After all the travelling we did in the last quarter of 2008 and in January of 2009, I, the homebody, was really ready to enjoy a few months with nowhere to go. But "the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley," and in this case I'm thrilled.

Ever since we moved away from Boston, I'd been waiting for Porter to get a job assignment back there so I could stay with him while doing research at the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library on Newbury Street.  He's been all over the country, but never to Boston...until now.

Last week there was an important class being held just outside of Boston, which Porter wanted to attend.  Unfortunately, IBM has had a freeze on educational travel for quite a while.  There's a way to appeal for an exception, but the process can take time.  In this case, Porter learned at 5:00 on Friday afternoon that if he would take care of the airfare and car rental, and do what he could to save money on hotel and meals, he could go.  That meant leaving in less than 48 hours!  He's used to travelling on short notice (though not usually that short), and I guess it's a testament to how much more travelling I've been doing myself recently that I was able to manage it as well.  Those of you who know me know that flexibility and decision-making are not my strong points, but how could I pass up a trip to Boston (even mid-winter) when I could fly on his Southwest companion pass, stay in his hotel, and spend a week at my favorite library?

We even managed to fit in our weekend commitments, such as dinner with friends (Friday), a gardening class at Leu Gardens (Saturday), and church (Sunday), without panicking over preparation time missed.  We managed to get two of the last seats on the one Sunday flight still available, and were winging our way to Providence while most of the rest of the country was celebrating Super Bowl Sunday.

One friend asked if we purchased our winter clothes for the trip.  We didn't, but it was fun remembering that both the boots and the gloves had come from Boston in the first place.  :)  Despite the heavy clothes, we still managed to fit everything into carry-on luggage only—further evidence of having had more air travel experience.  We're not up to Rick Steves' standards yet, but much better than we were.

I've used this post as an opportunity to learn a bit about making my own interactive Google maps, so you can see some of the locations and travel routes here.


View Larger Map

Porter's class was in Bedford, which turns out not to be convenient to any part of Boston's good public transportation system.  No hotel approved by IBM was within walking distance of a reasonable station, so Porter graciously braved the Boston rush hour traffic to transport me to and from the Anderson/Woburn RTC station on the Lowell line.  The Anderson RTC is relatively new—too new to be on any of the maps we had from when we lived there—spacious, pleasant, and warm. The last feature turned out to be particularly important this week, for although the temperatures had moderated from the bitter cold snap of the week before, this Florida girl still finds below-twenty temperatures a bit nippy.

On our way from the Providence airport to Bedford, we drove through Norwood, checked out our old apartment (they've built a whole new house in the formerly-vacant lot next door) and other landmarks, and ate at the Thai Thani restaurant:  it's small but pleasant, and one of our favorite in-town places to eat when we lived in Norwood.  Because of the Super Bowl we were the only customers.

Our first hotel, a DoubleTree, was only a few minutes from the class site, but Porter found a Radisson in Chelmsford for $50 less per night.  For Diamond members like Porter, Hilton properties often provide enough gratis food for both breakfast and dinner, so we had thought we might justify the more expensive hotel by saving on food expenses.  However, this was definitely not that kind of DoubleTree.  The breakfast was okay, though nowhere near the sumptous fare of the DoubleTree we stayed at in Scotsdale, Arizona.  But dinner?  We made one meal out of the potato chips, cookies, and oranges that were provided, then packed our bags and moved to the Radisson.  As it turned out we also saved a little on meals there, though the hotel provided nothing, because from then on we skipped breakfast in order to get me to the train station before the notorious Boston rush hour traffic became totally unbearable.

Monday—while we were still at the DoubleTree—I spent in our hotel room, because the NEHGS library is closed on Mondays.  True, there's plenty more I could have done in Boston, but it was good for Porter to be able to concentrate totally on preparing for his class instead of driving me around, and good for me to have a full day to prepare for the rest of the week.  I spent the day glued to the computer, flipping between my database and the NEHGS Library catalog, making a list of the resources that I thought might be helpful.  Having neglected genealogy for the better part of the past year—and knowing that even with four days ahead of me there would never be enough time to begin to cover all I wanted to—I needed to maximize my efficiency.  Besides, the intensity of diving into my work as soon as Porter left the hotel and not coming up for air till he returned was good preparation for the following days.

