Measured Extravagance

2001-06-21 - 2:11 a.m.

[Continued from part 3 of my ramblings about Boston. See part 1 if you want to start at the beginning...]

After the curtains closed on Thésée, I caught the T to a chain hotel in Dorchester. The area was charmless but the room was fine - I bought a bag of chips, brewed a pot of decaf, mused upon the animated beauty (both physical and vocal) of Ann Monoyios (the soprano who'd played Venus and Dorine in the opera, and sung Zélide in La Guirlande Thursday night), and read the rest of the Globe before giving in to sleep.

Kale had suggested that I check my luggage at the airport in the morning, and that had sounded like an excellent idea, so I took the 7 a.m. shuttle to Logan and joined the queue at the curbside counter. The handler first told me it was too early for them to take baggage for my 8 p.m. flight, but as I plodded away, he then changed his mind and called me back to the counter. "I'll hold these for you," he said, "and if you decide to take an earlier flight--" "Not a chance," I said. "But IF you decide to take an earlier flight..." I thanked him and tipped him and moved on to the outbound Massport shuttle stop, taking the T back to Government Center.

The last time I was at Government Center, it was an autumn evening, and the plaza was jammed with students and townies taking in a free concert by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. On this almost-summer morning, it was deserted - a man sleeping on one of the long steps, another tourist studying an information panel... I strolled to King's Chapel, to make sure I could find it again at 11 a.m., and then followed the red paint-and-brick trail past Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market to Union Street. I sat on a bench opposite the two statues of James Michael Curley and finished my coffee, and then walked up to the Holocaust Memorial and gazed at the pebbles on top of the plaque at the southern end of the memorial. At the northern end, the top of plaque bore not only a loose array of stones but many shreds of bark - there is no gravel on the grounds of the memorial, you see.

I was glad that I chose to visit the memorial at that hour - the sky was overcast, the air not quite warm, and very few other people about: a man sleeping on a bench several feet away, a jogger stretching by the Pastor Niemoller quotation, and another visitor who walked up to the discreetly-placed pamphlet box after I'd pried it open to take a copy. It was a luxury to be alone as I absorbed the names and quotations engraved on the walls and on the heavy stone tiles that formed the "floor" of the memorial.

Afterwards, I returned to Quincy Market, purchased the Sunday Globe, and settled myself on a bench near the statue of Samuel Adams, reading the paper and watching the square begin to fill up with other visitors. At 10:30, I turned my steps back towards King's Chapel, accepted a Chinese fan from an usher, and seated myself in pew 80 for Morning Prayer.

Coincidentally, the service celebrated the 315th anniversary of King's Chapel, so the sermon covered some of the early history of the church, and they inducted two new members into the congregration. Unlike Natalie (whom I do thank for recommending it), I can't say I would make it my regular church if I lived in Boston - not because it isn't lovely, for it is, but because of theological differences - I would not be able to participate fully in its rituals as a non-Christian (amongst other things, the ceremony for new members requires the congregation to profess their collective belief in Christ).

To be precise, King's Chapel is independent rather than Unitarian Universalist in orientation - to quote its prayerbook, it is "unitarian Christian in theology, Anglican in worship, and congregational in government." Once I read this, the program made much more sense - it looked awfully Trinitarian at first glance, what with "The Second Sunday After Whitsunday" right after the date, and the phrase "through Jesus Christ" in epigraph and one of the printed responses. That's Father, Son and Holy Ghost, all right there in the program.

That said, I do enjoy Anglican ritual - I just keep silent during the portions concerning Jesus Christ. (Hymns are exempt. Yes, it's an illogical distinction - I suppose you could say that words matter more to me when they are spoken than when they are sung...) There was a new-to-me variant of the Doxology in the program that I rather liked:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow:
Praise him, all creatures here below:
Praise him, ye heavenly hosts above:
Praise him, my soul, for all his love.

After the service, I purchased some of the books about the history of the chapel (wanting to learn more about James Freeman, I am), poked around the cemetery next door for a bit, and then stood at the front gate reading until Kale walked up for our 1 p.m. rendezvous. We then spent the next couple of hours wandering in and around the streets of the North End. The first time the rain poured down, we ducked into a cafe and split a zucchini, artichoke and Gorgonzola sandwich between us (verdict: the Gorgonzola overpowered the zucchini, but it was still good). When the rain appeared to let up, we ventured outside again and started towards the U.S.S. Constitution - there wasn't time to take the tour, but it's a fine ship to look upon, and I enjoyed the walk, in spite of the weather: Kale chivalrously tried to shield me from the worst of the elements both by sharing his umbrella and by walking on the side of traffic, but the sprays created by the passing cars were large enough to drench both of us. Kale couldn't resist several bars of "Singin' in the Rain" and I retorted with the opening of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

As we squished our way up Hanover Avenue, I muttered to Kale, "I'm going to have to come back just so that your last impression of me isn't that of a drowned kitten." Kale responded with "I'm more worried about the kitten catching pneumonia, at this rate," and steered me into Mike's Pastry for cover. Inside the doors, I squeezed rain out of my hair and shook it off of my arms and grinned ruefully at Kale, who said "If it makes you feel any better, you look quite good when you're soaked."

Kale had invited his friend Michaela to join us for the afternoon - she had spent the morning auditioning for a spot on "The Weakest Link," and was still at the studio at 1 p.m., but promptly met us at 4 p.m. for dinner at Giacomo's - seafood linguini with Fra Diabolo sauce, grilled sea bass with haricots verts (don't know what they're called in Italian), and a bottle of Montepulciano. Then we moved to another cafe with antique appliances in the window for coffee and rum ba ba, and then they walked me back to the Government Center Station and we said our goodbyes before I walked down to the Blue Line and they remained on the platform for the Green.

[And the story continues. . .]

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