Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What to do with a Bumper Crop

Inspired by Ellie, Anna, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I went to the farmer's market last weekend to do my grocery shopping. I have to say I haven't had a more pleasant experience in a very long time.  Everyone was happy to be there, people were playing music for "money or vegetables," a couple of vendors were selling homemade foccacia and were more than willing to give me tips on how to "dress" it.  But my prize find there was  basket of gigantic tomatoes.  I didn't like tomatoes until I moved to Mississippi. I thought they tasted like cold cardboard.  But I hadn't had a farmer's tomato -- sweet, fat, juicy fruit that tastes like sunshine if anything ever has.  

When I got home with my find, I found Marion, my cotton farmer neighbor, had deposited another box of his own lovely red tomatoes on my back porch.  Bumper crop.  And not one of them went to waste.  Although I ate some on triscuits with cheese, and some on my favorite sandwich -- Bottletree bakery bread, onion-and-chive cream cheese, fresh spinach, tomatoes, and thinly sliced cucumbers with just a little salt and pepper -- I was still left with a ton of fruit.  So, I put together a combination of recipes and made what has become my favorite marinara sauce EVER.  It's not too sweet -- I hate saccharine-flavored Ragu -- and it's not too bitter like mine usually turns out. It was ideal. Since a lot of ya'll are growing your own tomatoes or have generous neighbors and friends like I do, I thought I'd post this all-too-easy recipe, which will provide me with spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and calzone toppings well into December.  

Crock-Pot Marinara

Chop the following and put into a crock pot -- 

About 6 gigantic fresh tomatoes or however many fill most of the crock pot
1 of the big cans of whole tomatoes with juice
2 cans tomato sauce
1 yellow onion
1 medium sized carrot (this, not sugar, seems to be key)
4 garlic cloves
2 tbl fresh oregano
2 tbl fresh thyme
2 tbl fresh basil (I used globe basil)
2 fairly good-sized pinches -- and by pinches I mean meager hollow-of-the-palm full -- sea salt or to taste
a dash of freshly ground pepper
a dash of red cayenne pepper
1 tbl white wine that you would drink
a splash of balsamic vinegar (the other key to offsetting acidity) 

Heat on low 8 hours. I then blended with a hand mixer to break up some of the chunks but you may not want to.  If it isn't thick enough for you after that, you can also add about 1 to 2 tbl tomato paste to make it more like the consistency of bottled sauce.  

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coming Home

I'm home from a very long trip in a very strange place. As usual, that lends itself to a little reflection. 

To begin, there were several things about home I missed. My friends. Kind people. Sober people. Slow drivers. Clean sidewalks. My animals and house. My bed. My herbs and vegetable garden.  That means there are several things about Boston I was glad to leave behind, too.  Being afraid to go home in the dark. Being afraid to set out the trash. Being afraid to walk to or from the bus. Being afraid to ride the bus, and the subway. Being afraid of night, period. No air conditioners. Small yards. Carrying my groceries 2 hours home. Small, cramped grocery stores. Pushing. Groping. Crowds of people who don't wear deodorant. Working 7 hours in a library without talking. Rush hour. Sticky rain. 

But as with most formative experiences, I felt changed by my time in Boston, too.  Mixed in with the relief of being around something familiar, and being near people I love, I felt trepidation when I came home.   So there are things about Boston I miss, and they pull on me too.  Time to read a book in the morning on my commute. Chicken sausage. Fresh, affordable, organic food.  Barack Obama stickers. Anti-war sentiment. Faces, languages, belief systems different from mine.  Public transportation. Not paying for gasoline in my car.  Bollywood movies in movie theaters. Used book stores everywhere. H&M. Walking. 77 degree weather. Historic landmarks on every single corner. Schooners. No TV. No radio. Talking to Andrew. Concord. Stores that sell tea.  A library full of every single resource I've ever needed to write my dissertation. Living statues. People who dress up as revolutionaries. Whales. 

But I guess being torn at this point in my career is natural. It's probably my brain getting me ready for our eventual move -- God willing I get a job --, which is going to be emotionally draining.  Change is terrifying. For now, I think I'll go pick a tomato. And drink iced tea on my porch. And talk to Andrew. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fenway, Or, Manuel Ramirez

The second to last day of work, Andrew and I took a lunch break at Fenway Park, which is a little over a 5 minute walk from the MHS.  We had to take a tour of the place to see it, as tickets are sold out through next year. 

