Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Red Sox Victory Parade

Fortuitously, I was in Boston on Tuesday and stuck around for the Victory Parade, otherwise known as the "Rolling Rally." To me, the crowd seemed bigger than for the 2004 parade, which was held on a Saturday. There were plenty of kids there, so I don't think school presented too much of an obstacle. The crowds around Boston Common were really thick so I staked out a position near the end of the route, just past City Hall.

The wait was probably close to an hour. From my vantage point, I could faintly follow along on the "jumbletron" (as Boston's mayor calls it) in City Hall Plaza. One of the first duck boats through had the Red Sox ownership on it. It waited for about five minutes right in front of us as Papelbon did his Riverdance demonstration class back at City Hall Plaza. The crowd took the opportunity to chant "Don't Sign A-Rod" and "Re-sign Lowell." Varitek would later come by holding a sign saying "Re-sign Lowell" as well.

The one tough thing with using the Duck Boats as floats is that you can really only see the players on your side of the boat, so you don't get to see everyone. I posted some of my pictures from the parade up on Flickr. Now, I've got to make up for all the sleep I lost in October and enjoy life without incessant Taco Bell commercials.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fenway before Game 2

On my way over to the Boston Public Library today, I checked out the scene at Fenway before Game 2 of the World Series. Figured that's probably the closest I'm ever going to come to seeing a World Series game in person. So I'll have to settle to hearing Boyz II Men sing God Bless America during rehearsals, weaving my way through all the satellite trucks, and watching the players on their way into the ballpark. The 2007 pennants are up already, by the way.

I camped out by Gate D where the players drive in. Pretty much everyone on the team seems to be driving an SUV with heavily tinted windows. Kind of like the company car I guess. Although a couple of guys, like Jonathan Papelbon, just seemed to show up out of nowhere and walk right in. Even walking into the ballpark the guy looks like he's all business. Just couldn't see the death stare behind the glasses.

Everyone was carting in their suitcases to hit the road to Denver after the game for their business trip.

Go Sox!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Head of the Charles

It wasn't exactly a crisp fall day yesterday for the Head of the Charles rowing regatta. With temperatures around 70 degrees, the water itself may have felt good. By 11 AM the river banks were pretty crowded, no doubt due to the weather. It was the biggest crowd I've seen in a decade of going to the regatta.

The promotional booths on the river banks near Harvard Square are always fun to check out and get some free stuff. This year, some of these booths were pretty tripped out. Best Buy had a bunch of televisions to browse. Gillette was giving people free shaves in a tent with barber chairs. Had the feel of some bad episode of The Apprentice. (By the way, this celebrity version of The Apprentice is just a joke, right?)

Great day to try and give the new camera a spin at the races. No crashes at the Eliot or Weeks bridges to chronicle this year but still some good shots. I posted them here on Flickr.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Great Brewster Island

I was out on Great Brewster Island last Sunday on a fantastic fall day. Maybe the weather had something to do with it, but I think Great Brewster may have been my favorite of the Boston Harbor Islands I visited this year. The views are absolutely amazing, and you can get some stunning pictures.

On one side of the island, facing southeast, is Boston Light on Little Brewster Island. You can get some great pictures of the lighthouse framed by the foliage on the island or the lighthouse rising behind the tall grasses blowing in the wind. Turn around, and the entire Boston skyline unfolds before you, from the Prudential Center on the left all the way to the landmark egg-shaped digesters on Deer Island on the right. It's a scene that really encapsulates what the islands are all about: teetering on the edge between the open waters to the east and the bustling city to the west.

Another great feature of Great Brewster is the very high bluff on the north side that rises to nearly 100 feet. It's a nice hike up and you can get some decent views from the top. The bluff is eroding away, and when you look at it from sea level, it looks like a giant claw carved into the hill and took out a giant chunk. You can get some neat lighting and shadows earlier and later in the day.

The seawall built along the island's shores has broken apart in spots, but it's still possible to walk along its top in some spots. Just be careful. The areas where the seawall have crumbled have some interesting tidal pools. The military used the island in World War II and you can still wander into one of the dark bombproof bunkers, but bring a flashlight if you want to see anything. (Then again, there's not much to see besides the concrete walls.)

Just as Peddocks Island has today, Great Brewster used to have some residents, but they were forced to leave when the military took over the island.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to get onto Great Brewster Island. The pier is gone, so you need to do a beach landing. I was fortunate enough to join a tour organized by the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands, and the boat was able to get right up to the beach. There will be more info in next spring's book Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

OK Boston, what does America think of us?

Travel + Leisure magazine and CNN Headline News asked Americans to rate their favorite cities, and the results are in. Overall, Boston did pretty well. People like our sports, historical sites, classical music, and notable neighborhoods. They don't care much for our affordability, barbecue, and weather. Any surprises, yet?

Voters were asked for their opinions on culture, shopping, people, food, and city characteristics for 25 American urban destinations. Of the nearly 60 categories, Boston was in the top five among visitors for:
  • Ease of getting around/public transportation (hmm..)
  • Notable neighborhoods
  • Classical music
  • Culture
  • Historical sites/monuments
  • Theater
  • Pizza
  • Intelligence
  • Worldliness
  • Antiques
  • Sophisticated getaway
  • Sports fan's vacation
Boston was in the bottom five among visitors for weather, barbecue, flea markets, and friendliness (Yeah? Screw you.).

