I was getting what my mother used to call “itchy feet.” I was busy working on some course development, but I needed another day trip, maybe further afield than Baltimore. So on Thursday, August 15 I hopped the bus and Metro to National Airport, and flew on US Airways to Boston (as part of the pending merger, they offered AA employees and retirees seriously cheap standby fares; the one-way was $5, cheaper than some rides on Metro!). Landed at ten, hopped on the Silver Line bus into downtown then the Red Line subway to Harvard Square, Cambridge. I had not been in the square for nearly 40 years. Like London and many other cities, Boston has a bikeshare system, Hubway. One-day of unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less was $6 (this was shaping up to be a cheap trip!), and in no time I had registered, donned the helmet I brought north, and was wheeling through the venerable Harvard Yard. Way cool! Pedaled around the campus, then headed east on Massachusetts Avenue toward MIT.
As I wrote in a posting from Boston in fall 2012, there’s something interesting about revisiting a city you once knew fairly well, but hadn’t seen in decades (years ago, my friend since 1960, Chris MacPhail, lived in Boston and I visited often). You sort of remember the basic layout of the city, the geometry of main roads and such, but you also get surprised – later in the day, I rode past his old house in Brookline, but I was sure it used to be on the west side of St. Paul Street. Not! And sometimes you quite accidentally come upon places you remember from long ago; that morning it was a wonderful bar, the Plough and Stars, happily still in business on the corner of Mass Ave. and Hancock Street. Big smile, as I recall drinking Guinness with Chris in the mid-1970s.
Chris studied at MIT, and although I did not know the campus well back in the day, it was clear that the place had been substantially remade, with lots of new buildings. It’s dense, urban, not a lot of green, but it’s just buzzing with brainpower – it seemed like every other building had “laboratory” in its name. I returned my first bike and walked a bit of the campus. One of the first things I saw was the site where Officer Sean Collier of the MIT Police was killed by the two asshole-terrorists in April, a few days after the Boston Marathon tragedy. It was still covered with flowers and flags and signs. And I wept for him and for the many other victims. I had thought about the bombing and evil in the world several times that morning, and I wept for the young policeman and the many other victims.
I walked through Kendall Square, and at noon met an old airline friend, Webster O’Brien, who now works for a consulting firm. In the mid-1990s, Webster and I worked in American’s international planning group, and we’ve stayed in touch; he’s one of the brightest airline guys I know, and a nice fellow. We had a great lunch and a good yak. An hour later, I peeled off, picked up another bike, and rode back toward Harvard to see a bit more of the old campus, then past the Kennedy School, across the Charles River, and past the massive Harvard Business School on the south bank.
I was nearing the 30-minute deadline on the bike, so returned it to a station west of the B-school. But when I tapped the touch screen to rent another, it froze. Yikes! I was nowhere near public transit. So I tracked down the Hubway people (hooray for smartphones!), and the kind agent was able to reboot the device remotely. In five minutes I was back on two wheels. Ya gotta love remote technology. Rode east into Brookline, up St. Paul Street and down to Coolidge Corner, familiar from decades earlier. The Hubway bikes were dandy, but the saddles are built for people with different-shaped derrieres than me, and I could feel some saddle sores. Plus, as usual, I had covered a tremendous amount of ground in a short time. So I hopped on the Green Line light rail and the Blue Line subway back to Logan Airport and the 4:00 shuttle home to Washington. Just a great outing.