Saturday, May 30, 2009

Things I'll miss about Boston (part I of what I'm sure will be many)

I've been so caught up in preparing to move to Virginia and go back to school that I haven't really spent much time thinking about (or appreciating) everything in Boston lately. However, on Thursday, I went to go see the Boston Pops. I assume you've all seen the whole "Pops Goes the Fourth" thing on CBS on 4th of July each year, because really, it's soooo much better than the broadcast from DC (plus it's super cool to go camp out on the Esplanade for the day to see the thing live), but for those of you who are neither patriotic nor orchestral buffs, an overview of the Pops is here. The guest conductor for the performance on Thursday was John Williams (you know, he's the guy who wrote the music for Star Wars, ET, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Superman, Schindler's List, Jaws, the Sunday Night Football theme, the music for the Olympics that NBC always plays, that Air & Simple Gifts song played at the Obama inauguration, etc.). Sorry, I think I may have gotten a little carried away with the links there. But the man is a legend, and I think everyone should appreciate that. Humph. Anywho...the concert was amazing; Williams was conducting the Pops through a Film Night program that featured music from several of the movie scores he's done, so it was music that even folks who don't generally go to the symphony or Pops concerts or anything of that ilk would appreciate. Stanley Donen, former choreographer and musical director at MGM was also a special guest (I didn't know this either, but he's the "King of the Hollywood Musical," i.e., the guy who directed folks like Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain and Fred Astaire in the famous dancing on the ceiling scene in Royal Wedding.) Donen is literally the most adorable, scrappy little old man I have ever seen, and he and Williams and the Pops did this really cool thing in which Donen and Williams would talk about a particular scene in a movie musical, and then they would play a clip from the film on a big screen so the audience could see it, and then as the film clip showed the actors and the dancing, Williams would conduct the orchestra to play the "background music" to the film. It was SO COOL because he was so spot-on in conducting the live music exactly in time with the movie. And I doubt that was an easy feat given the dancing and all that...maybe it sounds easy to read the description, but it was really amazing in person, and you could tell it was meant to be impressive. Even Donen seemed ridiculously impressed. But again, like I said, Williams is a legend.

So, clearly I loved the performance. But I also realized a couple things while I was on the T (Boston public transportation) back home (because naturally, that was an hour-long process to go 3 miles, and it gave me plenty of time to think). First, it was exactly 10 years ago that I visited Boston for the first time, on the annual "8th Grade Boston Trip" that my grade school did every year in May. It was during that trip that I decided I wanted to live in Boston when I grew up. I'm not quite sure why I had that epiphany, but it clearly stands out in my mind. I think I recognized that Boston was a "big" city that didn't feel too big, that seemed "friendly," and that offered a good blend of history and contemporary culture (remember, I grew up in teensy tiny Delaware, I think NYC is too big/busy/dirty/crowded for me, and I have always generally disliked Philadelphia, for a variety of reasons, most related to the attitudes and behaviors of the people who inhabit the area). Whatever the reason, I distinctly remember thinking, "I could live here," and that wasn't a thought that I'd ever had before about a place that wasn't already "home." I've since had that feeling about a couple other places (e.g., Providence, Charlottesville, London), not all of which I've lived in yet, but as a kid, this was a big thing for me. Now, don't go thinking that I set about the rest of my life with a mission to end up in Boston, but when I finished college a semester early and needed to decide what to do with myself while I was still tied to Providence due to my lease and the fact that almost all of my friends were still in school, Boston seemed a logical place to start looking for work. So, when I found a sweet job in Boston, to which I could easily commute from Providence until graduation and my lease ran out, that's where I ended up. Since then, I've really enjoyed Boston, and it's nice (for lack of a better word right now) to feel that I've come full-circle...even down to the John Williams thing. See, as part of the 8th Grade Boston Trip, we went to go see the Boston Pops, and, unbeknownst to those of us who were expecting the "standard" Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, John Williams was scheduled to guest conduct that evening, too (even better, the guest artist was Itzhak Perlman. So cool.). Funny how the world works sometimes, ain't it?

The second thing I realized on my long T ride was that I am really going to miss all of the cultural stuff that has been so available to me while I've lived here. I work in the Back Bay, and that means that museums, historical sites, ice skating on the Frog Pond, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and Pops, and various theatres have been literally within short walking distance of me every day. I've enjoyed being able to leave work and go to a performance or show (my sister, an undergrad at Boston University (BU) and I had season tickets to the touring Broadway shows that come into town, and I have had season tickets to the BSO each year, plus the random one-off stuff I've done by myself or with friends). I love getting tickets to the Red Sox through work or other sources and walking over to Fenway. I love hitting up restaurants in the North End and stopping for pastries at Modern or Mike's on the way back down Hanover Street, I love summer Sunday brunches on the patio of a restaurant on Newbury Street, I love finding fun new bars in Allston and Brookline, I love cheering on friends at the finish line to the Boston Marathon, etc. Most of all, I love knowing that there's so much to do around town, whether or not I take advantage of it. Now, I'm sure I won't be wallowing on my couch in Charlottesville bemoaning the fact that there's nothing to do during my copious free time, but I'm pretty sure that will be more because I don't have free time than because there's soooo much to do. I'm sure I will find plenty to do, like visit Monticello/Williamsburg, hit up the amazing wineries (um...where do I sign up, and who's coming with?), hike (riiiiight...I'll have to work on this one), and find new favorite dining establishments....but I still suspect that I'll miss the abundance of everything that is available in Boston. :-( I guess it's time for a new adventure....

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