I’ve been back in Boston since Tuesday August 13th but it feels like I’ve been here all summer. The apartment finally looks like it’s reverted back to its normal state with the tables cleared of random papers, the dishes in their proper cupboards, and the sink free from any leftovers. I think that I succeeded in all of my initial goals for my return back to my college town: make some money to counteract the cost of self-maintenance and travel, explore a bit more of Boston, and say goodbye to old friends. The first goal was easily accomplished through the Boston University employment office where I applied for a quickie job. A quickie job through Boston University usually involves a student usually applying for few hours-long job that someone needs. This usually involves something like moving furniture or babysitting or being a translator during a meeting. I applied for three jobs, and was called back by this woman in Newton, MA who needed help moving. She lived around the mile 18 marker on the Boston Marathon route on Commonwealth Avenue. It was one of the most interesting jobs that I have ever worked. Her family was old and rich. Her still-living mother was in her 90’s, the woman was in her 60’s, her daughter in her 40’s and still living with them. The house was a corner house and beautiful. The woman in her 60’s, who was a Justice of the Peace, used to be an art dealer so the house was filled with dozens of professionally framed drawings, paintings, and canvas. The first day I biked the 7 mile route from my house to theirs, and impressed them because they suggested that I take the T instead so that I wouldn’t be too tired. I first met her husband, who used to be an accountant, and we struck up a small-talk conversation. However, as soon as his wife, the justice, stepped in he turned to go upstairs up to his cluttered office.
The justice offered some snacks to me and then told me how we needed to load her rented UHaul van with boxes and bins. I started right away and made sure to make efficient use of the available space in the UHaul. I spent about an hour carrying and packing the boxes away. She was very impressed with my work, and we drove the van over to the new apartment. You see, the family was downsizing from a full-sized family house to a much smaller one. I helped her unload all of the bins and boxes using some bellhop carts, and then unwrapping all of the individually wrapped jars, plates, and pots of porcellain ranging from Budapestian porcellain to the Meissener Pozellan. Her 90+ year old mother and her sister came to help as well. As we were unwrapping, she asked me if it would be alright with me if I worked for a few more hours that day. I agreed, and she quickly asked if I wouldn’t mind working for a few more days at the same monetary rate offered for that quickie job. I told her that I would be free for few more days and would love to work with her. I was fed dinner, paid $140 for 7 hours of work, and then driven home by her sister who was very intrigued with me.
And so I continued working for them at the rate of $20/hour. And it was one of the most fulfilling jobs that I have ever had the pleasure of doing well. I would wake up in my apartment here on Ashford Street, clean it up a bit more, and then head over to Newton to the family house where I would help the justice bubblewrap famous $10,000 oil paintings surrounded by $600 frames, carried more bins and boxes to the UHaul van, and even helped her husband the accountant clean up and organize his cluttered office. That last one was also cool, because I was called by him the night before and asked if I could help him. He said that he trusted me and that there were some documents that were so personal and important that he didn’t want the movers touching them. I was greatly honored by his request to allow me access to his personal items. And so we commenced the cleanup of his office. We moved electronics, papers and bills from the past two decades, and dozens of office supplies.
I learned a lot about that family that day. I learned that they were rich, had many things, but also had each other. The accountant and the justice struck me as hard workers. And I always impressed them with my math and science skills, because the family appeared to be more logically, administratively, and artistically inclined but not so much mathematically and scientifically inclined except for the accountant. The hardest part was parting with the things that they have had. It was hard for the justice, because it seemed that she had a long story associated with the life of the artist of a painting we were wrapping, a vignette connected to a piece of clothing that fell out of a bin we were carrying, or a tidbit about something that I said that reminded her of something. But she was also selling or giving away so much of her stuff. And she would confide in me that I was such a Godsend because she wouldn’t have known how to move her important possessions without someone else helping. The accountant was a larger man and had trouble walking, and the 40 year old daughter was still living at home and was having job problems. It almost seemed that this justice was the matriarch of the family and supporting it with her tireless will.
