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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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There's a moment in the wonderful movie Temple Grandin when Dr. Grandin, then a college student, looks down at the body of a horse she loved and says, "But where did it go?" Just like the little boy in your story. Last weekend, the great reporter James Risen posted a photo of the demolition of the Miami Herald Building, where he once worked, and said, "So this breaks my heart." Robert Frost, when asked to sum up the meaning of life, did so in three words: "It goes on."

Every Fall, I drive around Boston and the surrounding area. Every year, I swear I will avoid anything close to rush hour. Every year, I rediscover how long rush hours are.

Many people have told me how bad Boston drivers are. That has not been my experience. It's been more like "This is hopeless, we're all in it together, go ahead, merge in ahead of me." It's not like we are all in the wrong lane intentionally; they weren't marked until too late.

And I understand that the streets in old Boston started as cow paths. That doesn't seem to me to adequately explain the appallingly poor design of the newer parts, including the results of "The Big Dig". "Sure, let's merge in three entrances just before a major exit, but why bother to add half a mile of extra right lane? It'll only be creeping for a few hours, five days a week."

And the signage! Much of which is a lack of same. Makes Maine signage look good, if only by comparison.

Glad you got in one piece, on the same day you started. (Can you tell I was just driving there?)

Moose

Boston traffic? Try living here.

Traffic planning in downtown Boston amounted to paving over the cow paths from the Colonial period!

I completely agree with you about Boston traffic. The longer I live here the more I hate it. I often joke (and it's funny because it's true) that to drive around Boston it's not just enough to know the direction you're going, or even the streets you're taking, oh no...you must also know at each moment in time in what lane you must be. Woe unto (s)he who drives down the right street in the wrong lane, because (s)he will be denied the turn onto the street (s)he was planning to turn to, will be funnelled into a different street going in the opposite direction, all while being honked at by drivers all around who cannot accept anyone driving 5mph below the flow.

I used to think the lady in my GPS telling me to "stay in the left lane" was just being cutesy. In Boston you better listen to her!

Another thing, the I-93 (which you probably took North-bound to escape Boston) is always, always congested. Doesn't matter which direction, what day of the week or even what time of day. I don't understand how that can be, but it is.

I'm glad you're out of our driving hell-hole.

Please come back soon to visit!

I too enjoyed a great Nepalese restaurant this summer in Plattsburgh New York, an f stop short of the Canadian border.
The Himalaya Restaurant 78 Margaret Street, super wonderful.

I've found that most of my travelling during my working life showed me only an extremely narrow version of all the places I visited, mostly big cities. This included Boston and New York. Boston I had really liked and of course New York was always top of the list. Now, when I revisit these places and of the tourist thing my view usually changes. Boston has shot to the bottom; boring, docile, sliced by highways and a tourist but stuck on the waterside as a concession to those who want to visit. And what on earth did they do with the Boston Tea Party dock. (I know)? New York by contrast has shot even higher; it's alive, it's pushing the boundaries, it's spontaneous, friendly, people orientated. It has fantastic museums; the MOMA - you want to do a selfie in front of a "$20M Jackson Pollock - go ahead, we bought it for the people. I can only emphasise the cliche with the red heart sign.
Perhaps my liking of cities dulls my interst in the countryside - take a train ride through Switzerland and after an hour yet another view of lakes and mountains sends me to sleep. It reminds me of Bill Bryson's comment about Stonehenge, he got off the bus, looked at the stones and after 20 seconds or so he wondered what was next on the itinerary.

"All their houses are hand-built, heated with woodstoves and electrified with solar panels and house batteries."
This is a VERY good thing to do, it is an approach very respectful toward ambiental issues.
Naturally, I hope that for their half-an-hour trip to Hanover they don't use one or two big SUVs... ;)

Yeah, driving in Boston is a special art.

The highwaymen definitely made that "solve the traffic offer" in the 1960's. There were plans for three more radial freeways into downtown, terminating in an "inner belt" that would have looped the downtown area. (For an example of where such a plan did happen, see Rochester.) Much of the city would have had all the charm of the South Bronx and the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

The land for one of the freeways was cleared through Roxbury, a low-income black community. When they started taking aim at Cambridge, through a very working-class community, that's when the opposition started to mount, and eventually won. Surrender was in 1970, when Governor Sargent cancelled all the highway projects.

The highways wouldn't really have helped, all highways in Northeast cities fill to capacity, and the local roads would have been drowned by all the cars off the exit ramps. But they would have destroyed the destination in order to get there.

The money mostly went into the mass transit system, where some really improved it, and much was wasted by inept contract management. Some went into renovating old streetcars that got scrapped 6 months later. Lots of "stupid" there. (We've got a heavy patronage factor in this state.)

I was a graduate student at Dartmouth in the early 90s, so our eras there must have overlapped a bit because I remember those landmarks existing and then not existing anymore after we left.

I can't say I feel bad about Kiewit being gone. It was a terrible building.

