When I began preparing this column, it started off as a wistful bit of prose ruminating about the passage of time, an elegy of sorts to mark the passing into a new stage of parenthood.
And then it turned into a rage piece. More on that later.
Finally, thanks to a serendipitous meeting with a pair of visitors from the East Coast, it became something more akin to a story about a writer happily eating a slice of humble pie.
Last week, my wife and I set out to help our youngest daughter get settled in a Massachusetts college. We are used to Hallie being at least a little bit far away — since she studied at Eastern Washington University in Cheney for several years — or waaaaay far away, ever since she spent the better part of a year overseas.
But this felt a little different. For the first time, it felt like our daughter was ready to make her way in the world and, perhaps, make a permanent home away from the West Coast, away from our occasional long weekend visits, away from … us.
And so, with no small amount of reluctance (and effort, I might add), we loaded several suitcases and backpacks and headed our way east.
By almost any measure, Mount Holyoke College is a beautiful campus, with towering, cathedral-like brick buildings set on some of the greenest farmland I’ve seen in years. The student greeters were helpful, the staffers were insightful, the number of parking spots to unload plentiful … it was unlike pretty much every college experience I’ve been a part of.
We said our goodbyes. With one daughter, Chelsea, launched and living in New Mexico and the second looking like she’s ready to do the same, we felt very blessed and blissful.
Two hours in Boston traffic, I will note, takes that away. Quickly.
Into the beast
Now, to preface this a bit, we had gotten in to Boston’s Logan International Airport on a Monday evening at midnight Eastern Standard Time and found we had to wait at a certain rental car’s counter — the company’s name rhymes with Hudget, FYI — for more than an hour so we could make a two-hour drive to Springfield. So I may have already been a bit prejudiced against the city.
The scope of this quick, four-day trip was predominantly to get Hallie squared away, but I thought, ‘Hey, why not see a sight or two as long as we’re here? How many times do we get to see any of the Northeast?’ As we cruised back into the Boston ‘burbs I figured the one landmark I really knew, Fenway Park, must be close and readily findable with a significant amount of signage, with cheery Bostonians noticing we are from out of town willing to lead the way.
This was not the case. After hitting the 47th toll station just outside city limits, I followed an exit with a poorly-marked sign regarding Fenway Park and wound up in what I think was described in Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem … the eighth circle, to be exact. Some may purport this to be a roundabout; I considered it to be medieval torture. Soon, six traffic lanes became four, which became two, which became one. Cars and trucks whizzed past at terrifying paces that clearly showed the speed limit signs in Boston are more like guidelines than rules.
As minutes passed, I rocketed through parts unknown, as I’ve never been to Boston in my life. My wife Patsene, trying to help guide with cell phone GPS technology (the phone died not long after we entered the city) noted that her one visit to the area was, ahem, a directional challenge.
We wound up traversing much of the city’s outer reaches before being hurled like space satellites succumbing to gravitational force of planets back into the heart of the city, the only helpful road sign we noticed through a growth of unmanaged (though quite lovely) trees. I began to hallucinate. Visions, in the form of candidly real road signs, passed before my eyes: “Welcome to Boston! Enjoy our tollbooths.” “Don’t know the way? Figure it out, loser.” “Settled in 1630 — and not for you.”
There was no place to pull over, much less any kind of on-the-street parking. At one point, I decided it might be easier to simply leave the car in some neighborhood, get jobs and try to blend in.
Mercifully, after only a couple of hours, we wound up back at the airport, where we dropped the car, caught a shuttle to our hotel and thanked the Lord for the fact we live in Sequim, Wash.
I was ready to write off the city, the state and perhaps the entire region before meeting up, incidentally, with a couple as we walked to the ferry for Seattle’s light rail station. The pair, Ann and Bob, were flying in from Boston (same flight) to Bainbridge Island (where we were going) to meet up with some family (same here).
“Oh no, you don’t drive into Boston,” Ann told me. Ah. I was perplexed, I guess, with all the paved streets and traffic lights.
“For one thing,” she said, “there’s nowhere to park.” I caught that.
Bob grinned and talked a bit about family, about Hallie’s new school, about differences between the coasts. They do the snowbird thing to Arizona and my wife and I thought — and later suggested — they might find Sequim to be a nice place, what with it being a retirement mecca and well within driving distance of their two daughters.
We parted with hearty handshakes and well wishes for all. I guess Bostonians — and, perhaps, Boston itself — isn’t so bad.
Well, except for that cheater, Tom Brady.
Reach Sequim Gazette editor Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.