Literally, it almost felt like both she and I were the only ones doing work. But as annoyed as she appeared to be, and as much as they all bickered as a traditional New England family with its white-collar problems, it still struck me as one amazingly beautiful story about a family going through a tough time before it moved on and grew. Their house was definitely shrinking in size, but that only seemed to bring them closer together. It was cute to hear the justice still call her 90+ year old mother “Mommy.”
I asked the justice what she learned about moving out, and she told me that she learned about how one can accumulate so much stuff that is not needed. She learned that what she needed was just good friends and family and a few cherished things. And so I labored, cleaned, and ate with this family and shared stories. We would mainly just talk about the Peace Corps and my eventual deployment to Uganda, Africa this coming November. She would then ask me about my travels and I would tell her about my Dresden Study Abroad Semester and my summer internship in Berlin and my recent Eurotrip with my two best friends this summer. She talked about her own travels and experiences throughout mainland Europe, and her husband would talk about his travels in Eastern Europe right after the wall fell. And on the rides home, her sister would talk about her daughter’s study abroad semester in Barcelona. We shared stories about our successes and our failures, and a small part of our beliefs.
Sometimes the justice would just stop our working to tell me a 5-10 minute story about a couple whom she had just married. This justice really did not want to preside over “cookie-cutter” marriages. She would sometimes offer her own backyard and parlor room to host the legal ceremony for Massachusetts’ couples. And then she would have a small cake with some candles in order to celebrate for a while with the two. But one of the most beautiful stories was about these two women whom she had married in the Arnold Arboretum. She was with one of them at the entrance and the other woman in the marriage was running a bit late. They had chosen to be married at a specific spot near the entrance of the Arboretum, because that was the spot where they would meet since they both worked different shifts as nurses at different hospitals. But then a group of young college students plopped down at that exact spot. The justice walked over to them and inquisitively asked them why they had picked this exact spot. Naturally the students responded, “Uh, I dunno. It just seemed like a good spot.” The justice then informed them that they had every right to be on that spot, but that if they chose to stay then they would be in the middle of a wedding ceremony. The kids then stated that of course they would leave. And as they were leaving one of them shouted, “You look so beautiful,” to the bride who as already in the Arboretum.
I eventually finished up my last day of work with them, and was then invited to join the entire family, including the sister, her husband, the Barcelona daughter, and a close family cousin called Bunny in order to celebrate the 93rd birthday of the justice’s mommy. It was an emotional meal, because the sister shared a toast about how this would be the last meal in this house after almost 2 decades of family reunions, parties, marathon barbecues, and get-togethers with families and friends. It was stressed that this was a house and not a home and that the home was wherever they all were as a family and where the apartment now is. It was a beautiful toast, and the food was amazing and consisted of cucumber and sausage lasagna, Caesar salad, and keylime pie. The sister had made it all, but she professed that she wasn’t a good cook. I bid my farewells to all of them, and exchanged emails with the justice, the accountant, the sister, Bunny, and the sister’s husband. I promised to keep in touch with my endeavors and to share my Peace Corps blog when I leave. I promised to send them messages from time-to-time, and then I was driven back along the Marathon route of Commonwealth Avenue and back to the land of bohemian musicians, college students, broken glass, and a very different family in a very different home that I was more used to.
So I guess that I am emotionally compromised for a bit. There are days when I just feel numb and apathetic, then there are days when I just feel as if there are too many emotions to handle. The evening before I had spent performing with my a cappella group, Allegrettos, for the last time ever. It was a small gig at Winchester High School where we have always performed year after year for a few hundred dollars. It was my first ever performance with the Grettos as a freshman in the fall and now it has been my last ever performance with them.
After that I headed to the CAD (computer aided design) lab in order to run some simulations on my Final Senior Design project concerning the test response accelerations of a raised floor system in areas of heightened seismic activity. I setup the simulations on four computers and wrote notes on the screens so that no one would touch them while they were running. I biked back to my apartment and invited one of my friends, Max, over to hang out and chill with me until one of the freshman in my a cappella group came over for a midnight bike riding adventure. We listened to some good music (Dr. Dog and Wilco) and then headed over to one of my other friend’s apartment houses at 87 Linden Street in the Allston neighborhood. His house apartment was pretty cool, and the way you entered into the apartment was through the back door after going on a wooden deck that connected to the second floor.