This is the green monster, one of the most recognizable symbols in baseball.  If you want to sit in the seats on top of it, you have to enter a lottery to have the CHANCE to buy the seats. Sports Illustrated listed these seats as the #1 place to sit before you die, and we got to as part of the tour.  They say if you sit here, you get to come 2 hours early and catch practice balls that the players will inevitably hit your direction. 

Another part of the tour was that you get to go in the press box and see what the writers see.  This is Andrew, sitting in the front row, which is reserved for veteran reporters. The second row is for out-of-town and local press -- rookies, mostly -- and the back row, our guide said, was saved for New York newspeople. Ha, ha.

These Budweiser seats are known as the "lucky" seats. They were built in 2004 when the Sox won the world series, breaking that 80-something year curse.  These have to be part of a lottery too, and if your name is chosen, you can win the opportunity to buy 4 ticketed seats at a table near the Budweiser bar. That means you also get your own waiter/waitress and bathroom in your section.  These group tickets cost $440! To me, if you can afford to sit here, you can afford to sit in one of those swanky boxes with leather seats. But I must not be an aficionado. 

When we left the stadium, I told Andrew that I'd decided to be a Red Sox fan.  Andrew, an avid Yankees enthusiast, frowned at me. But he appeared more puzzled than disappointed.  "You don't care about baseball," he challenged. "Name one Red Sox player. Then, you can be a Red Sox fan." I thought for a minute -- this was a test I really wanted to pass.  "Papi," I said confidently. I had seen his name on a poster inside the stadium.  And, as a bonus to up my credibility, I added, "Manuel Ramirez."  There was no talking to Andrew after that, who dissolved into stomach-shaking laughter and immediately had to call his brother to share the news.  "What?" I said. "Isn't his name Manuel?"  

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Call Me Ishmael. No, really, you should.

This was a week for madness.  It began with the drunk guys who couldn't decide if they wanted more to relieve themselves on the sidewalk or beat up Andrew and take his watch. It ended with 2 crazy people -- one who was so drunk that he couldn't tell the police officer what day it was when she came to chase him out of the subway for panhandling, another who was so wasted at 8 AM that he was singing "AYE AYE AYE AYE" over and over and -- get this -- FOLLOWING US.  From one train car to another to another. . .we could not get away from him. So by the time we got out of the subway, another unwashed stumbling guy began making his way toward us when I looked his direction and said "If ONE MORE CRAZY PERSON approaches me, I am GOING TO SCREAM." He about fell down the steps then but left us alone. We sat down on a bench to consult a map near Boston Common and another drunk man (this one had vomited and/or poured Vodka down his shirt -- I know because he was still carrying the glass bottle) came straight up to me and began to babble incoherently. I started waving my arms and yelling at him too -- "I can't take this crazy city one minute longer! If you are a crazy person, DO NOT APPROACH ME!! Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!" And of course he stumbled off as well.

So it was beyond time for a break from the metropolitan loveliness that is Boston. We hopped on a train to Gloucester, Massachusetts on Cape Ann and left the skyline all behind, embracing Judith Sargent Murray's bright yellow house and the charm of the seaport town she once called home.  Since it's an active port, there's little for tourists to do there -- thank heavens -- so we took a Whale Watching tour. Incredible.

The boat goes about 1 million miles an hour to lose the coastline -- of course, whales don't frolic in shallow shores unless they're in trouble -- and we were driving into a headwind. The boat tipped, plunged, rocked, rolled, and dived. It had no mercy for any of us.  Thank the good Lord for my past boating experiences and a little patch called "Transderm Scop" that keeps a weakling like myself from throwing herself overboard. Everyone else was green to the gills. I got soaked with saltwater, the harsh mineral lashing at my face and drying in my hair, making it stiff, but I couldn't think of a cooler place to be.

Then, we saw the whales. 10 humpback whales, mainly calves, moms, and "escorts."  And while they didn't do any acrobatics, they did show us a few fins. I have a video but blogger for some reason is making it impossible to post. I, along with the camera, crew, and other tourists, pitched and rolled with the waves. If I ever get it posted, I recommend dramamine if you get curious.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Urban Patchwork

We board the bus and it's pitch-black outside, another chunk of daylight gone from a long commute. A drunk man presses up against me and everyone he's near but is strangely polite about it. When he gets off the bus, a couple of boys run from it, rather than boarding it, and I pause only a second to think how odd that is before I hear pop pop pop pop pop. I find myself and the rest of the bus flat on the floor. My bones go hollow. Even after I smell the sulphur -- fireworks -- I cannot stand.

