Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Change and continuity

By chance, I took a trip into Boston on St. Patrick's Day. Yes, I saw many people wearing various shades of green. I even saw a couple of people playing bagpipes. And many wobbly people on the train last night.

This was the first time I've been in Boston since the "Big Dig" was completed. I stepped out of North Station - after taking the train from the North Shore - and I was completely disoriented. Where a dirty, noisy overpass had been, green park space stretched. Maybe it wasn't as beautiful as the architectural renderings I'd seen years earlier - but it looked good. Very good.

Once I got my bearings, I made my way to the North End, where I worked as a reporter about 25 years ago. Some of the spots were unchanged. Regina's Pizza - still in business. Modern Pastry. Cafe Vittorio. But the ambience was different, less insular. I bought a card in a shop, paying money to an African-American clerk. This was unthinkable 25 years ago, when you rarely saw any racial minority on the streets of the North End. Around the corner, I happened upon an vegan restaurant! Nearby, a health food store had opened its doors. Amazing.

But - Polcari's was still selling coffee & bulk spices. I stopped in to buy some pesto. And Bobby was still behind the counter. I remembered him from a few decades ago. Bobby said he remembered me - but I sincerely doubt it.