Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Boston 2004

Everything is different now.

I was born and raised in Boston, and I think it's a rather nice city. Mrs. Mac and I used to go there quite a lot, but we don't get there as often anymore. Though Boston in 2004 is very much the same city as Boston in 1994, 1984, 1974 and 1964, it is (in many respects) completely different now.

The projects where I grew-up are gone, and there is something visceral about seeing that your childhood neighborhood has been razed and replaced by modern development. No matter how many things remain the same from the rest of my memory, the disappearance of my first home makes everything different.

Boston is an easy drive, a cheap flight, a comfortable train ride away, and we should probably go more often than we do. Last Friday, I left the office early and met Mrs. Mac at Penn Station for a long weekend visit to see our families and friends in Beantown.

I find the train to be rather comfortable, and we like to take the first-class car on the Acela Express. The seats are big and the service is good and they serve a meal. Generally, the passengers are quiet and discreet, and we can have an easy, comfortable journey. It's completely different from traveling coach class on the old regional train. We sat across the aisle from two Rothschilds on this trip. He was French and rather nice, she was English and loud and pompous. She talked most of the trip and had nothing nice to say. It wasn't that witty, sarcastic English humor, either. It was bitter unhappiness about all her money and all her problems. She complained constantly about the renovation of their Boston home and I don't think she realized how vulgar she sounded going on about economizing on this and that. I almost let the incessant rambling and complaining ruin my ride; but I didn't! Amtrak's failure to provide enough meals for everyone in the first-class car irritated me, but in the end I let that roll of my back, too. So, we arrived in suburban Boston a bit hungry and a bit tired, but we arrived.

Is there anything better than a happy occasion that brings family and friends together? Sometimes I think I will only be in these large gatherings for funerals, so it is nice to come together for joyous events! This past weekend, our families had a baby shower for us, and we were, appropriately, showered with gifts for the baby arriving in a couple months.

We spent the weekend laughing and eating and drinking and carrying-on with people we haven't seen in months and years.

At the end of the party, the departures were filled with "see you soons," and "let us know when the baby is born," and "when will you visit again?" and all the pleasantries that make parting such sweet sorrow.

When leaving a party or a faraway place, do you wonder when you will see those people again? I never did. In the past, I just said these things as pleasantries, not really paying attention to the meaning of the words.

This visit was the first time it struck me that everything is different now. When our baby is born, the minor inconvenience of traveling a couple hundred miles will become a HUGE inconvenience. I have no children yet, so I only know how complicated traveling can be by watching others do it. It looks hard.

This simple event of ending a party and wishing well has become a spiritual challenge for me. When I say, "See you later," how much later do I mean? Will I be in Boston again in 2004? Do I owe it to my family and friends there to visit after the baby is born? Is it mandatory? Can I expect them to visit Brooklyn?

Everything is different now. Everything.

See you later!