Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sunset Cruise on Boston Harbor

"Solitude is the salt of personhood.  It brings out the authentic flavor of every experience."
                                May Sarton, Belgian-Amercan writer

View of Back Bay
                 As I have alluded to in an earlier post, finding myself “single” again is interesting, to say the least.  And, least is what I will do most of the time on my blog when it comes to what this year has brought for me.  Life is interesting, cruel, awesome, and wonderful, sometimes all in the same day.  So, on that somewhat deep and sometimes discouraging note, I am trying desperately to continue to enjoy and make my life worthwhile.  Because, if I don’t, no one else will do it for me!   

Tall Ship from Colombia
                July 4th in and around Boston is always filled with so many festivities, and activities, fittingly, since it is the birthplace of America.  (Actually, my own hometown of Milton is quite proud of the fact that the Revolution began here at the Suffolk Resolves House!).  This year, 2012, was especially celebratory as it was the bicentennial of the War of 1812, so in addition to the already numerous events, parades, etc, a Tall Ships Festival and Navy Week added to the festivities.

US Navy Ship
I decided that I must take advantage of some of the celebrations in Boston.   Harborfest, the Tall Ships, and Navy Week were actually a week long party, with many things to do.  Once again, I noticed on: www.Goldstar.com that there were many boat trips offered to see the action from the water.  Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing Boston from the water?  I highly recommend it as it is beautiful.

Customs House, Old North Church, the North ENd.
                I booked one of the boat cruises (at half the original price!) for sunset on July 5.  After work, I headed into the city, parked down on the South Boston waterfront across from the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) as parking is much cheaper than on the Boston waterfront, and it is a short, beautiful walk, especially on a summer day.  Of course, it was bustling and wonderful.  Boston is such a small city, but I don’t find myself on the Waterfront much anymore, and every time I do, memories of my Girls as small children come flooding back.  They grew up in that neighborhood as the Lady who helped me raise them, who I will be forever grateful to, lives there.

From the Bar @ The Sail Loft
               I had my book, and I planned to get a bite to eat before the cruise.  The restaurants right on the touristy wharfs were madhouses, and expensive!  I simply meandered through the waterfront park, “seeing” my Girls there. Oh my, it seemed like just yesterday.  I decided to go all the way on the nostalgia trip and went into the Sail Loft Restaurant, where we’d go many nights when I didn’t want to deal with dinner.  The lovely young Bartender told me they still had the best nachos in the city, but I went for a healthier dinner of scallops which were excellent.  (I sent the Girls this picture while I was eating, not saying where I was..they both texted right  back saying they wanted a Sail Loft nacho fix!)
Old Ironsides
               Happily satiated, I went back over to Rowes Wharf to catch the boat, and had a wonderful, if not truly bittersweet, Harbor cruise, catching the last of the Tall Ships and Navy vessels before they departed.  I learned a very interesting thing on that cruise.  Did you know that the USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, as we lovingly call her, still shoots its cannons twice a day, every day (not just on her yearly turnaround on July 4), at 8:00 a.m. and at sunset?!
Rowes Wharf


Friday, July 27, 2012

Another Perfect Summer Night in Boston

"Hot town, summer in the city. Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty. Been down isn't it a pity. Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city."  John Sebastion of the Lovin' Spooonful
Boston's Hatch Shell
     Have I mentioned how grateful I am for the Boston Esplanade?  I recently spent another perfect summer evening there with my Lovely Co-Workers!  Earlier in the week one of them mentioned that a major heartthrob, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, was playing at the Hatch Shell, so we decided to meet and enjoy together.

From Wikipedia (2008)
 Burton Cummings of The Guess Who started the evening playing songs from my "tween" days (American Woman, These Eyes, No Sugar Tonight).  I was truly sent back to the street of my childhood, sitting in the kitchens of Houston Avenue, listening to WRKO AM, on radios placed on the kitchen tables.  I was of the age then to be aware of the “Hippies” but not of them.  They were so exotic and romantic.  The words of the music speaking to me now, a bit more poignantly in my life circumstances than they possibly could have to a ten year old yearning to be a teen.  (Oh, Boy, to go back to simpler times..for a short time that night I did..)

