Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beantown

One of the perks of being a practicing attorney is that you are forced to take a certain number of CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credits per year.  This is kind of a hassle, but when you're a low-level associate toiling away in the Biglaw ranks, it's nice to know that there's at least 12 hours a year that you won't have to be billing.  Also, it means that you can take a trip to Boston and mix business with pleasure.

Our train station is about halfway between DC and New York, so the Acela I caught was jam-packed with sharp-looking yuppies in dark power suits.  Many of them looked young enough to have been in law school the same time as I was, but their vibe was very different.  After dumping most of them in NYC, I watched as the New England of my childhood rolled by the window.  I got into Boston late Wednesday night and this is the building I woke up in:

Unfortunately, the Fundamentals of Estate Planning seminar was being held at the Ritz-Carlton on Boston Common, but for the good of the firm I was willing to stay there.  I've always been a team player like that.

Every day I'd use our 90-minute lunch breaks to wolf down some cheap food and see as much of the city as I could.  It wasn't hard--for its size, Boston was surprisingly jam-packed with sites of historical or cultural significance.  I was rushing back to the hotel and happened upon a graveyard housing the last remains of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams (always a good decision), and the victims of the Boston Massacre.

Thursday was the last night to catch the Yankees at Fenway, and I was kicking myself for not buying advance tickets.  One of the other attendees had gone the night before and said you could still get tickets from scalpers just outside of the subway station, so I decided to walk over and try my luck.  Serendipity was the hallmark of the whole trip: along the way I happened across some impressive looking architecture and took a minute for a closer look.  It was the Boston Public Library:

When I got to Fenway Park I didn't see any scalpers, but I did find a sports bar that had two tickets left.  $25 got me a spot in the SRO section overlooking home plate, and it only took me half an hour inside the ball park to find my spot.  There were sailors absolutely everywhere, white uniforms and Popeye hats and everything.  It would have been nice to sit down, but the view was great.
And here's the obligatory shot of the Green Monster.
The standing room only section had quite a few Southies, but if you're going to watch the Sox play the Yankees in Fenway Park, you might as well get the whole #%@&*^! experience.  As we huddled together in the frigid June air, it almost felt like we were one,
touching one,
reaching out,
touching me,
touching yoooouuuu-
video
I'm not kidding about the cold, incidentally.  All I had was a longsleeve shirt and I started wishing for a windbreaker almost immediately.  By the fifth inning I was genuinely cold, and then in the seventh inning it started to rain.  Then the Sox beat the Yankees, so the misery was mostly worth it (just like rooting for the Red Sox generally).

The next day for lunch I got some seafood across from the New England Aquarium and then took a hurried look at the HarborWalk.
Exploring a city by foot is infinitely more interesting than any other mode of transport, but it would have been fun to take an amphibious ride in one of the ubiquitous Duck Tour buses.
Throughout my trip, I kept seeing people I thought I recognized from law school.  Finally I figured it out--Boston's demographics tip so heavily in favor of twenty-something students that I was simply not used to seeing so many young faces.  No wonder Boston is such a cool hangout--fill the city up with the young, privileged, and unattached, fund them with the wealth of upper-middle class parents, and you have the makings for a pretty awesome local economy.

Friday night the weather finally cleared up and all was well in Boston Common.
Then I went slumming in Beacon Hill,
And saw the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Public Garden,
And walked across the world's smallest suspension bridge.
I passed by Louis Boston, but didn't know what it was at the time.  Apparently I will have to buy my Brioni suit somewhere else.

My co-worker insisted that I had to pay my respects to the Bull & Finch Pub--the original "Cheers" on which the show was based, but I figured I wouldn't have time to see everything and wasn't going to go out of my way to see all the tourist traps.  On Friday night I was heading back toward the hotel and stopped on a street corner to call home and say goodnight to the kids.  As the call was winding down, I looked up to get my bearings and you can probably guess where I was standing:
Tecumseh was there and everything.