After breakfast on Tuesday Porter took me to the station, where I bought my tickets and climbed aboard the commuter train to Boston. Natsukashii!  When we lived in Norwood I would take the Franklin Line into Back Bay or South Station, but the Lowell Line into North Station was similar enough.  There have been some changes since our time, however: the subway tokens have given way to a more modern, card-based fare system.  At North Station I purchased a 7-day unlimited subway pass; for the number of rides I actually took I didn't quite get my money's worth, but the flexibility made the $15 purchase worthwhile.

The Green Line T was always my least favorite of Boston's subway lines, and that's one thing that hasn't changed.  But my first ride was pleasant enough.  As I exited the Copley station I was blessed by gently falling snow.  By evening the snow was not such a blessing, but it made for a very pleasant walk to the library.

It seems incredible that it was four years ago I wrote the following:

[Li'l Writer Guy] rather likes to imagine he’s seated in some academic cloister, inhaling the intoxicating scents of polished wood, leather, and books old and new. On the table before him are the paraphernalia of his profession: stacks of books, pads of paper, writing implements, bookmarks, his laptop computer. Lost in thought, he stares out the window, but he’s not seeing the cityscape. Now and then he rises, and paces between the table and the stacks. At the end of the day, he reluctantly packs up, puts on his coat, and steps into the outside world, blinking owlishly and realizing dimly that time has not stopped for others as it has for him. (Any resemblance of Li’l Writer Guy’s fantasy land to the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library is not coincidental.)

And yet my return to that fantasy land might have been after an absence of a mere week, had not the photocopy system changed in the interim so that my card was no longer good and I lost whatever value had been stored in it.  I'm sure it was less than $5, however, so I wasted no time on regrets but set right to work.

The above description pretty much covers it.  I set up my computer at a desk on the sixth floor, now thoughtfully equipped with surge-protected power strips and free wireless internet access.   Occasionally I stopped to admire the falling snow out the window, but mostly tripped back and forth among the desk, the stacks, and the copy machine.  The main difference between imagination and reality is that in the fantasy version there is plenty of time and I'm not desperately scooping up as much data as I can carry.  Someone asked me what, in particular, I was researching.  The answer is, nothing in particular—and yet everything.  By virtue of the power of exponential expansion, a mere 10 generations back gets one person over 1000 ancestral lines to investigate.  Perhaps someday I'll come to the library for the purpose of doing an intense investigation of one or two questions, but for now I'm still at the stage where there are hundreds of books that might shed light on my family.

At about 4:50 the lights began to flicker, and I realized that I was off by an hour in thinking the library closed at 6:00.  I sent Porter a hasty Pidgin message and scrambled to pack up.  Reversing my morning's travels, I ended up back at the Anderson station where I had a fairly lengthy wait for Porter to arrive, as the beautiful snow had turned into a storm sufficient to snarl the already dense rush hour traffic.  Since by the time we arrived at our new hotel Porter had been driving in the dark and the snow for over an hour, we elected to eat dinner at the hotel dining room and then crash into bed.  It was a portent of things to come—so much for the plans I had had to accomplish things unrelated to genealogy in the "off hours."

On Wednesday we wasted no time on breakfast, but went straight to the train station.  The traffic on 495 was fine, but we weren't on 93 very long before it slowed to a crawl.  I made the 8:30 train, however, and was soon picking up where I had left off so hurriedly the day before.  Most of this day was devoted to one particular line of Porter's, and I believe I made an interesting and exciting discovery, but I'll say no more yet because there's still work to do before I'm satisfied of its authenticity.  The library is open till 9:00 on Wednesdays, so I stayed late, though not till closing.  The traffic was much better, due to both the later hour and the improved weather—although it was quite cold (in the teens), the roads were clear of Tuesday's snow.  We ventured across the street from the hotel for some decent, though not spectacular, Chinese food at Hong & Kong's before collapsing into bed once more.

