Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why I love Boston - Part 2

This post could have been subtitled, Boston on a budget, or something similar as it covers the next few trips to Boston, when I was in my twenties, poor, and not traveling for business.  

     So I started to see a different side of Boston when I got old enough to drink, and stopped going there with my folks.  At first I would tag along with other family members that were going (I remember one Easter riding up with Hummingbird and her husband), but eventually started going on my/our own.  It was during this time also that I got to introduce my girlfriend to Boston, and nothing she saw there deterred her from marrying me. 

     Boston quickly expanded from a neighborhood in Southie and one in Quincy to all of Boston proper and it's suburbs.  We would still stay with relatives, mostly on K street, where my Aunt (that's Ahhhnt, not Ant), Mary and Uncle John would host us, but sometimes we ventured out to stay with others.  Uncle John would give the best driving tours of Boston, intermixing the historical Boston with the more current relates, IE: "on your left is the oldest house in South Boston, built in 1804 by John Hawkes on the corner of 5th and K streets" to "coming up is the L street Tavern, made famous by the movie Good Will Hunting".
Of course I had a beer here.
Any down time at the house was quickly filled again with visits from the cousins, who had grown and started their own families.   I have to admit that any time I mention that I am coming to the area, I immediately get multiple offers from cousins to stay with them, eat with them, catch a game at Fenway, or the like.  I do a really poor job of taking them up on their offers, but this year I am going to try and make a point of accepting some of their gracious offers, in spite of my business obligations.  We still went to the beach, but our favorite activity switched to smooching instead of "whale watching".  We discovered Quincy market, and Faneuil Hall, well actually  we didn't discover them, they had always been there, but we started to visit them as tourists.  My cousin Tim worked there, but I can never remember if it was an Ice Cream place that he worked at or a Lemonade place.  He'll remind me, I'm sure.  We still walked the neighborhood, but we also ventured out to visit people in Brockton or the Cape.  We camped on the Cape, one time, when Molly was just a baby, and we stayed close enough to some friends from Canandaigua that were visiting relatives, that we were able to sneak in a couple of visits with them ourselves.  In a small world kind of relate, it turned out that we had a relative (shout out to cousin Marge) that lived around the corner from theirs, and they were "walking buddies" for a while. 

     We did the touristy things like visiting the Aquarium (I firmly believe that if you have seen one Aquarium , you have seen them all), went to street fairs and took Duck tours and such.  We toured Martha's Vineyard and took a train ride, and explored the nooks and crannys of New England.  We walked the Freedom Trail and absorbed all the history on it.  I was never a big history buff, but later I picked up a few books on that period in Boston's past, and I enjoyed them.  One I recall was "Rise to Rebellion" and it was listed as historical fiction because the author included dialogue between the characters.  I liked it better that way. 

Bull & Finch Pub (Cheers)
On one trip we visited the Holy Grail of tourists spots at that time, The Bull & Finch Pub.  You probably don't recognize it by that name, but if I had said we went to Cheers, I would bet most of you would instantly hear the crowd yelling "Norm" as George Wendt walked into that bar.  It was a good meal as I remember it, but I was likely caught up in the atmosphere of being in Cheers.  Two stories come to mind when I think of Cheers, and they are great life lessons.  The first is that the show was dead last in the ratings for the first year it ran, it ranked # 74 out of 74 shows.  It got renewed though and went on to become one of the longest running and most popular shows in television history, who would have guessed it?   The 2nd story is even more interesting to me.  The actor John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) actually auditioned for the part of Norm Peterson but was bested by George Wendt.  Instead of accepting his defeat, he asked the producers who they were going to cast as the bar's "know it all", and then spontaneously auditioned for the part he had just made up.  He, of course, was cast in it, after the producers wrote the character into the show.  The two lessons I garner from these stories are, to never give up no matter how far behind you are, and if you do lose, it is perfectly acceptable to change the rules of the game to provide a better outcome, but I digress.....

     Ok, if I digress again is there a word for that, like Re-digress?  I have to another relate to Boston and to failure.  I have family there now (on my Mom's side) who are descendants of the man who invented the Steamboat.  Any guesses?  Wrong.