I looked over at the end of the bar, but I think Norm was getting over an illness or something, because he had lost a LOT of weight.
The seminar went for half of Saturday, but I booked the redeye home so that I'd still have the better part of the day to sightsee.  Nearly half that time seemed to have been spent waiting in line to see Old Ironsides.  Going on a Saturday was probably my first mistake, but it was my only chance to see the ship.  Once I found out that the USS Constitution was the model for the Acheron in Master and Commander I had no choice but to see it.  (Little known fact: in the original novel the formidable enemy ship is not only American-built, but American itself.  American audiences probably found it easier to root for the British when their quarry was French.  Good call, Hollywood.)
After having seen the pictures, I was a little disappointed that the USS Constitution was de-masted.  The guides explained that having the sails up while docked put too much of a strain on the aging ship, although the sails do go up for an annual turnaround cruise.  Not too shabby for the oldest commissioned ship still afloat.
As a commissioned ship, all the guides were Navy personnel on active duty.
As the picture shows, the hull was, in fact, two feet thick at the waterline.  Hence the cannonballs bouncing off the hull, hence the nickname.
The ship could carry over 50 guns, each weighing as much as an SUV.
I managed not to smack my forehead in the cramped berth.
After the shipyard I had just enough time for a trip up to Harvard Square, where I tried to imagine what life would have been like if my test scores had been higher.  (I failed.)
Another disappointment: despite what you may have heard, there is no place to pahk your cah.
Harvard's famous Statue of The Three Lies.  It wasn't till I got on the train that I found out you are supposed to rub his shoe for luck.  Good thing I kept my big Chinese earlobes.
Memorial Hall was beautiful but the fading sunlight was on the wrong side.  Something important must have been going on because elegant eveningwear kept pouring in through the stained glass doors and when I went for a closer look the ushers closed them in my face.
I capped off the trip with a bibliophilic visit to the Coop, then hurried to catch my late-night train.  By the end I was worn out and quite happy to run home to hearth and family, but it'll be nice to find another excuse to go back to Beantown.  A "pleasant place to get away from," indeed.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father Extraordinaire


I haven't completely gotten comfortable with the blog format, going public with my thoughts for all to see.  S. has encouraged me to, but I guess I'm shy.  Today, though, I'll try it in honor of my honey.  Here are all the ways S. is such an excellent father (and husband).

He's silly.  We have a saying in our house, that dads are silly and moms are crazy.  I've found it to be a pretty useful generalization...but S.'s silliness has served us very well.  His discipline methods are much better than mine because they're silly where mine are just angry or impatient.  He puts on his "pigu-kicking foot" whenever the kids are recalcitrant in doing what we ask (pigu is Chinese for bum-bum) and reads them hilarious alternative versions of their favorite bedtime stories.  I've tried to duplicate his technique, but fail utterly to come even close to his silly genius.

He's creative.  I need to be a little better at giving him the time and leeway to pursue more of his ideas, because they're nearly always wonderful.  Hanging on our bedroom wall is a beautiful mirror that he etched for a Valentine's Day years ago.  He hand-stenciled the inscription, cut the design out of contact paper,  applied the etching cream, all by hand and the result is really well-done and very personal.  One of these days I'll stop demanding that he do mundane things like fix toilets and let him make the solar oven he's been dreaming of...


He's observant, without being outspoken -- which makes his opinions very well-thought out and worth seeking.  He has the ability to see different points of view.  He has learned to notice and interpret my needs, sometimes before even I catch them.  In terms of the kids, it makes him an excellent teacher, always fitting the message to the capabilities of each child.  I especially value how observant he is in spiritual matters, a person very receptive to those little feelings that can make such a difference in our lives.


He's a team player.  He's a huge positive influence in our family, setting an example by always being willing to pitch in and work hard, with a smile.  For instance, we still have only one car, which means that we  Do  Everything  Together.  Sometimes our overlapping schedules make for some strain in the transportation department, and he has to put up with a carful of cranky kids going somewhere he wouldn't really have needed (or wanted) to go himself, but he's a great sport.


Last but not least, he's tender.  Not a quality you'll hear much about in the media, but I think this is what bumps S. up from being a good father to being a great one.  He has compassion, a soft heart, and a generous nature.  And yes, as he mentioned in a previous post, he does indeed shed tears easily when he, say, watches An American Tail or reads The Road or anything to do with fatherhood.


Here's to fatherhood and one excellent dad!  

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Koala Kids


I intended to post about something else entirely, but then today on our Sunday traipse through the state park, we got this marvelous shot:

Priceless.