Marathon Monday was by no means the way I imagined it. First of all, I thought the weather would be warm-ish at least and I didn’t think it would be pouring rain. Second of all, I thought I would actually watch the race. With team brunch, housing selection for next year, and unexpected job training, I was busy all day long.
I bleed black and gold.
Before you call 911 on me, hold the phone. No, I don’t actually bleed black and gold. No, I’m not going to prove it to you. Take my word for it. What I mean by that is I am a diehard fan of the Boston Bruins, the hockey team of the greater Boston area/New England. Bruins hockey (metaphorically!) runs through my veins.
Walking out my front door to see a view of a Cul De Sac with suburban houses immediately makes me miss the city. I hear over and over again that “Austin IS a city.” Yes it is, but can I walk from my house to a Forever 21 in 10 minutes? Nope.
Moving from Austin to Boston was quite the adjustment for me. Not only is there a huge change of scenery, there is a huge chance of pace. In the city everything fast paced and high energy. I will literally plan my day by the hour in Boston. I didn’t always use to be this way. Before I moved here I didn’t even own a planner. Being immersed in this new culture has made me a much more productive person.
Grocery shopping is one of the worst activities in the world, and I am incredibly bad at it. I always put it off until the last possible minute, until my food stores are down to four baby carrots and a handful of animal crackers. I always end up shopping when I’m hungry, which is a baseline no-no. And I always get unbelievably bored while I’m doing it, ending up tossing things in my basket to speed up the process until my receipt looks like someone set an eleven-year-old loose in the cookie aisle.
In my endeavors to make this errand more tolerable, I have come up with a rubric for grocery store perfection. Here are six grocery stores in the Boston area, judged for price, location, snack selection, and overall vibe – on a scale where one is bad and five is utopian.
The Boston Train system, known fondly as “the T” to us locals, has become my second home.
I take the train back home every Friday to good ol’ Lynn, Massachusetts. You can find me squished between the gentleman in the wrinkled business suit and the old woman knitting a scarf. I hop on the Green Line at the Boylston station, take a train to Government Center, then connect over to the Blue Line. From there, I sit tight all the way to the last stop: Wonderland.
I’d like to consider myself a professional T rider at this point. While I’m most accustomed to the Green and Blue Lines, I’ve also traveled on every single other line at some time or another. It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable taking the T—I’ve only had one panic attack in a T station this whole year, and that was because I’m weak and couldn’t lift my suitcase on to the train (I decided I needed to bring home several pairs of shoes that week).
Being the aficionado I am, I decided to come up with a list of the five best tips I have for taking the train in Boston. Listen up, rookies:
That’s right, folks. It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: The Mattress Firm Conspiracy Theory.
Forget your basic Berenstain Bears Mandela effects – this next level conspiracy theory will make you say “Illuminati, who?”
If you’re not familiar with the Mattress Firm Conspiracy Theory, here’s a quick rundown (you can also watch the video Youtuber Shane Dawson made about it): Back in January, a Reddit user commented that they believed Mattress Firm, the largest specialty mattress retailer in the US is a money laundering company, according to Business Insider.
Let’s face it: Emerson College’s Iwasaki library is not the quietest place to work. From archaic printers churning out hundred-page movie scripts, to students complaining that Emerson doesn’t have access to any source materials worth using for a thesis paper (the struggle is truly real), there’s really no place to procure some quiet time. Even if you don’t go to Emerson, I’m sure you can relate to the struggle of being unable to find a serene space on-campus.
Keep calm, fellow Emersonians! There’s a place close to campus where you can go and not only do your work but grab a bite to eat and get cultured as well: The Boston Public Library.
The BPL is on Boylston Street, and is just a fifteen-minute walk from Emerson’s campus (perhaps a bit longer for you poor souls who live in paramount). This means you can get in your exercise without having to go to the gym; yay physical activity! On the way to the BPL, there are also a surplus of places to eat, so if you get hungry on the way, you can always stop by Panera or Chipotle for a quick food break.
I walk through the Boston Common bare minimum twice a day. For better or worse, I spend a significant portion of my life traversing the paths of the oldest city park in the United States.
Today, we’re focusing on the better, and that better has a name. Dogs.
I may not love walking through the Common all the time, but something I do love is that it is constantly filled with dogs. Small dogs and big dogs and puppies and the dog-elderly, most of them off leashes, all of them having a full-on blast.
But I have had a lingering question on these walks, a question of such deep significance it refuses to leave my mind for longer than moments at a time:
Are these planned dog playdates? Or spontaneous friendships forming between dog-strangers?