When I go to work in the morning, a security officer at the bank I pass by never fails to greet me.  "Have a happy Thursday!" he says. In a city where men usually say things like a construction worker did the other day -- "Hey you I gotta hole in my pants wanna come stand in front of me?"--  I am always surprised to be greeted the way the security officer greets me. 

I step over a woman painting white doves on the sidewalk. These doves are on pavement all over the city. They're beautiful and they're outlined in purple and they say "Spread Peace Stop Violence." Another woman uses her lunch break every day to go outside of a church in Copley square to place one stone on a heap of stones for each soldier dead in Iraq. She prays over each one. She will be up to 17,000 before the year's end. 

A young man runs the front desk at the library I'm visiting. Inside the room, he's a wart. "Don't let that corner of your folder hang over the edge of the desk," he says, thumping it back into place.  Sometimes he picks up my papers, jumbles them, and says, "You MUST keep this folder in ORDER."  When I go to lunch with the fellows, never failing to feel like a wannabe since I am, he makes jokes with me about the pizza or the veggie burgers. I wonder if he has a secret twin.

I learn the secret of a Boston accent. Abandon all "R's." I like to try new words  -- Glah-stuh; Woo-stuh; Bah-stahn -- but still have trouble substituting "heah" for "here." My "r's" and "ee's" and "aa's" are too loud and long and they betray me. I try to stay quiet but have never been good at that.

I come across a titillating find. I discover one of the women in my dissertation was a Revolutionary war spy for the British. I've found a spy letter she received from a Scotsman in jail for treason. I find evidence she's hidden a response in a jar of hair powder. I struggle to decipher who "the Great" is. Andrew and I crack her code. We feel triumphant.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Come on Ride My Trolley Trolley

So you might wonder if I'm up here doing any work at all, since I haven't been posting about my research, which I do every day but weekends, but I do in fact have a routine. For instance, I have to ride the T every morning to work and every evening back home to Roslindale. But sometimes people shake up the day-to-day for me a little, and I usually admire the change of pace. 

So yesterday was a particularly good example of this. Somehow, we got on the train at rush hour, which we don't usually do, and the subway was stuffed with sweaty bodies. We could barely get on, and while this wasn't completely unusual, especially before a Sox game, the train conductor's handling of the situation was.  Although all the conductor USUALLY says is "rugglesnextstopdoorsopenontheleft," this conductor said "MAKE WAY MAKE WAY EVERRRYBODY! I see some ROOOM in there and I know you SEE IT TOO." When everyone just looked puzzled at the other train occupants -- there was in fact no room -- he started to sing.  "Come on ride my Trolley Trolley," he said. "My Trolley Trolley Trolley!" Andrew turned to me and asked, "If you have to report suspicious activity to the train conductor, who do you tell if the conductor is acting suspiciously?"  A good question.

Every morning on my way to work, I pass a young woman -- I'd say 22 or 23 -- walking down the sidewalk holding a hand mirror up to her face. It's the size of her head, and I have no idea how she sees where she's going, or what she's looking at while she walks, or if she's ever been hit by a bus during this routine.  I  have come up with a few theories as to why she does it, though. Maybe she got a new face after a disaster, and somehow can't rectify this new identity with the old one.  Or maybe she's psyching herself up for the daily grind. Or maybe she's in love with her own eyelashes. Maybe before I leave, I'll ask her.

Today I read about a woman trapped in Cambridge in 1775 on a farm besieged by soldiers. Her husband fled to England, leaving her behind, and I got to read all her letters bawling him out for being a utter loser.  Her name was Elizabeth Murray Smith Inman and she was super-wealthy -- a shopkeeper fortunate enough to have drafted a prenup in the 18th century! -- and when her gem of a husband Ralph left her to the English soldiers, she took all of his money with her, and survived, and cut him out of her will for spite.  I love my job. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Salem, Or, Indecent Exposure

Today was the day for Salem, Massachusetts, a wild and weird way to spend Andrew's 29th birthday. As a fan of Halloween and ghost stories, I thought it would be right up my alley. Not so.

When we got off the train, we should've known the day would be odd when we came across a group of people dressed in costumes pretending to stone each other, leading a group of bewildered tourists toward a gallows that had been erected in the middle of the square.  When the crazies finally got the mob to the gallows -- a mob a little too eager to see an unjustified death, I might add -- the reenactors suddenly stopped, telling everyone they had to pay a ticket if they wanted to see the actual murder, which would take place inside. Cheese. Weird cheese.

