Sunday, September 10, 2006

Boston (Part 2: Observations on the City)

Since EclipseWorld ended on Friday, I've been exploring, and enjoying, Boston. I'm now at the airport waiting for my typically delayed flight home. Here are a few thoughts about and observations of the city.

[Note: obviously, it wasn't Sunday anymore when I finished this post.]

Jogoholism: Bostonians are afflicted, en masse, by an addiction to jogging. The pathways along the river are packed with joggers. And it shows. There's no shortage of very attractive people here.

Beauty: No, I'm not talking about the joggers anymore. Boston is a really beautiful place. There's an abundance of waterfront, generous public spaces like the Boston Commons, and a striking assortment of interesting architecture. Walking the narrow streets of the North End really takes you back a few centuries, but just beyond them, beautiful new condos line the shore of Boston harbor. And the financial district's towers soar above the historic Old City Hall and State House. To be fair, there's some significant ugly to be found, too. It seems the bulk of it is in and around the T (the public transit system).

Volume: Politically, Massachusetts is about as liberal as the US gets. So, you might think that Bostonians might bear some other resemblance to Canadians. You'd be wrong. If we're quiet and polite, they're unabashedly loud and brassy. Today, I was treated to the spectacle of an traffic cop trying to convince a taxi driver not to stop on a congested street. "I don't care who called, you better move it out of here," he bellowed. "Before I move it for you!"

A Touch of TO: There was one surprisingly familiar sight to be seen in Boston -- the TD logo emblazoned on the hockey/basketball arena formerly known as the FleetCenter.

Apparently, TD made its entrance to the American banking scene in 2004 by purchasing a majority share in Banknorth, a northeastern banking and insurance company formed through a series of mergers and acquisitions over the previous two decades. Also that year, FleetBoston Financial Group merged with Bank of America and in 2005 negotiated a release from Fleet's naming rights agreement. TD Banknorth bought the rights and the arena's name changed to TD Banknorth Garden July 1, 2005.

Walking: I really enjoyed walking around Boston. Really, everything is within easy walking distance, as it's quite a small city. Chris said there's about 600,000 people in Boston and Cambridge, which is about the same number as in Metro Hamilton. After living in Toronto for five years, when I look at a small map, I'm used to mentally inserting 5 or 10 streets between every one on the map. But, the little map I was using here actually showed every street. On Saturday evening, I was able to walk from the south end of downtown back to my hotel in Cambridge (across a river, to the North of downtown) in about 35 minutes!

The Freedom Trail: One great place to walk was the Freedom Trail, which winds through all the buildings of historical significance in the North End and downtown. I wonder if there are plans to revoke it, and replace it with the Security Trail.

Covering Up: There's a very odd looking strip of construction running around the eastern side of downtown Boston.

It's the last of the Big Dig: a project to move the elevated Central Artery, Interstate 93, underground, and to extend the Massachusetts Turnpike under Boston Harbor to the airport. Construction of the tunnels was extremely complicated and expensive, taking the last 15 years to complete. Now, work is underway on reclaiming the land vacated by the interstate, to create the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which is to consist of public spaces along with cultural and recreational buildings.

In July, a ceiling section in one of the tunnels collapsed on a passing car, killing its passenger. That section of the tunnel was closed, rerouting traffic above ground and delaying work on the Greenway. The parks now aren't expected to open until mid-2007. Financing problems and other issues have delayed and jeopardized plans for the various buildings. The New Center for Arts and Culture will not open until at least 2011.

The potential for this space is huge, but only time will tell if that potential is realized. Still, the sheer audacity of a project of this magnitude (especially in a relatively small city) is impressive.

The Down-low: On Friday, I went out with Chris and some of his friends to a straight club called Gypsy, and had a fabulous time. The music was as fun as anything you might hear at Buddies, although the ADD-DJ never seemed to want to play more than a minute of any given song. Still, it was great for dancing, and we tore up the floor until the wee hours.

On Saturday, I was on my own, and I thought I'd try to check out the gay scene. There doesn't seem to be a gaybourhood like the Village here. The clubs are spread out a bit more, and some straight places have weekly gay nights. I decided to try a video bar called Club Cafe, which was recommended as the happening spot.

From the street, the place looked like it was just a restaurant and lounge. I actually walked past once, looking for a bar entrance, and then circled back around the block to avoid looking overly lost. But, you actually enter through the restaurant, pass the bouncer, and head to the bar in the back. Once found, it was a bit of a disappointment. The place was packed with people standing around in little groups. The dance floor was full, but no one was dancing. There was nowhere to sit with a drink. So, for someone like me, on my own and shy, it just didn't offer anything. I stayed all of about 10 minutes.

So, score one for the straighties and zero for the gays of Boston.

No comments: