About This Website   |   Who Am I?   |   Site Map   |   Music   |   ExtremeGeographer.com   |   Contact Me









July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts) < Previous News  |  Next News >



An Old Friend in an Old City

After 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 years ago.  


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.



Above:  My hometown of Portland, Oregon. Thanks to a coin flip, we don't call this place "Boston."


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.


I was 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.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


Probably 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.


When 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 later, we 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.



Above 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.

Above center:  After getting to Boston, I caught up with Julie who was working at a table during a street fair.  That's her serving up the iced coffee.

Above right:  Always devoted to noble causes, Julie currently works for Equal Exchange.


Julie's Jolly Tour of Boston

Early 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."


Here's the Kingston Trio and their humorous song, M.T.A.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


For 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, Parsons 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. 


It 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 located 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. 


One 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.


Late 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...


After 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 great city. 


Yep, coin flips or not, there could really only be one Boston.


Above 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.

Above 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.

Above 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.


        1-4001 Row Houses.jpg (60852 bytes)

Above left:  The new and the old. 

Above center:  Downtown Boston from the top of the John Hancock Building.

Above 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.


Above 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.

Above 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.

Above 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 Mother Goose.


1-4046 Flags.jpg (53902 bytes)    1-4037 Buildings.jpg (37422 bytes)   

Above left:  Old glories.

Above center:  Boston is a photographer's paradise.  I shot over 250 pictures here in just a few hours.

Above right:  South Market near Fanueil Hall is pretty lively on a Sunday afternoon.   



Above 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 is Norm). 

Above center:  Some dorky tourist.

Above 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. 


1-4176_Oyster_House_Oldest_Restaurant_in_US.jpg (62334 bytes)    1-4171 Big Dig.jpg (47287 bytes)    1-4214 Julie at Dinner.jpg (29929 bytes)

Above left:  The Union Oyster House opened in 1828 and is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in America.

Above 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. 

Above right:  Here's our Big Dig (into the fried rice) at a restaurant in Beacon Hill.


        1-4225 Harvard.jpg (31047 bytes)

Above left:  The State House, where the "Boston Massacre" occurred, is dwarfed today by modern skyscrapers.

Above center:  The "T," heading back to Cambridge.

Above right:  Tower at Harvard University, established in 1636 and the oldest university in America. 



Above left:  A Harvard gate at sunset. 

Above center:  Memorable sign in a Harvard Square shop... for those sophisticated Harvard students, I guess.

Above right:  Julie and I taking the subway back home.  Thanks for the great tour, Jules!   



Next News

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)


Previous News

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Massachusetts)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)


*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Home > Travels (2001-02) > U.S. Trip > July 22, 2001