Peter Christian's though has a place in my heart. We still use the cookbooks that they put out back in the day. And, the owner of the place for a while ran a mid-high end Italian restaurant in Hanover that taught me some of my first lessons in real food.

The Hopkins Center at Dartmouth would also bring in a large array of cultural shows. I recall being able to see Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Max Roach and others in my time there. Never had that level of opportunity in Jazz performance again, not even here in Pittsburgh where there are many more people, but not as much Jazz.

Ahem . . . a trip to the New Hampshire outback in the fall and not a single photo? On a photo blog no less? Shameful.

Seems like Austin traffic planners must have studied in Boston before working on our roadways. Just voted worst congestion in the Universe.

I recently finished reading "The Secret History" a novel by Donna Tartt set in a town just like your description of Hanover.

"they should just tear down Boston and start again, giving precedence and power to traffic planners the second time around"

Not precedence to people?

That's the problem with so many drivers, they think that congestion, pollution and crashes are all someone else's fault (and yes, I have been driving for over 30 years).

Remember - if you're not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

I loved my 8 years in Hanover, especially during the fall foliage season. Always thought it was a hoot to see the bus-loads of Bostonians coming up to see the colors. Which were, after all, achingly beautiful.

Mike,

Off topic, but you'll love this if you haven't seen it yet.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/03/magazine/01-brown-sisters-forty-years.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSum&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Rene

The trick to Boston traffic is point your nose where you wanna go & stand on it! (just like the natives do) However if you are in the Hanover area you are more or less in my neighborhood & it is some kind of beautiful right now. Welcome to New Hampshire, enjoy your stay Mike.

I used to commute to Cambridge Massachusetts from NYC in the 90s. I took the shuttle to Boston airport, then a van driven by a guy who was either insane or a genius. I think we cut through three or four parking lots, and a drive through coffee place that was really more like a private shortcut with the price of a cup of coffee as a toll. It always reminded me of the movie "The Italian Job"

Where did the tree(s) go? With a nod to singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell: "....they took all the trees and put 'em in a "Tree Museum"....Then they charged the people a dollar-and-a-half just to see 'em...."

With regard to the changing nature of your college and it's surrounds: "where did it go?" - if you were truly educated there, it went deep in your heart and has been everywhere you have been. BYU has an entry sign right outside the dorm where I lived as a matriculating freshman in 1975: "Enter to learn, go forth to serve; the world is our campus" I saw it the first time I went there 40 years ago, and it has always remained in my being. If the whole of your experience and it's memories are part of your life's mission, it's still there. :)

This is pure karma: Boston drivers get the traffic planners they deserve.

Or to abridge Sensei Donovan Leitch

The lock upon my garden gate's a snail, that's what it is.
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
...
The caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.
...
Oh Juanita, oh Juanita, oh Juanita, I call your name.
Oh, the snow will be a blinding sight to see as it lies on yonder hillside.

Having lived and driven in Boston for 21 years, I felt safer driving there than I do in Swampland, Florida USA. Once one gets a sense of the rhythm and the road etiquette, it's a fine and safe place to drive. It just takes a bit of experience to acquire the nuances.

I was told two things when I moved from Vermont to Boston. You can't get there unless you've been there (about going to a specific place) and never slow down for a yellow light.

Did Boston employ Dutch city (excuse me shity) planners. Try to navigate your way in or out of a Dutch town like Utrecht, Rotterdam or Amsterdam. Do you think it's a coincidence Tomtom (the worst manufacturer of navigation software buy Garmin or Becker instead) is a Dutch company?

Greets, Ed.

Hanover is that named after the great and proud German town of Hannover (then they should have included in N).....or did they found the town after a night of serious drinking and forgot the G?

Greats, Ed.

"It reminds me of Bill Bryson's comment about Stonehenge, he got off the bus, looked at the stones and after 20 seconds or so he wondered what was next on the itinerary."

Therefore nowadays you are shutteled back and forth to the stones and remain there for 5 minutes or so to be received by gift shop where you can spend as long as you please to buy memorials to the great occasion probably culminating in the obligatory "my freind went to Stonehenge and this is what he got me" T-shirt (and complementary mug). This is called "progres" by the Anglosaxons (you know the German tribe that was basically kicked out of Germany probably with a good reason around 500 aD) and that of course did not build the monument in the first place (that was done much earlier).

Greets, Ed.

I grew up in the Boston area, lived another ten years in Somerville (just north of Cambridge), and I still get hopelessly lost there!

The most vexing thing about street signage there is that the side streets are labeled, but the main arteries aren't! (Is this Broadway or Cambridge Street? Or Somerville Ave? Or Mystic Ave?) It's as if the locals are telling you, "Don't know where you are? Well, tough. Maybe you shouldn't be here."

The driving environment in Boston is absolutely hostile. For cyclists, it's nearly suicidal, though getting better.

(I rode my bike year round there, and it was a great way to learn The Knowledge of the local streets--the side streets, the cut-throughs, etc. Now when I go back to visit I drive like a cyclist--not along main arteries and overpasses, but on the smaller streets and back ways. Old habits die hard.)

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