We passed a tarot shop and a series of places selling lame t-shirts and funny-colored stones. I had to admire one shirt that had a picture of one of the "witches" being strung up, with onlookers cheering on the murder, and under the picture was printed one word: "Oops." 

So we go to the main attraction there in Salem, which is the Salem Witch Museum, where they usher you into a circular room and turn off the lights. All around the room, up high toward the ceiling, the museum has erected little scenes from the witch trials, which light up and speak when its time to tell that part of the story. Slightly lame, but props for a gesture toward creativity. The best part though was when we exited the exhibit, we were ushered through to one of the weirdest places I've ever been.

It's a triangular room, part of the museum, meant to dispel current stereotypes about witches.  It begins with movie posters pasted to the wall -- the Wizard of Oz, Macbeth, and so on -- and the guide points to them and accuses them of giving witches a bad rap.  Then she shows you a lit-up witch with a green face that says "Hollywood has done me wrong." Then the guide shows you a timeline that has "Western" dates on top of it -- when Christ was born, when Christians started persecuting witches, when Nancy Reagan approved space travel -- and "pagan" dates on the bottom -- when Stonehenge was probably created, when witches started being hung for their beliefs, etc. Only the pagan part of the timeline was oddly missing dates.

The last wall was the BEST.  It was a series of equations.  It said "God/Satan + fear = witch trials; Ignorance + McCarthy = red scare; infection + AIDS = the gay community."  We didn't really have anything to say to that, but we overheard one couple discussing the complete and utter ridiculousness of it.  One woman said, "I don't think that adds up." Her companion said, without irony,  "It's on the WALL so it MUST BE TRUE!"

The exhibit ended with plastic talking pagans who said, "Please ask us what we believe when we see you on the street. We don't believe in the devil. And please don't use the word 'warlock,' as it means 'traitor.'"  

Very, very, very odd.

We couldn't get out of Salem fast enough, and it turns out, we would have quite a bit of trouble getting home too. When we arrived at the bus stop to take us home in Roslindale, two drunk guys accosted us, threatening to expose themselves, which one actually did, and steal Andrew's watch or beat him -- whichever he decided would be more "fun."  In an effort to get away from these baffoons, we tried to take a taxicab, but we should've known we were in trouble when he elbowed his friend and grinned before letting us in.  He took the "scenic" route to say the least -- all the way through the arboretum, about 3/4 to 1 mile out of the way -- before depositing us at our street. Andrew, who was by this point exhausted and not a little furious from the culmination of the day's activities, asked for all of his change back, and the taxidriver, no doubt insulted and miffed he hadn't fooled us, chunked the change at us through the window, spitting and cursing as he did so. 

Monday, July 7, 2008

Is it your Birfday?

Happy Birthday to Andrew, who is 29 today, and is the reason the sun shines for me every morning. 

Andrew spent his birthday in the weirdest town in North America. Roswell, move over. You have nothing on Salem. But that is for another day.

Sold Out

Yesterday was the perfect day to visit John and Abigail Adams's house, and so we did. 

We happily marched up to the visitor's center in Quincy, which took about an hour to reach, only to be greeted by an avid enthusiast's worst nightmare:  tour tickets sold out.  I approach the desk.  "I love Abigail Adams. I'm writing about her in my dissertation, and I came all the way from Mississippi to 'see' her. Is there anything you can do?"  The woman gestured helplessly toward the mass of  people in the waiting room.  "No."  

But I hate no.  I'm an only kid, so I bristle at the word.  I turn to the group I'm with and say, "We're going to see Abigail."  And so, we begin a 45-minute hike to her house, where we encounter a giant tour group standing outside of her birthplace.  A very odd thing is happening. The tourists are Japanese, and the tour guide is yelling the same thing over and over to them in English, although they clearly don't understand him, as they are just standing in the same spot he's asking them to move away from.  A youngish guy, about 26 or 27, is running up and down the street in front of them, singing.  One way, he sings, "I'M SO EXCITED....AND I JUST CAN'T HIDE IT. . ." while skipping, staring at the tourists the entire time. On his way back, he did the same thing, only he changed the words: "J - F - K - WAS A GREAT PRESIDENT OH YEAAHHHH."  The tourists just blinked at him.

