The Piano has Left the Building/What I Will and Won't Miss

The piano movers came yes­ter­day and took the piano. I put up the sequence of pic­tures I took on Flickr. So one more piece of our life is no longer in Lilac Court. I wish I’d played it more, but I’m glad that it’s going to stay in the fam­i­ly, so I won’t miss it quite as much.

Speak­ing of miss­ing things, I’ve start­ed to think about the things I’ll miss from here (besides friends, of course). Here are the things I’ll miss, the things I’ll be glad to leave behind, and the things I real­ly won’t care either way:

Things I’ll Miss

  1. The Red Sox - now that they are ‘win­ners’. Still, the whole sil­ly ‘curse’ thing was fun, but if I real­ly missed that, I’d move to Chica­go. I also liked the Patri­ots, although it’s hard for me to get all weepy about foot­ball. I will miss Super­Bowl Sun­day at my friend Andy’s house. It became an annu­al culi­nary and social event that we reg­u­lars looked for­ward to. Thanks, Andy.
  2. Cod. What a won­der­ful, tasty fish, so mild and com­fort­ing when baked with herb bread crumbs, but­ter and lemon. On the oth­er hand, from all the over-fish­ing that’s going on, I may not be the only one who’s going to be miss­ing this fish in the near future. While we’re talk­ing food here, I’ll also miss Emma’s Piz­za, a piz­za par­lor famous from glow­ing write­ups in Newsweek and Zagat, which had to good sense to relo­cate to a near­by cor­ner. Piz­za most peo­ple would dri­ve hours for, and I got to walk home with it before it got cold and wash it down from Micro­brew­ery beer, also from across the street. It rarely gets bet­ter than that.
  3. Speak­ing of food, I will also miss all the fab­u­lous Ice Cream, includ­ing Toscanini’s , Christina’s, Emack and Bolios, Steve’s, JP Licks, the White Moun­tain Cream­ery and all of the oth­er incred­i­ble dairy con­fec­tionar­ies we have here. Some have called Boston the Ice Cream cap­i­tal of the coun­try, maybe even the world. They’re right.
  4. Hay­mar­ket. I love farm­ers’ mar­kets and this one was so authen­tic and cheap, it’s the way some fam­i­lies make ends meet. Where else could you get a bushel of peach­es for $2.50 ? Nev­er mind that you had to throw out a third of them because they weren’t so good.
  5. Har­vard Davis Square. Har­vard Square used to be a place to hang out and just peo­ple-watch, as well as go to nice book­stores. There’s only one book­store left (of the same name), and my favorite was Wordsworth (ask some­one who’s been here a while and they’ll prob­a­bly shed a tear as well). Har­vard has now become pret­ty much a shop­ping mall and clus­ter of banks. What Har­vard Square used to be like is now, Davis Square (small, inde­pen­dent book stores, cafés, restau­rants, and the Somerville The­atre). Much live­li­er.
  6. Liv­ing in the Intel­lec­tu­al Capi­tol of North Amer­i­ca. No oth­er city, any­where, has as many col­leges as Cam­bridge, MA. Yes­ter­day was Har­vard Grad­u­a­tion. Every­where you looked you saw peo­ple in caps and gowns, flow­ers, hap­py par­ents, and lost dri­vers with out-of-town license plates. The week before it was MIT. Those are the big ones, and there are many small­er ones, many of which, on their own, could be the cen­ter­piece of a Uni­ver­si­ty town.
  7. Memo­r­i­al Dri­ve. Noth­ing more beau­ti­ful than a Sun­day in the late Sum­mer or Fall walk­ing along the Charles Riv­er. In the evening we’d take bread crusts to feed the ducks. Sad­ly, pol­lu­tion has since has caused them to leave.
  8. Speak­ing of Fall, the Fall col­ors were some­thing to ooh and ah about every year. I love that sea­son, and late Sep­tem­ber was always a treat.
  9. Being close to Ver­mont. The thing that prob­a­bly makes me the sad­dest about leav­ing the US is leav­ing Ver­mont, one of the country’s sav­ing graces. I’ll also miss Tan­gle­wood and Dublin, New Hamp­shire. Where I got my music fix each sum­mer vis­it­ing The Walden School, a fan­tas­tic sum­mer pro­gram I attend­ed as a stu­dent eons ago, and taught as a fac­ul­ty mem­ber not much more recent than that.

