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In life, remember to look up. You never know what you will see.

On my very last day on the East Coast in May (you thought I would never get to the end of this journey, huh?), my plane left in the afternoon so we had the morning to explore. We walked from our downtown Boston hotel to a bakery and one of us spotted a travel trailer on top of one of the high buildings in the city. Is that for the CEO when she’s worked too late and doesn’t want to make the trip home?

We looked for a store called The Fairy Shop, because I love fairies. It’s in a lovely part of town and is a beautiful place, but should be named the Harry Potter Shop.  Apparently it used to have fairies and gnomes and frogs and crystals and what one might expect with a name like that. But today, there is only Harry Potter merchandise. Luckily, I am a huge Harry Potter fan.

View inside The Fairy Shop that should be named the Harry Potter Shop. Sorting Hat right there in the center.

Next we went to Graffiti Alley in Cambridge. I am always a fan of wall art, and fascinated with the whimsy and political statements and sometimes jaw-dropping beauty I find on walls. This alley is right off Massachusetts Avenue, painted on all sides. It had been raining all morning and I appreciated the colourful awning.

Graffiti Alley off Mass Ave in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This made me smile.

A little 3D catches my attention.

We wandered all the way through and found more art in the parking lot behind the alley.

At the end of the alley, looking back the way we had come.

How dare those cars park there and ruin the view?! ha ha

Wall art packed with faces.

We still had some time to kill so we made one last stop at Castle Island. It’s really only a peninsula, despite the name. Because it was windy and raining, we had the place to ourselves. Even though it was the site of another old military fort, and built way back in 1634, and you know I love that stuff… my heart wasn’t in it. The weather was rotten and after two long weeks I really just wanted to go home.

Will dropped me off at the airport. It was a direct flight back to Portland, and six hours later I was greeted by my favourite volcano.

The weather in Portland was gorgeous that day, and our late-day arrival gave us a stunning view of Mt. Hood.

I never get enough of this mountain.

Whew! I finished that whole action-packed trip. Can you believe how much stuff we did? It was fun almost every single day and I got to see so many friends and especially got to know Will better. I might have to make a New England trip with Will an annual event or something.

In the meantime things have been happening here at Dragon Manor, and I have so many things to tell you about my summer so far. I have lots of photos of my daily delights around the place. I’ll post them because it makes me happy. I hope you like some of them too.

Posing in my new Pats gear.

They are two venues well-known to New England sports fans. I lived in Vermont in the 1990s and picked up the New England Patriots as my team. Rather than try to make a connection with a California team when I moved there next, I just stayed with the Patriots. In 2003 I moved to the Boston area, and it was a whole load of fun when the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year and again in 2004. These days it’s popular to not like the New England Patriots, but back when they were still new winners, many people were wildly enthusiastic about them. It was fun that a team I had decided to follow years earlier were now superstars.

And Bostonians…well…they are a sports city like I had never seen in my life.

I learned this in 2004 while picking up a second New England team, the Boston Red Sox. The American League Championship Series began frustratingly, as the Red Sox lost to their rivals the New York Yankees, one game after another. The series score was 0-3 when the fourth game began, and while we loved our Sox, we were admittedly half-convinced that night would be the last of the series. But it was not. The Sox turned it around, and kept it turned around. Our minds were blown when the Red Sox won the next four games and THEY were ALCS champions. Against the Yankees, no less.

I had been watching the games with my boyfriend and we had been yelling and cheering at the television screen ourselves. During one of the last games in the series I had to go outside for something, and was outside when the Sox scored. The whole neighborhood erupted! I could hear cheering from houses on all sides of me. That was my first clue about Boston and baseball.

Next up was the World Series. In October 2004, the Red Sox entered the series with a really jazzed up fanbase. Games one and two were on the weekend, and our excitement grew when the Red Sox won both of them. I was back in classes for the Fall at Brandeis University, and couldn’t be home to watch the beginnings of the remaining games. Most other people had to work, too.  Again, I saw evidence that the whole city was the audience. Game 2 ended at midnight and Monday morning I got on the train and saw my usually-friendly and chipper friends all sprawled out on the seats asleep. Up and down the train, on all the cars, red eyes and saggy pale skin greeted me instead. People protectively clutched travel mugs of coffee.

Pre-superfast cell service, nobody knew what was going on while we were on the train. It was an hour and a half ride from the Brandeis/ Roberts stop to the end of the line, and before the game we huddled together in agitation comparing notes of what had been happening right before we left the office or the computer to get on the train, or what the spouse had said on the phone just before boarding. By the third game, on Tuesday night, someone got wise and brought an old transistor radio. He brought a handful of aluminum foil and taped it up to a window and stuck the antenna into the foil, then turned up the volume and bent his head down to the speakers to hear the announcer above the rattle of the train. The game started before we got home, and this man called out the action loudly enough for the whole car to hear.