In addition to visitors, residents ranked their cities in these categories as well. It's kind of interesting to see how we see our city's pluses and minuses compared to the rest of the country. We don't think there's much going on here after the sun sets. Residents ranked Boston 21st out of the 25 cities for after dark activities, while visitors ranked it 12th. Funny, visitors ranked Boston's weather the second-worst in the country (behind Chicago). We think they were overly optimistic. Bostonians ranked the city last for weather. The rest of the country likes us better than we like ourselves. They rated us higher in friendliness (21st vs. 24), attractiveness (16th vs. 20) and fun (18th vs. 22).

One of the fun things on the web site is to compare two cities side by side. Boston ranks behind Philly in terms of culture? (Guess that annoying Southwest Airlines commercial was right: Philly has "a lot, a lot of culture.") Yeah, well at least we aren't the least attractive people in America, Philly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Core Sample on Spectacle Island

Well, Columbus Day has come and gone and so has the 2007 ferry service out to the Boston Harbor Islands. It will start up again in May 2008, just in time for the release of the Boston Harbor Islands guidebook I'm writing.

Last Friday, I took a last trip out on the ferry to Spectacle Island. It was your typical fall weather— in Miami. It was in the upper 80s and kind of humid. Not exactly apple picking weather, but it was island weather.

One of the reasons I went out to Spectacle was to check out the "Core Sample" art project that was part of this summer's Art on the Harbor Islands exhibition from the Institute of Contemporary Art. "Core Sample" is an interactive audio walk around Spectacle Island created by Teri Rueb. It was pretty cool, since it used Global Positioning System technology to broadcast the program on headphones that I picked up at the visitors center. (Hence the photo that looks like I'm in an iPod commercial.) The sounds, inspired by the island location and its checkered history, constantly changed as I hiked around the island. There was the gentle lapping of waves, the roar of aircraft, claps of thunder, New Age music, and voiceovers from former residents of the island and a senior research scientist describing the vegetation. (At times, snoring can be heard over the voiceovers. Not sure if that's a commentary on the speakers or not.)

In a nod to the island's use as a vacation spot and an illegal gambling den in the 1850s, there is the sound of a ball coming to rest on a roulette wheel. (That's followed by a Benny Goodman tune, which would be out of date if it's still referring to those old hotels.) Cattle can be heard at times, too, alluding to the rendering operations that were based on the island in the 1800s.

I liked this audio walk. The big padded headphones really let you get into your own world. You feel secluded, just like an island itself. The sound effect studio must have been a fun place in putting this installation together.

The ICA exhibition on the islands also included an undulating sculpture designed by Office dA on Georges Island. I have to agree with this review in The Boston Globe that it was puzzling to put this sculpture in the nearly windowless powder magazine building at Fort Warren. It so dark in the building that you can barely see the translucent sculpture.

On Lovells Island, artist Anna Schuleit developed plans for a series of huge outdoor drawings etched on glass mounted in the gun emplacements of Fort Standish along with hundreds of feet of mirrors just offshore around the island. Neat ideas, but like many plans for the islands, resources were too limited for Schuleit's ideas to become reality. So the exhibit on Lovells Island consisted of drawings, proposals, and mock-ups in a yurt by the dock, more a wistful look at what could have been than an uplifting installation. Hopefully, the resources will be there sometime in the future to see these concepts realized. Installation art like The Gates in Central Park can be cool. Would be nice to see something like that in Boston.

Bostonist Bump

Got a nice mention on the Bostonist blog, on of my favorites, over the weekend on my trip up to Bruins training camp.

Friday, October 5, 2007

John Henry's Dingy's in Town

Red Sox owner John Henry's yacht Iroquois is docked over at
Rowes Wharf. Nice to see that he still has the common touch and asks guests to take off their shoes. According to Boston Magazine, when he asks his guests to remove their shoes to protect the teak deck, he gives them red socks to wear.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bruins Training Camp

I went over to the training camp for the Boston Bruins the other morning. The camp is up at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. In terms of crowds, it wasn't exactly Spring Training in Fort Myers with the Red Sox. And the temperature inside definitely wouldn't remind you of Florida. It was freezing.

There were probably 15 fans, max, in the stands. That may be indicative of the team's results in the last few years and a distinct lack of buzz going into this year. The upside of the small crowd is that you can get real close to the players. In fact, stand next to the boards and the only thing separating you at the players is a thin sheet of plexiglass and, well, talent. (And for people like me, the ability to skate.) I'm not a huge Bruins fan, so I didn't recognize too many players outside of Zdeno Chara, who towers above everyone at 6 feet 9 inches and looks even bigger in person. The lack of numbers on the practice uniforms didn't help me either.

I was there for maybe an hour before the frostbite began to be a bit of a concern. (Did I mention it was cold?) The players spent most of the time doing drills. Some of the drills were full-ice skates. On other drills, the squad was split in half with practice on both ends of the ice.

Unlike Patriots training camp, there was no $7.50 beers. Just a few vending machines near the lobby.

Today's the last day of training camp before the season starts. Not sure if the practices are open during the regular season, but you can try calling the media and fan phone number at 617-624-1910 to check the practice schedule. If you go, bring warm clothes. (Did I mention it was cold?)