I went up to the tour guide and said everything in a rush. "I know I'm not supposed to be here but I write about Abigail Adams I mean I'm writing a dissertation and I love her and I've always wanted to see where she was her space I mean I HAVETOSEEWHERESHEWROTEHERLETTERS."  He just looked at me sideways.  "You WALKED here?" he asked. I took a deep breath. "Yes." 

He set us aside and looked around cautiously.  The tourists left, and in between groups his friend, Will, gave us a tour.  "If you want to see where they married, you'll need to do the same thing at the next house. Grovel. Plead," he suggested. So we did. 45 minutes into town, 15 minutes to Abigail and John's married house. 

"WE WALKED ALL THE WAY FROM THE BIRTHPLACE" was all I could get out when we finally made it there.  "Jesus!" the guide said. "Sit down."  She disappeared into the carriage house behind the Adams mansion and returned with a piece of cardboard that said "Four complimentary tickets."  She liked our enthusiasm. And I got to stand in the very place where Abigail Adams ate, laughed, made butter, even breathed her last breath.  

So this day wouldn't have been remotely possible without the patience of the people traveling with me, or the benevolence of the guides working at the Adams estates.  Here's to big-hearted humanity and all lovers of literature for making one dream of mine come true.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

So This One Time I Met a Blind Man

On my way to the Trader Joe's Grocery Store in Brookline, I came across a tall, rotund blind man with white eyes and fluttering eyelids walking into the middle of a very busy intersection.  As I had just seen him slam into a Walgreen's door three times, I was keenly aware that he didn't have this "no sight" business down pat quite yet.  Either he was suicidal, or he wasn't aware that the white walking stick that led him was smacking the tires of cars that were about squish him. So, I grabbed his arm and pulled him backwards onto the sidewalk.  

"Would you like help crossing the street?" I asked, thinking someone, maybe my mom or my Sunday School teacher, might be happy I offer. 

"Why yes," he said, and promptly grabbed me by the breast. "I would." 

Emerson, Walden, and the Alcotts on a Fruit Commune

This is not going to be a panegyric about the loveliness of Walden Pond, at least, not at first, because that's just not how my story went. My story begins in the rain.

We arrive in Concord, Massachusetts to a sodden sky. Determined to make the most out of the brief time I have away from the MHS, we squeeze under a tiny portable umbrella, keeping only our eyelashes dry, and make a very long, very muddy trek to our first literary site: the home of the Alcotts. On our way, we pause at a bright yellow house to admire it, only to realize that it was Thoreau's home. Just down the way was his friend Emerson, which on this afternoon was being mowed by a shirtless fat guy. We wonder if the shirtless fat guy owns Emerson's house and goes in afterward and drinks a beer and watches the Red Socks game, and if so, what would Emerson say about it?

When we finally get to the Orchard House, it isn't what I imagined at all. It's not yellow and sturdy like Thoreau's fine mansion, nor is it crisp and white like Emerson's, but is instead a looming brown monstronsity that leans and peels. It's the kind of house that needs a shawl around it on a chilly afternoon, if you know what I mean.

Inside, we learn that the inhabitants were just as odd. Before moving to the Orchard House, the Alcotts lived on a fruit commune as vegans (pretty odd behavior for the 19th century). May/Amy Alcott, when the fancy struck her, drew on her walls, mostly mythological creatures and animals but sometimes swear words, which made me love her. I felt especially close to Louisa May because she sat at a desk 14 hours a day, writing; being in her space made me feel like I'm not alone in the world.

After the Alcott tour, we take the notion to walk to Walden pond, probably one of the worst ideas we'll have this whole trip, because the rain soaks us to the skin, the chilly New England air adding to our misery. Our feet are soon soaked in mud, which has oozed into our shoes, and the path just gets longer.

By the time we actually reach Walden, I don't want to be there at all -- frozen, soaked, hungry, exhausted, swollen feet protesting this entire idea. But as we approach Walden, the rain slows, the clouds break, the sun plays with the light grey water. People dive in, splashing, laughing. Bullfrogs call to each other. And we reach Thoreau's house. Or, at least, what was left of it.

Like any good nerd, I get out my copy of Walden and read my favorite passage in front of his homesite. "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes," I recite, "and not, rather, new wearers of clothes."

If this were a fictional story, a hush would fall over the woods and I'd somehow be able to channel the spirit of what Thoreau meant to encourage people to do (despite that he went home every night and threw dinner parties). But since this is life, a very loud family started yelling at each other in a mixture of English and a language I didn't recognize, the young boy in the family turning the last few feet up to Thoreau's house into a race, rushing over to the stones marking the historic site and knocking some over.