Someone took it upon himself to run to the adjacent cars and announce the latest score. In fact, this is how I found out the radio was on board. I was sitting in an adjacent car and heard the announcement. I was not the only one grateful to get the shouted news. When I learned it was a friend who held the radio, I moved into that car.

Once we got home, we could watch the end of the games that lasted well into the night, and it took a toll on us. The Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals and by Thursday morning after game four we were wrecked. I can’t remember how late all the games went, but we were not getting enough sleep. After all that excitement it took awhile to wind down and then sleep. And moments later our alarms got us all out of bed again so we could get to the train on time.

Wrecked, but so happy. It was a big deal because it broke the Curse of the Bambino. After 86 years, the Red Sox had finally won a World Series. There were so many tired but blissful smiles on the train Thursday and Friday. I wonder if anyone has documented the lack of production in the city of Boston that week.

Let’s talk about 2019 now.

Will bought us tickets to see the Red Sox play at Fenway. On the way up to Boston from Rhode Island, I asked if we could stop at Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots. I bought a T-shirt because my old game day T-shirts were getting pretty worn out. Then I posed on the grass. I had to sit on the ground because I wanted the shot to look like I was actually on the field. I’m not. It’s just a patch of turf outside the store, made expressly for silly tourists like me.

Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 in Foxborough, Massachusetts

I love my team 🙂

We then headed up to our hotel just blocks from Fenway. We had splurged for a hotel close to the park so we could just walk there. We checked in, dumped our bags, and headed over.

We joined the other fans on their way to the ball park.

Panoramic view of the whole field and the Air Force personnel lined up to support Memorial Day honors.

A big flag is unfurled as we all took time to honor those who died while serving the United States Military.

Will and I found our seats and settled in to enjoy the Memorial Day honors. Multiple veterans appeared, and multiple family members were honored while the stories of their lost loved ones were told. There was one person honored for dying “from Agent Orange,” and I shook my head. Of course I respect and appreciate the Vietnam Veteran who died. I just wish the US didn’t continue to perpetuate all the fear and myths surrounding Agent Orange – the herbicide dropped to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam. I could go on and on about it, and I won’t. Just please don’t buy into the hype. The government used waay too much herbicide, and it had health impacts. Your diabetes mellitus II is most likely due to your lifestyle, however.

The game was fun and our team won!

Players took to the field on a beautiful Spring day.

It was a good game for the Red Sox and their fans.

The downside to being a woman.

At Fenway for the first time!

This guy was selling Del’s Frozen Lemonade, a Rhode Island tradition.

People began leaving early after it looked like a Sox win was bound to happen. We stayed for the whole thing.

We hung around after the game and explored the seats above the Green Monster: the big giant green wall seen in the panoramic photo above, and the wall behind the US flag. Then we walked back to our hotel in the warm night. On top of the building was a patio where we got drinks and watched the sun go down over Boston.

View of the field from the Green Monster.

A Boston landmark that always makes me think of the Red Sox.

View of the city and the lights at Fenway left of the city skyscrapers.

A great place to watch the sun go down.

As I mentioned before, I spent two weeks of May in New England with my friend Will. So far in my blog story I’m halfway through the trip, and right in the middle we scheduled two days for us to do solo stuff. So he went home to Rhode Island and I began looking up old friends from when I used to live in Massachusetts.

For this trip I forgot to bring my camera!! Argghh. So I used my phone when I could. But when I’m meeting friends for lunch or dinner, I tend to pay attention to them and forget to pull out my phone. This is as it should be. Thus, for two whole days, the only photos I took are the ones you see here. I managed to forget to get photos of nearly all of them. Ah well.

I spent a lazy morning at the hotel in which I downloaded all my photos from my phone to my laptop and answered emails and made phone calls and all those things that had been neglected for a week. Had a long chat with Tara, which is always nice. They were getting ready for finals, but also planning for a summer geology field class out in the desert of eastern Oregon. Tara wanted to borrow camping gear. No problem.

In the afternoon I met my friend Fish from school. It was great to spend the day together, and except for some brisk wind, it was a pretty nice day. We bought ice cream and walked and talked all the way to Jamaica Pond.  I got to hear about Fish’s trip to South America, and their work volunteering to be a guinea pig for some fascinating brain research. Then we sat on the shore and watched wind blow over the water till it was time to leave for my next gathering of friends. The first time I remembered my phone was when we were almost back at my rental car and saying goodbye, and Fish pointed out the beautiful homes on the streets of Jamaica Plain.

A beautiful home in Jamaica Plain.

I made it on time to the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where Mads works. He came out to meet me, then took a break from work and we shared a cup of coffee and caught up. He finally got a chance to tell me in person about falling in love with his wife couple years before, and about getting married, and I really am dying to meet her. She is still in Sri Lanka and has not yet been able to come to the U.S., but it should be soon! I got to hear about his emotions and observations about being a new dad. He had actually reached a point in his life where he didn’t think he would ever get married, much less be a father, so it is an immense change in perspective he is going through. Mads is loving every minute of it (except for the pain of separation), and it filled my heart to see him so happy.

