29 November 2011
Gettin' My Urban On......
The best way to get to know a city is to pick a destination - a restaurant, a store, a park - give yourself plenty of time, and see if you can find your way there. You might end up there or you might get lost. Like if you take the Green B line instead of the Green E line (because that's not confusing at all! Why just letters that fall off the end of the same word? Why not choose a different color to avoid confusion? To emphasize the relationship between the 4 (!) Green lines, why not call them Lime Green, Pea Green, Blue Green and Puce? Because I did not even see that E! It just registers as a typo!). Either way, you just learn more about navigating the city and what to do there. And you'll probably make some bonus discoveries along the way.
Our Thanksgiving weekend concluded with a day in Boston with the purpose of figuring out how to get to the South End. This is NOT Southie. It's taken me over a year to take on this neighborhood because I was not confident in the distinction between Southie and the South End. I was afraid of doing it wrong and getting shot by Marky Mark and dumped in the Mystic River. But after a year of assurances, I am finally ready.
Boston's South End feels like Brooklyn (the Cosby Brooklyn, not the Godfather Brooklyn). It's all brownstones and curvy, tree-lined streets and a handful of funky shops and restaurants. It seems like a place I should hang out.
For our destination, I choose Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe. It's a diner/coffee shop known for having "The Best Breakfast in America!" (this is a blogpost for another date - because everything in New England is "The Best!" And I'm like "Are you sure? Like really sure? Because that sounds like a pretty big claim to me." My theory is that none of these claims are substantiated in the way I think they should be. By the way, did you know that I am "The Best Blogger on the Internet?"). It's been open since 1927 and has no bathrooms but it does have a sink along the back wall.
I choose this place because I need something that reeks of the city. Not the fancy, sophisticated and edgy city but the authentic to the core city. When you live in the woods, sometimes anything that is not the woods can seem manufactured; uncomfortable in its wooded surroundings, all Dunkin Donuts and gas stations and diners that miss the mark. I complain about not having anything in the woods but maybe it just doesn't work. So I'm seeking something that just is what it is without having to try so hard. Something that has a solid sense of self.
And Charlie's is the poster child for authentic. When we walk in, there's a cop with a standing order, a little old man with a bow tie and a lady with a funny hat. The people behind the counter are ambivalent to us (entertaining as always) but they know why we're here. For a real breakfast. Nothing creative or fancy just breakfast.
I order the turkey hash because it's their specialty and Liam orders bacon and eggs. When the waitress asks if he'd like white or wheat toast, he says white and then shoots me a look out of the corner of his eye like I'm some kind of bread nazi. I relish letting it go without a word (hah! you didn't expect that, did you?). He eats a stack of white bread with a bowlful of butter packets and sops up his runny egg; I watch him eat this like it's birthday cake and I fear I've made a mistake.
This is the kind of place that doesn't season the food because you'll surely want to do that yourself. The turkey hash that everyone raves about is bland - but then I picture the fry cook saying "That's why the salt is on the table, dummy."
I try not to take too many photos so I don't turn my authentic spot into a full-fledged tourist trap, but there was no avoiding this:
What event in your past made you so sensitive to unnecessary noise? How much do you have to hate unnecessary noise to actually go about procuring a sign to request that people not make any? And now I'm nervous about whether my noise is necessary or unnecessary.
On our way out, we spy a little park. It's dedicated to Harriet Tubman.
This is exciting for me because I get to tell Liam how Harriet Tubman was my very first hero. How I learned about her in second grade, how she disguised herself by reading a book (only freed slaves could read!), and how I never quite got the hang of the underground railroad. Too abstract. I also get to explain to him that The Museum of Afro-Americans is not a museum about people with afros. An Afro-American nearby (with no afro) says, "Yo, you should tie yo shoes!" I immediately think to myself, "But I'm wearing boots." But Liam plunks down in the middle of the sidewalk and obediently ties his shoes. "People in Boston are so nice," he says.
We walk and walk and ride trains and ride trains; the last one takes us to the Amtrak train that will take us home. And I feel tremendously accomplished.