Things I’ll be Glad to Leave Behind

  1. Logan Air­port. They should nev­er be for­giv­en for let­ting the ter­ror­ists on not one but two planes on 9/11. I wouldn’t be so hard on them, but for the fact that it was lat­er revealed that the head of secu­ri­ty for the air­port at the time had got­ten that cushy job by being the Governor’s chauf­feur. Favors for fam­i­ly and friends put the whole coun­try at risk. On a more triv­ial lev­el, the place is still filthy, ugly, dif­fi­cult to get around in, dif­fi­cult to land on, and an all-around dis­grace. The best thing they can do is to shut the whole thing down. Build an air­port off-shore on an arti­fi­cial island like the Chi­nese did (hey, why not anoth­er Big Dig!) I’m going to be thrilled not to have to return home via Logan. It’s a pity so many do.
  2. Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors. Now admit­ted­ly, I did vote for William Weld, but that was because the only alter­na­tive was a mani­ac named John Sil­ber, who was so dis­agree­able that I would have vot­ed in Ghengis Kahn over him. (Well, almost). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, after Weld (who was stopped in mid-career by none oth­er than that Nean­derthal, Jesse Helms), there have been a suc­ces­sion of GOP gov­er­nors in Mass­a­chu­setts (Cel­lu­ci and now Rom­ney), and each one has been just as bad
  3. Liv­ing in a User-Hos­tile City. Boston has an atti­tude: Sig­nage is for sissies; you should just know where you are, so don’t both­er ask­ing for direc­tions. That includes roads as well as the T (sub­way). If you’re with lug­gage and come in via AMTRAK at South Sta­tion, you’ll nev­er be able to find an ele­va­tor. Take if from me, I couldn’t, and I’ve lived here near­ly 20 years! I also prob­a­bly don’t need to men­tion that Boston dri­vers are known through­out the coun­try for being the among the most aggres­sive and rude. I sus­pect that I’ve picked up some of the dri­ving style and will have to work to tone it down.
  4. The Win­ters. In fact, the weath­er in gen­er­al is far from pleas­ant. Not only were win­ters very cold and snowy, but sum­mers were not that com­fort­able either. Boston also seems to lack any kind of a Spring, tem­per­a­ture-wise. You go from too cold to too hot in a day. I wish we could have got­ten more than 1 or 2 days of 72°F/22°C per year. It’s cur­rent­ly a steamy 79°F/26°C, and it’s only June!
  5. Gov­ern­ment Cen­ter. Well, no one likes that place. It is tru­ly one of most unat­trac­tive build­ings ever built. Every­body in Boston knows it’s hor­ri­ble, but in all the years I’ve lived here, not a soul has been able to get any con­cen­sus on what to do about it. What a waste of space and a lost oppor­tu­ni­ty!

Where I Won’t Care Either Way

  1. The Big Dig. It nev­er affect­ed us, and now that it’s done, depend­ing on who you ask, it was either a mar­vel of engi­neer­ing or a shame­ful piece of polit­i­cal pork (or both). I think it’s just a big tun­nel. And although the Bunker Hill/Leonard Zakim bridge is pret­ty, we’ve actu­al­ly nev­er dri­ven on it. Big Deal. What real­ly needs help are the roads above ground. The pot­holes out­num­ber the pigeons.
  2. Liv­ing Amongst Colo­nial His­to­ry. While I did once par­tic­i­pate in what I’d like to think was an impor­tant dig­i­tal media project around the Boston Free­dom Trail some years ago, I have to say that I’ve just had it with the city’s attempt to turn itself into Ye Olde Yan­kee Theme Parke. As the local gov­ern­ment and builders pre­serve one of the ugli­est build­ings in the city (the old City Jail) as part of a Med­ical Cen­ter build­ing project just across the riv­er, I’ve come to the real­iza­tion that too much rev­er­ence of the past can be almost as bad as not enough.
  3. The Boston Accent. Sure, it’s easy to make fun of, and I can cer­tain­ly do a ver­sion of it, but hav­ing that Boston ‘pahk your cahr’ sound nei­ther enhances nor detracts from peo­ples’ impres­sion of you. At worst you sound like an idiot. At best, (as Jon Stew­art of the Dai­ly Show has some­times said) you sound like May­or Quim­by from The Simp­sons. Who knows, I might get all teary-eyed when I hear one years from now, but thanks to the fact that NPR’s Car Talk is heard every­where from Con­stan­tino­ple to Tim­buk­tu, I don’t think that will hap­pen.
  4. The Kennedys. Pam saw Ted Kennedy once at the air­port. I stood next to Bill Weld and Michael Dukakis (at dif­fer­ent times) on the T, but nev­er a Kennedy.
  5. The North End. This small Ital­ian neigh­bor­hood was sup­posed to be famous for great food. Frankly, I was dis­ap­point­ed more often than not. The sand­wich­es at Il Pani­no could be very good though.

Those are the lists I could think up in these last few days. There will be more that I dis­cov­er, and Ali­son Rose (who has left some nice com­ments here) has a run­ning appre­ci­a­tion in her blog of things New Eng­land, Everything’s SFNE. Here’s to only remem­ber­ing the good things, which mem­o­ry always does for us.

Trip Wrap-Up

We’re back in Boston, after what I think was a kind of water­shed trip.

