Thursday, May 29, 2008

Working vacation

Tonight after work I flew to DC to help my daughter get moved into her new home. She is closing on the sale tomorrow. I am very excited for her. Today is also her birthday!

To get to the Logan airport, I took the train from downtown which involved bringing my bag with me to work and then hauling it around with me on all my bus and train connections. Fortunately I packed light and so it wasn't too bad. The only down side was that the trains were running a little slower today because of a serious accident yesterday in which a train conductor was killed when her train slammed into the back of another train. I guess the train conductors were being a little extra cautious. Anyways, that caused the trains to fill up more than usual. It is very awkward being crammed in a train with a backpack and a small duffel bag.

My daughter says we are going to go kayaking on the Potomac on Monday! I'm excited and a little nervous. She assures me that the kayaks are more like canoes and I won't have to keep my legs trapped inside it so that might not be too bad. It will be something to look forward to.

My camera broke! I will have to get a new one. Hopefully I will be able to pick one up while I am in DC.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where there's smoke, I guess there's fire

Yesterday, Sarah and I went out to the Premium Outlet mall in Wrentham. While there I lost my cell phone. We retraced our steps but we just didn't find it. I ended up suspending my service and today I went to get a replacement phone after work. I found a relatively cheap replacement in a prepaid phone. I figured I would use that until I could have the kids send my old phone. Once I got that done I headed over to the T station. I got on as usual, everything was going along normally. The train wasn't even very crowded. That is always pleasant.

When we got to the Park Street Station, I went further down into the belly of the city to catch my Red Line train. I got down there and I noticed a little bit of haziness. It doesn't seem too bad. There are fire department people down there and there is no sense of panic anywhere and so I proceeded to wait. Gradually the smoke got thicker and thicker and thicker. I decided to go stand a few steps up on the stairs because there was a little bit of a draft there and it wasn't as smoky. The next thing you know, the firemen are asking us to evacuate. The train is not going anywhere!!

I walked up out of the station and started to ponder my option. I can just wait around and see if the train will be running soon; I can take a taxi home; or I've got it, I can walk down to the next Red Line station. It's a little ways but not too far and I actually know the way. It's probably a 25-30 minute walk. My thinking was that the Red Line will be running down there and I can get on and head back home.

On my walk over I called Sarah because her apartment is on the way. I thought I would let her know what was going on in case I needed to a place to hang out while waiting. She lives relatively close, a 5-10 minute walk, to the station where I was headed. I met and visited with her for a few minutes and continued on my way.

As I got closer to the station, I saw lots and lots of people waiting and standing around. When I get there, I find out that the train wasn't running there either. Someone from the MBTA (Mass Bay Transit Authority) said that there would be shuttle buses along to take us out to Harvard Station. Ha Ha! I thought. There were several hundred people waiting there. That's going to take a long time. After waiting a good 20 minutes or so, I decided to head over to Sarah's to explore other options.

Sarah graciously offered me a snack to tide me over till I could get home. We looked at other possible routes by bus on the Internet but they were going to take a really long time. I called a taxi company and they said it was going to be $35. Wow! That's too much. So I waited a little longer and then walked back to the station.

At the station I waited another 5 or 10 minutes before a shuttle bus came along. There was a group of three buses. One of those really long, bend-in-the-middle kind, and two regular buses. I decided to try to get on the last bus because it didn't look quite as cram-packed. I almost got on! I was waiting outside the doors for some small space to open up at the door but it didn't. I got left out.

Fortunately the next bus came along within about 5 minutes or so. I got on that one with 80 or 90 of my closest (proximity) friends. We took the 20-25 minute drive to the Harvard Station. At the Harvard Station I caught my usual bus to head home. I got home at 8:15. It only took me 2 hours and 45 minutes! What a day! Oh yes, I forgot to mention that it was raining pretty good for part of my walk and wait. I did remember my umbrella though :-)

I found out during my stay at Sarah's that the smoke was from a small electrical fire. See <> for more details. The small article doesn't give any indication of the magnitude of the effect it had on the hundreds or thousands of people who take the train.

Friday, May 23, 2008


I had a very interesting adventure today. Once again it involved some aspect of public transportation. I was waiting peacefully for the bus this morning when I heard a rustling noise in the bushes behind me. I turned around to see what it was, hoping to catch a glimpse of some cat or dog from the neighborhood. Imagine my shock when I saw that it was a skunk! Yes! Pepe LePew lives in Watertown, Mass!

I was easily within spraying range and so I decided to just stand quietly and keep an eye on him. If he started to come my way, I would just walk away from him quietly and slowly so as not to frighten him. I wanted to be the only one who was worried. Fortunately for me he decided to head off in the other direction and so I just continued my wait for the bus.

