(Last modified 17 November 1996.)

Wanderjahr: Week 13

Locations: Somerville; Boston; Reading
Dates: 11/10/96 - 11/16/96

Auburn tree photoSunday I visited Mt. Auburn with Beth. It was marvelous, if one's allowed to say that about a cemetery. The sun was out all day (despite predictions of snow for that night, which never came true); the colors of the leaves were brilliant in the sunlight, exactly what I came to New England in the fall to see. The gravestones were frequently lovely and often fascinating; there were stories to be read in the groupings, the patterns of names and dates, and most of all the descriptions (on some of them). We saw several hawks (one of which had just killed a squirrel), a dozen ravens (or perhaps crows), a flock of Canadian geese eating grass, a few finch-sized birds, and a jay. We followed the automotive audio tour (you rent a cassette at the gate and play it in your car as you drive around the gigantic grounds, getting out here and there to ramble on foot) and highly recommend it. The view from the tower in the center of the place was superb, miles in all directions, a canopy of red and yellow and green (the cemetery) fading into city to the southeast, less-populated areas in other directions. I took nine or ten photos (would've taken several more but was low on film). Oh, and of course the company made the afternoon even more enjoyable.

We went to Christopher's, a bar/restaurant on Mass Ave, for a late lunch or early dinner; quite good food, slow service but only because one of the waitfolk had failed to show for a shift. Beth took me to meet Karin, then back to Bhadrika & Steve's. I accidentally left my camera, book, and unneeded umbrella in Beth's car. Oops.

Somehow it didn't occur to me on Sunday how appropriate the cemetery visit was; Monday was the anniversary of my mother's death. I think it was a good memorial, even though unintended...

Monday I finally filled up my first travel journal (having started in early August, a couple weeks before leaving on the trip). Started a new journal, which I'd bought a couple weeks back, as I mentioned at the time.

Monday midafternoon I intended to go to Fran & Ed's to stay with them for a week, only of course I needed to do laundry before I could go, and that took all afternoon (counting waiting for the machines to be free), and then there was packing to be done, and the season premiere of Babylon 5 to be watched, and Michael to chat with (he having returned from a weekend trip out of town). So I packed up a subset of my stuff, feeling like a refugee from a George Carlin routine. I decided not to take my car; the difficulty of carrying several medium-sized bags on foot won out over the horror of trying to navigate Boston city streets on my own in a car. Which meant instead of 45 minutes, it took about an hour and a quarter for me to get to F&E's, so (after the delays recounted above) despite having told them I would try to be there by 3, I didn't arrive 'til 7:45. Sigh. But when I finally did arrive, we had one of Fran's good home-cooked meals, and talked about the usual sorts of things.

I feel very lucky to be so welcomed in my travels. When friends request my company, invite me to stay with them, feed me and welcome me into their homes, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside... People I've talked to at various points have said I'm lucky to have the opportunity and leisure to do this trip; while that's certainly true, I think I'm more lucky to have such great friends to visit that the trip is worth making. Despite LeGuin's comments about the journey itself being valuable, I'm afraid I still find destinations more interesting than traveling to them. I guess that means I'm too goal-oriented.

Tuesday was another very enjoyable lunch with Beth and Mark (this time at Calla Lily near Harvard Square), followed by poker in the evening.

Wednesday I hung around Fran & Ed's place and finally sent in my SWAPA 'zine. In the evening we watched a couple of movies, the first I'd seen in over two weeks.

Thursday I T'd back to Somerville to pick up my car, then drove to Reading to see Steph & Harlan. Had a fun but brief chat with them, then drove back (which took twice as long, due to alternate route to avoid rush hour) and hopped on the T to meet Mark for dinner (at the Kendall Square Cafe) and a movie (at the Kendall Square Cinema). Good food, good conversation, good movie. A nice evening.

I've remembered, staying with Fran and Ed near Northeastern U, what I don't like about living in cities: the noise. Every night there are loud screams in the streets outside, on and off from about midnight through about 2 am. Apparently these are mostly or entirely students blowing off steam, and apparently the campus cops patrol regularly. It makes me tense anyway. On the other hand, they live within a few blocks of all sorts of conveniences; it's a nice area.

Friday Fran and I had lunch with Ed, then Fran indulged me and we wandered around shops at Harvard Square. We were both ostensibly looking for scarves; Fran thought hers had been lost, and I stupidly left mine (a great grey one that Sarah knitted for me a year or two back) in a box in storage in CA, labeled "warm clothes." Unfortunately, most of the really nice (soft, warm, nice-looking) scarves we found were way more expensive than either of us was willing to pay. But the window-shopping in stores beyond our means was fun. We also stopped by Million Year Picnic, a nifty but tiny comic-book store. Just as I was ready to give up and buy a scarf I'd seen earlier but not been entirely happy with, we wandered into Urban Outfitters and found exactly the wool scarf I wanted (well, okay, it doesn't have tassels) for a good price. Then it was time to meet Ed for dinner.

We ate at the Rosebud Diner, fairly near Davis Square, and proceeded to a story reading at Michael's. Which went well, though unfortunately several people didn't arrive 'til it was nearly time for Fran and Ed and I to depart.

Saturday morning we went to the MFA. Went through the Herb Ritts exhibit first; I like a lot of his stuff. Then we visited other areas it would never have occurred to me to visit; I particularly recommend the Chinese furniture exhibit, especially if you've got an expert like Fran to guide you through it. Way cool all around. Museum fatigue set in mid-afternoon, so we went home, ate, and proceeded to the games party at Deb & Charles'.

Which turned out to be the largest gathering of Swarthmore alums I've seen in one place since my class reunion a year and a half ago. Something like 13 alums, ranging from class of '87 or so to about '93, plus a couple of associated non-alums. We played the Name Game, and though it didn't go perfectly it was fun. Afterward we talked about teaching methods, and writing, and various other topics.

I've been keeping up a writing schedule, writing at least a set minimum amount every day, for a week and a half now, ever since finishing the Lamott book. I hope I can keep it up. Unfortunately I sometimes don't get to it 'til 1:30 am, when I'm not at my best. I oughtta get in the habit of doing it as soon as I wake up...

Anyway, we eventually went back to Fran & Ed's to play with Cynthia (their snake) for a while and get some sleep in preparation for what we intended as a fairly lazy Sunday.


Movies, Books, etc.

Goody Hall, Natalie Babbitt
Delightful, if slightly predictable; far sillier (and funnier) than her other books I've read thus far. For added enjoyment, contains some extremely silly Shakespeare misquotes.
Knee-Knock Rise, Natalie Babbitt
Fun, though slight and again a little predictable; not as good as Goody Hall, but worth reading. "Facts are the barren branches on which we hang the dear, obscuring foliage of our dreams."
The Quiet Man
Wayne and O'Hara strike sparks in Ireland, but it didn't quite work for me. Too slow-paced; some funny moments, but too many (some unintentional) to work as a romance and too few to work as a comedy.
Pale Rider
Eastwood directs himself in a slow-paced and ham-handed but beautifully filmed Western that doesn't quite hold together. I love what Eastwood does with shadows (especially with the hat he wears as if born to it), but I wanted to know more about his character and less about how faith binds communities together to make them stronger than their evil oppressors.
Twelfth Night
Nobody's heard of this even though the cast includes Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Kingsley, and Richard E. Grant. Good film version of what's possibly my favorite Shakespeare play, but not quite as good as the recent Branagh Shakespeare movies.

Jed Hartman <logos@kith.org>