Old Friend in an Old City
leaving Connecticut and Rhode Island the next morning, I drove up I-95 heading to
Boston. That's Boston as in Massachusetts, but obviously I don't need to
identify the particular city since, to my knowledge, there's only one Boston in
the United States. But that, however, is only because of a coin flip many
Back in 1843, two settlers cleared a few trees on the banks of the
Willamette River, way out west in the Oregon
Territory. The two men, Asa Lovejoy from Boston, Massachusetts and Francis
Pettygrove from Portland, Maine each wanted to name the settlement after their
respective hometown. They decided to settle their differences with a coin
flip. Well, actually it was two out of three flips and with the last toss,
the new clearing was named "Portland."
As it turned out, I'm
glad that Francis won
because not too many people today confuse the two Portlands, considering that
Portland, Oregon has over a million people and Portland, Maine only
60,000. Things would've been a lot more confusing in the U.S., of course,
with two large "Boston"s -- even worse than the "Washington
state" vs. "Washington D.C." thing. Anyway, that particular coin is now sitting in
the lobby of the Oregon Historical Society's museum in downtown Portland.
My hometown of Portland, Oregon. Thanks to a coin flip, we don't call this place
I hadn't been to Boston since the winter of
1976, when I flew there from California to spend Christmas with my brother Don and his wife
Debbie, who were living in Boston then. Having grown up in a pristine California
suburb and never having visited a large Eastern city before, I'd never seen things like a subway or a Christmas Boston Pops
concert with Arthur Fiedler, and it had been years since I'd seen snow or ice.
I spent about five days visiting Don and Debbie, and it was a very memorable trip.
Yep, I was pretty awestruck by Boston, and I've had a warm spot in my heart for the
city ever since. With memories of that 1976 trip fresh in my mind, I was
really looking forward to seeing Boston again.
also looking forward to seeing an old friend, Julie, who lives there. Julie and I met in Colorado in
1983 when we worked with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on a three-person trail crew that summer in
the Rocky Mountains. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had and, although it
didn't pay much, I had a great time -- so great, in fact, that I went back to
work there as a ranger for
five more summers. Julie
and I have kept in touch ever since. In fact, a few years ago, she flew out to the Northwest for the first
time so I had a chance to show her around God's Country for a few days.
One of my
favorite groups, The Story (Jonatha Brooke and
Jennifer Kimball) hails from Boston. Here's their hilarious song, Dog
Dreams, a dog's view of life.
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more than anyone I know, Julie has always followed her own drummer. She
pretty darn sharp with a couple of college degrees to prove it and in debates
she can usually tie me up in knots and make me look stupid, which is why I don't
argue with her too often. Come to think of it, a lot of people can tie me
up in knots and make me look stupid, but that's another story...
Not content with a high-profile desk job and a life-in-the-burbs,
and seeking more fulfillment out of life than a typical suit-and-tie, 9-to-5
can offer, Julie works for a company called Equal
Exchange. Instead of reaping in big bucks for some large Boston firm,
she earns a modest salary and works directly with small coffee growers in
Central and South America, trying to ensure that they get a reasonable price for
their crop. Don't mention the word "Starbucks" to Julie or
she'll start convulsing like a caffeine addict because, in her mind, coffee companies like Starbucks are
mostly just interested in making a quick buck and then moving on to the next grower.
I had called Julie the day before from Connecticut, she told me that she'd be working
all day Saturday at a street
fair in Somerville, the city just outside of Boston where she lives. After I got
to Somerville on Saturday afternoon, I parked my truck and walked
around the street fair. It took a while, but I finally found Julie at an Equal
Exchange booth pouring coffee and "spreading the word" (as well as the cream and sugar). After the fair closed down about an hour
headed back to her place and later on that evening we drove into Cambridge and had dinner,
followed by a brief nighttime tour of Boston. It was great to be back.
left: Here's the trail crew I worked on in 1983 in Colorado.
That's Julie in the middle and me on the right, in front of the trailer that the
three of us lived
in that summer when we weren't in our tents. Talk about Three's Company.
center: After getting to Boston, I caught up with Julie who was working at a table during a
That's her serving up the iced coffee.
right: Always devoted to noble causes, Julie currently works for Equal
Julie's Jolly Tour of Boston
the next morning, Julie and I walked down to the nearby subway station and
hopped on the "T" for a ride into Boston. That's "T"
as in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Folks in Massachusetts
like to abbreviate everything, such as cutting the "Massachusetts
Turnpike" down to "Mass Pike." Well, they've pared this one
down too -- not to M.T.A., as you'd think, but all the way down to just the
"T." That's it: just the "T."
Kingston Trio and their humorous song, M.T.A.