Who would have thought you could have skunks in the middle of the city. They must come along the river I guess. Who knows! I hope I don't see him again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More adventures on the "T"

I had an interesting afternoon on the subway aka "the T". I was walking confidently to my Red line train and managed to squeeze on with the other sardines who were all crammed inside. We went one station and when we stopped, although no one got off, several people wanted to get on. There was even an argument at the doors. One rather large, African-American woman wanted to get on with her equally large boyfriend but there was just no room. She and a lady close to the door argued over whether or not they could fit. In the background another woman was yelling at her to just get off. The doors were not closing and we wanted to move on. The large woman ended up backing off and the train left the station.

As we were pulling out, I realized that we hadn't gone up out of the deep, dark underground to cross the river at the stop for Massachusetts General Hospital. It was then that I realized that I must have boarded the wrong train! I felt stupid. I got off happily at the next stop because I wasn't really enjoying being a sardine anyways. After I got off I took the next train back in the right direction. When I got back to Park Station, which is where I got on the wrong train, they had everyone get off. Apparently there were two trains disabled down in the Harvard Station which was my destination. That train was not going to be going towards Harvard Station but it was turning around to go the other direction. They said the next one would be going in the right direction but I had my doubts. As it turned out, I really hadn't boarded the wrong train. The trains were running the wrong direction because they had to turn around at Park Street because they couldn't proceed on. I felt a little better but it made my commute really long. It ended up taking me and hour and a half to get home.

I love taking public transportation because it is so cheap. I can ride all I want for only $15 a week. If I wanted to take my car not only would it require money for gas, apparently it costs about $200 a month to park downtown where I work. Yes, it takes a little while but I see interesting people and I get some exercise. (It is a 5 minute walk to the bus stop and a 5 minute walk to work from the T station plus any extra walking I get to do in the morning because I get there way too early.)

This is what happens when I start to feel like I know what I'm doing. I am reminded that I am still human and I need to shrink my head back down to size!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Country music!!

I have tried several times while in the car to find a Country Music radio station here in Boston. Do they not listen to country music here? I am disappointed. I hope one day to find out I'm wrong and so I will keep searching every time I'm in the car.

Walking home in the rain and other fun things

I started my internship yesterday. There was so much to learn the first day. Thankfully, my supervisor realizes that I am there to learn and he knows that I am human and he will be patient with me. The research assignments have been very interesting. I spent time at the reference desk today. I felt a little out of place because I can't really refer patrons to sources because I still don't know where they are. I am learning though and that is good.

Today is the first time I took the bus and the subway to work and back without taking a least one wrong train. Yay!! Normally the whole commute takes at least an hour including walking time. Today I made it in 50 minutes!! Yesterday it took me 1 hour and 10 minutes. Today I had to walk around a while because I was half an hour early. It was a pretty morning. The sun was shining and there was no wind like we experienced yesterday.

Tonight on the commute home I saw a couple of rowing teams practicing on the Charles River. It was awesome. I want to walk down that way sometime and just walk along the river. I wondered if they were teams from Harvard.

As I got closer to home it started to rain. I had checked the weather before I left this morning and saw a 30% chance of rain and packed my umbrella. It came in handy. There is supposed to be a 50% chance of rain tomorrow.

Boston is such a fascinating place. You see so many interesting people and hear so many different languages. It is fun to try and guess what they might be. I think I heard a lady speaking Italian on the bus tonight but I can't be sure.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you make a flip cartoon on the edge of the pages of a book? As you flipped the pages it made a sort of moving cartoon. Well there is something like that between a couple of the stops on the Red line. It is an ad for ovaltine. It is just a series of pictures with each one having a slight variation to give the appearance of movement as you past swiftly by.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Down to the Back Bay

Today's plan was to take the bus and the subway on a practice run to get to the NEHGS where I am going to be working. I was a little apprehensive about doing it all on my own but I had over-studied the maps and routes and decided to give it a shot. The bus that takes me to the subway station passes by the end of my street. It is not a very long walk. I would be surprised if it was more than a quarter of a mile. (I wished I had remembered to wear my pedometer after I had walked around all day. By the end of the day I am sure I walked several miles. My feet are so sore!)

The bus I take to get to the subway ends at the Harvard Square subway station. That went smoothly. Harvard Square is on the red line and so I would need to change lines to the green line to get down to Copley Square, my ultimate destination. Changing lines was no big deal. You just have to remember that there are multi-levels to the Boston subway and so you might need to go upstairs or downstairs to get to the right station.

Copley Square is a beautiful park. The Boston Public Library is at one end and the Trinity Church is on the other end. The best news is that it is only one block down and one block over to get to the NEHGS. After roaming a bit, I got out my map and figured exactly where it was. I should be able to go right there next time. (The next practice run will be on Monday morning to make sure I can get there on time)

While downtown, I took a ton of pictures. I think the total count was 80 but I ended up deleted some because I had the camera settings wrong.