Despite my inherent reluctance to speak to the glamorous dog owners of Beacon Hill, it was time to investigate.
Thankfully, we live in the age of the Internet, and I was able to conduct an exhaustive investigation using only my laptop and the need to know whether there was an online dog-owner community I could stalk in order to be aware and later take advantage of the most dog-heavy hours.
My research began with the extensive and pretentiously-written Parks Rules and Regulations of the city of Boston. Immediately, I was given the shock of my life; Section 5 includes the statement, “No person shall, in any public park […] have or allow any animal, except a dog on a leash no longer than eight feet.”
It was a concept I had never considered. Were these dogs committing acts designated as illegal by Boston Parks and Recreation? Am I witnessing the cutest, fluffiest residents of Boston break the law on a daily basis? I had to find out more.
I delved into Google, finding only a Yahoo group called “Boston Common Dogs,” the last post of which was seven years ago—a user called CoOlBoY writing about parrots, for some reason. It was a dead end.
My first real clue came from an elegantly-designed website called Bring Fido, dedicated to giving tips to dog owners on ideal locations. Information on the Common was extraordinarily limited: a single review, a single photo, and a single sentence description. Although the photo is full-on amazing (see above), I had eyes for only one thing: the answers and new questions contained within that one statement of description.
“There are dedicated hours where dogs may play off-leash, but they are welcome leashed at all times.”
It was a lead if I’d ever seen one (which, in my limited investigative experience, I had not). If I were to find these off-leash hours, would they correspond to the heavenly times when hordes of dogs frolicked together, free in the oldest city park in America?
This question led me to the site Fido Loves, essentially a more long-winded, less well-designed version of Bring Fido with a very similar but more fragmented name.
The revelations contained within the essay-length entry on the Common were twofold.
First, the reveal of a private Facebook group: The Common Canine. It’s uber-exclusive at only 648 members, and Fido Loves cautioned, “It is a group open only to local dog owners in order to keep discussions focused on the needs of Boston dogs.” As I sent my request to join, I was overcome by thoughts of how to slip in unnoticed. Perhaps I had a picture with a dog I could change my profile to . . . Maybe a quick post stating, “Wow, I love taking my dog, who I definitely own and who definitely exists in the city of Boston, to play in the delineated areas allowed by Boston Parks and Rec.”
Deep within this train of thought, I received a notification. After 15 seconds (presumably dedicated to an intensive examination of my Facebook profile) I was admitted into the Common Canine.
A scan of the last few months of posts revealed four equally important facts.
- No concrete meetup time planning occurred.
- There was still a sense of community within the dog owners of Boston Common that could only be created by regular dog/human bonding.
- Every time a new member was added, a post was made greeting both the two- and four-legged, and I needed to get the dickens out of this group before I was discovered.
- The excellence of the dog pictures and the rigor with which dog-related events were shared convinced me there was no way I could leave this group.
I had never felt more undercover detective-y (and therefore cool) in my entire human existence.
But Fido Loves’ Bible-length posting contained another revelation within its millions of words: “Dogs are allowed off-leash during the morning hours between 5 am and 10 am, and then again in the evening between 4 pm and 9 pm.”
The investigation was complete. There was only one thing left to do: Trawl Boston Common at optimized hours for dogs to pet—now equipped with the knowledge only the Common Canine could grant me.
I remember the exact moment when my dad left me my freshman year during my move-in day. It felt too fast, with an unfinished goodbye. He was saying his “fatherly advice” bit and, too soon, his Uber drove up and it was time for him to go. I struggled to comprehend the actual meaning of him leaving me behind, on a street in Boston I couldn’t name even if I tried. Although a part of me felt ready to “be an adult,” I also knew I wasn’t fully ready to be truly left alone, in a city I had only previously visited once before. I didn’t cry, but I felt like I should have. It was supposed to be a huge deal and I should have been immediately homesick; at least, that’s how everybody told me I should have felt.
I mean, I am from California, which, if you didn’t know, is kind of across the entire country. How else was I supposed to react?
Whenever I reveal I’m from California, I almost always get “that” look. A look that asks, “Why? Why on earth would you move to Boston? Why would you move from sunny Southern California to a place like this?”
The answer isn’t that simple. I didn’t move because I hate California. Who can’t be entranced by the cloudless, warm days and picturesque coastline? No, there were many more factors to my decision than surface level elements; I do have some state pride. Though I can’t exactly explain what caused my dire urge to leave the state, I can say – with full confidence – that I just didn’t feel like I belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I love going back home; however, I knew I needed a break.