Thursday we left a little earlier, and the traffic was so much better I caught the 7:38 train.  A good thing, too, as the rest of the trip was delayed, first by the breakdown of a train ahead of us, then by multiple breakdowns on the Green Line.  By the time a Green Line train came there were so many people waiting that the trip would have made a sardine claustrophobic.  As we approached the Arlington station I remembered having looked at the map and wondered why the NEHGS travel directions specified going to the Copley station instead of Arlington, so I happily exited the car one stop early and found that it was, indeed, a better choice.  I walked into the library two minutes after it opened and once again set to work.  The day was pretty much the same except that I didn't even notice this time that I'd missed both breakfast and lunch, I was working so intently.

At closing I took a different path, walking to the Back Bay station where I caught the Franklin line to Norwood.  That would have been really natsukashii except that the train was so crowded I had to stand up the whole way, making it impossible to look out the window and wax nostalgic as we passed the old, familiar stations.  The reason for this trip was to visit some friends from our Norwood church.  Porter joined us soon after I arrived, and we had a great time re-connecting.  If I have any regret about this trip it is that we did not have time to see several other people we would like to have visited.  Guess we'll have to come back.  :)

Friday was the last day, and a short one as Porter's class ended at 3:00.  Although the Green Line was still delayed, I arrived at the library before it opened, so I ordered a cup of tea at TeaLuxe across the street, which our friend Madeline had introduced me to at one of my first visits to the NEHGS.  After that it was full speed ahead once more.  There wasn't enough time; there never is.  But I was ready to leave, feeling saturated with data and having $46.75 worth of copied pages to digest upon returning home.  (My original plan had been to enter the newly-acquired data each night after dinner, but that went by the board the very first night.  I have many weeks' worth of work ahead of me.)

If my goodbyes to the NEHGS were a bit on the sentimental side, my Green Line farewell was made with much less reluctance.  At least on my part—the T itself was perhaps unwilling to let me go, as five trains came in the outbound direction before one going my direction.  At least that one was going as far as North Station.  Part of my quarrel with the Green Line on previous days was that most of the rush hour trains went only as far as Government Center, two stops before North Station.  I never did see a train that would have taken me beyond that; what those going to Science Park or Lechmere were supposed to do, I don't know.  At any rate, this one—so crowded I rode just inside the door, well in front of the while line everyone is supposed to be in back of, and hoping no sudden jerk would impel me out of the car—did get me to the station, where I caught my final Lowell train.  This time when he picked me up at Anderson, Porter took 128 to the Mass Pike, thence to 395 and 95 and finally to Old Saybrook for a delicious dinner with PJS and B&A.  If the primary purpose of this trip was for Porter's class, and the secondary for my genealogical research, the most important one was to visit family.  We spent Friday night in Granby with DSTB, where we delivered a box full of the most amazing and diverse collection of bottle caps that ever thrilled a nine-year-old boy.  We all had fun sorting them on the kitchen table.

We were joined Saturday by PJS for a day of game playing.  Of course Uncle Porter and the boys played PlunderChess and Lord of the Rings Risk, but I really enjoyed Hoopla.  Another highlight was attending a Suzuki cello group lesson at the Hartt School of Music. After dinner we headed for Salem, where we really had time for nothing but a night's sleep, going back to Saybrook early in the morning for the 8:00 service at Grace Episcopal Church.  We checked out a few things related to our upcoming marriage celebration, and truly enjoyed meeting and hearing the rector, Father Charles.  It's a beautiful church.  We had chosen the 8:00 service because it was Rite I, and because we had a brunch date at 10:00, but unlike our church's Rite I service, this one had no music at all, which made it feel a lot less like worship.  Perhaps this summer we can attend a later service.

I loved experiencing the cold and snow of Boston, and I loved even more the weather gift of this day: a touch of spring.  The sun was out and the temperatures above freezing, so ice was melting and the ground gave out the most delicious scent of warming earth.

After brunch and some more visiting time—though again not with everyone we wanted to see—it was time to drive back to Providence and catch our Southwest flight home.  We walked in the door about 8:30, exhausted and happy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 9, 2009 at 8:32 am | Edit
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Li'l Writer Guy in Paradise
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Date: September 6, 2009, 7:42 pm