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the rest of that Sunday, Julie and I rode the "T" all around Boston as she
showed me her wonderful city. She even showed me the largest construction
project in U.S. history, a massive tunnel complex known as the "Big
Dig" that's being built under the Boston Harbor. I had heard a lot about
the Big Dig, especially since my company,
Brinckerhoff, is one of the prime contractors working on it. Mike Wallace and
60 Minutes broadcast an expose on the Big Dig a few years ago, but in fairness
to PB, the project has been one headache after another, similar to the kinds
of projects I worked on for PB in Portland but on a much larger scale.
was good to see that, despite the Big Dig, Boston hadn't changed
much since the last time I visited back in '76. With enough historical sites
to satisfy even the most fanatical history buff, the city definitely
has one foot in the past. However, with 60 colleges and universities
here, the city
is incredibly alive and energetic, and it's apparent that Boston has the other foot planted firmly in the future.
Boston has a reputation for being a little snooty, which may be true, but in the
two days that I spent here it seemed like a pretty terrific place.
of the lighter moments of the day occurred as we sat outside Faneuil Hall and I
read aloud from a Boston tour book about the correct way to pronounce the name
of the hall. Quoting from the book, I said, "The hall should never be
pronounced 'Funnel' or -- horrors -- 'Fennel'" Julie looked puzzled and
said, "Whores?" I laughed and said, "No, not 'whores' - 'horrors!'." As we
talked loudly about "horrors" and "whores," several passersby stared at us,
causing us both to bust up with laughter. That tells you
something about our sense of humor.
in the afternoon, we strolled by the Bull & Finch pub, known better as the
setting for the T.V. show "Cheers." Julie wasn't that interested, but I
took a peek inside the pub. I found it dark, noisy, and packed, so I
didn't linger there too long. Before I left, though, I struck up a
conversation with the pub's doorman, a nice guy named Justin. Upon
learning that I was heading for Australia soon, Justin told me that he'd been
there a few months earlier. He gave me a few tips, then said, "And by the
way, Australian women are less... um... reserved than American women," a comment
which certainly piqued my curiosity. Hmm...
my requisite pose and photo in
front of the pub, Julie and I found a cheap-but-great Chinese restaurant in
Beacon Hill and had a scrumptious dinner. It
was a terrific day, certainly one of the best of my trip so far, and Boston is still a really
Yep, coin flips or not, there could really only be one
left: Julie's house in Boston. That's her multi-colored Equal
Exchange coffee van in the background with it's solar-powered electric coffee
brewer. Yep, that's my truck in the foreground.
center: Riding the M.T.A. subway (or just the
"T") into downtown Boston. The subway system in Boston works
great. If you come to Boston, don't drive and deal with those
-- and I'm quoting here from my AAA book -- "aggressive"
Boston drivers. Just take the T.
right: My tour guide, Julie, walking on the Freedom Trail in
Boston. This trail links many of the historic sites in Boston. I
wish I had two weeks to spend here seeing everything.
left: The new and the old.
center: Downtown Boston from the top of the John Hancock Building.
right: Commonwealth Avenue (or just Comm Ave., they shorten
everything in Boston, including the Mass Pike). This is a snooty section
of the city and a place I could never afford to live. There are a lot of
beautiful women on Comm Ave, but they all look the same.
left: Here's what Boston looked like in the 1700s. The city
used to be connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Modern Boston
is shown in the light blue shade.
center: There are lots of interesting old gravestones in the
Granary Burying Ground in the middle of downtown Boston, including those of Paul
Revere, John Hancock, and the victims of the Boston Massacre. To make
mowing easier, though, they moved the gravestones several years ago and no one
knows where anyone is actually buried anymore.
right: Here's the gravestone of Mother Goose (a.k.a. Mary Goose,
wife of Isaac Goose) who died in 1690. Until I saw this gravestone, I didn't realize that there
really was a
left: Old glories.
center: Boston is a photographer's
paradise. I shot over 250 pictures here in just a few hours.
right: South Market near Fanueil Hall is pretty lively on a Sunday
left: The "Bull and Finch" pub in Beacon Hill inspired the
television show, "Cheers," which ran for 11 years starting in 1982. Of
course, this is the place "where everyone knows your name" (as long as your name
center: Some dorky tourist.
right: I went downstairs to the bar but nobody knew my
name. They shot the opening scene here, but the inside is a bit
different... much darker, for one thing.
left: The Union Oyster House opened in 1828 and is the oldest
continuously operating restaurant in America.
center: Here's the largest construction project in American
history. This is the Central Artery Project, known locally as
"The Big Dig." It's a huge hole that sucks up taxpayer dollars,
and my company, Parsons Brinckerhoff, is
one of the main contractors.
right: Here's our Big Dig (into the fried rice) at a restaurant in
left: The State House, where the "Boston Massacre" occurred, is
dwarfed today by modern skyscrapers.
center: The "T," heading back to Cambridge.
right: Tower at Harvard University, established in 1636 and the
oldest university in America.
left: A Harvard gate at sunset.
center: Memorable sign in a Harvard Square shop... for those sophisticated Harvard
students, I guess.
right: Julie and I taking the subway back home. Thanks for
the great tour, Jules!
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Massachusetts)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
U.S. Trip >
July 22, 2001