In my last post I talked about our Sunday morning in Boston. One of the friends we were going to meet is a minister and was busy with Catholic services in the morning. But my friend Romain, whom I have mentioned before because we have been beloved friends since 2006, came to pick us up in the afternoon.
Romain worked for a time at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston. Pedro wanted to see the campuses of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), so when Romain arrived, I asked him to give us a tour. We started at Harvard, since he knew it better.
Romain said he has seen parents pressing their students to touch Harvard’s lucky left shoe, just in case. It turns out, that is a myth perpetuated by tour guides, but so many visitors are enthralled by the possibility of luck, that the toe of the left shoe practically sparkles in polished bronze, while you can see the rest of the statue is dark. One real tradition is that seniors on their way to graduation will remove their caps as they pass the statue.
Romain commented that the campus looked strange to him in the pandemic. “I’m used to this area filled with people,” he said.
Since the purchase of Harvard Yard in 1637, the campus has grown quite huge. We got into Romain’s car to see more of it, since it was too far to walk. We chose a random direction and ended up near the Zoology and Anthropology buildings.
We then drove the short distance to the MIT campus. While Pedro had been interested in the first campus, at MIT he became distinctly animated. It hadn’t occurred to me that he would have enjoyed the visit so much, but it should have. His first degree was in chemical engineering, his next degrees were in computer engineering, and currently he is a data scientist, so this school is more up his alley.
We passed an interesting building. Or, I should say another interesting building, as the MIT campus has some outstanding architecture. I was pointing out the clever design elements and Pedro got excited, pointing to the signs about MIT.nano. Romain and I played along but had no idea why he was so excited. Pedro was peering eagerly through the windows, trying to guess at what we were looking at.
I looked it up later, and learned more about this place, which is a facility for research on the nano level. Nano means “one billionth,” so the focus here is on things very, very small. It’s for students and faculty, but also for anyone around the world to do research with individual atoms, and use these amazingly clean and quiet and stable and monitored facilities.
We finally made our way around to the river-facing side of the campus. In Killian Court it was fun to see that we were not the only tourists! Despite the cold and snow and darkening sky, we had to take our turn getting photos in front of the impressive Maclaurin buildings as tourists from around the world (we heard multiple languages) got photos there.
It was getting quite dark at this point, and Romain had one last thing he wanted to share with us. At the top of the Prudential building is a floor with huge windows where visitors have an outstanding view of the city of Boston below. We headed there next, first parking near the church where Romain lived when he first came to Boston. He told us stories about learning the city in those days as we walked over to the building and found our way to the elevators. But no! They were closed to us. The Prudential Observatory is undergoing remodeling and scheduled to open to the public again in 2023. We would have to try another day.
Instead, we found a restaurant that looked promising and went inside. We had a marvelous meal of seafood and celebrated my birthday! As yes, Sunday was my birthday and I turned 52. Romain spotted a “celebratory cake” on the menu, and ordered it for us after we had eaten all the sea creatures. With three forks, we all shared the celebratory cake.
It had been a splendid birthday.