Day 25 – Boston in the Fall

Since I was in Massachusetts in November, I decided that I should visit Boston in the fall.

I am sort of a Veggie Tales fan. The computer-animated, organically-grown video series is designed for about the 3-year-old target market, which is probably why it appeals to me.

My favorite part is the Silly Songs with Larry segment, which is the part of the show where Larry comes out and sings a silly song. One of these songs, entitled “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”, is basically a long list of things that Larry and his friends have never done. Stuff such as “I’ve never kissed a chipmunk” and “I’ve never bathed in yogurt”. At the end of each verse is the refrain, “and I’ve never been to Boston in the fall,” as if that were somehow a task on par with bathing in yogurt.

Well, I had never been to Boston in the fall. I had never been to Boston, period. In fact, I had never done any of the things listed in that song. This seemed to mean that, according to the Veggie Tales, I was a person who had never done anything. I wanted to at least be able to say that I had done something in my life. So, I figured that if I at least made it to Boston in the fall, I could say that I had actually done something. I would have a one-up on Larry the Cucumber.

When I finally did make it to Boston in the fall, it was raining. Hardly worth mentioning, except that the cold rain has a tendency to cause my windshield to fog up. And when I turned on the defroster, I heard a loud GRAAAAAAARR noise.

Woah! What was that? My pickup had never gone “grar” before. I turned off the radio and the fan to hear more clearly, but then the noise stopped. I turned on the radio. No grar. I turned on the defrost. GRAAAAAARR.

Sounds like something was mechanically wrong with my pickup after all. After experimenting, I determined that the noise would only come on when I ran the defroster or the air conditioner. I had not used the AC in at least a couple of weeks, so that didn’t seem like a pressing problem. The defrost, though, would be kind of handy, if I didn’t want to drive around with my head stuck out the window, in the rain, in order to see where I was going.

Well, there’s normally more than one way to skin a cat. If I turn on the regular vents, at full blast, that should make the air inside the cab the same as the air outside. If it is the same temperature and humidity inside the cab as outside, no fog should form, right?

I gave it a try, and was somewhat surprised to find that it worked. The only side effect was that it was now rather cold and windy inside the pickup. I put on my coat, turned the radio up, and continued on into Boston.

It was Sunday morning, but I was a bit late for church when I made it into town. A lot of people had apparently gone to church, because I passed several ancient-looking cathedrals that were surrounded by hordes of cars. Apparently, in Boston, it is completely legal and acceptable to double-park and block people in, or even to park in the middle of the street. But, it also seemed that it was only legal and acceptable to do so in certain areas, and I saw no way that an outsider like myself could tell where it was appropriate and where it would get you towed. So, I drove around for a while until I found an open spot along the curb.

I was in the Southside neighborhood of Boston, a really nice area of brick row houses and little local shops. It looked like a good place to find a cafe where I could get an authentic Boston meal.

I grabbed my umbrella, which it turns out was pretty well shot. The fabric had come loose from at least 3 of the metal spokes, which now stuck out like skeletal fingers. It was the type of umbrella that, had I handed it to a homeless person, odds are he or she would have turned it down.

But, it was all I had, and it still kept me dry.

I walked around the neighborhood to see what was available, and what was open. I did quickly come upon a Yum Mee Chinese Food place, but decided to give it a pass.

After a bit, I came across a young couple who were also walking the neighborhood. I asked if they lived around there, and when they said yes, asked them if they could recommend a good local place nearby to grab lunch on a Sunday.

They looked at each other. “Anchovies?” the woman asked.

“That’s what I was thinking,” her beau replied.

They gave me directions, which were pretty simple because the place was just down the street. Anchovies was certainly an unassuming place; I literally walked right by it once before noticing its existence.

I walked into what was a small but well-kept bar. A row of people were sitting at the bar, watching the Patriots game on TV. One of the group turned to me and asked if she could help me.

