Friday, April 2, 2010

Beantown in Hindsight

It is very telling that I make fewer updates to this blog now that I've discovered 750 Words. I've enjoyed having a place to unload, and noted that as a side affect I'm a bit more eloquent and feel the creative juices flowing a bit more easily these days. But the concept of the Morning Pages has always been one I've embraced, and I like having the chance to revisit it digitally.

Boston. I'd intended to write while there, but as so often happens in life the hours snuck away from me and before I knew it the sun had long set, the moon had long risen and my feet were very sore. Most evenings after we got back we collapsed and slept soundly. It felt good to be so active when normally we're not. I liked getting to explore, and having the luxury of a knowledgeable tour guide to enjoy it with. But time often got away from me and I found myself so enamored with what we'd done that what didn't get done slipped away from me and I didn't have the power or the givadam to care.

What we saw this trip, when we were not laden with the curiosities of a relationship still young and testing its boundaries, was the town that had spawned so many different lives and thoughts. Bob showed me his old neighborhood and where we used to be, and had that sad moment of realizing things about it had changed and would not return to the way he had known it. I felt for him in looking around Seattle on Capital Hill and seeing how many stores had gone up, how every vacant lot was crammed with at least 2 stories of shops or parking garages, and my favorite coffee house was long replaced by 2 others that had struggled in its place.
We videotaped his recollections, albeit with quite a bit of emotional blackmail from being the lens, as bob didn't seem so set on telling it for the sake of posterity. I think he is such a private person that even the thought of having his recollections on a disc that no one might ever see, it still really bothers him. As it was, he was very deadpan about delivering his stories, whereas moments before he'd been smiling and happy and pointing out where things were that he'd remembered. I figured that something recorded was better than nothing. I'll know in my memory the look of shining boyhood on his face that arose to recall evenings on the lawn of the Christian Science Center, and spending time with D&D books at the Compleat Strategist. I loved getting to see the old computer labs he used to spend most of his time in as he learned to program, and how animated he became in pointing out where the other students would swear at each other or about their equipment. There was nothing left but a very highly traveled linoleum floor, some of the older signs, and dirty tracks from where the tables used to be bolted down. I could easily imagine him hunkered over one of the machines playing MUDs, or plugging away at coding homework trying to figure out why some of it wasn't working the way I find myself now. I loved getting to see these things and relive them with him, and I loved walking around with him and making more memories of our own.
Tuesday through Thursday were a very different beast than Friday through Sunday. The first half of the week was spent reminiscing, revisiting old haunts, and looking around at new things together and finding neat places that weren't there in his time, or that he had never stopped to explore before. I recorded the shound of wind in the bamboo and took many, many pictures. I can't wait to get them developed (yes, of COURSE it was on film, this is me we're talking about.) Those first few days were leisurely paced, full of slowly walking and stopping to enjoy things. We looked to the city and its people and were able to take it in as a hole. It was on these days that once again the city proved to be not a construct of today, but of everything that came before. The roads that wound and twisted, the buildings that leaned or cracked and dropped their facades on the sidewalk, were all a part of this truth, forcing Boston to work around them and repair them or make do with them. We even saw one house held up with metal braces, supposedly due to it's old state and it's narrow profile. The two houses on either side of it were missing, and their brick forms were outlined in mortar on the buildings to either side that would've been pressed right up against them. Even in their absence, you felt the buildings that didn't appear to be there. Such was the entirety of the city. Everywhere you went, you felt what was underneath or attached or formerly there. It all left an indelible mark in the formation whether the current residents were aware of it or not.
I liked that. I like that something is such a part of a place that it is subtle, almost subliminal in its presence.
In my heart I think that though I will always love mountains and forests and I am a country girl with a need for an acre of soil and two mules, I'm an adoring worshiper of the urban presence. There is an energy that comes from the convergence of so many ideas and cultures that you cannot recreate anywhere else, and it is invigorating in the experiencing. Ideas can spring up like mushrooms in a fairy ring and spread outward bolstered by the willingness of other urban dwellers to embrace the new and the innovative. Cities feed their patrons, so long as they know how to tap in to that underlying river of common experience and energy. I will always love Seattle or Boston or Philadelphia for these reasons, because they show this aspect over and over again. It is literally possible to be and do anything in a city. I love to see what things people come up with to be.
At some point we heaved the aforementioned bottle in to the bay and watched it float away in the wind and late afternoon sunlight, and it's a moment that I hope to hold on to forever. There's nothing quite like delivering magic out in to the world.