When it was time to leave for our 6pm dinner reservation in the North End, we left together and met Romain at an Italian restaurant they had heard good things of. I’m sure you remember me mentioning Mads & Romain before, because they are two of my best friends in the whole wide world. We met in school and clicked, and formed some kind of mutual admiration society, where each of us thinks the other two are amazing. I speak for myself, anyway. I never stop feeling blessed that these two so obviously value my friendship. We had a wonderful time at the restaurant. The wine was perfect, the food was out of this world. We laughed and told stories and hugged and pretty much entertained the wait staff. One of them remembered to pull out the phone – thank goodness!!

Father Romain has been an assistant pastor at his church for a decade, but had just accepted a new job with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yes! The same VA that I just left in the Fall. Romain was prompted to make this choice because working as a Chaplain for the federal government will provide a steady income and benefits such as paid holidays, paid sick days, and discounted health insurance, maybe even a pension if he is able to work for the government long enough. These things were not available in his previous job.

Romain and me. I truly love this man. We adopted each other and call each other cousin. 🙂

We asked the waiter to take a photo of all 3 of us.

After dinner we said goodbye to Romain, and Mads decided the wine was so good he wanted to buy a bottle of it. We found a place called The Wine Bottega nearby, and I circled the block while Mads shopped. There is no parking in this part of Boston, forcing me to keep circling. In fact, while we were eating, I got parking ticket because the place I had earlier chosen for parking was actually resident parking. Drat! Soon he came out to meet me. He had tricked me by saying that the wine was for himself, and instead gifted both bottles to me. “Why two?” I asked, “You can keep one for yourself!” Mads answered, “But what if you really like the wine? Then you will certainly need another bottle!” ha ha ha

The Colonial Inn was built in 1716, but has been used as an inn since 1889.

The next morning I met Romain for brunch. We had discovered that my randomly selected cheap hotel was only one village over from where he lived in Carlisle. He insisted on meeting me the next morning, so we met and he took me to a wonderful place in Concord called the Colonial Inn. I received an impromptu tour by our server, who took me through, room by room, explaining how old the place is, what the rooms were used for originally, and even how one counter that was originally built to be a bar, has been restored and is now being used as a bar again. It’s cramped and dark, and tucked away inside, and I just love the idea of getting a pint at a place that was serving pints 100 years ago. Henry David Thoreau’s grandfather owned a part of the property for almost 40 years. I was shown the guest register, that Inn staff like to leave open to different pages, so that guests can see the signatures of famous historic visitors like Margaret Sidney Lothrop, J.P. Morgan, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. We finally settled down to eat and the food was outstanding.

Since we were in Concord, and I admitted that I had not seen the battlefield before, Romain insisted that we make a quick visit to the site of the battles of Lexington & Concord. This is another part of the story I was telling in my post about the Freedom Trail. Remember there was a secret council meeting in Concord about the resistence to British control? Paul Revere’s famous ride was an attempt to get from Boston to Concord, ahead of the British Regulars, and spread the word of their advance. He got captured before he completed the trip, but Revere and many other riders went through the countryside warning people, and they played a significant role that night.

Anyhow, so when the Regulars arrived in Concord in April 1775, the American Minute Men were ready for them and challenged them. Were they treasonists or freedom fighters? The age-old question. It was the beginning of the American Revolution, and it changed the path of history. The Minute Men faced the Regulars across the Old North Bridge, and the ensuing battle resulted in the first instance of Americans killing British Regulars. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed this was the critical turning point that began the revolution, and called it “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

Standing on the Old North Bridge over the Concord River.

The Old North Bridge leading to a monument to the battle, erected in 1836.

Burial site for two unnamed British soldiers who died at this site. The inscription reads, “They came three thousand miles and died, to keep the past upon its throne: Unheard, beyond the ocean tide, their English Mother made her moan. April 19, 1775”

Minute Man monument tells some of the legend of the characters in the battle, and then notes “Here began the separation of two kindred nations, now happily long united in peace.”

We did not have enough time to really explore the place, as I had committed to another friend. It’s a beautiful and important place to visit, and I will make a point of going there again some day.

I hopped in the car and sped off to find my friends Dave & Lois. Dave was my advisor when I was attending school at Brandeis. They are both retired now and living in a new place, so I was able to see it for the first time. The property they live on has an agreement with the college next door that they can use the dining facilities, and since it was so convenient, we agreed to meet and walk over to the cafeteria. The food was tasty and the company was lovely. We sat outside, but it was another warm sunny day and not Lois’ preference. After our meal, she went inside for protection from the UV rays, and Dave invited me to see one of his favourite places, also near their new home.

We went to Cutler Park and walked for a couple hours. It was a great talk and it was such a relief for me to be outdoors again finally, after so much time in a car, or in restaurants. The exercise felt good. Dave told me all about his new interests, how he liked the new place, how his kids were doing. He asked me a ton of questions about my future plans and what I hope for someday in a romantic partner. Dave is a great resource for encouragement and inspiration. I think I need to run all my future career prospects by this guy from now on because he has so many ideas.

