Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Random Walk to Springtime

As the tree outside my 2nd floor window tries to push out its green buds into this wildly swinging weather -- 80F last week, 20F last night -- I thought I'd take you through a random walk -- not the same random walk that economists take, but the random walk  I took yesterday into Boston to visit an office near the State House.

In my mind.  Of course every random walk through space and time is also a walk through the mind's various streets and alleyways, and this one is no exception to that rule.  Each path leads to the next, each word borrows from the last (to misquote Joyce) and in the same way that it can be hard to retrace one's steps, it can be hard at times to follow the mental map too.  But I love that place where metaphor and reality meet and imitate each other too closely, and such is the nature of my blog, I suppose.  Enough of this drivel!  Here's what I saw:

Even politicians get to enjoy!
Spring is springing in Boston, and on Beacon Hill too, but it's all too early to my recollection.  Massachusetts didn't used to see it until May, if my memory serves me well.  Not even April yet, the flowers and the trees are showing their colors already.

I Don't Need This Much Room.   En route.  If the Paris Metro is at or near capacity, the T in Boston is underused, nevermind underfunded.  The Red Line, the T's highest usage line, and 100 years old last week, is empty at noon time on a Monday.  The train I'm riding in dates from 1970.  Both of these should not be the case in a city that strives to be a world-beater in today's economy.  We are trying to wean ourselves from our cars.  If this is so, then why can I witness this?

In the business, they call this "Transporting air"

Housing: How to Make a Downtown.  Downtown Crossing, Boston. I see that the city of Boston is busy putting in housing right in the heart of downtown, exactly what every doctor prescribes for the health of night-life, retail districts, vibrant urbanity.  Good for them.  Cambridge hasn't yet figured out how to make this happen.

Cambridge believes: "Tom Menino says 'housing', and it is so."

It Takes More than a Village.  Kendall Square, Cambridge.  If building buildings in the right places is good, then building the right buildings is also critical.  Urban spaces need urban places.  And urban places need good architecture.  These two buildings below, within half a block of each other in eastern Cambridge win a combined award for some of the truly most nauseating architecture of the second half of the 20th century.  The first of these two I refer to as the Death Star, harkening back to my fascination with the first Star Wars movie.  Its likeness is uncanny.  Nevermind that it houses the Cambridge Innovation Center, a place that certainly has the Force with it.  It's awful. 

Darth Vader would be proud
The second of these two buildings is the New England version of what should only exist in the terrible television shows from the late 1970s.  Dallas comes to mind. 

Nausea finds its urban form
A Meeting of the Minds!  Here now, but looking forward. Nevertheless, the truth is, there is truly nothing like spring in Boston.  The lights of Fenway will soon be on.  The sky overhead is fresh and clear, except when it's raining of course.  And two great and ancient North American cities stare each other down across the small expanse of the Charles River, batter and pitcher, meeting at the midpoint of the bridges that connect them, cradling our collective history and inventing a new future for the world.

Two trains converge, saying "I'll meet you halfway"