I consider at that moment that Thoreau was onto something in his praise of solitude.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Ben Franklin's House is a Sir Speedy, And Other Stories

So today is the 4th of July, a day off of work in the library, since it is closed, and a day spent sightseeing, with all of the city's glorious strangeness out in full force.

On my way to the site of the Boston Tea Party, I meet a homeless guy who has apparently torn the wing off of a bird and left it in the sidewalk. He sits a few feet away from the wing, which is bloody and stiff, and when we pass it, he says, "Don't touch my wing. I set it in the sun to bake so I can eat it. You know. 'Cause I'm homeless." I'm beginning to wonder if I'm wearing a sign.

I see a woman in a group of site-seers wearing matching Detroit Red Wings shirts (complete with maps and fanny packs) get on the subway with a small McCormick bottle. It can either be almond or vanilla extract, or food coloring; either way, when no one is looking, she surreptitiously drains the whole thing, then makes sure no one has seen her and pretends it never happened.

We randomly run into Revolutionaries that people treat as everyday citizens. "Did you see the guy in the three-corner hat?" I ask. But I don't get much of a response.

We make it to where the Boston Tea Party was supposed to have taken place. I'm not sure what I'll see: perhaps a replica of the ships there, or at the least, a marker. Maybe a tourist or two. But I'm not prepared for what I find -- a gigantic old abandoned, burned building covered up by a large white sign promoting an upcoming "tea room" to be built right over the historic waterway. I don't really have a problem with commercialism, but the sign blocks all view of the site, and I have an uncontrollable urge to rip it down.

We follow the "Freedom Trail" and find that the beginning of the day is a pattern. The Old Corner Bookstore where all of the famous 19th century transcendentalists met and were published is a cheap jewelry shop. And Ben Franklin's house is a Sir Speedy (see pic below).

We give up on history for the day and head to Cambridge for dinner. On the way back, night has fallen and the subway overlooks the harbor, and what a site. Since it's the 4th, everyone is excited about the free Boston Pops concert going on, complete with fireworks show, and the harbor is stuffed with boats. Big boats and small ones, yachts, sailboats, waverunners, little fishing boats and rafts. Those who can't stuff onto the boats are lined on the highway and the piers, trying to get as close as they can to the show. We decide to opt out on the Pops.

Tomorrow is Plymouth, the Mayflower, and Mercy Otis Warren's house. If I don't come home, just know this: it's not you; it's New England.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New York, Part Two

New York, Part Two

We get entirely too little sleep but it’s somehow okay because we have brunch at the New York Eatery, which serves good coffee and banana-strawberry-chocolate-cream cheese french toast topped with ice cream.

I come across a heavy-looking bundle wrapped in newspaper and tied with a rope. Written across it in red marker are the words “Please Don’t Throw Me.” I want to throw it, but don’t.

It starts to rain, and the water that runs off the building tastes like dirt and trash and leaves an odd film on my skin that I want to scrub off. Tourists become testy and all of the cab drivers go, inexplicably, off-duty. A homeless man rams an empty shopping cart into a telephone booth – one, smash; two, smash; three, smash – and then glances sideways at us and mumbles “sorry.”

We stuff into another theater to see In the Heights and we’re on the very back row, no one sitting together, but it’s okay. Lin-Manuel, the writer and the star, comes onstage and everyone roars for him. The people in front of Andrew are convinced the entire show is in Spanish, even though the characters are only speaking with a slight accent. “I hate it,” the woman says, “and I hate rap.” Lin-Manuel freestyles a little but it’s hardly rap.

When the show is over we press outside to more rain, more cabless streets, and begin fighting to ride standby on the Bolt Bus back to Boston. One young woman pushes and waves her ticket in the air, soaking it, insisting “Let me on! Let me on! These people don’t have a ticket but I DO.” The bus driver refuses to let her on; she realizes all too late that she was trying to get on the Boston bus to try to get to Philly, realizing her mistake too late as the Philly bus pulls away. She stands umbrella-less in the rain, her ticket nothing more now than a wet kleenex. I wonder what will happen to her. We make it onto the bus, first in line on the waiting list, to the chagrin of about 10 angry people standing on the sidewalk, grimacing. The bus goes through the Bronx and I realize I haven’t been here before. Everyone I see is shouting. One man follows another through a landscape garden, waving his arms angrily, eyes narrowed, face flushed, mouth wide open. The object of his derision keeps his back to him, and continues to calmly water his plants.