from Sandy Needham

Monday, November 26, 2007

Boston Dispatch

November 26, 2007

My flight from Paris connected through Newark to Boston. Newton had put a SIM card for the US in my cell phone, but once I had arrived at the end of the green "T" train line in Boston near our son Jake's house, I discovered the phone didn't work. I remembered I had a Google map of Jake's neighborhood in my suitcase, so had to open it on the street and dig the map out. I set out to find his house, pulling my suitcase uphill for several blocks. By the time I was approaching his steeply inclined address, I huffed and puffed out "Jaakke!" from the sidewalk and he answered back from inside, "I tried to call you!" Luckily he materialized and lugged the suitcase up the front stoop and the steep staircase to their door inside.

Jake moved to Boston last summer from San Diego to be a professional Texas Hold'em player. He lives with three other guys - Jeremy from Nyack, whom he's known for many years and who just left Northeastern University to also be a professional poker player, and two other Northeastern students. They have a very nice, roomy four-bedroom apartment in a large house just beyond the charming part of Boston.

Jake negotiated a deal for the largest, lightest room. He did a great job furnishing it at Ikea and had just the right space left for his 21st birthday present - a Yamaha keyboard. We went out for his belated birthday sushi dinner, then I crashed rather suddenly (having flown all night) on the truly comfortable air mattress a high school friend of Jake's had forgotten on a recent visit, thank God!

I had an interesting stab at trying not to touch any surface during my turn in the bathroom.

Jake and I met Chris and Larisa Kottke, the two children of my lifelong best friend, Lenna, for lunch at a nice restaurant in the charming part of Boston. Larisa just graduated from BU and is waitressing while she decides on her next move, and Chris is in graduate school at MIT. Jake and I found my beloved Trader Joe's grocery nearby and schlepped four bags of goodies - many to bring back to Brazil - home on the "T." Sadly (for me), we had to pass up the Boston Museum of Fine Art stop on the way home as there were frozen items in the bags. I never managed to get back there - darn.

It was lots of fun watching 'Jeopardy' with all the roomies, they shouting out answers for the contemporary stuff, I shouting out for the old stuff! Jake has become an accomplished pasta-dish-creator, and stood at the stove like Art Carney, throwing in a fabulous combination of ingredients with a flourish for our dinner. The four-guy frig was its own trip:

Next morning, I used the rubber gloves I had bought and an entire roll of paper towels to clean the bathroom within an inch of its life. It was a sort of self-serving gift to the boys! Then it was fall hike day. I had brought maps and trail information from the internet for the nearby town of Wellesley. I visited Wellesley in the 80's with my parents, who actually lived there for my father's naval officer's training at the women's college in WWII. My father always loved joking that he graduated from Wellesley! It was a perfect day for a hike, other than a little early for the height of fall color. I had a pair of socks on with my flip-flops - that Japanese geta look - but I don't recommend flip-flops for hiking on bumpy terrain! We hiked around a beautiful pond and back around again, as it was only 1.8 miles circumference, then we settled at a picnic table right in front of the pond. We had brought a picnic and a bottle of wine and, by luck, two tall plastic opaque glasses, as the sign said no alcoholic beverages were allowed. At least we were not a gang of teenagers in the middle of the night. I finally got to eat my favorite Trader Joe's concoction: goat cheese with a layer of pesto sauce and a layer of red pepper sauce on top, plus we had smoked salmon and other cheeses. As if all of that were not perfect enough, there was a flock of mallards swimming around, iridescent heads catching the afternoon light. After a dog barked at two geese that had wandered onto the shore, they did a quick landing in the water and immediately squawked orders for the entire group of mallards to head for the side of the pond. What followed was the miraculous kabuki of a Japanese screen in motion as the shifting formations with V-shaped wakes behind each duck maintained a perfect visual composition second-to second. The moment offered a stunning balance to the day that began with cleaning that bathroom!

After 'Jeopardy' on TV again and the '90's Trivial Pursuit' game with the roommates, we ordered-in Chinese. I repeated another jet-lag crash on the air mattress. Next morning I was off to catch the bus to Manhattan to see our daughter. I had to bid farewell to my adorable son till mid-December, when he arrives in Natal for the Christmas holidays. The bus driver had that deadpan, dry humor and laid down the rules as we pulled out of the bus station: "You'll need to turn your cell phones off or to 'vibrate.' We won't be having any of those little tunes, those little jingles they play or any loud conversations or popping of gum." It was a bit disconcerting to look out the bus window eye-to-eye with drivers of the longest trucks I've ever seen - all gabbing on cell phones. Watch out! The best fall colors of the trip were along the highway en route to New York.

Meanwhile Newton was suffering in Japan with stopped up ears and a terrible cough. He had to present a seminar, luckily with a translator so he didn't have to project his voice. The two CAST distributors in Japan are in Yokohama, near Tokyo, and Osaka, near Kyoto, but they do not operate regionally; therefore, Newton had to travel by bullet train to Kyoto while he was in Yokohama and to Tokyo while he was in Osaka, just to make life easy when sick! He still had China and Korea to go.


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