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September 20, 2016

World : Boston, Again & Anew




A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Boston for a friend's wedding and then for a medical conference.  I lived in Boston for four years during college. Having grown up in a suburb, it was the first city I really got to know and a place of many firsts and growths.  Knowing it so well already, I didn't really think of this trip as travel perse, just as some time away.

I've been to twenty countries and all states except five, and this trip ended up being one of my favorite trips of those many. It felt like a new kind of travel--the less pressured, more exploratory kind of returning to an old place as a different person in a different time in life.

I've only spent one summer in Boston, so being there in this immediate time right before the fall, when I usually returned to there, felt like a discovery and a renewal.


The time started Saturday morning after a red-eye. I was picked up from the airport by my old college friend Henry, someone who I don't speak to regularly and have seen only a handful of brief times since graduating ten years ago. But having had such a close connection before, now it was instant comfort and warmth. He chatted about his neighborhood and his life there as he drove me around, chatted about his home and the life he's built there with his wife there, as he gave me a tour of his cozy place.  He listed some eats, and it was no question when he mentioned donuts.  We walked to Union Square Donuts, and ordered the sea salted bourbon caramel, toasted coconut, and blueberry jelly filled donuts.  We walked to Prospect Hill Monument, where we sat on a bench outside of Somerville's casle and devoured our sweets.  We chatted about our current lives and the steps over the years to the present.  We walked around Somerville, which I hadn't seen much of during my time in Boston, and through the farmer's marker where he bought eggplants and tomatoes, and I saw for the first time how much New England loves sunflowers in the summer. The sweets and sun made us tired. We walked back home and napped.  Upon waking Henry needed to get a suit dry-cleaned, so I tagged along and had a spicy mango ice cream at a store nearby. The routine in a new place made me feel I'd been there for a long, lovely time.


On Sunday afternoon, we walked off our weekend meals by walking into Boston, walking around the Zakim Memorial Bridge. I'd seen this bridge from many vantage points in college, but I'd never walked so close to it. We walked by the skate park, and around the docks with house boats and leisure boats and all sorts of boats I can't name. It's hard to describe how much I loved this area, the weird mix of building, construction, structure and dishevelment. The light was perfect on white paint and green water.  And overall I loved this space and day with my friend.  It was the ultimately pleasant, filling day, without any marked event other than that rare moment of being together.



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Sunday evening was the best of marked events, the wedding of one of my very good friends from college, another person where a coast limits our co-existing presence and conversation but feels close always.  I was so happy to be part of her special day, filled with pink, humor, girlfriends, and MORE DONUTS.  I have loved experiencing so many moments of growth together with these ladies, seeing the same beauty and confusion of life at 18 has flurried into the more of the same and better. It makes me think of those LCD Soundsystem lines that I recently loved hearing live and belting out with one of these amazing girlfriends: "You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan // And the next five years trying to be with your friends again."  Does that not sound like college and beyond?  But beyond the group, what made the night was this one beautiful woman and seeing her glow in the hot-air-balloon-joy she deserves.  If ever you speak of beauty in and out, you must know someone like Jackie.




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On Monday, my old college roommate Stephanie and I met up for coffee, crepes, and art.  We've done a mix of this kind of thing over the years--she loves hot beverages, I love sweet things, and we both like art.  We majored in English together, and we'd read each other's essays, and compared our thoughts on books and paintings (we have different taste, which kept it interesting). So even though we hadn't done this together in a long, long time, it again felt familiar. We went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum together, which I had never been to, and it's now one of my favorite museums.



Isabella Stewart was such a wealthy collector of art that she decided to build a place to house her collection, and this museum was the result. The gardens, which change with the seasons, are so lush, and delicate and vibrant at the same time.  I like the idea of having a separate space for both natural and made beauty. When I was a kid, I had a yellow plastic kid's chair that I loved, and I'd put everything I loved on it, to keep in one place.  This felt a little like that. And my favorite room was the Yellow Room, a tiny space in a corner of the museum with simple paintings in gold frames.




We walked and chatted, we sat and chatted, and I felt like I did with Henry: that I missed the person as I was with them. We then walked in the summer humidity over the Charles River from Boston into Cambridge, and parted ways once we entered the town where we met.

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When I returned to Boston the next weekend, I was lucky to see another good college friend, Yonina. We ate lunch at the dining hall, outside one of the dorms in the grassy courtyard, and I wondered again at how lucky we were to have studied and lived in these places.  We took several loops around the square and the river, and laughed randomly and endlessly.  Her sudden, happy laugh lasts longer than its sound, and that sentiment I felt about everything else too.



The rest of the weekend, I spent mostly by myself.  I ate delicious things, highlights below:

Ethopian food at Lucy Ethiopan Cafe. The Addis Combo: red lentils, split peas with garlic and finger, and spinach simmered with potatoes. Only $9.  Also had their hot peanut tea, a dream for peanut butter lovers.

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Asian fusion dim sum at Myers & Chang.  Clockwise: 1) They gave me a free order of lemongrass mussels, which ended up being my favorite. I'm trying to cut down on my seafood intake, and I made an exception by ordering the oyster because they are a favorite food, but I didn't think mussels would be worth making an exception.  But the lemongrass was worth it; lemongrass always makes me feel home, since we use it often and it's not used in many other cuisines. 2) A spicy crispy tofu steamed bun -- perfect comfort food. 3) Wasabi edamame dumplings, a little too sinus clearing for me. 4) My second favorite: an oyster with some lychee-infused sauce that was sweet, tart and savory. SO GOOD.

I walked everywhere because I had the time and because the city is small.  I walked around Copley and Back Bay, the most gorgeously New England parts of Boston, and spent most of my time photographing the summer-into-fall dusk off the brick and buildings. I saw for the first time the Christian Science Museum at night, and felt lonely and in company with the lights.  I took my time, and everything was my own, and also everything was this city.




2 comments :

  1. Beautiful writing, I miss our discussions about books! Thank you for such a lovely account of your travels. It was so good to see you again in our old town. Love, Stephanie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So grateful that our lives have coincided in place/experience at so many different times. See you soon in our new/old town :)

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