to kids and b) I only had three, so they wouldn’t last me that long anyway. And then I saw the bag of apples from last week’s apple picking excursion…
Now I know that kids are warned about apples because they can be poisoned or whatever, but the sounds of all of the costumed monsters and princesses outside were making me feel increasingly worse for having nothing for them. So, at the risk of having them all thrown away, I became the apple lady.
Reaction was mixed, tending toward the negative “Apples?! Yuck!” with a few “I love apples!” thrown in, and one precocious little boy who asked if I was a wicked witch who had poisoned them. My “No, I’m ‘I Love Lucy’,” was enough for him to trust me and take the apple. There were also a couple of parents who thanked me for my “healthy” choice. Yeah, sure… that’s right… I was being health conscious for these poor kids.
Fearing a revolt from the apple hating kids, I called Deb and was relieved to hear that she was already on her way home with candy. When she arrived, I stood on the porch with the bags of Snickers and Three Musketeers… and the apples, just because they were already there. No longer did I have to fear the disappointed faces of Spiderman, witches, and one adorable Raphael (the Ninja Turtle, not the Renaissance painter).
And yet, much to my surprise, word had gotten out that I had apples and some of the kids were actually coming by asking for them. Go figure.

Baby Sox


According to this article, we’re only just now beginning to see some of the results of the Red Sox World Series victory last fall. Nine months after the win, couples who opted to celebrate in a less destructive way than rioting are beginning to see the fruits of their celebration. A number of them are considering naming their newborn Sox fans Tim, Pedrina, or Papi, a theme that bears striking resemblance to a number of vows I made during the 2003 playoffs. (For those not around at the time, should I have three sons, I am bound to naming them Derek (Lowe), David (Ortiz), and Todd (Walker)… or maybe I am supposed to marry Todd Walker and have two sons. It’s hard to remember.)
The question really becomes, years from now when the babies are old enough to comprehend these things, will they be told the reason for their conception, or will they just have to figure it out on their own? Although being named Trot or Manny might be a giveaway. (As a fun exercise, take your birthday, go back nine months and see if it’s on or near any sort of meaningful date for your parents — I land right around my mother’s birthday.)

Strange Coincidence


Amy was visiting this weekend, which resulted in a tiny reunion with the only friends from high school I still talk to or make a point to see when I go home — Amy, Lisa, and Nnennia. Strangely enough, even though she lives in Central Square, it was the first time I had seen Nnennia in the Boston area since our MIT graduation — or so I thought. Nnennia and I had been best friends since some ridiculously young age, but once we got to college, we drifted apart, even though we lived in the same dorm. Now we usually only see each other when we both go home to Minnesota.
At some point this weekend, the four of us were riding the shuttle bus from Park Street to Kendall, since the Charles/MGH T station was out of service. This reminded Nnennia of an evening last winter when the Red Line was shut down and she had to take a shuttle bus back to her stop at Central. “People started singing christmas carols. It was really weird,” she said.
Sounding oddly familiar, I chimed in. “‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ followed by ‘Jingle Bells’?”
“Yes…” she responded.
“Was it really really crowded and packed like sardines? And did the singing start from people at the front of the bus and spread backwards?” I asked.
“Yes… yes… how did you know?”
“Because I think I was on that same bus. And I joined in when the people started singing.”
Sometimes it really is a small world.

Emerald Necklace


As a result of not working, and in an attempt to procrastinate my inevitable need to pack and move away, Monday night I flipped through the Boston guidebook given to me in anticipation of my freshman year at MIT five years ago. I’ve never really consulted the guidebook before for anything other than the occassional quest for a new restaurant. But this time I was looking for something to do in the city that I had never done in my five years of living here.
And then I found it — The Emerald Necklace, five miles of parks that includes the Fens, Riverway, Olmstead Park, Jamaica Pond, the Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park.
So, early afternoon on Tuesday, I took the Green Line over to Kenmore and set off into the greenery. Somewhere, either in the Fens or the early part of Riverside (the parks blended together), I stopped to watch a high school fastpitch softball game — the team in green, with their hyperactive and aggressive coach, appeared to be dominating the team in blue. But, knowing that I wanted to be back in time for my last Gilmore Girls watching experience with Lisa and that I had much more park to go, I picked up after an inning and headed into the woods.
Riverway was my favorite stretch of the parks. I felt so separated from the city, and yet a D Line Train rode past me every few minutes, cutting through the trees and reminding me that I was still in Boston. It was also on the Riverway that the Canadian geese and their goslings crossed my path. Now, growing up we had lots of Canadian geese in our neighborhood. I learned very quickly to stay away from the ones with goslings, because if you even looked at them funny, Mama Goose would get defensive and start hissing at you. And believe me, hissing geese are not something you want to encounter from a short range. But Bostonian Canadian geese are much more polite — or perhaps more used to people. As I held my breath and walked through the gaggle that was spread out across the pathway, not one of them seemed bothered by my presence. City geese, I guess.
Olmstead Park was also very pleasant. At one point I opted to head off of the paved sidewalk, following a runner onto a dirt path into the woods (which looked like it may have just been a well worn erosion trail — my old camp counselors would have been very disappointed in me). Once the dirt path seemed to disappear and the runner I had followed was long gone, I started wandering the woods and I stumbled onto a pond. The pond, which based on maps I looked at later was probably Wards Pond, had a little boardwalk and I ran into a few dog walkers there. But I circled that pond twice, and I never figured out where the non-erosion trail entrance was. And so, I simply hopped a little brick wall and found myself ten yards from the shore of Jamaica Pond.
Now, I’m going to digress a bit here for a linguistics question. Why are Jamaica Pond and Walden Pond considered ponds in Massachusetts? Maybe it’s because we count everything so that we can brag about having the most, but in Minnesota, those bodies of water would be called lakes. Heck, even Turtle Lake isn’t referred to as a pond, and that’s just a glorified marsh in my backyard. (See Google map vs. satellite image.)
In any event, Jamaica Pond was lovely. From there I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going, but I followed Arborway and walked myself around a rotary, the first time all day that I walked alongside cars. Yet magically I didn’t get lost and wound up at the Arnold Arboretum. The lilacs were in full bloom and it was under a lilac bush that I decided to finally stop and take my first rest since the softball game. I had brought a book of crossword puzzles, so I pulled it out and started puzzling away.
And then I remembered.
I’m allergic to lilacs. (Well, basically, I’m allergic to any flower in bloom.) My eyes started watering and my notorious sneezes started coming full force. So, I picked up and moved on, stopping to watch a pair of frolicking bunnies in the non-blooming rose bushes. As it was late in the day, I didn’t continue on to Franklin Park and the zoo. Instead I hopped on an Orange Line train at the Forest Hills stop and headed back into the city.
The whole day was a little surreal. For five years I have lived here and always missed the wildlife that used to live in my backyard. I’ve never really considered Boston Common a real park, as it is far too citified. And yet this whole time, a real park existed… I just had to venture out of my way a little to find it.

