Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009 - South Station, Boston, Massachusetts

There's apparently an inverse proportionality at work in the number of stranger hellos one can collect on the busy streets of a city and the number potentially gathered in the suburbs. I passed dozens of people on my walk today, with smiles at the ready for each one, yet I could not garner a single response. Out on a snowy trail in Duxbury, Plymouth or Cohasset, I might meet one person in a two-hour walk. I guarantee that person will exchange greetings. It's one of the reasons why I've always decided against living in a city. I relish the notion of being part of the heartbeat, of being at the center of the action, of having innumerable opportunities for work and entertainment. But the social disconnectedness, the lack of community would just kill me.

I left South Station headed to a meeting on State Street, but I had time to kill. I took a turn by my favorite nautical antiques shop - I say that as if I've done anything but stare in the windows - and trudged down Congress Street. Past the Verizon building, I reached Post Office Square.

There's hidden history there. Back in the 1870s, the United States Life-Saving Service (a forerunner of the Coast Guard) formed a technology subcommittee charged with testing and evaluating lifesaving equipment, the Board of Lifesaving Appliances. They slogged through some of the most useless, hare-brained schemes one could imagine in order to find that occasional gem, a lifeboat that self-righted, or a lifejacket that fit more snugly. And they did it here, national impact from a local building.

Crossing State Street I stepped gingerly on the icy bricks of Quincy Marketplace, working my way inside for a slice of Pizzeria Regina's finest. I may or may not have visited The Boston Chipyard as well, depending on who's reading this blog. Two women stood in front of me as I downed my pizza, speaking French. They certainly were excited about something. In the end, they chose the clams.

Over Surface Road and past Atlantic, I visited Christopher Columbus Park, glimpsing at the Logan International Airport control tower in the distance. Shrink-wrapped power boats awaited spring temperatures. The Customs House tower kept the same face it's held for decades. The water itself looked terribly, painfully cold. I circled the Marriott Long Wharf and continued down Atlantic Avenue.

In front of Old Town Trolley Tours, the trolley driver cleaned the sidewalk of snow, without a soul willing to step aboard his conveyance. The New England Aquarium was quiet. Between the Boston Harbor Hotel and the Atlantic Building I glanced quickly at the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Facility in the distance. Passing the Coast Guard's First District headquarters building, I noticed two female Coasties emerging from the building in their work blues. They walked ahead of me and disappeared into the Intercontinental.

I circled back for my meeting and realized my thoughts hadn't changed one bit. Nice place, glad I don't live there.

Time: 58 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: N/A.

What else happened today: met to finalize a Coast Guard history book project; mailed materials back to the golf club I'll be writing a book about later in the year; worked for four hours on the state's Breeding Bird Atlas project; attended the Hull-Nantasket Chamber of Commerce meeting; learned that yet another acquaintance, Mr. William Saltonstall, passed away over the weekend; read Images of America: South Carolina Lighthouses by Margie Willis Clary and Kim McDermott and reviewed it for Wreck & Rescue magazine and; did the same for Images of America: Georgia's Lighthouses by Patricia Morris.


  1. Gotta admit - it's Faneuil Hall taken from the room I was meeting in. Otherwise I couldn't get it on that plain!