When we eventually made our way back to the car, we followed the loop around the lake, and were passed by cyclists getting their exercise. One of them heading in the opposite direction zoomed past us and right away I heard the skidding of tires across dirt and rocks as the brakes came on sharply. I turned around to look, hoping the cyclist wasn’t about to crash.

“Crystal?” he asked. I was astonished. Who on earth would know me at Cutler Park? I live 3000 miles away. This guy was head to foot in cyclist gear, complete with helmet and sunglasses. In other words, totally unrecogniseable.

“Yes!” I said, delighted to be recognised in Massachusetts, even though I had no idea who it was. “Who are you?”

“Chris, from Brandeis!” he answered. Chris is a common name and I was at Brandeis 12 years ago, and…

“I need help. Chris who, from Brandeis?”

So he explained. He was a former co-worker in the Brandeis IT department. In a previous post I mentioned that I modeled for work, but that was only a couple hours a week, so I also helped the IT department create and manage websites for the school. With some context, I immediately knew who it was! Chris and I had a brief, pleasant exchange, and he zoomed off on the bike again, passing us three or four more times on the loop before we made it back to the car.

Amazing. I still can’t believe he recognised me after 12 years and outside of the Brandeis campus.

We watched a fly fisherman at the shore of Kendrick Pond.

A lovely view of swans and a brick steeple above the trees.

This is how happy I was to be walking at Cutler Park. {Photo by Dave Jacobson}

My last visit of the day would be all the way back to my old homeland, to see my dear friend Susie in Ashburnham. Those of you who have followed me for years may remember that I dyed my hair pink during the entire time that Susie had active cancer. She kicked cancer’s ass and I went back to a blonde streak. There is a brew pub close to her house, so we walked over there to get a pint before they closed. The weather had been warm and lovely all day and I was excited to do some more walking.

Susie confirmed that cancer has been undetectable for so long now that the frequency of her checkups can be reduced. She told me some of her perspective on the whole deal, how she never thought the power of love and prayer was what got her through, but instead the fact that she became a warrior woman and fought cancer with all the hatred and disgust she could muster. I love this woman. She is as real as it gets.

I was thrilled to hear about the latest from her oldest son, and how he completely has his shit together and is about to do a study abroad program. Her daughter who is similar to Susie: gorgeous on the outside, expressing kindness and empathy every day, which disguises a hardcore warrior woman on the inside. Her youngest is filled with a hunger for life. He is mischievous, polite, thoughtful, obnoxious, and funny all in one young man.

By the time it got dark it was time for all of us to get ready to end the day. I hugged everyone goodbye and hopped into the rental car for one last journey. I went to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to pick up Will, and off we went to the next chapter in the New England vacation.

King’s Chapel faces a whirling vortex of wind in Boston’s downtown, at the corner of Tremont St and School St. {photo by Will Murray}

We found out there is a vortex in downtown Boston, right in front of King’s Chapel. It took us all day long to realize this phenomena was specific to the intersection of Tremont ST, Beacon ST, and School ST.

King’s Chapel was originally an Anglican church attended by Royalists (supporters of the British King), but not supported by the Puritan founders of the city of Boston. In fact, when the Royal Governor demanded that land be provided for construction of the church, the Puritans refused. So, he seized some land already used as a burying ground and had a church built. Before he got a chance to worship there, the Puritans found out that King James II had been deposed, so they captured the Governor and shipped him back to England.

The original wooden church of 1686 was replaced with the current church in 1754. Rhode Island architect Peter Harrison (called America’s first architect) built it. The stone chapel does not have a steeple because the Royalists ran out of money. (The Puritans chuckled with glee, and did not buy anything at the Steeple Bake Sale.) It became Unitarian in 1785 under the ministry of James Freeman, and with that the establishment of the Unitarian Christian faith in America.

This was the site of our meeting place for the Boston By Foot Road to Revolution tour we were about to take. The weather was sketchy, but with only one day in the city, we had no choice but to show up in our rain jackets, and wait for our guide under a bank’s entryway while watching other tourists begin their Freedom Trail tours. The wind was astonishing! It whipped through the streets between tall buildings, blowing hats off heads, hurtling discarded Starbucks cups airborne into bushes, stripping tender early season leaves off the trees. Rain flew sideways, making umbrellas useless, even if they hadn’t already been yanked inside out by gusts. I watched as the wind grabbed a woman’s plastic poncho and pulled it nearly off her body. With her arms through the holes, she maintained possession of the poncho, while it flapped madly in the wind and rain above her head, a wet angry flag. When we spotted our tourguide, Linzy, she was surpised to see we hadn’t canceled. The others had.

Bravely the four of us (Will, me, Linzy, and her friend) all determined to go through with it. Linzy walked with us for a 2-hour tour past the physical remains of key moments in the political history of what is today called the United States of America. It’s an awkward story for me because it includes the invasion of my indigenous ancestors, but for today I’ll just set that aside and talk about the white man’s version of the tale.