Now who’s crazy?


As I made my way back to my office after lunch, I observed a man who appeared to be talking to himself rather loudly while sitting on a bench. Being a hospital in the city, it’s not completely out of the ordinary for slightly crazy people to hang around in the lobbies. A nurse, observing the same behavior I had, approached the man and asked if he needed to be helped.
The man looked at her slightly confused. Then he took the nearly invisible earpiece out of his ear and said, “Sorry, I’m on the phone. Could you repeat that?” The nurse sheepishly mumbled “Nevermind” and went on her way.

Musical variety


Riding the T every morning, I’ve gotten used to the usual musicians that rotate through the Davis Square stop. Occassionally there will be someone new — like Morgan and his friend with the stand-up bass and fiddle playing Irish folk songs. But I usually never see those folks more than once. Half the time it’s the same handful of people — the guy with the hand painted box for collecting change, the guy who sounds like James Taylor and sings the song about the downtown train, the kid with his Beatles chord book, and the guy who was playing this morning, who I will refer to as Acoustic Guitar Man.
Acoustic Guitar Man sounds pleasant enough the first time you hear him — just his guitar, no singing, plucking melodic melodies in a way reminiscent of elevator music. But if you see him often enough, or if you happen to get stuck waiting an extra long time for the train, you discover Acoustic Guitar Man’s secret — he only knows three songs. This usually suffices to fool people, because by the time his set recycles, you’ve already gotten on the train and left. Normally, it wouldn’t be quite so bad — “Downtown Train” guy usually sings the “Downtown Train” song and I don’t mind because I like the song and his other songs sound sufficiently different. But Acoustic Guitar Man plays “My Heart Will Go On” from “The Titanic,” which happens to make me cringe. And his renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “The Rainbow Connection” wind up sounding like music from “The Titanic” as well. And so instead of being compelled to throw change in his guitar case, I have to resist the urge to grab his guitar and throw it on the train tracks.
But this morning, as “The Rainbow Connection” wound down, a holiday miracle occurred. He started playing something different — “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” What’s more, it didn’t sound like it came out of “The Titanic” soundtrack. I was so shocked and delighted that I threw a dollar into his guitar case. I can only hope that he uses that money to buy himself a new songbook.

Sinikithemba Choir


Yesterday at work I got the following e-mail:

The MGH will host the Sinikithemba Choir from KwaZulu-Natal South Africa from 1-2 PM, Monday November 29, in the Wang Lobby, in recognition of World AIDS Day. This group of HIV infected persons from an AIDS support group in Durban, has been supported by health care providers from MGH, and bring a message of hope for those living with HIV/AIDS. They will perform traditional Zulu Music and sell their own Zulu beadwork, which comes from an income generating program they have developed to assist others living in poverty and dealing with the challenges of this infection. Dr. Slavin recently visited the Choir in South Africa, and has invited them to share their message of hope with the MGH community.

So, after lunch, I headed around the corner from the cafeteria into a crowded lobby where I could barely see the group dressed in yellow robes, already singing. But it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see them — their sound was big enough, causing casual passers-by to stop and make the room more crowded. Not knowing Zulu, I didn’t understand the words — some of them included the clicking syllables that don’t even exist in my language. But the director, a short energetic bald man, explained their message of hope to us in English between songs. Sinikithemba means “Place of Hope,” and while they may all be infected with a disease that has no cure, they sing in order to inspire others and raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa.
I was extremely moved by this group of HIV positive singers, who live in a world so different from mine. And so when the concert was over, I forked over some money and bought their CD, the proceeds of which go to their hospital in South Africa. You can buy a handful of their songs here.