We entered through the back door, which led to a hallway that housed his bikes, and then entered into the living quarters. Ah it was a very alternative college living area, as one of my friends put it. There was the kitchen with the liquor bottles lining the tops of the cabinets, and multi-colored Christmas lights weaving their way around the bottles, which gave off a very soft glow of dulled colors. The middle of the room had a metal table that was so low that one had to sit down with ones feet underneath it in order to sit at it. Around this table was a very soft L-shaped couch that was awesome to sleep upon, but not that great to lean back with.
Our host, Thierry, at 87 Linden gifted us with delicious micro-brewed beer and some Gin & Tonic with fresh limes. We chilled, and I remarked that his apartment reminded me of a hostel. It had the feeling that it held many stories over a long period of time with a wide variety of people coming in and out of that place. We listened to a very indie/alternative playlist that seemed to fit in perfectly with the chill hostel mood. I eventually left, danced a bit at the White Horse Bar and then headed back to my house where my neighbors were throwing an after-party for one of the all-girl a cappella groups at BU.
I awoke with a hangover the next day, and instantaneously went on Facebook. I scrolled through the notifications, and read that there was a fatal housefire in Allston. I shook my head and thought, “Ah well, not another one.” I then took a closer look at the picture and realized that that was the exact same house I visited last night; 87 Linden. I quickly called my friend, Thierry, who lived at that house and he texted me back that he was alright; however, one of his roommates, Binland, who also lived in the attic with him may not have gotten out. One Binland’s friends, Amanda, called me and asked if I had any information about Thierry and Binland. I explained to her that our mutual host friend was alright, but that Binland was probably the one who died in the fire. I then got confirmation from Amanda around 3pm just as I took a picture of the pink flowers of a tree just outside of the Mechanical Engineering. I promised her on her Facebook wall that I would post the picture of the flowers.
It felt weird knowing yet another person who had died, especially since I was in such close proximity to where the fire happened, and she was probably sleeping already and just didn’t wake up before dying. I remembered the last time we had seen each other, which was at 87 Linden when I was working on an Engineering Economy assignment. Then the time before that was during a Halloween Party in Junior Year when I met her and found out that she was slated to go study abroad in Belize since she was a Marine Science Major. And it was so close to the end of Senior Year too.
I was at a loss during that day, and I biked passed Linden Street, and saw the aftermath of the blaze: the charred remains of a house with police cutting off entry to the street with police tape. I biked to campus, and attempted to continue my simulations for my Senior Design Project of a Raised Floor System. Needless to say, I couldn’t focus. But then my friend from Dresden Study Abroad, Sean Manton, called me and asked if I wanted to go spend a 30 minute break seeing his friend’s art exhibit by the Boston Commons. I naturally assumed that this meant seeing murals, paintings, or floral arrangements. We biked down Commonwealth Avenue northwards to the Commons, and the day was just so beautiful. Dads were playing catch with their sons, girls were frolicking on the grass, couples were going on strolls, and the world seemed normal again. We made it to the Commons and stopped in front of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, located on 138 Tremont Street. It is an Episcopalian Church that had scaffolding that led to the top of the roof in front of the facade. Sean and I pulled one of the fences in order to create an opening, and then climbed up the scaffolding to see Sean’s friend from Colorado who was in charge of a project to put an aluminum Nautilus on the front top of the church. I couldn’t believe that right now I was overlooking all of the Commons on the top of a very tall scaffolding structure.
Sean’s friend, John, explained how this design was desired for over 200 years, but they didn’t have anyone to build it at the time. So then they recently had the ability to commission this design with a new artist using an aluminum shaping plant over in Colorado and then shipping it over to Boston. I explained to Sean that I never had a dull moment with him. I would say that it was the perfect way to take a break from the events of the blaze and my senior project.
