I am both pleased and relieved to say that Irene did not live up to apocalyptic expectations, at least in this corner of Washington, DC. The worst of it passed over here just past midnight, when the wind picked up a sufficient amount such that I could actually hear it whistling by my window, but that in itself is hardly out of the ordinary. When I wandered over to the supermarket this afternoon, everything was bright, warm, and lamentably humid again. One could hardly tell it had rained the night before, let alone that a tropical storm had skimmed past the East Coast.
I did use my copious amount of free time yesterday to work on some blog posts so that I don’t end up going on accidental week-long hiatuses again. One of the things about which I have neglected to blog is my trip to Boston earlier this month. Although I was only there for a weekend, it was the closest thing to a proper holiday that I have been able to enjoy this summer – an unfortunate, unavoidable consequence of employment. Readers who have been around for a while might recall that I ventured up to New England this time last year as well, and the purpose was the same: to see friends who had studied abroad at Oxford with me. Since a disproportionate number of them have recently graduated from Tufts, many of them are still in the general Boston area. I was never able to follow through on my plans to visit them during the academic year, so I was determined to make up for that at some point during the summer.
I know that I have previously remarked upon this, but I am constantly awed and humbled by the permanence of my Oxford experiences. They are over, of course, in the sense that I have not had to lose sleep over an essay crisis since last June – and, come October, it will have been two years since I jetted off to England – yet there is not a day that passes when I do not, if only for a few moments, immerse myself in memories of hushed college quads and silly academic dress, dream of walking through Christ Church Meadow, or wonder what would have happened if I had gone back (because there was a chance, albeit a stillborn one). There are any number of reasons for this, but the fact that I became inordinately attached to the people around me is surely one of the more prominent ones. We might not have had the opportunity to talk much during the time since, but, when the bonds of friendship are there, any such disconnect is always transient.
This time around, I stayed with Rachel and her family in Lexington, which meant that I saw more of Boston this year than I did last. Robin joined us from Rhode Island for a planned trip to the Chihuly exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, but, sadly, it was sold out. In lieu of culture, we headed over to Cambridge for cupcake consumption, shopping at Anthropologie, and general strolling about. It is a very lovely neighbourhood, even if I am slightly resentful towards its resident university, from which I have been rejected on two separate occasions. But let us not dwell on my academic bitterness!
Later on, dear Bryan, whom I had not seen since leaving Oxford, joined us for dinner at the Corner Café, where we enjoyed delicious Mexican fare and likely inappropriate conversation. Drinks followed at Tory Row; I appreciated the British-inspired name, naturally. I nearly outdid myself by having half a glass of beer.
The next morning featured an absolutely delectable brunch at Sound Bites, which, I was told, is something of a Tufts institution. It did make me deeply sad that I never found an equivalent place in Georgetown, but maybe that is inevitable when one attends university in uncompromisingly upscale neighbourhood. I am sure there was good brunch to be had somewhere, but would it have been affordable on a student budget? Not likely (please correct me if I am wrong, Hoyas both present and past). I had a fair chunk of unconstructed free time that afternoon, so I hopped on the T, filled with romantic notions of exploring the downtown area on foot as I had so many European cities.
Alas for me, the weather was wholly uncooperative – let’s just say that Boston was being hit by more than just a little fall of rain, if I may make a Les Mis reference. I braved the conditions long enough to wander around Boston Common…
…and Beacon Hill. The latter reminded me very much of Georgetown, all brick sidewalks and tony rowhouses, though with fewer tourists, I think. That is always a plus in my books.
At a certain point, I did tire of feeling like a drowned gutter rat and sought shelter in a Starbucks, where I caught up on some journal writing while attempting to coordinate meeting up with more people. Eventually, they all somehow converged at the Starbucks: Greg and Limmy from Oxford, and, more unexpectedly, Sarah, a very close friend from my high school days who recently moved to Boston. It’s always slightly jarring, at first, to have two separate social circles, but we had a very lovely time together, huddled in a nearby pub – food is clearly the unifying theme behind this entry – and chatting away until, miraculously, the skies cleared.
(Note: the soft-focus, vaguely angelic effects were entirely unintentional result of my camera lens fogging over. This is what I got for trying to take pictures earlier in the pouring rain, sigh.)
After left, Greg and Limmy provided an impromptu tour of other parts of Boston, including the North End with its unapologetically Italian character. Along the way, I managed to get at least one nice picture of the city:
The sidestreets of the North End, narrow snakes of cobblestone lined with cafés in the shadow of cast-iron balconies, seemed to be distinctly Old World and European, and it occurred to me how unusual it is, to find such history – a history diffused through the everyday, not the sterile, meticulously cultivated kind commemorated with plaques, museums, and statues – in an American city. The allure of modernity always proves stronger, or perhaps I am simply not looking closely enough.
The only downside of this trip was my return flight to DC being delayed by a number of hours, resulting in my not getting home until almost 1am, but such an inconvenience felt very minor indeed when compared to the manifold joys of my Boston adventures.