From Wikipedia (2009)
          Mark Farner of Grand Funk Raillroad (I'm Your Captain, We're an Amercian Band, The Loco-Motion, Some Kind of Wonderful) then came on and he transported me back to High School.  What fun!  Watching him jump around the stage, I commented on how sore he would be.  As perhaps only music can, great memories were evoked of seeing this band at the old Boston Garden, finally the teenager I so desperately wanted to be when introduced to the music of the Guess Who. 
            WODS which unfortunately is now off the air used to sponsor these concerts, but thankfully WZLX (with the financial backing of Shaw's Deli, etc) has picked up the baton.  When we arrived the crowd was rather slim but by the end of the concert the Esplanade was mobbed, the crowd was mostly baby-boomers, so not a crazy scene, maybe made more mellow by the sweet smell of you "know what" wafting through the air as the sky darkened.(Interesting note: Between Bands, of course there was a rush to the rest rooms, and a Lady behind me commented on seeing the line for the Men’s room being as long as ours for once.  I simply stated the median age of the crowd.)  As Everyone quietly and smoothly walked away at the end of the concert, All seemed to be smiling, perhaps having just been sent back to their rosier days of youth as I.

(By the way, did I mention that this concert, as are all at the Hatch Shell, was free?!)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Taking advantage of my own (work) neighborhood, Copley Square

                  "Time in the world of the museum is slower than it is outside" 
                                        New Yorker Art Critic Harold Rosenberg

Trinity Church in Copley Square
Why do we not take advantage of the things right in front of us?  One of my major passions in life is travel, yet I live near, and work in (Copley Square), one of my favorite places on the planet.  Boston, being the “Athens of America,” has a plethora of things to do, much of it free or very low in cost.  I have been making myself take advantage of these things in more recent years, see my “Summer Eves in the City “ blog post (that being primarily about The Esplanade. )   Actually, I guess I always have off and on as when my Girls were younger I would steal my boss’ Calendar section (the precursor to the now daily G Section) of the Boston Globe on Thursdays and plot my weekends with my little Ladies.

You know when you’re playing on the internet, wasting way too much time, but having fun?  I found this great young guy, Seth Kugel, who says in his “Frugal Traveler” blog for the New York Times:  “ Every touristy city has free attractions: Google the city name and “free” and you’ll get lists of art galleries and farmers’ markets and fireworks. But Boston takes it to an extreme with its dozens of college campuses that are to a surprising and admirable degree open to everyone.”  When looking for ideas to fill an evening or weekend day, I frequently go to the complete article: "Boston, Free and Easy (and Campus-Oriented)". http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/boston-free-and-easy-and-campus-oriented/ .

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Besides college offerings, we have so many cultural, and of course historical, institutions.  Right outside my office window in Copley Square is the Boston Public Library, or for those in the know, the BPL. www.bpl.org/  From its website: "Founded in 1848, by an act of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The Boston Public Library's first building of its own was a former schoolhouse located on Mason Street that was opened to the public on March 20, 1854. The library's collections approximated 16,000 volumes, and it was obvious from the day the doors were first opened that the quarters were inadequate.   In December of that same year the library's Commissioners were authorized to locate a new building upon a lot on Boylston Street. The present Copley Square location has been home to the library since 1895, when architect Charles Follen McKim completed his "palace for the people." There are many free tours, lectures, readings, films, and exhibits held all year long, for free.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Across the Copley Square Park is Trinity Church. www.trinitychurchboston.org/.   From its website:   "Ask any architect, architectural historian, or critic and they'll tell you that Trinity Church is a masterpiece of American architecture. Dedicated in 1877, Trinity presented a bold, fresh new face and feeling for ecclesiastical architecture in America. The Church continues to be heralded today as a celebrated example of "Richardsonian Romanesque" design, named after its architect, H. H. Richardson. The Department of Art & Architecture Programs at Trinity illuminates the history and detail of the building and enhances the experiences of the more than 100,000 visitors at Trinity each year."  There are free tours after the 11:15 a.m. service most Sundays.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The Gardner Courtyard From Yelp
Down in the Fenway neighborhood, a mile or so away is one of my favorite museums in the world, the Gardiner, which has just undergone a major renovation.  www.gardnermuseum.org/  Mrs. Jack’s own personal story is awesome, a woman definitely ahead of her time.  I would have loved to be at one of her infamous dinner parties!  And, of course it was the scene of one of the most notorious, unsolved art heists in history.  It offers many “neighborhood nights” which are free and open to the public.

collection banner
MFA from its website
The Museum of Fine Arts is another amazing gift to the city, also having just undergone a huge renovation in recent years.  www.mfa.org/ It is almost too overwhelming to even try and do the whole museum in one visit.  I usually go for just one or two exhibits, a lecture, or film.  One Saturday this past winter, I just did the first floor of the new Arts in the Americas Wing.  It is pay what you want on Wednesday evenings, and many Holidays are free.