We then biked back along the Esplanade, and I couldn’t help but smile at the feeling of sun across my back and people enjoying nature by the Charles. I then happened across Amanda with one of her friends on one of the short piers jutting out from the Esplanade path. She seemed pensive, looking out across the waters of the Charles as the afternoon sun started to set. She asked me how my day was, and I responded that it was good, but not perfect. She then inquires, “What would make it a perfect day?” I then respond with, “No senior design.” However, I knew that this was just a cover for my other emotions, but I knew that she was also dealing with many other emotions as well. I then hugged her and told her to take care as I continued biking back to the lab and to senior design work.
So I would say that this was my atypical Sunday. I did work, and my journey wove through the lives of so many others in many intense ways. Binland’s memorial was on Tuesday afternoon on Marsh Plaza and I honestly could not have felt so many weird emotions. There were engineering friends, two of her ex-boyfriends, old friends, and roommates. Then there was the realization that it wasn’t too long ago when we had all gathered at Marsh for solidarity, support, and mourning for the Boston Marathon Bombings. But together we could join as a community and share memories about those whom we had lost and loved.
Around this time last year the BU community lost Austin Brashears, Daniela Lekhno, and Roch Jauberty. And there have been so many lost since then, and this weekend was just the latest. But we will continue to strive forward, because that is all that we can do. There is life out here and it is good.
“We are the voices of the Ocean.”
I know that I haven’t written in this blog for long time, and I’ve mainly done stream-of-consciousness, but I decided to finally spend some of my free time writing here just to keep me grounded and put my thoughts down on paper. I don’t think that I was in the right state of mind to write down my feelings after the events of Marathon Monday/Patriot’s Day. So right now, after the fact I am now able to give life to my thoughts and words as well as to fulfill my role as archivist and historian of these events that have transpired.
On Saturday I was at a party with a friend and I remember having a nostalgic moment with her. We talked about how it is ridiculous that we can literally start counting down the days until graduation, and how classes will end within a month’s time. The talk eventually settled around how we had all travelled around the world and grown from our four years worth of experiences here. I then said, “We have all become displaced,” and our conversation fell silent amid the din of keg-stands, beer pong, and blasting Top 40 pop music. We had come to a moment when we realized that college students and those who grow up in life look for a home. We are displaced in our minds, through our emotions, and in our physical locations when we leave for college and new lands. That realization that college will soon end had already hit us and we are now desperately grasping to share moments among the friends whom we love.
So on Sunday night before Marathon Monday, I travelled from Boston University backwards from the Marathon Finish Line all the way to the starting line at Hopkinton. I journeyed there with two friends, a member of the BU cycling team Michael Wexler and a member of the BU track team Michael Bhat. We biked through the night on the marathon route and eventually made our way to the starting line. We literally chilled there in the almost freezing temperature until the rest of the Midnight Cyclists that had arrived at the Southboro Commuter Rail stop led the first wave of cyclists past the finish line. I biked back the entire way to Copley alongside the hundreds of other professional and casual cyclists who joined together in solidarity to bike the marathon route. I get to the finish line, and it felt like a moment of peace after an arduous journey there and back again. We take some pictures and I head back home to my apartment to finish making several gallons of sangria in preparation for intense Marathon Monday day-drinking.
I sleep well for a few hours and awake to my roommate and her friends pre-gaming in our living room. Before I could even fully open my eyes, I already take a few gulps of vodka and sprite. The rest of the day involves an adventure through the pre-gaming areas of Allston. I made it to a courtyard where hipsters were tossing a Frisbee disk, hippie girls were hula-hooping, my indie friend was taking Polaroid pictures, stoners were drinking cannabis-infused creamer, bros were passing a football, and drunk biddies were belting Beyonce songs.
I drank here for a bit, then left to another place where I got to play Fusion, a mixture of beer pong and flip cup. Ahh it feels like ages ago, but the day felt so wide and so warm. There were friends everywhere, and all were invited to partake in a breakfast of eggs and kegs. I split off from the pregaming a little bit after noon, and walked towards south campus where the runners were going down Beacon Street. There were only smiles everywhere as I weaved in and out of apartments filled with European girls, Lebanese smokers, and cheering frat bros. I walked down the Beacon Street T lines towards Park Drive where the majority of my engineering friends were all cheering, dancing, and laughing with each other. I just felt so happy to be celebrating my last Marathon Monday with the friends whom I cared about and those whom I had shared my college experience with. This place had become my home, and I was sharing this gloriously beautiful day with my college family. These were the poignant moments of hugs with old friends, small adventures of drinking sangria behind garbage bins, and solidarity as a Boston community cheering on an event of almost superhuman endurance and skill.