Finally deciding to go to a college across the country filled me with so many emotions, the most significant among the rest being fear and excitement. Fear for being alone in a city, excitement for the new chapter of my life. Fear for the unknown, but excitement for it as well; this was unexplored territory for me, everything was so new I wasn’t sure how to even approach the idea of settling into a new place in the world. I was sure that one day I would be so homesick that I would beg to go back home.
But the day never came.
I waited and waited during that first full month, but I never experienced the homesickness that everyone told me I would feel. It took me until Thanksgiving break to realize that I never really was homesick. There is the fact that I could text, call, or FaceTime my family any time I wanted, which probably helps, but I never felt the urge to break down and ask for the next flight home.
I’m not exactly sure why this occurred – maybe it was Boston or, perhaps, the business of college taking over my mind – but what I do know is that I finally found myself in a space where I could do what I wanted. To think about the mere amount of possibilities available to me, now that I relocated to Boston, is so utterly overwhelming, yet also freeing.
What followed surprised me: when I returned to California, I missed Boston. I missed the independence I had. I missed the trees and the brick buildings. I missed the routine, the shops and the walks I had through the Common. Though I did miss my family and I missed my home, I didn’t feel the same as I did in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in California. Who wouldn’t? There’s no end to its bright, sunny days, there’s cool shop and plenty of things to do, but it just wasn’t the same.
All summer, I yearned for Boston. It was clear that Boston became my second home.
Moving across the country was probably the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done. Whenever someone asks me the question though, I never experience the feeling of intimidation. Instead, I feel pride in the fact that I was able to defeat the fear holding me back home; that I was able to do what many others cannot. I love my home and living in Southern California definitely had its perks, but moving across the country was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Many probably assume that I can’t survive the winter, but I want to try. My exploration of the city of Boston is still afoot; and I’m grateful for what is to come.
Come for the witches, stay for the tiny hand-blown glass animals.
That’s not the slogan for the town of Salem, but it definitely is for my time there. I was initially interested in the grisly history of the witch trials, especially since it’s perfect for Halloween. I mean, the pivotal film Hocus Pocus is set there. But I must confess I spent much more of my time delicately combing through a tray of miniature polar bears and dogs and squids than I did contemplating the fickleness of humanity at the witch trials memorial.
Perhaps the most important part of my Salem adventures, however, is the fact that I spent less than twenty dollars for the whole day, train fare included. Here are my tips for how you can spend a day in the insanely-crowded town without breaking the bank!
1. Don’t buy your tickets on the train
Just go over to the little Charlie card ATM-like robot and buy a ticket. It’s a couple dollars cheaper, and those couple dollars can buy you a magical stone. A magical stone!!! More on that later.
2. The best souvenirs are also pretty cheap
Earlier — as in, immediately before this — I mentioned a little something about a magical stone. It’s time to talk more about that. I spent the unbelievable price of ONE AMERICAN DOLLAR on a stone that promises to increase my success, elevate my mood, and grant wishes. And it looks good doing it! This is an amazing and useful souvenir, especially since I’ve already gone a few days and haven’t lost it!
A lot of the stuff in the witchy stores in Salem is reasonably priced. So are postcards and little things like that. If you want a souvenir from your spooky journey you don’t have to break the bank!
3. Walking around is free
Tiring, yes, but free. Sometimes it’s like people forget you don’t have to pay for a tour in order to see stuff. The witch trials memorial is really amazing and right in town. The historical sights can be gazed at from afar with no added cos
t. There’s even the Salem Heritage Trail, which is similar to Boston’s Freedom Trail but distinctly witchier.
And some of the most fun I had in Salem was walking around the stores. This is not because I am Isla Fisher in the 2009 film adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s bestselling novel Confessions of a Shopaholic, but rather because there are a ton of cool stores in Salem. Some of them are so cool there is a line to get in! My favorite one was The Coven’s Cottage, and I chose to buy my magical stone from there because I liked the vibe. There are also wand stores, knick knack stores and bookstores, and all of these make for a fun browse!
4. Spend some money on the experience
For me, this meant forking over a couple of ones for a hot apple cider.
(Review: watery, but delicious!) For some of my fellow travelers, this meant fried dough, a book on Wiccan spells, a bandana for a dog or fifteen minutes with a fortune-teller. Some people enjoy feeling unsafe and frightened, and these people would not be able to visit Salem without entering the doors of one of Salem’s many haunted houses. There’s not much point to visiting if you don’t feel spooky or Halloween-y or, in short, Salem-y. So it’s worth it to shell out some cash for that One Thing.
In short: Salem is great and very Halloween-feeling and it doesn’t have to be expensive! If you plan in advance and consider what will make your experience really worthwhile, you can have a solid day for $20 or less.