September 14th, 2008 – In Boston

  I must start his post by telling you all that this past weekend was one of the most memorable, happy weekends our family has experienced in a long time, if not ever. We laughed a great deal and enjoyed each others company. I saw Stacey cry a little at least once and I shed tears a couple of times. I hope you have some time because I think this is going to be a long one.  


  We had breakfast at a restaurant that is in a storefront type space on the first floor of the hotel. As is often the case in large cities the first floor of the Hotel Commonwealth is made up of storefronts at street level and the first floor of the Hotel is actually the 2ndstory. In fact the entrance to the Kenmore Metro stop is in the center of the almost block long hotel façade. The Metro is called the “T” in Boston and is basically the subway system. If you ask for directions to “The Subway” you will either be given directions to a sandwich shop or told you have to go to NYC for that. The Kenmorestop is the stop everyone uses to take mass transit to Fenway Park. Breakfast was really good and our waiter had a very distinctive accent. It sounded Brazilian to me. James hadheard that everyone in Boston spoke with a very strong accent so he was listening intently to find it. We had not encountered anyone yet with a Boston accent. When the waiter brought us our meals James asked him, “Excuse me, do you have a Boston accent?” The waiter asked him to repeat his question and then laughed, “Nobody has ever asked me that.” He kindly told James that he was from Columbia and that people usually asked if he was from Spain, Brazil or Portugal. He was really sweet with James and I am sure he now has a great story to tell. He recognized us when we went there for breakfast on Sunday too.




   During breakfast we decided to go to the Aquarium and then the Museum of Science. E took the T and the boys really enjoyed taking the trains. We had to switch from the Green line to the Blue line to get to the aquarium. Our stop was right there when we arrived. Hen entering the aquarium building we were first directed to a side exhibit area that contained a jellyfish exhibit. It was very dark, but, seeing the different jellyfish was absolutely amazing. He movements of the creatures was otherworldly and beautiful. The boys went from one tank to the next excitedly describing to us what they were seeing. Some of the exhibits were interactive and you could change the colors of the lights to see different parts of the jellyfish. As we finished the exhibit and entered the main part of the aquarium building I turned to Stacey and said, “That alone was worth the price of admission.” We walked into the aquarium proper and the first thing we saw inside was the penguin exhibit. The boys absolutely loved seeing the penguins. When we were in San Diego one of the biggest disappointments for James was that he never was able to see any penguins. Ben pointed that fact out to James and said, “Hey, now we got to see the penguins together.” After watching them for a while we walked around the huge central aquarium tank. It is a giant cylinder and the walkway spirals around it in a gentle incline. I would guess it is at least 4 stories tall. The boys called out the cool things they were seeing. The highlights were a shark and a sea turtle. We also walked around looking at the other exhibits. We found a reef tank that had multiple species in it and contained almost every type of fish in the movie “Finding Nemo” and then some. It was really neat watching the boys interact with the exhibits reading the signs to us. Ben found one that contained Cephalopods and I explained to him that Cephalosporins were not related to the species. At least I don’t think so.  Remember he is allergic to the Cephalosporin class of antibiotics.  As we were looking at the Cuttlefish in the tank a gentleman told the boys to wiggle their fingers in front of the tank at the creatures to see if they reacted. The boys did and the cuttlefish changed colors and even flashed a little bit. It was really neat.





  Then we went to an I-Max 3-D movie about the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. It followed a rafting trip through the canyon as it looked for changes in the river over the last century. It was amazing to see the differences that the dams and farming has made to the river. Of course the most exciting parts were when the rafts and kayaks went through the rapids. We decided after watching the movie that we are going to take the boys rafting on the upper Hudson river next spring. James wants to learn how to kayak now. Ben prefers rafts. I am up for anything and I think Stacey likes the shore.  