Linzy told us about King’s Chapel, one of the symbols of the newly settled country, and a place visited by men whose names, like George Washington, appear in our founding mythology. The bell that rings today is one that was repaired by Paul Revere in his own foundry. We moved along the street and only a block away, the wind died down and our umbrella could be used as designed.

Benjamin Franklin is the most famous student from the Boston Latin School.

We walked to the Boston Latin School, founded on April 23, 1635. It is the oldest public school in America, and when it opened, offered a free education to boys of the community, regardless of what resources the family had. A statue of Benjamin Franklin, once a student there, honors the site of the original school.

The Old State House in the center of Boston, and in the center of U.S. history.

My favourite Boston building is the Old State House, built in 1713. The first floor was a merchant exchange and the second floor held offices of government, including that of the Governor, appointed by the English King. Until 1775, the Governor addressed the people from a balcony overlooking King Street.

The Old State House is adorned with the lion and unicorn, royal symbols of the King.

One of the lovely Boston churches.

Eye-catching frame of the Custom House Tower.

The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in Boston. The plaza in front of the lion and unicorn is the site of the Boston Massacre. In March 1770, some boys taunted the British sentry until the sentry hit back. This drew a crowd of laborers, sailors, and bystanders, some carrying clubs. Seven soldiers were sent to defend the sentry, and they surrounded the crowd. The mob became cacauphonous and in the melee, the sentry fired his gun. The soldiers thought an order had been given, so they fired into the crowd. Five people died as a result, and many call this the first bloodshed of the Revolution. (Though that’s in dispute, as our tour guide in Salem explained how technically the first blood was spilled in Salem.) Six years later, the Declaration of Independence was read in the very same spot.

A statue of Samuel Adams in front of Faneuil Hall, currently swathed in protective covering during rennovations. {photo by Will Murray}

Nearby is Faneuil Hall, famous today as an indoor market. Peter Faneuil was the wealthiest merchant in Boston, and had no family or heirs. He proposed in 1740 that Boston have a central marketplace, and he offered to fund the construction entirely. The vote passed and the marketplace was built. As an afterthought, he added a second floor for a meeting space. The meeting space was immediately valuable as a public hall for gatherings, meetings, and ceremonies. 277 years later, it is still used in this way: market on the first level, gathering space at the top.

In front of Faneuil Hall is a statue of founding father, Sam Adams. Adams was born in Boston, a relative of President John Adams, and very active in politics. His family owned a company that produced malt used for brewing beer, and today there is a popular beer named after him.

We walked through an older part of Boston, with cobbled streets too narrow to fit a modern car. It’s hard to believe there are still places like this in the U.S.

Looking toward the Union Oyster House, from Union Street. (The Holocaust Memorial is right behind us, but that’s history for another day.)

Linzy told us about the history of Boston.

From there we walked past a hundred authentic Italian restaurants, in Boston’s Old North End. Linzy remarked as multiple tourists passed us with boxes of pastries from Mike’s, that it is where all the tourists go for authentic Italian pastries. “The locals go to Bova,” she added. We made a mental note.

Paul Revere owned this house from 1770-1800. {photo by Will Murray}

A statue of Paul Revere, with the famous spire of the Old North Church in the background.

It turns out, Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, and the famous ‘one if by land, two if by sea’ plan, did not go down exactly as legend has it. Longfellow did the guy a solid for some reason.

During the planning stages of the revolution, there was a secret provincial council meeting in the town of Concord, Massachusetts. A spy network was organized between Concord and Boston, so the council could hear any Boston news. One enthusiastic member of the spy group was Paul Revere. People in Boston found out that British Regulars were planning to go out to Concord and confiscate an arms cache, and then arrest the council members, so the spy network was engaged.

There were two main routes to Concord from Boston, one was longer but entirely a land route. The other was shorter but required crossing the mouth of the Charles River where it emptied into the Bay. The spy group knew the British were about to move, and split up. Revere had been the one who told the sexton in the church about the lantern plan, and he may actually have been the person who went over there and told him to put up the two lanterns to send a signal across the water. THEN, Revere snuck illegally across the river in the night (because times were so tense the British had initiated a curfew and no one was allowed on the water after dark) ahead of the British Regulars and that’s when the ride began. Revere and others saddled up and tore along the road in the night, alerting everyone along the way to Lexington. As people found out, they jumped on their own horses and joined the spy group, alerting the countryside. Revere was captured by British soldiers before he made it to Concord, but he did play a key role that night.

The Old North Church, famous for holding the lantern signals.

We ended our tour at Coppy’s Burying Ground. The cemetery is the final resting place of many Boston patriots, including Robert Newman, the sexton at the Old North Church who hung a lantern. There are also unmarked slave graves here. By this time the weather was lovely. We sat on a park bench in the sun, drying out and resting after being on our feet for hours. Remembering the tip from Linzy, we bought some pastries to go at Bova, then had drinks at the very old Bell In Hand Tavern, operating since 1795 (except during prohibition).