I walked around and followed the Freedom Trail to see many of the sights in and around the Back Bay and in the North End. The North End is a Little Italy. There are many Italian restaurants and stores. I kept expecting to see old men sitting on the sidewalk talking. I had a strawberry gelato down there. Yum!!

Among the sights I got to see were the Old North Church and Paul Revere's house. I just love all the history that's here. I was going to take a Duck tour which goes on land and water but they were sold out today. Maybe I'll do that on Monday after I complete my practice run to the NEHGS.

There were lots of people wandering around today. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised since it was Saturday. Apparently there are a lot of people in town for graduations. Several of the colleges and universities in the area are having graduations this weekend.

I met the cutest little squirrel in Boston Common. He was so friendly. He came right up to me. I think if I had food he would have eaten it out of my hand. I think I will go back and visit him again because that was where the camera was set wrong and so I don't have any pictures of him. He was so cute!!

I finally heard the famous Boston accent today too. Most people don't have it but if you talk to a subway cop or some other confirmed local, there it is. I met a crazy lady while waiting for the bus to come back home. She is Italian but has always lived in Boston. She talked about a mile a minute about anything and everything. She was about my age. She told me all about shopping and her life and her extended family and the grandson of her godparents who was graduating from Suffolk University. She just went on and on. When she found out I was from Utah, she asked me if I knew the Osmonds. Ha Ha Ha!! She also talked to a young couple from Turkey and agreed to show them how to get to the Arsenal Mall. (It's not far from my house!!). I talked to the couple as well. They are at Boston University for three months to learn English but their English is already pretty good.

One thing that I found very interesting was the number of people who went to see the many graveyards. They are all over the place down in the Back Bay and the North End. I find them fascinating but I wouldn't have thought that non-family historians/genealogists would share that fascination. There were lots of people in some of them. The old headstones were very interesting. I took several pictures. Some of the headstones date back to the 1700s.

I had a very enjoyable day despite the fact that my feet are so sore tonight. Hopefully they will feel fine tomorrow. The soreness reminds me of vacations where we would walk around all day. I was reminded of last summer when Amy and I went to Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out if I can make it the chapel without any extra detours!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Boston driving

I had my first adventures in driving the streets of Boston today. I felt like I was prepared. I had my trusty GPS system to guide me on my way. I felt like it was going to be a fairly easy proposition.

The plan was to make a simple run to the local supermarket. After looking up the address on the Internet, I entered it into my GPS and went merrily on my way. I managed to arrive safely without incident. The supermarket is located alongside the Massachusetts turnpike. Part of the store actually extends out over the turnpike. It was an interesting looking building.

After I bought my groceries, which cost quite a bit more than what they cost in Utah, I headed out to the car. My groceries were loaded into the trunk at a drive-through service. I never had to leave the car and they insist that there be no tipping. What a concept! I had done this once at Harmon's in Orem but it didn't involve driving down under the store through a drive-through tunnel.

Well I had programmed my GPS to return me safely back to my apartment. My trusty companion, she's female, with a British accent, was giving out directions but sadly she doesn't know which lanes to tell me to use. She simply says "stay right" or "stay left". I got off the freeway at the right exit and stayed to the left as instructed but unfortunately I was too far left and ended up missing my turn. (The sad thing is that I did the exact same thing yesterday when I arrived and ended up having to make a few detours) I then had to get new instructions from my GPS companion. I was motoring along and once again I was not in the right lane at the right time. I ended up back on the turnpike but this time I was past my exit. Now not only was I heading in a totally wrong direction, I had entered the toll portion of the road. It cost me $1.25 to get off the toll road and get turned back around. I finally got going in the right direction and made it home! What an adventure!

The drivers in Boston remind me of the drivers in Lima. They are only slightly more courteous. When you come up to a toll booth, there are usually 4 or 5 booths for two lanes of traffic. The problem happens when you leave the toll booth and there are 4 or 5 cars headed for two lanes of traffic. It is a free-for-all. You have to be aggressive to get your spot.

Boston drivers like to use their horns. The streets are fairly narrow and the lanes are not always well-marked. There are also some places where there is a stoplight and then not more than 25 yards away there is another stoplight. One reason I discovered for this was intersections that don't exactly intersect properly. Driving in Boston can be interesting.

I have decided that unless my trial run on the bus/subway to my job goes totally bad, I will be sticking to public transportation for my most of my inner-city travels.

Happy motoring!!

PS Later in the day I made it to Staples and back, and to a convenience store, where they sell bus passes, and back without incident.