Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Category: History

An Olde and Whimsical Trip

I considered writing something helpful to readers about my trip to Boston. Like the really nice charter bus that you can take from NYC to Boston (or DC or Philly, even Toronto) for less than $15. Or how the grave of Mother Goose in Boston is not actually the storytelling Mother Goose that we all know and love.

But Boston was not a business trip. It was my first trip to the city, and it was actually more of a date. One of the things I love about big cities and traveling is how many interesting people you meet. So this is a more personal account of my most recent urban experience.

Boston was cold. I kept trying to talk, but my cheeks were frozen. All I could do was laugh.

And then there were the socks. Or rather there weren’t socks. I was treading through the oldest cemeteries in America, wondering how long it would take for my toes to get frostbite in ballet flats with no socks. Paul Revere was probably never that unprepared. Though he also probably never wore ballet flats.

We decided to buy some socks for my feet. So we walked into a bookstore. Not to buy socks, but because it was on the way and we both seemed to gravitate toward the door. He suggested that it would be a good place to warm my feet, and though it had no fireplaces, I agreed. It had enough books to warm even the coldest of feet, I’m sure.

He and I wandered through shelves upon shelves in the same way we had wandered through graves upon graves, stopping to admire some, squinting at the odd names of others, and walking past some with hardly a second glance. I bought a couple, books that is, and one for him as well.

Then I bought socks. Pink of course. With warm toes we continued into the North End, where he was a wonderful tour guide, pointing out interesting things that he knew nothing about, and wandering aimlessly trying in vain to find that one thing about which he knew loads of random facts.

After running out of proper sites to explore, we stumbled out of the cold into a bar, tucked in between old brick buildings on narrow cobblestone streets. All the bartenders had a proper Boston accent, which I’ve decided has something distinctly Irish about it, and consequently distinctly friendly.

I laughed. Boston was cold. But the company in Boston was warm and welcoming. I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

Paul Revere's house on the North End

Paul Revere's house on the North End

Paul Revere's statue, also in the North End

Paul Revere's statue, also in the North End

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Are we there yet?

“Are we there yet?” Joel whined from the back seat.

“We’ll be there in 18 1/2 miles,” replied Mike from up front in a very fatherly tone. Joel was impressed, and shut up. But Mike didn’t mean it, he had no idea.

“Where ARE we?” he asked Claire immediately afterward.

None of us really knew. The car was winding around back roads in the Catskills, following another car, whose driver apparently didn’t know where he was going either. We had left the cottage at least a half hour before to find a great waterfall, and we had all been under the impression that it was only about 15 minutes away. It was not.

But that driving time, along with the time spent at the lake, the time on New York state highways, the time lying in the hammock, (it was a great, relaxing weekend) provided me with some noteworthy thoughts. Two of them belong here, in this very post.

1. The Kentucky mystery

Contrary to what I had always thought, the Bluegrass area of Kentucky is called that for a reason. The grass down there is by no means a royal, Kentucky Wildcats Blue, so I decided long ago that someone made that up. But compared to the bright, florescent green of the Catskills grass, it is at least blue-ish.

As it turns out, the grass in Kentucky is an Old World grass from Europe, and it grows all over the nation. But there seems to be a bit of controversy as to whether other states that grow the same species of grass can market it as “Kentucky Bluegrass” since they didn’t grow it in Kentucky (Bluegrass Case Study). How did it get to be named after Kentucky in the first place? Who knows.

2. The New Jersey Mystery

None of my companions can quite remember how to pump gas. In fact, as native New Jerseyians, they are hardly ever allowed to. New Jersey law says so.

When I commented that this was an extrememly ridiculous law that didn’t make any sense, I expected them to defend it. Instead, they all agreed with me. Anna immediately whipped out her new iPhone, and announced, “Let’s google it….New Jersey self-service gas, origin.” (Because why would one ever pass up an opportunity to use an iPhone in the middle of nowhere?)

“Apparently it all started around 1949, when a man in northern New Jersey opened a multipump, self-service gas station. Threatened, the traditional gas station owners lobbied the legislature for a law to ban self-service–and they got it,” according to a Chicago Tribune article from June 5, 2006.

It seems that now people in New Jersey are simply too comfortable with sitting in their cars while trained gas pumpers fill up their tanks. HA! What an odd state.

Hoboken romance

Frank Sinatra grew up in Hoboken. His suave, his charm, his musical fame all developed from this little mile square town I now call home. It fits. We have wine bars, sushi, young lovers and young singles, and an inspiring view of the Manhattan skyline. Like Sinatra, it’s full of romance. Or so it seems…

According to Internet Movie Database (I know, such a reliable source, right?), “growing up on the streets of Hoboken, New Jersey, made Frank Sinatra determined to work hard to get ahead…his image was shaped into that of a street thug and punk who was saved by his first wife.”

Perhaps IMDB is mistaken, perhaps Sinatra actually grew up in that hostel where I stayed for a while, where a mouse ate my bread and foreigners kept offering me alcohol. But indeed, people tell me that this charming little Hoboken was once a seedy place, run by mobsters and so infiltrated with homeless along the railroad tracks that people coined the word “hobo.”

But how could a town have character without a history? So Sinatra somehow became a gentleman and Hoboken, likewise, became gentrified. And my image of the charming little town grows with intrigue and respect.