after yesterday

It is difficult to begin.

Not being directly affected by the explosions, I found myself today shaken but not fractured, and overcome with a heightened sense of consideration.

Despite an inner voice imploring me to avoid crowded areas and public transit, I went to work like I would on any other Tuesday. I rode the train through a dark and lifeless Copley Station, still closed after yesterday’s events. The train seemed to slow as we passed, perhaps out of respect. With the platform empty and unlit, the windows became mirrors and we passengers saw only ourselves. For one reason or another it was discomforting and I wasn’t the only one to direct my eyes upward, as if we could see through the top of the train and picture the devastation above as we glided safely underneath it all. The ride felt quieter than ever before, but eerily similar to every other day.

I feigned smiles at the soldiers posted outside my final destination, both thankful and weary of their presence. I walked through the park, past the yellow tape and news vans, past the army tents and lines of police vehicles parked on the grass. I floated about my day noticing small occurrences, which on any other day may have seemed ordinary, even mundane – a man crying in the park, a woman shouting scripture from atop a staircase to an audience of no one. I listened as I shuffled by, disagreeing with her words but empathizing with her conviction.

I have watched the videos and read the stories and flipped through the pictures a thousand times. The crumpled faces of familiar shops and store fronts. The bent metal and broken glass. The litter. The sidewalks I recently frequented, now stained with violence. I wonder if I will ever see them in the same light or walk them again. I rarely use the word surreal to describe my experience, but I have never before been given such an awful occasion.

I want to speak about everything. I feel compelled to compose my thoughts, but I refuse to make assumptions, point blame, or comment on race, creed, or politics. I want to express compassion to those who have lost and are currently suffering, and gratitude to those who continue to give. It is so very easy to feel your faith in humanity slip in these moments. I beg you, please do not let it go. Take pause and notice the sheer number of people who have answered this crisis with kindness. After yesterday, there are heroes on the streets of Boston and their spirit is astounding.

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First impressions of Boston

Like nearly all youngsters who grew up in a small rural community, I dreamed of one day living in a big city, if only for a short while.  Finally, that day has come and here I am sitting comfortably on my new apartment floor in Boston, Massachusetts. I say my new apartment floor because I haven’t yet been able to purchase a sofa. The logistics of getting a sofa up four flights of stairs in a building built during a time when people were significantly smaller, is daunting to say the least. Perhaps a bean bag would be nice. I would like to present to you now, the first impressions of Boston as seen through the eyes of a guy who grew up at the end of a dirt road in a town with less than a small handful of people.

Boston is a fantastic city on the whole and is a very easy place to assimilate into quickly. Unlike many other metropolitan areas I have visited and meandered through, Boston has a very relaxed and mellow feeling to it that is reminiscent of a much smaller town. I get the feeling that even though I am lost 85% of the time, I am not burdening anybody by being so, unlike New York City and Chicago. Boston seems welcoming to lost people. In fact, I think that most of the people who live here are lost.  This could be due to the huge influx of college students. Hardly anybody seems to actually be a native Bostonian. We are all lost and dependent on the person next to us to be only slightly less lost than we are. Just yesterday I discovered a whole new neighborhood only a short walk from my apartment. This ability to rediscover parts of my immediate surroundings on a regular basis is fascinating to me. I think that by the age of 14 I knew exactly where everything in my entire home County was located and how long it had been there. Discovering something new in your own backyard only happened when a building was demolished or a new lot developed, and this rarely happened. I can still remember the order in which our four stoplights were installed, and I still don’t understand why the fourth one is there. But in Boston I could discover something new and unique every fifteen minutes. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to visit Boston for an extended period of time, let me impart upon you some useful information I have learned in my first week.

 

1. Like anywhere else, don’t talk to someone if they are already involved in a full-fledged conversation with themselves or a sign post, and if they intently ask you if you are “keeping it real?”,  just say yes.

2. If you rent an apartment on the top floor of a walk up, choose your furniture wisely. That stand up gun-safe can stay home.

3. Never just jump on a train because it is about to depart and you are panicking. You would be surprised how long it can take you to realize what direction you are going.

4. Never reach into your pockets while riding on the subway during rush hour. You may accidentally reach into someone else’s pocket. Nine times out of ten this is an unpleasant and awkward experience.

5. Don’t tease a Bostonian about their accent. They are likely to hit you hard enough that you’ll start tahhking like them.

6. The food and drink scene in Boston is amazing. I can throw a rock from my fire escape and hit any style of cuisine, except Mexican, for that I’d have to throw a rock to Mexico.

7. If you visit Boston in the summer, prepare for a mix of heat and humidity that will cause your sweat to sweat.

8. Don’t bother driving. Public transit and your feet can get you anywhere you want to go (Buy comfy insoles). Plus, I have personally witnessed at least four accidents this week. (Anybody want to buy a Tacoma?)

9. Know that Allston looks and feels as if all control of the neighborhood was relinquished to the 21 year-olds of the world. Creative, fast-paced, friendly, diverse, and somebody didn’t pick up his room and smokes too much.

10. Come play with our apartment’s buzzer, it is awesome. I guarantee that I will call you Bosworth or Bitterman over the intercom and encourage you to pour my afternoon tea.

 

There are a thousand and one other things I could tell you about Boston, like how wonderful it is to stroll through The Commons at dusk or walk under the Green Monster during a Red Sox game, but I don’t want to sound like a tourist book. All-in-all, Katie and I are thoroughly enjoying our new lives in Boston and learning more about it every day. For all of you who are thinking about visiting us, I can comfortably say that we can show you a good time. For those of you already out here in Boston, you should either be my friend or offer me a job.

Cheers.

Matt

Home is

In finally reaching the destination our minds and hearts have been set on for months now, I can’t help but reflect on our journey and what it means to be sitting here now. I am currently twelve stories above Cambridge looking over the greater Boston area and struggling to convince myself that everything I can and cannot see below me somehow rests under the simple title of ‘home.’ I am more than three thousand miles away from anything that I have previously regarded as home. Tomorrow I will be given the key to an apartment I have never seen before with the intention of transforming that unknown place into Home. In our month long journey across the country we have been welcomed into countless homes and told to make ourselves ‘at home.’ On the occasion of staying with Katie’s family and relatives, we were told “Mi casa es su casa.” Countless family members have reminded us to come home and that they will visit once we make a home for ourselves. For a large portion of the previous few weeks, our home has been a 2004 Toyota Tacoma and we have been consistently referring to Highway-90 as home base. Never have I imagined a word with more fluid of a meaning than that of ‘home.’

Now, mere hours away from crossing the threshold into our new apartment and our new home, I would like to take a brief moment to thank everyone who has helped us along the way. To all the friends, family members, siblings, parents, loved ones, acquaintances, bumped-into strangers, fellow campers, and household pets that took us in, comforted us, sheltered us, entertained us and fed us, we would like to extend our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude. To the new found friends, co-workers and colleagues that we have met in the past few days in Boston, we would also like to extend our genuine thanks for accepting us into your great city and making us feel like we truly are at home.

Cheers.

Matt