Just a few ideas on ways, and places to explore, and enjoy free or cheaply, in the city I lovingly call home!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Eves in the City, on the Boston Esplanade

"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."  Bob Marley

Farmers Market @ Copley Square, pic from Dorothy W
            Every work day I enjoy one of the best views of Boston.  I look right out onto Copley Square, the park directly in front with the Fairmont Copley Hotel sitting behind it, the majestic Public Library to my right, and the historic Trinity Church to my left.  One of the things I love most about New England is our seasons.  I literally watch them outside my window.  One of the best treats is the Farmers Market that occurs every Tuesday and Friday from May through November  in the Copley Square Park.
            It’s is so tough for me after work to “make” myself “do” something besides pouring into the car for the trek home.  But a few nights last summer, I did, and am so glad.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra
Photo courtesy of Boston Landmark Orchestra's website
                   One of the many pleasures of Boston is the Parks system.  Wednesday evenings in the summer the Boston Landmark Orchestra plays at the Hatch Shell in the center of one of Boston’s beautiful parks, The Esplanade, which sits beautifully on the edge of the Charles River @ 7pm..  One of those Wednesdays, my Daughter and I met, had a lovely dinner at a newly opened restaurant, Tico @ the corner of East Berkeley and Stuart Streets, which I would call creative Southwestern style.  On the menu is the “Chef’s choice” which is 5 or 6 courses, decided by the chef each night.  Having been making too many decisions my whole adult life, it’s a treat to let someone else make them for me, so we  shared that options..wonderful decision.  We then meandered the few city blocks on sat on the banks of the Charles chatting, enjoying the glorious summer evening, watching the sail boats in the River, the sun set behind the buildings in Cambridge on the other side of the Charles, while listening to soothing Tchaikovsky.  What could be better than that?

sunset yoga 2011_1
Photo courtesy of Esplanade Asscociation's website
               Another Wednesday evening I strolled over to the Esplanade to take the free Yoga class offered every Wednesday evening at 6pm (there are actually free exercise classes offered almost every night.)  You couldn’t find a much more beautiful and relaxing space to unwind through yoga after a tough day at work.  A lovely group of people offered free coconut water and energy bars following the class!   I took the water gratefully and meandered over to the Hatch Shell and enjoyed the Orchestra again for awhile.  (I plan on heading over many Wednesday evenings again this year).  Walking back to my car in the South End took me by the Public Garden where I seriously contemplated walking through it to the Boston Common to watch a bit of Shakespeare, last year’s play being “As you Like It”.  Being truly exhausted by then I decided to forgo that for that night as I had set aside a couple of nights to just attend the play, which unfortunately never happened due to early evening thunder storms on both nights.  This year.

Photo courtesy of Boston Ballet's website
A third Wednesday evening, my Mom, K, and I met to enjoy another evening of Tchaikovsky, his Ballets, in conjunction with some beautiful Dance courtesy of the Boston ballet!  We had a simple picnic supper courtesy of the Food Stand right at the Esplanade.  It was simple, reasonably priced to fill the belly while enjoying the sites and sounds of these two wonderful Arts organizations.  A real treat!
            Check out www.esplanadeassociation.org for a complete update of activities..all free!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Martha's Vineyard 2012

"Be a storehouse of happy memories." -Gretchen Rubin

Menemsha Inn, photo courtesy of the Inn's website
              Family Reunions.  Images of perfection or drama and trauma.  Thankfully, when much of my Family decided to meet on Martha’s Vineyard in June, it was the former.  My Sister and her Family, which includes 2 children ages 10 and 7, try to come home from their magnificent home in Lake Tahoe once a year or so.  Since they live near one of the most beautiful lakes in our country, they want ocean when they come back East.  Martha’s Vineyard has stolen their hearts (as it does so many). 
             Around twenty five of us, ranging in age from 7 weeks to 80, descended on  Menemsha Inn for 4 nights the last week of June (the day we left the rates almost doubled).  It was sublime.  The grounds and accommodations are truly beautiful.  We stayed in traditional hotel rooms (all of which include small fridges) to one and two bedroom cottages.  (My Brother appropriately had the 2 bedroom cottage titled the Castle.  If you knew and loved Him as I do, you’d fully understand!).

             Our group was headed by the “Aunties”, my Mom and Aunt, Sisters who have been best friends our whole lives.  Consequently, our combined families, my generation consists of 10 now ranging in age from 55 to 36, were raised almost as one.  Our children, Cousins many of whom who see each other only once a year, quickly became BFF’s immediately, as only kiddos can. 