And then around 3pm we started hearing rumors of a bomb. Most of us dismissed it as fear-mongering and just went about our normal activities of cheering and drinking. And then the texts and alarmed calls started flooding in and people started to take notice. The police started checking people’s bags even if they were unattended for a few moments, and even I got manhandled a small bit as the cops angrily asked if that was my bag lying unattended on the sidewalk.
Around that time, the marathon runners started getting diverted and the cops instructed spectators to start heading indoors. I took refuge inside one of the South Campus apartments with several of my friends and few other BU classmates. It was a very intense atmosphere; with one guy in tears saying how he felt like it was 9/11 all over again. We all tried to sober up as fast as we could, and when I looked out of the window the streets were all deserted and not a single marathon runner could be seen anymore.
I felt distraught, and the tv kept broadcasting the same message on all channels:
“BUPD has reports of an explosion near the finish line of Boston marathon on Boyleston St. Information that people are injured in that area. Please remain out of the area of the marathon route. Remain indoors and return to your residence at this time. More information to follow.”
I then made my way to Marsh Chapel where a few people had already congregated. I needed to clear my head, so I knelt down in prayer by one of the pews. I then made it back west to the Allston area and back to my apartment where I finally got internet access and saw the live-stream of what had occurred. What hit me the hardest was hearing about the casualties and the dozens of amputees. I literally empathized and started to feel like an emotional wreck realizing how so many people who had trained their whole lives for a these moments of joy and celebration could have their entire lives taken away. A lot has already been said about this issue, but there is always more room to share one’s story.
I just didn’t know, all I could ask myself was why? Why? Why did someone do this? What was there to gain from this tragic attempt to steal away people’s joy? I never found an answer that day, but instead I found an overwhelming feeling of the human spirit. All around me there were acts of human kindness, love, and generosity. The technology that we have said distances people from interpersonal relationships brought people closer together in times of crises that could not have happened before. I literally had dozens of texts and calls from friends, acquaintances, and loved ones near and far just to ensure that I was safe. I even got long-distance calls from friends studying abroad thousands of miles away. Then there were the Facebook posts, articles, stories, and pictures sharing how good can come from this evil. And that is what I wanted to share today; the goodness that eventually triumphs over the bad, the love that wins over hatred, and the good works that unite all humans together. The following are links to articles that have demonstrated the overwhelming response of people who have decided to look for the light in a day that was clouded.
“Runners know that timing is everything… And I will never forget that 7 minutes after I crossed the finish line Boston felt the first explosion… I’m so grateful to be alive”
~Rosie Woods (One of my BU friends)
“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
~Martin Luther King Jr.
“Boston is a tough, resilient town, and so are its people.”
“This tragedy is not going to stop Boston… We will not let terror take us over.”
~ Boston Mayor, Thomas Menino
“There’s something particularly devastating about an attack on a marathon. It’s an epic event in which men and women appear almost superhuman. The winning men run for hours at a pace even normal fit people can only hold in a sprint. But it’s also so ordinary. It’s not held in a stadium or on a track. It’s held in the same streets everyone drives on and walks down. An attack on a marathon is, in some ways, more devastating than an attack on a stadium; you’re hitting something special but also something very quotidian. When we find out who did this, we may well find some fascination with the event—perhaps a foreign terrorist, or a sick American. Perhaps it was someone who spotted a terribly easy target. Or perhaps it was someone who saw a reflection of the human spirit and decided just to try to shatter it.”
~Nicholas Thompson, New Yorker
“As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Brian and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears.
Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.”
“Today, in the place I have called home, there is no doubt in my mind where this goes from here. If you have lived in Boston, you probably already know this. If you haven’t, let me assure you, that you need not doubt the strength or spirit of this particular American city. It proved itself in an earlier time, a time it was commemorating yesterday, Patriots’ Day. And the video of people rushing in to help the injured speaks for itself, but it is bigger than even that.