We then went back to where we had parked, to drop off and get stuff from the car. As we left the City Hall Plaza and entered the intersection in front of King’s Chapel, we were bombarded with wind! It was a ferocious wind that nearly knocked us over. All day I had been thinking that the morning’s vortex was a product of the stormy weather, but no, apparently it’s a micro weather force, created by the arrangement of tall buildings and streets.

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. See that skinny house between brick buildings?

This home is apparently not small. It faces the brick wall, and here, we are looking at it sideways.

Bell In Hand Tavern. Lovely atmosphere, crazy expensive drinks.

We walked over to Boston Commons and ate our pastries beside the pond, then walked across the channel to the giant milk bottle. The 40-foot wooden Hood Milk Bottle has a tiny restaurant in the bottom of it, closed for the night. We walked back to the North End and chose an Italian restaurant and had a splendid dinner.

Lovely Boston views as we walked through the city. Hard to believe this weather is the same day as the weather we had in the morning.

Lights add sparkle to downtown gardens in the evening.

View of the Boston skyline across Fort Point Channel.

 

High Rock Tower in Lynn, Massachusetts.

On our way out of Salem we made a fun stop in Lynn, Massachusetts, to climb up the hill at High Rock Tower Park. The tower is tucked into a densely populated residential area, and the approach that we used has no parking area (we found street parking). There are no informational or directional signs, so when we found it, then hiked up the hill to see it, I felt like we had discovered something special.

This approximately 5-acre piece of land has held an observation tower since the 1840s. The original tower was burned down in 1865. The current tower is 107 feet high and was built of granite in 1904. Since 2002 the observatory has been open to the public for views of the starry skies, from 8-10pm. It contains a 12-inch Meade telescope and visitors get a good look at the craters of the moon, the rings of Saturn and the great storms of Jupiter.

If a person were to approach from the other side of the hill, there are wide streets and parking spaces. I don’t know why the map app sent us in the back way, but it was more fun. Up on top we found a small city park there as well, with a jungle gym for the kids and grassy lawn to play in. A few parents and kiddies were running around, but it was mostly abandoned. No one was appreciating the beauty of the place, the tower itself, the gigantic boulders of fascinating porphyry rock (a reddish rock with big crystals embedded in it) all over the site, or the incredible views. Will and I did appreciate all of that, however.

View of the sea overlooks Stone Cottage, also part of the site. There is a clear view of Nahant Bay, and the community of Nahant, on an island.

The Boston city skyline appears to the south, while standing at High Rock Tower.

Will then took me to see a ball game in his hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, at McCoy Stadium. That is the home (for now) of the Pawsox (the Pawtucket Red Sox), a team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. Of course seeing a hometown minor league game was fun, but there was the added excitement that we might get to see one of the major league players on the field, while they got up to speed after an absence from the Boston team. Will thought maybe Dustin Pedroia would be playing that night. Pedroia is one of the players who was a star when I was watching a lot of baseball about ten years ago, so it would be super cool to be able to watch him play.

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Tickets for the game.

Pedroia would be playing!

It was a warm night. We parked in a neighborhood and walked to the stadium. It felt wonderful to be sharing a small-town experience with all the other happy people walking to the game with us. Once we got our tickets and got inside the stadium, I checked the roster. Yep, Pedroia was on there.

We were hungry and I had fun standing in line for deep fried food and beer, all the stereotypes of baseball you could ask for. We found our seats and settled in. By the time we sat down the game had already started.

The Pawsox played the Gwinnett Stripers, from Gwinnett County, Georgia. I didn’t know anything about either team, but you can learn the players pretty fast by watching them during a game. These days of course you get up-close photos of the players, their positions and their stats up on the marquee every time they are at bat or make a significant play. That helps you learn. Another fun tradition is that each player picks a theme song and a few seconds of it are played as they approach home plate to bat. I learned who the country guy was, the hip hop guy, etcetera.

Hoping for a Pawtucket Red Sox run.

We had a pretty decent view of the field from our seats.

Stripers pitcher fixin’ to let loose.

Even though I only had my phone camera, I thought it did alright with capturing the scene.

The Stripers started off strong with three runs in the first inning, and another run in the the second. Pawsox gained momentum as they played, and by halfway through the game were clearly putting their hearts into it. That isn’t a way to win a game though. We finally got two runs in the 5th inning, but never caught up, and we lost the game 5-2.

I’m glad I got to see a game there. The team has been sold and is going to move to the city of Worcester in 2021. Once they move they will no longer be the Pawsox. It’s a pretty significant loss for Pawtucket, a small town that really doesn’t have much to brag about, or for the citizens to come together and enjoy.

After the game we hung around for fireworks. It’s a summertime tradition at McCoy stadium. Will’s mom is not a fan of the fireworks I hear, because it makes a lot of noise when many people are trying to get some sleep. I recommend being AT the game for the fireworks, because then all the light and noise go together, and it’s a lot of fun. After the show we walked back along the sidewalks to the car, in among many tired happy families heading home.

