Back in February, I went to Boston for work. I hadn’t started this blog yet, so I’m going to take the liberty to write about the trip now.
If you arrive in South Station, skip the food court and walk a few blocks to Al’s Cafe. This local favorite offers a great lunch deal, with a huge “sub,” chips, and a drink costing less than ten bucks. The staff take pride in the craft of a making a good sandwich, and hold court over an arsenal of options. I had a lean prosciutto, mozzarella, basil, oil, and balsamic on perfectly crusty bread. It could have easily been enough for two meals.
That day, I met with an unimaginative woman who raised her eyebrows when I responded to her question about where I was staying. I had a good deal at a boutique hotel on the waterfront, on a nonprofit budget. Usually, when you attend a conference out of town, there is some sort of negotiated discount at the hotel. But I still compare hotels in the area, and can usually find a better rate at a better place nearby. Apparently, she didn’t know this trick.
That evening, I went to Legal Sea Foods to try their legendary clam chowder. This place does such tremendous volume, it’s no wonder the fish stock is so rich. I sat at the counter, mesmerized by the ballet of service: cooks, servers, white bowls and plates all winding around in controlled chaos. The chowder was creamy and delicious, but I prefer more clams. I also had the Rhode Island style calamari (with hot peppers and garlic), but the server forgot the dipping sauce and it was a bit too much for one person. Restaurants really need to offer half portions.
I had seen signs for an interesting exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. I checked online and they have free admission on Thursdays from 5-9pm. My last meeting ended, and I walked over. The Museum is spacious and can be managed in an hour or two. Coming from NYC, where free museum hours are oppressively crowded, I couldn’t believe that I could linger and really appreciate the art without getting jostled. The show, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, chronicled art in the conservative Reagan era. The AIDS crisis and crack epidemics threatened the survival of many at home, and East Germans were organizing for democracy. I remember wandering around the lower east side in Manhattan as a teenager– the urgency and energy was palpable. Public art was everywhere, and queer and feminist artists were challenging norms. This was a tremendous time for a young girl coming out.
Section from Candy Jernigan, Found Dope, Part II, 1986
Jenny Holzer, Survival: Protect Me from What I Want, 2006
It’s interesting how you can be somewhere else and feel the intense pull of nostalgia for your hometown. Or your hometown as it used to be.
After soaking in the show, I wandered into Barking Crab for more seafood. I had a plump “naked” lobster roll (with drawn butter instead of mayo) and a heaping pile of fries and cole slaw. The place had a casual, clam shack vibe and the food was delicious.
A snowstorm was coming the next day, and there was a mix of panic and calm in the air. I had to cut the trip short so I wouldn’t get stranded on company time. But I enjoyed my little taste of Boston.