   After we finished the movie we did a quick walk through the gift shop at the aquarium and talked James out of buying a Squirmle type toy. We ended up saving the souvenir budget for a later purchase. We had a great time at the aquarium and talked about saving the rest of the aquarium for a later visit. We decided that instead of taking the T to the Museum of Science we would take a taxi so we could see more of the city and just to do something different. Our driver turned out to be a wonderful man. I sat in the front of the cab and Stacey and the boys were ion the back seat. Our driver had been driving a cab in Boston for the past 18 years fulltime and part time for a number of years before that. As we all climbed aboard he said, “Once upon a time or maybe twice there was an unearthly paradise called Pepperland.” and turned on the CD player in the cab. I was confused a little until I heard The Beatles song Yellow Submarine begin. He turned to me and said, “I thought the boys might like this one.” As he drove away from the Aquarium I knew the boys were a little hungry for lunch so I asked if there wre any nice restaurants near the Museum of Science. He immediately said no, thought about it, and said, “No, come to think of it there isn’t really much of anything right there.” Stacey and I looked at each other and decided there had to be a snack bar type restaurant there. As he drove he talked to us about playing keyboards in a band, studying at Harvard, the sites we were passing and the interesting people he had had in his cab over the years. He talked of freedom and how having kids would probably have changed his life dramatically, “I would have probably grown up immediately.” Stacey and I both think he was a little older than we are. He spoke of movie stars, rock musicians and Nobel Laureates. Our favorite story was that Ted Williams had been in his cab. He described him as a nice man who tipped well. Unfortunately, he told us that he was absolutely tongue tied and couldn’t think of anything to say when Ted Williams was in his cab. I thought to myself. “This guy can talk about anything to anyone and Ted Williams made him speechless.” He spoke of Ted Williams with awe and reverence. Since everyone was in baseball mode talking about Ted Williams and Boston baseball was a favored topic. It wouldn’t be until later that day that I realized why he was almost choking up over that ride with Ted Williams. We arrived at the Museum of Science with smiles on our faces. As I paid him the fare and gave him a nice tip for making the ride pass so quickly and entertaining us. He looked at me with a look of concern and love, “I wish the boy well. I don’t know you, but, I will carry him in my heart.” As I had pulled the money out of my pocket one of Ben’s Green Drakkoman buttons had fallen to the ground. I bent down and picked it up.  Handed it to him and said, “Here, this is a picture of the super hero my son Ben created that is helping him. Thank you very much for the memorable ride.” As I closed the door and turned to walk away I noticed that the money was just sitting on the seat of the cab, uncounted, and he was just looking at the little button rubbing it with his thumbs. The image of a monk in prayer popped into my head.




   We had a great time in the Museum of Science. The food was very expensive, cafeteria, museum snack bar food. It wasn’t awful, but, very ordinary. Ben and James had hot dogs. As Stacey and I were working on our lunches Ben spontaneously erupted and the majority of his lunch came right back up onto the tray and table. It happened so fast and silently that I don’t think another soul in the relatively crowded dining area had any idea what had just happened. Except a single mom sitting across the aisle to my left. Stacey quickly wiped it up with the abundance of napkins that we had on the table. We didn’t make a big deal although Stacey and I were both screaming inside. Ben assured us he was ok and that he must have eaten too fast and that he was really excited. We decided that since this was the first and only occurrence we wouldn’t panic. He seemed perfectly fine so close monitoring and no running around would be the order for the afternoon. We went through some of the exhibits in the museum that involved optical illusions. They were really cool and the boys were reading the instructions and trying the experiments. There was a butterfly exhibit going on that we had purchased tickets to enter. They were timed tickets and depended on how many people were in the room at a time. It was a light day so we were able to enter early. The room was filled with plants that fed different butterflies. They also had some fruit on plates. There were hundred of butterflies flying around the greenhouse type room. We walked around, stood still and sat on the benches for a while. I think we were in there for almost 45 minutes. It was really cool to see so many different butterflies. There were butterflies the size of quarters and butterflies the size of saucers with every size in between. We were all hoping one would land on us. We were not allowed to touch them, but, they could land on us. I was holding the video camera when one landed on it. Another time one of the biggest butterflies landed on my finger while I held the video camera. Of course it was the hand holding the camera and Ben didn’t see it in time to get the picture with the digital camera. We all agreed it was really cool to be surrounded by butterflies.          