             It was awesome to watch.  Two young tweens who are “Gingers”, as my Daughter calls them (red-heads), were thick as thieves and very busy.  Following closely behind them were two little Sisters, ages 5 & 3, who thought the Big Girls were the cat’s meow.  Their Baby Brother was the center and focus for much of the time being an easy and awesome little trooper.  The Boys, ranging in age from 7-10, did what they do best, played pickup games of waffle ball, gently! encouraging each other along, sometimes allowing the Girls to join.  The teens were very happy being just that, teens, barely showing their faces to us, and getting dressed up with nowhere to go (which my own Daughters, 30 and 28 years old, also did one evening for dinner down the road at the Homeport Restaurant, owned by the Inn).

Breakfast at the Tea House
Breakfast, photo from the Inn's website
Each morning at breakfast (included in the room rate, and quite nice with fresh fruits, yogurt,cereals, breads, and home-made pastries, scones, juices, etc) Everyone would bump into each other and make plans for the day.  The mornings consisted of what I mentioned above.  Many took walks, bike rides (some brought theirs, but the Inn rents them as well), played tennis, did Yoga, fished (my Brother in Law is an avid Fly-fisherman, is a Guide as a matter of fact in California, so one Cousin’s Husband and Son happily joined him), or simply relaxed.  
Lucy Vincent Beach, photo courtesy of MV website
            Mid-day we’d all meet up and ferry to the beach (meaning Mom ferried so that she and Auntie could have her car to meander the Island, have lunch, shop, and as my Cousin said, talk about all of us!).  Day one we went to the Lucy Vincent beach, the second day the beach near Gay Head.  The Inn has passes for some beaches, as unbelievably, many, if not most of the beaches on the Vineyard are private. 
                From Alexandra Styron’s article “Walking Martha’s Vineyard” in the August 12, 2011 New York Times:  “…Coastal property law in these parts is a convoluted affair.   Relying on a Colonial-era ordinance, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has managed to skirt the federal Public Trust Doctrine, which holds all land between the high and low tide lines “in trust for its citizens”.  Walkers in virtually any other state could traverse the ocean flats largely unimpeded, but on Martha’s Vineyard (and on Nantucket), most beaches are private.  One can expect to be blocked by an industrious beach guard (my note: we were) or overzealous hedge-fund manager at least every couple of miles.  (If you like your movie stars histrionic, try trespassing to the west of Chillmark’s ucy Vincent Beach.) (my note, again: we didn’t try due to the above-mentioned guards).

             Coming back to the Inn, we’d have munchies time, which included all sorts of stuff…we had progressive cottage to room visits.  Watching the sunset was the big event as Menemsha is famous for the sunsets (much like Mallory Square in Key West, without the carnival like atmosphere).  And, if you know me, I’m all about sunsets!  Word to the wise, much, if not most, of the Vineyard is “dry.”  So, planning ahead is a must, if you enjoy your glass of wine at sunset as I do.  (All restaurants allow BYOB, most with a corkage fee, of course.)

Beach Plum
Patio @ The Beach Plum, photo courtesy of the Inn's website
                   The second evening we all descended onto the patio of the Beach Plum Inn next door, also part of the Inn.  Again, the setting was perfection.  The restaurant is considered one of the best on the Island, apparently, and it is not cheap (actually not much on the Island is cheap..)  Desperately needing real food, we ordered some salads, and healthy appetizers.  Very good, but pretty meager in the portion size (did I mention, not cheap?!). 
         We had arranged for a bon-fire in the Beach Plum’s fire pit (to the tune of $50!).  Marshmallows appeared (not wanting to get into the mess and hastle of the whole smores thing).  It was worth it, a delightful couple of hours, singing, laughing…(sorry for the People who spent the big bucks on their expensive dinners as the restaurant was pretty close..did I mention my Family is anything but quiet?!).  Not sure who had more fun that night the adults or the kids..but that’s the point, right?

Menemsha Harbor
Sunset @ Menemsha Harbor, photo from MV website
            The weather prediction for the week had been iffy, but as Mark Twain said:  “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute.”  I have learned to stop planning my life based on weather reports, you just have to “do it.” (thanks, Nike).  The weather was perfect.

           It was truly a wonderful “get-together”, especially so for me as both of my Ladies were able to come.  My Brother has already reserved his Castle for next June.  The rest of us are waiting a bit to see how our year plays out.