Monday, August 4, 2014

Beantown and The Big Apple: Day 2: Cloth Napkins and Train Tables

            Yesterday, I posted the story of my first day in Boston here. You could read that, if you haven’t, to get a bearing on where I am, and to a certain extent, why. I could also tell you now: I’m in Boston, because I want to be. It’s not rocket science, folks.
            So while yesterday dealt with plane rides and willy-nilly exploration, today was a well-planned adventure, like the first trip to the North Pole, or the top of Everest, except that most of my party didn’t die. We actually sat down in the morning, decided what we wanted to see, figured out how to get there, and then we went and did those things perfectly.
            First was a trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, located at the train stop “Museum of Fine Arts.” This place is hella beautiful. If there was a museum of museums, this one would be a premier exhibit. The architecture alone was breathtaking, not to mention the giant rotunda artwork. People in the northeast friggin’ love their rotundas, man, and I can see why.
            In addition to that, we got to see the Magna Carta in all its scribbled Latin glory. I don’t think I was impressed as you would expect from a history nut. I mean, I was more interested in the broadsheet copies and manuscripts of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. The Magna Carta was a big deal—For nobles of England. That’s who that document protects. The famous “Clause 61,” which details how nobles can overrule the will of the king if they so choose, was pretty much thrown right back out when all the nobles left what we’ll call “killing distance” of the king. And yes, I know that the Magna Carta is a huge step in the gradual process of constitutionalism, which it’s why it’s pretty interesting. But it is only a step, which is why it’s only PRETTY interesting.
            There were also tons of other awesome crap. Like these things.
Pottery can be cool too

Two stories of colored glass? Sign me up!

See child for accurate scale of giant picture

Russian WWI Propaganda

Ah, propaganda. You're the greatest.

Bad news for your united Czechoslovakia in thirty years, guys

This painting was so giant that this is the FRAME.

            After the museum, we went to Harvard, the school. That was located on the Harvard train stop. You might recognize a trend in Boston; the train stops are located pleasantly near major things to see, and are named accordingly.
            It was weird to see Harvard, this internationally prestigious institution of education that’s been around since the seventeenth century, and know that some people actually go to school there. Like, in a couple weeks, there will be a freshman that will have to face seeing tourists every day after getting a C on a test. If you looked into the great ivy-covered brick halls of Harvard, you can see the box fans that people use to stay cool. Like my omnipresent but not omnipotent god, you know all about the dorm life of college students, but have a really hard time applying that to what you know about Harvard.

            My only regret is because the whole thing is a tourist attraction, the buildings all need an ID to enter, so I didn’t get to poop anywhere on campus. I settled for cropdusting the people taking a picture with the statues.
            Then, after a fancy and delicious lunch that brought my girlfriend back from the point of tears for how hungry she was, we were off to the science museum. We only had a shortish amount of time; dinner reservations at 7, and it was around 2. After switching train lines a couple times, we made it to Science Park station.
            Also, quick interjection. We’re awesome at public transit. Pat and I may have used trolleys or even buses in Seattle, but my girlfriend and I were using subways like we’d always grown up in towns almost more populous than our state. I know that it’s really easy to read the chart once you know how to do it, but come on, let us have this. We’re also magically adept at getting to the station right as the train we need pulls up. Now we just need to work on being right next to the doors when it finally stops.
            So we only have around three hours of museum time before we need to haul back to get ready for dinner, and we discover that the tickets are $23. We had paid that much for the MFA, but $23 is a little steep for threeish hours. So back to the train line we went! Yay!
            A quick rest later, and we were all dressed up for dinner at Antico Forno, an Italian restaurant in the Little Italy-ish North End. That meal was delicious, and in true “You’re in a fancy restaurant” fashion, took forever. Oh well.
            The oddest thing about the Little Italy trip, though, was the celebration of St. Agrippina, a Sicilian martyr. The neighborhood hosts a feast in her honor every year, and apparently this was the hundredth year of the tradition. We walked up to the restaurant and were greeted with one of those most surreal sights I’d ever seen. A dozen young men in matching polos were carrying a litter with the statue of St. Agrippina. They would dance back and forth, march forward and backward, but the whole time a tiny little marching band was playing. The bass drummer had a cigarette in his mouth. The statue was loaded with single and five dollar bills, so much so that I couldn’t see what the actual color of the statue was. One man climbed up onto the litter and hung another wreath made of single dollar bills on the statue, and everyone cheered. What the money went to, I don’t know. I just know that I saw something SUPER Italian happen, and it was pretty great.
            Little Italy was fun in itself. The streets are tiny and winding, everything feeling more like an alley than a street, especially with the bumper-to-bumper parking on the sides of the street. It felt very intimate instead of intimidating, colorful instead of garish. As opposed to the Back Bay area, where our hotel is, which feels so ultra-rich as to be foreboding. The North End neighborhood we were in felt actually lived in instead of visited, alive in the way that the Back Bay feels sterile and cut off.
            But hey, I’m not making any new observations that Jack on the Titanic hadn’t.

            Tomorrow is our last full day in Boston, and it’s the Freedom Trail. Aw hecka yuh. History blastin’ at ya.  

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