Boston is not the biggest city in America; it is not the most politically powerful. But it has an inner determination and power that only the foolish ignore. Next year, at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, I confidently predict there will be more runners and more supporters than ever before.
The attackers, whoever they are must be incompetent.
They picked on the wrong city.”
~Jim Walsh, 90.9 WBUR
These were just a few of the sentiments that I saw within the past few days. I will say that there is a new-found sense of determination here that has united all Boston students together. In a sense we all felt attacked and knew that what we needed to do was to stay together and hug our loved ones. There is a spirit here that prevails through the tears and sorrow, and through the toil and strife. As my close friend Mitch wrote down later that night:
“Today is a day that should go down in drunken college history. Unfortunately, the events of the day will be remembered for different reasons. Nevertheless, days such as this force us to recall all those important memories with loved ones that truly matter.”
And so in troubled days like these I will walk on the road that Patriots walked upon into the cool spring air and let Boston save me.
There’s something inside of me that’s yearning to break free from the monotony of cold mornings, sunless days, and restless nights. I just feel that there is something so much better and greater than what my remaining classes have left to offer me. I guess that I am antsy to get my diploma and get out of the regular schedule of classes that I am not that interested in anymore. Procrastination has caught up with me and I can no longer focus on important school work, because there is just so much else that needs to be done.
I am tired now. I am tired from the day, but most of all I am weary from my lack of adventure. The usual routine follows every week and I grow tired of it. And the winter weather doesn’t help my mood or the mood of my friends either. I have to shrug away thoughts about the summer and of my past adventures in order to function in the present moment. Yet not a day goes by when I remember how life felt so much more exciting and better than it does now in the dull coldness of my apartment without any heat. I want to accomplish and do so much more, but first I need to clear a few hurdles, such as the promises and commitments that I have associated myself with for this last semester.
I am bursting at the seams. I feel like I am ready to explode with renewed energy, but for now I need to contain myself. My planner is filled with dates and in about 100 days I will be marching down that aisle during graduation in the sunny May weather in order to receive my diploma and know that I made it. The tour was over and I survived. So for now I trudge forward in my projects and work in the hopes that the weather will become warmer and I can feel the sun upon my face and let my love of Boston save me.
It’s 3:23am and I have been working on this homework assignment that cost me $7.50 to purchase online because my professor gave us the link to a Harvard Business Review article that could not easily be accessed online. I also needed to do the homework because it is due today at 11am during class time. I am tired, sleep-deprived, hungry, and not happy. It’s odd, because I feel like I would normally feel good about getting this homework done and taking charge and ownership of my education. But instead I don’t feel right. I’m not too sure about this. I mean, I am definitely sure about graduating and getting my degree in Mechanical Engineering, but I don’t know if I will eventually be able to have a job similar to some of the classes that I am taking. I feel like the majority of my work lacks soul, and if I do infuse my homework and assignments with soul and creativity they just writhe up and die on the page without anyone to witness it.
I guess that this is just one of those trying times that comprise the sum of my education and how I have learned something from my classes. I guess that now I learned about the difficulties in merging two energy companies together and how the dozen or so acronyms contributed to the overall benefit of the company. I think that it would be so much more exciting if I were actually involved in the case study. I guess that I just feel that much more jaded being the only one left in this cold, desolate study lounge while staring at a dry erase board with a hastily drawn turkey, beckoning those engineering students left behind during the break to gorge on a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner.
I just can’t stand this whole thing anymore. I also feel bad because I am being given such a wonderful opportunity to study at this awesome College of Engineering. But I have already tasted a bit of the real world and I am restless to move and grow. I don’t think that I have learned a lot from my classes this year. I may be wrong, but I feel as if the biggest lessons are those that I will be unable to mention in job interviews. These will be the lessons that I learned on forgotten paths far away from the traditional classroom.
