Bite out of Boston, Number One.

25 Jul

This is a journey.

A journey into the underbelly of Boston’s culture, and its place in my own belly.

A journey that begins with a TSA line longer than a ride at Disney World, and with no costumed attendants. It ends in a basement in Harvard.

A journey that’s loaded with sights, but above all else, a journey that taught me to think beyond the sights.

And one that cannot be jammed into one essay. People have jobs. Including me. So I’ve taken a recent trip to Boston and tried to do as much justice as I could by putting it into multiple parts.

I left the Charlotte area early on Thursday morning, and my first introduction to the city of Boston was actually a lesson in the MBTA. It’s a network of subway stations, bus stops, transfers, ticket swipes, and in a way, traveling around the city reminds me of the way Allied forces “hopped” from Pacific islands during World War II.

This is imprinted into my retinas

The subway is split into five threads: the Red, Green, Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. I stayed in Arlington Heights (on the Northwestern end, near Cambridge), so we took the Red and Green lines for everything but the airport. The Silver is a direct vein to the heart of Logan International Airport.

You get a scannable Charlie ticket to put into a terminal at each station’s entrance. Swipe, walk through a guillotine-like queue, and you’re more or less on your way. The ticket works like an account card, so you can always add money back onto it. Luckily, I never ended up with an excess amount.

Traveling around on public transportation has its experiences and its characters. The weird and the obscure flock to the subway or the bus, and every minute and outburst is enjoyable, or at least story-worthy.

A Jamaican driver marveled at how people from my state don’t pay for anything (have you seen our education though?) and a 28-year old man explained his junkie plight to anyone that could possibly hear (I’m a loser that’ll probably end up dead, but if I had a sign that read “Help Me Get Drunk,” I’m sure I’d get help.)

Lighter and less politically charged moments happened, too. Game-bound Red Sox fans squeezed us in and shared a pie-sized love. First timers to the city verbally expressed what I was too reserved to say (“Next stop is the Museum of Fine Arts? I’ve wanted to hear that for a really long time.) In all of this, I realized that the subway is a meeting place or melting pot of people, and that I underestimated my grip on the Spanish language.

Conversations aside, the sensory parts of the subway will stick to you more than the germs from the hand rails. The train is a winnowing snake, and the burrowing in the tunnels sounds like a huge group of tennis shoes scraping a gym floor.

Even though it’s schmaltzy, some truth lies in the sentiment “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” For that, I have the people of Boston to thank.

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