As Pam not­ed, we were in a bit of funk before we left. We were focused on the absence of Socrates, and this in turn led us to con­tem­plate the past. This trip to Van­cou­ver helped us make more of a clean break. Instead of dwelling on ‘He used to hang out here’ or ‘Now was the time when he’d usu­al­ly make a cute noise or sit on your mou­s­ing arm.’ it was ‘Here’s where we might live’ or ‘There is where you might work’. We thought about what we’ll be doing in a few months, or what we might need to do a few years down the road. We tried to imag­ine our­selves in a new house, in a new job, in a new coun­try. My friend Andy calls it a ‘Life Mul­li­gan’. I didn’t under­stand the term at first, but he explained that a Mul­li­gan is a term from golf, mean­ing essen­tial­ly a ‘do-over’. You get them in a polite game. I sus­pect it’s named after some des­per­ate­ly bad golfer who always asked if he could retake his dri­ves or putts.

(Hah! I just found it on About.com and it’s appar­ent­ly a Cana­di­an term. Accord­ing to one of the many mys­te­ri­ous ety­molo­gies of the term, a promi­nent hote­lier named David Mul­li­gan (sic) ‘fre­quent­ed St. Lam­bert Coun­try Club in Mon­tréal, Que­bec, dur­ing the 1920s. Mul­li­gan let it rip off the tee one day, wasn’t hap­py with the results, re-teed, and hit again. Accord­ing to the sto­ry, he called it a “cor­rec­tion shot,” but his part­ners thought a bet­ter name was need­ed and chris­tened it a “mul­li­gan.” Per­haps because Mr. Mul­li­gan was a promi­nent busi­ness­man — own­ing mul­ti­ple hotels — the term was more like­ly to catch on.’ At any rate, I like that the­o­ry, espe­cial­ly since the guy is both a David and a Cana­di­an.)

Any­way, Life Do-Over or not, we def­i­nite­ly seem to be restart­ing, and this trip made the Restart­ing line seem a bit clos­er and clear­er. We walked the city of Van­cou­ver sev­er­al times, took the Sky­train way out into the ‘burbs and back again in a big loop. We walked in parks, over the Granville Bridge (much to my dis­com­fort, as I still do not like walk­ing near the edge of pre­cip­i­tous areas like bridge side­walks), and to many places we would like to fre­quent (the Pub­lic Library, the Sym­pho­ny Hall, the Sea Wall — that last one by Pam alone). We looked at poten­tial con­do­mini­ums, watched for apart­ment rental signs, read news­pa­pers, watched some local TV and lis­tened to CBC radio. We bought food at local gro­ceries, pro­duce stands and bak­eries.

As for me, I hus­tled, schmoozed and did my best to learn about the local busi­ness scene, sign­ing up with 2 recruiters, and already inter­view­ing with 2 local busi­ness­es. My expe­ri­ences were near­ly all encour­ag­ing. I have a strong resume, lots of great expe­ri­ence, and I just have to work on how I present my port­fo­lio (a lit­tle rusty at that, I must admit). I found most peo­ple polite, inter­est­ing to talk to, and curi­ous about why a per­son from Boston would want to relo­cate to lit­tle-old Van­cou­ver, which does have a bit of a self-image of being a back­wa­ter eco­nom­i­cal­ly. If this is true, I’m hop­ing that the ‘big­ger fish in a small­er pond’ metaphor does hold true, and I’ll be able to make a name for myself there.

Frankly, giv­en that the cul­ture is so rich with so many immi­grants (tons of peo­ple from Chi­na and India), the cli­mate is so mild, the vis­tas so breath­tak­ing, the local gov­ern­ment enlight­ened and the pop­u­lace tol­er­ant, it’s only a mat­ter of time before the world begins to notice that this is one of the best places in the world in which to reside. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I’ll miss Boston a lot, but with it’s polit­i­cal infight­ing, frigid win­ters, rude­ness, obses­sion with the Colo­nial past and theme park exploita­tion of it’s own her­itage, not to men­tion the abom­i­na­tions of Logan Air­port, the Hynes Con­ven­tion Cen­ter and Gov­ern­ment Cen­ter (ick, yuck and yech! respec­tive­ly), I’m going to have to say that it’s time for me to check out some new places.

A thought just came to me. At Pam’s and my wed­ding, some of Pam’s Aunts came over to us after the reception/luncheon, where we served Vichysoise, Poached Salmon withe some assort­ed sauces, rasp­ber­ry coulis, and Pra­line cake for a wed­ding cake. They exclaimed how they had nev­er eat­en any­thing like that before. In fact, I learned that one of them had rarely ven­tured out­side her 10-mile radius of Quin­cy. OK. Time to go now.

writ­ten while lis­ten­ing to: Strauss — Vier Let­zte Lieder — i. Früh­ling from the album “Strauss: Vier Let­zte Lieder” by Jessye Nor­man, sopra­no, The Leipzig Gewand­haus Orches­tra con­duct­ed by Kurt Masur