Oh, I guess this must be a waitress. It looked like she was just one of the patrons.

Anchovies is a hole-in-the-wall bar/pizza parlor. It is the kind of place where the locals gather to hang out and kill time. Someone had suggested that I should visit Cheers while in Boston; Anchovies is sort of a real-life Cheers, but with better food.

At the waitress’ recommendation, I ordered the calzone. It was very good, but about the right size for two people. I got the leftovers to go, though I wasn’t sure where I would store it or reheat it.

The waitress was a Boston native, so I asked her what she could tell me about the city. “It is a fun city,” she replied. “It’s a really fun city.”

Wow, someone who is actually positive about their hometown. Perhaps there is something to this whole Boston thing.

I took a driving tour of Boston, aided by the fact that I didn’t really know where I was going and several roads were closed, forcing me to take detours.

In Good Will Hunting style, I considered heading over to Harvard and messing up some smart kids. I even came up with a really obscure question that I thought I could stump them with: what is the difference between a 21-spline and a 6-spline PTO (other than the number of splines)? I decided that wouldn’t be the nicest thing I could do, though.

I did stumble upon MIT and Harvard, though. MIT has some very interesting architecture, which I guess they can get away with because, hey, they’re MIT. Harvard appeared to be more of the traditional old ivy-league look.

I didn’t hang around at either of them, because I wanted to make it to Walden Pond before dark.

I had never read Thoreau before, and really didn’t know much about this whole Walden Pond deal. At least two friends had compared what I was doing to Thoreau’s experience, though, and the “By Still Waters” sermon series at my church quoted Thoreau as an example. From that scant information, I was at least able to discern that this Thoreau guy had gone to live beside Walden Pond to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. To escape the stressful busyness of modern life, 150 years ago. He was somehow so successful at this experiment that they developed a state park around the site of his adventure with tranquility.

Since the actual Walden Pond is not far from Boston, I decided I should pay the old watering hole a visit.

Walden Pond was kind of impressive, insomuch as it could have easily been considered a lake. I think I know a good deal about ponds, having grown up on a ranch, and Walden Pond is no pond. I could see how it might be considered a peaceful place to get away from it all.

It costs $5 to put in a boat at Walden, or at least to park near the boat ramp, but it costs $5 to park almost anywhere at the state park. The one exception is the gift shop, which says that parking is free to customers only. I simply parked at the gift shop and bought a $2.50 copy of Thoreau’s book, and then walked around the rest of the park.

You can walk from the gift shop down a stairway to the edge of the pond. A sign planted in a bucket along the shoreline warns “Danger – Unguarded Water Area.” In other words, it is a pond. Not sure what the “danger” is. We’re not talking Niagara Falls here.

Back near the gift shop is a replica of the house Thoreau built somewhere on Walden Pond’s shores. The house is extremely small, but it is still probably a bit bigger than my tent. Thoreau did not seem to be much into materialism; I would like to think that I am similar to him in that respect. Plus, he built the house himself, so I can see the appeal in building it small.

The gift shop itself is filled entirely with Thoreau-related stuff, from books to mugs to clothing. Again, it is amazing what commercial success Thoreau’s experiment has resulted in, over a century later. It seems a little bit at odds with his anti-materialistic ways.

I have heard that Thoreau had two things to say about what he learned in his time at Walden Pond: “simplify, simplify”. A sweatshirt on the wall contained this quote written across the chest. I looked at the price tag – $30.00 – and decided I could best take Thoreau’s advice by not buying the shirt.

I headed north from Walden on country roads, but it soon became dark. At this time of year, this far east and north, it apparently gets dark around 4:30 p.m. I was still on Central time, which means my clock showed only 3:30 p.m. Darkness normally isn’t a big problem for me, but with the continuing rain and only one functioning headlight, I was not too adventuresome. I stopped at a town northwest of Boston and checked into a Motel 6. I wasn’t that interested in fighting the mud and rain in the dark.

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