I know there's hype about New England foliage, but it's for real. There's nothing like the autumn colours in the northeast.

I know there’s hype about New England foliage, but it’s for real. There’s nothing like the autumn colours in the northeast.

The first day of November in Fitchburg, Massachusetts was pretty wet, but everybody (particularly Tetley the dog) wanted to go out for a walk anyway. The family lives in a beautiful spot in the hills, next door to forests, and we headed out. It turned out to be colder than expected, so it was just a short walk, but fun for me to soak up New England and remember the things I love about it. If you’ve ever spent time in these parts, you’ll know that in the forest there are ubiquitous stone walls that served as ancient property boundaries. I have seen them in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

The boys lead the way through the forest.

The boys lead the way through the forest.

Old stone wall in a Massachusetts forest.

Old stone wall in a Massachusetts forest.

Fire Engine Red

Fire Engine Red

K had created an enormous pile of pancakes for us all to eat that morning, and then went off to the school to work on student progress reports. E and I chatted while we dried off and waited for our ride back to the city. Finally we had to say our goodbyes. E had purchased Vermont Cabot cheese for me as my specially requested New England delicacy (it’s about $15/lb here), and I predictably forgot it in her fridge. Luckily she likes it too!

Reunited with loved ones.

Reunited with loved ones.

Once we were back in the city, our friends took us to Brazilian barbecue restaurant in Cambridge called Midwest Grill, where the waiters brought large hunks of meat to the table and carved it for us. I tried enough meat dishes to last me till Christmas and they practically had to carry me out I was so stuffed. I’d say it’s a good plug for a restaurant when a meal becomes a highlight of a trip! They all went to eat ice cream afterward and I couldn’t order a thing.

Next it was time to visit Fenway. Sadly, though only early evening, the season brought early darkness, hastened even more by the thick clouds and rain. The ballpark was closed, and raindrops splashed my lens, but I was thrilled to be there anyway. R and Tara stayed warm in the car while M and I ran around in the rain.

Ahh, my heart warms just to stand here on the sidewalk.

Ahh, my heart warms just to stand here on the sidewalk.

M and me, snapped by some stranger walking past. I happily handed over my camera. "In another city," says M, "your camera would be gone."

M and me, snapped by some stranger walking past. I happily handed over my camera. “In another city,” says M, “your camera would be gone.”

Yawkey Way. Is there a more Boston-sounding street?

Yawkey Way. Is there a more Boston-sounding street? There’s the big green stadium on the right.

Maybe I'm silly, but this is as much Boston to me as anything else.

Maybe I’m silly, but this is as much Boston to me as anything else.

There was one last friend I was able to visit, and T and I dropped by for a couple hours, till we were all wiped out for the day. My T opened up and talked a blue streak. It’s nice to see when trust develops between a friend and my kid. Yawning, we hugged goodbye and took photos.

Next fun adventure: we walked a few blocks, bought our Charlie Cards, and hopped onto the green line. Then we switched to the red line and headed out towards M’s place again for the night. It was 10:30 at night and though it was November 1, it was also the day after Halloween and a Saturday, so several of our fellow passengers were costumed and heading for parties. It has been a decade since I rode a Boston subway (back then we used token coins, and I’ve still got one in my purse as a memento), and I thought it could be scary, but it wasn’t.

Sleepy friends

Sleepy friends at 10:00pm

Sunday morning M had to jump on a plane, so R made himself available to us once more, between his morning and evening sermons. The weather really had not cooperated during our visit, and had been rainy and cold the whole time. It perfectly suited Tara’s next request: a visit to the Boston Museum of Science. It’s another place filled with memories. We watched a 4-D movie. Have you done one of those before? It introduces sensations like touch and smell. This movie was not as good as the last one we saw: Polar Express, which blew snow into our faces, bursts of wind blew our hair, the chair shook when the train crashed, and the smell of hot cocoa wafted through when was served on the train.

An enormous grasshopper greets us from the second story of the museum.

An enormous grasshopper greets us from the second story of the museum.

We did like this exhibit. The photography of modernist cuisine. Where things were sliced in half and photographed.

We did like this exhibit: photography of modernist cuisine. Where things were sliced in half and photographed.

The main exhibit was the Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed and I was eager to see it. I could have spent 4 hours in that exhibit alone. It was huge and fascinating, but we simply did not have the time to see everything. My favourite part was when some of the museum staff helped me learn to interpret some of the signs on the tall columns. I learned how ancient Mayans wrote numbers! Just to learn one small thing was very exciting to me. I can read Mayan numbers. Hee.

Reproduction of a Mayan tower. The lights flashed on the side are to help visitors learn to read the petroglyphs.

Reproduction of a Mayan tower. The lights flashed on the side help visitors learn to read the hieroglyphs.

I stood here until I learned to read some of it.