I think that maybe I have a flair for the dramatics. I mean, it is quite late/early, my stomach hurts from the emptiness and coffee, and I feel glued to this engineering lounge chair. I had planned to get a lot more done today, but at the very least I accomplished a few things. If only there were more time, motivation, less distractions, and no need for the inconvenience of sleep. Now that I got those feelings off of my chest I can get back to work and finally be done with this class. I think that I needed to rant for a bit, even though the majority of it is unwarranted.
Saturday, October 20th
This is the bike ride that kind of started my Saturday bike rides this semester. I had talked to one of my mechanical engineering friends, Zach, and asked him about whether he wanted to go on a bike ride sometime. He expressed his interest in biking, so I called him up around 3pm and met up with him at his apartment on Bay State Road. I pumped up his wheels, and he told me that he had not ridden on a bike since high school. After a practice run down Bay State Road, we then made for Massachusetts Avenue, and followed it towards the Boston Medical Center. The traffic was a bit rough, especially for him since he had not ridden a bike for over three years, and had never experienced city biking. Fortunately he was a quick learner and was able to keep up with me. I too was slightly worried that I would not be able to guide him on this bike adventure because I did not have a city map. I would make random stops at various intersections so that I could ascertain where we were exactly going. When we were almost right up to the Boston Medical Center we turned left onto Washington Avenue. The streets suddenly became so wide and the weather felt beautifully warm. I felt so full of happiness and could almost sense the endorphins being released. I felt at peace with the world as I zoomed by the South End of Boston. We passed by Flour Bakery and ended up in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which is this beautiful Gothic Catholic Cathedral.
We walked inside and instantly felt transported into a different world as we stared at the vaulted archways and flying buttresses that loomed far above us. Zach and I walked up the aisle towards the altar and got a different vantage point of the entire place, which was deafeningly quiet, and had a certain feeling of serenity associated with it, especially since there was no one else there. We eventually left the church and backtracked our way to one of the most well-known bakeries in Boston: Flour Bakery. This bakery was created by Harvard Graduate Joanne Chang who had a passion in baking and was soon recognized by various cooking magazines and shows. Eventually, she was featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and beat Bobby Flay with her Sticky Sticky Buns recipe. I remember eating one of these sticky buns during my freshman year at Boston University. About 3 years ago, my family had dropped me off at Warren Towers for my freshman year, and they had done some last minute school supply shopping for me. As a parting gift, my mom gave me a sticky sticky bun from Flour Bakery and then they left to go back home to Maryland.
I remember sharing that sticky sticky bun with two friends whom I had met that night along with two of their roommates. I prophesized that this special sticky bun would bind us together as friends throughout our college career. It turns out that I was wrong, but I am still friends with at least two of them.
So the sticky sticky bun was simply one of the best baked goods that I had ever eaten. It had a warm, dough consistency in the middle while the outside was covered in melted caramel, and cinnamon sugar syrup that oozed onto the sides of the plate. When paired with one of their home-roasted coffees while sitting outside in the setting Fall sun, for a few seconds you felt as if there was nothing wrong in the world for a bit. I guess that that is what I tried to achieve with this bike ride: the chance to physically and mentally escape the confined area of this campus along with the commitments that I have. After having a wonderful talk about life and finishing out coffees and shared sticky sticky bun, we continued along on our bike ride. We then went north through Rutland Street, which allowed us to see the beautiful brownstone apartments of the south end. We then passed through the narrow South End Library Park and then eventually turned left onto Huntington Avenue where we passed by the Museum of Fine Arts. It was around this time that we reached the Back Bay Fens, which is this beautiful garden and pond area that is hidden from the majority of Boston University students because it is kind of out of the way from the straight shot directions offered by Commonwealth Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue.
The sun was shining so beautifully through the tree leaves which were just on the verge of changing colors. So we were able to see the various hues of the leaves as they changed from green to yellow, brown, orange, and red with the setting sunlight sparkling through the boughs. We chilled by one of the bridges that crossed the Fens stream, by sitting on a leaf-covered hill. It was glorious and I honestly felt that I was not in Boston anymore. We then took our leave and biked down the Back Bay Fens to Landmark Center, where we had two options: either follow the Riverway and go south towards Jamaica Plains, or bike northwards up Park Drive and then turn left onto Beacon Street. We chose the latter, and then passed into the realm of Coolidge Corner and then turned right onto Harvard Avenue to make it back to the Allston area where I lived.