But changing tack, oh my word were we not ready for PAX.
Neither was Boston.
Fifty THOUSAND gamers descended upon Prudential Center and its environs, clogging the food court and the walkways, taking up the elevators and escalators and coagulating in the bars and pubs of the streets and hotels nearby. It was a lovely convention center, but it was not meant to hold that many people. I had the unique experience of walking among the gamers and the Bostonians dressed in a Boston University T-shirt one afternoon. The native Bostonians must've seen my constant looks of amusement and often took the opportunity to engage me about the number of people there. I told them honestly that they were gamers, that they were here for a very unique event that was the first of its kind and yes, I too was sick of waiting 15 minutes for food at Panera Bread, though I had all afternoon and most of these poor individuals were fighting to simply get food on their lunch break. To make a quick rundown of the average opinion, I offer the following summary: What the hell, why are you people here, why the hell don't you go somewhere else to eat, you're irritating the shit out of us and making it difficult to go about our day to day existence.
I am sorry, Boston. Truly I am. I worshiped you even as I added to your congestion. But I thank you for letting me in to your confidences. It was amusing. I would've loved to hear your take on some of the cosplayers, but alas no one was around to talk to when the bare handful that actually took it upon themselves to do so wandered past. I imagine for the city that flipped out over the Mooninites Viral Artwork Ad Campaign it probably would've elicited an equally strong reaction. It would've been amusing either way.
Of those panels we managed to go see, we did enjoy them for the most part. We learned that we're best served by having light, portable entertainment and that we should expect to wait in line for at least an hour if we want to try to get in. Next time we'll know, and we'll be able to see more panels. As it was, we only really attempted to see 4, and only got in to 3. But this allowed for a Saturday spent unwinding away from all our fellow gamers in the safety of our hotel room, or a bar somewhere. I think we really needed that time, as neither I nor my spouse are truly considered a "people person". This allowed our introverted selves to recharge before leaping in to the fray.
For a trip begun and ended with the romanticism of a long train ride, and the great number of experiences had in between, I must say that in spite of the crowds and the noise and dead legs from sitting on marble floors forever were worth it. It allowed us to experience something we never had before, and to relive things that we both had. It was the perfect melding of the past and the present, and leaving us with a look of anticipation towards the future. I really can ask no more from time away from home.
Sometimes I like to think I've left somehow better and more worldly for my experiences, but in this case I don't think so. This time my beloved sense of child-like wonder gripped me constantly, allowing me to be excited by everything I came in contact with, even if it was something as simple as the carved stone around a doorway. It refilled the pools of inspiration that are fed by the slow drip of life's experiences, and recharging them is as necessary some days as eating or sleeping.
In the end, it was such a mix of things that there is no categorizing it. Simply, it was a trip; Complexly, it was an experiment to view the interaction of people with the city. We fell somewhere in between and enjoyed ourselves for the duration.
And also... there was artz. I drew every time we sat in line and have 5 new sketches to show for it. I haven't sketched in a long time, and it felt wonderful to get back to pencil and paper. I guess in addition we could say the trip was one of mending, too, in the case of the past meeting the present, and old habits reinserting themselves in to new daily rituals. There is no fast and dirty way to summarize it, and you will not find me attempting to. Anything beyond this is babble fueled by wine, and so I lay this topic to rest with another mention of my gratitude to the city and its people for having shown me what was there, and perhaps more-so what wasn't there. I'd come back with assumptions of what I would see based on the trips I'd taken before, and was mightily please that it bucked these expectations and did what it damned well pleased. I like my discoveries no other way.

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