John Fitch's "Perseverance" Steamboat
 I heard you say Robert Fulton, but in actuality it was my ancestor John Fitch who invented the Steamboat, and held patents 12 years before Fulton ever got into the game.  My ancestor, however, never made money on his boats, dealt with substance abuse, abandoned his wife and family and died at 55, by his own hand.  He had lived a colorful life manufacturing guns, traveling, selling booze, and inventing.  He had even been held captive by Indians for a period of his life, but it was the crushing weight of his steamboat failures that led to his taking his life.   History forgot him for a long period of time, and credited Fulton, but this year, the John Fitch museum should open in Buck's County Pennsylvania and he might finally get his due.  The lesson here might be, get stronger patents, keep your family close, and don't do drugs.  I was torn as to which picture to include for this part of the blog, the one above, or the one of his descendant who was a New England Patriot's cheerleader (April Fitch).  The latter would have drawn more eventual hits to the blog, but I thought I'd give old John his due. 

     So I got "off course" a little on this blog, but it's mainly because I don't remember enough details from those days to fill the page.  I remember the generalities of family surrounding us, and interactions and meals with them and the high points of our touring Boston, but that's all I've got.  Feel free to fill in any shared memories you may have of us during that time, and I won't feel like such a slacker.  I do promise that the last installment will have more detail because I come to Boston so often now, and my memory can hold things for that long at least.  The last installment will be my about my many business trips to Boston.  Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Your Cousin Tim worked at Swensons Ice cream in Faneuil Hall. Tim also got your other two Quincy cousins jobs there!

Can't wait for part 3!

torcon said...

Bill, outstanding post - as always! I've visited Boston a handful of times, unfortunately the horrible drivers and confusing "wheel-hub" layout of the city left a bad taste that no amount of Samuel Adams could wash away. However, your posts might force me to give it another chance. BTW, I really liked the life lessons in this one!

Reggie Wharity said...

Seriously Willie, when I read some of your stories, it is as if I am right back there... you have an incredible writing talent. Don't let it go to your head! We took trips faithfully to Boston most every Easter after I got married. One of the last trips Meter Maid and I were there together,(both not married now) with mom & dad,sleeping upstairs in Auntie Mary's house... and we were out with our cousins late, and when we sneaked upstairs into the house the door squeeked and it woke Dad up. Dad yelled at us to get to bed, as it was late, and we would be getting up early for church the next morning (of course) Meter Maid and I got laughing so loud that Dad got out of bed and came and yelled at us again... we were probably 30 or older at the time... we felt like kids... Boston has a way of doing that... making you feel like a kid :) I also remember a time when we were young... prob too young for you to remember Willie, that we were all upstairs sleeping or supposed to be sleeping, and we were making alot of noise and Dad yelled up one more time for us all to be quiet and not to make a peep or else... suddenly someone said "PEEP", and Dad yelled up, ok, all of you, get down here NOW! I remember crying going down the stairs thinking oh no, we are going to get a spanking, when in fact, the Aunties had brought us ice cream!!!! Love BOSTON!

Bill said...

Char and I rented a car that would get us there, one time and it overheated in rush hour traffic (the fan didn't work). We pulled into a construction site and they couldn't have been nicer. That set my tone for driving in Boston.
@ Reg and Anon, now I am hungry for ice cream, thanks a lot.

Billy Thorn said...

You may like this http://bostonpast.blogspot.com/

Daphne Mays said...

Fraid I'm with Tor on this one. I've only been to Boston a few times on business and hated the driving. Well actually, I took cabs, but I hated even the riding! Had a cousin who lived there for a number of years who said it was his favorite city to live in and he'd lived in many. Wish I'd have taken opportunities to have let him show me the fun side of the city.

cdyarger said...

I remember our first solo trip to Boston, when our car overheated in the middle of Boston. A nice, native Bostonian came to our rescue and got us some water for the radiator. I fell in love with Boston on our first day there, and today, it remains one of my favorite cities!!