I stood here until I learned to read some of it. The numbers are the places with dots on top of/beside parallel lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tara's birthday was converted to glyphs.

Tara’s birthday was converted to glyphs.

Artwork and tools. This one was very exciting to me, because I guessed the use of the shell sliced in half. Can you guess it?

Artwork and tools. This one was very exciting to me, because I correctly guessed the use of the shell sliced in half. Can you guess it?

A painted vessel

A painted vessel

A gorgeous carving

A gorgeous carving

 

 

 

 

 

Then we hurried off to the airport and in no time were boarding our plane. It was an uncomfortable night flight (I can never sleep while sitting upright), but the reward at the end was being home! We live about 8 minutes drive from the airport, so touching down is synonymous with being home. We snapped the obligatory Portlander-coming-home snapshot of the airport carpet. The Portland Airport Carpet has its own facebook page, can you believe it? Yes, we are a weird city, and we love it. 🙂

Our feet and shadows on the PDX carpet.

Our feet and shadows on the PDX carpet.

Plane banks as we head toward the Boston bay. Crepuscular rays light up the shoreline like an invitation.

Plane banks as we head toward the Boston bay. Crepuscular rays light up the shoreline like an invitation.

This kind of scene would warm a teacher's heart.

This scene would warm a teacher’s heart.

I graduated from Brandeis University in 2007. I attended in my thirties, and clearly stood out from most of my classmates because of it. Despite the differences, I made some pretty tight friendships with other students, and the people whose lives intersected with mine. Interestingly (or perhaps predictably) the people I connected with were others who stood out from the crowd. They’ve been begging Tara and me for visits since my last trip to Massachusetts in 2008.

Finally! We made it back for one whirlwind friendship weekend.

R picked us up from the airport and took us to the UMass Boston campus to get our friend M.

Looking across the bay from University of Massachusetts Boston, while we waited for Mads to get off work.

Looking across the bay from University of Massachusetts Boston, while we waited for M to get off work.

New England homes and foliage across the bay.

New England homes and foliage across the bay.

Snapping photos from the back seat as we leave the airport.

Snapping photos from the back seat as we leave the airport.

This city looks beautiful even when photographed from a moving vehicle.

This city looks beautiful even when photographed from a moving vehicle.

Illuminated white tower at sunset and brilliant foliage reflected in the water. Some scenes are inescapably New England.

Illuminated white tower at sunset and brilliant foliage reflected in the water. Some scenes are inescapably New England.

Since the three of us were Brandeis graduates, and since there were a couple of hours left in Thursday, we hit the campus next. Tara is a senior and we are all about colleges these days. Applications, scholarships, and of course: pleading Mom for visits to campuses. Though T is not interested in East Coast schools, I assumed it couldn’t hurt to explore a few of them. We hit the bookstore before they closed and updated our Brandeis gear. I’m sure after everything we spent, the school was very glad they were still open that night.

Tara, R, and me in the Brandeis Admissions parking lot

Tara, R, and me in the Brandeis Admissions parking lot

The school's namesake: Justice Louis Brandeis

The school’s namesake: Justice Louis Brandeis on our photogenic campus.

We walked around, pointing out different things we all remembered. Tara, too, had childhood memories of it, like watching movies at the library while I was in class. What a trip down memory lane. To my delight, we caught the Brandeis Quidditch team at practice. You know, from the Harry Potter books? Well apparently it’s caught on in our world as well. The sticks between their legs are the brooms. Because of the angle, you can’t see it, but the “posts” on the end are three hoops at different heights through which the team is trying to lob the quaffle.

We walked through a great display in front of the Rose Art Museum from artist Chris Burden, called Light Of Reason. The work’s title borrows a quote by the university’s namesake, Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis: “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.”

Light of Reason

Light of Reason

The lampposts are recycled antiques.

The lampposts are recycled antiques.

Best of all was when we decided to walk inside and down the stairs of the Mandel Center, the place where it all began. Where eight years ago I wandered into a classroom for International Peace and Conflict studies, and I think I was the only student who claimed to be from the United States. To you, it will look like a classroom that is remarkable only in its total lack of interesting qualities. M, R, and I stepped through the door and were hit with memories like an almost physical force. We sat in our old seats and remembered who sat where, and what countries they were from. We talked about our professors, our assignments, and how M’s final project regarding Sri Lankan conflict for Professor Johnson’s class is now cited in publications around the globe. We mentioned how small the classroom was in comparison to our memories of it (why do places always seem smaller when you go back?).

How did we all fit into this small space?

How did we all fit into this small space?

Reliving the old days.

Reliving the old days.

Finally we went for dinner and the guys became fans of my Tara. All that kid has to do is loosen up and start talking, and the fan base grows. I am so proud to be the parent of this awesome human being. We said goodbye to R, then M slept on the floor and gave us his bed. There is something pretty great about being spoiled by a friend. Maybe it’s the knowledge that one day I’ll get a chance to pay it back.

M and R at dinner. I love them so very much.

M and R at dinner. I love them so very much.

 

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