Saturday, October 27th
The next day consisted of a bike ride adventure to Flour Bakery and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross again, and then following the edge of the Back Bay Fens all the way down the Riverway to Jamaica Pond. It was ridiculous to even see the pathways by the small stream bounded by small hills of colored leaves and brick/stone bridges. At one point I passed by a stone bridge and there were what I thought were film students filming a girl by the side of the bridge. The weird part was that there was also a live octopus being held up in front of that girl. It kind of intrigued me a bit, because, ya know, octopuses are not that indigenous to Boston.
We continued along the Riverway, and found ourselves biking through the leaf-filled forest pathways until we passed by Leverett Pond and Wards Pond until we then found ourselves faced with the open expanse of Jamaica Pond. The Back Bay Fens, Riverway, and Jamaica Pond which are all part of The Emerald Necklace. This is a green area of Boston that kind of resembles a necklace with The Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park acting as the gems hanging from the Riverway. I have always wanted to explore more of the Emerald Necklace, so I will save those other parts for future bike rides.
We took a small break on one of the benches on the shore of a pathway that wound its way around Jamaica Pond. We admired the view as well as enjoyed a few healthy snacks that I brought with me to re-energize myself. We continued along the pathway and turned eastwards onto Green Street to make a pit stop at Blue Frog Bakery. Afterwards we took the Southwest Corrider northwards and also made a small stop at the Ula Cafe which was located in this brewery complex on Amory Street. We continued on our way up the Southwest Corrider until we made it back to the Northeastern University campus. I honestly cannot even believe that I had never heard or seen of these places before now, and it was too beautiful to put into words.
Saturday, November 3rd
This one was a large group bike adventure. Whereas the past two had been only one or two other people, this one consisted of 7 bikers including myself. We left from the Allston area and went eastwards down Commonwealth Avenue. Then we turned right onto St. Paul’s Street and biked diagonally down Knyvet Square, and down through Amory Field and Hall’s Pond. We then turned left onto Beacon Street until we reached Park Drive, and then turned south towards Landmark Center and the Riverway again. However, this bike ride felt so epic because I was literally leading a caravan of 6 bikers as we wound our way south down towards Jamaica Pond. I actually got chills when biking through the Riverway with this cavalcade of bikes. We eventually made it to the outskirts of Jamaica Pond and took a break on one of the overlooking hills. The weather was perfect: the sun was shining brightly with a strong warmth as the chilly wind whipped around and through us. It was the very definition of a crisp, Fall day. We tossed the frisbee a bit and took a few model pictures before we continued our way around Jamaica Pond.
We then followed Perkins Street and then turned northwards onto Chestnut Street where there were a lot of residential areas. Afterwards, we turned left onto Boylston Street, and then right onto Chestnut Hill Avenue, which brought us through more residential areas, as well as Cthe Cleveland Circle stop near Chestnut Hill Reservoir and Boston College. We alighted left onto Washington where we stopped at Cafenation. It was that local cafe feeling that a lot of us were in the mood for. The funny part was that I had originally planned to bike around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, but I missed it by about 1km. Incidentally, the intersection of Chestnut Hill Avenue and Washington Street was where I normally biked to work at the Winship Elementary School. I always wanted to check out one of the cafes around here, and now I was finally able to share the feeling of a local cafe with one of my friends. As usual, I ordered a coffee to perk me up from the crisp coldness of the outdoors. Ahhh, then we shared a few stories, had a few laughs about the different plural forms of Octopus. Apparently, octopetye and octopussy were not correct. Incidentally, the plural of hippopotamus is not hiptopussy. Afterwards, we biked east on Cambridge Street until it hit Brighton Ave, where we turned right to go back down to the Boston University Campus.
I’d say that it was a pretty successful bike adventure, and yes I was a bit nervous about leading it. But in the end I guess that my sense of directions improved, and that I would definitely be doing it again sometime.