Friday, February 19, 2010

The Boston Experience - Part 2

Continued From Part 1
We left Haymarket and headed North into Boston's historic North End by continuing to follow the Freedom Trail, a red brick trail that traverses the historical roots of Boston. Once we leave the Quincy Market/Fanuel Hall area of town, it's like walking through a time warp into Boston's Italian North End. Little Italy is quaint, cute and expertly painted from top to bottom and provides you the feeling like you've just walked into a mini-venice. We stroll along the sidewalk until we reach Mike's Pastries, a staple Italian Bakery which usually sports a line out the door and half way down the block. A this time of day, there is little business inside. Katie and Marion head inside to get us a Canoli for the Scavenger Hunt.. John and I decide to interact with a homeless woman. She sat on a milk crate with a single brown clove cigarette in her hand. She's wrapped up in 2 or 3 zip up sweatshirts, no hat, no gloves. John kneels down next to her and asks if she could use a pair of gloves, "Yes." "Do you mind if we ask you something about yourself?" She begins to tell us about herself. She's been homeless for 5 years, originally from the Chelsea area. Her family lives in Virginia. We decided to ask her more questions to fulfill other assignment obligations through the investigation of the Socio-Econimic make-up of the city. We asked her if she had a job, "Yes" What is it? "This is it.. I sit here and collect change." What do you like most about your job? "People watching.. talking to people." "What do you hate most about your job? "When people tell me to get a job... this IS my job. This is my job." When then had to ask her what she felt was the biggest day to day issue facing the people who live and work in Boston. "You can;t sit outside Haymarket from 12 to 3. If you do, they kick you out and fine you $100... that I don't have." We then asked how the business owners of the North End treated her, "they'll kick me off the sidewalk in about 5 or 10 minutes." We asked where she slept to which she told us about the shelters with no beds, no pillows, no covers. Just homeless people herded in like cattle and sleeping on the floor. We had a discussion about being homeless, "Do you own a lease?" "No.. I signed a lease." "Then you're homeless," she says, "You're homeless unless you OWN a lease. Just then.. the girls came out with the canoli and we thanked Chris for her time.

As we began to walk up the street the girls told us they had gotten the Canoli for free. They tried to barter for it with a womens size 8 Golite Shows.. but the baker at Mike's decided that it was an unfair trade and gave it to them for free. I was outraged because of this. A homeless woman simply trying to get some change on the sidewalk, get kicked out because she looks bad for business.. while the young college kids can score a free bite to eat. I wanted to head back and give Chris the Canoli, but we decided to hang onto it incase we needed it. This definition of Social Justice...basic human needs with a sense of dignity.. our interaction with Chris continued to challenge my thoughts and inner most feelings.. I was becoming rather emotional and for the first time in awhile.. empathetic. We continued to walk through the North End, past Paul Revere's statue and past a memorial for Afghanistan soldiers. We stopped to take it in and as the wind blew.. the dog tags all chimed. We walked past the Old North Church and into Cobb's Burial Ground, down Rutland Street.. and then finally across the Bridge into Cambridge.

Our next stop was the USS Constitution, or better known as "Old ironsides." We walked through the security checkpoint and into the museum where we met our tour guide naval officer. We had some questions to ask him and he shared with us his favorite dessert recipe. We stepped onto the boat and took a short tour before deciding to head on out. From here we walked towards the top of Bunker Hill... We'd spoken to the middle class earlier in a Barnes and Noble... the biggest issue facing the people of Boston in their eyes is "getting their coffee order right." Now, in the higher end neighborhood near Bunker Hill.. we sought out one last social group. A man came walking down the street with his dog Lucy. We stopped him as he allowed us to ask our questions. In receiving his answer we found out he was the local pastor on his way to the church. We asked if he had any volunteer work for us to do... and we soon found ourselves in the basement of the rectory. While here, the women of the church fed us Key Lime Pie in return for our helping them load and unload food for the after church buffet. We carried the food upstairs, loaded it into one of their cars and then headed down the hill to unload. Here, we entered St. Mary's Church, carrying food... and upon our walking upstairs.. we were stunned by the beauty and architecture. We were fed a finger sandwich each before thanking them for allowing us to help, answering our questions and eventually even offering us a place to stay. it was only 3pm.. we had much more ground to cover.

We left the church and headed for the Bunker Hill Monument. Ever since I could remember, I recall seeing this monument on the way into the city from the North. Finally.. here I was at the base and then climbing the 300 step concrete spiral staircase to the top. We had another question to answer "Where does the stainless steel staircase go at the top." Answer: No where! We took a few photos, turned around and headed back down to the bottom. We stopped in the park below and reflected on what we'd accomplished so far. It was now 3:15ish... and we decided to head for Harvard.. some 4-5 miles away.

We started walking.. and we walked... and walked and walked all along the Charles River from one end of the city to the other. While walking Marion called a friend of hers who lived in Harvard trying to find us a place to stay. We scored! We arrived at Harvard sometime after dark... We stopped at the Harvard Lampoon whose most famous grad is Conan O'Brien. Then, off to central square to find the apartment of Marions Friend.

We checked in with our professor so she knew where we were, entered the warmth of this classic Cambridge College Apartment, and settled in for some good food. Marions friend made us stuffed eggplant, pasta with alfredo and mushrooms, and raw carrots. Bread, butter and cheese abound.. .all I ate was a few slices of bread, drank some water and a few handfuls of Pasta.. avoiding the mushrooms. I hate being a picky eater.. but then again.. I wasn't THAT hungry. The muffins that were made were warm, filled with apple and nuts.. and delicious. The apartment was warm and friendly. We reviewed the day before turning on the olympics. I put on a leopard print snuggie.. and settled in on the floor for the night. I'm safe.. I have a roof over my head.. and now broke. I fell asleep with my thoughts on capitalism, corruption, homelessness, winter, weather, people... humanity. I'm more lost now then when I first stepped out of South Station.

Continued with PART 3 HERE