   Next we walked through a couple of exhibits as we headed to the Lightning show in the Theatre of Electricity. I saw this show 20 years ago and I think the same man was doing it then. We were both much younger. The show has the worlds largest Van de Graff generator and some other devices like Tesla coils and Jacob’s ladders in it. It is very loud and there is a great deal of lightning. It is wonderful and the science just presents itself. Here are a couple YouTube clips that other people have online form the same show on different days. The second one is the grand finale of the presentation.    







   They also talked about Ben Franklin and made young girl’s hair stand on end. Ben stayed and asked the presenter about the Tesla coils. After the show the gentleman also passed out sparks. Ben, James and I took turns and stood there with our fists up in the air. The gentleman punched the air above our fist and a giant spark arched between our fists. The boys both jumped because they didn’t know what to expect. The interesting thing was that because they jumped they felt it in their feet too. It was a very massive spark about 100 times greater than you can generate on winters day rubbing your stocking feet on the carpet. Awesome!!! We spent the rest of the afternoon learning about many other things. We moved from exhibit to exhibit like we were browsing a giant science buffet. The boys would be interested in one exhibit for 10 minutes and then fritter past 5. We just let the boys control what interested them. James and I would sometimes go one way and Stacey and Ben another. The boys would get back together and show the other what they found that was interesting. We had a great time and left more to explore for another day.            




   We took the T back to the hotel and decided that everyone would take it easy for the evening. We picked up a Playstation 2 with a couple of games and DVD from the front desk for the boys to have in room entertainment. I cannot say enough about the Hotel Commonwealth. It is a wonderful boutique hotel and our room overlooking Fenway Park was only about $50 more expensive than most of the good hotels in Boston. If you are going to a Red Sox game and want to walk to Fenway it is definitely an option to consider that will make it a really special trip.         




   While Stacey and the boys were hanging out in the room I went on a walk to see how far away the Gate was that we were to meet Lisa at on Sunday morning. I walked to Fenway Park and it was a pretty easy walk. I knew the boys could do it with no problem. I arrived at Gate A in no time and asked a nearby police officer where Gate D was. He told me which direction to go and off I went. There was a game that was starting 7:30 and even though it was a little before 6 PM the crowd was inspiring. I ended up walking all the way around the outside of Fenway Park. I think the officer thought I said Gate B or thought I was a Yankees fan. I am glad that he sent me around the park because I probably wouldn’t have stumbled on the statue of Ted Williams. I realized as I looked at the statue why our cab driver had choked up earlier. I knew that the Red Sox have supported childhood cancer research through the Jimmy Fund since 1948. I had also heard Ted Williams in connection with the Jimmy Fund at times. I turned the corner and there was Ted Williams putting his ball cap on a little boy with the number 9 on his back. The little boy is smaller than Ben.





  I thought I did not have to read the plaque to know what I was seeing. I noticed the reverence of many of the fans towards the statue. I overheard a woman say that she visits the statue every time she comes to a game no matter where her seats are. I saw an older gentleman gently touch the little boys head as he walked past. I watched a man pick up his kids to stand on the granite and pose between the boy and Ted Williams so he could take a picture. I heard his youngest (6 or 7 years old) ask, “Why is the boy bald?” As they walked away I heard the man begin to talk about the Jimmy Fund and wondered where that conversation would take them. I cried a couple tears as I read the plaque that said that Ted Williams was known to visit Dana Farber and give the hat off his head to the children who were fighting cancer. I looked at the statue and I saw Ben.  



   I walked farther around the park and found Gate D. It was just down Yawkey St from Gate A and would have been easily visible if there were not trees, awnings and a couple of signe in the way. On my way back to the hotel I stopped and picked up Double Cheeseburger Happy Meal for James and a pizza for the rest of us. We ate and relaxed. Tomorrow was the big day.








I am working on Game day now…Coming soon


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