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On the 28th I rode the Red Line down to Ashmont, and then took the "trolley" to Mattapan -- it's still considered Red Line, but separate rail and trains. It's actually souped up light rail, like the D-Line: street rail that doesn't seem to interact with traffic at all. 10 minutes to the end, not sure how far. Mattapan has a busy and somewhat extensive shopping area, and is almost entirely black. I was the only white person I saw in 20 minutes of walking around. A few Asian proprietors, a few Hispanics I passed, and blacks. It occurred to me that I can't think of a previous time where I was on the ground in an almost entirely black neighborhood before; maybe in London or Paris, and even those would have been more mixed. The Avenue Q song "everyone's a little bit racist" kept running through my head. There was an Ashley Stewart clothing store, with photos of black women and latte-colored mannequins; I noted that a light coffee color is still lighter-skinned than most of the people I was seeing. Who may not have been all that African-American, making for a surprise parallel with London. I overheard speech 5 times in passing: English, Spanish, and 3 instances of I have no idea, but I'd wildly guess some African language. I didn't notice stores or churches giving strong immigrant signals, though.

Sidewalks were clear, but paths to the street often weren't, making crossing a challenge.

Neighborhoods change fast; riding the trolley back, there were whites getting on at the next stop, and a couple stops later where I decided to get off and explore more on foot, finding a tiny little shops area and then nothing along Eliot until Milton, where I found more to the north, and then Dorchester Ave. Given the slush of a bridge -- nice view of the partially icy river, I should remember to upload photos -- I decided not to go back to the station, but just set out on Dorchester. With some trepidation, this being described as one of the rougher areas of Boston. But walking along a main street with lots of cars proved perfectly safe, if somewhat boring in things to do. I got to Ashmont, and decide to keep walking. A whole bunch of whites were getting out of the station, and the *all* turned up Ashmont street, a tiny block north; not a one kept going up Dorchester. Except me, all the way to Field's Corner, two stations up the line, and with a burst of Chinese and Vietnamese activity, allowing me to have the worst Vietnamese egg rolls I've ever had.

Train home, my feet hurting, except that I got out at South Station to check out a food court I'd been told about, and be tempted by a grilled cheese stand I'd seen ads for. Court is in the commuter rail section, I had a decent grilled cheese sandwich (options! like muenster on rye, with bacon and tomato and red peppers) and listen to bomb-prevention propaganda. Has the US even had a train bombing?

Saturday I went to a jazz brunch nearby I'd heard about. No one from the social circle I heard of it from showed up, but I had fun. Very mellow jazz. Steak brunch was good, scambled eggs and homefries less to my taste. Biscuits are never to my taste. Well, I often eat them anyway, but it's one of those "don't like can't stop" things. Except I did stop this time.

I cooked downstairs, and got a cast iron cleaning tip: pour in some salt for extra scrubbing power.

Also I went back to the Alewife TJ, verified that it's a 7 minute walk from the station -- bite me, south Cambridge -- and they had my map! I'd left my laminated map of Cambridge/Somerville somewhere a couple weeks ago and suspected it was there but didn't call. They had it anyway! Joy!

Sunday I did more exploring. I meant to do Red/Orange to Sullivan Square, then decided it was too late and I felt too icky from not showering so I got off at Charles/MGH to explore Beacon Hill. Or the north side of it, leading to North End, which I then meant to explore. Except: bridge! So I walked across the Charles River, into Charlestown, which was pretty unremarkable. I did find Bunker Hill Monument. By this time my feet were rebelling, but too bad for them... took Orange to Sullivan Square after all, just a stop from Bunker Hill Community College. Went up Broadway, went down Washington... maybe there's a proper square I missed, but it looked rather unprepossessing. There's some stuff on Broadway, not much. There are buses to Central and Harvard Squares from there, but they run every 35 or 40 minutes. Nothing to Porter. I keep hearing about Union Square, in the middle of Somerville, so I walked there. Not much on the way, definitely a lot of things there, though I didn't check them out much. A girl at a bus stop didn't know where Somerville Ave. was, even though it was one of two streets branching from right where she was; she hadn't even heard of it. Knew how to get to Summer street, so somewhat local. More evidence of how little people know areas, especially in spaghettiland.

Cheap groceries! 4 minutes up Somerville is Market Basket, which a former host had told me about. It has food prices like I'm used to! 49 cents/pound for banans, even! $2.49 for a gallon of milk! ...also there's no good public transit nearby and it's a 20 minute walk to Porter Square; I doubt Harvard would be closer. I suppose there's a sweet spot zone where you're 10 minutes from there and from the subway stop.

Then the Sunday geek night. A bunch of them had been in Iceland when I first came to Boston, and tonight I heard that until 1986 beer was illegal in Iceland, but vodka wasn't, so people would order non-alcoholic beer and pour a shot of vodka in it. My informant then decided to try it. We all agreed that it actually worked rather well, at least if you like the hoppiness of beer. I've had worse. He couldn't really taste the alcohol; I assumed I could but I might be confusing the components of beer flavor.



Damien Sullivan

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